1996 Journal Archives
Friday, May 31, 1996
Buffalo, Wyoming to Gillette, Wyoming
Today's Miles: 99
Cumulative Miles for the Tour: 1275
Degree of Difficulty: Easy
Terrain: Rolling Pastureland
Find of the Day: Red Arrow Cafe and The Spotted Horse
If you don't take chances, you don't find the surprises...today was a full day of surprises.
I started off early this morning, knowing we had a century ride ahead of us. We did not know the terrain because no one had been on this route before. Instead of taking a straight shot to Gillette up Highway 90, we chose the back way along Highway 16, through Ucross.
The wind was coming from my upper left, all the way through my lower right as I pedaled onto Highway 16. It was raining and chilly enough to slice a glazier. This Wyoming weather changes so fast, there is no way to tell what is in store. The first 15 miles were headwinds and slanting rain. The new route looked like a bad choice right off the bat.
Highway 16 veers to the northeast as it intersects with Highway 14. Traffic was extremely light, the only problem being a pack of 6 dogs that chased me at speeds over 20 miles an hour. That's all I needed...rain, cold and being chased by dogs as big as wolves. The morning was turning out to be very frustrating...and then I pulled into the Red Arrow Cafe in Clearmont.
The Red Arrow Cafe is relatively new in this town of 117. The building predates World War II and was used as a concentration camp for German prisoners during the war years. None of our maps showed a cafe available in Clearmont. It has opened within the past year, servicing the locals as a cafe and bar. The road doesn't get much traffic, so we were welcomed, feed and talked to as if with a bunch of old friends.
There is a small jail in town that dates back to the early 1800's. It's the focal point of the local park and hasn't been used since the 1960's when a couple of local teenagers got "a little" drunk and had to spend the night in lockup. There is a tendency for understatement in the Wyoming vernacular, so Lee and I assumed that "a little" drunk would mean rip roaring anywhere else.
The food at the Red Arrow is about what you would expect at a roadside cafe in the middle of nowhere, but the hospitality of L and her crew will make it a "must" stop if I pass through here again.
By the time we finished lunch, the rain had stopped and the sun was trying to burn through the layer of clouds that were hovering overhead. This was Sarah's first day to really get out and ride with us, so it was nice as we turned a bend about 8 miles up the road and headed southeast with a stiff tailwind. From this point on, the ride became a storybook day.
The grey packed gravel road turned to red gravel as we headed farther into the northeast corner of Wyoming. The beauty of the surrounding hills and pastureland was completely unexpected after spending the last week biking through the mountains. Lee took over 20 pictures within a 35 mile stretch as we coasted along, 20 to 30mph, with rolling hills, antelope gazing on the side of the road, deer jumping fences, birds songs coming from all directions...springtime has hit Wyoming and we're right in the middle of it! 65 miles into the ride, on the horizon, we saw what appeared to be the only building in Spotted Horse, Wyoming...The Spotted Horse Bar. This place in something out of a horror story AND a fairy tale.
Renee greeted us as we came in. We were welcome to sit in the dentist chair in front of the x-ray machine, brows the nicknacks on the wall which included a vintage model Schwinn bicycle hanging from the ceiling or have an ice cream sandwich while sitting at the bar. The inside of the place looked like a collection of objects from a garbage dump if the collector had taste. It's one of the most fun places I've ever seen.
I've been looking for a mojo to put on the front of my bike to protect me from the vagaries of the road. Renee whipped out a prong horn sheep scull from the garden in back and attached it to my handlebars with rusted barbed wire. See, I told you the place was cool!
We left The Spotted Horse Bar after feeling like we had a new set of friends with Rene, Mat and and his friend. You've GOT to stop here if you're even close to this area. Tell Renee, Bike America sent you.
The ride into Gillette was uneventful except for the continued beauty of the sloping grasslands. The terrain is dotted with different colors of grasses and crops. The wildlife is so prevalent, it would be impossible to miss it. All in all, it was a wonderful day to put another 100 miles on our trip and get us that much closer to our entrance into South Dakota...
We have several new people joining the tour this week. Sarah Mauthe and Donna Bell are a mother/daughter team who have taken over the cooking and support. Sarah is 12 years old and will also be bike riding with us part of the way, as well as helping her mother with the daily campground scouting.
David Wallace will be joining us for the duration of the tour, starting in Gillette, Wyoming. Dave is from Canton, Ohio and I will get a short bio of him as soon as he gets settled in.
It looks like we're getting larger as we go! We're always pleased to meet the people who are following the journal. Come out and have dinner with us when we're coming through your town. I look forward to meeting you.
PS - To Patti from upstate New York - How was your 120 mile turnaround ride? We're looking forward to meeting you as we get closer to New York.
Bike America Tours