Today was a short jaunt that turned otherwise, but in the end, I’m all set up in camp at Vedauwoo in the Medicine Bow National Forest, solar panels out and everything humming along. The cell data signal at my location is on-again-off-again at two out of five stars – and that’s with the amplifier – but it works most of the time.
The day began with a drive to a Walmart in Cheyenne, made more interesting by having an incorrect address on their website. But, I made it there after some steering wheel gyrations and stocked up on fresh produce, eggs, bacon and so on. From there I keyed in the GPS coordinates generously volunteered by Flybiker. The impressive 3,000′ climb during the entire trip, plus a headwind, knocked the fuel display down to 8.0 MPG. Now I know what the title for the film High Plains Drifter refers to. There was a warning sign that the “Happy Jack Bridge” was out of commission until the 18th, but where was that? That was the exit I wanted, but where was this bridge?
Once I made it there, I found out that the bridge was the connector over I-80, and its sudden absence eliminated any chance of heading back east toward Vedauwoo. Oh well. What a great, wide trail! I was impressed that the GPS clicked everything off, and before long, I was at the coordinates, pulled off, and parked. Unfortunately, the site was problematic for the Defiant, being rough, modestly sloped, and not allowing an easy orientation for the solar panels. The location at the top of a hill magnified the wind, so I broke out the Aurora and explored just over three miles worth farther on.
No soap. One branch held a trailer, but the cattle guard at its start was beginning to disintegrate, opening up the first gap way too much for my taste. The main trail followed a long ridge, with various branches going off here and there to dive downward. A fifth-wheel trailer nestled into a nice hollow at the base of one, but beyond that, it got nasty. None of the branches seemed workable. The main trail itself was, apart from some washboard surface, a joy to behold. Its just that being along the top of a ridge in a very hilly area, everything sloped away from there on.
I finally stopped at the 3-mile mark when the trail wound down into dense forest, chopping off the likelihood of a Defiant-sized hole and making bicycle touring a potentially bad idea in wilderness. It had been one long glide downhill all the way, with a strong tailwind no less. Naturally, the slog back uphill was a time and battery-consuming ordeal. I had to cinch down my hat to keep it from blowing off! That’s rare. Back at the site, there was one spot nearby on a branch trail heading for Laramie, but it was located in the perfect place to capture the wind heading up the steep slope, and this was a nice day. No way I could guarantee I wouldn’t lose a panel if some actual weather blew in, much less be able to safely deploy the panels without damaging one. It’s like trying to hold a sail. Further exploration along that trail might turn up something somewhere behind a cattle fence, but there comes a time to fish or cut bait, and I aborted the mission at this point, and decided to head back to my Plan A scheduled stop at the Vedauwoo exit. Getting turned around was a little interesting, but I made it.
Thanks to the bridge, I had to do that by first heading west toward Laramie, and that was a 6-mile jaunt, half of which was a 5% downhill grade. I got off at the first exit and turned around to grind back up the slope, a task made easier by what was now a strong tailwind. There is a nice little $10/night camp at Vedauwoo, no spaces of which will fit the Defiant, so what I do is to not make that turn into camp, and keep going straight. That drops you off of the civilized pavement onto the worst washboard dirt road you can imagine. So far, it’s the most violent I’ve encountered by far. Some washboard “smooths out” if you hit its perfect speed, say, 35 MPH. This one, no. It just makes the dashboard shudder in a way that asks, “Got any electrical problems yet? How about now?” So I crawled up it at a shuffling walking speed, bouncing in the seat and trying not to think of the trailer’s interior. I was initially concerned because a lot of the campsites were occupied. I have a best one, and there is one more fully usable one that I know of. Apart from that, the plentiful rest are for smaller, more tolerant rigs that don’t need solar orientation.
My preferred spot was empty, as it turns out, so I broke out a compass to orient the solar side, planted the trailer, and set up camp in the manner to which I am accustomed. Those panels get heavier every time I hoist them! I’ll hopefully be here until September 22, so if you have read my post for this area last year, ain’t gonna be a lot of newness this year!