What a difference a week makes.
My last blog ended with my arrival in Rawlins, Wyoming, having had a fun day crossing the state line from Colorado into Wyoming.
Pulling out of Rawlins I entered an area that can only be described as desert. Not the sand variety but just a featureless expanse covered in sage as far as the eye could see. The road dropped in elevation down a steep hill into the Great Divide Basin, roughly 200 square miles of nothing but baking heat.
The Great Divide is, as I described in my last blog, a fun phenomenon, where if you pour water on one side it will flow west, and just a few feet away on the other side of the divide it will flow east. But the Great Divide Basin is unique in that none of this happens. The water is trapped and simply evaporates.
This days ride ended at a location called Muddy Gap, which was in fact just a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Run by two enthusiastic guys they were very interested in where I was from and where I was going. Inside their gas station main building, thousands of through cyclists over the past 10 years have signed every available space on the ceiling and walls, so I added mine to the ceiling of course.
I camped the night here but didn't get much sleep. At sunset all the forecourt flood lights came on, and even brighter lights over the road junction, just 100 metres from my tent!
The next day though made up for it, as, after just 6 miles, I came across a historical landmark called Split Rock. The landscape is virtually flat smooth everywhere, with the occasional blob of rock. One of these large rock hills has a natural V split in it, and some liken it to a rifle sight. In the early 1800s, 500,000 people passed this point as they were pushing west, including 75,000 in 1848 in search of gold in California, who became known as the 49ers.
The pioneers were able to see Split Rock from miles away, and for miles after, so they knew they were on the right path. There goal at this point was another rock formation 18 miles west, that became known as Independence Rock. They had to make this point by the 4th of July if they were to make it safely west before the winter storms. Many didn't make it. Those that camped at the rock carved their names into it, and their carvings can still be seen today. A permanent record that they passed this way.
My next camp spot was Sweetwater Station at another road junction, which took me six hours to reach, even though it was only 40 miles, due to a 25mph head wind.
Wyoming may be desert-like, but boy, is it windy! Partly I guess because there are no trees.
The camp was in an historic site maintained by the Mormons on the edge of Sweetwater River. It's called the 6th crossing, and marks one out of nine points were pioneers had to cross the Sweetwater River. Thousands came through, traveling thousands of miles, but not on horseback or wagon (as pictured here). They were pulling handcarts. Pushing west was big business, and a handcart was more affordable than a horse and wagon. Astonishing to think of a family pulling a large wooden handcart all that distance. The majority of these people were Mormons fleeing persecution, and would eventually establish their new base in what is now known as Salt Lake City.
I was now at the edge of the desert areas, and the winds had finally subsided. I set off knowing I was less than 200 miles from Yellowstone. Within 10 miles the scenery immediately changed. I was entering more lush areas, and mountain ranges were starting to appear in the distance, a precursor to the mighty Grand Teton. Though it had been a hard, but fun ride so far, the less interesting and featureless landscapes were behind, and it felt like this was the first day of the Rocky Mountain adventure.
I started down a steep 6% gradient that went on for five miles. Thank goodness for disc brakes. Half way down I felt a hard bump through the handle bars, caused by a two or three inch crack in the road surface, which are everywhere, but usually they're small or have been filled. As I passed over it there was a judder in the handlebars. The third wheel trailer then hit it and bounced, causing the front end to oscillate violently. I slammed the brakes on to reduce my momentum some more, which only made the wobble worse.
I knew something bad was coming.
I seemed to be catapulted from the bike, bounced off the road several times, banging my head so hard there was a bright flash, and removed large areas of skin on my right side calf, hip, elbow, fingers and shoulder. I also rammed my right leg ball joint hard into its socket, bruising the joint and ligaments. Just to put the icing on the cake I fractured my wrist too (type of fracture in the blog title!).
I came to rest, badly winded, after I rolled down a small embankment at the side of the road. The bike and all the kit were scattered all over the road, and one bag had opened and spilled everywhere.
I was in the middle of nowhere. I sat, dazed, for a while, bleeding and shaking as the adrenalin kicked in. I was carrying an emergency satellite locator beacon, and I contemplated activating it as I lay there. There were no passing vehicles. Somehow though, probably because of the adrenalin, I managed to pick everything up, put it all back together, and even got on the bike. I was attempting to rescue myself basically. I free-wheeled another two miles, with my right arm hanging at my side, when I came across two workmen at the side of the road. I almost crashed again as I got to them, exhausted, but one guy reacted instinctively and grabbed me. They didn't hesitate, and bundled everything in the back of their pick up and took me the 35 miles to Lander General Hospital.
I never got their names.
In ER they gave me happy drugs and literally scrubbed my wounds. The morphine wasn't much help. Then after multiple x-rays uncovered the fracture, my arm was put in a cast. I was distracted a bit by the attractive nurses and the comedy of the ER physician, who was a spitting image of John Goodman. At this stage, because of this tiny fracture, I knew the cycling was over. I was enormously disappointed. That said I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to my hospital medical team, who were all characters in their own right and endlessly cheered me up. I will miss them.
Five days on and I'm discharged, resting in a local hotel for 4 more days (I was transported by the Senior Bus!). My leg, and thus my mobility, is improving in leaps and bounds every day. I'll be an outpatient until next week getting my dressings changed but the cast will remain on for a few weeks yet.
Obviously plans have changed. The bike, which doesn't have a mark on it, is already on the way home. But I felt I needed to salvage something from my trip, not just an interesting story, so that I didn't go home having seen nothing of the most beautiful part of my route. So next week, with assistance, I will travel 160 miles to Jackson in the Tetons, and from there take a day trip to Yellowstone, thanks to the generosity of friends. So be sure to check the blog next week when I will be able to share that experience with you, which five days ago I never thought I would get the chance.
My helmet was compressed and split open from the crash, but that could have been my skull. So I end with a personal mantra: when you're on a bike, always wear a helmet.
More, higher quality, photos on Flickr (if you've seen the earlier pics please scroll down the Flickr page).