The wind has returned. It’s 66 miles from Rawlins to Jeffrey City, Wyoming . . . the last 22 miles took us through the Green Mountains of Wyoming, at the northern edge of the Great Divide Basin, and provided enough wind to rival Kansas.
Those 22 miles took us two hours and 15 minutes. In the end, we were rewarded with the town of Jeffrey City, population 50. During the uranium boom of the 1970s, Jeffery City boosted a population of 5,000. Now, the “city” is merely a ghost town, with boarded up hotels, apartment buildings, gas stations and schools. The town was built on the idea of the atomic bomb -- today it looks as though radioactivity has sent it’s residents running to the nearest towns, which are 60 miles away in both directions.
The only business still in operation in Jeffrey City is a bar, the Split Rock Cafe. Like so many other places on the TransAmerica bike trail, this too is infamous-- but not in a good way.
Melissa and I entered Split Rock Cafe and took a seat at the bar. No one looked at us, not the three old men at the bar and not the two women sitting at a table close to the door who were both playing internet poker on laptops. We sat there and no one said a word, and then we sat there some more. Finally, one of the grey haired and grey beared old men at the bar coughed, the only indication that anyone in the bar was alive. The cough prompted one of the women at the table to shout at us without turning her eyes away from her computer screen, “You’ll have to wait a while. I’ve been waitin’ on you people all day and this is the first time I’ve sat down. So I’m gonna sit here and finish my dinner.”
Beside her laptop, she had a huge plate of fries and fried fish. “That’s fine,” Melissa and I meekly reply in unison.
And that is the infamous owner of Split Rock Cafe, hater of all that is good -- especially bike riders.
After a while, she took our orders, sighing and grunting as we told her what we wanted. Melissa ordered a beer, which was given to her with a glass of ice. “Coolers broken,” we were informed.
We ate, as quietly as possible. Every time I wanted a refill of my glass of water, I had to walk to the bathroom and refill it myself.
Aidan and Amanda came in, while they were ordering, the woman mumbled under her breath, “I can’t wait ‘til it snows.”
As we left the bar, she glared at us, but said in a jovial tone, “Watch out for the snakes over there, they’re big,” nodding towards the park were we planned on spending the night.
With her warnings, we’re free camping at the Lion’s Club Park, under a pavilion full of trash, weeds, forgotten memories, and the carcass of a dead cow. Next to the pavilion is the Lion’s Club Building. Inside the doorless building are remnants of the town -- old black and white school photos, bibles, newspapers from 1985.
Admittedly though, Jeffrey City may very well be one of my favorite places to camp. As the wind rips through the pavilion and we gaze at the forsaken buildings surrounding us and the lonely road, it feels as though we were the only people left in the world.