The smoke-and-bird ride

I forgot to take a picture of Bugman and me wearing our matching Cycle Greater Yellowstone jerseys on our tandem ride today.

“At least you have bird pictures,” Bugman said.

Yes. And smoke pictures.

Going in chronological order, the smoke first:

As we crested the hill south of Morrill on Highway 92, we caught sight of a plume of smoke sent up by a grass fire.

“At least it’s on the south side of the road,” I said.

smoky descent

Then the wind shifted, and the smoke obscured the road.

wind changed

Bugman did not want to ride through that, so he pulled over until the wind changed again. Even then, it was pretty choke-smoky to bike past, and we could feel the heat from the flames. Nota bene: a grass fire may not seem as scary as a forest fire, but it can kill you right quick if you get caught in it. The temperatures in a grass fire can range from 800 – 1000 degrees Celsius (1472 – 1832 degrees Fahrenheit). Because of the road serving as a fire break, there was not much danger to us, other than the traffic risk from obscured lines of sight.

grass fire

Now the birds.

We saw and heard plenty of red-winged blackbirds in roadside flocks and western meadowlarks perched on fences and power lines, but those birds are quite common and did not stir as much interest as the birds I managed to photograph in passing.

In a flooded pasture east of Holloway Road north of Lyman were several striking long-legged birds dipping their long beaks into the water. The word “avocet” floated up out of my brain. Looked them up later and – Ha! I was right! – they are American avocets.

It's not a great photo, but at least its markings are identifiable.

It’s not a great photo, but at least its markings are identifiable.

Other random notes from the ride:

We got honked at three times. Once by the driver of a westbound 64-plate car on Highway 92 that was apparently ticked off that they had to slow down behind us and wait for oncoming traffic to clear before they could pass us (le sigh). Once by the driver of a northbound pickup truck on Holloway Road towing a very wide piece of discing equipment (we pulled off the road so he could pass without discing us). And once somewhere eastbound on Highway 26 by a westbound driver of a white car who was clearly saying howdy (was it any of you?).

How interesting that on Highway 26 – where there is a 3-foot shoulder for us to ride on separated from the main lane of traffic by a rumble strip – that the vast majority of cars pulled over partially or completely into the other lane to pass us, while on Highway 92, where there is little to no shoulder and we have to ride in the lane, many of the drivers who passed us did not pull fully into the other lane.

On Highway 92, we even had a 21-plate Subaru that passed us with their driver-side tire on the center line because they couldn’t wait for oncoming traffic to clear before they passed us. We were on the road surface about a foot in from the fog line. That Subaru was very uncomfortably close, though they had at least slowed down. Bugman was a bit shaken up and asked me to warn him next time. I replied that the car had slowed down, so I thought they would stay back there.

Makes me want to hang a neon-orange flag off a 3-foot pole to the traffic side of the tandem so drivers get a sense of the minimum safe passage clearance we need.

I will acknowledge that, with few cyclists in the area, drivers may not know how to work safely around them. This article, reprinted from Law and Order magazine, has some really great information about traffic safety for bicycles and the importance of cyclists having maneuvering room (h/t i am traffic). Please read it and share it widely!

Other random notes.

It was pretty warm today. Hit 80 degrees. That’s sure warm enough to stop at the Morrill gas station for a slushee!

cool dude

By the end of our ride today, Bugman and I were pretty beat. And saddle sore. We are both a little stiff this evening. We sure have a lot of training to do before this year’s Cycle Greater Yellowstone!

Our ride today: 53 miles, 1,485 feet of climb

CGY day 1: 76 miles, 4,293 feet of climb
CGY day 2: 71 miles, 1,717 feet of climb
CGY day 3: 66 miles, 2,134 feet of climb
CGY day 4: 78 miles, 2,545 feet of climb
CGY day 5: 33 miles, 3,297 feet of climb
CGY day 6: 76 miles, 2,815 feet of climb
CGY day 7: 55 miles, 2,610 feet of climb

But I’m really excited to tackle CGY! The scenery around Yellowstone is so beautiful, and the ride is so well supported! I highly recommend checking it out, if you think you might be interested!

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

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