The advantages

The disadvantages of going home early? I don’t want to talk about it. Yesterday someone remarked on hearing me laugh and said it was the first time she’d heard that in days. I want to be able to laugh again. So here goes:

  • I won’t have to pack up a wet tent at 5 AM. I guess I could have said I won’t have to get up at 5 AM
  • It won’t be 34 degrees when I wake up
  • I can sleep in my own bed
  • I can take a nap if I want to
  • I won’t have to dry everything out every afternoon
  • I won’t have 50 well-meaning people asking me how I feel every day, nor wondering why I’m not all better yet
  • I can ride my bike if I want to, where I want to, as far as I want to…or not at all
  • I won’t have to be the last to eat
  • I won’t have to eat sitting outside on the ground (or, in today’s luxury due to the cold, on the floor in a vestibule away from everyone else
  • BEST OF ALL, I can rejoin the tour in 2.5 weeks when I feel better!
  • When I get back, I won’t be in quarantine. If the virus is still making its way through the group, I should be immune for a while

We’ve received word of an outbreak among the local staff where we spent our first night. They were apologetic, as though they’d given it to us. I think it was the other way around. I imagine word getting around that we are a traveling superspreader and being run out of town by a posse. Lacking a film clip for that posse image, we’ll settle for Marty Robbins:

We awoke in Ennis at 43 degrees. The temperature dropped a bit as we packed up. At least this is warmer than the 34 in West Yellowstone this morning, our destination for the day. Somehow, getting well and sleeping outside at 40 degrees do not seem compatible.

Ennis High School is home of the Mustangs and our host, who is retiring this year, is Sally, ergo:

The mountain sun is very different from low elevation sun. It has warmed up to 52 degrees at 8 AM. In the sun, it is hot!

Back in the saddle!

I’m back in the saddle again! I rode the last 16 miles, slightly uphill, to West Yellowstone. After a beer and shrimp tacos, I rode into Yellowstone National Park, making the first use of my Senior Pass. Another dozen flat miles and I feel great! Maybe…

The bar featured many local brews. The menu listed a rotating seasonal. I asked and it was Leinenkugel’s Summer Shandy. I told the waitress I could have that any time an ordered a local amber ale. Turns out she is from Elkhorn, WI. I never got to find out what brought my her to West Yellowstone or what keeps her here. She was busy, despite it being 2 PM.

After my quick park tour I stopped in town for ice cream and got back to camp with 5% battery life. I’m sitting in a high school hallway, attached to the last electrical outlet. Meanwhile, my auxiliary battery is charging from the sun and will be fully charged before the phone is.

A devastating earthquake in 1959 wiped out a campground below this hill. Almost nothing has grown back.
The ride up to Earthquake Lake (created by the quake)
I started my ride here, with a 55 mile head start
Blogger on the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park. No sign of Yogi Bear. Snow-capped mountains in the distance.

Tail between my legs

Riding across the continent couldn’t defeat me, but COVID-19 can. It was with a heavy heart that I clicked the button to purchase my plane ticket.

I wasn’t going to decide today, but there were only a few seats left on the plane for the second leg of the journey, so I scarfed one up (a middle seat at the back). I felt both disappointed and relieved.

I failed to meet Rootchopper (riding east to west – or, rather, south to north today – on my route…turns out he was on MT 287 and we were on US 287 so, while I am in the town where he was last night, our paths diverged here. I will follow his route to West Yellowstone Thursday. Rootchopper is a self-contained rider going east to west and blogging at A Few Spokes Shy of a Wheel (see blogroll).

We landed in Ennis, MT, home of lots of fly fishing guides. ( I understand muskie fishing, bass fishing, perch fishing, but why would anybody want to catch flies? 😉 Ennis also has lots of horse and fishing- related public sculpture – see the 2018 post from here for photos.

In the 70s, a feminist slogan said “A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle”. At the Ennis Public Library, I saw fish with bicycles.

Four years ago I visited a distillery here. Today, I had Belgian chocolate gelato followed by a rye IPA at a brewpub next to the gelato stand. Chocolate, ice cream, and beer – also medicinal substances that may help my recovery.

I’ve written about the many countries riders are from – from the top of my head I’ll say UK, Bosnia, France, Greece, Netherlands, South Africa, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the US. We are ⅓ to ½ women, and ages range from early 20s to maybe 80. Many are early retirees (meaning younger than I and retired longer than I), but there is no gap from 20-60 this time, with a smattering of people in between. Generally, the people who can afford to do this are students, teachers, and retired folks. Others have trouble getting the summer off.

Just because I’m sitting in a van doesn’t mean I can’t see some things.

Before this blog changes to a tale of COVID rehabilitation, I hope to get on the bike tomorrow for a short ride; or maybe that will be the first installment in the rehab program. Last night was 5 degrees warmer than the night before and not damp – downright balmy by comparison. Tonight promises to be back to the mid 40s, which will pale compared to the near-freezing temperatures in West Yellowstone tomorrow night. I will be wearing my fleece riding clothes to bed – or at least having them close at hand for when the cold comes. A chill went through the crowd when the Trail Boss reviewed the forecast.

Wanna Take You Higher

We awoke to 46 degrees and a strong breeze in Townsend, MT. Staying warm while packing up was the first order of business.

Breakfast was at the same bar as dinner last night. I missed the sign for the “Gun raffle of the month”. Charles got a picture of it.

We left town slightly underdressed (tights and jacket, but not arm warmers). A paper towel from the bar’s bathroom added a layer of insulation under the jersey.

The wind had shifted but was just as strong. I left town at 13 mph, after entering it at 24.

It stayed chilly for the first couple of hours but I was eventually able to shed the extra layers. There was a mid-morning stop at a famous bakery. Lesson learned: when your route planner recommends the bear claw, don’t order a croissant, especially in Montana. It was crescent-shaped but that’s as close as it got. The espresso was OK, though not up to Tim’s standards.

Lunch featured a slice of fresh tomato topped with fresh mozzarella and fresh basil, along with risotto. Today’s lunch cook usually plays symphonic music, but today started with metal; playlist by the mechanic.

Today featured a couple of long climbs. We rode with the snowy slopes of the Tobacco Root Mountains looming in the distance. Eventually we passed those and the Bridger and Gallatin ranges loomed.C044A210-24EE-4BDF-AD7E-890B6DDB7524

I took my chances with one photo after saving and updating. Worked so far!

The last climb featured interesting winds as we topped Bozeman Pass. We had to pedal down the 7% grade due to the headwind.

The last ten miles of flats after the descent (Kevin later told me we were actually going up, despite appearances – Garmin never lies) were among the hardest miles I have ridden.

I like climbing mountains. I’m not a fan of headwinds. I probably said this before, but as you go up a mountain, the scenery changes. As you ride into a headwind, you’re going slowly and working hard, but nothing seems to change except the distance traveled; tenths of a mile take forever.

We rolled into Ennis and set up camp.

A word about roads, left out of yesterday’s post, though it was in the original. We are routinely riding on the sort of roads I studiously avoid at home.

Today featured varying shoulders (wide with rumble strips down the middle, 6-12 inches to the right of the fog line, fog line painted right on the edge of the pavement) all with 70 mph speed limits.

The wider the shoulder, the more ubiquitous the debris. Hence more flat tires in the first 9 days than in the last 9 years of recreational riding – I do get occasional flats while commuting.

Going up continues – 9000 feet awaits. Tomorrow – West Yellowstone.