When I first arrived in Laramie on Tuesday afternoon, I parked in a parking lot on the University of Wyoming campus to give Tucker a call. Coincidentally, I saw the backside of the UW chapter of Chi Omega across the lot. I had to walk around to the front to snap a picture.
On Wednesday, Tucker worked until the afternoon, so I ventured out into Laramie. Last I wrote I was in a coffee shop wrapping up my master’s degree. After finishing up all my necessary tasks, I headed back to Tucker’s house and threw on my workout clothes and running shoes. Randomly, I had the urge to go for a run and geocache to get out some energy – I must have had too much coffee or something. As I ran, I quickly became exhausted. I didn’t remember ever getting out of shape this quickly before and was momentarily upset at myself for not working out more during the past few weeks. Fortunately, I quickly remembered that Laramie sits higher than 7,000 feet in elevation, while Beaverton, where I live and train, is just under 200 feet in elevation. Oops. My lungs were not happy. For the rest of the day I periodically coughed and sputtered as my lungs protested my attempt at cardio. The outing was not a total bust, though. I wandered around Laramie attempting to find caches, with no success on my own, but I did manage to spot some antelope grazing in the area and found a great overlook of Laramie.
Around 5pm, I headed back to the house to shower up and figure out the rest of the night. Tucker came in soon after me and we headed out to attempt some more geocaching, I figured I could do better with help, and then on to dinner.
Geocaching was a success! We found three caches out of the five we searched for; we think the two failed attempts were lost to recent construction. That or we are just terrible beginners.
After a wonderful dinner at a local joint called McAlisters, we called it a night.
The next morning, I had planned on getting up before 7am and leaving early, but slept poorly and woke up around 8am. I went to prep my bike and found frost on my seat, so it was a good thing that I waited until later, anyway. I left Laramie right around 9am and it was cold out. I had mapped out my journey to Salt Lake City, but found an alternate route through the mountains and down into Colorado. This alternate would add two extra hours and 70 miles to my journey, but it seemed worth it.
Within the first hour of my ride, I was grateful to have chosen a route other than the interstate. The winding, sloping roads of the smaller Wyoming highways were much more fun. Since it was still very early in the day and I was continuing to climb in elevation, the temperatures stayed cold. Had it not been for the chaps given to me by Roxanne and Chip in Iowa and the fleece the hood from Ron in Pittsburgh, I’m sure I would not have made it through the day, no joke. The only cold thing on me was my fingertips, but I persevered, at least until I found good stopping spots with things for me to photograph. The wildlife on the journey was incredible. I saw what I thought was a majestic black eagle, I had forgotten that juvenile bald eagles are completely dark until about two years of age. I saw many little prairie dogs or groundhogs, whatever they’re called out here; most of them held a regal stance as they soaked their faces in the rising sun just outside of their holes. I also saw many more antelope. I can recall at least three giant herds of 30 or more just grazing in large fields. I will admit, I did honk my horn and wave at them out of excitement… yes, I am a dork. At the edge of Wyoming, just before the Colorado border, I began to notice yellow and red leaves in the trees, the most changed leaves I have seen yet. I’m not sure if autumn is starting all at once and I missed it by a week back east or if it is starting out here because the cold is already hitting the higher elevations, but it was beautiful.
Riding through Colorado was breathtaking. With each straight stretch, I was acquainted with views of brilliant mountain ranges extending for miles and miles. The valley floors had grasslands populated by cattle and horses. I caught up to highway 40 heading west and had the ride of my life. The smooth, sweeping curves were meant for riding and the rise and fall in elevation made the ride all the more entertaining. The views were spectacular as the highway took me up to the top of the Rabbit Ear Range and back down into the valley where Steamboat Springs lies. Another motorcyclist trailed me the entire decent to Steamboat Spring. The only thing I would change about the decent would be the wind; gusts hit me from time to time and would scoot me across my lane, but my bike handled it all well.
After Steamboat Springs (a gorgeous little town, by the way), the scenery turned to much flatter ground, though still accompanied by mountain ranges in the distance. After a while, I arrived in Dinosaur, Colorado to refuel and get some snacks. Within a couple of miles, I was in eastern Utah.
The flat lands went on, then began to ascend into the mountains. I realized that the temperature was dropping as I climbed and feared I may hit rain. I did. For ten miles I rode through mild rain, after which I chuckled and said, “is that it?” It wasn’t. I was in the clear for a few more minutes, but then I would ride through another 45 miles of rain, stopping for gas, seeing the rain turn into snow for a bit, then back to rain as I dropped into the Salt Lake City Valley. Fortunately, the snow didn’t stick, thought I did have a mild heart attack from the freezing temperatures.
Though the cold weather was terrible, it reminded me that I would soon be safe and warm. As soon as I was back on interstate 80, I knew I was close enough to stop stressing. I met my uncle, aunt, and cousins at their local high school to watch one of my cousins play volleyball on the varsity team that my uncle helps coach. It took a bit for me to get warm and dry, but I eventually did and looked back on the day with pride that I made it through.