Day 5 brought the opportunity to do a century ride, out and back from Cody to the east entrance of Yellowstone, along the North Fork Highway / Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway – a route that had been recommended by local riders back in 2013 when wildfire forced some rerouting on CGY. It sounded cool, but Bugman and I definitely needed some recovery time, so we passed.
I heard it was kind of a tough ride with the headwinds and wildfire smoke. For those who missed the ride, or who wanted to see some of the scenery without smoke, here’s a YouTube video that captured parts of the route in 2010, apparently heading east (you may need to mute your computer – the music in the video is loud).
Not to say that we didn’t ride at all. The CGY organizers had worked to secure a permit for our group to ride the Old Dam Road out to the Buffalo Bill Dam, a 14-mile out-and-back. We dawdled over breakfast, vacillating, but then made a snap decision to go after all, and scrambled to get on the road by 8:30 a.m. – the latest riders are supposed to head out on the route.
It was a very pretty ride down there in Shoshone Canyon.
Looking back: just after passing through the tunnel, I felt like I was going to fall backwards off the tandem. We’d hit the 17% grade ride organizers had mentioned the night before during announcements. They’d asked riders who didn’t think they could “make the grade” to dismount and walk up the hill. We knew there was no way we could get up an incline like that, and planned to dismount. However, we were taken by surprise, as we understood there would be a volunteer stationed to warn us of the climb, but nobody was there, perhaps because we’d gotten started late. We careened to a stop at the intersection with a side road that went down to the water and started hoofing it.
*big sigh* that such signs are even necessary
The platform and tunnel at the “right abutment outlet works” (bottom left in photo) looks like it would make a great supervillain lair. You can easily see on the dam face the 25 feet of new concrete added between 1985-1993 to the dam, which was the tallest in the world, at 325 feet, when it was completed in 1910. Here’s some good background info on the dam project. Much better than the official website for the dam visitor center, which includes the regrettable title of “fun facts” over a list that includes “seven men were killed during construction.”
The normally-closed gate that was opened for us.
The view down the canyon from atop the dam. You can just make out a couple of cyclists climbing on the road, center left. Well done, cyclists!
View of the dam road from inside the visitor center, with plenty of cyclists walking, having stashed their bikes somewhere downhill. It’s shocking to think of that road as part of the route to Yellowstone. It’s so steep and narrow, with sharp dropoffs – it’s no wonder they keep it closed ordinarily.
I was pretty fascinated by the logjam floating on the reservoir against the dam. Very visually interesting. Because of the steepness of the terrain upstream from the reservoir and the velocity of the inflows, the reservoir tends to silt up rather quickly and collect a lot of debris.
A picture of a picture from inside the visitor center, of one of the ways the floating debris is periodically cleaned up.
We asked a random fellow cyclist to take our picture partway down the dam road. We were in our “civvies” that day. No need for a bike kit for such a short ride.
We rode the brakes all the way down that 17% grade. We ❤ disc brakes!
Here’s a different image over Cody from a similar vantage point, but looking more to the north, from when we were there with CGY in 2013. You can actually see the mountains.
After returning from our morning ride, Bugman and I rounded up our laundry and headed to the closest laundromat just a couple of blocks away. The place was, as you could imagine, swamped. In addition to the constant stream of individual cyclists, the laundromat had taken on a new task from a commercial-sized customer that day – the tent sherpa towels! I asked the lady working there if she’d been warned about the locust-like onslaught of cyclists. She said she had, but that she’d been told that the cyclists wouldn’t be in town much, that they’d be out riding. She was very nice, and helped me find empty washing machines to use, and plugged another quarter into a dryer when I managed to trigger an error code on it.
Back in camp, drying laundry on our multi-purpose tandem.
While Bugman retreated to charge his cell phone, browse the web and drink cold beverages in the cafe at the Park County Public Library, I dragged my air mattress out from the tent (it was too hot in there), lay down in the shade of some trees next to the faux burbling brook running into the pond next to the library building, and tried to take a nap. I got distracted watching a bumblebee forage on clover near my head.
Awhile later, I was looking for Bugman and found him sitting on a rock next to the faux stream. That really is a beautiful library campus.
A beautiful place to camp, too.
We could have gone with the group to the Cody Rodeo, but we opted out. We’ve already been to Cheyenne Frontier Days, and I learned I don’t really enjoy rodeo. Too many opportunities for people and animals to get injured. Not that I don’t appreciate the practicality of some of the skills involved in rodeo, which are needed to manage range cattle, as I saw when I attended a branding a few years ago.)
Instead, Bugman and I wandered downtown Cody, a place someone said “has more personality than it knows what to do with.”
A shot of the smoky sunset, looking west down Sheridan Drive past the historic Irma.
There were artful bison sculptures all over the downtown. When seen from a certain angle, they made me think of alien egg pods.
A candy shop specifically welcoming me? Well, gee, I guess I have to go in!
Our ultimate destination that evening was Pat O’Hara Brewing Company. When we’d been in town two years ago, they weren’t yet serving their own beer.
They were now. Livin’ the Dream Pale Ale.
By the time we hiked back up the hill to camp, it was time to hit the sack. Another day of riding ahead!
Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw