The wild, wild wet

When I went to bed last night the weather channel was warning of bad weather for this area with high winds (oh, from the northwest of course) and rain. I shrugged, resigned to whatever it was going to throw my way but staying in this place waiting the weather out seems like a losing proposition.

I didn't even want to look outside this morning. I just got everything together and left expecting hell and high water. Surprisingly, it was actually... nice. Only a very light breeze and temps in the high 40's was definitely something I could deal with. For the first 20 miles my ride was uneventful other than being slow because of the awkward gearing. I climbed past 5,250 feet on one hill and patted myself on the back. That figure equates to being a mile high in altitude. At about this time I also caught my first sight of snow pockets in the mountains off to my left. And then a little farther on something that instilled terror. The weather turned and suddenly the western horizon turned nearly black. The wind started kicking up and with it the first pioneer raindrops of what was promising to be a deluge. I didn't really know what to do. For a while I just rode on with butterflies in my stomach. There wasn't anywhere or anything to take shelter in. Just miles and miles and miles of fields populated with shrieking prairie dogs and what the locals variously call antelope and jackalope... to me looking more like a cross between a deer and a giant rabbit. Anyway, I stopped the bike and led it into the ditch. For lack of anything else that could occur to me at the moment I pulled the tent out and began pitching it. Because of the wind it was nearly comical how difficult this task was. Less comical was all the mud in which I had to do this in. Just in the nick of time I managed to squeak into the tent that I had set up just a dozen feet from the highway before driving wind and rain and lightning and all the nastiest weather you can think of came down all at once.

I literally had just seconds to spare by the time I got in. Inside the tent was chaos. Its walls were nearly touching and slanting away from the wind at a steep angle. I did my best to hold it down against the gusts with my arms stretched out as a way to shore it up and prevent it from collapsing entirely. I don't know why I thought the tent would be waterproof but learned in that instant that water coated the inside walls and started pooling at the base soaking everything within. I pulled out my sleeping bag and used it to protect my laptop and camera while the rain now came so hard I wanted to scream help - but felt silly at the thought. Just to add another dose of drama the rain added a new dimension of angst in the form of hail. Tin-tin-tin as the little chunks of ice spattered sideways onto the tent wall then cast their shadows as they slowly dribbled down. I feared if the hail got any larger they'd come through the tent like little meteors and what then?

Several minutes of this passed while everything around kept getting wetter and the poor tent seemed to want to cave in. I had no idea how this was going to play out so I just slipped into my wet sleeping bag to cuddle up against my camera and laptop and then laid my head down on the wet pillow to wait. Slowly, the wind and rain became more normal and the tent's walls settled down somewhat. It had gotten a lot colder and now each breath I exhaled gave off a little steam cloud. Water was seeping into, no through, the sleeping bag and I instinctively pulled the camera and laptop out and put them into my backback which remained dry at the top. After about an hour the weather finally cleared up. I knew I had to act quick and get going because I had no idea if there was more bad weather moving in. I opened the tent to find my biking shoes had a snowcone's worth each of ice in them so before anything else I had to scoop it out, thinking that would have made for a good photograph if the moment wasn't so far from lighthearted. I chucked my dripping wet stuff into the dripping wet trailer and just didn't care how it fit in there. I just wanted to make sure my camera and laptop would remain dry as much as possible and the hell with the rest.

Dragging the bike out of the ditch was difficult because the rain had added a lot of weight and my shoes had about two or three inches of mud stuck underneath. Once I got to the shoulder I started biking again into a light, damn cold rain. Each time a truck raced by it kicked up a spray wall that I had to ride through, chilling and wetting me further. THIS, I thought, is a great time to quit. I'm going to make it to Casper and figure out how to go home. Screw this crap. I've had enough.

It took me until well past six to make it into town and by then I was absolutely, positively miserable. I checked into an overpriced motel and set out all my clothes and stuff all over the room to dry. Now all I have left to do is think about what I'm going to do next.

Day 53