Days 29-31: The Great Basin
The Great Basin.
No, not great as in spectacular to look at. Great as in big — really, really big.
This section of the Great Divide has a bit of an infamous reputation. It’s over 150 miles long and is the second longest stretch of the route without a natural water source. This means you have to pick and choose your campsites wisely, or carry enough water to get you through the long haul.
Not to mention the serious lack of K-9s. I know, I know, I owe ya a few there.
We all like a challenge. Let’s see how we faired with this one — spoiler: I survived. If I were a ghost, I’d be doing more exciting things than writing blog posts about my former life.
Day 29 - Cowboy Country
After traveling through Montana and Idaho, you would think Wyoming would be more of the same. Forrest roads taking you up giant mountains or miles of farmland where the best potatoes in the country are grown.
What I didn’t realize about Wyoming was that it’s cowboy country, and the images of ranchers hitching up their horses at the saloon didn’t just belong to Texas and Oklahoma. I was passing through mining towns, where great booms and busts of the early 1900s set the foundation for what I was seeing today.
South Pass City was the first mining town I encountered. Passing through, you couldn’t help but notice the massive abandoned mine located at the top of a hill. South Pass was once home to a thriving gold rush, until the minerals became too difficult to extract and the population dwindled. Then, as mining technology improved, people returned to the settlement to find their fortune. The original structures are still there, but now they’re a nod to the city’s history rather than a staple to its economy.
15 miles East, Atlantic City (population “about 58”) was another town to pop up in the early 1900s. However, unlike South Pass where the original buildings became state landmarks, Atlantic City still uses most of these buildings, including its famous saloon where I had to stop and get lunch.
Following a good meal, I set back out into the basin. From here on out, there are no natural water sources for over 100 miles. This made camping more difficult, because I could no longer follow my golden rule of finding a water before settling in. I referred to my guidebook and found their was a man-made well located about halfway to Rawlins — the next major town on the route.
Pedaling into the desert was nerve-racking, as you saw miles of nothing but grass, hills, and the occasionally pronghorn deer. Putting my nerves aside, I took this as my opportunity to prep for New Mexico and became very mindful of my water supply.
After about 55 miles of pedaling, I found the well and was surprised it was not a mirage. In the middle of nowhere sat a metal pipe stemming from the ground and gushing cold water out from its spout. With the green grasses growing around it, it looked like a little desert oasis made just for lunatic travelers like me.
This was true cowboy camping. Just me, Apollo, and a damn-good sunset to stare at until I fell asleep.
Day 30 - Throw the Damn Towel
Ready to take on another full-fledged basin day, I sprung out of my tent and made a hearty breakfast of instant oatmeal — my go-to camping breakfast.
As I set up Apollo, I heard a rubbing sound coming from his back tire. Upon investigation, there was something sticking out of his back wheel — a broken spoke. Apollo had been cut (well dented actually, but we’re sticking with the boxing reference). So, I did my best to pop the spoke back into place, but the damage was already done. The back wheel would spin, but it tilted as it rotated, causing it to rub against the brakes.
I couldn’t help but reference Rocky when Apollo fought Drago and was clearly losing, but he implored Rocky not to throw in the towel. (spoiler alert) Knowing his friend was hurt but not wanting to go against his wishes, Rocky hesitated and threw in the towel just a moment too late, resulting in Apollo’s death.
Pushing this thought aside, I set up Apollo for the ride anyway. I mean, I didn’t have much choice. I was in the middle of nowhere with the closest town being 50 miles away in either direction. And, when I say there’s nothing around, this is what I mean:
To his credit, Apollo showed his grit and powered through today’s ride. He mustered his way through oil fields, up winding hills, and eventually made it to a small mining town where we set up camp for the night. His fight is far from over, but as his teammate it’s my job to keep him running. I cleaned his chain, tightened his bolts, and tucked him into bed early with a promise that we would visit the next bike shop in Colorado and get him back to 100%.
He said that he had no regrets, just that we haven’t met a dog in nearly 5 days. But the horses and the pronghorns were still pretty cool. He’s a crazy one, that Apollo.
Day 31 - We’re Halfway There
Yes, Mr. Bon Jovi, we are now halfway way there. We are also — slightly — living on a prayer.
But so far, Apollo has held up and I have successfully battled two sprinkler attacks on this trip.
Backing up a bit. The big milestone for today was to reach Rawlins, 1350 miles into our journey and the unofficial halfway point of the Great Divide.
But, before Apollo and I made it to Rawlins, the real battle was fought on the community park lawn in Banoil, Wyoming.
At approximately 12:05am, the Banoil sprinkler system formally declared war on Pedaling for Pups and opened fire on my tent. Caught off guard by this treachery, I sprung out of my sleeping bag and confronted the closest sprinkler, wrestling it vigorously until I redirected it to the opposite position. With victory seemingly in hand, I moved on to the next sprinkler head and repeated the same action.
But, it was a trap.
The sprinklers activated their 360 degree rotational attack, and all I could do was watch and hope that my tent’s defense systems would hold. Normally, I would find this situation hilarious and laugh it off. But, with the weather dropping under 30 degrees that night, soaking wet gear presented a real complication with freezing temperatures.
After about 20 minutes, the first set of sprinklers turned off and I decided to take a gamble. I set down my tent footprint, and moved my tent right next to the first set of sprinklers — thinking surely they would not go off twice in one night.
To be honest, a part of me fully expected to be wrong and to wake up with a angry sprinkler head jabbing me in the rear. But, not only did my gamble pay off when the next set sprung up exactly where my tent used to be, but to my surprise, all my gear was completely dry. The worst that came out of this ordeal was Apollo getting a free, late-night shower.
And so, thus was the battle of Banoil, where no ground was given on either side and both factions didn’t suffer any casualties.
If you haven’t guessed, the ride today wasn’t very eventful. Apollo held up, we made it to Rawlins, and the Great Basin was, well, still a basin. We did see wild horses which was pretty cool.
I could bore you with more food stories and my exciting trip to the Walmart in Rawlins, but I’ll stop here because in just 3 days we can kiss Wyoming goodbye and say hello to Steamboat Springs, Colorado.