By Dina Mishev
Sunday morning, I started out from Worland. After touring through open, rolling ranch country, I ended the day in Ten Sleep, at the foot of the eastern slopes of the Bighorns.
Monday, it was 4,000-plus feet up and over Power River Pass, where huge fields of periwinkle lupine distract from the few small patches of remaining snow. It was like traveling through a perfume bottle. I descended from the pass’ 9,666-foot summit into Buffalo. Sagewood Gifts, on Main Street, has a wonderful little café hiding at the back of the store. The key lime cheesecake, which they make, along with all of the breads they use, in-house, was wonderful. I spent the night in Buffalo.
Today, Tuesday, I stayed on the western side of the Bighorns, coming up from Buffalo through the tiny towns of Banner and Story before stopping in Sheridan at one of my favorite coffee shops in the state, Java Moon. After a hearty bacon breakfast burrito, some freshly squeezed lemonade – 100-degree temperatures made that sound better than coffee – and a vanilla bean scone, I continued north to Dayton. The rugged Tongue River Canyon is only six miles outside of town and the river itself comes right through town. I’m tempted to jump in.
Tomorrow I will again head up into the Bighorns, to Bear Lodge at Burgess Junction.
I, along with 300-some others this week, are doing it all on bikes though … the kind of bikes you pedal, not ones with a throttle.
This year marks the 15th annual Tour de Wyoming. It’s a volunteer-organized, six-day, fully-supported bike tour. Each day, all riders have to do is bike from point A to point B. (Well, and then pitch their tents once at point B.) A truck brings our luggage and there are eminently well-stocked and –manned rest stops en route. Riders that want to take a break can jump in a support vehicle and get taken as far up the road as they want.
At night, we camp at community centers, schools, and fairgrounds. Local groups looking to raise money make us breakfast and dinner. The route, which is different every year, usually covers between 300 and 400 miles.
I obviously live in Wyoming, but riders come from across the country. Last night I was camping next to a couple from Florida. Over my years doing the Tour – this year marks my fifth – I’ve made friends from Illinois, Colorado, California, Oregon, and New Jersey.
I haven’t done any multi-day bike tours besides Tour de Wyoming, so I have absolutely nothing to compare it to. Most other riders have however. And they say Tour de Wyoming is the one they keep coming back to.
Of course the state’s scenery is a draw. In the five years I’ve done the Tour, we’ve hit Devils Tower, the Snowy Range, the Bighorns, the Absarokas, and Flaming Gorge.
It’s not just the scenery though. When we all rolled into Dayton this afternoon, we increased the town’s population by half. The year we went through Meeteetse, there were more of us than there were Meeteetse-ans.
I guess a town could get annoyed at being taken over by a bunch of bicyclists, but I’ve yet to see it happen. Most businesses have signs up welcoming us and stay open late or open early for us.
The first full day of this year’s Tour, a Ten Sleep-ian sat down next to me shortly after I had arrived in town and started talking. Thirty minutes later as I got up to leave and go pitch my tent at the school, Pete said that if there wasn’t any room left up there, I should feel free to camp in his front yard.
I bet if I had come through Ten Sleep in a car I wouldn’t have gotten that offer. And I’m not so sure that, even on a bike, I would have gotten that offer in too many other states either.
A 14-year resident of Jackson, Dina Mishev is the author of Total Tetons, an app available in the iTunes store. It was named a “New & Noteworthy” app by Apple when it launched in June 2010. Dina updates it regularly.