May 29, ’72
The next morning I said good-bye to John, and after eating breakfast in a restaurant, I got on my bike and headed up the hill and out of town. I was peddling into a cold wind that turned into a bitterly cold rain. When I crossed the Wyoming border, I was averaging about 5 mph. The rain had stopped, but the wind and altitude made bicycling almost impossible. It was depressing also. It was one thing to bike up a mountain in first or second gear; it was entirely another thing to bike straight down the highway, mile after mile, in second gear. When faced with this kind of wind, or a steep incline, I would take the steep incline any day of the week.
Every morning brought with it wind and rain. In order to continue, I had to enter into an agreement with myself, “If I could peddle faster than I could walk I would continue to bike.” After making that pact, I experienced times when I couldn’t make up my mind. I never quit, though.
Yesterday, I was wet and blown dry four different times. In the
afternoon, right after I reached Gillette, I said, “Fuck it.” I
decided to hitchhike with my bike. First though, I got some food at a restaurant and, after that, I found that the wind had let up a bit. I
decided to try and make Buffalo, another 69 miles west. Around 4 p.m. the rain stopped, but the wind picked up. When I reached Powder River around 5 p.m. and went into the one stop gas station (one stop because it only had one gas pump), the lady who owned the place invited me into her trailer for coffee (the trailer was both the gas station and her home). While I was there, one of her friends offered to give me a lift to Buffalo.
I climbed in the back of his pickup truck and began my 31mile coast
all the way into Buffalo. During my short, but very much appreciated ride, I wanted to scream blasphemies at Aeolos (god of the winds), but I thought better of it. I had the driver drop me off at the city park. Once I found out that I could crash in the park, and after I got my bike ready for the next day’s climb up the Big Horn Mountains, I went looking for a bar that served food. I needed to break a twenty-dollar traveler’s check, so I figured if I ordered big, I could accomplish two things at once. On the street, I met this dude, and we went into the only bar open on Sunday. Once inside, we sat with his friend who was already there.
These guys took an instant liking to me. They told me my money was no good as long as I stayed with them, and they kept their promise. When I went to the bathroom, in between one of the many Coors’ beers that I drank, the bartender took me aside and said, “Did you know that your drinking buddy is a faggot and the other one is a mental case?” They both seemed like nice fellows to me. When they wanted me to leave the bar with them, I politely declined. Instead, I went back to the park and crashed (I was ready to crash anyway). Actually, I thought the bartender was the one that was a little nuts, but why take chances? By then it was raining, so back at the park, I put the baseball dugout to use. The wooden bench was hard but dry. In the morning I found a café where I ate an omelet and watched the Memorial Day Parade through the storefront window. It was a short parade.
I’m going to cash my check now, and then start my climb up the Big
Horns. They tell me that after another 49 miles I will reach a
10,066-foot mountain pass. Yesterday, if you include my 31-mile truck ride, I covered 100 miles.