74.5 mi / 14.7 mph / 1680 ft. climbing
Home: Lander City Park
We knew that we had the same destination as Karrie and Fred did today, but we didn’t make any particular plans with them last night beyond “maybe we’ll see you out there…” Well, less than a mile outside of Dubois we saw flashing taillights ahead of us, and there they were! Without even trying, we’d all started riding within a few minutes of 7:15am; I guess after the good times we’ve already spent together, we shouldn’t be too surprised that we’re in-sync literally, not just figuratively.
We weren’t perfectly compatible though; we were riding faster than them, so we took off ahead on our own. But in our classic tortoise-and-hare fashion (we’re always the hare), they essentially kept up for the first 20 miles. Some of that was because every time I would stop to take a picture of something pretty, I would then turn around and see them approaching from a distance, the morning light and backdrop and their positive energy always combining into an ideal photo opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. Then I’d pack the camera back away, re-pass them, catch up with Rett, and repeat.
And there was so much to stop and take photos of! By pure coincidence we had driven this route between the Tetons and Colorado (in the opposite direction) in 2021. And while we remembered it being a nice drive, we had no memory of it being this world-class scenic road. We always say that bicycle-traveling is the perfect speed, because you see so much more than when you’re zipping through an area at 70 mph. And the unencumbered view from atop a bicycle seat lets you absorb so much more of your surroundings than you can from within a steel-and-glass cage. Sometimes I wonder if that’s just a load of self-serving BS that we spew, but today we actually had proof that it’s not!
In addition to the are-you-sure-we-left-the-National-Park scenery, we also had absolutely perfect weather, and the early-morning sun highlighting everything in saturated sharp relief was an objective improvement over our cloudy mid-afternoon drive two years ago. The wide Wyoming shoulder improved even more, with yesterday’s chipseal being replaced by some of the smoothest asphalt our tires have ever skimmed. And we had a tailwind. And a downhill.
We were happy to take every bit of help we could get, because one ride after setting a distance record, we needed to set another one today to make it to Lander. But the day was so good that we never even felt any stress or doubt about making it. By 10am we had somehow already put 40 miles of that smooth asphalt behind us, at a difficult-to-fathom 17.4 mph average speed!
That’s where we stopped at a nice Wyoming highway rest stop to refuel with a snack, just before US-26 and US-287 parted ways. We branched more south-ish onto US-287, while US-26 continued to Riverton along with the majority of the traffic. That was good because the giant Wyoming shoulder narrowed for this section, but with almost zero vehicles it wasn’t a problem.
The only downside to the day was losing my helmet mirror. Literally just the shiny circle of glass popped off its mount. It had done so a week ago as well, and I’d SuperGlued it back in place, but this time I didn’t know exactly where I had knocked it off (I think with my camera), so going back to search over a quarter-mile of shoulder for it seemed like a futile waste of time, especially because the Wyoming shoulders (and lack-of-turns!) meant that for once in my life the mirror was barely necessary, and because I knew there was a bike shop in Lander where I’d likely be able to acquire a new one.
We got drinks at a Sinclair gas station on the Wind River Reservation in surprisingly-large Fort Washakie, and ate our packed lunches outside on one of their red-painted benches under a low tree growing out of the concrete that somehow all made it feel like Mexico. And then, before 2pm, we were in Lander!
We pulled into the Safeway, the first major-chain grocery store since Livingston, MT, 29 days ago! Maybe that’s why Rett was in such a hurry to get shopping, before we even figured out what we were doing in Lander. We were probably going to stay here for two nights too, but didn’t know if we’d be camping in the city park, or staying in a motel (with a fridge/microwave/etc.) But there was no stopping her, so we picked up what we knew we’d be able to use, and then continued to stop #2, the bike shop.
At Gannett Peak Sports, they treated us like celebrities, giving us ice cream sandwiches and a pint of beer! Ok, it wasn’t just our personal awesomeness, they do it for all touring cyclists. And in our case their generosity paid off, since I bought a handlebar mirror to try out as a replacement for my helmet mirror, and Rett got a new water bottle to replace her leaking one. And then Karrie and Fred turned up, and immediately picked up three of the things we’d been recommending over the last couple days: a bike computer and double-legged kickstand for Fred, and padded bike gloves for Karrie (who had been riding without any gloves at all so far and suffering from numbness). One of the guys even installed Fred’s kickstand and computer; what a great shop!
Karrie and Fred were going to a WarmShowers host, but it seems like most TransAmerica riders stay in the city park, where Lander allows people to camp for free. Rett had read bad reviews about the bathrooms there, so she was really apprehensive about camping, but also wouldn’t accept my idea to just stay in a motel. So we turned to the south end of town, found the green-lawn tent area amongst shade trees in the park, and set up camp, at least for one night. The bathrooms were pretty bad, not especially dirty or anything, just extremely prison-like, with spartan stainless steel fixtures and a push-button not-a-faucet. But hey, it’s better than no water and vault toilets, so we can certainly do a night here.
We rode back out to the Gannett Grill for dinner, where Karrie and Fred met us, and they brought along Adam and Sam, another couple of guys staying at their WarmShowers house. After dinner we all got ice cream cones from the really-popular shop next door, and it was really cool hanging out with “our people”, in this town that warmly welcomes us. Our ride back to the park in the dark revealed a couple more tents had set up nearby, but it was quiet and peaceful and a surprisingly good place to rest up after another record-setting day.
We cooked up breakfast in one of the park’s picnic shelters, and afterwards I discovered an additional bathroom, attached to the park office, that was much more civilized. Even though I was still totally willing to get a motel for our second night, to give us a good rest before a tough ride tomorrow, access to a normal sink that she could wash her face in made Rett decide she’d be good camping here another night (the city allows 3 night stays). One reason I was encouraging the motel was because it was getting up to 86F today, which is pretty hot for sitting outside all day, but it ended up not being too bad in the shade of the shelter, where we ended up spending most of the day. And then we did another ride back into town for a McDonald’s dinner, which doubled as an evening cooldown. I had zero memory of zipping through this town in 2021, but this time we got to know it pretty well, thanks to our bikes and to the town being welcoming to bikes!