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.

Hot springs, or just hot feet?

Today was a lesson in humility.

The flags were flapping with a strong breeze out of the northeast (the direction we were headed), so I decided to go with strength in numbers and left breakfast with a group that usually rides at a pace that is comfortable for me.

Trouble is, I usually start slow and warm up for about five miles before I ramp up to cruising speed. Steve (pictured the other day at Teton Park in a yellow jacket) led the way out of town at a blistering pace. I knew within a few miles that this was not a sustainable pace for me for 90+ miles. When a tendon behind my left knee started complaining, I dropped off the back (after taking a pull at the front).

I would pay for that error for the next 80 miles.

Pretty soon I decided that finishing in time for dinner was my only goal. I expected to be on the road for 10 hours.

Relief came when we turned onto US Hwy 20 West. The good news is that got us out of the headwind. The bad news is that that is inconsistent with getting to Boston.

We rode through the crumbling town of Shoshoni.  On the way out of town we passed what might have been a trailer park and might have been a junkyard, I couldn’t tell.

5A6A9C98-0427-4DA0-94F6-CAE2FB68FF32We headed into the Wind River Canyon and the day changed for the better. By this time I was riding alone, at my own pace, with no desire to try to keep up with anyone.9D4A8989-5BF6-4396-85C9-996740AA4B97

Wind River Canyon is phenomenally beautiful. We rode through three short tunnels and had lunch at the “Wedding of the Waters.”

White people are funny. Someone “discovered” the Wind River and named it (at least he didn’t name it after himself). Someone else “discovered” the Big Horn River (and also didn’t name it for himself). Only years later did they figure out it was the same river. Rather than change one or both names (or find out what the people who already lived there called it), they decreed that our lunch spot would be henceforth known as the “Wedding of the Waters”, and upstream would be the Wind River, downstream the Big Horn.

We rode into the town of Thermopolis, home of a hot springs. 7741E692-FDD1-42A3-8DA5-ED93282307FBWe were encouraged to stop and take the waters. I was afraid that, were I to get into a hot spring at that point in the day, I wouldn’t want to get out. If I did get out, I didn’t think I’d have 40 miles left in me. I looked, but did not get wet.

A hot spring at the end of the ride, especially with massage therapists, would have been a great idea.63D83E46-29C7-4ECE-B9F0-79FCBF00710E

At mile 80, as tends to happen on hard days, my feet were on fire. I took off my shoes and used my water bottle to cool them down. This made the last 13 miles survivable. Now I know why you can buy shoes with vents you can open under the toes.

I finally joined forces with Kevin at that water stop and rode into town with him.

Steve later confessed that his speedometer wasn’t working in the morning and he had no idea he was going that fast.

I finished riding at 2:30, about the same time as usual.

Thursday we climb Powder River Pass, a 25 mile climb. We climb almost 9000 feet for the day. The pass tops out at 9666 feet, and we ride >90 miles again before we say goodbye to the mountains. Time to get some sleep.