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.

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.