You know you’re in for it when the ride guide describes a route as including a “fairly hellacious climb.”
Just look at the elevation profile of that first climb over Teton Pass!
That’s 5 1/2 miles of 10 percent grade!!! And us on a tandem!
Well, nothing else to do but get on with it.
As we set out that first morning, I blanked the coming climb from my mind, like how I went mentally blank on the plane ride that time I went skydiving. La la la. What a beautiful day. Ignorance is bliss.
Our morning tandem shadow overlapped a lovely bike path at the edge of a horse pasture set against the backdrop of the mountains. The Jackson area has some great bike paths. I want to go back there.
I looked to my right and marveled at the Teton Range stretched out to the north. Lovely!
Then I looked over Bugman’s shoulder and saw what lay ahead in the continuation of that mountain range to the south. The yellow sign read “steep mountain pass ahead 10% grade.” Oh, *bleep*. We are about to climb up and over that??
Here’s what it looked like at about mile 11 of the morning’s ride, not even halfway up the Teton Pass yet. We were averaging about 2 mph in “granny gear,” making it tough for Bugman to steer our big rig. We were taking just about every opportunity to pull out and stop for a breather, but our opportunities were limited. If we didn’t find a pullout or driveway set back far enough from the road to get a bit of perpendicular momentum, the slope was too steep for us to get started again. It’s a real trick to start a tandem on a steep upslope – one we haven’t mastered yet.
Five minutes later, we were hoofing it. I’d been pushing myself too hard in that thin air, and I felt my chest tightening, and I started to get panicky. Exercised-induced asthma! I’ve had similar episodes before, in cold weather or when pollen counts were high, so I knew what to do. We stopped short at the side of the road (apologies to the cyclists behind us!), and I tried to take deep, slow breaths and think calming thoughts. I was able to breathe again in short order, but we were stuck walking until we could reach a pullout. We were not the only ones walking.
We got back up on the bike and made it around a bend to a flatter area around mile 12 where a creek drizzled underneath the road. The ride organizers had placed an encouraging sign. There was a hint of “Ha! Yeah, right” in my smile.
Stopped for a *ahem* photo opportunity (breather!) around mile 13 and looked back at the road we’d come up. A couple in a car stopped at the pullout to ask about all the cyclists and to compliment us on the tandem – they had been tandem riders themselves and told us about the Midwest Tandem Rally. Small world!
We weren’t the only ones having a hard time. Look how full the SAG van’s bike rack is (the lead white van in the line of 4 vehicles). But there is hope! See that utility tower in the distance? The wires attached to it angle DOWN at right!
I was so excited to finally be over the peak of that climb, I wanted to document it with a photo, despite simultaneously wanting to hang onto the bike for dear life as we picked up speed on the descent. I wound up getting a nice photo of the back half of my helmet as I pointed the camera upslope behind me.
Here’s a better shot of the downslope, taken over Bugman’s shoulder. Because of the tight curves, narrow shoulder, and volume of traffic, he really rode the brakes on this descent. (Love our disc brakes!!) We topped out around 26 mph.
First view into Idaho!
Between Victor and Driggs, we rode on a lovely, flat bike path past a drive-in theater, complete with a ludicrously oversized spud displayed on a truck bed. This was also where we learned that orange markings on the ground indicated road hazards. Bugman inadvertently hit an orange-marked bump and nearly launched me from the bike.
Our lunch stop was in front of the Teton Geotourism Center in Driggs. You can see the lunch distribution tent and caterer’s rented truck behind the birds-and-nest sculptures.
They have a rather unusual lawnmower there in Driggs. (Shortly after this photo was taken, the woman reprimanded her horse for eating the lawn, and the horse responded with an indignant whinny.) We found out about an accident that happened on the Teton Pass descent when the two gals involved approaches us because of our tandem. They were on a tandem, too, but their bike had rim brakes. On that steep descent, a rim overheated and blew a tire. The stoker, in her words, “ninjaed” off the back seat and was pretty much unscathed. The captain went down with her ship and wound up with various scrapes and contusions. But I have to hand it to them – they got right back up there, renting single bikes for the day to complete the ride while their tandem was being repaired. Props!
We dipped into the Targhee National Forest again on the way up to Grand Targhee Resort. It was our second high climb of the day, but not nearly as steep.
The views on this ascent were much better than on the Teton Pass ascent, too. Beautiful scenery at the rest area!
We got a taste of serviceberries from a couple of folks out gathering them at the side of the road. “Bears really like them,” they said. “So do hungry bikers,” I would add.
MAN – would ya look at the scenery around here?? Beautiful!!
At a roadside breather stop, a biting fly started stalking us. Bugman stalked it back and caught it. When he released it, it flew away and didn’t bother us again.
Our first wild mammal sighting! A weasel!
The day was getting pretty warm (I will spare you the photo of how weird my legs looked with sweat beading up on top of the sunflower-oil-and-beeswax-based zinc sunscreen), so a popsicle was mighty welcome! We could have taken a ski lift up further to get more of a view, but we just wanted to get back to camp.
Awww . . . Bugman made a friend. After he caught it, this longhorn beetle hung out on his glove strap. What’s the species, Bugman?
On the ride back towards camp. Seriously amazing views out here!
The out-and-back Grand Targhee leg of the ride was optional, and we almost didn’t do it, but I’m glad we did. The views were great, and the long slope was tough, but not all that bad. It felt like we got going faster on the descent there than on Teton Pass, but I couldn’t tell you. As I mentioned in a previous post, we had problems with our GPS tracking due to phone battery drainage. When I went to correct the route with the missing bits, it calculated our downhill speed as 6,205.3 mph. (I am still LOLing about that.)
When we got back to downtown Driggs, we faced a headwind and a choice: complete the mapped route with a 17-mile loop to the west, or backtrack straight south 7 miles into camp in Victor. We were exhausted from the day’s climbing and chose the latter.
On our way back into Driggs, a strange, loud squeak began issuing from our bike. I don’t like strange, loud squeaks coming from any of my vehicles, so when the noise continued on the route into Victor, I made Bugman pull over so we could investigate. It turned out to be quite a sticky situation – literally.
Up at the resort, we had filled one of our water bottles with Gatorade. The bottle had leaked onto our bike’s belt drive, making it sticky. The squeak was quickly dispatched with a few squirts of water.
Finally, we made it into camp in Victor’s Pioneer Park. We set up housekeeping in our tent on a ball diamond outfield, waited in line to shower, made a brief stop at the local tourism table (where they had USPS mailers ready to ship our selected brochures direct to our homes – genius!), and . . . nearly fainted with hunger when we saw the length of the dinner line!
When you’ve been out biking all day, you want to EAT!! NOW!!! I went to the adult beverage tent to get refreshments to sustain us during the long wait, and I was presently so looped by the 7% beer hitting my empty stomach that I didn’t much care about being hungry anymore.
After devouring our loaded baked potatoes and listening to announcements, we tucked in for the night. So did the osprey nesting on a lightpole in our campsite.
Distance and elevation gain (per my mapping software): 68.04 miles, 5,497 feet (the official full route stats were 76 miles, 4,293 feet)
Min temp: 50, Max temp: 81, Winds 0-15 mph, Precipitation: none [data from Driggs]
UPDATE: This is what happens when all the days blend together when I’m blogging several days after the fact. I forgot a very important aspect of how this day started.
On the morning of Day 1, there was a disturbance in the Force. Hundreds of voices cried out in dismay.
There was no coffee!
Apparently, the coffee vendor’s truck had broken down enroute, and the caterer didn’t have enough supplies to provide for the hundreds of caffeine addicts on the ride. (They picked up the slack in subsequent days.)
I can say with certainty that the only thing that enabled me to make it up the second hill to Grand Targhee was our rest stop at Fitzgerald’s – a bike shop in Victor that has a coffee shop inside (genius!!).
Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw