“Like dogs, bicycles are social catalysts that attract a superior category of people.” Chip Brown
I was looking forward to Day Twenty-Two for a few reasons. It would be the first time in as long as I could remember that I would be in the saddle for less than three hours, and the first time in even longer, I would have a partner.
Emil Gerke is a fellow Zwifter, reader of The ZOM, and a longtime resident of Casper, Wyoming. He told me he wanted to do something more memorable and meaningful to him and me than donating to support the journey and had a few ways in mind.
In addition to lending me a wheel, he and his wife, Renee, agreed to open their home to the Schwenk Tank crew and me. We were overwhelmed by the gesture!
A few extra minutes in the morning was a luxury, and I took full advantage. Emil would be meeting me along the route and asked that I take my time so we could ride together for a while.
About five miles in, we intersected and became fast friends. The conversation flowed, the ride flew by, and before you knew it, we were in Casper. It is incredible how much you can learn about a person and the place they are from in a two-hour bike ride.
Like many cyclists I’ve had the pleasure to meet, it was like we were friends for life. Not only because of our shared passion, but many of our thoughts and beliefs were also in line, and our value system was similar.
When I asked him why he and his wife felt compelled to open their home, he replied, “Not many guys who could ride their bike across the country are jerks. Maybe crazy, but not jerks. And it’s only one night!” That was good enough for me.
The only thing more friendly than the roads and bike paths in Casper were the dogs and the people. For a city of 60,000, it felt like we were family.
The Gerke’s made us feel that way, too! After a delightful shower in the best facilities I’ve found (thank you Emil and Renee), we set off to explore the Old Yellowstone District.
Eggington’s was delicious. Order the Juevos Eggington, and substitute the tortillas for their signature biscuits. I was the first one who had. The owner planned to add it to the menu after I left.
Lou Taubert’s had five floors of everything one could need in these parts. I felt welcome but left empty-handed.
Getting there. Just in time to enter the Badlands. Oh well!
We spent the afternoon lounging under the covered porch of Emil and Renee’s 1917 home as we people-watched a cross-section of the eclectic Casper community flow off the city’s downtown. When Renee’s work day was through, and she took her spot on the porch beside us, we found out for ourselves what Emil had proudly but unintentionally been sharing. Renee’ was wonderfully engaging, and the pair had an ease about them.
Emil stole away, and when he returned, he presented us with a spread worthy of a five-star resort, and he was the Michelin chef. Everything was incredible, from the perfectly spiced chicken quarters and the homemade spicy pasta sauce to the finely crafted bread and artisan salad. Emil paired the ideal IPA, too!
Emil also baked cookies from scratch. When he and Renee heard that Uncle Rudy would be celebrating his 79th birthday tomorrow, they added the personal and caring touch. The “5” candle was perfect.
The party of exhausted and lightweight cyclists and those that love them was sure to get out of hand when the Wyoming moonshine made it to the porch. That was my cue to turn in for the night. Emil and I had a 0600 meet-up scheduled for the ride to Douglas, WY.
I can’t begin to express how much Emil and Renee’s generous hospitality meant to us. The touch of home we needed and the time with our new friends for a life filled the longing for family. Thank you, Emil and Renee!
About the DIRT Dad Fundo Pledge for Day Twenty-Two—Stephen Katuska
Here is what Stephen had to say—”For me cycling has always been a perfect way to see the world, have amazing adventures, and get some of my competitive juices flowing. I mostly found indoor cycling through a mix of convenience and safety, with two kids it can be hard to get the time for the long outdoor rides I used to love, and being there for my kids means I no longer like to be riding solo and risk incidents with motorists.
I first got on Zwift through a few friends, and enjoyed it, but never was able to really make strong personal bonds racing virtually. I kept seeing DIRT folks on group rides and figured I’d check out the crew. Was instantly impressed with that perfect mix of taking this sport seriously, while also not taking ourselves seriously at all – this is supposed to be fun! The community and camaraderie is top notch, and I’m lucky to have found this group.”
Amount Raised to Date—$4,542
Thank you, Stephen!
Now off to Douglas, WY!
To support Chris in his effort to raise awareness of The DIRT Dad Fund, the non-profit he created to assist members of the worldwide cycling community, check out this link to learn more.
Find out where you can pledge a donation and subscribe to The ZOMs newsletter to follow along on the journey.
Semi-retired as owner and director of his private Orthopedic Physical Therapy practice after over 20 years, Chris is blessed with the freedom to pursue his passion for virtual cycling and writing. On a continual quest to give back to his bike for all the rewarding experiences and relationships it has provided him, he created a non-profit. Chris is committed to helping others with his bike through its work and the pages of his site.
In the summer of 2022, he rode 3,900 miles from San Francisco to New York to support the charity he founded, TheDIRTDadFund. His “Gain Cave” resides on the North Fork of Long Island, where he lives with his beautiful wife and is proud of his two independent children.
You will read him promoting his passion on the pages of Cycling Weekly, Cycling News, road.cc, Zwift Insider, Endurance.biz, and Bicycling. Chris is co-host of The Virtual Velo Podcast, too!
Nice work Chris! So glad you had someone to ride with. I hope it wasn’t too windy. I’ve been to Casper for work many times and it can be so windy there! Keep crushing it 🙌🏻
Emil was amazing to ride with. Yes, like a freight train. An even better cook. He and his wife, Renee, were gracious hosts! Thank you 🙏 V!