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.

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.

Sleep ‘til noon!

“He will sleep ‘til noon/but before it’s dark/he’ll have every picnic basket/that’s in Jellystone Park.”

We can sleep in Friday. We don’t load the trailer until 6:45. We have our shortest day yet scheduled – 64 miles. On the other hand, the forecast is for thundershowers all day along our route, with temperatures in the 40s and low 50s.

We’re just outside of Yellowstone. On our own for dinner and breakfast. Dad gave us our allowance last night in Ennis. Here is the link I wanted to add yesterday. We’re now at 6666 feet.

 

As most of you know, Yogi Bear is a paean to the great Yankee catcher Yogi Berra, who taught me that “you can observe a lot just by watching.”

On the topic of Hanna-Barbera cartoons, have y’all noticed that The Flintstones is The Honeymooners set in an earlier time? Fred Flintstone is a dead ringer for Ralph Kramden.

Thursday’s ride was a gorgeous trip from Ennis to West Yellowstone. It was a chilly start but I was properly dressed. I was finally able to delaminate after lunch. It was windy, but we all know that when the going gets tough, the half-fast go for a beer.

We passed the Blue Moon Saloon early; not to be confused with the Blue Moon a few blocks from the hospital, where surgeons stop for a quick one to steady their hands before a long day in the OR.64472540-2CBC-43EC-8DC1-385ABFD95C48Next up was Sphinx Mountain. Recognizing it is kinda like recognizing constellations – it helps to have someone point it out, and it helps to have a good imagination. The wilderness doesn’t come with big signs pointing out the attractions.E2F2D1E7-5E5F-4E0D-9825-6F92E156C9CDWe rode on to Earthquake Lake which, like Lord Voldemort, is “great…terrible, but great”. Earthquake Lake was formed by a great quake in 1959, which caused a huge landslide and rerouted a river, inundating a valley and wiping out a campground. It struck in the middle of the night. There were no survivors.

The last ten miles were into a headwind, which seems to be a theme. The end of several days has been about making it in. To add insult to injury, Ally changed clothes and went for a run.

To paraphrase Commander Cody, “She was riding up Grapvine Hill/passing bikes like they were standing still.”

I’ve been thinking about road signs. We were lied to all day today. Signs kept saying “Bisons on roadway”. I never saw any bisons. At the first sign I asked Ally to scout ahead for bison. She said, “that’s what Corey is for”. He was ahead of us at the time.

We spent a couple of days riding through country with signs saying “Watch for bighorn sheep”. I watched but never saw any. Maybe the sheep have signs saying “Watch for humans” or “Hide!”.

That made me wonder about those signs that say “Deer Crossing Next 4 Miles”, with a pictogram of a leaping deer. Do the deer have the same sort of signs in the woods so they know where to cross? At the end of the 4 miles is there another sign with a pictogram of a dead deer on the roadside so they know not to cross there?

Since I seem to be having success uploading photos  (4 bars here), I’ll add a few of those I described earlier.

The view from Flesher Pass (continental divide) and your correspondent at the divide.

The Canyon Creek Store (and Victor Allen K-cups).450FD7E1-EDF7-4451-B680-3EF095F1535DAs the former host of “Rutabaga World News” on WORT-FM, I couldn’t resist this one. This tune was my theme song. The live version here (at a 40th reunion concert) goes on for a while and includes a duck call solo.

While we’re at it, I’ll throw in a couple of pictures from Ennis, known chiefly as a fly fishing destination. The number of great trout streams around here makes me wish I were reading “Troutfishing in America” by Richard Brautigan again. Horse and rider statue, two views of fly fisher, full moon over campsite.

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.