Thomas Ross Hallock

Big Ride Update – 2-Jul-1998 – Gillette, Wyoming

(while still with the GTE Big Ride group)

Gillette, Wyoming

Yesterday’s message was somewhat incomplete due to a surprise hailstorm, followed by heavy showers, lotsa lightning, and even a few funnel clouds! There were apparently two heavy storms headed for one another and collided very close to the campground. Haphazard “emergency precautions” were initiated and everyone was forced to sleep inside a barn near the campsite.

I say haphazard because it didn’t seem like anyone who was supposed to know anything didn’t seem to know what was going on. I was scared not because of the possibility of tornadoes, but because of the way things were being handled. It was really impressive to see the weather change from hot and sunny to dark, wet and hailing within the time frame of about fifteen minutes. Rumor has it that tonight is supposed to be similar with heavy storms and lightning. It’s still hard to believe. We are staying in a town of about three or four thousand. Campground is at the only elementary school in town. I am probably going to sleep inside the school just to be on the safe side.

Yesterday’s town, Gillette is a coal mining town. Next to the campsite, there was a display of various mining tools, including a windmill, train, and a really big ass truck. From a distance, it looked like an ordinary utility truck, but on one’s closer inspection, the scale seemed to be way off. At about half a mile, it looked as if it were just across the street. Once properly adjusted to its size, it was the size of a large, two story house. It measured about eighteen feet high; the wheel twice my height. Incredible. On leaving, we saw many empty trains traveling to the coal mine. Some were literally as long as two miles.

We were staying sixty miles from “the devils tower”, the mountain where the “encounter” scene of “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” was filmed. A great landmark for any rendezvous! Some people rented vans to go check it out, but another hundred and twenty mile drive on top of what I had already endured on the bus during the morning was not too appetizing.

Today is the last day in Wyoming. Tomorrow we will be staying in Rapid City, South Dakota… the fourth off day, halfway point, and also the location where I will break off from the ride. I look foreword to a celebrating the fourth for more than one reason.

While staying indoors to avoid getting struck by lightning, I tripped over some machinery and came down in the wrong position on my heel. It still hurts today and I’m worried if I will immediately be able to get back on my bicycle. I was talking with one of the bike tech people and he told me that there are some excellent routes in Colorado, especially if you have vehicle transport to the top of the mountains. Thirty mile downhill coasts are a biker’s best friend! I’m sure there will be no great shortage of good scenery in Colorado.

This is the end of the beginning of the first part of a summer to remember. I am very excited about what awaits me. XOX, Thomas Hallock

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