Yesterday contained a string of small blunders further limiting my ability to post. Monday morning started with a geographical gaff of setting up our tents in the wrong place in Lander’s City Park, just on the wrong side of a small creek, that led to a rude awakening by a groundskeeper that informed us we had 20 minutes to move before the sprinkler would be turned on. Later the same day, there were significant winds that slowed us down to nearly 6 MPH on climbs and descents, making the last 30 miles of the day a time consuming and leg draining experience. Also during the 30 miles of physical duress, I made the mental mistake of not putting my phone charging cord away fully. The cord got entwined in my front wheel and cut by a spoke. Luckily, I was moving quite slowly and was not ejected from my bike.
Needless to say, the time and energy to write was extremely lacking. Fortunately, my friend Richard, has let me borrow his computer to post. Due to the fact that my phone is now dead until a replacement can be sent to the Old Faithful Post Office, this post will be lacking images. I am now thrown back into 1998 for a few days, living without a cellular telephone.
Tomorrow, July 26, we leave for Grand Teton National Park. this includes a climb over Togwotee Pass, Grizzly Bear capital of the world, or so we are told. Wish me luck. If I do not post more soon, give me a few days. If I do not post in a few weeks, please know I was likely a delicious meal to an apex predator.
Here are some highlights of recent travels:
July 18: Breckenridge to Heeney, CO – 46 miles
The day started off at 7 AM, with David, our Welsh companion stirring in the hostel bunk below. I followed him out of bed and decided to start packing. When breakfast was about to be served, I headed down for coffee. The breakfast at the Bivvy was incredible. There were eggs, hash browns, muesli, toast, jams and juice. The gang slowly joined and we all ate our fill. There were some murmurs of staying in town an extra day, but the desire to press on eventually took over.
Once the bikes were packed, we set off on our downhills. A network of paths took us to Frisco, another resort type town. We stopped into a coffee shop for further sustenance. Weird how an hour or so after breakfast, we are all starving. We then stopped at a Wal-Mart to grab food supplies for the next few days. Bike paths led us to another stop in Dillon at an REI for some warmer gear to wear at night. A mountain biker flicked us off as we took up too much space on the bike path while admiring the lake. I got long johns and and thick socks at the most picturesque REI I have ever seen (sorry SOHO). Richard and Tash informed us that the majority of our day was spent “faffing”, wasting time or dilly dallying.
The rest of the ride from Dillon to Heeney was gorgeous. A seemingly slight downhill with wide shoulders, small headwind and grand mountain views on the left and clear rivers on the right with people fly fishing in town all the way to the reservoir. On the opposite side, we would set up camp and spend the evening. There were many hills that we had to climb on the way, quite unexpected given the ‘flat’ elevation profile from our maps. Once we got there we staked our tents, cleaned up and made dinner. Jon and I had a beautiful set up between trees next to a stream. The sunset was gorgeous over the reservoir. We hung our first bear bag, as there were reports of black bears in the area. Even though it was a shorter day, we were all tire and retired early. Jon and I conversed as we drifted to sleep over the babbling brook.
July 19: Heeney to Walden – 96 miles
What an awesome day. We woke up and had some breakfast, leaving by 9:30 AM. This allowed the air to warm and mosquitos to disappear. Jon and I basically road by ourselves to Kremmling, a small town where we found David, Richard and Tash. On the way, there were about 2 mile stretches of downhills that were greatly appreciated. I had a massive breakfast burrito with a green chile pork sauce that was worth writing about. Possibly the best breakfast burrito I have ever had the pleasure of stuffing into my face. The ride to Parshall has some climbing in which I led the pack. These odd flies and bees circle us as we climb. We stop at a bar for the restroom and the mosquitos eat us. The next portion of the trip takes us across the Colorado River and through a beautiful canyon. We meet a woman at a gas station in Hot Sulpher Springs that the canyon was used in Steven Segall’s Under Siege 2. She also offered us a home cooked meal and a place to spend the night just up the road a few miles. Having had a few shorter days in a row we decided that we wanted to push further.
We make the turn onto 125, a quieter road, and begin about 20 miles of climbing to Willow Creek Pass. The road twists and the beginning is steep. The sun is hot as we stare at ominous skies of our future. As we press on the storm envelopes us. The rain is cold and hard. Quickly we throw on our rain gear. Back on the bikes, the rain drives hard through the jackets and feels like hail. We pull over an take refuge under Jon’s tarp for 10 minutes or so. As the rain lessens and stops we get back on our bikes. The air has cooled for a bit as we continue our climb. Further along we see that it had hailed, as the sides of the road were covered in pea sized stones. We then came upon Willow Creek which was a beautiful change in terrain, very green and sweeping hills in between beautiful mountains.
As the ascent steepens, the pack spreads. We all climb at different speeds, with Jon and Richard pushing it, Tash following just behind them, then myself, with a steady pace and David doing just the same. We reach the top and rejoice with some high fives, snacks, photos and jokes. With 30 miles left we push on for some fun downhills. Given my size (weight) and speedy bike, I cruise past the group. The route is not as downhill as we were lead to believe but the descents did provide enough momentum to limit further climbs. A crosswind picked up considerably and pushed me around as I cruised at 40 MPH through these amazing hills and turns. I cruised out of the descent a half mile ahead of the pack to straight roads. I follow a young caribou for nearly a mile, before he decides to cut me off across the road and jump over a barbed wire fence. I slow up as I did not want to hit the animal nor get close enough for an odd encounter. The wind is now at our backs and I let off pedaling. Pulling over in Rand, I wait for the rest of the group to turn up with massive smiles on their faces.
We then set off again after a quick snack. David pretty much disappeared with Jon and I in the middle and Richard and Tash in the back. Headwinds beat you up. Tailwinds create a beautiful silence. The world is still as you move at a solid pace. We moved at a tremendous pace. At certain points I wasn’t even pedaling and going about 24 MPH on a flat, but poorly kept road. With minimal effort, Jon and I reached over 30 MPH in certain sections. We are seemingly headed towards an enormous storm. Lighting strikes over one mountain range off to our right. Rain finally starts falling, but at this perfect angle where it does not even hit our sunglasses affecting our vision. Even with some climbs, the group reaches Walden in an hour and twenty minutes. A motel has a 6 person suite that fits us all. The great rate does not include breakfast, but room has a kitchen for us to prepare our morning meal.
Showered and rejuvenated we head to the local bowling alley for food, beers and laughs. I do my best to explain some baseball rules to our friends from across the pond. David picks up the theory quickly, asking many great questions. We head back to the suite for some TV and sleep.
July 20: Walden to Saratoga – 72 miles
The day starts with a massive pancake breakfast served up by Richard and Tash. Jon and I clean up. I lube my chain as we all pack. Everyone leaves in staggered groups. Second to last to leave I pop into the local gas station/grocery store and grab some extra water and food. Today’s ride has a gap of 40 miles without services. The first ten miles is a breeze with a slight tailwind. Stopping in Cowdrey on the hope of some water, I find that the town has nothing and I must make do for no water for 50 miles.
The climbs are becoming longer. Unlike Kansas where views seem to go on forever, Colorado and soon Wyoming offer mountainous backdrops. These backdrops trick one into thinking that towns are closer than they are or ascents are not too severe. Then you notice that the cars and semi-trucks are miniscule as they traverse the upcoming road. Instead of the seven to ten mile points of interest in Kansas, you are likely seeing things at ten to fifteen miles in the distance. I make the next climb over a dry mountainous ridge and stumble upon a gorgeous descent. Beautiful mountains appear on either side of wide open terrain as far as the eye can see. I feather my front break as I take a GoPro video with my right hand. Eventually I must bring my right hand back to the handlebar to stabilize the bike and avoid falling off at 40 MPH.
Pumped about the descent the following climb comes easy. It also helps that we are only at about 7000 feet above sea level, 5,000 less than the Hoosier Pass. The oxygen enriched air keeps the heart rate down and makes deep breaths especially refreshing. Soon I am at the Wyoming State border. I snap a few photos, apply sunscreen, snack and stretch. A couple stop their camper and take a photo with the sign. I chat them up, telling them about the trip, myself and the PCA’s mission. They tell me about their summer plans hitting many National Parks and also hand me a few cold bottles of water. In this trip, one never refuses cold water that cools your head and rejuvenates your body. Nor free meals…
In what seems like a wild west chase, I finally catch up to David. He appeared on the next section of rolling hills of what seemed to be about 3 or 4 miles ahead of me. With my ability to descend quickly and our fairly even pace of climbing, I reach him on a climb. He turned to me and looked like he saw a ghost. He told me he had been looking back for miles and miles expecting me to catch up, but was flabbergasted that he hadn’t seen me. We ride together for a bit before a headwind hit. He took off as we made it into Riverside. We saw the others’ bikes and sat down at the restaurant for a late lunch. We ate a lot and quickly with many cool beverages, than took off for Saratoga.
It got hot and windy the remainder of the way. My legs stayed strong throughout the late afternoon and I took a hefty lead once my meal digested. The group stopped at a grocery store to get supplies for the night of camping. A kind woman offered to pay for Jon and I, which we accepted. She mentioned that she always wanted to do the same trip, but poor health kept her from doing so. We thanked her many times and walked her out. The group then went to the hot springs to relax and shower. The water was hot, around 107 degrees and smelled like the rotten eggs of sulfur gas. We slowly made our way to camp that evening.
Jon had taken off towards the lakeside campsite first. When Rick, Tash and I arrived, we found that his former coworkers sister had met him at the campsite and brought beer and food. Again, never turn down free food. I ate some wings, a turkey lettuce wrap and enjoyed two beers as I set up my tent. As she left, the mosquitos came out. We were all forced into our tents for the next hour or so. As the mosquitos left, a storm arrived. Off in the distance were rain clouds and lighting. The wind made one think that it may pass us. The weather report did not give us much hope.
As rain began to fall we all rushed to grab necessities and place them in our tents. The others had to re-stake their tents in the hard soil. The lighting on the other side of the lake, a few miles away, crossed the sky in my entire view. It was difficult to stop watching until the rain and winds forced me into the tent. Inside, lighting flashes were visible and the thunder was following in shorter time periods. I was tempted to seek refuge in the bathroom. The group didn’t feel we were at the point. After another 20 minutes the storm seemed to have passed. I became oddly relaxed within that time period and drifted off to sleep.