Oh, the excitement of setting off on Day 1 of Cycle Greater Yellowstone, feeling fresh and ready for (though perhaps apprehensive about) whatever the week may throw your way!
This post will likely include the most pictures of any about the week’s ride, as I was energetic and in a documentary mood.
We asked a random fellow cyclist to take our picture at the starting line in Red Lodge.
We sailed through the very first traffic circle we’ve ever ridden on the tandem. Red Lodge was all torn up with construction, in the process of putting in road improvements like this one.
Not sure what I was taking a picture of here, but an empty sag vehicle would become a rare sight later in the week. We LOVED this portion of the ride – it was all downhill for the first half of the short, 58-mile route. Our speed for the first 25 miles was from 20-25 MPH, which is really good for us! We wound up getting caught in the midst of a paceline. I see why people do this – you fly right along when you’re drafting another cyclist. Tandems don’t play well in pacelines with single bikes on rolling terrain, though. We’ve got some 350 pounds on two wheels, so we go fast on the downhill and slow on the uphill. Our riding companions, probably annoyed with us, soon went their separate way. I was glad. While it’s exhilarating to be in a paceline, it takes a lot of focus to ride so closely to other cyclists, and it kind of takes away from being able to enjoy the scenery.
Right quick, we got to the break stop in Joliet at mile 35, in a lovely little treed park. I asked Bugman to give me a Pop Tart smile.
Mmmmm . . . strawberries! Much tastier than Pop Tarts, IMHO.
I also opted for a 4-H donut. Gotta support those young entrepreneurs, you know!
As we headed out of Joliet (no, Illinoisans, not that Joliet) and onto the road towards Columbus, which required a little backtracking, we overheard some cyclists who were confused and kvetching about how stupid it was to require backtracking for a snack stop. That kind of got my hackles up. First of all, the organizers needed to find a comfortable place big enough to accommodate all us cyclists and our support crew. Secondly, if they’d listened to the announcements the night before, they would have known about the backtracking. Geesh. Maybe I’m just getting old and crotchety, but I’m finding myself with less tolerance for whiners these days.
Enroute to Columbus, Montana, we saw this:
“If provoked will strike.” Hm. Not sure what it’s referencing, but it doesn’t seem particularly friendly.
A typical recharge stop: (cereal) bars on cars (or pickup trucks). Also, gear drop boxes, where you can offload the warm things you put on that morning when it was still cold out.
Our cyclist group was always trailed by at least one ambulance, which, thankfully, was rarely needed.
There was a great view from that hilltop headed into Stillwater County. The volunteer flagger visible at left was very helpful – they would wave the flag if there was a vehicle approaching from the blind side of the hill, both to warn the cyclists not to proceed and to warn the approaching motorist to slow down.
Wheeee! That there was a nice descent!
Lots of familiar-to-us High Plains farm and ranch scenes out this way. In this photo: baling wheat straw, with a band of yellow sunflowers blooming in the background. Many of the crops we saw in the region are ones Bugman works in through University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: wheat, alfalfa, sunflower, sugar beet, dry edible beans.
Our lunch stop was in Columbus’ lovely Itch-kep-pe Park. (No idea what Itch-kep-pe means.)
The park was right on the bank of the Yellowstone River, and many of us cyclists went down to sit on the water-smoothed stones next to the river, to eat lunch and watch the incoming cyclists on the bridge above.
Bugman, true to form, turned over rocks looking for invertebrates.
We didn’t see any of the “big five” (bear, wolf, bison, elk, moose) of the Yellowstone region on our journey this year. However, we did see quite a few sandhill cranes, both in the sky and on the ground. Gotta love those feathered dinosaurs!
We cyclists were repeatedly exhorted to ride single file. There was a great effort on the part of the organizers to avoid excessively annoying the local motorists, and on no-shoulder, narrow roads, riding single file helps avoid cyclist-motorist conflict. I think there was still some ambiguity, though. Some cyclists felt comfortable riding the often-narrow, often-rocky pavement to the right of the rumble strip, while others preferred to ride out in the lane – thus effectively creating two lanes of cyclists. At other times, faster cyclists would pass slower cyclists, thus creating double-riding for a time. I think there were some instances of motorist aggravation during the week when a faster bike or bikes would pass slower ones regardless of traffic coming from behind. I would think it would be safer to wait for traffic behind to clear before passing, but people did not always do this, and seemed to assume that overtaking vehicles would adapt to the cyclists’ presence. It’s always a delicate dance when riding highways like that – how to be both safe and courteous – particularly in a large group like ours.
At one informal stop at a roadside pulloff, we were greeted by a couple of local cyclists representing the self-proclaimed “Montana bike mafia” (one of them was born in Canada, the other in Wisconsin). 😀 They gave us a heads up that a church group in Absarokee was proffering pie and ice cream. Pie and ice cream?? Let’s get a move on!
The finish line at Absarokee High School! Woohoo! It’s rare for us to get into camp this early, before 1 p.m. We had the relatively short route, the downhill elevation profile, and the good weather to thank for that. We would actually have time to go into town after getting cleaned up!
Sherpa tents, and beyond them, the bike corral and a horse pasture.
There were a couple of horse-drawn conveyances to take us into downtown Absarokee. These two hard-working creatures were named Rose and Beauty.
Aha! There was the aforementioned church selling sugary delectables! There was also a VFW booth across the street with dozens of cookies for sale. I’m afraid they may have overbaked. We did our part and bought a half-dozen “cowboy cookies.”
Action shot of the pie-serving area.
Ohhh, baby! That was some gooooood strawberry-rhubarb pie!!!!
I loved that the town prepared bike parking for us. Unfortunately, pretty much none of us had kickstands, so the bikes downtown were parked propped against walls and railings.
Back in camp: somebody brought several hula hoops along for the ride. Bugman gave it a whirl.
There was a sheltered area inside the school bus barn for serving food. It was real nice to have that, in the event the weather took a turn for the worse.
Off to sleep and on to Day 2!
Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw