Higher and higher

Holy Schnikes! That was hard!

(The links above are not showing up for me like they should – I’m having trouble connecting to WordPress – I hope you can see them.)

We had a great July 4 dinner at a Chinese restaurant outside of Worland, WY.

That night was only the second time I’ve been awakened in the middle of the night by a smell. The first was an ammonia leak at the ice cream factory down the street by our house. Wednesday night was the smell of the irrigation system coming on at the community center where we stayed. They water with reclaimed water, or maybe liquid manure.

At any rate, my tent still smells the next night and 93 miles away.

Breakfast was at a Mexican restaurant in town, with breakfast burritos, French toast, and lots of fresh fruit.

We worked our way through a series of roller coaster hills, each a little higher than the one before; each descent a little less than the prior climb.

We entered the town of Ten Sleep, so called because it was ten sleeps (or ten days’ travel) to Fort Laramie, Yosemite, and the Indian Agency on the Stillwater River in Montana.

There was a brewery at the edge of town, nestled in a red cliff. (In the first picture, that’s the brewery at the far left.)

In town we had a mandatory stop at Dirty Sally’s, a cafe and gift shop. An espresso, dark chocolate almond butter cup (think fancy Reese’s), and a birthday present later, it was time to start The Climb.

We climbed though various rock formations, each with a sign attesting to its geological age. Much to my dismay, I found the signs totally at odds with the known age of the earth, according to Creation Science.

We continued climbing through Ten Sleep Canyon, with awe-inspiring views. Lunch was a roadside picnic before the summit.

At the summit (9666 feet) I met a family from Omro, WI, on their way to Yellowstone. We had climbed 5000 vertical feet at a nearly constant slope.

After a fast descent (warm enough that I didn’t need to add layers this time), we encountered a steep two mile climb that made the 25 mile climb of the morning seem easy.

From there came what our route planner described as a “stair step descent”, with short 8% drops and “rolling terrain”. They were the oddest steps I have ever encountered.

I went from 45 mph to 7 mph in seconds, as each 8% downgrade was followed by an equally steep (though shorter) upgrade.

We entered town going slightly downhill, challenging the 30 mph speed limit. We slowed for the downtown area and, of course, had another steep climb to the school where we are staying. 93 miles, nearly 9000 feet of climbing, and our highest pass of the trip at 9666 feet.

Now you can say I’m over the hill.

This calls for an update:

It is now 8:30 PM Thursday. Due to construction on our planned route, tomorrow’s 72 mile ride has become a 102 mile ride.

During our meeting tonight, a thunderstorm of epic proportions struck. I got outside just in time to put the rain fly on my tent. I’d been airing it out to get rid of the mature smell.

60 mph wind, hail, rain in sheets quickly followed. One tent was flipped upside down, still staked on one side.

Another tent was flattened. A third was nearly airborne.

The sky was beautiful. The sun was setting in the west, with bright light on the west side of trees. The other side was completely dark and trees were swaying violently. There was a rainbow.

During a lull, I got out to my tent. The floor is wet on one side (in my haste I didn’t fully close a zipper), my sleeping bag and pad are damp. But the tent remained standing.

The tent itself is netting. Some rain has penetrated the fly and a bit has sprinkled down on me.

My phone was in the tent the whole time, so no pictures.

I think I’ll try to go to bed now.

Hot springs, or just hot feet?

Today was a lesson in humility.

The flags were flapping with a strong breeze out of the northeast (the direction we were headed), so I decided to go with strength in numbers and left breakfast with a group that usually rides at a pace that is comfortable for me.

Trouble is, I usually start slow and warm up for about five miles before I ramp up to cruising speed. Steve (pictured the other day at Teton Park in a yellow jacket) led the way out of town at a blistering pace. I knew within a few miles that this was not a sustainable pace for me for 90+ miles. When a tendon behind my left knee started complaining, I dropped off the back (after taking a pull at the front).

I would pay for that error for the next 80 miles.

Pretty soon I decided that finishing in time for dinner was my only goal. I expected to be on the road for 10 hours.

Relief came when we turned onto US Hwy 20 West. The good news is that got us out of the headwind. The bad news is that that is inconsistent with getting to Boston.

We rode through the crumbling town of Shoshoni.  On the way out of town we passed what might have been a trailer park and might have been a junkyard, I couldn’t tell.

5A6A9C98-0427-4DA0-94F6-CAE2FB68FF32We headed into the Wind River Canyon and the day changed for the better. By this time I was riding alone, at my own pace, with no desire to try to keep up with anyone.9D4A8989-5BF6-4396-85C9-996740AA4B97

Wind River Canyon is phenomenally beautiful. We rode through three short tunnels and had lunch at the “Wedding of the Waters.”

White people are funny. Someone “discovered” the Wind River and named it (at least he didn’t name it after himself). Someone else “discovered” the Big Horn River (and also didn’t name it for himself). Only years later did they figure out it was the same river. Rather than change one or both names (or find out what the people who already lived there called it), they decreed that our lunch spot would be henceforth known as the “Wedding of the Waters”, and upstream would be the Wind River, downstream the Big Horn.

We rode into the town of Thermopolis, home of a hot springs. 7741E692-FDD1-42A3-8DA5-ED93282307FBWe were encouraged to stop and take the waters. I was afraid that, were I to get into a hot spring at that point in the day, I wouldn’t want to get out. If I did get out, I didn’t think I’d have 40 miles left in me. I looked, but did not get wet.

A hot spring at the end of the ride, especially with massage therapists, would have been a great idea.63D83E46-29C7-4ECE-B9F0-79FCBF00710E

At mile 80, as tends to happen on hard days, my feet were on fire. I took off my shoes and used my water bottle to cool them down. This made the last 13 miles survivable. Now I know why you can buy shoes with vents you can open under the toes.

I finally joined forces with Kevin at that water stop and rode into town with him.

Steve later confessed that his speedometer wasn’t working in the morning and he had no idea he was going that fast.

I finished riding at 2:30, about the same time as usual.

Thursday we climb Powder River Pass, a 25 mile climb. We climb almost 9000 feet for the day. The pass tops out at 9666 feet, and we ride >90 miles again before we say goodbye to the mountains. Time to get some sleep.

4th of July

Notice how this is the only holiday we refer to specifically by its date? Why is that? 5 de Mayo is also referred to that way, but not in English.

So here I am, in the great and sprawling west. 4th of July out here makes me think of US history, westward expansion, and manifest destiny. If you have 10 minutes to spare (9:15 to be exact), here is a better history lesson than I had in school – more accurate and more entertaining to boot. “Temporarily Humboldt County” by the Firesign Theater. Listen to it. I’ll wait.

 

Some years ago I spent the 4th at the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore. I took some great pictures but, due to software incompatibility, I may not see them again. (Don’t ya like how we were sold the idea of digital photography so we could keep our pictures forever with no need for restoration? I have 100 year old photos of my house but can’t recover 12 year old digital photos.

The memorial was begun in 1948. There is no estimated completion date. It is all privately funded. For comparison, Mount Rushmore took 14 years to carve and Crazy Horse’s face is 50% larger than the Mt Rushmore faces.

from crazyhorsememorial.org
from Atlas Obscura – model of finished sculpture (foreground), actual sculpture (background)

On the porch of our lodge in Deadwood, the evening of July 3, 2006, my son improvised a mournful viola solo which became the basis for the adagio movement of his “String Trio in G”. He completed the movement for a summer composition project. It was dedicated to one of his academic mentors, Ted Widerski, who died while we were on that trip. That project moved him to alter his career plan from composition to orchestral conducting. Next month I’ll have a link to a live performance of his orchestra, so you can see where that led. If you can’t wait that long, here is a performance from a few years ago of Samuel Barber’s “Knoxville: Summer of 1915”.

Aside to the conductor: Did you know you were born on the anniversary of Samuel Barber’s death?

In July of 1976 (the US Bicentennial) I rode the Sparta to Elroy bike trail. I saw a sight that seemed to embody the spirit of the US to me. There, in the trail, side-by-side, were two vending machines – one for Coke and one for Pepsi. I took a picture that was to be the start of a photo essay called “Freedom is…”. I never completed the project because satire became superfluous the day I saw a two page centerspread ad in the daily paper. There were red, white, and blue bunting across the top of the page, stars sprinkled (liberally?) about, and the giant header “The Great American Buycentennial“. I don’t remember what they were selling. For those who were around in 1976 you likely remember the grotesque attempts to cash in.

I’ll leave you with one last bit of Americana. While I may have quibbles with the tempo, who am I to question the New York Philharmonic?

They don’t call it Wind River for nothin’

We spent the day crossing and recording the Wind River, riding through its valley. Here is my friend Keith’s song “Wind River Crossing”

We rode out of Dubois with the same 25 mph tailwind with which we entered. At our first water stop the wind shifted and we spent the middle half of the ride pushing through a strong headwind.

We entered Riverton to darkening skies and increasing winds. It is blowing about 40 mph now. Pitching tents has been fun. The sun is out but the wind shows no sign of abating.

This was supposed to be a recovery ride between yesterday’s 17 mile climb and Thursday’s steep climb to over 9600 feet and 94 total miles. We were supposed to be riding downhill with a tailwind. C’est la vie.

Early on we rode through beautiful red rock canyons.

We spent a few hours riding toward an isolated butte. I kept wondering when I should stop for a picture. Shortly after I did so, I came upon a historical marker.

The butte is Crowheart Butte, so called because, after defeating the Crow in a battle for the surrounding land, the Shoshone chief is said to have displayed the heart of one of the Crow warriors on the point of his lance. The town of Crowheart is nearby.

For an alternative view of this ride, see Terrysspokereport.blogspot.com. While we are all on the same route, we each have our own ride.

Across the Great Divide (reprise)

 

Once again we have crossed the great divide, each time higher than the time before.

Today we crossed Togwotee Pass at 9658 feet. I haven’t been that high since I stopped taking LSD. (A joke, folks. I haven’t ever been that high on a bike, but have been in a car and on foot.)D8B43150-3155-4F9C-B601-3E4EB137C516

There was snow just below the pass. Photos are loading slowly enough that I won’t risk it. You’ve seen snow.

No WiFi and limited 3G cell service. We’ll see how this goes. I’m hitting “save” a lot.

We rode into Jackson from the Teton Science Center, then out on an excellent bike path. If Jackson doesn’t have a better “bike-friendly” rating from the Bike League than Madison, there is no justice.

Weather was perfect. Sunny and cool. It warmed up quickly. Strong tailwind.21029244-775A-4444-B328-54C3E69C6FE2

We rode on the path into Grand Teton National Park. I have way too many pictures of the mountain. We’ll see if they’ll upload.1882D961-1525-49D0-98A6-18819062F5D1

Riding through the park, my face hurt from smiling. There was a $20 day use fee to ride through. I was going to buy my “Golden Ager” pass (which cost $10 for life until the Trump administration – now it costs $80), figuring only four more days in a National Park for the rest of my life and I’ll be ahead.

Instead, I arrived at the entrance just behind Barbara (a cheese maker from New York, on Lake Champlain) and she was able to get three of us in on her pass.

We rode along and I stared at the Tetons. At mile 20 I realized we had to climb those gorgeous mountains, not just look at them. The path paralleled the highway, but more sinuous and undulating. Sometimes I think it was to follow the contours of the land, and sometimes just a brilliant landscape architect who knew s/he could make the path more interesting and fun than just a straight line.

Our climb was actually much gentler than the mountains to our left. We climbed for 17 miles (almost two hours). I was pushed by the tailwind until the last mile – the wind abruptly became a head wind for the steep final mile. I guess I had to feel like I earned it.

We saw three bears. No sign of Goldilocks.

The descent was fast; again, due to the wind, I held my speed down.

We hit flat lands along the Wind River, propelled by that tailwind. I didn’t pedal for a mile at a time, pushe along at 30 mph by the wind. I started pedaling and ran out of gears at 35 mph – I don’t how fast I could have gone if I’d had more gears. The wind occasionally became a cross wind, requiring work to keep the rubber side down.

We’re at a conference center on the Wind River. Where I’m sitting would be a great place to pitch a tent. Instead, I’ll be sleeping on a carpeted concrete floor – no camping allowed. There are folks camped at a nearby park, farther than I wanted to schlep my gear.

Showers were at a coin-op public shower in town. 50 cents bought me one minute of hot water. I usually wash my riding clothes while I shower – not today.

I’m not sure if I’ve conveyed how phenomenal the day was. The sun was out, puffy clouds barely moving (no wind aloft), a strong tailwind, fabulous mountains, good roads, light traffic, and a cold mountain stream to soak my feet at the end. Today alone was worth the price of admission.

I am confused. We were trying to explain the 4th of July to an Irishman. If you take a knee during the National Anthem, you are showing disrespect for the flag and you are a traitor. If you eat off the flag and then wipe your mouth with it, you are a patriot.5E046B0F-4801-40D2-9D78-118118B752ED

I also just found out that our short day for the week (72 miles after a major climb on Thursday) has just become 100 miles due to road construction.

Oh, well…another day, another 100 miles.