'Road' to Rawlins (USA Day 64)
I won’t lie, waking up at five this morning was hard. But getting out the door by quarter to six, without our bikes, without helmets on, to walk to the hot springs, was totally OK.
From here to Idaho, we’ve been told we’ll find springs. Saratoga has one, free to enter unlike most of the others in the state, so off we trotted with towels in hand for a pre-breakfast soak. Boy, did we sit in some warm and stinky pools. There were hot and round ones, hot and square ones, extra hot ones that looked like a cauldron, and my personal favourite, the actual river where the spring water was piped after filling the aforementioned ones. We lay in the bubbling shallows feeling the pockets of hot and cold pass over us, watching an old Labrador with wobbly legs move some sticks about on the riverbank. Sometimes the Labrador would fall over, which was sad, but he’d always get back up, which was happy.
We teamed up with our new friend Sasa officially on today’s ride, a shortish wobbly dogleg of a stage first north, then west, to Rawlins. The first half was concerningly easy: a firm tailwind pushing us along the road and the cars giving plenty of room on the narrow road. Of course, it wouldn’t be a day on the TAT without some drama, so we were half expecting it when Strava recommended we abandon the bustling interstate (good idea) for a quiet backroad (interesting) which turned into a gravel track (not again) which devolved into a rough offroad boneshaker through a desert (oh Strava!).
Actually, we had a whale of a time. Keeping the interstate within view, we bumped along the sandy path, stopping every couple of minutes to reattach our shaken panniers or tend to poor Bonnie the bonsai tree, who wasn’t having the best of days. At some point, the path emptied out into a chasm filled with cacti, and we realised that this particular offroad foray would have to be curtailed. Bruised but not beaten, we lifted our bikes over a barbed wire fence and continued along a freshly-laid lane of the interstate not yet accessible to traffic, past the bemused workmen with their heavy rollers, then onto a few miles of not-yet-laid-at-all-road, before eventually joining the shoulder of the interstate itself for a couple of traffic-heavy miles. The main challenge here was avoiding the tangled black squids of tattered tyres that littered the side of the road. I don’t know how so many cars manage to lose tyres on these stretches of road, but cyclists pay the price for this. The small wires that form the mesh holding the rubber together fray off the ripped sides and have been responsible for most of our punctures on this trip.
The headwind struck again, but we soldiered on, reaching Rawlins in time to utterly fail to find somewhere nice to camp, and settle instead for the parking lot of a local Walmart. It’s actually very nice here. We’ve already picked up a perfectly good watermelon from a pile of fruit heading to the garbage pile, washed down in the toilets and are planning a treasure hunt. What fun!
Cycle tourists, listen up. Okay, so a few hours after uploading this, the police arrived, asking us to move from Walmart's property. We sweet-talked the (cycling-mad) policeman, then the (neither cycling nor mad) manager, who allowed us to stay, just about, but despite what other blogs say, this is NO LONGER a place to camp if you want an undisturbed night. Look on the map for 'Fairgrounds', and camp there. Rawlins police say you'll be absolutely fine there.