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Day 61: The Ballad of Wyoming, Part 2 – Wind River

After the wind laid us low on the way to Lander, we're back on the bikes this morning, heading through the Wind River Reservation to Dubois.

We were up early on Day 61, trying to build momentum back up after yesterday's defeat. We had coffee and oatmeal with Mike, and then we set off. It's chilly, but the wind is calm — so calm that it's almost surreal. For a while we're riding flats without fighting gusts? Is this what biking can be like? It's so… easy? It's nice. Even the hills are nice, because they're only hills.

It isn't long out of Lander before you enter the Wind River Reservation. We stop at Hines General Store, which Don told us about and which he lives near (we tried to look for his house, to thank him again, but we couldn't say for sure which was his). Hines is pretty much just a grocery store, but the owners also have the Wind River Trading Co. next door, which is part shop and part museum — we wandered through it a bit. It's free, and worth the visit. Sacajawea's gravesite is also only a mile off route, though we didn't make the expedition — today's about covering ground, about being back on the bikes and getting some confidence back. We pushed on.

Pretty soon, in the middle of a fast downhill, I get a flat. A double flat (we figure this out after patching the tube, putting it back in the tire, then finding it still won't hold air). But this is mostly worth noting because it adds to our gallery of Sara changing tubes in "fun" places:

Soon we spy Crowheart Butte, which will dominate our scenic landscape for much of the day. And we've heard the story of the Butte from Don before seeing it: the Shoshone Chief Washakie (for whom the road we're riding on is named, as well as the town where the Hines Store is), once challenged the Crow Chief Big Robber to single combat, the thought being that whoever won would have hunting rights to the region without their whole armies going to war. Washakie won (they essentially jousted, riding their horses with lances and bull shields on top of the enormous butte), then cut out the Crow leader's heart and rode back with it on the end of his lance. At least one source says this was out of honor for Big Robber, for having fought so bravely. Regardless, the site of the battle was named Crowheart, and this big butte is visible for miles in every direction.

After Crowheart, it's another long expanse of barren, beautiful landscape, probably best expressed in pictures.

It isn't until we're just about to leave the reservation that we run into wind again. (Of course we do — we've been riding along the Wind f'ing River for miles.) It hits just as we reach this visually stunning bit of geology:

It's disconcerting, because the angle of these mounds makes you feel like, surely, you're headed downhill. But, of course, we're headed uphill — the earth has only pushed these layers up at an angle. And, of course, as we climb to the gaps between these red-earth behemoths, the wind is also funneling through. Right into our faces.

Excited anyways.

So we stop and take a calorie break (what cyclists call a meal), and look for mountain goats among the hills and crevasses. We see none. We push on.

The last thirteen miles, the wind is up and coming at us. We're almost used to it at this point, but you kind of never get used to it — it sucks. And we're only talking 20-25 mph winds (we've dealt with double that), but it still turns the rest of the ride into a slog. But, still, a pretty nice-to-look-at slog.

At last, we reach Dubois, where we pile into a booth at the Rustic Pine Tavern, have a pair of pints, and try to find a bed for the night. The church hostel in town isn't answering, so we eventually settle for the Super 8, a mile west. We grab some food-to-go and begin the trek, but are soon sidetracked.

Beau had nightmares about jackalopes as a child, but he's mostly over them now. Enough to follow Sara inside and capture this excellent moment.

This is really all you need to know about Dubois, Wyoming.

We made it to the hotel after dark, scarfed some calories, and settled in to rest before tomorrow's ride — tomorrow we climb into towards the Tetons, through Togwotee Pass, our second-highest elevation on the trail. But that's tomorrow — now we sleep.

Day 61: Lander to Dubois, WY, 77.9 miles, 3750 feet of climbing, some big skies and beautiful buttes, more fucking wind, and the tamed stuff of nightmares.

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