Over the past week we’ve been able to visit only one library due to the July 4th holiday and riding through national parks. We spent our July 4th in Dubois, Wyoming (population 1,000), enjoying the parade and eating ice cream. We spent the next three days in Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. We will always remember the approaching backdrop of the Tetons; the herd of elk we rode through at 5:30 in the morning; the sunrises; and Yellowstone’s hot springs/geysers. We will also remember sharing the narrow roads with RVs--that was something.
So, after visiting only one library last week, we were pretty excited to arrive at the West Yellowstone Library today. West Yellowstone, Montana, is home to about 10,000 people during the summers. Population drops to only 1,200 during the winters, perhaps due to its reputation as one of the coldest places in the United States. Last winter, the snow reached above the roof of the library. Housing is difficult to find and expensive. But if you want to live in one of the most beautiful places on earth, you make the jump and move to West Yellowstone anyway- like Steve and Monica, the library staff we met during our visit.
Steve moved to West Yellowstone over ten years ago to devote more time to fly-fishing. The library has a great fly-fishing collection, many of the books donated by residents. During our visit we met Warren, a library patron actually tying flies in the library.
Outside the library is the community garden where residents can rent a plot for the season. The growing season is short here, with only 30 frost-free days. Garden covers are a necessity. Steve also showed us a section of the library dedicated to Pre-K learning. The library offers two Pre-K sessions a week at no charge and has ‘graduated’ more than 150 children. The Library Director, Bruce McPherson, helped to raise funds for a new preschool in town, celebrating its opening this summer.
The library offers Spanish and English courses, free of charge. They have also offered Mandarin lessons in the past, since the Asian tourism industry is booming in West Yellowstone. This small town has six Chinese restaurants and several hotels that cater to guests mainly from China and Korea.
The book budget has remained level for the past ten years but Steve tells us that additional books are available through inter-library loan within the Gallatin County Free Public Library system (includes Bozeman Public Library). The shipping of books from one location to another is provided at no charge by a local beer distributor, the Cardinal Company. They figure they need to deliver the beer anyway, why not help with the books?
Thanks to Steve, Monica, and Warren for visiting with us and telling us about the library and life in West Yellowstone. We admire your decisions to move to this beautiful place and your part in creating such a welcoming space for your community and tourists such as ourselves.
After a day of up-and-down hills and moderate winds, we arrived in Lander, Wyoming, around 1:30 pm. Lander has a thriving downtown featuring three coffee shops, two outdoor stores, and the headquarters of the wilderness education school, NOLS (National Outdoor Leadership School). After grabbing some coffee and checking out the bicycle shop, we headed to the Lander Public Library, a branch of the Fremont County Library system.
When we arrived, we met Anita (Lander Manager) and Terry (Library Staff). Anita was kind enough to spend almost an hour with us, telling us about the town of Lander (population 7400), the library, and giving us a behind-the-scenes tour of the original Carnegie section of the library. The Carnegie library was completed in 1907, with two additions, one in 1977 and the second in 2009. Each addition kept some of the best details of the previous building(s), creating a beautiful meld of three different architectural styles. The Carnegie section is now used as a public performance space and houses the Friends of the Library’s perpetual book sale, known as the “Book Nook” (with an additional location downtown). The library has four meeting spaces available to the community and is booked over 100 times a year.
Lander Public Library sees a lot of bicycle tourists passing through as well as many tourists on their way to the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park. They also have many people that live seasonally in the area to attend a camp, work, or enjoy a summer-long rental. The wifi is available 24 hours-a-day, inside and outside the building (with benches provided).
Like many libraries in Wyoming, Lander Public Library has recently experienced some budget cuts that resulted in lower staffing levels and a reduction in the programming budget. Faced with the budget cuts, Landers Public Library is collaborating with other community and non-profit groups to create and support library programming. The Wind River Farm to Plate non-profit organization provides the Seed Library at the Lander Public Library and offers free workshops. The local radio station, KDLY, has featured Anita a number of times on their ‘Coffee Time’ morning program to promote the library. Lander Parks and Recreation presented a $6,000 grant to help support the Summer Reading Program and the Library Friends group raised $12,000 (with matching funds of $12,000) through the Lander Community Foundation’s Challenge for Charities.
And my favorite library program was the Bike-to-Work event on Wednesday, June 27. Supported by donations from the local bike and sport stores, patrons that rode their bikes to the library received a small gift, had their photo taken, and were entered into the drawing for larger bicycle-related prizes. Another example of libraries connected with bicycles!!
Our thanks to Anita and the staff of Lander Public Library. A beautiful town that loves their library!
Sunday, July 1 was a day I will always remember--the day I rode my bike against headwinds with gusts of up to 40 mph. The 15-mile stretch south of Jeffrey City, Wyoming, was one of the challenges that make this an adventure and not just a vacation. The winds don’t just seem to come at you, they swirl around you, over you, through you. They are all you can hear and you don’t dare look away from the road in front of you. Good fun, those winds.
We spent Sunday evening in the Jeffrey City Community Church along with nine other cyclists. There was no grocery store in town so John and I scraped the bottom of the food bag to make dinner, breakfast, and lunch for the next day. And a true mystery—we left THREE chocolate puddings in the fridge Sunday night but woke to ONLY TWO! We shall call this The Mystery of the Chocolate Pudding Bandit. May the lord have mercy on their soul.
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!