Over the Rockies
On the Friday there was a threat of rain and as it followed through on that threat I decided to go back to the cafe to continue uploading photos. I ended up spending most of the day there enjoying their shakes and sandwiches. By 5.30 pm the rain stopped and I left the cafe to go back to the KOA. At least the wind had stopped.
It rained through the night but the dawn was blue sky and sunshine. This was the right day to cross the Rockies. After a trip to the laundry to dry off some clothes, and a pause for the sun to dry my tent, I went back into town and got another of the delicious high calorie shake at the cafe. Fuelled up I crossed town and joined the I-80 at the last frontage road.
On the ride into Laramie I'd been wondering where the Rockies were. Why couldn't I see them? All I could see were some small hills. As I left Laramie I realised I'd been slowly climbing across Wyoming and was at 7400 ft above sea level. The highest point of the Rockies on my route was only 1300 ft higher. The little hills I'd seen were the Rockies. I should note that elsewhere the Rockies are much taller and dramatic - I was crossing at a fairly easy point for good reason!
The interstate wound around between the hills. From the plains you'd be forgiven for thinking it must go into a tunnel but it winds upwards over the summit. By "summit" I refer to the highest point on the Lincoln Highway at 8620 ft but it was slightly lower than the original Lincoln Highway. The modern railroad goes a different route. The summit is overlooked by a giant head of Abraham Lincoln made to celebrate the anniversary.
In the visitor centre I felt I'd earned the free "bike Wyoming" sticker given that I'd cycled from the west side of the state all the way to this point nearly at the eastern extreme. The lady at the desk said that if I was heading to Cheyenne I should really go via the nicer WY210 - Happy Jack Road. That put me in a quandry. Do I stick to my planned route (which wasn't exactly the same as Stevens anyway) or go this other road. I put it to the public vote. By the end of my lunch break Anne Akers, Chris North and my sister had all opted for Happy Jack Road so I went that way.
I'd left the highest point on my trip and was heading "downhill" through Medicine Bow National Forest. The views were great although the "downhill" was an average so there were uphills too. I stopped to admire a few of the rock formations that reminded me of Brimham Rocks, back home in Yorkshire, but more numerous.
After leaving Medicine Bow National Forest an amazing vista opened up before me. After weeks of going up, and being on plains skirted by mountains, the landscape now seemed to just fall away to the flat plains several thousand feet below. I imagined I could see as far as Nebraska 70 or 80 miles to the east but that may just be my wishful thinking.
There was a sign for Curt Gowdy State Park Visitor Center so I took a right towards it and was presented with a view of a beautiful lake. This view, along with the view at Donner Pass are the most stunning of the trip. It may be because I'd put in so much effort to reach them and didn't know what to expect. On a side note, I was a bit disappointed by the summit. I'd somehow expected the pass to go through steep mountains but these were mere 1400ft hills on top of the 7200ft Laramie Plain.
At the Visitor Center I got talking to the rangers at the desk: Kathleen who was originally from Russia but moved at 6 months old; and Daniek who was a student who'd spent a semester last year in Cardiff! We had a chat about Cardiff, Russia, and my trip. As the view from their panoramic window was so stunning I opted to camp. Kathleen reassured me that I'd have no problems with wild animals and decided to "comp" my night's fee due to being so impressed by my trip! Another wonderfully generous person.
As I was about to head down to the camp site a couple introduced themselves as Larry and Jo from Oregon. Apparently they'd seen my back on the other side of Wyoming, at the KOA in Lyman, and recognised me from there. They were glad to see that I'd nearly crossed the state.
I eventually found an empty, unreserved, camp spot on the edge of the lake's south side. I pitched my tent. I was doing the classic thing from American films and camping at "the lake". I just had a bicycle instead of a pick-up or SUV. After exploring the road around the lake, I cycled the 200ft back up to the Visitor Center to get a shower. The centre was opened in late 2013 so was in great condition and had clean wet-room showers.
Back at my pitch, a couple asked if they could fish from my picnic table. They were Tom and Sue from Cheyenne. They caught five fish between them and then Tom insisted I have a go and then join them for dinner. It was my second attempt at fishing and I failed again. The family caravanning next to me offered the fish they had caught so that'd I'd have something to take to Tom and Sue. I spent a very enjoyable evening in their company eating the rainbow trout they'd caught and sitting around the campfire talking about accents.
When I returned to my tent I decided to take a picture of my bike by the lake. It was whilst doing this that I discovered my Schwalbe tyres have reflective strips around them so they are visible in car headlights. Useful feature!