Monday, July 1, 2013

Jeffrey City, WY

Day 44: Monday, July 1, 2013
Lander to Jeffrey City: 53 miles

Today was an interesting day. But it wasn't for the scenery.

boring Wyoming
Same ol', same ol'

And it went on forever.

on and on
Will it ever end?
Well, at least the sky was gorgeous.

The interesting parts were the first segment of road construction, and my evening lodging. My cycling companions decided to stick around Lander for a while. So I departed solo.

I hit the construction zone about 19 miles out of Lander. There were big trucks, clouds of dust, and no road to speak of for two or three miles. Traffic was single-file, with a guide vehicle. But they weren't giving rides.

I asked the flagger, "How bad is it?" "Pretty bad," he replied. A lot of loose gravel. And with the heavy equipment and the car caravans, I wasn't too keen on trying it.

I turned around. There was a pickup behind me. An empty pickup. I asked the driver, "Could I get a lift through this mess?" She replied, "Sure. How far do you want to go? We're going to Rawlins."

Well, now, that was tempting. It would save me a couple of days biking through the wilderness. But that would be cheating.

"Okay," she said. "How about if I give you a ride to the next turnout past the construction cones?" That sounded fair to me. The flagger helped me unload the bike and toss everything into the truck, I climbed into the back of the cab and joined Peter the dachshund, and we were off.

That construction zone extended about a mile up the climb to Beaver Rim. My map said that was a 1000' climb in about five miles. On paper, that doesn't look bad. But it would have taken me over an hour. But it was just my luck that, once we got past the construction zone, she couldn't find a safe place to pull off and let me out until we got all the way to the top of Beaver Rim.

Call it cheating if you will. I didn't mind a bit.

pickup transportation
I rode this white chariot through the construction zone.

Jeffrey City is almost a ghost town. I wish I had taken some photographs of it in 1981, when we camped in the city park overnight. Back in the fifties, it became a boom town when uranium mines were opened, and there were several thousand residents. It was still a decent-sized town in 1981. But the mines were shut down in 1982. Most of the residents, being out of work or dependent on those who were now out of work, had no reason to stay, and within three years 95% of them had left.

The most active business still in town is the Split Rock Cafe (and bar). Vicki Correll was behind the counter when I stopped in. She appears to be a very ordinary, unassuming person, about the type you'd expect to find here. But she's also a professional photographer with several books to her credit. And she knows Byron Seeley.

Byron Seeley is the town drunk. (He'll readily admit it.) He's also the Mad Potter, proprietor of MonkKingBird Pottery. When a friend offered to sell him one of the town's former gas stations and an acre or so of land for $5000, he jumped at the chance. He makes just enough pottery to keep himself in booze and a little more.

And these two, plus a friend whom I did not meet, won Adventure Cycling's June Curry Trail Angel award for 2012. Since the town's motel closed in 2009, they have provided lodging for countless travelers.

On the day I was there, I found a group of ornithologists at the town's RV park, doing target practice with crossbows. (I don't think they put this skill to use - they were studying songbirds.) Byron was organizing a bonfire and party for them, and he invited me to join them. I declined, saying that I was tired and needed to get up early. I should have gone. He is, to say the least, an interesting conversationalist.

Several years ago, a cyclist stayed four days with Byron, and made a movie about him. It's on Youtube, of course.

MonkKingBird Pottery
I could have slept in the trailer, but chose my own abode.
The OPEN sign and the radio are always on.

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