DAY 47 (7/27/05): Spearfish, SD to Gillette, WY 119.1 mi. Because of all the scenic detours that I took yesterday, I got myself a little behind on my unofficial schedule. Since I had to stay on track to meet fellow ANT-riding adventure seeker Joel Ninesling in Sheridan, I had to make up some of those miles today. In preparation, I had a huge breakfast at the local Perkin's restaurant and then hit the road. The first 40mi of the ride were surprisingly tiring. Surprising, that is, until I arrived in Sundance, WY and looked at the sign right outside town: it turns out that I had gained 1500ft since leaving Spearfish. The scenery throughout the day was pretty classic Wyoming, dried out brown grass mixed with sagebrush and yucca, with occassional herds of beef cattle roaming about. I had some spectacular views of Devil's Tower on my way west, passing about 10 mi south of that natural oddity, like a giant tooth sticking out of the ground. After swinging past Devil's Tower, I arrived in the city of Moorcroft (about 90mi from the day's starting point). I assessed my physical condition and decided that I was game for the additional 30 mi to Gillette, particularly since they lay along a rail road line and I therefor expected them to be pretty flat. That turned out to be the case, and I rode west into the sunset watching freight trains loaded with coal rumble from Gillette (which is a coal mining town) towards Rapid City. I arrived in Gillette just before the sun dipped below the horizon, and decided to go "credit card camping" rather than deal with setting up a tent in the dark. Plus, I felt that after all those miles I deserved a hot bath! DAY 48 (7/28/05): Gillette to Sheridan, WY 119.9 mi. Today I repeated, inch for inch, the longest day of the cross country bike trip that I did in 1998. I remembered this section of road as being particularly brutal and desolate. What I didn't remember was how beautiful the scenery was. Right after leaving Gillette, I passed the open-pit coal mine that provides the town with most of its income. Then, with the wind at my back, I went up and down a series of rollers through the dry Wyoming countryside, watching little herds of pronghorn antelope bounding away on either side of the road. I made good time to the town of Spotted Horse (pop 2), which is the home of the Spotted Horse Saloon. I went in and ordered a cold Pepsi. A guy sitting at the counter saw me fumbling with my wallet and said, "That one's on me, little lady." He didn't say anything else the rest of the time that I was there, but I did talk a bit about the trip with another of the lunchtime regulars. On the top of the second ridge after Spotted Horse, the mountains came into view for the first time, and they were beautiful. It was odd to see snow when the air temp was in the 90's. When I reached the town of Clearmont, I inquired about a campground that was shown on my map about 10 or 15 mi north of town, but no one had ever heard of it. Rather than risk going out of my way for a campground that I wasn't sure existed, I decided just to suck it up and ride all the way in to Sheridan in one day instead of two as I had originally planned. The last 30 mi into Sheridan weren't at all bad, and I had a great source of motivation: another big thunderstorm was brewing on the western horizon, and I raced it into town. As it turned out, I pulled up to a grocery store at the southern edge of Sheridan just as the skies opened up. I killed a half hour or so browsing at the grocery store, and once the rain had stopped I made my way across town to the local campground, where I set up camp for three nights--the first time I have spent three consecutive nights in one place since beginning this trip! DAY 49 (7/29/05): Rest Day #1, Sheridan, WY. Since I had the unprecedented luxury of two consecutive off days, I dedicated Day 1 to physical recovery. I rode my bike a few miles into town, bought a bit more food and a book (Under the Banner of Heaven, by Jon Krankauer). I then returned to the campground, went for a swim in the pool, took a nap, and spent most of the rest of the day eating and reading. When I'm touring, I think I burn at least 6000 calories a day, so it's hard to keep up when I'm actually riding. I don't really feel like the food ever "sinks in" at all unless I eat it on a rest day, where I'm not riding and actually absorb some nutrients. So, I focussed on that, eating about 6 pieces of fruit, a pound of mini carrots, an 8-oz piece of cheese, two bean burritos, 3/4lb peanut M&M's, and a few cookies. And those were just the things I had for snack. DAY 50 (7/30/05): Rest Day #2, Sheridan, WY. Feeling very refreshed from a day of total sloth yesterday, today I dedicated myself to gear maintainence. I rode the bike into town again and dropped her off at the local bike shop for yet another new chain. While the bike was being worked on, I walked around historic downtown Sheridan and poked around some of the little shops, all of which had tables of merchandise out on the sidewalk. I picked up the bike again and rode back to the campground, where I washed everything I had with me including my sleeping bag. I also washed the tent for the first time. I accomplished this by using one of my rear panniers as a wash basin, put about 2 gal of water and a tablespoon of laundry detergent in there and swished the tent around. It smelled and looked much better after this proccess. Once all the gear was clean and dry, I returned to Sheridan again in search of (you guessed it) more food. I passed by the bike shop and started chatting with one of the guys there who then gave me a little riding tour of Sheridan and we chatted for a few hours about bikes, WY, SD, and other relevant topics. It was good for me to practice being social, since I'm meeting up with Joel tomorrow and will actually be touring with a buddy for the next two weeks or so.