Y Not Ride, community ride 2016

This year’s Y Not Ride community ride was a bit challenging. There was a stiff breeze out of the east (25 MPH sustained, gusting to 35-40), and there was wildfire smoke from Canada, and some folks on the 54-mile route got caught in rain showers, but it was still a great kickoff to the cycling season. I appreciate all the volunteers & sponsors who make it happen! Thanks as well to the Bayard Depot Museum and Scotts Bluff National Monument for serving as rest stops!

A few pictures from the ride:

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A Western Nebraska Bicycling Club member passes us on our tandem. The fact that the smoke from the sugar factory stack in the background is going horizontal gives an indication of the wind.

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Cattle sloshing around in a marshy area. Note how hazy the air is. That wasn’t moisture. It was wildlife smoke. As the day went along, the smell of smoke got stronger and the density of smoke particles got thicker.

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The wildfire / air quality map from that morning, from airnow.gov.

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Hooray for the SAG volunteers! Also, hooray for the fact that this was our turn on the 28-mile route, and we could quit bucking the wind! (I do much prefer to have a headwind on the way out, when I’m fresher, so a wind out of the east wasn’t the worst thing in the world.)

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More cattle. The babies gamboling on the greenery were so fun to watch!

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Approaching the overpass bridge in Gering, you can just baaarely make out the outline of Scotts Bluff National Monument in the distance. Darned smoke! *koff koff*

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Rolling through Gering, 53 degrees, pushed along by the same wind pulling the flags out horizontal.

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A touch of sun illuminates the smoke-blurred bluffs.

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At the Scotts Bluff National Monument rest stop. I was rather wishing I’d brought my jacket as this point. Kind of chilly. But we were almost home! (Photo courtesy of water station volunteer.)

I’m looking forward to the end-of-season “Monument to Monument” Y Not Ride challenge ride in September! (Note: the M2M ride is a great supported 50- or 100-mile ride for out-of-towners who want to see two National Monument properties and some gorgeous High Plains scenery. Keep in mind, while it’s the “plains,” it’s not flat.)

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

 

Wyobraska weekend adventure

Bugman and I need to get some long, multi-day weekend training rides in on the tandem. On Friday, my friend Jamie, who lives in Bushnell (60 miles from where I live), posted online, “Anyone want to go to the Pine Bluffs [Wyoming] Melodrama with me tomorrow night?

Hmmm . . . I’d never seen a melodrama before . . .

I replied: “Would you have space for a couple of tandem riders to sleep on your floor and a shower so they didn’t stink up said melodrama?

With a reply in the affirmative, Bugman and I packed up the tandem Saturday morning and set off southward on Highway 71, bound for the Sisters Grimm Bookstore.

Our first adventure occurred at the former Banner County Cafe (which has been purchased and is being renovated by our friends Laura and Dave).

There is very little shade from the hot sun when biking through Banner County. (There is very little of anything other than open land in Banner County. The population of the entire county at last count was 760 people – about one person per square mile, mathematically speaking.) Whenever we are headed out that way, we stop at the old cafe’s driveway to take advantage of the shade under a billboard.

As he’s done in the past, Bugman wheeled the tandem ahead to lean it against the billboard post. A little leery of the tall grass (this is rattlesnake country), I gingerly stepped towards the bike to get some snacks and water.

I stopped in my tracks and pointed.

“Um . . . there’s a snake.”

“Where?”

“Right there. Next to the bike. I think it’s a rattlesnake.”

The snake was not making a sound. It flicked its tongue at me a couple of times.

I retreated to a safer vantage point and took a picture of the serpent coiled and so well camouflaged in the grass six inches from the bike.

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Wide head. Yup. It’s a viper, all right. Crotalis viridis. Prairie rattlesnake.

I zoomed the camera back out to get a pic of the snake with the bike in the frame, and Bugman pulled out his phone to take a picture. The snake, apparently not fond of paparazzi, suddenly unfurled itself and beat a retreat into deeper brush, its rattles making a dry click with every undulation. It never did “buzz” at us.

Here was the picture Bugman got of its retreat.

rattlesnake and bike

Just after the snake left the scene, who should pull up but Laura and Dave! It sure was nice to see them, as we don’t often cross paths outside of the Scottsbluff winter farmers market. We told them about our snake encounter, and they were glad to be aware of the reptile’s presence. With all the time they have been spending there, they had yet to see a snake. Guess we’re just lucky like that!

A bit further down the road, we encountered another of the iconic fauna of these parts – pronghorn antelope. There was a herd of them – including babies! (awww!) – but I didn’t get a good picture. I rarely do. They’re always too far from the road for my little camera to capture.

pronghorn herd

Our next stop was at Beehaven Farm Roadside Market, owned by friends Jennifer and Rick. If not for Beehaven, I doubt we would bike down into Banner County in the summer. It’s a vital water stop, and also a great place to buy snacks.

Here’s a shot for Jennifer of the 3,000-foot-climb elevation profile of our ride (the Beehaven driveway is between miles 33-34 – the subtle flattened “bowl” to the right of the second major hill climb):

elevation of ride

On this sunny day, with the temperatures climbing into the upper 80s – low 90s, the offer of a couple of chairs in the shade of a large tree was very much appreciated. We drank soda, ate beef sticks, and hung out with resident canines Loki and Max.

Bugman took my picture eating beef sticks while beef cattle slurped at the water trough in the background. Not sure what that odd expression on my face is all about. Maybe irony?

Bugman took a picture of me eating beef sticks while beef cattle slurped at the water trough in the background. Not sure what that odd expression on my face is all about. Irony? Or chewing?

Bugman gives some head scratches to Loki, the friendly giant.

Bugman gives some head scratches to Loki, Beehaven’s enthusiastically friendly  giant / livestock guardian.

On the road again . . . the cattle started running along with us as we rode.

black cattle

Entering Kimball County – the furthest south we’ve been on the tandem in Nebraska!

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The welcome landmark of the Kimball wind turbines. Getting closer!

The welcome landmark of the Kimball wind turbines. Getting closer!

We stopped at a gas station in Kimball for a much-needed slush drink before pedaling west on Highway 30 the final 15 miles on a gradual upslope to Bushnell.

I neglected to take a photo of the Bushnell water tower landmark as we rode into town. I blame road fatigue for my omission, and also the fact that the roads in town are gravel, which can be a little dicey to ride on with a road-bike tandem. Instead, I will post a picture of the water tower as depicted on the souvenir t-shirts available for sale at Sisters Grimm.

bushnell water tower shirt

I also neglected to take photos of our destination (I again blame road fatigue), but you can get a glimpse of the horse-barn-turned-bookstore-and-loft-apartment here, on a This Old House remodel contest site (winner to be announced in October *crosses fingers*). There are such fun stories about the materials that went into the remodel. The clawfoot bathtub Bugman and I cleaned up in was previously located in a horse pasture. 🙂

Time to head the 10 miles across the border into Pine Bluffs, Wyoming!

We stopped for dinner at the Rock Ranch Grill – a steakhouse attached to the north side of a gas station in Pine Bluffs. It’s a good local place to stop if you’re traveling through on I-80. They know how to cook a steak here in cattle country! (I am getting hungry again, thinking about that steak!)

rock ranch grill

Then, off to the melodrama – part of Pine Bluffs’ annual Trail Days celebration. (Pine Bluffs was on one of the cattle trails out of Texas in the late 1800s.)

The event took place in the little theater in the old Pine Bluffs High School building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. Check out the amazing concrete-dome gymnasium ceiling:

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As I mentioned previously, I had never been to a melodrama before. It was totally corny. The actors were cracking each other up. I enjoyed it immensely.

To give the little theater an old-timey western flavor, some signs were posted.

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Also, the percussionist wore a cowboy hat.

Also, the percussionist wore a cowboy hat.

Yes, “A Hard Days Night at Rock Ranch” was thoroughly enjoyable. I meant to take a picture of the program, but I forgot. The names of the cast of characters cracked me up, as did the awful Beatles-style wig on the protagonist. There was the heroine, Miley Cyprus, and her father, Cyrus Cyprus. The female villain was Bluebelle Lugosi. I forget the male villain character’s name, but the actor who portrayed him had the best sinister laugh. Muahahahaha!

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Then, it was off to crash before another 60-mile bike ride.

Here are some pictures from Day 2 on the road:

Jamie took our picture in front of the bookstore before we headed out.

Jamie took our picture in front of the bookstore before we headed out.

An old, lonely house on Highway 30.

An old, lonely house on Highway 30.

Uh oh. Roadblock ahead. We caught up to these combines quickly, as eastbound Highway 30 was a gentle downward slope all the way to Kimball.

Uh oh. Roadblock ahead. We caught up to these combines pretty quickly, as eastbound Highway 30 was a gentle downward slope all the way to Kimball.

The combines pulled over into a driveway for Oliver Reservoir so we could pass them safely. Thanks, guys!

The combines pulled over into a driveway for Oliver Reservoir State Recreation Area so we could pass them safely. Thanks, guys!

I often snark about artificial "country fresh scent," since a predominant "country" odor all too often is manure (phew-ey!). But surely what the developers of that faux fragrance had in mind was an alfalfa field in full bloom, with fresh-cut alfalfa hay nearby. Nothing like that aroma! I reckon most vehicle-bound travelers would miss that, with their windows rolled up tight.

I often snark about artificial “country fresh scent,” since a predominant “country” odor all too often is manure (phew-ey!). But surely what the developers of that faux fragrance had in mind was an alfalfa field in full bloom, with fresh-cut alfalfa hay nearby. Nothing like that aroma! I reckon most vehicle-bound travelers would miss that, with their windows rolled up tight. Their loss!

Reflections in downtown Kimball

Reflections in downtown Kimball

Back to Highway 71. Only 46 more miles to go!

Back to Highway 71. Only 46 more miles to go!

Back in Banner County!

Back in Banner County!

When we stopped for a water break, I had to capture one of the thousands of plains sunflowers in bloom at the moment. It was a VERY WARM morning. We had a tailwind of about 10 MPH, but we were traveling at about 10 MPH, meaning that we had no cooling breeze whatsoever. I was very glad we would be able to stop at Beehaven to refill our water bottles!

When we stopped for a water break, I had to capture one of the thousands of plains sunflowers in bloom at the moment. It was a very thirsty morning. We had a tailwind of about 10 MPH, but we were traveling at about 10 MPH, meaning we had no breeze to cool us down. I was very glad we would be able to stop at Beehaven to refill our water bottles!

At Beehaven - a renegade hen. Instead of laying eggs in a nest box, this plucky chicky had hidden her eggs somewhere on the property. Mother hen was very protective, herding her wee fluffy brood away from the photographer, and making a scene when the goats came too near and risked stepping on her babies.

At Beehaven – a renegade hen. Instead of laying eggs in a nest box, this plucky chicky had hidden her eggs somewhere on the property. Mother hen was very protective, herding her wee fluffy brood away from the photographer, and making a scene when the goats came too near and risked stepping on her babies.

A stop for lunch under the billboard at the hilltop cafe site, and we discovered we were being watched again - this time by avian eyes rather than reptilian.

A stop for lunch under the billboard at the hilltop cafe site, and we discovered we were being watched again – this time by avian eyes rather than reptilian. (You can barely make out the dove peeking from her nest in this picture.)

Then safely home again, and time for a shower, a meal, and a nap!

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 2 ride to Livingston

Day 1

Distance and elevation gain (per my mapping software): 116 miles, 4,209 feet

Min temp: 48, Max temp: 91, Winds 5-15, gusting to 21, Precipitation: none

Because of the day’s long ride, the route opened at 6am instead of 7. We tried to hit the road at 6, but with the lines at breakfast and at the bike pump station, and with having to rendezvous with my camping gear angel at 5:30, we didn’t actually hit the road until 6:45, which was still before sunrise in the valley.

Sunrise. Dang! Wish my stinkin’ camera had focused properly!

About 7 miles into the morning ride, we encountered a hill.

A doozy of a hill.

Which meant a free ride on the other side, courtesy of gravity.

7 percent grade for the next 2 miles? Wheeeeeeeee!

For those who have not ridden a tandem bike before, one of the major differences is weight. Our two wheels were supporting close to 350 pounds. The thing handles like a semi truck. Anyone who has driven I-80 through Iowa will know the phenomenon of which I speak: slow on the uphill, FAST on the downhill. A tandem also has a turn radius similar to a semi. Not real manuverable in tight spaces.

Heading back on the road after a water stop.

Ranchers care for their land and animals

After a lunch stop in Sacajawea Park in Three Forks, we crossed the Madison River and biked on an I-90 frontage road.

At mile 60 at a four-way stop in Manhattan, Montana, we faced a choice: turn right, call it a day, and catch a bus to Livingston, or turn left and crank out another 56 miles. We chose the latter. (As I would later say to a fellow cyclist gasping up a hill, “Whoever said this was not a suffer fest lied.” The fellow cyclist replied, “We chose this.” True, true. Seemed like a good idea at the time . . . )

Where are we? Why, the Land of Magic, of course! (It’s a steakhouse. Go figure!)

There were tiny little schoolhouses in abundance in the Montana mountain valleys. Can’t see it in this pic, but the Dry Creek School had an outhouse out back.

Typical Montana scene: cattle grazing, a wheat field ready for harvest, mountains, a vast blue sky.

At around mile 74, we hit our first “uh-oh.”

We had stopped at a water stop, purported to be stocked with oh-so-welcome popsicles. The popsicles had run out, but the dear 4-H crew staffing the station had gone out to get more. I was getting a tad nervous about our timing – if the popsicles were gone, it meant we were likely some of the last riders out on the course. I’d been wondering, as we’d seen nary a rider since we left Manhattan. The folks said they would be closing up the stop in about 30 minutes. How close were we to the cutoff, after which riders would be removed from the course??

While we waited in the shade of an outbuilding for the popsicles, one of the kiddos at the station called out “someone’s tire’s hissing.”

Yay. It was our front tire. Our thorn-resistant inner tube had sprung a leak near the valve stem.

Luckily, we had a spare tube and pump.

Bugman sheltered in the shade of an electrical box to pump up the tire. I helped a little – ran my finger inside the tire to check for foreign objects and worked the pump for a little bit – but Bugman did the bulk of the work with that mini pump. Figures that just as we were rolling back out again the SAG truck, presumably containing a full-sized tire pump, rolled by. We did get our popsicles, by the way. Bomb-pop variety. My favorite!

It was really getting hot out. The water truck driver offered to hose down a few of our fellow riders as he packed up the truck to head to Livingston.

We wound up stopping at a “renegade” water stop, perhaps somewhere near mile 79? They were offering free ice but charging for water and Gatorade. Not sure what they were raising money for. We bought a couple of Gatorade bottles and chugged them on the spot. That may have been what saved us from the SAG wagon that day.

We made the time cutoff for the rest stop at Sore Elbow Forge on the northeast side of Bozeman by about 15-20 minutes. The Omnibar guy was already packing up his gear.

“Not good,” I was thinking. “But, we only have about 30 more miles to go. . . .  And a significant hill.”

Gulp!

Brain starting to go a little goofy from fatigue. I knew the “M” stood for Montana State, but I found it funny to voice in a Sesame-Street-like intonation: “M! Mountain! M!” So nice of them to help visitors by labeling the scenery!

Caught the tidily-painted outhouses behind the Bridger school in this photo.

Gosh! Beautiful scenery!

We stopped several times on the ascent up Jackson Creek Road to take a breather and drink water. A portajohn would have been most welcome at that point. When we finally crested the hill, the SAG wagon was there. They gave us a water refill and let us know it was only about 3 more miles to the rest stop at Malmborg School, and that it was mostly downhill. We had 20 minutes to get there before we were swept off the course.

Hurrah! We think we can make it!!

We cruised to the next water stop, hit the toilets, and snarfed down a bruised bananna – about all that was left at the rest stop. Apparently we missed a hockey team that had earlier made out like bandits selling snow cones.

I tottered out into the street to photograph the mileage marker:

One hundred miles! My first century ride!

Then course-manager-in-chief Jennifer Drinkwalter arrived on the scene. I knew her name from the numerous preparatory emails we’d gotten from her on the leadup to the ride. She was there to check on the ride stragglers, to judge if we were in any condition to safely complete the remaining 16 miles into camp.

“You’ve got about 5 minutes to get back on the road, guys,” she announced to the few cyclists left at the stop.

I noticed that when the SAG vehicle pulled up, there were several bikes on top. I think the heat really zapped a lot of people that day.

But Bugman and I are used to cycling in western Nebraska – we’re used to that kind of dry heat!

We wheeled back out into the road, assuring Jennifer that we were fit to continue….and then….

“Oh, no! Flat tire!!”

Yep. The front tire that we had replaced earlier that day had gone flat again.

Jennifer was a champ. She pointed out that the mechanic just across the parking lot could have us pumped up again and rolling in no time. She wouldn’t pull us off the course when we were so close.

The mechanic figured that our tube had gone flat from a puncture from one of the many goathead thorns we had embedded in our tires from back home. We didn’t have to worry about them before. The thorn-resistant inner tube had taken care of that. But with the wimpy regular inner tube, there was just enough thorn poking though to do some damage. The mechanic used a dental tool to pick out the thorns, installed a new tube, handed us a fresh tube, just in case, and $10 and 10 minutes later, we were headed out on the course again . . . officially the LAST cyclists on the course, with the SAG vehicles and an emergency radio vehicle on our tail pretty much the whole rest of the way.

There was one last little hill to conquer. Coming at the end of 100 miles of riding, in 90-degree temps during the latter part of the day, at 4,000+ feet above sea level, with a few other hills thrown in there for spice, that last uphill grade of 1 mile at 3 percent was just painful.

When we finally topped the hill, my fatigued brain read the “Absaroka Range” sign as “Assabroka Range.”

But at least after all that climbing, we were due for a downhill. Whew! We made pretty good time on those last 15 miles, I think.

Evidence of how rough the day was: Bugman’s black jersey was crusted white with perspiration salt. We were both pretty salty-crusty.

On the descent into Livingston I photographed this going-lenticular cloud, thinking it was interesting. That same cloud had been hovering on the horizon all day. Took me awhile to convince myself that it was not a thunderstorm but was actually wildfire smoke.

The scenery on approach to Livingston was mighty nice. Not sure it was worth all that climbing, though.

I am grateful to the course marshals who stayed out there to cheer and flag home us two flagging cyclists – the last ones to finish on our own power that day.

We parked our bike in the corral (a fenced-in tennis court), checked our wheel spokes because there has been some clicking noises and a bit of a wobble on the fast descents and found we had several loose spokes AGAIN, decided to deal with it in the morning, found our tent, dropped a few things, and went right to dinner. We weren’t the only crusty-jersey-clad cyclists in the meal line. I recognized a few other faces from the 116 mile route. The great part about being among fellow cyclists in a buffet food line instead of being among “civilians” is that the fellow bikers don’t take three steps back and try to breathe through their sleeves when standing in line behind you.

This was the only meal where the vegetarian option (artichoke and kidney bean paella on this day) was gone by the time I got there. All that was left were cooked carrots (ew) and unappetizing-looking blobs of chicken (ew). I ate some salad bar stuff and some white rice laced with Tabasco sauce. But it was all OK because there was ice cream with chocolate sauce for dessert.

I got the last of the chopped peanut topping.

Headed off to the shower and appreciated the cool, fluffy grass at our campsite in Livingston’s Sacagawea Park. We stayed up later than we wanted to so we could have a beer and catch a bit of the band in the Miles Park Bandshell. It was a fabulous campsite. Wish we’d had time to visit the downtown . . .

THIS was next to our campsite. Water burbling over rocks as I crashed to sleep . . . bliss . . .

Day 3

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw