Perhaps I arrived at a new low today. Perhaps the vast emptiness of Wyoming just cleared out everything that I was holding on to. Hours were giving way to days, feet were adding up to miles; none of which brought me any solace from the void that was Wyoming. As I stopped caring about everything around me, I too began to stop caring about what was going on within me.
The ride from Jeffrey City to Lander was precisely as you would expect: empty. There were maybe two junctions where one could refuel and satiate themself. Beyond that...nothing. The only company I had was the blazing Wyoming sun, keeping a close watch on me.
The ride was flat for the first twenty or so miles. Upon completion of those miles I knew there would be a great downhill. Peddling closer and closer, I could see the brink of the plateau that I was cruising across. It was as if I had arrived at Shel Silverstein's end of the sidewalk. Looking out over the sharp cliff, I bore witness to a jagged lunar landscape. Much like the moon, this land was completely uninhabited. For the first time since the good ol' Rodeo in Rawlins, I experienced excitement while dropping in to this six-mile, -6% grade downhill.
The rest of the ride was a sun-beaten, dusty blur. Moments were hard to distinguish while riding through the Wyoming countryside.
Just before noon I arrived in Lander. This place felt different. Within five minutes of arriving I saw a young person riding a skateboard and a woman walking to church. It's weird, this place had a sense of community. It felt like my challenging expedition through Sodom, the Ayn Rand-ian biblican town where everyone was truly on their own, was coming to a close. This place was a real town!
Starving after my ride, I took a seat on a bench along main street. There I had a difficult time preparing a tunafish using my lap as a table. Despite the awkwardness, I was successful in piecing it together. As I consumed my meal, I blankly stared towards the other side of the street. It may have been on my last bite that the scenery across the street registered in my mind. There was a public park, complete with vacant picnic tables. Wow. I had grown so accustomed to ignoring my scenery that I neglected to discover the park directly across the street, which, quite frankly, would have made my life a whole lot easier.
That afternoon I met up with the cyclists from Jeffrey City. We headed to the Holiday Lodge. After bickering with the cashier for a good 15 minutes over an 8% versus a 9% tax rate on the $10 charge for our campsites, we got situated.
Around 5:00 pm, I joined David for dinner at McDonald's. Back at home I never ate at McDonald's. Having spent a draining week in the state of Wyoming, there was not an ounce of resistance to eating at this fast-food chain. I first approached the counter to purchase a large quarter pounder deluxe meal. After devouring it, I returend to the counter to order a four-piece happy meal with chocolate milk and yogurt. Was I done after round two? Not a chance. For the third time I approached the counter without an ounce of shame. Any and all pride had dissipated during my ride through the Wyoming flats. The cashier, now laughing at me, took down my order for a McFlurry. Sixteen dollars and fourty-seven cents later I had completed the most degrading meal of my life...and I cared not.
That evening we headed to a local bar for live music. A native Lander-ian had come home from his tour to perform for the home crowd. David, Matt and I sat on an outdoor patio between two restaurant-pubs to enjoy the music. The artist was great. He and his band performed some kind of bluegrass-soul music that got the crowd moving. Sometime during the show, a young woman approached us to ask if we were interested in eating her leftovers. Back in DC I would have been wildly offended by the proposition. However, after riding 200 miles through windy Southern Wyoming, we weren't even slightly turned off. In fact, we whole-heartedly accepted her offer, then indulged in leftover garlic bread and nachos. And you know what? It was a great night.
So, there you go. Wyoming did me in. It broke me down. All the pretenses of my former life in the city were gone. I was in Wyoming, and I was hungry, and I was exhausted, and I was lonely, so screw it.