This blog isn’t really about the Carbon County Library System (Wyoming) since we missed the opening hours of all three above libraries. We did peek into the windows of the Sinclair Library (more about the town of Sinclair below) and saw a neat and welcoming library, open to the public Tuesday, 3-5 pm and Thursday, 3-6 pm. This may not seem like a lot of hours but when one considers that Sinclair is a town of 400+ people and only 13 miles from the Rawlins Public Library, it is a wonderful thing this library exists and is supported by the county.
Sinclair itself is a town worthy of a visit and some description. From a distance, the town looks like something out of Mad Max, since much of the town consists of the Sinclair oil refinery. It also includes a historic downtown, constructed according to the design of Frank Kistler, the founder of the Producers and Refiners Oil Company (PARCO), in 1925. PARCO was the original name of the town until Sinclair Oil took over the refinery in 1942 and changed the town name. The PARCO Historic District is truly original, featuring the PARCO Inn, built in Spanish Colonial style with 66 rooms. The fact that we saw almost no people this rainy Sunday morning added to my fascination for this unique combination of active oil refinery, company town, and past-glory historical district.
But the really interesting attractions were in Rawlins--interesting if you enjoy the macabre. We arrived Sunday morning in a cold rain. After eating our third breakfast, we headed out to Rawlins’ two museums: the Wyoming Frontier Prison Museum and the Carbon County Museum. The Frontier Prison features many photos of past inmates, descriptions of their crimes, and a miniature working model of the gallows (including doomed prisoner). There were photos of the prison baseball team and concert band, plus dates of execution for some of the more notorious team/band members.
But the really eerie stuff was at the Carbon County Museum. I won’t write about it here, but I’ll just leave this link for the curious: OMG that is some weird 19th century stuff.
Yesterday was our first day back on the bicycles after traveling for a week. It was a grueling ride due to high temperatures, too much sun, hilly terrain at some points, and wind. I think our bodies were also adjusting to the altitude, lack of sleep, and not enough food and water. Highpoints of the day included breakfast with April and Jeff in Frisco, Colorado, and spending the night with Ellen and Dave in Hot Sulphur Springs, Colorado. After 68 miles, I literally dragged my bike to their front door where I was greeted with cold drinks, fabulous meals featuring elk burgers and sausage, and the use of their car to drive to the nearest town to resupply our groceries. Plus a comfy bed, bath, and great company. Thanks to all of our Trail Angels for your help and support.
Today was easier. We had a 20 mile climb this morning but you know what they say- what goes up, must come down. Today’s ride included a nice downhill and we coasted the last ten miles into Walden, Colorado. Walden is in Jackson County, Colorado-- 1500 square miles with 1200 people. It is the only county in Colorado with no stoplight. The local sawmills and mines shut down when the railroad stopped coming to Walden, leaving the community with few jobs and expensive housing and real estate. The biggest employer is now the Federal Government due to the nearby national forests and wildlife refuges.
And how do I know so much about Walden and Jackson County? Because we talked to Kathy (Library Director) and Kathleen (Library Staff) at the Jackson County Public Library. Kathy’s family has lived here for six generations and she knows Walden. She has a lot of good things to say about her community, especially what a great place it is to raise kids. The library serves a safe place for the local children. Many of them come to the library after school until a family member can join them at home.
The library does host a lot of TransAm cycling tourists, mostly to use the computers. The computers also get a lot of use from the community since many Jackson County residents do not have internet access in their homes. The library receives no budget for books or computers, instead they rely on community donations to provide both. The library has been in the current building since 1977. Interesting fact-- the very first library in Walden was in the back room of the community church where women left books for one another’s use.
The Summer Reading Program is a big hit this summer. 36 kids have signed up—that’s over half of the students enrolled in the elementary school. The summer reading incentive for reading twenty hours or more is a bus trip to Laramie, Wyoming (65 miles away), to see a movie.
John and I were excited to meet other bicycle tourists at the library. We talked with TransAm cyclists, Lauren and Walker, about their enthusiasm for public libraries. They are both using libraries along the TransAm route to apply for jobs, revise their resumes, and just get a break from the outdoors after a long day of riding. Lauren says that she wasn’t a big user of public libraries until this tour. Now her days are filled with cycling, swimming pools, public parks, and libraries.
Thanks to Kathy and Kathleen for talking with us about Walden, Jackson County, and your library. And thanks for the tamale, it was delicious!
Today John and I cycled over Hoosier Pass (elevation 11,539 feet), the highest point along the TransAmerican Bicycle Trail. We ended our day in Frisco, Colorado, where we left our bicycles and bags in a friends’ condo (thanks Jeff and April) and rented a car to drive to the ALA Annual Conference in New Orleans. These magic metal boxes with air-conditioning and music! Currently we are traveling southeast at 74 mph! Amazing.
In New Orleans we will be refueling with beignets, café au lait, poboys, seafood, bread pudding, croissants, baguettes… New Orleans is a great city for food and we are hungry. We’ll be returning to our bikes in Frisco early next week and continuing with the second half of our cross-country adventure, seeing the western states and more libraries.
Today was one of the most strenuous days of riding yet. We cycled from Cañon City to Hartsel, Colorado, a distance of 57 miles with 6,000+ feet of climbing. On days like this, we prepare ourselves mentally for traveling at 3-4 mph and bring lots of food and water. After cycling for ten hours, we pulled into Hartsel (population 60) around 4:40 pm. One cool thing about Hartsel--Adventure Cycling’s Great Divide Route intersects with the TransAm route here, making for one big cyclist party! It’s not uncommon for the town café (Highline Café and Saloon) to host 7-20 cyclists overnight, allowing us to camp behind the Saloon.
Entering town, we’re looking for the library. And there is the street sign—the universal symbol of someone reading a book—pointing down a gravel road. We follow the sign to the Hartsel Community Library, a charming library in a historic 1899 building surrounded by a picket fence. John and I were disappointed to see that the library was closed on Mondays but stopped to take pictures and peek in the windows. We talked to a couple of people in town and they told us that community volunteers operate the library and that the books were donated through various sources. The library recently received a grant to update the interior and peeking through the windows, we saw a very welcoming space, decorated for the upcoming Fourth of July celebration. For a town of only 60 people, this really demonstrates Hartsel's recognition of the value of libraries.
If you are ever traveling through Central Colorado, stop in Hartsel to eat at the Highline Café and Saloon and visit their library. Bring money for a malt and maybe a few books to donate to Hartsel Community Library.
We've gotten into the rhythm of waking very early and getting on the road by 6 am. Last few days we've finished riding by 12:30, beating the heat. Today we made it to Pueblo, Colorado, by 11:30--an all-time record! We pulled into the local coffee shop on Main street and found other bicycle tourists we've met along the way: Lynn and Jen; and Joe and Roger. Fun times, relaxing with coffee, croissants, and cookies.
Next we headed to the Robert Hoag Rawlings Public Library, the main branch of the Pueblo County-City Library system. When we came to the library, we had no idea of the library's banner award year-- receiving both the National Medal for Museum and Library Service by the Institute of Museum and Library Service (IMLS) and the Leslie B. Knopes Award in 2018. The building site is the same site on which four different library buildings have stood. The current building was finished in 2001 and is named after Robert Hoag Rawlings, owner of the local newspaper, The Pueblo Chieftain. The library has four floors with big windows and open spaces, a lovely courtyard, and lots of comfortable seating.
We talked with several library staff during our visit. Aleiandra (substitute library staff in the children's section) told us about the library's summer lunch program for kids 1-18, sleepovers in the library (teddybears invited), and the summer reading program. She also provided us with a newspaper insert which listed many more events including a magic workshop, laser tag lock-in, rocket workshop (make your own non-combustible rocket!), and many more fun activities for the family, children, tweens, and teens.
On the second floor, we had the pleasure of speaking with Lori and Nate. They had just finished conducting an adult program entitled: Beverage Academy (How to Mix Non-Alcoholic Drinks). The program is one of a series and fits with the Summer Reading theme, Libraries Rock! Nate and Lori proudly told us about the two awards the library received in 2018 and the great job the library does in publicizing its programs and resources through the local newspaper, the library newsletter, social media, and the library website. Some of my favorite programs: the adult literacy program; English language tutoring and conversation club; the current display of steampunk art, Dr. Orphics Steampunk Curiosities; a soap-making workshop; and a series of gardening workshops.
And the funnest thing we saw in the library was Hoagie, the automaton/newspaper boy on the fourth floor. Kimberly, the Museum Services Coordinator, introduced us to the very life-like Hoagie, plus told us a bit about the history of the library, Robert Rawlings, and some of the other museums and exhibits in Pueblo. She displayed a lot of knowledge and pride of Pueblo, its culture and history.
And the true testimony to the awesomeness of the libraries in Pueblo-- an unsolicited rave review from library patron, Matt. We met Matt in the courtyard and began a conversation about cycling. Matt has ridden the Northern Tier, an Adventure Cycling Association. Today he was at the library studying for nursing exams and he told us the library was an amazing resource for the city and county. The library does a great job and is heavily used and valued by the community. After our visit, John and I agreed. Pueblo County-City Library does an outstanding job in providing engaging and fun programming, a beautiful space, and enthusiastic staff.
Thanks to all of the staff that spoke with us today! We really appreciated your time with us and learning more about the library and Pueblo, Colorado. It really makes our cross-country bike tour so much more meaningful.
This morning we left our beloved Kansas and entered Colorado. John and I grew up in Kansas but spent 10 years living in Boulder, finishing up our undergraduate degrees and starting a family. We absolutely loved living in Colorado. Out of all the places we traveled, Rocky Mountain National Park is just about our favorite place.
Temperatures started out cool but we knew it was supposed to end up over 100 degrees so we headed out at 6 am. Made it to Eads around 12:30 and headed to Kiowa County Public Library, housed in the basement of the Kiowa County Courthouse. As we entered the building, we met Vickie, Library Technician. She was so kind in her greeting and enthusiastic about the library. A very welcoming space with some cool resources available for check-out: a telescope; Colorado State Parks pass and backpack (that's right-- you can check out a pass to enter any Colorado State Park); and cake pans. They also had some great titles in the ongoing book sale. Books that don't sell after a year are packed up and sent the No Store in Denver. The No Store sells the books and allocates the $$ back into Colorado public libraries.
Today the Library Director, Kemma Alfano, was attending a philanthropy workshop. Vickie told us that Kemma's goal is to find a different space for the Library, preferably downtown. The library's current location is very limited in space with no offices for library staff. Their hours of operation are limited to the hours that the courthouse is open, so no evening and weekend hours. Kemma, we're sorry to have missed our chance to meet you. You have a great vision for what an expanded library could mean for Eads and Kiowa County.
And we want to make special mention of the library's outstanding service to cyclists passing through town on the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail. Vickie says many bicycle tourists come to the library and when the weather gets bad, they offer refuge to them in their basement library (no better place to be in a Colorado storm). And Kemma put together an amazing tourist guide to Eads with all kinds of helpful information for cyclists: where to eat, shower, and camp; ice cream (very important!!) grocery store, swimming pool, and local museum locations and hours. This was the first guide of its kind we have found during our trip and we think it is amazing. Going to recommend to other libraries along the TransAm.
Thanks to Vickie for sharing her time and enthusiasm. It was a great visit and good luck Kemma in finding funding. Eads and Kiowa County would really benefit from a new library building with expanded space and hours.
What a wonderful morning to be riding bicycles! For most of the morning we rode in temperatures in the 60s and the wind at our back. Overcast skies with just a few sprinkles. And in the middle of the ride, we found Heartland Mill, an amazing bakery east of Leoti. We also passed several TransAm racers- always exciting.
We entered Tribune a little after noon and hung out downtown a bit, eating ice cream in front of the grocery store. Diana and Ginger (from the library) told us that Tribune, Kansas, and Greeley County were named after Horace Greeley, editor and founder of the New York Tribune, late 19th century. Best known for popularizing the phrase, "Go West young man," Greeley also ran for president in 1872, losing to Ulysses S. Grant.
Went to the Greeley County Public Library and the first thing we see is a group of kids dancing to the Zumba song! Cris Wilson, from Smoky Hills Public Television, was presenting a Share-a-Story Program with local kids, promoting reading and sending each participant home with a book (to keep!). After Cris finished the program, we were invited to talk to the kids about our bicycle tour and libraries- an unexpected joy and honor.
John and I talked with Diana Mishler and Ginger Gibson, Library Assistants that are also retired elementary school teachers. They told us that the Bike Across Kansas (BAK) starts near Tribune every other year and the cyclists come to use the library computers/wifi and watch television in the cozy library lounge. The library staff also volunteer at the fundraiser dinner that feeds the 800+ BAK riders, with proceeds going to the local theater. They see a lot of TransAm riders come through Tribune each summer. Last year they posted a world map in the library, asking TransAm riders to mark their hometowns. What a great idea! We stayed at the library for another hour, using the computers and wifi and staying out of the wind.
Many thanks to Cindi, Diana, and Ginger. We learned a lot about Tribune and really appreciated the chance to speak with the kids!
Today the winds blew mainly from the north/north-east, so John and I made great time traveling the 55 miles from Ness City to Scott City, Kansas. We pulled into town before 12:30 PM, our earliest finish yet. Scott City is eleven miles south of Lake Scott State Park, listed as one of the country’s 50 must-see state parks by National Geographic and the best beach in Kansas by USA Today. 3,000-plus people live here and Scott City is growing in size, a rare thing for a small city in Kansas.
After a quick clean-up, we headed into town to visit the Scott County Public Library. As out-of-towners needing internet access, we used the library computer to finalize our travel plans to the American Library Association (ALA) Annual Conference in New Orleans, June 22-25. In order to use the computer, we just needed to sign in at the front desk, no identification required. We also noticed the book sale, local information posted near the front entrance, and the open access wifi. The library does have quite a few bicycle tourists stopping in, plus other tourists on their way to the Lake Scott State Park.
The library building is large, with high ceilings. There is great natural light from the many windows and an enclosed outside courtyard. The original section of the library was built in 1963 with a large expansion completed in 2009, funded by the county. The children’s section is decorated with some amazing murals painted by local artist, Mindi Allen. A conference room and media room are available for public use, plus comfortable seating next to the floor-to-ceiling windows.
We spent some time talking with Lori Hawker (Library Director) and Millie Dearden (Programming). They have some great summer programming including Summer Reading Camp. As of today, 300 children have signed up! The community works closely with the library to promote summer reading and to offer rewards to children that read five or more books a week. Several local businesses offer prizes, plus the local newspaper prints photos of the top readers. While we were visiting the library, local bee keeper Hester Geurin was speaking to a group of kids, accompanied by a case of live honeybees. At the end of the summer, a celebration will be held at the local swimming pool for all reading camp participants -- another example of community collaboration.
John and I would like to thank Lori and Millie for taking the time to speak with us. We learned a lot about Scott City, Lake Scott State Park, and one of our passions- your local public library.
John and I arrived in Ness City and found the oasis that is Frigid Creme. Oh, how delicious a large limeaid and soft serve ice cream can be on a hot day in Kansas! But several things made today special. While in Ness City, we saw three riders in the Trans Am Bike Race: Peter Andersen (2nd place), Dave Lewis (3rd place), and Kraig Pauli (4th place). Marcel Graber, first place, snuck by us in the middle of the previous night. These guys ride about 250 miles a day, crossing the United States in 17-18 days. You can see our videos on our Instagram.
Another thing that made today special was-- even though the Ness City Public Library is closed on Sunday, Laurie let us peek inside the building. Laurie was working today to decorate the library for the summer reading program and wasn't quite sure what to make of the two cyclists standing outside looking like sad puppies. The building was originally the fire station and later incorporated a city office, doubling the size. They have the coolest dioramas (donated from a private collection) and a display of Native American artifacts. Thanks Laurie for opening the library for us--we really appreciate it!
And we enjoyed the evening with new TransAm friends: Joe, Roger, and Ian. Joe has been touring for decades and is blogging about his TransAm trip at: www.crazyguyonabike.com/JoeCulpepper. He is traveling with Roger and this is Roger's first bike tour-- you really start big Roger! Ian is from Belgium and just received his Ph.D. in History. He is 27 years old, just like our son Ian! Mexican food was eaten, followed by MORE Frigid Creme and shaved ice at the ball field. Life on the road is sweet!
Today we left from Newton, Kansas, and headed west. Strong winds (up to 23 mph) developed throughout the day but luckily, they were coming from the south. Half-way through the day, we stopped at the Buhler Public Library in Buhler, Kansas, a farming community with a population of about 1300 people. The town is well-known as a shopping location with a thriving downtown with cafes, clothing stores, and boutiques. Throughout our travels across the United States, John and I have been rather shocked at the number of towns that no longer have a grocery store but instead have a Casey’s Market or Dollar General. Towns with populations over 1000 people where you cannot buy a banana or fresh vegetables. But Buhler has a wonderful and successful downtown grocery store. One reason may be that Buhler voted NO to allowing Dollar General to come to town. Good for you Buhler, we like your support of local business and fresh and nutritious food.
The library is well-situated downtown, right across from the grocery store. In 2013, the library was remodeled and expanded to include the store space next door, gifted to the library by the previous owner. Many town residents helped with the renovation, working to improve their library. Inside the building, the space is well-organized, cheerfully decorated, cozy, and welcoming. It has the feeling of a library mixed with a coffee shop. In fact, you can buy a cup of coffee or cocoa and relax in one of two areas: a comfy corner with cushy chairs and fireplace or a large open area with surrounding windows. I daydreamed about moving to Buhler just so we could hang out downtown and at the library. It is that adorable.
Pam Fast is the Library Director for Buhler Public Library. She grew up in Buhler, used the Buhler Public Library as a kid, and has worked at the library for 23 years. She’s created some great summer programming including a series of craft activities and summer reading programs for adults and kids, plus story time. She knows about the TransAmerica Bicycle Trail on the north end of Buhler and says bicycle tourists drop in to use the computers and wifi, no ID required. Shoppers and other tourists, plus relatives of families in the area use the library, especially families with kids. In fact, anyone with a valid ID can sign up for a library card and receive full privileges. Even two bicycle tourists/librarians currently living in North Carolina.
Thank you, Pam, for letting us check out your library and talking with us. You’ve created a welcoming space full of atmosphere, great resources, and some special programming. Buhler really is a special place.