Don's Blog: July 4: Independence Day in Cowboy Country
July 4 is a truly American holiday, celebrated in many of the same ways no matter where you are in the country. Certainly for me, 2006 provided a memorable experience, as I got to take part in a small piece of Americana here in Dubois, a back-in-time Cowboy town in Western Wyoming.
Departing Jackson Hole this morning in chilly 45-degree temperatures it was tough to get started, especially after yesterday’s monumental struggle to get up and over the Grand Teton Pass. We were looking at yet another mountain pass today, the Continental Divide. The summit of the Divide would be our high spot for the entire trek, at 9,500 feet above sea level. We will have certainly earned any downhill we get from here in after all of the combing we have done since leaving Astoria.
We stopped a few times in the early going: once to take photos of the Grand Teton Mountains another time to observe a lone buffalo that had wandered close to the road. He sat for a while in the grass as cyclists snapped off photos, then got up and moved closer to where we had gotten off our bikes. At that point I got a little nervous; I mean this beast could easily get up to speed and chase us down. Then it would really be a problem! As it turned out, the buffalo got up again. He slolwy crossed the road, then settled in on the other side. It is fun to traverse areas in which wildlife is so close to the population.
The good news regarding the ride was that the climb today, although higher than yesterday’s, was not nearly as difficult. The grade was not nearly as steep, although the climb was stretched out over many more miles. With cool temperatures and a helpful tailwind, the mood at the summit was positively joyous. We took several photos at the top, before heading down the other side of the pass. And head down we did─very quickly. With a long, steady downhill and a 20-mile-per-hour tailwind, we fairly flew through the final 30 miles in just 75 minutes! I achieved my highest top speed for the ride so far, 42 miles per hour.
As we arrived in town, we saw that a parade was forming; set to start at 2:00 p.m., just a few minutes hence. The parade was something to see, as horses, carriages and local townspeople marched through town, tossing candy out to the spectators as they passed by. Apparently it is a parade tradition. The parade was further enhanced by the Old West style storefronts in town, harkening back to the days of cowboys and Indians. As the saying goes, “only in America.” As I am writing this, a stagecoach is passing back and forth along the main drag in town, population 952.
As we continue eastward in Wyoming, the outposts will become even more remote. The population of the entire state is 500,000, less than the city of Boston, proper. If you have ever wondered if there is any open space left in America, fear not: there is mile after mile of untouched land, more than I ever imagined I’d see on this trip. And we are attempting to remain in somewhat close proximity to the mainstream!