Today was a big day. While not a lot of miles, we did ascend to 8431 feet to cross Teton Pass. The average grade was 10%, with maximum of 14%.
The day dawned clear and cold and crisp as cider (in an attempt to quote Ken Kesey from “Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear”). It was 40 degrees in Ashton, ID.
We started in rolling hills through potato country. The irrigation machines were running and creating rainbows in the rising sun, that tracked our progress as we passed them.
After about 10 miles, the Tetons appeared in the distance. They seemed much too far away to get to today. The peaks were shrouded in fog and snow.
I started in tights, arm warmers, jacket, full finger , and a plastic shopping bag under the jersey as extra insulation.
It was the sort of morning that lets you know that the rollers are more up than down, or that you are no match for this ride. Luckily, it was the former. At lunch the datameister confirmed we had risen 1800 feet.
I knew the key to the day was to keep steady, not blow myself out before the climb, find a steady rhythm for the climb. My mantra for the day was “Steady Rollin’ Bob Margolin”. He is a blues guitarist who played with Muddy Waters in the 70s. Any time I started to work too hard or lag too much, I repeated “Steady rollin’” to get back on track.
After an hour or so I was able to remove the bag. At lunch I took off the jacket but put it back on before leaving the park, as clouds obscured the sun.
We headed out on “Old Jackson Highway”, a quiet, two lane road with no traffic. I was hoping it continued all the way to the pass, but I knew it didn’t. It changed to a footpath and we moved onto the highway.
We continued a slow and steady climb for the next few miles. About 53 miles into the day the climbing started in earnest. I delaminated down to shorts and jersey for the climb.
At the 53 mile mark I met a group of women from Texas headed up the pass on matching bikes. They were part of a Texas to Alaska fundraising tour. I also met Santa Claus.
Our cue sheet estimated the grade at 6-7%. At a turnout I looked back and saw a sign for trucks going down warning of a 10% grade for the next two miles. We were still far from the point that our cue sheet indicated we’d hit 10%. As noted above, Dan’s 10% was actually 14%. I feel less wimpy knowing that.
I considered squirting my water bottle over my head, having a difficult time remembering that I had been chilly much of the day. I knew the summit was soon and that would be a bad idea. I stopped and took my helmet off for a few minutes instead.
The last stretch before the summit was a killer, though I did pass the Texans on that section. There are, of course, no photos from that section. I was going too slowly to clip out to stop and both hands were busy so I couldn’t pull out the camera while moving.
We took the obligatory summit photos and then quickly replaced the layers removed for the climb to prepare for the descent.
Winds were swirling and I tried to keep my speed below 40mph, feeling like I might become airborne as I rounded switchbacks and confronted the wind. Again, no pictures – all my concentration was needed for control on the descent.
40mph in mountain winds is way scarier than it is in Wisconsin – back there, I consider a ride a good one if it contains at least one 40mph downhill. 50 is a rare treat. I had no desire to see 50 today.
I had a wide open road for the descent – no cars in sight (on my side of the road) before or behind me. I sailed into Jackson and the route moved to a gorgeous bike path through woods and meadows, eventually leading to our weekend respite at Morse Science High (actually Teton Science Center), an educational retreat center about 5 miles out of town.
Suzanne, who rode with us last week, had ordered pizzas for us, which were waiting when I got out of the shower.