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.

B&B Redux

Lesson learned: no Wi-Fi + 2 bars of cell service = don’t try to upload pictures or it will freeze the system and trash your whole post.

Don’t look for any photos today. Back to what we tried to say yesterday.

The rhythm of the road is affected by the obvious extrinsic factors: wind, heat, cold, rain, traffic, road conditions; bike-related factors (like my fifth flat tire Tuesday despite a new sturdier tire); but the big factors are intrinsic: B&B.

We think of hydration as a process of putting stuff in – water, maybe electrolytes. On a short ride, it’s sort of like a savings account – you make regular deposits, and later you make a big withdrawal for a special occasion.

On a long ride, it’s more like a checking account – fluids are constantly going in and out throughout the day. As nurses know, I’s and O’s need to be equal (for your shift, or for the day) or something is wrong.

We really just borrow fluids when we hydrate – they have to be returned. (Okay, I know the metaphor just switched from saving to borrowing. I could rework the previous paragraphs, but it would get ugly.)

Returning them – aye, there’s the rub. In the great expanses of Big Sky Country, there isn’t a bathroom whenever you need one. Gas stations may be dozens, scores, or hundreds of miles apart. Towns don’t appear every ten miles.

Add an unfamiliar diet and hours in the saddle each day, and the other B comes into play. For those not medically inclined, I should now point out, if it hasn’t become obvious, that B&B refers to “Bowel and Bladder” in my world.

Add aging into the mix and it becomes more interesting. Sometimes we must prostrate ourselves before the great god prostate. Here, on another day, I might insert a link to Tom Lehrer’s “The Vatican Rag”: “First you get down on your knees/Fiddle with your rosaries/Bow your head with great respect and/genuflect, genuflect, genuflect.”

I would also be remiss if I failed to mention that our stopover Monday night into Tuesday – Lincoln, MT – was the home of Ted Kaczynski, the Unabomber. I’m not even trying links today – I‘m a little gunshy, and hitting “save” all the time.

We rode out of Lincoln with a ten mile easy warm up, then started up toward the pass.

The road turned steep and, in a bit of cruelty, our first switchback led us into the teeth of a 20 mph wind. There was a great lookout point a mile short of the summit – here, imagine a picture of a road far below you with a tiny dot that represents a rider. Squint and maybe you can make it out.

The summit came sooner than anticipated, and we were blown up the last stretch by what was now a tailwind. Imagine here a picture of me before a sign reading “Continental Divide”.

There was a long, fast, and chilly descent to a great little country store with his and hers outhouses in back. Now, I’ve seen (and dug) two-holers in my day, but I’ve never seen separate men’s and women’s outhouses.

Insert here photos of a bunch of riders in front of a country store and a close-up of Victor Allen’s Keurig coffee pods. (If you’re not from Madison you may not get the significance of Victor Allen’s coffee way out here.) After a cup of coffee, an Almond Joy, and a visit to the outhouse, I was on my way.

We crossed the Missouri River into Townsend, MT, propelled at 24 mph by a strong tailwind. Keep that in mind for tomorrow’s post.

We arrived at the school where we were staying, only to find that an impromptu football camp was about to start. We were told to kill some time, so I went to a town park and dictated the previous incarnation of this post, since my keyboard was inaccessible. There were some great dictation anomalies that you won’t get to read.

After a dinner that couldn’t be beat, I went to sleep before dark, and that’s where I’ll leave you. This will go online immediately and today’s post will follow at midnight per the usual routine.

The first days are the hardest days

Http/m.youtube/watch?v=TSlajKGHZRkUncle John’s Band

The first week is over. If the link doesn’t work, the song starts:

“Well, the first days are the hardest days/Don’t you worry anymore/Cuz when life looks like Easy Street/There is danger at your door.” (Lyric by Robert Hunter)

The first week is over. We rode 612 miles in 7 days, climbed a few mountain passes, rode a century in the rain. I had three flats, one in the rain. (Better than Mike from Dublin, who had 6). A rider had to go home with an injury, another missed three days of riding with a cold. Hypothermia claimed a few during Saturday’s rain.

We frequently camped in clover fields. I received 4 bee stings on my feet as evidence.

If Sunday weren’t a rest day, we’d have had to add one – or have a mutiny.

I spent much of the week singing to myself – reggae one day, topical songs (especially today) – “Singin’ in the Rain”, “Uncle John’s Band [for the lyric above], “I Can See for Miles” [altered to “I Can Ride for Miles” to inspire me to keep going]. Also obnoxious pop songs that attacked at odd moments (“Me and You and a Dog Named Boo”, with the line “another tank of gas and back on the road again.”)

On our day off today, I ate in restaurants, ate cardamom ice cream, shopped at the local bike shops, and got the bike (and me) in shape for the next week.

I replaced my rear tire with a Continental Gatorskin (due to 3 flats in a week), bought a patch kit and 3 spare tubes, patched two tubes from this week, cleaned and lubed the bike, got a new taillight.

Most useful item: Hefty 3 galllon bags – you can pack ‘em with clothes, squeeze/roll the air out, and zip them shut. They are a great size – one holds jerseys and gloves, one shorts and socks, one post-ride t-shirts and another post-ride shorts, etc.

Most useless items packed (tie): 1) Ziploc jumbo bags (made for packing things and squeezing the air out) – they are hard to seal, pop open after sealing, and tear easily. 2) Park Tools brand patch kit. The vulcanizing fluid is very thick and becomes tacky almost instantly and the patches fall off in seconds. Back to Tip Top brand for me.0BCDB2E0-EE63-4F3B-8A11-8B96C5575112

You’ve heard of people who bring everything but the kitchen sink. I brought the kitchen sink.

Random bonus photo – the prettiest bike on the trip:A4C8C70E-9651-446D-9142-8363C1740EB9

Next week is bound to be easier. We ride 6 days until our next rest day.

Your blogger – still standing after this week, plus a pizza and 2 glasses of wine.

Alan about to summit at Thompson Pass (failed to upload yesterday)