Thanks for the memories

Two years ago today (Sunday) was our first rest day, in Missoula, Montana. I needed another patch kit and more inner tubes. We had ridden 612 miles in 7 days. Today the hardest thing I did was pit two pounds of cherries and bake a cherry pie. I didn’t even have to pick the cherries – my son and daughter in law did that, from the tree in their backyard. (Thanks!)

Day 7 had been a 103 mile slog through nonstop rain, the last 50 miles into a headwind. My new bike was now broken in. Sunday was the day to clean the gunk of 103 rainy miles off the bike, relube, and get ready for another week (and another, and another…). We had crossed the continental divide for the first time by then. I wrote my two essential lessons about mountain riding:
1. Don’t worry about the top, it will be there when you get there;
2. Keep your feet moving in circles and all will be well.

I don’t have to look back at that blog entry to remember the day. It is one of those days that is burned deeply into my memory. It was cold and wet but it ended with a hot shower, a warm sweatshirt, pizza and red wine. We slept in a dorm for the second night in a week – the only time we would do that all summer. It was a day marked by camaraderie, as four of us stuck together to gain strength from each other, so we could take whatever nature dished out. Five miles from the end, we picked up a fifth. He was at the roadside fixing a flat in the pouring rain and told us to go on. We didn’t. We rode in together. It was exactly as Greg had said on the phone sometime in the spring: The days you remember won’t be the 70 degree and sunny days. Those will all run together. The days you remember will be the ones in which you faced adversity and overcame it.

We had already had our first night sleeping indoors on the solstice, in dorms at Gonzaga University. We covered the quad with drying tents and sleeping bags. Gonzaga is in Spokane, home of U. Utah Phillips, the Golden Voice of the Great Southwest. While he is best known for his recordings of the IWW Songbook, I have a warm spot for “The Goodnight-Loving Trail”, about life on a cattle trail in Texas in the 1800s. My friend Cripps introduced me to the song.

Cripps worked at the Whole Earth Co-op at the same time that I worked at the Willy Street Co-op. Whole Earth was one of the last of its kind. In lieu of a cash register, they had a cigar box and a spiral notebook. When you finished shopping, you toted up your goods, wrote the total in the notebook, and put your money in the box, making change yourself. We, on the other hand, had gotten our first cash register at St Vincent de Paul, and replaced it with a fancy one that ran on electricity (instead of a hand crank) when that one died. We were the first in town to have an electronic scale. The city weights and measures inspector told us he wouldn’t decertify our old scales, but he advised us to replace them. While they were inaccurate, they consistently cheated the store and not the customer. That wasn’t illegal but wasn’t a good way to stay in business. The new one had a calculator in it, so you could type the price per pound into the keypad and it would calculate the total price. (I know, all scales do that now; but back then it was a big deal. Scales had a chart with a range of prices and you found the price per pound and read along a red line to get the total. Since the ones we had were pretty old, the prices were low enough that you often had to multiply to get the real price.)

Cripps (remember Cripps? This is a story about Cripps) and I sometimes spent the night in the same house. One night I heard bass laughter coming up through the floor below me. I looked at my partner and she noted my surprise – “That’s Cripps”, she said. Cripps had a tenor voice but a bass laugh. Cripps’ partner was a woman from West Virginia. She taught me a line that I use to this day. You know how there are people you’ve seen around, maybe even know by name or have talked to, but you’ve never been introduced? Someone might ask, “Do you know Cripps?” And your reply might be, “I know who he is, but we’ve never been formally introduced.” Her reply was, “We’s howdied, but we ain’t shook.”

Another night Cripps and I were the last two awake in the house. He was sitting at the kitchen table with his autoharp and U. Utah Phillips songbook. I made myself a cup of tea and joined him. We sang our way through the book, but the first song we sang together was “The Goodnight-Loving Trail”.

One afternoon, too soon after that, Cripps got off the bus downtown, stepped out from behind the bus, and into the path of a bus coming the other way. He died that night. The song, and this post, are dedicated to his memory.

Wednesday Night’s Greatest Hits

Since we don’t have group rides this year, every Wednesday night I pick a ride and go. This week held scattered showers. I checked the radar and there seemed to be a hole in the storms. It corresponded with a favorite ride that isn’t on this year’s calendar. I checked the archives and found a cue sheet and headed out. It looked dark in the distance but that didn’t seem like a reason not to ride. I remembered this week two years ago and hit the road. If I can go 100 miles in the rain, what’s 20 or 30? The darkness seemed to stay in the distance and the roads were dry. About ten miles in it started to sprinkle. The sun was shining so I kept riding. The sun disappeared and the rain came harder. It was cooling off. A dense cedar tree appeared at the roadside and I took cover until the rain let up. There was thunder in the distance (in the direction I was pointed) so I took a shortcut back to my starting point. In the car on the way home it rained hard enough that I considered pulling over to wait for it to let up. The wipers on high were barely keeping up.

The front is rolling through. Time to cut this ride short.

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.