2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 6: Cody to Powell via Lovell

Nothing says HELLO, WAKE UP! quite like dodging deer as you start your day’s ride. Cody is lousy with deer, and they have very little fear of people. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can have a garden there.

Those are not lawn ornaments.

Those are not lawn ornaments.

At the bottom of a steep hill on the way out of town, we had to brake hard to be sure not to smack these two.

At the bottom of a steep hill on the way out of town, we had to brake hard to be sure not to smack these two.

The sky was cloudless, but still hazy with wildfire smoke.

The sky was cloudless, but still hazy with wildfire smoke.

We cast a weak shadow across the road. The hazy sunrise diffused some interesting color onto the hay bales, though. Thinking of Monet again . . .

Our tandem cast only a weak shadow across the road in the hazy light, which diffused some interesting color onto the hay bales. Thinking of Monet again . . .

The colorful tanks at this farmstead caught my eye.

The colorful tanks at this farmstead caught my eye.

“Wyoming is beef country – enjoy both”
Why, thanks. I shall!

?? Not sure what that's all about.

?? Not sure what that’s all about.

We had a bit of gravel and construction to ride through. This shot is closer to what I normally see on the tandem when looking forward - mostly Bugman's back.

We had a little bit of gravel and construction to ride through. No big deal. On a side note, this shot is closer to what I normally see on the tandem when looking forward – mostly Bugman’s back.

Saw a couple of farmers out setting siphon tubes that morning.

Saw a couple of farmers out setting siphon irrigation tubes that morning. Looks like a field of sugarbeets at left, with some kochia (which dries to become tumbleweeds) along the edge. Surely this is irrigation water that came out of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. See here for a 20-second closeup video of setting tubes. See here for a blurb about setting tubes, on the webpage of the museum I used to work at.

The water stop at Willwood gets my vote for prettiest

The water stop at Willwood gets my vote for prettiest “greenhouse” setting.

Already at the Penrose Cemetery water stop! There was a cattle grate across the cemetery entrance. Bugman suspected that, rather than keeping cattle out, it might be useful for keeping zombies in.

Already at the Penrose Cemetery water stop! We were making pretty good time on the ride, as the first 50 miles of the day’s ride were all a gentle downhill – good for a tandem! There was a cattle grate across the cemetery entrance. Bugman suspected that, rather than keeping cattle out, it might be useful for keeping zombies in.

The semi-arid landscape is not too green in late August without irrigation water from stored springtime snowmelt.

The semi-arid landscape is not too green in late August without irrigation water from stored springtime snowmelt.

Lunch in Lovell already?!? It's only 10:43 a.m.! I guess this is what the fast people experience every day. There was a small basket of pins for cyclists to take, which boasted of Lovell as The Rose City.

Lunch in Lovell already?!? It’s only 10:20 a.m.! I guess this is what the fast people experience every day. There was a small basket of pins for cyclists to take, which boasted of Lovell as The Rose City. I didn’t notice the roses, but I did notice the murals and businesses on the downtown’s main drag as we went through.

The Hyart Theater intrigued me.

The Hyart Theater intrigued me. I love that it’s still in operation, and that it has an interesting history. Because of the scarcity of metal when construction began in 1950, the trusses for the roof were made of salvaged train rails from “old mines at Bearcreek, Montana” – maybe the one we would pass on our route the following day?

The storage towers of the Western Sugar plant dominate the Lovell skyline - a familiar sight to someone from the North Platte River valley in Wyobraska!

The storage towers of the Western Sugar plant dominate the Lovell skyline – a familiar sight to someone from the North Platte River valley in Wyobraska! I got to tour my local sugar factory a few years ago. According to an article in the Powell Tribune, the Lovell factory towers measure 35 feet in diameter and are 165 feet tall. “Combined, they hold about 300 million pounds of sugar – enough for 500 million Snickers bars or 500 million cans of pop.”

These were not pieces of mining equipment. Rather, they are used for piling sugar beets. At beet harvest, the beets are stored in gigantic piles near the factories, which run full-tilt to process the beets ASAP, before the sugar content declines too much.

We saw a few of these along our route. They are not pieces of mining equipment. Rather, they are used for piling sugar beets. At fall beet harvest, the beets are stored in gigantic piles near the factories, which run full-tilt to process the beets ASAP, before the sugar content declines too much. Here’s a video clip of a piler in action.

Some highly photogenic longhorns near Cowley.

Some highly photogenic longhorns near Cowley.

The day was getting pretty warm. We planned to stop at the water stop in Deaver to refill our water bottles. But this happened:

I love surprise ice cream! Those sherbet

I love surprise ice cream! Those sherbet “cool tubes” rocked! (Though the bright color did scare me a bit.)

Near Powell, we passed several alfalfa fields with some puzzling structures in them. All the alfalfa in our area is grown for hay. Here, it was being grown for seed, which means pollination was necessary. The structures were housing for bees, probably alfalfa leafcutting bees!

Near Powell, we passed several alfalfa fields with some puzzling structures in them. All the alfalfa in our area is grown for hay. Here, it was being grown for seed, which means pollination was necessary. The structures were housing for bees, probably alfalfa leafcutting bees!

At the end of our ride, we got a boost from a kind cyclist who offered to let us draft him for a ways. We were going a solid 20 MPH there! Wheee! We arrived in Powell shortly after 1 p.m. – about 6 hours after we departed – an amazing time for an 80-mile ride, including rest stops and a lunch break!

We had plenty of time to get cleaned up and head to downtown Powell, and reason to go there as well – we were seeking air conditioning! It was hot out in the (smoke-hazed) sun! I was very glad we had the time. I enjoyed Powell!

We stopped in at the Powell Post Office, one of many to have gotten gussied up with murals in the 1930s.

“Powell’s Agriculture Resulting from the Shoshone Irrigation Project” by Verona Burkhard

Then there was the detour into WYold West Brewing Company, which clearly knows how to tap an audience as well as a keg.

Then there was the detour into WYOld West Brewing Company, which clearly knows how to tap an audience as well as a keg. The pub was just barely open, the restaurant and brewery still to be completed. I guess we’ll have to come back when they’re serving their own beers!

While Bugman went next door to grab some nachos, I went into the True Colors gift shop, which is the kind of place that you exit reeking of incense. The shop owner has a shelf on which she collects images around a different theme each year. This year it was bicycles!

I loved the

I loved the “bicycle sugar skulls” she’d framed from packages of DOMA coffee.

I made a purchase – something I’ve been coveting for a few years: a 7-year pen! Best of all, it had a bicycle design!

I swiped this image from the Walker Art Center shop's webpage. If you want a bicycle 7-year pen of your very own, check out the Walker Shop.

I swiped this image from the Walker Art Center shop’s webpage. If you want a bicycle 7-year pen of your very own, check out the Walker Shop.

Bugman and I took the nachos to a shaded downtown plaza and inhaled them. Then we went back to camp and stood in the dinner line. Ah, the joys of burning crazy amounts of calories for days on end!

Local volunteers came to help out a mealtimes. In Powell, it was the Red Hat Society. Thank you, ladies!

Groups of local volunteers came to help out at mealtimes. In Powell, it was the Red Hat Society. You can kind of pick out two of them in this picture, down at the meat trays. Thank you, ladies!

We had our final announcements session that night, the thank-yous and raffles and all that, since everyone would probably disperse pretty quickly after tomorrow’s ride, the last day – already!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention something cool that was brought up at the final announcements, of which I was unaware: four American Wounded Warriors were sponsored guests on this year’s CGY. I think this is a great program. And I bet the conditions on the ride this year were nothing compared with some of what these Veterans have gone through.

The weather wasn’t done with us quite yet. We were informed that high winds were expected in Powell, beginning around 11:30 p.m. The building on the fairgrounds where our meals were served would be kept open all night, in case we tent campers needed to take shelter.

When Bugman and I returned to our tent, our grasshopper tent marker had already blown off. We stowed him away for safe keeping, and pounded in a few extra tent stakes to make sure we’d stay grounded overnight.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 5: rest day in Cody

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's a very pretty ride down there in Shoshone Canyon.

It was a very pretty ride down there in Shoshone Canyon.

Tunnel!

Tunnel!

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 there to warn us of the grade, but nobody was there, perhaps because we'd gotten started late.

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

*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

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 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. Well done, cyclists!

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. 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.

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 flotsam logjam floating on the reservoir against the dam. Very visually interesting.

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.

flotsam closeupflotsam closeup 2

A picture of a picture from inside the visitor center, of one of the ways the floating debris is periodically cleaned up.

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 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 <3 disc brakes!

We rode the brakes all the way down that 17% grade. We ❤ disc brakes!

On the way back into town, we noticed the flag outside the Wapiti Ranger District Office of the Shoshone National Forest was at half-staff.

On the way back into town, we noticed the flag outside the Wapiti Ranger District Office of the Shoshone National Forest was at half-staff. We learned this was because of the deaths of three wildland firefighters in Washington the day before.

The smoke form western wildfires was hazing the skies for hundreds of miles across the country. Visibility in Cody was poor that day, as seen in this image I took as we climbed the bluff towards our campsite.

The smoke from wildfires in Washington and Idaho was hazing the skies for thousands of miles across the country. Visibility in Cody was poor that day, as seen in this image I took as we climbed the bluff towards our campsite.

Here's a different image of Cody from a similar vantage point, from when we were there with CGY in 2013.

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.

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.

bee on clover

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.

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.

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.

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 pods.

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!

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.

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

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

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 7 ride to Red Lodge

Day 6

Distance and elevation gain (per my mapping software): 84.29 miles, 3,037 feet

Min temp: 62, Max temp: 82, Winds 10-20, with a random gust of 49 between 3-4pm, Precipitation: 0.09 inches, mainly before the ride set out

The morning got off to a bit of a later start than we’d wanted. There was a long line at breakfast. The power in the kitchen truck had gone out that morning in the drizzle, so there was only one food line open for the first chunk of the morning. Since the dining canopy had blown down, the organizers had not wanted to have it up overnight again, so we sat on wet chairs around wet tables to eat. But the rain quit by the time it was time to hit the road.

Shoshone River northeast of Cody.

Shoshone River northeast of Cody.

Heart Mountain. I'd recognized its silhouette from the artwork I saw on display in the Cody library - done by a Japanese internment camp resident during WWII.

Heart Mountain. I’d recognized its silhouette from the artwork I saw on display in the Cody library – done by a Japanese internment camp resident during WWII. Don’t know the story about how the United States imprisoned thousands of innocent people? A stop at the Heart Mountain Interpretive Center might be in order. I’d heard Heart Mountain mentioned in hushed tones by some of the older Japanese women I met in western Nebraska.

We had a rest stop in Powell, Wyoming, where we momentarily got hung up on a curb at a traffic light. (I should not unclip when we stop for traffic. I best serve the tandem team by providing power on the start.) An older lady waved and waved at the cyclists from her front porch as we went by. That made me smile.

Beyond Powell, we entered high desert territory. It looked a lot like the scenery back home, but with less bunchgrass.

dfvdfv

This was a ya-hoo-hoo-hooey! downhill, especially with the wind suddenly buffeting us side to side. I tucked down out of the wind as much as I could to try to help stabilize the bike.

Our lunch stop on rocky high desert soil was buffered by cardboard boxes under our bums.

Our lunch stop on rocky high desert soil was buffered by cardboard boxes under our bums.

At the lunch stop was a booster club from the school in a nearby town: Belfry, Montana. When Bugman and I had driven past Belfry on our way to the ride earlier in the week, I said, “Oh, wouldn’t it be awesome if their school mascot was a bat?”

Guess what?

I am now the proud owner of a Belfry Bats booster club t-shirt.

AWESOME!!!

We had a rest stop at the Belfry school. I bought a couple of ibuprofen from the bike mechanics. My bum was mighty unhappy about being on that bicycle seat, despite the stand-and-pedal technique Bugman and I had worked out:

Call out “stand and pedal?” Get an affirmative. Call “off” to stop pedaling. Shift gears. Call “up.” Stand up and pedal for 20 counts, sitting down on the 20th. Shift gears. Resume pedaling the normal way.

I totally would have shopped in the Belfry Country Store, except they were closed - gone for a family event or something.

I totally would have shopped in the Belfry Country Store, except they were closed – gone for a family event or something.

There's the smoke from the dadgum fire that rerouted our bike tour.

There’s the smoke from the dadgummed fire that rerouted our bike tour.

Back in Belfry, a course monitor let us know we were just a few miles away from pie.

Pie, you say . . .?

Hungry Bear Cafe

Mmmm . . . pie . . .

Bearcreek has been better days. The highest and best use of this old building might just be bike parking.
Bearcreek has been better days. The highest and best use of this old building just might be bike parking.
Smith mine historic photo

Just outside Bearcreek is a historical marker on the Smith Mine Disaster. This photo was on the plaque near the marker.

present look of mine

Here is a present-day view of the mine site, left in memory of the 74 people who died in the 1943 explosion. A few of the miners lived long enough before being overcome by noxious gasses to leave notes behind. One such note engraved on the marker read: “Walter & Johnny. Goodbye Wives and Daughters. We died an easy death. Love from us both. Be good.”

And that last hill into Red Lodge . . . oh my . . .

3.5% AVERAGE grade for 7 miles . . . I think this included 2 miles of 7% grade . . .

It doesn't really show in this picture, but if you knew where to look, you could see some more bikes on the road waaay down there, which was part of the hill we'd just come up (there was more hill to go from here!).

The grade doesn’t really show in this picture, but if you knew where to look, you could see some more bikes on the road waaay back there, which was part of the hill we’d just come up (there was more hill to go from here!).

I felt pretty good when a passing cyclist complimented us on how well we were tackling the hill. (We were on a tandem – tough on the uphill, remember?)

I didn’t feel so good physically, but we made it all the way to the top without stopping. (And the pie stayed down!)

Beautiful, beautiful descent into Red Lodge!

Beautiful, beautiful descent into Red Lodge!

We rode right down the main street of town to a park at the “official finish.” I heard some pedestrians gasp “They just rode 500 miles!” (Not quite, but I’ll accept the awe and admiration all the same.)

As we snacked on a frozen chocolate malt and tried to politely back away from an overly talkative community booster, a firefighter helicopter hoisted a load of water into the sky from the airport atop the hill west of town.

fire copter

All the downtown business windows sported small yellow signs: "thank YOU firefighters"

All the downtown business windows sported small yellow signs: “thank YOU firefighters!”

Bugman and I briefly stopped by the baggage drop area in a park a few blocks north, then biked the final-final mile of the ride back to our car on the fairgrounds adjacent to the airport. That last hill included a segment of 10% grade. A biker headed in their car the other direction rang a cowbell of encouragement as she passed. I appreciated that.

When we got back to the car, the power locks seemed kind of slow. Got the bike up on the car, ready to leave, turn the key and . . . nothing. Dead battery!

Remember back on day 0 when we headed out on our trip, and the radio quit working? Well, the radio must have come back to life, because the stuck CD had been spit out, and our battery was dead.

I grabbed our jumper cables (which, ironically, we had received as a wedding gift 15 years earlier) and stood by the side of the road through the fairgrounds making the “thumbs down” sign, and the next biker headed out with his car stopped to give us a jump.

We motored back to the baggage area and took turns going back to get our bags so we could leave the engine running and keep the alternator charging the battery.

A mighty fine-looking porter. Raowr.

A mighty fine-looking porter. Raowr!

We got checked in at the lovely Pollard and took lovely showers.

Then we went scrounging for food. (When you’re burning an extra 1,500-3,500 calories a day, food suddenly becomes an obsession.)

Our first meal was at Más Taco.

Chips and salsa

Chips and salsa

The yummy something Bugman ordered.

The yummy something Bugman ordered.

My scrumptious tacos.

My delish tacos.

Next stop: Montana Candy Emporium. While this shop is not necessarily tops in terms of sheer variety of candy (perhaps they were letting their stock diminish in the lead-up to the slow winter season?), it is better than most and has a bonus atmosphere created by old shop cases and scads of random antiques to gaze at.

Giant chocolate-covered caramel marshmallows on sticks. With sprinkles.

Giant chocolate-covered caramel marshmallows on sticks. With sprinkles.

Our second meal was at the Red Lodge Pizza Co. Did not take a photo, but the pizza was excellent. So was the company. We recognized a fellow cyclist, an Australian, across the way, eating alone, so we invited him to join our table.

After second dinner, we and the Aussie hiked just north of town towards Sam’s Tap Room at the Red Lodge Ales brewery where the ride afterparty was being held (Red Lodge Ales was another ride sponsor).

On our walk to and fro, we saw a bat, an owl, and a deer.

The music in the taproom was too dang loud, so we went into the bar area instead.

Another brewery pint glass to add to our collection!

Another brewery pint glass to add to our collection!

We had toyed with the idea of getting up early the following morning and riding the reopened Beartooth Pass, but Bugman had a work meeting on Monday morning.

We slept well and deeply, ate a filling breakfast, and headed home.

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 6 out-and-back from Cody

Day 5

Distance and elevation gain (per my mapping software): 51.53 miles, 1,472 feet

Min temp: 50, Max temp: 95, Winds 10-15, with some crazy gusts between 3-4 am and 3-4 pm Precipitation: none

“That’s not how I wanted to start my morning!”

That was the voice I heard, sometime after the winds in Cody picked up around 3 am, sometime after the dining canopy came down with a crash. (Luckily the canopy was downwind from all the campers and no one was hurt).

Today was the day for the Alternate Route.

Today we were supposed to ride from Cody to Red Lodge. However, our campsite at Red Lodge had been taken over by a firefighter crew, and with the fire so close to our planned Saturday route through Beartooth Pass, it was deemed prudent to cancel that particular ride.

In two days’ time, the ride organizers got all the permissions required to send us 700 cyclists on an out-and-back course on South Fork Road. (Local cyclists had recommended riding out the North Fork Highway, but there was road construction, and the ride permit could not be secured for that route.)

Headed west on Yellowstone Avenue.

Headed west on Yellowstone Avenue.

A Wyoming ranch gate. Classic!

A Wyoming ranch gate. Classic!

400 cattle feet ahead? OK, so, doing the math, that would make 100 head of cattle?

Cattle, 400 feet ahead? OK, so, doing the math, that would make 100 head of cattle?

The SAG vehicle drivers had gotten creative about distinguishing their rides. Death before SAG!

At the 25-mile turnaround already! The SAG vehicle drivers had gotten creative about distinguishing their rides. Death before SAG!

A cormorant on Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

A cormorant on Buffalo Bill Reservoir. (It’s that little black dot on the water.)

When we returned to Cody, we had a lot of time to kill.

We biked down to Pat O’Hara Brewing Company, which is so new, it is not yet selling its own beer on tap. And we visited Buffalo Jump Winery, for which we had a wine tasting coupon.

It was the last full evening in camp (sigh), so the announcements were full of end-of-ride thank-yous. A raffle drawing was held, and the guy who won the trip to Mexico was reeeealllly excited. I think I know how he felt. I would have been excited, too, if someone had granted me the ability to extend my vacation.

Because of the change in schedule, there was no in-camp entertainment that night. We bikers were all encouraged to head downtown for some local entertainment. Bugman and I popped into a few downtown stores, but after our early awakening, we were tired and went to bed early.

Day 7

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 5 hitching to Cody

Day 4

No biking to report on, since we rode in a car over Chief Joseph Pass. Not a whole lot of pictures, either.

The dining tents at sunrise under Pilot Peak. Since we weren’t riding, and since there we were in a wilderness area with no community volunteers, Bugman and I helped the volunteer crew, packing up tables and chairs and loading bags onto the gear truck. (There were definitely bags exceeding the 65-pound weight limit. The people with the heavy bags should have been sentenced to bag-hauling duty, IMHO.)

Our ride stopped at Absaroka Bicycles (for the record, it’s pronounced ab-SOR-ka or, to some, ab-SOR-kee) in Cody so we could check in. I plugged in my near-dead phone and was able to check my email and the tracking updates on our bike rim – it had been loaded onto a truck in Cody that morning and would arrive at the bike shop before noon. The guys at the shop knew whose truck it would be on, even. (Not surprising. Cody’s population is less than 10,000 people.)

The original plan had been to pick up the parts and take everything back to camp for the mechanics to work on. However, the guys at the shop had blocked out time to build the wheel for us, one of the guys mentioned that he was a certified wheel-builder and had talked with the bike manufacturer about specs, and it seemed best to get it done sooner rather than later. We agreed to pick our bike off the gear truck when it arrived and wheel it over to the shop, which was only a couple of blocks from our campsite at the Park County complex.

Our ride dropped us off at the Park County Public Library so we could charge our phones and wait for the gear truck.

The library is GORGEOUS!

I wandered out around 11 to see if any help was needed in assembling camp that day. (No need for help – there were plenty of Boy Scouts on hand.) Soon, I spotted the gear truck. I approached the truck captains about getting our bike out when it was convenient, and they dropped what they were doing to help. (Wow! Thanks, guys!! Really appreciated!!!)

At the bike shop, Bryce the Wheel Builder and, I believe, Rick, the shop owner, consulted online guides to make sure they knew how to take apart our Rohloff wheel hub, since they’d not encountered one before. As we spoke with Rick about this, he pointed out that if we were going to get serious about long-distance touring, we would probably want to downgrade our bike to something more common. Otherwise, we’d risk getting stuck waiting for parts (case in point!) and would probably need to learn to do most of the maintenance ourselves. Rick and Bryce also walked us through lessons on modern bike wheel geometry and materials, how the weight of a bike is supported across the spokes, and the benefits of having a higher number of “holes” in the hub (for a higher number of spokes) on touring bikes (or tandems) carrying more weight than a normal bike. Bryce also got to talking about some of the other long-distance riders he has built wheels for, some of whom have sent in postcards hundreds of miles later, saying that the wheels he built were still holding true. He about gets a tear in his eye when a wheel he has built goes out into the wild, wide world.

(Note: Bryce tightened up the spokes on our front wheel again, too. As I type this, the spokes on our rear BryceBuilt wheel are still firmly in place. The spokes on the front wheel, which was built elsewhere? At all different tensions again. You can’t beat a BryceBuilt!)

In summary, I can highly recommend Absaroka Bicycles and the folks who work there. Check them out if you are in Cody!

Awesome bike shop in Cody, Wyoming, on the south side of town, in a strip mall: 2201 17th St # 7, 307-527-5566

While our wheel was being built, we followed a recommendation and headed downtown to the Irma Hotel for lunch. The food was okay, but, man, was the interior of that place interesting to eyeball. It was built in 1902 for “Buffalo Bill” Cody and still has its original cherrywood bar.

We wheeled our bike back to camp and parked in the bike parking, which was created by stringing sturdy ropes between trees or metal posts.

Bike parking in Cody. There's another tandem in there - see?

Bike parking in Cody. There’s another tandem in there – see it?

We ended our day with a trip to the farmers market, coming away with a cinnamon roll nearly as big as my head. We sat down by our tent to share the treat, which attracted plenty of attention from passers-by. It was our wedding anniversary "cake." I have been blessed to have spent 15 years with you, dear Bugman. Cheers to another happy 15!

We ended our day with a trip to the farmers market, coming away with a cinnamon roll nearly as big as my head. We sat down by our tent to share the treat, which attracted plenty of attention from passers-by. It was our wedding anniversary “cake.” I have been blessed to have spent 15 years with you, dear Bugman. Cheers to another happy 15!

We had a little rain prior to evening announcements. On another topic - see that little green tent with three holes in it? Those ZeroHero recycling stations were posted in all of our camps. Over the course of a week, we were trained in the fine art of recycling: recycle, compost, trash, paper, cardboard. The ride organizers wanted to reduce the footprint of all us riders in these small communities - thus, the recycling, and also the encouragement for all the riders to bring mess kits, so we could further reduce resource use. There were wash/rinse/sanitize stations at each camp for those few of us who used our own plates/cups/utensils. Frankly, I think I avoided weight gain by using my petite camping bowl/dish to control portion sizes instead of using the monster paper plates the caterers made available.

We had a little rain prior to evening announcements. On another topic – see that little bronwish-green tent with three holes in it at left? Those ZeroHero recycling stations were posted in all of our camps. Over the course of a week, we were trained in the fine art of recycling: recyclables, compost, trash, paper, cardboard. The ride organizers wanted to reduce the footprint of all us riders in these small communities – thus, the recycling, and also the encouragement for all the riders to bring mess kits, so we could further reduce resource use. There were wash/rinse/sanitize stations at each camp for those few of us who used our own plates/cups/utensils. Frankly, I think I avoided weight gain by using my petite camping bowl/dish to control portion sizes instead of using the monster paper plates the caterers made available.

While everyone else that evening was raving about the fantastic views from the day’s ride over Chief Joseph Pass, we plugged our ears.

Lalala! We don’t want to hear about what we missed!

We’ve got to make it back there someday . . .

Day 6

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycle Greater Yellowstone

How do I even begin to describe the experience that was the “first great ride in the last best place”?

Wowza!

This was my and Bugman’s first-ever cycle tour, which we completed on our tandem to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary on August 22. We’ve got the date for the 2014 Cycle Greater Yellowstone blocked out on our calendar already. How’s that for an endorsement?

The gist: some 700 cyclists and about 100 support crew and volunteers in a week’s time circumnavigated the north borderlands of Yellowstone National Park in this inaugural bike ride (route to change in subsequent years). The point of the ride was not just to provide an unmatched cycling experience but also to introduce a new crowd of people to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the issues the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (not to be confused with the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee) is bringing to light, and to make connections with the communities surrounding the park.

The towns we stayed in or near are marked on this map: West Yellowstone, Ennis, Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City, Cody, Red Lodge.

The towns we stayed in or near are marked on this map: West Yellowstone, Ennis, Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City, Cody, Red Lodge.

I’ve gone deep into an Internet wormhole looking up information about the park and the ecosystem to include in this epic series of blog posts. I won’t come close to scratching the surface on the complexity of this region. I’ll try to touch on a few points here and there, but how’s this for a summary:

Yellowstone was established as the world’s first national park in 1872. The U.S. Army protected the park from poachers and other opportunists until 1917, when the park was transferred to the newly-created National Park Service.

From what I understand, the park boundaries were drawn up a bit arbitrarily, mostly with geologic considerations in mind. That creates some challenges when you start thinking in terms of functioning ecosystems, which, in the case of Yellowstone, has been estimated to encompass 20 million acres – not just the ~2 million acres in the park itself. The park’s iconic megafauna – the bison, elk, bears, and wolves that are the symbols of Yellowstone – rely on ecosystem webs that extend well outside the park boundaries. (And, in the case of climate change, which is affecting the whitebark pine and causing ripple effects throughout the system, the ecosystem webs extend well outside our nation’s boundaries.)

Arbitrary human boundaries create another complexity: jurisdiction. Within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the following governmental entities, at minimum, have authority: Department of the Interior National Park Service, Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Agriculture Forest Service; administrations at two national parks, six national forests, and two national wildlife refuges; the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho; and a large number of local jurisdictions (counties, towns, conservation districts, irrigation districts, etc.).

Which points to another issue facing the region: what is the highest and best use of this land in the Yellowstone region? You’ll get a different answer depending on which person or governmental agency you ask. Wildlife protection. Tourism development. Economic development. Vacation homes. Mining, Agriculture. Ranching. Energy extraction. Camping, Fishing. Hiking. Boating. Hunting. Snowmobiling. Horseback riding. Bike riding … the list goes on and on.

Thus, the need for a coalition of interested parties to come together, work together, and work through the tangle of competing interests.

Which brings me back to the bike ride designed to bring some more interested parties to the table . . .

I must say – this was a VERY well-organized ride.

Some people booked hotel rooms in communities along the way, but most people camped. Bugman and I used the “tent sherpa” service. It was very nice having our tent put up and taken down for us every day – especially on the days when it rained. This tour provided ALL meals through a catering service that is accustomed to feeding wildland firefighters. Between those hearty meals and the well-stocked rest stops, I think I probably GAINED weight while pedaling 380-plus miles including 10,000-feet-plus of climbing. Another definite plus: the shower trucks! Two semi trucks outfitted with individual shower stalls and on-demand hot water! True luxury!!! Other amenities included SAG vehicle support, on-course bike mechanics, gear transport service, and nightly live entertainment.

I’ll give a truncated day-by-day recounting of each day, with photos. Check it out under the following links:

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 0 West Yellowstone

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 1 ride to Ennis

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 2 ride to Livingston

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 3 ride to Gardiner

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 4 bus tour of Yellowstone National Park

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 5 hitching to Cody

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 6 out-and-back from Cody

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 7 ride to Red Lodge
Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw