Friday, August 15, 2014

Location: - Rawlins WY Miles = 69, Ave MPH = 12.4 Cum. Miles = 1769

Wednesday August 13

Quote of the Day: "Come see the results of the winds of industrial change".

When Beau and I came over from the Split Rock Cafe about 10pm last night to take up residence in our camper, Byron the potter and owner of the camper was just ahead of us. As he entered his studio/residence (previously a gas station) he turned on some Jimi Henricks music. Beau and I laughed ourselves silly but were worried that this serenade may last the whole night. About 50 minutes later the CD (or was it an LP?) played out and we were able to sleep comfortably due to Byron's largess - much more so than if we had pitched our tents. Thank you Byron.

This is the camper that Jack Kerouac should have towed behind his magic bus and me emerging from it in the morning:

Byron the Potter's place:

A Study in Desolation - Jeffery City:

In 1957 during the cold war, prospecting for uranium took place in a town called Home on the Range. The prospecting was successful and the town's name was later changed to Jeffery City in honor of the man from Rawlins who financed the operation. The company Western Nuclear created a company town for the workers and their families that streamed in for the jobs that were created. At the peak of the boom town optimism, an extremely large sports facility was built that included an Olympic-sized swimming pool - this was just 6 months prior to the uranium market collapse of the early 1980's which forced the mine to close (the residents of the county continue today to pay on the $1 million bond that was issued to cover the facility.) Jeffrey City was solely dependent on the mine, and by 1986 over 95% of the residents had left as the jobs had evaporated.

The following photos show how the elements are reclaiming the area:

The dormitories that the workers lived in:

The ravages of the wind that rips off the siding and roofs of boarded up apartments:

American Ingenuity - I have used a big C-clamp like this to retract the cylinder in a caliper when doing a brake pad replacement. Here it is being used along with seat belt banding to hold down a roof:

I imagine that back in those first years of the collapse that a certain portion of optimists held  the opinion that, "Oh it will come back". Well it has come back but only in the last 3 years and with new mining techniques that produce with 12 employees what once took 500 employees.  The type of mining used today is called "In Situ Leach" mining (ISL) whereby 6 holes circumferentially surround a center hole. Fluid is injected into the 6 holes and uranium laddened sludge comes up through the center hole.

Today the miners are bused in from Lander WY (60 miles away) and pass by the Split Rock Cafe every day without the possibility of stopping to enjoy the hospitality available.

I was told that I should avoid Jeffery City but I am glad I did not. If you think of what this trip is about, in addition to raising money for Soldiers Best Friend, then it is all about people. Sure there is a massive amount of beautiful scenery to be taken in and unusual things to learn about but by far it is the outstanding people of this country and what we can learn from them that keeps coming back time after time as the most impressive.

In Jeffery City we met outstanding if not unusual people -  Byron, Dusty, Neal and his wife and last but not least Vikki the woman that cooked our fantastic breakfast for us:

Vikki told me of the many places she had lived and so I was very curious as to why she had stayed here; a place that routinely gets down to minus 40F in the winter. She told me that it was both the people that still lived here and the few travelers that came through. The people that remain know they need to stick together and Vikki spoke with a real affection for them. And then from the travelers she gets a variety of different and interesting perspectives. Most of the outsiders through Jeffery City these days are cyclists, at least those that would stay over night, and we are an unusual bunch let's face it.

There are artisans that live in the town that practice painting, photography, leather craft and of course Byron's pottery. Vikki is exploring the use of light through her own photography. Check it out on Facebook - Crooks Gap Photography - Vikki Correll.

Jeffery City does display a definite independence and a certain lawlessness. Within 30 seconds of arriving in the town Beau and I were offered whiskey and weed and I am certain that this has been a practice long before the winds of liberalization have begun to sweep the nation and neighboring Colorado.

I'm glad I didn't have "enough gas" to go on to the next destination so as to miss this experience. Sure on one hand it is desolate and depressing, but on the other hand it is a place that clearly demonstrates the tenacity with which people hold on to a place when the roots grow deep and loyalty and affection can abound.

It was nice to have the opportunity to talk to Vikki this morning. My impression of her from the previous night was ..... well let's just say Vicky takes a moment to warm.

Here is Vikki's presentation of a real flapjack  for Beau - 1 1/2 inches thick and 16 inches in diameter:

Split Rock of the Rattlesnake Range:

And here one is as captured by Beau:

This was a Pennsylvania Dutch couple that we enjoyed talking to in Muddy Gap. He was most interested in our trip as he had done some traveling and also could speak of the kindness of strangers. He once took cover in a bad storm in a ladies garage and she started yelling at him from the house. He couldn't believe she would make him go back out in the storm but she was actually insisting he come into the house.

I would have to say that overall I have been very impressed with the Wyoming roads - usually nice wide shoulders and very smooth in the breakdown lane that helps reduce rolling resistance and butt fatigue. However there was a 12 mile stretch just after Muddy Gap that was the worst road of the trip so far. Terribly bumpy in the breakdown lane and traffic so heavy that it was impossible to ride in the road itself:

Beau and I reached Rawlins (not so nice) and stayed at the Days Inn which gave us a break (due to Soldiers Best Friend) had good food:

I have really enjoyed traveling with Beau - we are a very good team. Beau does very well in keeping up with his mountain bike/tires and trailer. Went the wind kicks up he falls in behind me and gets a bit of slipstream action. He is just an upbeat and fun person with interesting stories.

Unfortunately Beau's Continental Divide route means that tomorrow we will have to split up as I head to a different area of Colorado. Will miss his company for sure.

It's time folks please.......
And finally please remember the cause -  I will go into this in more detail and perhaps some level of haranguing later on, but for now here is the link .... and an additional link for donation   SoldiersBestFriend - Donate Please :):)   Oh and I would be a lot more comfortable if you use the "honorarium" option vs the "memoriam" option - you'll understand when you click on the link:):).   

As you donate please enter my name in the "In Honor of Spot" so the folks at SBF can tally the results to encourage me and let me know WE are getting something done TOGETHER. I recognize we are really trying to honor the Vets but this is the only way SBF can tally the results of this drive (tour).


  1. Hey Neil! I am in awe of what you have accomplished thus far! Your blog and record keeping is astounding...and entertaining too! I truly admire what you are accomplishing and truthfully, am a bit jealous. What a fantastic record you are creating to look back on and hand along to your kids and grandkids! You are to be commended and you should be proud! I will add more later, as I have initially had difficulties commenting on your blog page. Keep on pedaling!!..and keep up the great blogging too!! Your "Wine Guy" back home.... Rick

  2. Rick,

    Thanks so much for checking in - I really appreciate it. Hope you are well and keeping up with it on the Sawmill Trail

  3. Rick - thanks for lollowing along - it is nice to know that you are out there. Keep it going on the Sawmill Trail