Torrington trip

On the agenda for last Sunday was a ride to Torrington, Wyoming, and back – a round-trip distance of about 72 miles. Good prep work for our ride in August!

As we headed out 20th Street to Highway 92 towards Wyoming, I noticed wildflowers alongside the road, the fading blue flax joined by pale lavender shell-leaf penstemon and scarlet globemallow.

I like heading out on Highway 92. The terrain provides a good workout, with the hill just east of the South Morrill Road topping out my route profile at 4,289 feet.

We stopped at the park in Lyman for a bathroom break (the women’s toilet was freshly painted and had toilet paper, but the door would not close). We encountered another biker from Scottsbluff who had stopped to refill his water bottles. He was also headed to Torrington that day, had ridden there before, and was able to assure us that our planned route was about like we thought it was from our research with Google street view: decent, but shoulderless and very rural. (The one town along the route between Lyman, NE, population 342, and Torrington, WY, population 6,690, is Huntley, WY, which claims a population of 30.)

We discussed the fact that drivers are generally so courteous and give cyclists plenty of room. The problem spots seem to be elderly drivers who can no longer judge the width of their cars and distracted drivers. In fact, the cyclist we met was still in therapy from an accident he suffered last year – his only accident in 30+ years of riding. A woman got distracted by her cell phone cord as she was driving on Highway 71, drifted out of her lane, and hit the cyclist, breaking his pelvis, arm, and I forget what else.

So put down those cell phones when behind the wheel, people!

Ok, where was I?

Oh, yes – Wyoming:

No picture next to the sign this time. Been there, done that, picked the goatheads our of our tires.

No picture next to the sign this time. Been there, done that, picked the goatheads our of our tires.

Not too far past the state line, I rubbernecked at a sign:

Winery? You don't say!

Winery? You don’t say!

This was, indeed, the sign for Table Mountain Winery, which I have been wanting to investigate for some time. Maybe on another trip …

Once we left Lyman, it was 17 miles before the next town (as I hinted before, Huntley doesn’t really count, as I don’t think there are any services). That’s a lot of lonely distance. We had packed plenty of water and snacks for the trip.

Roadside snack break: salted nut roll GOOD! Om nom nom!

Roadside snack break: salted nut roll GOOD! Om nom nom!

Actually, the road wasn’t TOO lonely. We were passed by several vehicles. And there were plenty of cows. And birds. And a few prairie dogs. Even a couple of horses.

I was a few beats too late for the perfect shot of the two horses looking quizzically at us over their trough.

I was a few beats too late for the perfect shot of the two horses looking quizzically at us over their trough.

After some uphill climb, we could see down into the North Platte River Valley, with Torrington in view.

Downhill, you say? I like downhill!

Downhill, you say? I like downhill!

On entering the city, we got a strange caution.

Fog area? Not on an 87-degree cloudless day, I don't think! (By the way, this ride was very unusual: don't think the wind speed exceeded 10 mph the entire ride!)

Fog area? Not on an 87-degree cloudless day, I don’t think! (By the way, this ride was very unusual: the wind speed didn’t exceed 10 mph the entire ride!)

I had neglected to look up city parks in Torrington before we left for our journey, so we kept our eyes peeled for picnic tables – and found one! The “Npyco Botanic Garden” (I have no idea what “Npyco” means) just across the street from the Great Western sugar factory silos on the south end of town. The park is adjacent to a fireworks shop and two churches, in the parking lot of one of which we “howdy-ed” a cowboy-hatted man with the most fabulous non-ironic mustache I think I have ever seen in person.

Great Western sugar silos and a metal tipi

Great Western sugar silos and a metal tipi

The park had no restroom or water that we could see, and there were bottle rocket sticks everywhere (an unfortunate side effect of its proximity to the fireworks shop), but it had very nice single-table shelter and a gorgeous landscape bridge.

botanic garden

Shade! I love shade!

Pretty soon we were back in Nebraska again (I’m mentally singing this to “Back in the Saddle Again.”)

back in Nebraska again

Those last miles were difficult. We stopped in every town and several times along the roadside to rest and rehydrate. I didn’t take too many pictures, as I was often looking at the ground, head drooping with the effort of continued pedaling. (We were out on the road for about 7 hours, breaks included.)

But I did take one more horse picture just east of Henry.

Awww . . . babies! One of the babies was quite frightened of us cycling by.

Awww . . . babies! One of the babies was quite frightened of us cycling by.

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

The Lyman-Henry loop

On one of our last rides, we’d initially planned to bike about a 50-mile loop from our house to Lyman, up to Henry, and back, but rainy, windy weather cut our ride a bit short at Morrill. Last Sunday, we made the entire 54-mile loop.

First, I have to show off our make-do bicycle gear bags:

Fanny packs with straps wound around the bicycle frame make OK gear bags.

Fanny packs with straps wound around the bicycle frame make OK gear bags.

And I finally found a way to comfortably manage my camera during the warmer months. When it was cold, I would sling the camera over my neck on a lanyard and tuck the camera inside my jacket. Once the weather warmed and the jacket came off, the camera swung around annoyingly. Why did it take me so long to discover I could just lengthen the lanyard and tuck the camera into the back pocket of my jersey?

When I want to take a picture while riding, I just reach back and yank the camera out of my pocket. The lanyard ensures I won't drop it.

When I want to take a picture while riding, I just reach back and yank the camera out of my pocket. The lanyard ensures I won’t drop it. I can do this because, as tandem stoker, I don’t have to steer.

And a note about cycling clothes: there is method to the Spandex madness.

As a bicycle commuter, I have for years cycled in my ordinary clothing. (“Ordinary” meaning I never wear skirts or slip-on shoes.) I viewed cycling clothing as somewhat frivolous. It may seem frivolous if you’re only riding about 9 miles a day. But if you are riding for 20, 30, 40, 50 miles, something becomes very clear: chafing is your enemy. The best way to avoid chafing is to wear form-fitting, stretchy, wicking clothing, even if that is not the most flattering thing to wear.

OK, back to the ride …

We had planned to stop in the city park in Lyman to have our nearly-halfway-point picnic lunch of hard-boiled eggs and gummy bunnies. I texted my friend Kathi, who lives nearby, to see if she and her husband Dan could join us. They were up to their elbows in projects, as many ranchers are this time of year, so they invited us to stop by their place instead.

For once, I didn't have to prop the camera up on something. Kathi took this picture for us.

Us at the Open A Bar 2 Ranch near Lyman. For once, I didn’t have to prop the camera up on something. Kathi took this picture for us.

Darn if I didn’t forget to take a photo of our friends! I will make amends by referring you to Kathi’s blog, Country Chicken Girl, and the Open A Bar 2 Ranch Facebook page.

Kathi and Dan’s cattle are black. I did not get a picture of them. Instead, I took a picture of some white cattle on Holloway Road, which runs north-south about a quarter-mile east of the Wyoming-Nebraska state line.

Black angus cattle are much more common around here, so these white cattle with the white clouds above really caught my eye. They are charolais, maybe?

Black Angus cattle are much more common around here, so these white cattle with the white clouds above really caught my eye. They are charolais, maybe? Random fact: I first learned that black Angus was a cattle breed from the early-80s Atari Stampede video game.

Some other views from Holloway Road:

In shortgrass prairie country, a clump of tall trees can really attract the eye.

In shortgrass prairie country, a clump of tall trees can really attract the eye.

There was more than one abandoned house along this stretch of road.

There was more than one abandoned house along this stretch of road.

Closer to the town of Henry, we stumbled on a nice surprise. While I had heard of the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area we had biked past on the previous ride, I had never heard of the Stateline Island unit of the North Platte National Wildlife Refuge. It’s a lovely little stop alongside the road, with hiking trails and some benches.

north platte national wildlife refuge

FYI: if you go for a hike, make sure to check for ticks when you’re done.

Dog tick. Brrr! (You have nothing more to fear from this particular tick. It is deceased.)

This is what I found crawling on the sign in the photo above: dog tick. Brrr! (You have nothing more to fear from this particular tick. It is deceased.)

I took a short hike to a bench I could see on the riverbank. There was no water to be seen.

north platte river

River of sand?

Once we cycled across the bridge, the pitiful river trickle was visible on the north side of the sand dune:

north platte river holloway bridge

Is the rest of the water diverted for irrigation, I wonder? Or has it really been this dry upstream?

At Henry, we turned east onto Highway 26. I took a picture of a random picnic shelter I have always wanted to stop at.

highway 26 picnic shelter

I’m sure there are “historic interest” panels or some such thing there. Alas, it was across two lanes of traffic and two rumble strips – not worth the effort at the time.

It was interesting cycling on that patch of road. We were separated from traffic by a rumble strip. Most of the traffic passing us moved over into the oncoming lane to give us more space, which meant they rumbled on the rumble strip marking the center line. I really, really appreciated the courtesy of those drivers. Not one irritated honk! (Can’t say the same for cycling through town to get from our house to the highway.)

At Morrill, we had the chance to stop in the lovely city park for a snack and a rest.

morrill picnic shelter

In addition to a very nice shelter, the park has running-water public toilets in warm weather! (Very important for us road warriors to note these things.)

morrill park

The park is right across the street from some agriculture infrastructure adjacent to the rail line.

At one point, we saw two deer sproinging along in a meadow, a dog in semi-wholehearted pursuit.

One deer remained in the treeline, head swiveling to catch the threat that chased away its compadres.

One deer remained in the treeline, head and ears swiveling to catch the threat that chased away its compadres.

Somewhere between Morrill and Mitchell, between miles 37 and 42, fatigue started to set in. With temps approaching 80 degrees, it was getting pretty hot in the full sun. I could feel the sweat escaping past my layer of sunscreen, and I could feel that my skin was dusted with the salts from evaporated perspiration.

We stopped at a liquor store in Mitchell to grab a soda (always carry a little cash when out on the road – you might need it!)

That 7UP was the best 7UP I have ever tasted in my life. Ahhhhh!

That 7UP was the best 7UP I have ever tasted in my life. Ahhhhh!

On our next trip, we’re going to have to figure a way to carry more water.

When I wrote about our last bike journey east on Highway 26 from Mitchell, I complained about the unpleasantly rough road. Blog commenter Maggie kindly suggested an alternate route, so Bugman and I took Spring Creek Road back towards Scottsbluff instead of the highway. The road was quite a bit smoother, and I think we avoided some hill climbing. Some lovely homes back there, but also several junkyards.

With our distance of 54 miles and a total climb of about 1,231 feet, our ride was pretty similar to day 3 of our planned August ride, which is 56 miles and 1,475 feet of climb. I think we can tackle day 3, even though our last 4 or 5 miles into Scottsbluff were rough.

The question is, will we be able to handle the miles and climb on the days before and after??

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Rainy Sunday ride

With our weeklong August bike ride approaching ever-nearer, Bugman and I need to get some time in the saddle.

So, last Sunday, we decided to head out on the road, despite the fact that it was drizzling. (And despite the fact that I was developing a cold. Interestingly, my running-faucet nose completely shut off when we were out on the road. I never needed the hankie I stuffed in Bugman’s back pocket. Was it the fresh air??)

As we walked the bike into the street in front of the house, a man driving the opposite direction (I think he said he was from Melbeta? Or was it Minatare??) stopped his car next to us to chat about the bike.

“What’s it made out of?”

“Uh ….”

I guess when you have a geeky-cool bike, it’s expected that you are a bike geek and know all the specs. (For the record, it is “Reynolds 631 air-hardened steel zonally-butted tubing.”)

“How far are you guys going?”

“Oh, maybe 50 miles.”

“Fifty? Five-O?”

He looked a bit dubious.

After the driver pulled away, we were passed by a cyclist in a tie and purple shirt.

“Heading out?” he called.

“Yep.”

I wonder if he was dubious, too.

I had looked up the radar before suggesting our route that morning. Based on the way the clouds were developing, I figured we might get a little wet on occasion but could probably avoid the worst of the weather by heading west. I figured if we went west on Highway 92 and north at Lyman to Henry, we could take Highway 26 back and go through more towns on the way home, where there would be shelter if we needed it.

We headed out and got a few blocks away before I realized I forgot my cycling gloves. After nearly forgetting my helmet. *sigh*

Just as we pulled into the driveway again, there was a crack of thunder.

Crap.

Do we really want to go out?

But I got all my bike stuff on, and I really want to ride!

I looked at the radar again. It looked like it would be OK if we headed west.

So we did.

And we got wet.

It was pretty miserable for a few westbound miles there. My shell jacket was nearly soaked through, and it was darned windy (~30mph). I didn’t mind it so much, but Bugman seems to have a lower tolerance for recreational discomfort than I do, and I felt guilty for dragging him out into the elements. (C’mon, hon – we are HARDCORE!)

A look back at the dark clouds above Scotts Bluff.

A look back at the dark clouds above Scotts Bluff.

Before we hit the hill up to the Mitchell turnoff, I was reconsidering.

We paused to consume some sport beans and consult the maps and radar again.

“What if we cut it short and turn north to Morrill?” I suggested.

Bugman was game for my crazy scheme. (That’s what I love about him – he usually is.)

We continued on through wind and occasional rain. It was lovely to see the countryside so green, with hints of blue flax along the road. We were serenaded by meadowlark after meadowlark.

We were also spotted by several friends along our route – got a few honks and hollers and a Facebook comment: “Just passed you and Jeff on that tandem for the second time today! Saw you on 92 at about 10 am too! In the rain!”

And now, for the photo ‘splanation:

Green! With horses.

Green! With horses.

Yay! After 15 miles, the turnoff to Morrill and a chance to have the wind whip as us from our left instead of our right.

Yay! After 15 miles, the turnoff to Morrill and a chance to have the wind whip at us from our left instead of our right.

We were chirped at along what seemed to be a miles-long prairie dog town. Those little critters sure do make a mess of a nice, green pasture.

We were chirped at along what seemed to be a miles-long prairie dog town. Those little critters sure do make a lumpy mess of a nice, green pasture.

Joseph and the amazing technicolor ... roof? I am noting this place because from underneath a trailer closer to the road, two dogs ran out into the road after us. Next time we ride this way, I'll know to be prepared.

Joseph and the amazing technicolor … roof? I am noting this place because from underneath a trailer closer to the road, two dogs ran out into the road after us. Next time we ride this way, I’ll know to be prepared.

Had a lovely surprise, forgetting about the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area. Since it wasn't raining, we decided to pull off for a peanut butter sandwich picnic.

At mile 19, had a lovely surprise, forgetting that the Kiowa Wildlife Management Area was on our route. Since it wasn’t raining, we decided to pull off for a peanut butter sandwich picnic.

The Ostenberg Overlook is a lovely spot.

The Ostenberg Overlook is a lovely spot.

Alas, some doofuses had left their shotgun shell litter behind. We cleaned up this, plus a whole other sandwich bag full of litter, and packed it out.

Alas, some doofuses had left their shotgun shell litter behind. We packed out a whole sandwich bag full.

Ready to head back out!

Ready to head back out!

As we slow down with a coal train ahead, I warily eye the thin band of mammatus clouds above us.

As we slow down with a coal train ahead, I warily eye the thin band of mammatus clouds above us.

The park in Morrill where I had planned to stop for lunch if it was raining. It seems so inviting with the "visitors welcome" sign.

The park in Morrill where I had planned to stop for lunch if it was raining. It seems so inviting with the picnic shelter and the “visitors welcome” sign. This is also where we turned east and got the wind to our backs!

In Mitchell. "Ice cream? We have six dollars in quarters." "OK."

In Mitchell. “Ice cream? We have six dollars in quarters.” “OK.”

It was a good ride. 38.64 miles, no sore bum. (Thank you, new cycle shorts, talc, and lots of standing.)

PS – the shoulder on Highway 26 eastbound out of Mitchell stinks. BBBBUUUUMMMMPPPYYYYY!

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw