Winnie-the-Pooh and the Blustery Day

Our caterer failed to show up in Riverton Tuesday night, apparently thinking we were having breakfast Wednesday and then dinner Wednesday night. We were ferried into town and dropped at a seemingly random intersection, with no restaurants in sight.

I found a Thai restaurant and discovered three other riders there. While the food was good, the service was so slow I think they cooked the rice after I placed my order.

The caterer showed up for a breakfast that I’d rather forget. We headed out of town and were soon on new asphalt for 1/2 mile. It is amazing what a difference the road surface makes. I ride 3-5 mph faster on new asphalt than on chipseal. We hit another stretch of new asphalt later, which lasted longer.

Mountains loomed ahead and our cue sheet said 12 mile descent. It was hard to believe. We turned parallel to the range and continued on some up and down which began to feel like a slog. Leaving a water stop my rear tire began to feel spongy. Before I could get back it had gone flat. I walked the last 100 yards, removed a wire from my tire, changed the tube, used the van’s floor pump to reinflate, and was soon on my way. We turned toward the mountains and into a gap and were suddenly in the beautiful Wind River Canyon. While it wasn’t really a 12 mile descent, it was more down than up.

The third of three closely-spaced tunnels. Note mine shaft openings in wall at right.
Mine shaft a bit closer up.

We only caught glimpses of the river below and never in a spot where photography was an option.

Out of the canyon we came upon Thermopolis which claims to be home to the world’s largest mineral hot springs. Fearing that once I got into a hot spring my legs would turn to rubber with 35 miles left to ride, I opted for an espresso instead.

The ride got long after 85 miles. Arriving in town I spotted 4 familiar faces on the patio of a Mexican Restaurant. Beer was in sight, so I stopped before setting up camp.

I texted a photo of my post-ride beer to my co-workers. It was still working hours. This was their reply.

I set up my tent and clothesline, then took a shower. Storm clouds loomed on the horizon but appeared to be passing us by. They didn’t. Fat raindrops began to fall. Within minutes of hanging my clothes, I took them back down and ran to the tent to batten down the hatches. My head was holding up the tent against the onslaught of gusty winds. Since the last storm bent a pole, I did my best to hold the tent in shape with my body. The rain was minimal but the wind continues to blow. The sun is shining, the weather app says 22 mph winds, but the gusts are more like 40 mph. Each gust flattens the tent against me. At least I feel useful;) Soon I will have to leave the tent to its own devices to go eat dinner.

The camera operator (or director) never seemed to figure out that David Hidalgo was playing the guitar solos, so the camera avoids him.
Happy birthday JU!

Dear Curtis:

Spring may have arrived today [Monday, May 13]. Two weeks ago I cleaned snow off the windshield. Today it was pollen. [Is that what I get for not driving for two weeks?] Nothing says “new life” more irrefutably than pollen. The sun is shining. It is 65 degrees (18 Celsius).

Our annual Mother’s Day walk through the lilac gardens at the arboretum was a bit anti-climactic. While the lilacs are behind schedule, the redbuds are in bloom, as are irises, tulips, and grape hyacinths. Apples are beginning to bloom.

It is Stevie Wonder’s 69th birthday. My sister introduced me to him when I was ten (Stevie had just turned 13 when the single, recorded when he was 12, was released), with this song:

In honor of Stevie’s birthday I saw the Aretha Franklin movie “Amazing Grace” today. Almost enough to give a non-theist religion. It is also the birthday of Professor Craig Werner. Who’da thought a guy who wrote his dissertation on James Joyce would end up as a professor of Afro-American studies and write numerous books on African American music, including the seminal “A Change is Gonna Come“?

While Stevie started as a prodigy, he really came of age with “Songs in the Key of Life”, an album which showed his breadth and depth as a songwriter and a musician. No single song can encompass that, but one of my favorites is “Sir Duke”:

Time flies and it is now Thursday. Last night’s ride began the warmup for the Horribly Hilly Hundreds, the midwest’s answer to The Death Ride – but on a midwestern scale – instead of five passes, you climb “40 significant rises” in the words of the organizers.

Our warmup included the (in)famous Mounds Park Road. The third of four climbs for the evening, it starts with a 5½ mile lead-in through a slowly rising valley. It’s mostly flat, but you don’t stop pedaling the whole time. With a tailwind, it might be a way to warm up your legs. With a headwind, you might wonder if you’ll have jellylegs before you even start climbing. For those of you in Alpine County, CA, it’s sort of like climbing up through Woodford’s before you even get to the climbs to Carson or Luther Pass.

You finally turn off the county highway and get teased by a brief downhill, then a few gently rolling hills and you wonder what all the fuss is about. Someone was nice enough to spray grade markers on the road. You approach the first and see “6%”. Not bad, just your average mountain road and a whole lot shorter. Then you see the ramp ahead and the “13%” painted on the road. You ride through various 12 and 13% markings and see a spot where it “levels out”. A rest, you think. A mere “9%” is painted on the road. Now you know why people talk about this road. The respites are the single-digit sections, and “single digit” means “9%”.

Still, it’s fun…and then you remember that the Horribly Hilly climbs it once at 6.5 miles, and again at 120 miles. No sweat; today is only a 30 mile ride, and there is only the final and beautiful climb to Brigham County Park after this. You never actually reach the top on this ride – when you get near the top, you turn left onto Ryan Road. If you were thinking about sitting up, catching your breath, and taking a drink of water – think again (or do it fast). Before you know it, you are screaming down a 40 mph curving and shaded road. You better pay attention.

It was also the first post-ride potluck of the season. Like everything else, the rhubarb is behind schedule. Luckily I froze some last year so I was still able to make a rhubarb pie – 4 cups of frozen fruit from last year, and a cup of fresh was all I could muster from this year.

By the way, the rest of you can read this. Curtis was a friend in LA; the last person with whom I kept up a snail mail correspondence. Were he still alive, I’d have written something like this as a letter to him. Since he’s not around to read my letters, that falls to the rest of you.

I can’t get away without acknowledging that this is posting on Syttende Mai (17th of May), Norwegian Constitution Day.