Some days it is fun to ride a bike, then there are days like today.
I’ve had such wonderful weather for my trip so far (minus the heat) that I was bound to have a weather-related stinker. It is just unfortunate that it happened to come on the longest ride of my trip (to date).
Of course, it wasn’t supposed to be the longest day. According to the weather forecast, there would be some showers overnight, and they might linger in to the morning hours. After that, I figured, the rain would clear away and I would have good (if cool) weather for the rest of the day.
The wet weather certainly held true to form. When I got underway at 8:30 AM or so, it wasn’t raining hard, but it was alternating between misting and lightly showering. This is certainly not my favorite weather, and the droplets on my glasses and on my rear-view mirror made it hard to see. Luckily, once again, I had a wide shoulder away from traffic, so I didn’t have to rely on perfect eyesight to stay safe. Besides, the road I was on was virtually empty.
After seven miles, however, to my surprise and dismay, the paved road ended and the dirt road began! This sort of thing has happened to me before, and I have worked out a way to double-check Google Maps to see if they might be sending me down a dirt road. You can simply switch to a satellite view, then zoom in to the road in question, and you can see immediately if it is a paved road or not.
This little trick has saved me on a couple of occasions, and I used it here as well. I zoomed in on this road (Antelope Road, and indeed I saw a Pronghorn Antelope crossing the road at one point) and it was paved. I followed it for several miles; all paved. I figured that was enough, but clearly I was wrong. Mark that as a lesson learned: check the entire length of the road in the future.
Once I saw that the road in question was not paved, I immediately turned around and went back to Douglas, the closest point that I could start an alternate route. In the past, I have had some hesitation: Just how far do I think the dirt road might continue? How many miles on the dirt road would be worth not having to back-track the number of miles to the alternate route?
In this case, the answer was ‘None’. Because of the rainy, wet weather, the dirt had become this gloppy, sticky mess that obviously would be difficult to bike on, and in addition would quickly become caked all over my bike and my pannier packs. No thank you! 14 miles is clearly worth not having to deal with that!So before my day even started, really, I had 14 “oops miles” and I was completely soaked from biking in the mist and rain. It was a good thing I was wearing my swim trunks! Luckily, by the time I returned to Douglas and started on the alterenate route, it was only 10:30 AM, so essentially it was just a late start for me. On the plus side, the alternate route went trough Orin, Wyoming, where there was a truck stop and I could get a bite to eat.
Which I did, and after the truck stop, it seemed that the weather was actually starting to clear a bit. This was short-lived, however, as the more I ascended, the worse the weather got. Back in the rain, then out of it, then back in, rinse and repeat. When there was a break in the rain/mist, I stopped to take an occasional picture, but for the most part I just kept moving. I passed a number of small towns: Shawnee, Lost Spring (population: 4), Keeline, Manville.
Finally I made it to Lusk, which was a sizable town, with lodging options and restaurants. With my oops miles, by the time I got to Lusk I had already biked 68 miles, and I needed to decide if I wanted to stay there for the night, or push on to my original destination of Harrison, Nebraska.
Because I had stopped so infrequently, it was only 3:30 PM at that point. On previous days, that would mean that it was hot enough to stop for the day, but because of the overcast skies and the rain ushering in some new weather patterns, it was only 62 degrees — a BIG change.
I decided that it was early enough, and I felt good enough, to push on. However, I stopped to get an early dinner, and at that time I changed to my second set of biking clothes, which, thankfully, were still dry. The rain and mist had stopped hours ago, but I was still wearing soaking wet clothes, and that combined with the cooler temperatures were enough to make me distinctly uncomfortable. Once I changed into the dry clothes, I immediately felt better, and then some hot soup and a warm sandwich sealed the deal.
Once I got back on my bike, I discovered a new problem — after Lusk, the 65 mph road I was on ceased to have a shoulder. As I said earlier, the roads in Wyoming have been very impressive, with all of them that I have been on having nice, wide shoulders (and often rumble strips) keeping bikers safely set apart from cars. But now, with just 20 miles left in Wyoming, I had to deal with my first non-shouldered road!
Luckily the road was not heavily traveled, and all the vehicles passing me seemed willing to pass me like I was any other motorized vehicle, crossing in to the other lane to get around me. Some even used their blinkers to signal it!Eventually I crossed into my fourth state, Nebraska, and immediately the shoulder returned. Hooray! And just before that, at 5:30 PM, the sun FINALLY broke through the clouds! I may have had only about an hour of biking remaining, but this was the way I initially envisioned the day going: I had dry clothes, the early morning fog and mist had burned off, and I was in Nebraska.
When I finally pulled up to the Harrison House Bed & Breakfast, my bicycle computer read 100 miles exactly. A new longest day for me, and while it started out in a miserable fashion and continued that way for much of the day, I finished strong and happy. I had made the correct decision to continue, and the kind proprietor of the B&B even let me dry off my still-wet clothes for tomorrow’s ride.