New Moon Rising

About four years ago I had a business trip to Cody, Wyoming and in checking air fares, I found that by leaving on Thursday and returning on Sunday afternoon, I could get tickets for about a third what they would be if I wanted to return on Friday. The savings would more than pay for taking my bike and the extra days in a hotel, plus it would give me some time to tour that area. Also, having my bike would eliminate my having to rent a car. It was a win-win situation all around.

The trip involved flying to Salt Lake City and changing to SkyWest, which flew Embraer Air Turbo Prop planes. The pilots refer to them as Embarrasser Air while the passengers know them as the Vomit Comet. The flight there was uneventful, arriving at about 4:00PM. The nice lady at the SkyWest counter agreed to store my bike box so I changed, hung on my panniers and off I went on the five mile trip into town. I checked in at the Buffalo Bill Hotel, which was only a block from the Official Buffalo Bill Tourist Information Office where the meeting would be held the next morning, and set out to explore the town. That doesn't take too long for a town of 6000 people and a single attraction.

What I had thought would be about a three hour meeting with the Tourism Development people turned into a Chamber of Commerce lunch, meetings with the city planning department, more meetings with various city officials and finally a dinner meeting at the Buffalo Bill Museum.

Up early and on the road on a beautiful Saturday morning, Highway 14A toward the Big Horn Mountains to the east. I didn't plan to climb them because I had picked up a brochure and made reservations at the Rustic Lodge on Big Horn Lake a few miles north of Lovell. With a light tailwind and cranking in the big ring, the miles flowed under my wheels.

I had a second breakfast in Powell where I spotted an unusual sign. It said; "Dr. James Porter, DVM. Veterinarian and Taxidermist. You get your pet back, one way or the other." I had to laugh at an old joke it reminded me of. A hunter had shot a trophy antelope so he stops in a small Wyoming town and asks an old timer sitting in front of the pool hall, "Do you have a taxidermist here?" "A what?" he asks. "A taxidermist," repeated the hunter. "What's a taxidermist?" "You know, someone who mounts animals." "You mean a sheep herder?"

Stopped in Lovell for lunch and since it was early, I explored the town. It's about 2500 people but they have an interesting museum and a restored one-room school where they have actual classes for visiting students. Rode on to the lodge where I had a great dinner with a postcard view of the Big Horn Mountains rising like a wall on the other side of the river then retired to the porch to enjoy the evening. As soon as it was dark, a history professor from the University of Wyoming gave a slide show and talk about the early explorers who blazed trails along either side of the Big Horn River during the 1800s.

Up at daybreak for their eat-till-you-faint breakfast and then on the road back to Cody for my 4:00PM flight. Sixty miles -- piece of cake except that the wind had picked up directly in my face and for some reason, I just couldn't seem to make any time. I stopped two or three times to check if my brakes were dragging.

Spent perhaps ten minutes grabbing a bottle of Gatorade and a quick bite in Powell and back on the road at exactly noon. Twenty-five miles at ten per, comes to two and a half hours, still plenty of time. It didn't dawn on me that I'd spent four hours getting thirty miles and the headwind was picking up. I was doing everything I could but couldn't get the computer above eight miles an hour. A train pulled by four engines billowing black diesel smoke passed me and then it dawned on me that I was having to gain about 1500 feet between Lovell and Cody. There weren't any particular hills, just a constant rise that killed any appearance of climbing.

At half past two I finally had to face the truth that there was no way I could make it in time for my flight. I saw a pickup truck approaching from the rear so I stepped off and stuck up my thumb. He stopped and I explained that I needed a ride in order to make my flight. We loaded my bike in the back and off we went. He was on the way to visit his mother in the hospital in Cody. I figured that I'd have to go into Cody and ride the five miles back to the airport, but he stopped at an unmarked paved road and told me that it went directly to the airport.

It was fifteen past three as I rolled into the airport and retrieved my bike box. The plane arrived at the gate just as I was lowering my bike into the box; talk about cutting things close. Straps around the box, stamp my tickets and I walked to the plane wearing cycling clothes, my helmet and carrying my panniers. Just before stepping aboard I saw them struggling to fit the bike box into the luggage compartment. They had to unload several bags before they could get it in first. In the rush, the ticket lady forgot to charge me for the bike or else didn't want to bother.

The plane change at Salt Lake City was uneventful except the commuter gate is at one end and my flight was leaving from the opposite end of the terminal. I suppose I was a strange sight walking through the terminal, dressed in cycling garb, wearing a helmet and carrying two strange looking bags. Even the Hare Krishnas avoided me.

After we were at altitude, I decided to get out of the cycling clothes so I took the pannier with my street clothes and went to the forward bathroom to change. Just as I was completely undressed, we hit what in airline parlance was moderate chop; enough to spill drinks but not vicious enough to plaster flight attendants on the ceiling. I hung on to the chicken handles in the bathroom while we bounced through the rough air. Everything I had with me ended up on the floor.

When things smoothed out, I bent over to pick up my clothes and bumped the door, which popped open, and I mooned a plane full of very surprised passengers. After dressing and regaining a certain amount of decorum and dignity, I stepped out to a hushed silence and every eye on me. What else could I do, I spread my arms and said, "Now folks, for my next act..." Best audience response I've had to one of my jokes in years.

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Copyright 2002 by Jim Foreman