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.

A Day in the Life/Jackson Hole

Every job has its routines. The measure of whether you like your work is more how you deal with the routine than how you deal with the exciting stuff.

This life has its own routines. I awake at 5 most days, with my alarm being Schubert’s Sonata for Arpeggione and Piano, as performed by Mikko Rankin-Utevsky on viola (this excerpt has no piano).

Before getting out of my sleeping bag I check the weather and figure out what to wear. That takes longer than it does for my usual job. What I laid out the night before may be the base layer, not everything.

  1. Check the weather, figure out what to wear today. Get out of sleeping and get dressed.
  2. Take down the tent. Pack up my gear. Carry it to the trailer.
  3. Fill water bottles and tires.
  4. Load the trailer (load time set by the trail boss).
  5. Go to breakfast. We generally start riding between 7:00 and 7:30; possibly earlier on long days.
  6. Ride 1/4 of the route and stop for water; about five minutes.
  7. Ride the next quarter of the route and stop for lunch; about 30 minutes.
  8. Ride the third quarter and stop for water again.
  9. Ride to the end, text my wife to tell her I arrived, find my gear bags and/or unload the trailer, lay out tent and sleeping bag to dry, pitch tent when dry. Set out solar charger (clips to tent poles) to charge backup battery for phone. I generally finish riding between 2:00 and 3:00.
  10. Take a shower, wash today’s riding clothes, put up clothes line, hang clothes to dry.
  11. Write today’s blog entry. Download mail, check messages.
  12. Check out the town or rest until dinner.
  13. Eat dinner, go to tonight’s pre-ride meeting for tomorrow.
  14. Either find an outlet and charge phone, or charge it while I sleep, from the battery.
  15. Read, hang out, get ready for bed. Set out tomorrow’s riding and post-ride clothes. (In reality, I have had very little time to read. The e-books from the library arrive at very different times than expected, and are due before I read them.)
  16. Go to sleep and get ready to start the whole process again tomorrow.

Jackson

It is a day off. I took down my laundry, as there is a parent event for the high school leadership school currently in progress, and they want the place to look pretty.

Then I rode into Jackson for breakfast at a local coffee roaster and wandered around town.

Jackson has a quaint old western town section with false fronts and wooden sidewalks; this part of town leans toward expensive shops. There was a fur store. A mannequin in the display window modeled a tiny fur bikini. I could not bear to take a picture. The archways into the town square are made of shed elk antlers.

I walked beyond there, to where the folks who live and work here live – in trailers and manufactured housing.F1923564-4996-4B80-87BB-03EAACDF12C8

There is a park with climbing walls, and a ski hill right on the edge of town – from a few blocks away it looks like you’d ski right onto the streets.

I found a cafe with the 4 basic food groups – chocolate, pastries, espresso, and gelato.

Perusing next week’s ride profile, it looks like the hard part starts now; a couple of passes over 9000 feet, one of which is part of tomorrow’s 100 miles.

We stay in Wyoming for the whole week and actually ride mostly west-to-east;)

Before leaving Jackson, I need to put in a word about the Teton Science Center, where we are staying. It is an incredible facility. To learn more about their programs, see their website.

Head ‘em off at the pass!

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.8E830FAD-061D-4766-811F-D888D80F1B7C

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.646A7402-AE0D-4558-B00D-05FD91FD9708

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.

Hail! Hail! The gang’s all here!

Only a metric century today, done before noon, but clearly not a rest day.

The forecast was for thundershowers overnight. It was windy with scattered showers in the early evening, but I awoke at 3:40 AM to a bright light in the sky. It was too high to be an area light at the school. Crawling out of my tent I confirmed it was the nearly-full moon in a clear sky.

I had breakfast at “Running Bear Pancake House”. It was sunny when I arrived there and got steadily darker. They opened the shades, then turned up the lights.

Leaving the restaurant, I was warming up slowly when a 3 person paceline passed. I swung in behind, warmup over, as they were going considerably faster than my warmup pace, but this was not a day to ride alone.

As we started up a gradual incline before the pass, it started to rain. We saw lightning ahead. The rain got harder. Then it got harder in a more literal sense as it changed to hail.

We crested at 7072 feet during a brief respite from the rain. That is my one picture from the day. No time for anyone to pose touristically. It was cold (42 degrees by my thermometer) and the rain was coming back.

9E27E141-C2F2-417D-A952-82ADB35B434DWe had to control our speed on the descent due to the wet, cold, and low visibility. We arrived at the first water stop at a turnout. I promptly rode off the pavement and put my foot down in a 6” deep puddle. I changed from rose-colored to clear lenses in my glasses at that point.

Strictly for survival, we continued on at 22mph. We were on a US highway with no shoulder. It was sometimes hard to tell which was worse – pushing the wind in front or eating the spray from another rider in back.

A word about pacelines here: yesterday I was thinking, “I didn’t come this far to stare at the backs of other riders”. I rode alone all morning, looking at the scenery. Today I was thinking, “There is safety in numbers.” I stayed all day with Steve from Seattle and Ally and Ed from New Jersey. At the lunch stop we picked up Corey from the Twin Cities area.

I decided that my decisions day-to-day are personal ones, not moral judgments.

Before lunch we turned onto the “Mesa Falls Scenic Byway”. I saw signs for how far we were from Ashton and knew that our remaining mileage was about double that. At the moment it seemed cruel, but the scenic byway was beautiful and I sat up and enjoyed the scenery, scanning the surrounding woods for critters. I didn’t have to scan to see the elk that cantered across the highway just in front of Steve.

Lunch was at the waterfall. The only pictures I have are mental ones. Hot chocolate, hot soup, and grilled cheese sandwiches saved the day.

After lunch we continued on the scenic route. The rain abated and for about 30 seconds on one climb, I could have sworn I felt heat radiating up from the pavement – Corey confirmed it.

I needed a new song:

We rolled into Ashton with it not raining (at least I don’t think it was). It was too wet to hang anything out to dry. I discovered I was dry under my rain clothes (except for hands, feet, and head). I had wrung out my gloves several times during the day.

The sun came out so I cleaned and lubed my bike and brought stuff outside to dry. The sky turned black and lit up with lightning and I hurriedly moved everything back inside.

The storm passed, a near-miss. Tomorrow is over Teton Pass, 8431 feet and a 10% grade. Weather here seems to change by the minute so I’ll figure out what clothes to wear when I wake up. That’s the first order of business every day, before I get out of the sleeping bag.

A future post will talk about my daily routine. For now I’ll just say that I’m pretty active at work; not used to sitting this many hours/day.