This is a long one (Devil’s Tower)

Newcastle to Gillette ~143mi

Woke up on a carpeted wheelchair ramp in Newcastle, right by the church entrance there. Uncomfortable surfaces make me a morning person. Lots of energy that morning–early wakeup, as Kevin and Shea found a diner that provided us with breakfast. Such generosity. And bacon, sweet bacon.

We thanked our hosts profusely and went to a lake that Pi found out about from one of the chefs. Fourteen miles into the ride, we go for a swim. Talk to some fisherpeople about what there is to catch. A dog that Nate describes as the “I am Legend” dog is there, and we play with him a little.

By the time Nate, Pi and I get off the lake, we’ve accepted that we won’t be seeing the van for the first rest stop at 20. We hit some kind of crazy tailwind for the next chunk of the ride, into Upton (The Greatest Town on Earth) we’re rolling at about 25 without the kind of effort we’ve come to associate with that speed.

Wyoming shoots by all infinite in every direction, rolling hills punctuated with modest but numerous oil derricks and cattle and BNSF railway cars so long that both engine and caboose are hidden behind hills. In the distance, we see Devil’s Tower. I don’t think anything of it, aside from “that thing must be massive.” Pi suggests we go see it, if it’s six or seven miles off course. I remember thinking “yeah, maybe if it’s six or seven away.”

In Moorcroft we stop at a subway for lunch (we’re far behind still so we’ve told Jeff we won’t meet him here either), and Pi comes back from the gas station with a map in his hands and an “I have a crazy idea” type of look in his eyes. The Tower is 30 miles away. We should go see it. We work out the numbers and figure we can get to the stayover before nightfall if we keep it above 15. After getting the go-ahead, we set off.

The terrain is hillier at first. and I have my doubts. The hardest climbs are the unnecessary ones. After the first big hill I felt an internal shift: no turning back, might as well do the thing. The hills and wind are hard to judge on the way out there, and the whole time I’m thinking: will this be harder on the way back? Is this more uphill than downhill? Will there be a headwind? A tailwind? A crosswind?

Worry dissolves into wonder when we reach the tower. I’d had a vague recollection of it from Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Such a strange formation, this casting of the inside of a volcano long since eroded. We gawk and take pictures. Refuel at a little store with Tower knicknacks. Then back the exact way we came.

The sky started doing strange, beautiful things. We rode through a storm on rt. 51, lightning visible but not audible on either side. An archway of blue sky admitted us through the storm with only minimal soaking and headwinds. Upon passing through, we turned around and I distinctly remember seeing Nate and Pi underneath a near-perfect rainbow bisected by a bolt of violet lightning. After that, we raced the sunset to our stayover. We lost, but only by a little.

Upon arrival, I could do little but put food into my mouth ferociously and find a surface to sleep on. Couches and chore partners were such a blessing. Wyoming is the best state yet.

Comments (2)
  • donna kalis says:

    Hi Max, Fascinating people, climbs,scenery. Thanks for sharing them. Keep going…it gets even more beautiful. Love, Donna

  • maral (pi's big sister) says:

    hi max – great entry…and thanks for all the wonderful pictures! keep it up!

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