We left Ashton, ID at 7 AM with Grand Teton looming in the distance. It continued to loom in the distance for much of the morning. For a while we aimed straight for it, then turned to parallel the range as we head for Teton Pass. The sky was clear but dark clouds loomed over the pass. They seemed to funnel forebodingly toward the pass.
As we approached it turned blustery and the headwind made it seem that we had started climbing miles before the actual climb, though we did gain elevation steadily throughout the day.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the day. This was decision day. If I rode the whole day and cleared the pass, I would cancel my flight home tomorrow. If I was not able to make it, I might be outta here. A staff member (also COVID+) assured me that I could be picked up at the last water stop before the climb if I wasn’t “feeling it”. Before that, the COVID bus rule was “once you’re out, you’re out. We don’t have time to come back for you and you can’t get in the other sag wagons.” This became the day’s mantra:
At home we have some rides that I call “big ring rides”. The route is flat enough that I can stay in the big chainring using the higher gears. The past three days I’ve kept myself in the small ring, limiting my speed so I would recover and not get weaker. I only allowed myself into the big ring on descents, then back to the small ring as soon as the road leveled out. Today was a small ring ride until we cleared the pass. To celebrate I stayed in the big ring until the turnoff to the Teton Science Center.
After our picnic the climb began. It starts gradually, with some flat(ter) sections, then becomes gradually steeper as you go. The dark and heavy clouds began to leak a bit. As long as it was a few drops, it would just keep us cool. If it turned into actual rain, I had a jacket in reserve, since I needed a jacket and full finger gloves in the morning. The sky gradually cleared. When it got steep, the sun came out fully. Instead of a chill, it was now hot. I stopped at every paved turnout (eschewing the gravel ones) for photo ops, water, and rest breaks. By the last one I had to pour water on my head to stay cool. Other than a few coughing breaks, I fared well. It was definitely a slower ascent than 4 years ago, but it was an ascent.
The descent was exhilarating. A couple of times I went into turnouts to allow cars to pass but, for the most part, I stayed with traffic (which was very light). Unlike 2018, the winds were not swirling and the bike felt stable at all times. In the valley, a shot of espresso was waiting, courtesy of my former co-workers. Aside to you: I think of you every time I swipe that gift card. I hope you’re having half as much fun as I am. Thanks again!
There is no cell service here at Teton Science Center, but we were granted wi-fi access. Once we had access, I canceled my flight home tomorrow. I’m back! I think my eyes got wet as I made my way through the valley.