Day 65: Lander to Jeffrey City, WY; Who's Afraid Of A Spooky Church? - Transam, Both Ends to the Middle; Buddy Rides a Bike - CycleBlaze

September 4, 2015

Day 65: Lander to Jeffrey City, WY; Who's Afraid Of A Spooky Church?

Lander to Jeffrey City, WY
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1.) If you select the “Comment” link near the bottom of the page you can leave a message for me. I enjoy getting them.

2.) Climbing Today: 3,123 ft -- Total So Far; 154,227 ft

3.) Average Speed While Biking Today: 9.1 mph

4.) Mechanical Issues Today: none

5.) Miles Remaining to Canon City: about 423

6.) Miles Traveled to Date on This Half of the Journey: 1,577

7.) Money Found Today: $0.20

8.) Total Money Found: $1.03 (Will I find enough to buy a cup of coffee?)

9.) Current BAR (Bicycle Altitude Record): 9,584 Feet, Togwotee Pass

I stopped to photograph the sunrise as I was leaving the Lander area.

Sunrise Leaving Lander; Clear Air With No Smoke!
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Right where I stopped, there was a dime beside my left foot.

I Found a Dime At My Foot When I Stopped To Take The Sunrise Photo
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If I hadn't stopped, I would not have seen the dime. And that's how it goes. I think "found money" is sort of like rattlesnakes, in that for every one you see there are probably a hundred or more that you don't see. Sometime back I photographed a sign for "Chainsaw Taxidermy." Today I passed a sign for "Timberline Taxidermy." It seems to me as though Timberline and Chainsaw Taxidermy should somehow be related. My route today had this ominous warning sign;

Consider An Alternate Route; I Can't Do That! This Sign Concerned Me
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Jeepers - if motorcycles should choose an alternate route, what about bicycles? Had they destroyed the roadway so badly that 2-wheeled vehicles can't travel it? Or maybe they put fresh oil down that would harm them. Whatever it is, it's frightening because this is the route I needed to take, period. I didn't feel like I had any choice, so off I went. I was worried that maybe there would be a flagman who wouldn't let me pass or something. But the only "issue" at all that I encountered with the road construction were occasional core holes taken for quality control, and they weren't large enough to even bother a bicycle. Today was the Friday before the Monday Labor Day holiday. There was no construction work ongoing at all in the construction zone, and no reason for motorcycles (or bicycles) to avoid this route. It would have been nice if they had disabled the warning sign, as it probably caused some motorcyclists to take an alternate route when it wasn't required. I was traveling on the Chief Washakie Trail.

I Was On The Chief Washakie Trail
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This part of Wyoming is wide open and desolate. It's beautiful, but it's a downright lonely place when you are by yourself on a bicycle and you see maybe one car pass per hour. Here's a couple pics of this beautiful but desolate country;

Wyoming Has A Lot of Wide-Open Space
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Beautiful Country, But Rather Empty
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The unrelenting wind is the only sound I heard other than the occasional passing vehicle. I was loaded for bear this morning, but I had seen no wildlife. I climbed up the Beaver Rim this day, and it seemed like a long climb. The climb was harder than I had expected.

The Climb Up The Beaver Rim Was Harder Than I Had Expected
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Perhaps the climb was hard due to the sun exposure; there was no shade anywhere, so rest breaks were taken in the open. Or perhaps I was just a bit tired this morning, whatever. Continuing the ascent, I came upon this rather strange name for a place;

Strange Name; What Was This Johnny Guy Doing Behind The Rocks?
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So exactly what was Johnny doing behind the rocks? And why tell everyone about it? Once I reached the top of the Beaver Rim, the wind seemed to be gusting erratically from all directions. Maneuvering the bicycle required both hands on the rudder at all times. Here's a view from the top;

View From The Beaver Rim
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On top a pickup pulled in with a trailer loaded with a motorcycle and a 4-wheeler. The driver and I chatted for several minutes. He was retired, and was traveling to meet his son and do some hunting using the 4-wheeler and a bit of riding on his Harley. He was impressed that I was bicycling across the country. We compared ages; he was exactly 1 month older than me. He went to his pickup and returned and gave me this token;

Harley Davidson Dealer Token Given To Me For Good Luck
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This is a token given out by a Harley dealer in Minnesota. It seems that all Harley dealers have a unique token that they give or sell to customers. This gentleman stops at all Harley dealers he passes as he travels the country and obtains several tokens from each. He keeps one for himself and selectively hands out the others to folks for good luck. I felt honored to be given such a gift, and I plan to keep it with me throughout this journey.

What exactly do these strange roadside signs mean? They are official highway department signs; is it a native American symbol, or what?

Does Anyone Know What These Signs Mean?
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Sometimes there would just be one of the above symbols on a post. I was glad to reach the Sweetwater Rest Stop, as the winds were getting a bit crazy and I needed a break. The flags here tell the story of my battle with the wind on this day.

The Flags Told The Story Of The Brutal Wind
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Leaving the rest stop, I thought this was an interesting sign;

Fresh Eggs and Old Books For Sale
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Better fresh eggs and old books than the other way around I guessed. It was hot and I could have really done with a cup of ice to chill my water. As it turns out, the early westward settlers had an ice stop before man had artificial refrigeration.

The Early Settlers Had Their Own Ice Stop
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Several historic trails crossed my path today.

Lots Of Historic Trails Intersect Here; The Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Experience, and the Pony Express
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Rainstorms commenced blowing in from my side, and then they formed directly ahead of me as I was hustling to make my destination for the night.

I Was Surrounded on 3 Sides By Rain, But Didn't Get Wet
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I was still adrift in the high plains.

Jeffrey City; I'm Still Drifting in the High Plains
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Jeffrey City was a modest little place, which is a polite way of saying that folks there don't have much money. Most all the buildings in town looked rather run-down. I had been warned by cyclists I met several days back about 2 things; 1.) the bar was the only place to eat in Jeffrey City and a really weird guy frequented it, and 2.) the church hostel was just downright spooky and I shouldn't stay there.

I was famished on arrival and I needed food, so I had to chance the bar. There was just the bartender and a couple of customers inside, and I asked for a menu and was delighted to see several inviting options on both the breakfast and supper lists. Then one of the customers came over to meet me and said he wanted to shake my hand because he was impressed with anyone who could do what I was doing. He explained to me that he owned the place across the street. Here it is;

The Fellow Who Owns This Place Is Rather Interesting Himself
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He was insistent on praising me and asking me questions, even though I hadn't indicated I wanted his company and tried to politely brush him off. He wandered if I was going to stay at the church hostel, and I replied affirmatively. He told me that the church wanted donations, but that cyclists sometimes stayed at his place and he didn't ask for donations. It soon became apparent that he was the weird guy I had been warned about. Then he told me that he was the cook tonight for the bar. Ok, I started to tell him what I wanted but before I could he told me that I could only select from the lunch menu sandwiches even though it was almost 5:00 pm. Ok, I really needed some food, so I chose a BLT and fruit cup. He hustled off then came back and said they were out of fruit, so I chose fries instead. He then came back and said they were out of bacon. I'd had enough of this, so I used this as an excuse to cancel and leave. I reasoned that if I didn't hustle on out of there that I would have to eventually become impolite to get away from this fellow, and I had some emergency food with me anyway. I had spotted a church steeple as I cycled into the town, and I made my way towards it. It's about 3/4 of a mile down a sandy road outside of town and stands almost alone in a field.

The Church Sits All Alone Outside of Town
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Honestly, I could understand why the other cyclists had told me it was spooky. Something just felt strange about it. But I was determined to not be frightened by such nonsense, and there was no other option unless I stayed at the weird guy's place. Oh, by the way, after visiting the church the other 2 cyclists (the guys I met some days back who had warned me that the church was "spooky") decided to return to the bar and they ended up staying at the weird guy's place instead of staying at the "spooky" church. One of those cyclists had told me that the place just downright scared him, and he preferred camping in the weird guy's back yard instead. That's all nonsense, I thought.

But as I got closer to the church, something really did seem out of place. It took me a while to figure it out;

Strange; No Car Tracks Lead To The Church
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There were no car tracks leading to the church, only bicycle tracks. And, in the places up front or even in the back where cars would have parked for church service, there was no trampled grass at all. It seemed as though no cars had been here in a while. Weird. I went around to the back door, and there was this welcoming sign;

A Welcome Sign On The Rear Door
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OK then, that was reassuring. There was a dirt road that also led to the back door, but again, there were no car tracks or indications of cars parking back there. If people come here for church service, they weren't arriving by car, or by horses, or by anything other than the bicycle tire marks I saw in the sand. But someone had done a little work to make this place into a hostel for cyclists, including building an entry ramp so bicycles could be wheeled in through the back door into the basement area. Inside the basement, things were like the community; rather modest at best. When one enters, it's in an area that was established as a gym and had basketball goals set up, but hadn't been used in some time. There was some trash in boxes at one end, and some unfinished projects around. One end had a large wood stove heater with a pipe that led way up to the ceiling and out, and this was how the place was heated. There were rooms in the basement that may have once been used for Sunday School rooms, but hadn't been in some time. These were the rooms that cyclists probably chose to sleep in, and I chose one. It had a window slightly above the ground level that I could look out. I covered the window partially using my camp towel, so the light in my room wouldn't be as obvious to anyone outside. Not that there should be anyone outside, but for some reason I just felt the need to not advertise my presence more than necessary. I set up my air pad/sleeping bag/air pillow, and proceeded to take a shower. There was one shower, built into the men's bathroom as an afterthought, apparently to serve cyclists. Water pipes were run outside the walls, as was the wiring throughout the basement; it appeared that the church folks did the work themselves and were only marginally skilled at it. As I said, it's a modest little community.

I found the kitchen area in the basement, and carried my meager supplies to it to prepare what food I could. There were mouse droppings everywhere, and a mouse trap was set that apparently wasn't very effective. But there were several tables, maybe enough for 15-20 folks to enjoy a meal together. This must be a small congregation. Dinner consisted of a can of chef-boy-ar-dee, a couple of hamburger buns with peanut butter, and 1/2 of an apple that I sliced and smeared with peanut butter. It wasn't much, but it would do. I found Kool-Aid mix in a cabinet, so I didn't have to drink just plain water.

I wandered up the stairs and into the church area. It looked pretty normal with pews that had cushioned seats and it seemed clean as compared to the basement below. It was also heated with a wood stove in the back near the entry door. I considered sleeping up here as it was much cleaner than the basement, but it was apparent that the area of the basement was set up for the hostel, and I was appreciative of the shelter and didn't want to abuse the privilege. So, I closed the door to the church area and went back downstairs.

There was a wall that was set up for cyclists to sign, and I recognized the names of cyclists I had met on the first half of my journey, and a couple I met riding the opposite way on this half.

Cyclists Sign The Rear Wall; I Recognized Many of These Names
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OK, I thought, this place can't be so bad if those folks stayed here. I returned to my room and commenced doing some work on this journal. There were lots of noises that popped up suddenly and startled me; most of them were because of the wild wind outside causing the stove pipes to rattle. Many of the noises I couldn't source, but just wrote them off as an old building creaking in the wind. I became engrossed in my writing, when suddenly there was an unmistakable rapping on my window! The hair on the back of my neck stood up straight and my heart stopped for a second before I got the courage to turn around and face whatever it was. My camp towel covered most of the window, so I approached it cautiously and peeked outside. This is what I saw, as photographed through the dingy window pane.

These Feeding Antelope Gave Me A Good Startle; Photo Through A Window
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Gee whiz, I thought, what a scaredy cat I am. Take a breath and get control of things Hall, you can't be jumping scared at every little noise. I went outside to get a better pic;

I Ventured Outside To Photograph The Antelope
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The antelope didn't appreciate me and high-tailed it right away. Let me reason things out a bit; these antelope are very skittish of folks, yet they feed right outside of the church. So that means folks usually aren't around this church. So I'm back to where I came in; there doesn't appear to be much use made of this church other than by visiting cyclists. Oh, did you notice the house/shack in the background of the antelope pic above? The cyclists I had met earlier who had elected to NOT stay at the church had told me that someone lived there who wasn't associated with the church and that he liked his privacy. OK then, I'll give him plenty of privacy.

Going back inside, I looked for a way to lock the back door. There wasn't one, the door could not be locked. So anyone could enter during the night. All righty then. It was now commencing to get dark, and I didn't want anyone to notice any lights inside the church that would communicate that I was inside, so I turned them all off and just used my little camping headlight to get ready for bed. I really wished I was somewhere else, but it was getting dark and the wind was blowing harder and I had no choice other than to stay here tonight.

Let me set the scene a bit. The wind was howling outside, causing the stovepipes to creak and pop, and there were occasional loud thuds that I assumed may be boards or something flying into the side of the building. And there were other noises that I couldn't identify. Twice I thought someone was at the back door and though it startled me I got up in the hope that maybe other cyclists were arriving late. No such luck, and cyclists tend to get settled in way before dark anyway, so it's not likely that any others would show up this late and in this harsh wind. The noises were probably just something being blown into the metal door and the sound being magnified by the echo in the empty gymnasium sized basement area. No big deal, I told myself, but I was already wishing for this night to be over.

I drifted back to sleep, only to be startled awake with the feeling that something was wrong. Then I heard it; there was something in the room with me! I grabbed my little light and turned it on and discovered a mouse had climbed the bookshelves in the room where I had unloaded my panniers. I chased it out, and stuffed one of my jerseys into the crack beneath the room door. But I didn't do it good enough, because I awoke in less than an hour to the same problem. This time I took the pannier I had with food in it and all the foodstuff I had in my handlebar bag and went to the kitchen and placed it all in the refrigerator. Walking from my room to the kitchen area meant that I had to cross into the large open gym area, and it was rather spooky doing so with the stovepipe rattling and the unlockable door making noises. I returned through the gym to my room and stuffed the jersey completely under the door tightly enough to keep out mice. At least I think it will.

Tomorrow would be another challenging day of cycling, and despite the fact that I was in a spooky place I needed some rest, so I eventually dropped back off to sleep. But something woke me again not much later. I didn't know why I woke up, but again I knew something was wrong. Then a weird flash of yellow light shone through my window and went away. I thought maybe a car was outside so I got up to look through the window, but before I got there another brilliant flash of light burst through for a moment, and this one was reddish in color. I thought maybe a police unit was outside with flashing lights, but I had heard nothing, I only saw the lights. OK now, this was really getting to be a little too spooky for me.

I approached the window cautiously and peeked outside. At that moment, a brilliant bluish flash of light illuminated the shack behind the church; the shack where the fellow was said to be fond of his privacy. Really, I was a bit dumbfounded; what had just happened? Maybe a meth lab had blown up and was shooting out these brilliant colors? Maybe some sort of weird ritualistic practice was going on and they were purposely shining these lights my way? I really couldn't understand what I had saw, and for a moment I wondered if I had really seen these lights or if I was so frightened that I was hallucinating.

Then it happened again, but this time it was yellow in color and it came from a long distance away. It was the weirdest lightning/electrical storm I have ever seen. The clouds were hanging very low to the ground (or maybe that's relative, as I am above 6,000 feet elevation now) and when the lightning burst forth it seemed as though it originated from right at the ground or maybe just a little above it. And it was multi-colored and was putting on a dazzling display. But there was no thunder. None. Or maybe the crazy wind was muffling it.

I was pretty sleepy when the alarm went off at 4:30 am. But I had no desire to stay where I was a second longer than necessary. I boiled some water in the kitchen and had instant oatmeal for breakfast, along with a half cup of coffee. I signed the guest registry for cyclists (maybe that would leave a clue for the detectives if I turned up missing), and I left a donation in the box in the kitchen. I had to consider that a bit before deciding to leave money, but in the end I reasoned that this place had provided me with an experience that I wouldn't soon forget. And I hope to not repeat it again either. Once was quite enough, thank you. I packed Harvey and we rolled out into the darkness. It was cloudy and pitch black and the wind was still howling wicked, and it was cold, very cold on my fingers.

I was glad when we finally got off the dirt road and reached the main highway. Rolling down the highway with no light other than Harvey's headlight, I laughed at myself and said out loud "Who's afraid of a spooky church?" Harvey replied, "You are. And I was scared to death, especially when those weird lights shone through the window. Please, I don't want to ever go back there." You don't have to worry about that, I thought. I don't know where the road will lead us, but we aren't going back there - not ever. I hope you are all snug and warm in a safe place tonight. Sweet dreams y'all...

Today's ride: 60 miles (97 km)
Total: 3,874 miles (6,235 km)

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Jeff LeeGreat read!

I've had a few similar experiences while touring. Enough time has passed that I should probably go back and update those old journal entries. At the time I wrote them, I omitted some details because they involved other people that I didn't want to mention (locals I didn't want to anger and/or offend.)
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