Friday, June 30, 2017

A Campsite with Trees?

Day 26 - 6/30/17 - Jeffrey City, WY to Rawlings, WY - 71 Miles

Average Speed - The Continental Divide keeps getting in my way

Lodging - Western Hills RV Park - $14
Can I get a site with some trees for shade?  The lady behind the counter didn't even answer, she just laughed.  I didn't take that as a good sign.  Southern Wyoming is not a land of many trees.

I was riding at 6:30 this morning.  The scenery was much the same as the last 2 or 3 days -  wide open spaces.  To tell you the truth, I'm ready for a bit of a change.  That'll have to wait a couple days until I get into Colorado, but let's take this a day at a time and embrace what today had for me.
Split Rock

My First Snake
It was cool out in the early morning and he was warming himself in the road.  I thought about poking him with a stick to see if it was a rattle snake, but there are no trees, so there are no sticks.  I let him be.

There was a bit more climbing today than I was expecting.  I crossed the continental divide twice.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Another Day at the Office

Day 26 - 6/29/17 - Lander, WY to Jeffrey City, WY - 60 Miles

Average Speed - 6 different people told me about that hill

Lodging - Jeffrey City Community Church - free

My office chair...
My office desk...
The view from my office window...

I was on the road early this morning and will be again tomorrow morning.  I'm learning something about Wyoming.  Mid afternoon each day, storms roll in and the wind picks up to astronomical proportions.  I want to be done riding when that happens, so early morning riding it is.

Tonight, I'm staying in an old church.  I saw it from the road and rode around back and this was the sign on the door...
I have my own room...
Along with bathroom, shower and kitchen.  I'm living in the lap of luxury!

A Flawless Technique - Almost

Day 25 - 6/28/17 - Dubois, WY to Lander, WY - 76 Miles

Average Speed - Man that wind

Lodging - Lander City Park - free

When you're riding 6 to 8 hours a day there is one thing you inevitably have to deal with and that is going to the bathroom.  I have perfected a technique in which I put my right foot down and keep my left foot clipped in the pedal.  I turn slightly to my right and am able to take care of business discreetly.  My handlebar bag and front panniers shield me from cars coming from the front and my back is to those cars coming from behind. Perfect...or so I thought...until today.  I took care of business as described above and then I reached in my handlebar bag to take a bite of Clif Bar,  I fumbled the bar and it landed right in the middle of where I had just relieved myself...I debated rinsing it off with water when I realized I had another in my bag.  The point to ponder here is what if that were my last Clif Bar?

A storm blew through Dubois early this morning so I sat it out and got on the road around 9 AM.  I followed the Wind River most of the day and I now know where it got that name, lucky for me it was a TAILWIND!

Here are a few pics of today's ride.  What do you see?

Nothingness - that's what you see and that's what there was.  It was wide open country with little to no trees.  There were long stretches where as far as I could see up the road and behind there was people.  There was just cattle...horses...the occasional pronghorn...and ME.

I absolutely loved it!!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My Timing is Impeccable

Day 24 - 6/27/17 - Colter Bay Village, WY to Dubois, WY - 66 Miles

Average Speed = total miles / total time = 66 / uhhh

Lodging - St. Thomas Episcopal Church - free

I didn't take the camera out of the bag much today.  Not because there was nothing photo worthy,  but because I was facing a 20 mile climb up Togwotee Pass, which sits at 9658 feet elevation.  Thats the 2nd highest summit of the TransAmerica Trail.

As I was approaching the top, I kept noticing in my helmet mirror that the sky behind me was an ominous black/blue AND it was moving in my direction.  At first I harbored the hope that I could outrun it...that hope was cruelly crushed when I was about 1/2 mile from the top...when the wind picked up so drastically that it was literally pushing me up the mountain without me pedaling.  Normally, I would consider this a good thing, but I had a bad feeling about this.  The moment I got to the top, it started raining and sleeting.  I stopped, snuck a quick pic of the pass...
...then I started downhill.  I love downhills, but this one I grew to hate very quickly.  Let's start with bone chilling cold...then let's move to lightning and thunder...let's not leave out the gail force winds...oh yea...I forgot to mention marble sized hail that pelted my back, my head, my hand, my arms AND my face.

I tried to find a balance between a slow enough speed to lessen the pain of the hail and fast enough to get me out of this maelstrom.  There was no place to stop.  There was no shelter.  I had one choice, get down that mountain as fast as I could AND pray.

Finally after 11 Miles, I came across Lava Mountain Lodge and pulled onto the front porch.  I couldn't feel my hands.  I was soaked.  I was shivering  uncontrollably.  I walked into the store not sure about the reception I would receive.  I really kind lady behind the counter offered me a cup of hot coffee amd showed where the restrooms were so I could change into some dry clothes and put on more layers.

After an hour, the storm subsided and I continued on my way.  Grateful to be warm and dry again AND thanking God for keeping me safe and for the kindness of a stranger.

I did take one final pic of the Grand Tetons this morning as I bid them farewell.
Tonight I sleep indoors due to Bicycle/Hiker Ministry of St Thomas' Episcopal Church.

What a blessing!

Little Snowman

Day 23 - 6/26/17 - Grant Village, WY to Colter Bay Village, WY - 40 Miles

Average Speed - My map doesn't show all the hills

Lodging - NPS Campground - Mooching off Troy - free
This morning I rode along the Pitchstone Plateau in Yellowstone National Park.  Since I was plodding along at around 8000 ft. elevation, there were patches of snow here and there.  Imagine my glee when I came across this little guy.  A snowman in late June, who woulda thunk it.

Shortly after my snowman encounter, I started to drop from the plateau.  As I was flying along, I broke into song.  Guess what song I was singing?..."Frosty the Snowman".  I didn't sing it softly, but at the top of my lungs.  I sang it with great emotion.  I was dancing on my bicycle seat!  It was a spontaneous moment of utter joy!

At the bottom of the downhill, I exited Yellowstone and shortly thereafter...
The scale of these magnificent mountains cannot begin to be captured by photos and I most certainly lack an adequate enough grasp of the english language to do them justice.

In Colter Bay I met up with a work associate Troy and his wife and spent a wonderful afternoon with them driving around the Grand Teton National Park.


Day 22 - 6/25/17 - West Yellowstone, MT to Grant Village, WY - 55 Miles

Average Speed - I'm in Yellowstone...I couldn't ride slow enough

Lodging - NPS Campground - $8

Today was a fun, relaxing day.  For the last several days, I've been hammering out the miles.  It was more business, than pleasure.  Today I decided to stop the madness,  take my time and enjoy the day.  Enough of my blathering, I'll  let the pics tell the story...

Madison River

Elk and Stupid Lady

My Hayes

Palestine Pool


Grand Prismatic Pool


Kepler Cascades

Continental Divide


Continental Divide Again

Yellowstone Lake

Saturday, June 24, 2017

I Sleep With My Alcohol

Day 21 - 6/24/17 - Ennis, MT to West Yellowstone, MT - 73 Miles

Average Speed - Uphill for 73 miles - no joke

Lodging - Madison Youth Hostel/Motel - too much
I chose an alcohol stove for this trip for 2 main reasons:

1. Simplicity- no moving parts, nothing to break
2. Ease of finding fuel

Alcohol stoves have one major drawback.  Alcohol is difficult to ignite when cold.  When I woke this morning it was 38 F...for a boy from south Louisiana, 38 F in late June is ridiculous!!!  So I've started this new routine of placing the fuel bottle just outside my tent and in the early morning I reach out, grab it and put it in the sleeping bag with me.  I snuggle with it like my own little teddy bear.  Igniting problem solved.

This morning my ride out of Ennis was long, straight and uphill.  But with companions like this...
Madison Range

Madison River

...the ride was most pleasant.

Even though the ride was predominantly uphill, I was feeling pretty good for the first 40 miles.  It was about this time that I met another cyclist going in the other direction.  We visited a while and then he said in parting, "you've got a bit of a climb coming up".  I reviewed the map first thing this morning, sure it was uphill,  but no big climbs, surely he was mistaken...then I came across this sign shortly after and I knew I was in trouble.
With a river rushing downhill on my right, I put my head down, got about the business of climbing and made it to the top.  I was rewarded with a spectacular view of Quake Lake, which was formed by a 1959 earthquake that sheared off the side of a mountain and blocked the Madison River.
Quake Lake

By this time I had 20 miles left to ride and I was starting to struggle and couldn't understand why.  I've had tougher days and didn't feel like this.  Then it dawned on me that I'm riding at 7000 ft, maybe that's a factor.  I stopped, calmed myself and decided to adjust my pace according to how I feel.  If it takes me 4 hours to cover those last 20 miles, so be it.

Readjusting my perspective helped alot and I was able to refocus on the scenery and not my pain...
Snow Capped Mountain Across Hebgen Lake

I made it to West Yellowstone and in so doing completed my last full day in Montana.  Tomorrow I have a short ride to cross into Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park.  I'm excited!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Vigilantes Trail

Day 20 - 6/23/17 - Dillon, MT to Ennis, MT - 73 Miles

Average Speed - You don't need to track my speed with radar

Lodging - Camper Corner - $15

I woke this morning and it was freezing.  I started the ride with several layers on, but soon began to shed. 

I passed Beaverhead Rock, so named by Shoshone indians and referred to by Lewis and Clark as the Corps of Discovery made their way to the Pacific.
The morning ride was pleasant, with minimal winds, cool temps and nice views of surrounding mountains.
The afternoon ride took me back in time.  It was like I was in the wild, wild west.  I followed the Vigilantes Trail which was the stomping grounds for the Montana Vigilantes.  There was no traffic and I was all alone, my mind got to playing tricks on me and I got to wondering if there were outlaws in dem dar hills.
I made it to Virginia City and thought about stopping to wash down some of the trail dust...
...but I had more miles to travel, so I mounted my trusty steed and pushed on.  The road out of Virginia City pointed straight up.  I had to really push hard.  Once at the top, I had a 10 mile downhill to take me to Ennis.  The scenery was breathtaking...

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Skeeters and Gophers

Day 19 - 6/22/17 - Wisdom, MT to Dillon, MT - 66 Miles

Average Speed - Fast enough to scare the dooky outa some gophers

Lodging - Dillon KOA - $22/2

The wind was not my friend yesterday evening while I was setting up my tent.  There was a pond just downwind, so I was real careful when setting up my tent.  I wish I were just as careful when it came to blowing up my air mattress.  Just when I had it full of air, a gust of wind blew it out of my hand.  Wanna guess the first word out of my mouth as my air mattress went sailing into the pond.

As if the wind wasn't bad enough, the mosquitoes were attrocious.  One of the locals in the Antlers Saloon told me they liked mosquitoes because they pulled the grass up.  Grass is pretty important in the Big Hole Valley since cattle ranching reigns supreme.  As I lay in my tent last evening, an airforce of mosquitos were dive bombing to get in.  Thank goodness the screen held up.

Due to wind and no chance of rain, I skipped setting up the rain fly.  Temps dipped into the 30s and I woke up this morning to frost on everything, including the outside of my sleeping bag.

My ride today started with me riding south through the Big Hole Valley.  There were dozens and dozens of gophers on the road.  They sat on their hind legs and watched me coming.  As I grew closer they ran to the side of the road.  I felt like a Tour de France rider climbing a mountain and the crowds parting to let me ride through.

I climbed out of the valley along the same route that Lewis and Clark took, which was an old Indian trail.  Not much has changed in the 200+ years...except that now it is paved.

They Keep Getting Higher

Day 18 - 6/21/17 - Hamilton, MT to Wisdom, MT - 74 Miles

Average Speed - I climbed to 7241 ft elevation...I don't wanna talk average speed

Lodging - Big Hole River RV Park - $15
Tonight I pitched my tent in Wisdom, MT which sits in the Big Hole Valley at an elevation of 6027 feet.  This is higher than any pass that I've climbed before today and I'm in a valley!

To get to Wisdom I had to climb my highest pass yet (Chief Joseph Pass) at 7241 feet.  It took me almost 3 hours to cover 13.5 miles and get to the top.  Words can't express how thankful I was.

As I was going down, my map told me that I had at least 10 miles to Wisdom.  Yet, I could see the town in the distance.  I thought there is no way that's 10 miles, but as I pedaled and pedaled the town barely got closer.  It took me 10 miles to get there.  Montana is big, open country...

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Finally Over

Day 17 - 6/20/17 - Powell, ID to Hamilton, MT - 82 Miles

Average Speed - Everything is all right

Lodging - County Fairgrounds - free

For 3 days Lolo Pass was my destination.  I was beginning to think it didn't exist.  It was like one of those dreams where you know where you want to go, but no matter how hard you try, you can't get there.

This morning I was up early and on the road.  I was determined to find out if the pass really existed.  1 hour and 45 sweaty minutes later I crested Lolo pass!!  In so doing I bid farewell to Idaho and found myself in Montana.
After dropping down from Lolo Pass , I headed due south and rode 36 miles through the Bitterroot Valley.  I spent 3 hours with the beautiful, yet intimidating, Bitterroot Range on my right.
It was my longest day so far and toward the end I began to fade.  Then I came across this bilboard...
I guess flowers growing out of rocks isn't the only thing that can motivate me to dig deeper!