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.