Day 70, to Six Mile Gap Campground, WYOMING: Vicious bugs and another gorgeous ride - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

July 1, 2022

Day 70, to Six Mile Gap Campground, WYOMING: Vicious bugs and another gorgeous ride

Friday stats

Start: Gould, Colo.

End: Six Mile Gap Campground, WYOMING — new state!

The Daily Progress: 51.19 miles

Cumulative climbing: 1,223 feet

Cumulative descending: 2,374 feet — descending more than ascending is always a sign of a good day!

Elevation at endpoint: 7,823 feet

Ice cream flavors: N/A

Food expenses: $59

Lodging expenses: $10

Friday recap

I closed last night's blog entry mentioning a light rain, and that turned out to be a real understatement. It rained pretty hard last night, so our tent and several other things were very wet when we woke up and started to pack. This meant I would pack some things on top of my bike rack, rather than in a pannier or strapped up inside a garbage bag, so that they'd have a chance to dry in the sun and breeze during today's ride. This meant Blue was displaying even more yellow and blue stuff than usual (and it seems that a few red highlights have worked their way into the color scheme, for those keeping track).

Dani and I had decided last night that a shower today was a top priority after two nights with no shower, so we agreed we'd make our first stop the public pool in Walden, which was 22 miles further along SR-14. After that, we'd go to a coffee shop and plan our next steps and have something to eat. I'm sure no one would be surprised to hear that, if I were still solo, I would have reversed the order (fooooood!), but I saw Dani's point that it made more sense to shower before exposing ourselves to civilized people.

Having the benefit of being two months into a cross-country cycling trip, I ride a bit faster than Dani does right now, but she has still helped speed things up. Today she packed up the tent and filled both our water bottles, taking care of two chores for me. I am still too slow in the morning and needed another 10-15 minutes, so Dani went ahead and we met up in Walden.

The ride to Walden was gorgeous. Snow-capped mountains to the left (to the south and west), and drier, more boulder -like mountains on the right, with arid-looking grassland in between. So expansive.

After showering at the pool, we enjoyed some delicious breakfast burritos at the Holy Grounds coffee shop and planned the rest of the day and the destination for tomorrow. We had a good cellphone signal and access to electrical outlets for the first time in three days, so in addition to planning, we paid a couple of bills and charged up our devices, but I failed to post my blog entries, which I've been writing each night on my phone and waiting for a cell signal so I could post them. When I finally do, I may not have time to upload and caption photos, so if there are zero or very few photos recently, that is why.

We rode on to a supermarket and bought some food. Outside the store and earlier at the coffee shop, we noticed some ferocious mosquitoes, which surprised me, considering that it was the middle of the day and we were not near water. 

The amazing thing about the mosquitoes was how quickly they would attack every time I stopped on the side of the road to take a photo — and then they would chase me and bite me while I was riding! I had to get up above 15 miles per hour to outrun them. Also, none of my clothes — bike jersey, shorts, socks or sun sleeves — were effective at thwarting mosquitoes, and of course I can say that because of all the different places I'd been bitten.

But all that is just foreshadowing. What is it foreshadowing? Well, first I need to tell you that, all along this bike tour, I would occasionally get a bug stuck between my face and my sunglasses. The glasses are aerodynamic and curve nicely around my face, but with all the wind and all the bugs, it does seem inevitable that some bugs would get in there and have trouble getting out for a few seconds. Heck, while I'm on the subject, I've learned to keep my mouth closed, especially when it's windy, because I've eaten at least two bugs so far (how have I not put that in my daily stats?), and I've gotten smacked in the face by too many bugs to count. I guess it hurt them more than me, but wow, it's surprising how much they can hurt.

Anyway, here's what happened today: Something that buzzed like a bee flew into my face under my sunglasses and got stuck there for a moment and we both freaked out. Before I could really do anything except pump the brakes, it stung me right next to my eye. That prompted me to stick my fingers up under the sunglasses and swat the bug and my sunglasses (with rearview mirror attached) away from my face. 

Luckily, Dani and I had stayed close since we left Walden, so she was right behind me and was able to use tweezers to remove the stinger and suggested I take a Benadryl. I fetched my sunglasses and found them only slightly scratched, with the mirror intact. The pain in my eye subsided quickly after Dani removed the stinger. All told, I feel pretty lucky.

After that, creature encounters were on the up and up. We saw a few prairie dogs skitter across the road as we made our way toward the Colorado-Wyoming border. In the evening, we would see a fox with a gray coat and a blackish tail near the Platte River.

The ride near the state border was so satisfying and pretty. Dani wanted a term to describe the area and thought "high plains" would be the right one, and we later confirmed with Denverite staying at the same campground that that's what people call it.

We eventually passed a sign facing the opposite direction that said, "Welcome to colorful Colorado." In the direction we were facing, there were two sign posts with no sign in between. 

Welcome to Wyoming, I guess. We kind of liked the existentialism of the "sign" being nothing but two posts framing some open space. We took a few photos of ourselves.

The campground where we settled this afternoon is near the Platte River, which looks like a good spot to go rafting. We met some fellow campers planning to get a shuttle up river tomorrow to start a three-day rafting and camping trip, which sounded pretty cool. When we walked down to the river, we could see the appeal — we could probably kayak on it without dying, we agreed. I noticed here and also during the ride today how the river's edge seemed so well defined. Dani guessed that it was an effect of riparian life along the edge, which we may not be used to seeing because of our land use on the East Coast, where everything is more developed and rivers flood more frequently.

The weather in this region is proving the Colorado saying true: If you don't like the weather, wait five minutes; it'll change. I think it rained and stopped three or four times between dinner and now. Let's hope it doesn't dump as much on us overnight as it did last night.

Dani's notes

I woke up feeling much better and some Advil brought me back to 100 percent. Packing up camp was annoying because everything was wet and gritty, but we still got on the road at a respectable hour (6:45ish?)

Do you like expansive plains? Magestic mountains? Cool air? Clear sunshine? Sapphire skies? A lightly trafficked road sloping gently downhill to your destination? Then the 22 miles between Gould and Walden on the morning of July 1 2022 are for YOU!

I spotted a raptor and its nest on the route to Walden, so I fished out my binoculars (hereafter, "peepers") and peeped it. I was surprised to determine it was an osprey. I didn't associate them with this kind of habitat (meandering streams in high altitude grasslands), but I got a good look at it and it looked like every other osprey I'd ever seen, with a platform nest and everything. And my bird guide says we are within their range. So huh. In other bird news, I saw a black-billed magpie, a northern flicker, and many red-winged blackbirds.

Spotted this sign: "If you voted to re-introduce wolves, do not re-create here. You are not welcome."

The first order of business in Walden was a stop at the municipal pool for a shower (five bucks apiece for the privelege.) We had agreed this morning (or last night?) that a shower was a worthy goal for the day, but it did feel a bit like a formality. Like, as if we had read somewhere that humans should bathe regularly, and so I GUESS we should. We didn't feel especially grimy or stinky, and a shower 20 miles into a 50-mile day did seem a bit of an exercise in futility. But getting clean all over in the bleachy fug of a cinder block municipal pool locker room turned out to be a delectable luxury. I can't wait to do it again.

Our second stop was at a coffee shop called Holy Grounds, which I assumed would be in a deconsecrated church. I was wrong. It was named such because it is owned and operated by a devout Christian family. The breakfast burritos tasted homemade, in a good way. Like you went to someone's house and they said, "hey, can I make you a breakfast burrito?" We had a chance to talk to the two people behind the counter and learn about the harrowing wildfires of 2020, which cut off three of the four highways out of a town that is already an hour away from anyplace big enough to have a hospital. It must have been terrifying. We've been riding alongside the aftermath of those fires for three days. While in the coffeeshop, I also heard a local talk to some other locals about a beaver colony that had built a dam on his property. His audience suggested stuffing the dam with fireworks and blowing the beavers and their dam to smithereens. It was a perfect representation of one half of the book Eager -- beavers build dams that interfere with human infrastructure and that makes them a nuisance. (The other half of the book was about the critical role beavers play in maintaining the hydrologic cycle in the arid west, particularly facilitating groundwater recharge and preventing flash floods.)

Our third errand in Walden was a stop at the Super's north of town. Chris did not let me buy a six-pound can of mild cheddar cheese sauce. Wait, no. Chris would insist on accuracy. Chris was cool with my buying a six-pound can of mild cheddar cheese sauce, but he said it was up to me to carry it, and I didn't have any bungee cords, so it was effectively a no.

On the highway beyond Walden, I felt like a model in a bike touring stock photo with alt text like: a pair of cyclists in bright gear cut across undulating plains beneath snow-capped mountains. I played a game with myself called "How Far Yonder?" (the rules: pick a distant landmark and guess how many miles it is down the road.) I pulled a stinger out of Chris's face (I am a HERO). I smiled at prairie dogs scooting across the road. I appreciated how the mountains integrated the cumulus clouds into my conception of the landscape, making them part of the three-dimensional matrix of the world instead of part of a two-dimensional backdrop that floats above.

We were lucky to have a windless day. I could see how a headwind (or even a crosswind) could be brutal in this landscape.

At the Wyoming state line, where you would expect a "Welcome to Wyoming" sign, there were just two study poles. I suspect they used to hold a sign that has since disappeared, but I'd like to imagine it was intentional: "What says 'Wyoming' better than a wide open space."

As soon as we pulled off the main highway on to the dirt road leading to our campsite. I took a wizz on some sagebrush. Best smelling wizz of my life!

At our campsite, we fashioned a shade canopy from the hammock and rainfly. After doing some laundry (well, "doing" some laundry -- squirting water and castille soap on our grossest clothes, scrubbing them a bit, and hoping for the best), we hung the laundry over the cabana to dry. I thought it made our site look festive. At least from afar.

Another thing I like about this campsite is that it has two distinct levels. The picnic table and firepit are elevated about six feet above the road, and the tent pad is up an embankment another thirty feet. Both areas are cozily ensconced in pines and aspens.

We scoped out the Platte River (very nice) and saw a fox along the way.

Hoping that tonight's weather results in our laundry being drier when we wake up than it is now.

Today's ride: 51 miles (82 km)
Total: 2,513 miles (4,044 km)

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