2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 4: Cooke City to Cody

When I unzipped the tent in the morning, and my headlamp illuminated the tent fly, I knew why I’d slept so well.

The inside of the tent fly was coated in frost! Because it had rained and the fly zipper was wet, it had frozen and was difficult to open.

The inside of the tent fly was coated in frost!

I tend to sleep best when it’s cold. It sho’nuff was cold!

The tent fly zipper was frozen and difficult to open. I climbed outside and crunched across the frosted clover that covered the field under our tents to get some coffee.I brought a cup back to the tent for Bugman, to help him wake up. He’s not terribly fond of mornings, or of cold. I was grateful at breakfast that the dining chairs were made of plastic. Metal would have been co-o-o-old to sit on!

How about a cool, refreshing drink from a frozen CGY water bottle?

How about a cool, refreshing drink from a frozen CGY water bottle?

It was mighty brisk in the pre-dawn light. Bugman filled a water bottle with hot water and used it to de-ice the bike so the belt drive and brakes would work.

It was mighty brisk in the pre-dawn light. Bugman filled a water bottle with hot water and used it to de-ice the bike so the belt drive and brakes would work. I didn’t get a picture, as I was too busy packing up our gear.

Come on, sun! Let's get this day warmed up! We have some hills to ride!

Come on, sun! Let’s get this day warmed up! We have some hills to ride!

We wheeled our bike into a patch of sunlight and rubbed it and worked it until it began to defrost in earnest and we were sure no remaining ice would hang up any vital parts. Meanwhile, I got distracted by the beauty of frost-covered vegetation.

frosted flowersWe were pretty chilled when we first started out that morning. We were wearing all of our warm bike clothing layers, with the exception of my shoe covers, which were still wet from the day before and had frozen stiff. My feet were cold, so I improvised with a split plastic bag and some duct tape. Ugly, but functional.

By the time we started to climb the hill outside of Cooke City, we were starting to overheat and had to shed some layers.

It was a glorious morning for a ride, and a glorious route!

We asked a random fellow cyclist to take our picture with Pilot Peak in the background. (Oops! There was a little condensation on my camera lens.)

We asked a random fellow cyclist to take our picture with Pilot Peak in the background. (Oops! There was a little condensation on my camera lens.)

Beautiful, beautiful ride that morning. There were people stopping all over the place for pictures.

Beautiful, beautiful ride that morning. There were people stopping all over the place for pictures. Nota bene: that road shoulder looked all nice and smooth, but at the edge near the guardrail, it was loose gravel – soft enough to capture impressions of the hooves of passing ungulates – that exactly matched the texture of the pavement. I saw one cyclist almost wipe out when his front tire dug in.

I absolutely loved this ride. Lots of descending – nice and fast on the tandem (15-30 MPH), then some rollers later on. For sure my favorite morning!

By the time we got to the refuel stop at Painter's Outpost at 10:30 a.m., the day was plenty warm. We stripped off our winter wear and, for the first time, deposited excess clothing into gear drop box.

By the time we got to the refuel stop at Painter’s Outpost at 10:30 a.m., the day was plenty warm. We stripped off our winter wear and, for the first time, deposited excess clothing into gear drop box. Then we slathered on the sunscreen. I managed not to get too burnt on this trip!

As we passed this pond, a small flock of preening coots splashed around in the water, breaking the surface into ripples and dazzling flashes of reflected sunlight.

As we passed this pond, a small flock of preening coots splashed around in the water, breaking the surface into ripples studded with dazzling flashes of reflected sunlight.

Bugman said,

Bugman said, “Horses! Take a picture for your mom!” (She loves horses.) OK. Here it is, mom. ❤

Did you happen to notice the driveway cattle guard in the photo of Painter's Outpost? We saw a lot of them on this day, as we were in range cattle country. The CGY crew marked cattle guards with orange paint, but at least on cyclist hit a cattle guard wrong and flew off his bike. That's what the ambulance was was responding to this image. Bummer.

We saw a lot of cattle guards on this day, set right across the highway, as we were in range cattle country. Apart from the bumpiness, they can be pretty nasty for cyclists at the seams where the metal comes together. Many of them have gaps parallel to the lane of travel that are just the right size to ensnare a bike tire. The CGY crew marked cattle guard hazards with orange paint, but at least one cyclist hit a cattle guard wrong and flew off his bike. That’s what the ambulance on the road ahead in this image was was responding to. Bummer.

Such a beautiful road!

Such a beautiful road!

There's our fellow tandemites, Nico and Jeanne, pausing just before a fast, steep descent into the next rest stop. They are faster than we are on the downhill, and they passed us - headed right towards some kind of grouse, which was sitting stupidly in the middle of the road. There was no collision, thank goodness, as we two tandems and a few other cyclists whizzed past the bird. Just bummed I wasn't able to get my camera out. I don't like to take pictures from the back of the bike when we're going much more than 15 MPH.

There’s our fellow tandemites, Nico and Jeanne, pausing just before a fast, steep descent into the next rest stop. They are faster than we are on the downhill, and they passed us – headed right towards some kind of grouse, which was sitting stupidly in the middle of the road. There was no collision, thank goodness, as we two tandems and a few other cyclists whizzed past the bird.

I wish I'd gotten my camera out in time to capture an image to try to identify the bird. I got a picture of my shadow instead.

I wish I’d gotten my camera out in time to capture an image to try to identify the bird. I got a picture of my shadow instead.

Here are some cyclists passing over Sunlight Creek Bridge (the highest bridge in Wyoming), as they come down off that hill to the refueling stop before the big climb - 2,000 feet!

Here are some cyclists passing over Sunlight Creek Bridge (the highest bridge in Wyoming), as they come down off that hill to the refueling stop before the big climb – 2,000 feet!

The sag van was busy again. (See the volunteer showing off her muscles.) But WE WERE NOT GOING TO SAG! Not today!!

The sag van was busy again. (See the volunteer showing off her muscles.) But WE WERE NOT GOING TO SAG! Not today!!

Here we go!

Here we go!

Getting high enough up that we can really get some great views - and marvel at that road waaay down there that we were just on. But at the same time - and I didn't get any pictures of this - we'd look waaay up the hill . . . and there was a guardrail up there, taunting us, saying

Getting high enough up that we can really get some great views – and marvel at that road waaay down there that we were just on. But at the same time – and I didn’t get any pictures of this – we’d look waaay up the hill . . . and there was a guardrail up there, taunting us, saying “Oh, you think you’ve climbed a lot? Ha! You’re not done yet!” I did like this climb, though. It was long, but not too steep – nice and steady.

I think for the first time in my life, I was grateful for road construction. Yes, you read that right. Here was the situation: the road crew was doing a tar-and-chip seal of the shoulders of the highway midway up the hill. The road was shut down to one lane through that stretch, and the construction crew used a pilot car shuttling back and forth to guide the stopped and waiting cars up and down the hill, past the tar truck. Since we cyclists would be going so slow up that hill, the WYDOT folks permitted us to proceed without waiting for the pilot car! We were just warned to stick to the one side of the road, and to give the tar truck plenty of room when we passed it. The beauty of this was, the automobile traffic that did pass us was slow, all in one lane, and in pulses. That was THE BEST WAY EVAR to cycle that road! Thank you so much, WYDOT! :-D

I think for the first time in my life, I was grateful for road construction. Yes, you read that right. Here was the situation: the road crew was doing a tar-and-chip seal of the shoulders of the highway midway up the hill. The road was shut down to one lane through that stretch, and the construction crew used a pilot car (pictured above, followed by a sag van) shuttling back and forth to guide the stopped and waiting cars up and down the hill, past the tar truck. Since we cyclists would be going so slow up that hill, and we took up so little space, and the construction project was simple, the WYDOT folks permitted us to proceed without waiting for the pilot car! We were just warned to stick to the one side of the road, and to give the tar truck plenty of room when we passed it. The beauty of this was, the automobile traffic that did pass us was slow, all in one lane, and in pulses. Perfect!!!

The scale of the landscape was awe-inspiring. Look how small the cyclists appear!

The scale of the landscape was awe-inspiring. We cyclists looked like ants.

We made it! Vista Point! (GOSH, I hate that name

We made it! Vista Point! (GOSH, I hate that name “Dead Indian.”) Elevation 8,066 feet, according to our tracking software.

Looking down from Vista Point. Yeah. We biked that!

Looking down from Vista Point. Yeah. We biked that!

Have to post a repeat of our triumphant summit pic from the day 0 post. It was a good day on the bike!

Have to post a repeat of our triumphant summit pic from the day 0 post. It was a good day on the bike!

The crowd was thinning at the lunch stop. It was 2:30 p.m., we were towards the back of the pack again, and we still had another 33 miles to go. Yes, that would include a 3,000-foot drop over the first 12 miles, but there was another 1,000-foot climb awaiting us, at a lower elevation and higher temperature.

The crowd was thinning at the lunch stop. It was 2:30 p.m., we were towards the back of the pack again, and we still had another 33 miles to go. Yes, that would include a 3,000-foot drop over the first 12 miles, but there was another 1,000-foot climb awaiting us, at a lower elevation and higher temperature.

Taking a break to take a picture.

Taking a break to take a picture.

There was some beautiful geology on the descent, the landscape continuing to make ants of us cyclists.

There was some grand geology on the descent, the landscape continuing to make ants of us cyclists.

Curving into drier, hotter land. No lush pine-spruce-fir-aspen forest here.

Curving into drier, hotter land. No lush pine-spruce-fir-aspen forest here.

The only trees were the cottonwoods down along the river courses.

The only trees were the cottonwoods down along the river courses.

And the pines up on the bluffs.

And the pines up on the bluffs.

A look back the way we'd come.

A look back the way we’d come.

I haven’t got any more pictures from this day. I was just too gassed to care about capturing the moment anymore.

But reaching that last rest stop at the top of the big hill at mile 62.5 was sweet. And they had icee pops! Cool, sweet icee pops!

It was a little anxiety-inducing that we were at that rest stop right around 5 p.m. The course was supposed to close at 5 p.m. But we were allowed to continue the final 15 miles into town. Thank you to the volunteers who worked longer shifts to allow us slower cyclists to do that!

Also, one of the sign van volunteers, who probably was glad to see us finally complete a challenging ride day, gave us a “Tour de France start.” I’ve not watched much bike racing, so I didn’t know what he was talking about. As soon as we were pedaling, the man gave our bike a good running push from behind. I laughed the whole time. It was fun to get up to road speed so quickly with so little effort. 😀

When we finally straggled into camp, we couldn’t find room in the bike corral to park our bulky tandem, so we wound up leaning it against a tree next to someone’s tent. We managed to get cleaned up in time to grab dinner and catch most of the evening announcements.

I was glad for the rest scheduled the next day. No way were we going to attempt that optional 100-mile out-and back! It’s a vacation, after all!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

One thought on “2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 4: Cooke City to Cody

  1. Pingback: Cycle Greater Yellowstone 2015: Day 0 | Wyobraska Tandem

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