If you ask me at the end of a long day of riding on Cycle Greater Yellowstone if I am having fun, my answer might not be in the affirmative. The long miles and climbing are pretty tough on me. I don’t particularly enjoy the multiple nights of camping-related poor sleep, the inevitable muscle soreness, or the constellations of saddle sores I tend to collect. It certainly didn’t help that this has been a travel-y/hot/hailstorm-y year, and Bugman and I only got in about 375 training miles on the tandem before the ride. (In past years we did more like 900 training miles. Thank goodness I was at least able to get in 500 training miles on my new single road bike!)
It was an especially challenging route for me this year, since there was no layover or option to be off the bike for a day to rest my derrière and leg muscles, and early hot weather encouraged those darned saddle stores to start up right out of the gate. Of the possible 512 course miles, we rode 434, opting for the shorter 35-mile route on day 2 (rather than 85), and sagging out on the last 25 miles on day 5 and 3 miles of hill on day 6 when either Bugman or I started bonking with all the climbing. (It’s extra tough climbing with a tandem!)
But I do enjoy the camaraderie of a couple hundred other cyclists on this well-supported ride. I especially appreciate that many of my fellow riders are of retirement age or better (last year, the average rider age was 55). I see them as role models for maintaining long-distance cycling as a lifelong activity. Signing up for CGY is a good incentive for me to ride regularly and stay fit!
I also love discovering small communities and natural wonders along the way. I appreciate the scenery as it slowly moves by at a human speed, the opportunity to hear the birds and smell the greenery and ponder the various barbed wire fence designs. And I enjoy mulling over my experiences with the aid of photos, mostly taken from the back seat of our tandem.
I’ll share my experiences with the 2016 CGY ride in this post – look for links at the bottom, which I will update with posts on each day as I complete them. Look to other links for blog posts on the 2015, 2014, and 2013 rides. (Yep, this was our fourth time doing this ride on a tandem bicycle. We are crazy people!)
Since we live in western Nebraska only about 600 miles from the start in Bozeman, Montana, we packed the tandem atop the car and drove.
Along I-90 in Wyoming, the highway sign warned “BIKE EVENT TRAFFIC NEXT 15 MILES USE LEFT LANE.” Not everyone used the left lane, of course (see camper in photo, being passed by a semi truck).
I wondered how scary it was for those riders on the interstate, and commented that I wouldn’t pay for the privilege of riding on the Interstate. (Heh. I should have studied the CGY course maps more carefully. To be continued . . .)
I never could find out what this ride was. If anyone knows, please comment!
We parked in long-term parking at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. When you see a bunch of out-of-state license plates and bike racks like this, you know a big bike event is in progress!
Ah, here we are at Tent City, at basecamp Bozeman in Beall Park!
We met a couple of awesome camping neighbors here on Day 0, with whom we’d have some good conversations over the next week: Roger from Missouri and Sharika from Florida. (A special hat tip to Sharika, who is an Army veteran and participant in World T.E.A.M. Sports.)
After getting settled in, the next order of business: finding the beer tent! (Yaaay, Überbrew, for being a super-awesome ride sponsor again this year! All the money people paid for beer went back to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.)
Right next to the beer tent was a booth selling bike-related pretty things from Glassisum Designs, which donated a special Überbrew “growler” bike panel for a fundraiser auction. (Alas, I didn’t capture the “pretty side” of the panels – my camera wouldn’t cooperate with the backlighting that day.)
As usual, announcements followed dinner. This year, during announcements there were raffle drawings for prizes provided by sponsors (including Roswell Bicycles). Since you had to be present to win, this provided an extra incentive for people to stick around for announcements. A great idea! (Although, why someone wouldn’t want to listen to important announcements about the campsites and course and weather updates in the first place is beyond me!) Here, CGY Coordinator Jennifer Drinkwalter hands off a prize to a lucky winner. The bike mechanic tent is in the background – another important aspect of daily camp setup (and on-course support), since breakdowns happen!
A few other standards of camp:
The shower trucks. Oh, the shower trucks! This is one of the things that makes me love this ride: the ability to take a hot (or cold, depending on the weather!) shower at the end of each day’s ride. The stalls inside are very nice. (Yes, I felt slightly creeper-ish taking a picture in the showers):
Along with the showers are also hot/cold sinks as well as a charging station for phones, cameras, bike computers, etc. You can leave your device there to charge and not worry about it walking off while you’re gone. It cost $20 for a 5-charge punchcard, I think. As part of the Sherpa tent service this year, we got a free charge punchcard. Nice!
Some folks had other methods of charging their devices. Go, Sol ☀️!
A new option in camp this year was the laundry pod – basically a souped-up salad spinner for doing laundry. (This is the official pod explanation video, but this one is more fun.) Bugman and I used this option, since there was no rest day or midweek short ride with town access affording an opportunity to hit the laundromat. They worked OK, provided you soaked/agitated the clothing long enough, followed directions not to use too much soap, and didn’t try to wash too many clothes at once. Between the spin function and the hot, dry Montana weather, clothing dried pretty quickly! Filling the pods at the water bar:
When you think about other hygiene needs in rural Montana, you might think we had to resort to this (view across from Sedan School):
But, no! We had access to modern portable toilets and handwashing stations at camp and rest stops, provided by family-operated South West Septic. (I enjoyed listening to Mary Smail tell the story of how she went from dental hygienist to septic business owner. “I’ve dealt with cleaning both ends,” she said. I love her sense of humor! Check out the company license place compilation on this page.)
Props to all the volunteers who helped us in camp and along the course, including the radio operators who made sure we stayed in contact in cell-signal-less areas!
One of the benefits of camping in town is easy access to shopping and entertainment options. After dinner and announcements, Bugman and I poked around in downtown Bozeman. I liked it! It’s a bike-y place with interesting architecture, where people actually stop for pedestrians in crosswalks!
Lots of bike parking in downtown Bozeman:
Although, if the parking wasn’t near where people went, light poles got used instead:
Some businesses participated in a discount program for people who bike to shop. Cool!
Some fellow CGYers window shopping at one of two downtown bike shops.
I spy gargoyles!
A view inside the 1928 Hotel Baxter:
While it was nice being close to such amenities, there were drawbacks to camping in an urban area. Train horns. Helicopter flyovers. Car alarms. Streetlights. I was glad I brought my earplugs and sleeping mask, especially since our tent was directly under the streetlight on the first night. No need for a headlamp when using the toilet in the middle of the night!
And shortly, on to posts about the riding!
Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw