Jeffrey City, WY: Tiny Town, Giant Heart

Written Monday, 8/8/2011

In my tent avoiding the mosquito hoard in the biker/hiker section of Colter Bay campground in Grand Teton National Park.

Oh Jeffrey City, where do I begin?

Well, I should start by saying that I’m back on the official TransAm bike route! I left it way back in Kentucky when I continued north to see family in Ohio, and have pretty much stayed parallel to it through the Midwest until I picked it up again in Wyoming.

Secondly, a brief history of Jeffrey City. Not a city by any means, more one step above ghost town. It once held a population of 5,000 when uranium was discovered in the surrounding hills, but when the bust came, 99% of the residents moved out. What remain are a pottery shop and a bar.

Which brings me to the Split Rock Café and Bar. Its previous owner despised cyclists, so much so that TransAm riders would put in a massive 125 mile day just to avoid stopping here. Nikki, the new owner, thought that was a silly way to miss potential revenue. She fixed the place up and put a big “Bicyclists Welcome!” sign out front. They’ve been stopping by ever since (Also, turns out she graduated from the same high school as me in southern California. Random!)

Facing strong headwinds as I pulled into town, I was thankful for some sign of life and headed for the bar. As I leaned my bike against the front, I noticed another bike with a trailer – clearly a touring cyclist’s. When I entered, sure enough a man spotted my bike shorts and introduced himself.

Meet Dave. He’s been on the road for more than A YEAR! Started in Seattle and has been doing the perimeter of the U.S. Mostly funded by his military pension, he also earns income online. For not being a member of the Internet Generation, he seems to know his stuff. It’s not uncommon to hear him say such phrases as,

“250 new views in the last 24 hours on my YouTube channel!”

“I don’t even know who this person is, but they subscribed to my blog.”

“Oh man, what he just said, gotta tweet that!”

Between his military pension and income generated from his YouTube videos, Dave has fully funded his trip, with enough left over to do a potential second lap around the U.S.

While we were chatting, a man entered the bar and approached us.

“Do you guys own the bikes outside? Well today’s your lucky day! What’s your favorite color?”

After we responded (Dave’s is green, I went with blue), the man ran to his car to grab what appeared to be a map holder. Dave and I looked at each other, not quite sure what this guy was about. I was getting ready for a magic trick.

“You guys have never seen anything like this. Here’s the green one. Here’s your blue one. Enjoy!”

Evidently, this traveling salesman (whose name I forget) found the map in a library, printed it on cloth, and just finished traveling across Wyoming and Idaho selling them to clothing, tourist, and general knick-knack stores. He had such success on his trip, he decided to give a few away to some of the Jeffrey City bar patrons. I was amazed, both at the man’s kindness and the coolness of the map.

Byron, the owner of the pottery shop across the street, volunteers his time at the bar as well. He fixed me up this delicious burger and fries. Needless to say, it didn’t last long.

He also offered his caravan for me to sleep in that night. Again, awesome kindness (especially considering there was a voracious pack of mosquitoes outside).

The next morning, I realized I had left one of my water bottles at the bar the previous night. When I heard it had been tossed, I was prepared to go dumpster diving (with Dave ready with his Flip video camera) until Nikki informed me the trash had been taken to the dump. In that moment, three things happened: Nikki offered two aluminum water bottles, a woman at the bar ran to her car to grab an empty 2 liter 7-Up bottle, and Dave offered one of his water bottles from his bike. Ridiculous. Because I didn’t want to take Nikki’s nice water bottles and the 2 liter one wouldn’t fit in my bottle holder, I went with Dave’s offer, though hesitant to take such a precious item from a fellow touring cyclist.

“Dude, I have four. That’s like 12 pounds. Take it, you’re doing me a favor. Crazy couple of days, eh? Giant burgers, awesome random Yellowstone maps, mosquito attacks, a night in the aquatic caravan, and potential dumpster diving…now that would make a good blog post.”


You can check out Dave’s blog here and money-making Youtube videos here!

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