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Grateful to Be Living in America – Lighthouse Window Cleaning

Grateful to Be Living in America

As I reflect on the celebration of 4th of July I would like to share an excerpt from a journal, written in 1986. I was traveling across America by bicycle with two friends. I am grateful to be living in America then and now. Enjoy a slice of history from 4th of July in Ucross Wyoming 1986. God Bless America.

July 4th Burges Junction to Ucross   1986   Day Twenty 

It was the 4th of July and this should be a very special day. I have wondered where this trip would lead us on this birthday of America. I am proud of this great country and appreciate the self-sufficiency and prosperity of the American People. I had the privilege of voting for Ronald Reagan on my 18th Birthday in 1980.  The spirit of strength, prosperity, optimism resounds in the people as I travel. I continue to gain an appreciation of my homeland in which this day is celebrating.

We began as usual with a breakfast at the lodge in Burgess Junction. After breakfast we had one last token climb up 800 feet where our 4th of July celebration began. The celebration consisted of 25 miles of switchbacks descending 5000 feet into Dayton. At the summit our hearts sunk when we read the sign; “Road construction next 25 miles”. This usually means gravel, tar and flaggers.  The reality was that the road was paved last week. The roadway was like silk with a fresh coat of rolled asphalt. Craig and I stuck together down the newly paved ribbon of asphalt. We ride like two fighter jets in formation. I would follow Craig in his draft, traveling at speeds over 50 miles per hour. As I slipped in to the dead air zone behind, I would quickly increase speed. I played in and out of the “sweet spot” using the wind resistance to slow me down. As we approached each tight turn I would apply extra jets and power ahead of Craig to lead in to the next turn. We alternated the full descent in perfect formation. It was a thrill working together leaning sharply in to each turn. The pavement was slightly tacky allowing for extra traction and a low pitched whirr as the tires rolled on. There is precision, skill and balance to navigate a turn at 50 miles per hour on tires 1 inch wide. My Nishiki Competition held each corner well with its steel frame and tight geometry. We glided in to Dayton and wallowed in the joy of our descent. Lynn followed soon after. If 4th of July ended here, it would surpass the thrill of any 4th I have ever had.

The rest of the day was long, slow, hot and windy.  We had a siesta at Sheridan and enjoyed a shower at the community pool.  The next 28 miles entailed miserable headwinds and an unexpected ascent over Horse hill. The road glistened with locusts which leapt up and clung to our legs as we rode.  We decided to Camp at Ucross. It was the next town and we were tired and the spirit was low. I had envisioned celebrating the 4th with a parade down the main street of middle America.  We entered Uncross with a bit of a letdown. The sign read, “Ucross Wy Pop. 25”. We could not imagine how much of a celebration a town of 25 people may have. The streets were empty and only a few buildings were visible. The road comes to a fork in Ucross where highway 16 from Buffalo intersects with Highway 14 from Sheridan. We looked at the left fork and found the only establishment in Ucross. The blinking fluorescent light read “Porky’s Bar” Another sign read “Live music, beer on tap 4th of July”.

We parked our bikes in front of the old stucco building. We sat at the bar and ordered a Coors beer. It went down smooth as we skeptically questioned how we would fit in the cowboy bar scene in the middle of Wyoming.  The bar sold only beer. The owner and bar maid was a woman in her 40s; very composed, educated and attractive.  She took a great interest in us and it was not long before we felt like family.  She offered us a spot to camp behind Porky’s.  Through conversation she invited us to join her and her husband at the red barn for a potluck. She said we did not have to bring anything and just come as her guests.

We walked ¼ mile down to the red bard and could not believe our eyes. Over 100 cars were parked in the mowed wheat field. The red barn was restored and held an elite collection of William Gollings paintings. His art captured the wild western landscape and people of the pioneer days. The park-like setting has an old farmhouse restored in pristine condition. The farmhouse was elegantly decorated inside and artistically painted with white trim on the outside. The surrounding grounds were beautiful grasslands with picnic areas and a gentle creek flowing under wooden arched bridges.

The potluck consisted of over 100 dished. All homemade. We spent the evening eating, drinking beer and watching various live entertainments.  Local talent presented; barbershop quartet,  country band and dancing. The celebration wound down with 100s of people singing in unison God Bless America and other patriotic songs. There were lots of families and real people having lots of fun.

Following the red barn we strolled back to Porky’s Bar to polish off the evening.  Porky’s was blasting. Cars filled the parking lot. People of all ages were packed in dancing to the live music; One singer, a synthesizer and a base guitar.  There were people of all ages jammed together in the little bar. There were moms, grandpas, and local youth all sharing a wholesome evening at Porky’s.

We fell asleep to loud music and, Whistling Peets, under the bright flashing glow of neon.  This was truly the finest 4th I have ever had. Feeling blessed to experience America.

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