2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 7: Ennis to Bozeman

When the alarm on my watch started beeping at 4:45 a.m., I did not want to leave the warmth of my sleeping bag – my tent was cozy, my air mattress just the right firmness. But, the final day of riding Cycle Greater Yellowstone was at hand, and the route opened early today – 6:30 a.m. – to make sure the bulk of riders would make it through the canyon area east of Norris during our window of law enforcement support and before weekend traffic got too crazy.

At breakfast, everyone was bundled up in their cold-weather riding gear.

1 chilly morning

I was so grateful for the hot coffee, which defrosted a small portion of the table and warmed my hands.

2 frosty table

Mist was rising from the pond in Lions Park. That white dot on the water bottom right is the reflection of the moon.

3 pond mist

We hit the road at 6:45 a.m., along with another couple on a tandem – an unusual custom rig designed for the smaller rider to be in the front. We saw a total of three tandems on the ride this year, in addition to ours.

4 fellow tandem 1

Here’s another shadow shot of us on our tandem, since we didn’t get any photos of us on the ride aside from the camp shot on Day 1.

5 tandem shadow

The Saturday morning traffic out of Ennis wasn’t much more relaxed than the inbound traffic the day before, with several drivers feeling the need to lay on the horn to tell us we cyclists don’t deserve to be on the road. (At least that’s how I interpreted it. Perhaps I can be an optimist and think the horn blast was instead a gesture of support?)

6 honker

Rolling out into the morning.

7 rolling into the morning

Somewhere in this field, between the glistening barbed wire and the misty pond, sandhill cranes were having a croaking conversation.

8 morning sun

About 7 miles into the ride, we passed a pullout signposted as a chain up area. That’s when you know you’re in for a heckuva climb. I rather enjoyed this climb. It got me good and warmed up, and because there were two lanes on the uphill climb, traffic felt a lot more relaxed. It was also nice to have an opportunity to stop midway up the hill to remove layers (and take pictures). Here’s a cyclist conquering the hill. (It’s Jeff from Alberta, I believe.)

9 conquering the hill

Despite the heat generated from the climb, extremities could still be cold. Here, tandem captain Jim takes the opportunity to warm up his hands.

10 warm up hands

Jim and Janice passed us on the second phase of the uphill climb. Like me, Janice had the job title of tandem stoker / team photographer – several times I saw her wielding a camera from the back seat.

11 fellow tandem 2

Usually, after a climb like this you can enjoy a bit of downhill. For me the downhill into Norris wasn’t particularly enjoyable. This was partly because the windchill on the descent left me gasping and slightly dizzy, probably from hyperventilating from the plunge into the chill. But also because of traffic.

12 tense descent

On account of the narrow shoulder with occasional debris and the difficulty of spotting road hazards as our path alternated between shadow and sunlight, safety on the higher-speed descent dictated that we ride in the lane. One driver – in a maroon car with tinted windows – decided that this was an affront to common decency, and they passed us at exceedingly close range, laying on the horn. To work out the angerdrenalin, I started shouting made-up cuss words, à la A Christmas Story (after getting permission from my tandem captain so as not to startle him). An invented transcript follows:

RANGBOOTLEFIGGERSCHNARK!
SIXTABLASTIDHANGDAFARGG!
HEGDOGGLETIZADONGER!
AAARRRRGH!

Shortly afterwards, an oncoming driver apparently missed seeing us and decided to pull into our lane to pass another vehicle, threatening us with obliteration in a head-on collision. Thankfully, Bugman anticipated this move, and we slowed down and got as far right as we could without running off the road. Defensive driving pays!

I am really not a fan of riding on Highway 287 in Montana. But in a rural area, sometimes that’s the only option for getting from point A to point B.

By the time we passed this giant roadside boom box in Norris (what up, Norris?), my nerves were shot.

13-norris-boom-bax

We stopped at the rest stop to recalibrate. On account of the traffic, cyclists were asked to dismount and walk through the crosswalk to get to the rest stop. (View looking back towards the hill we had just descended. The next part of the route goes left in this photo, onto Highway 84.)

14-walk-bikes

I was ever so glad to leave Highway 287 behind and turn east onto Highway 84. It was a gradual, curving descent along Hot Springs Creek to its confluence with the Madison River. Lovely! A favorite route segment! We took advantage of a pullout to let an RV pass us and to take some pictures.

15-along-madison-river

I attempted to get a silhouette photo of some fly fishers, but my camera focused on the opposite bank, capturing instead some of the thousands of sunlit flying insects that stood out against the darkness of the shaded trees. “Good trout food,” Bugman commented.

16-lflies-and-fishing

Nine out of ten cyclists prefer Clif Bars to rumble bars. At the lowest point of the road, near a turnout for a recreational area, there were tooth-rattling (for a cyclist) full-lane rumble bar boxes in each direction. Because, you know, drivers need reminders to slow down.

17-rumble-bars

Another reminder to slow down was the state trooper patrol the CGY organizers had hired to watch over driver behavior on this winding, shoulderless road (see the lead vehicle, with the light bar in the rear window). I was grateful for the protection – it made a difference. We didn’t have any really scary or discourteous encounters with vehicles on this stretch of road. It’s sad that it takes direct supervision to ensure that drivers don’t needlessly endanger or antagonize cyclists. Or, maybe it was just chance.

20-law-enforcement

My view from the back of the tandem. Not bad.

18-my-view

Fishers, two kinds.

19-fishers-two-kinds

Our riverside rest stop at mile 29:

21-riverside-rest-stop

I wasn’t the only one capturing the scenery.

22-photo-opp

The road down to the rest area was fairly steep, gravelly and washboarded. We, and a few other cyclists, decided to hoof it out of there.

23-walk-the-gravel-hill

On the other side of the rest area pullout, a volunteer flagged traffic to alert them to the cyclists that would be pulling out. Three cheers for CGY volunteers!

24-awesome-volunteers

If you’ve been riding along a river valley, chances are, you’re going to need to climb up out of that valley. The view behind us was lovely!

25-another-hill

As I was grinding away on the uphill, I had ample time to contemplate my newly-purchased Greater Yellowstone Coalition cycling gloves and the punny thought that I was now prepared if ever I got into a bear-knuckle brawl. Ha!

26-bear-knuckles

Our final destination of Bozeman was near! We could see signage! But, still, so far! It would be another long 13 miles before we could get off the bike for the day at mile 59. I was soooo grateful for the rest stop in a residential area at about mile 48. Props to the gear drop van for ensuring we didn’t miss the RIGHT TURN!

27-right-turn

Three elements of Montana: wheat, mountain, and sky.

28-three-montana-elements

A picturesque barn. I wondered how many hundreds of barns we saw on our ride.

29-montana-barn

T-H-E  E-N-D

We ended our ride at GYC’s HQ in Bozeman around 1 p.m., where there was a BBQ lunch in the parking lot.

30-the-end-at-cgy-hq

I was more than glad to get off the bike. My saddle sores were killing me. We couldn’t bear to sit on the saddle again for the last mile from the finish area to the fairgrounds where our car was parked, so we walked. (My gait might’ve had a touch of a bowlegged waddle.)

We picked up our bags, loaded the bike onto the car and checked in (15 minutes early) to our hotel in downtown Bozeman – The Lark. I approve of the place. Nice patio, and the rooms are well equipped. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to try to use a hotel bed frame to open a bottle.)

31-hotel-bottle-opener

After showers and a snooze, feeling slightly more human, we headed out to wander Bozeman one last time.

32-bozeman-garbage

I loved seeing other riders wearing the t-shirts from the ride. It made for solidarity moments when we encountered each other. I loved this year’s shirt (color, softness, route map graphic), and was very glad to get it. Contrary to all prior years of the ride, we weren’t supposed to have gotten shirts as part of our registration swag. Instead, the plan was to give everyone a branded mess kit to use during the ride, to reduce our environmental impact versus using disposable plates and cups. Alas, the mess kits – ordered from China – got stuck in customs and didn’t arrive in time. Honestly, I liked the last-minute surprise t-shirt better. (I already have a mess kit anyway, which I’d used in previous years.) It’s just really fun seeing the flood of CGY shirts unleashed on the final day.

32-shirt-2

We ducked into a restaurant and wound up ordering more food than we could eat. Judging by the light fixtures and how my leftover pizza was wrapped, I deduced that the MacKenzie River Pizza Company takes its Montana cattle theme seriously.

33-cattle-theme-extreme

I was ever so glad for the night’s sleep and the chance to take pressure off my posterior before driving home. I was a lot more comfortable sitting in the car the next day than I had been on the short drive to the hotel.

Will we be at next year’s CGY? I don’t know. It may depend on the route. Also, the time commitment to train for the challenging ride has been hard to sustain over the years. And we’re considering an international vacation tied to Bugman’s research that would eat up our vacation time and budget. But it’s been a heckuva ride these last few years, and I’m glad to have been a part of it!

day 7 stats
59 miles
2,362 feet of climb
11.6 mph avg
low temp 40
high temp 80
precip 0
wind 4-9 g 10 SE

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 6: Dillon to Ennis

There was much joking (and grumbling) in camp that morning about the belltower clock somewhere in downtown Dillon that chimed the hour and half hour – All. Night. Long. Needless to say, many of us started Day 6 short on shuteye.

Bicycle steeds, waiting for their riders:

1 bike tree

The morning light pouring across the topography was most atmospheric. Painterly, even.

2 morning light

The colors of hay money: green and gold. The blueberry bruise of the sky in the distance indicated the rain that managed to miss us. The wind did not miss us. For 28 miles we bucked headwinds of about 9 to 25 miles per hour, gusting to 33. (What would a ride out West be without wind?) Oy!

3 money is green and gold

Sheep! (And a few goats.)

4 sheep

The sky northeast, the source of the wind, was a study of blue and gray.

5 clouds and cabin

A potato field. I could tell it was potatoes because a few of the plants on the edge of the field had the telltale white flowers.

6 potato field

Gosh, would you look at those mountains? The play of the light across the landscape mesmerized me. (Good thing I was on the back of the tandem and wasn’t “driving.”)

7 painterly mountains

Gosh!!! (And my pictures don’t do justice to the quality of the light.)

8 more painterly mountains

At a rest stop, one of the bike mechanics loaned me his binoculars (they have everything!) so I could scope out the waterfowl in the wetland down below: white pelicans and blue herons and assorted unidentifiable ducks.

9 wetland

The Beaverhead for which Beaverhead County is named. Also known as Point of Rocks. From this angle, it makes me think of a massive being that’s either groaning up out of or slinking into the earth.

10 point of rocks

On account of the narrow shoulder and the wind – particularly the wind, the traffic on this road was mighty unpleasant – particularly the trucks. At one point, we picked up a struggling rider in our draft who audibly gasped when a semi truck would rush by at an uncomfortably close distance. (As I can speculate the RV driver gasped when, just as they were passing us on our tandem, a couple of cyclists behind us decided to pass us at the same moment. Equal opportunity dumb moves out there.) I was not a fan of this road or the truck traffic. I was, however, a fan of this mailbox:

11 truck mailbox

Because of the wind, cyclists were grouping up in drafting lines, which saves a lot of energy for the riders behind, who don’t have to expend as much energy as the lead rider. There’s supposed to be a rotation so the lead person can fall back and rest while someone else takes a turn pulling the group. But poor, poor tandem riders. Nobody ever wants to pull us in their draft. Everybody drafts us and takes advantage of our energy and thanks us and says they will buy us a beer, but they never do. If anyone’s reading this who said they’d buy us a beer for drafting, how’s about you make a donation to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition instead, since that’s where the money from the beer tent went.

12 battling the wind

By the time we got to the rest stop at Twin Bridges, we were pretty bonked from fighting the wind. A cashew and Nutella sandwich was a-mazing!

13 cashew and nutella sandwich

But I wanted something hot. Coffee, specifically. Rather than fight the wind and traffic to traverse the couple of blocks from the rest stop to downtown Twin Bridges, we hoofed it along the narrow bridge sidewalk in search of a coffee shop.

14 walking to coffee

Google told us there were several coffee shops along and near the main drag in Twin Bridges. Google lied. We found faded signs and closed signs and nearly despaired until we saw a coffee shop attached to a grocery store. Such a cute painting in the window!

16 colorful window

Just inside the door, next to the checkout, were c-store-style coffee and soda dispensers and a few tables from which a couple of men in ballcaps watched us with closed expressions. I took a left into the liquor department, which was also a cafe and coffee shop and gift shop. I loved the décor: flowery umbrellas and deer mounts.

15 decorative coffee shop

The customer ahead of us, with whom we chatted about the weather, had ordered some sandwiches to go, so it took a good many minutes before we were able to order our coffees, meaning we were falling further and further behind the ranks of cyclists. Oh well. The wait was totally worth it to me. It helped my mood and energy level immensely. Well, that and also getting to turn the corner so our headwind was now a sidewind.

Rolling out of Twin Bridges, I saw that the bank sign alerted drivers of our presence. WATCH FOR BIKERS * ON ROAD TO ENNIS.

17 watch for bikers

Happy trails! Yes! Same to you, Twin Bridges! DRIVE CAREFUL, all you drivers. We’ve got 42 miles to Ennis.

18 happy trails

At the rest stop, hearsay was that a rider had grumbled something like, “We’re doing all this work riding into the wind, and the scenery isn’t even that good.” I took this picture just to dispute that latter assertion. This isn’t good scenery? Wow, whoever said that must live in a REALLY beautiful place!

19 barn

Random photo interlude for my family: look at the Union 76 ball peeking out from behind the old structure! (My dad used to work for that company.)

20 union 76 ball

Time to “look at the historical point” (AKA take a rest). This sign mentioned both the Innocents Gang and the Vigilantes. We’re totally talking Wild West here, folks. Also – dang, wish the coffee shack was open.

21 historical point breather

Saw a deer traipsing about in the shrubbery.

22 deer

At the lunch stop at a garden center, I instinctively moved out of the sun, but I was almost too chilly in the shade. One of the support vans made light of the day’s weather conditions. What else can you do but laugh about it?

23 singin in the wind

Back of the pack again – the crew was tearing down the lunch stop by the time we headed out onto the road. Thanks to the coffee earlier, I was still feeling pretty good. Bugman, on the other hand, was struggling. That’s the bummer – or the blessing – about a tandem: sometimes when one person bonks, the other person’s fine. My bonk day was yesterday. Today was Bugman’s.

24 packing up lunch

My view from the back of the tandem. Not bad. (Looks a lot like the bluffs of Wyobraska.)

25 my view

Building ruins. Not surprising, given the location we were riding in: Alder Gulch, which was called “Fourteen-mile City” during the gold boom times in the 1860s, because of all the people who settled along the corridor.

26 ruins

To our right I could see piles of rocks scattered across the landscape. I thought at first it was a construction site, but the piles went on and on and on.

27 alder gulch

Turns out, the landscape of Alder Gulch is pretty much one long landscape scar of hundred-years-ago gold dredging. (Thank you, historic point, for the timely info and excuse to rest.)

27 gold dredges

Ah, we must be at Virginia City, which ride organizers said would be a good place to stop. But wait – it says Virginia City AND Nevada City. Twin Cities?

28 14 mile city

Nevada City was first. This architecture baffled me. Was it nouveau faux mining style, or some really over-the-top historic miners’ homes? Since it doesn’t show up on the walking tour of Nevada City, I’m going to assume it’s nouveau faux.

29 curious architecture

Only about a mile to Virginia City, but what a long mile it was. This shade tree looked very, very inviting. If there’d been a hammock, we wouldn’t have made it past this point.

30 shade tree

Made it! The hitching post makes a convenient bike rack. We were told to seek out the ice cream at Virginia City. We tried the ice cream at the place in this photo (which building you can see a historical photo of on this page.) Then we discovered that another place up the street had superior ice cream. So we had some more.

31 hitching post as bike rack

While I was marveling at the old brick of one of the buildings, Bugman found another bug. “Some kind of longhorn beetle.”

32 another bug

I stopped to read a history plaque or two. I thought this story was pretty cool. An African-American woman owned and operated the Virginia City’s water utility company around the turn of the century.

33 sarah bickford

This mailbox padlock caught my eye. It looked old. There are similar ones for sale on Ebay, but I couldn’t get information about its history or confirmation of its obsolescence. Google-fu fail.

34 letter box lock

A pie in the window. Too cute!

35 pie in window

A street view on the main drag of Virginia City. Too bad cars are allowed here. Overall, Virginia City (and Nevada City) seemed on their surfaces to be kinda kitschy and touristy. Many of the older buildings are replicas or buildings moved from other places. But these stone and brick structures? Those, I bet, are authentic. Many of them had National Register of Historic Places plaques on them. I’m frustrated I can’t find an online source of information about the buildings in the town, or even a book. (Google-fu fail #2.) I really would like to come back here and learn more about the buildings.

36 stone buildings

Given that Bugman was wearing out and I was pretty tired, and that there were sag vans in Virginia City, we opted to sag the next couple of miles up a nasty 1,200-foot climb.

37 sag again

We sagged again with Thomas in the gear drop van. This time, Bugman was the tired one, so he rode up front. I rode in the back with the bike. From my vantage out the rear window, I saw that several other cyclists were walking up the grade. It was a tough climb at the end of a long day. I’m glad we sagged.

39 the view from the sag

We didn’t sag all the way to camp this time, though. Instead, Thomas dropped us at the rest station at the summit, so we could ride the triumphant descent into Ennis. As we were preparing to take off, I saw a train of what I remember to be three double-trailer bottom-dump trucks rumble past. There was virtually no shoulder on this road. I could feel dread in the pit of my stomach. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this.

We lucked out and timed things just right, so no vehicles passed us on the main part of the descent. All the same, it was not a very fun descent. With the crosswind, at higher speeds you really had to concentrate not to get blown over. Bugman had the hard work as captain of the tandem. I mostly just hunkered down in the back, tried not to move too much, and tried not to think about what might happen if a truck passed us in this wind, on this road. The view was beautiful, but the dropoff was waa-hoo-hooo-hoooey!

41 thinking about death

On a clear bend with a bit of shelter from the wind, we maxed out around 35 miles per hour. That was brief, though, and, with motorized vehicle traffic behind us, we soon pulled over to catch our breath and get out of the way. With all the wind, and on a descent, the cyclists needed to take the lane rather than hug the shoulder to be safe. This, I think, royally pissed off a few drivers who had to slow down. I witnessed a couple unnecessary-layings-on-of-the-horn and a display of an extended middle finger. It was not very fun. I was thankful to get out of traffic in one piece and get into camp to shower and start to unwind.

42 around the curve

While standing in line at the beet tent, I had a cute attack over the band doing a warmup/sound check. Have baby, will banjo. 😀

43 banjo and baby

At announcements that night, we got very sad news. The cyclist who’d had a heart attack on the route the day before had died. His name was Jerry Parker, and he was a pretty righteous dude. We were later able to confirm that he was, indeed, the “older gent” we’d been with on the descent of Badger Pass. I deeply regret that I did not take a photo of him as we passed him on that glorious descent in the last hours of his life. I hope his family is able to find peace in the fact that he met his end in a beautiful place, accompanied by kindred spirits.

The sunset in camp that night was beautiful. (Cheers to you, Jerry.) I was so grateful that we were camped in the lush Lions Club Park adjacent to the Madison River, rather than the dry, shadeless campsite in a vacant field we’d made do with in 2013.

44 sunset in camp

The last night in camp is always a touch lugubrious. All the fellow traveling-circus-dwellers start their last goodbyes, and the concentrated activity of camp begins to relax and dissipate.

Bugman and I strolled around Ennis’ main drag. I rued the fact that several shops with interesting things in their windows were closed. Someone earlier had mentioned stopping in town for some buffalo wings. With my dinner well on its path to digestion, I was feeling kind of hungry again. Bugman and I stopped at a restaurant for some buffalo wings.

I slept better in Ennis than I had slept in a week. Maybe it was the buffalo wings.

Day 6 stats
68.9 miles
1,594 climb
11.7 mph avg for most of ride, 16.9 mph average on the downhill into camp
low temp 46
high temp 70
precip 0
wind 9-25 g 33 NE

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 5: Dewey to Dillon

My journal entry for the morning of Day 5 reads:

Best moment of day? Watching moon set over pine-spiked mountains, listening to a stream rushing over smoothed rocks – trout sleeping in the current, drinking a cup of steaming coffee.

As we set out on the road, our trunk bag was packed to bursting with rain jackets and pants and shoe covers, in the event that the predicted rain materialized. (It never did.) Last evening’s rain hadn’t turned the campsite into a muck pit, but it had made the top layer of sandy soil very clingy. We’d used a rock to scrape the sandy mud off our tires. I caught a cyclist performing the “cleat mud kick maneuver.”

2 cleat mud kick

Dewey has a couple of very lovely old log barns.

1 dewey log barns

Seemed like our shadows were unusually long that morning.

3 long shadows

Foggy remnants of night crouched in the still-shaded corner of the valley.

4 valley fog

Just past the Wise River Club, we turned onto the Pioneer Scenic Byway.

5 wind river club

We were warned to be on the lookout.

6 cows on road

But the only bovids we saw were the epitome of orderliness. (Look how they’re lined up!)

7 orderly cattle

This is my favorite picture from the whole ride, captured as we passed the Wise River Airport. Multimodal transport: bike + jet fuel.

8 multimodal transport

The morning was all about stopping. Not necessarily because of the climb, but often to shed garments as the day warmed, or simply to take in the scenery.

There were numerous lupines still blooming amid the grasses at the roadside.

9 lupine

Some folks stopped to shed their gear and marvel at a yardful of bric-a-brac.

10 junk stop

Bridge-side photo op.

11 bridge stop

This is dang purty countryside.

12 beautiful cliff and river

Saw plenty of scarlet paintbrush in bloom. Also a good amount of fireweed.

13 fireweed

While I was taking a picture of the fireweed, I noticed a wild raspberry plant nearby. It had two tiny ruby fruits on it. Bugman and I each ate one. They were amazing little seedy bursts of sweet raspberry essence.

14 raspberry

Calm water.

15 calm stream

Rushing water.

16 bubbling stream

Wet meadow.

17 wet meadow

I loved the stretch along the Wise River. We soon began climbing, though.

We heard a cracking of brush as something large emerged from the trees . . . oh. Forest cattle.

18 forest cattle

We stopped to take a breather, and I was able to capture a photo of this pale type of fritillary I’d seen a few times in the area.

19 Fritillary

Cyclists had been passing us all morning as the climb had intensified. Now, it seemed to be just us and a woman gutting it out on the hill, alternately passing one another as we each stopped to rest. You can just see her on the switchback below, center left between two trees.

20 switchbacks

But then our hill buddy sagged. We made it to the “Lupine” rest stop, and we were the last one to arrive. We gulped some food as volunteers started to tear down the rest area infrastructure, and we hurried to get back on the road again, trying to catch up with the rest of the group. (I hate that feeling.)

As we left the rest area, we passed an older gent who commented that it was hard to get going again after a stop.

We cycled through a mountain meadow through which echoed distant raptor calls.

21 mountain meadow

The older gent passed us again when we stopped at Crystal Park, since at announcements the day before such a stop was recommended. All we saw was a parking lot and no explanatory signage, so we left. (I guess there really isn’t much to see unless you take a shovel and go looking for crystals in the soil, remnants from eroded granite.)

22 crystal park

Now the “sweep” motorcycle was behind us. We were officially last.

The descent down the other side of the mountain was a nice, smooth glide with virtually no traffic. We caught up with the older gent. Being heavy on a tandem, we eventually passed the him on the descent. I had an urge to take his picture as we went by, but I did not, a restraint I would later regret.

23 descent

Pedaling, pedaling, just keep pedaling . . . it’s 12:30 p.m., been riding for 5 hours, climbed like 2,500 feet . . . not even close to lunch yet. Another 5 miles or so to the rest stop at Polaris.

And, finally, here we are – unincorporated Polaris, at the (alas, defunct) Polar Bar.

24 polar bar

Polar Bar love seat.

25 polar bar

A welcoming sight for cyclists among the metal artifacts hung on the side of the bar.

26 polar bar bike

I was not in a good mental place by this point in the ride. It was not a good sign that the watermelon and nuts offered as snacks at the rest stop turned my stomach. I could only manage to guzzle some water.

I was physically exhausted and worn out from lack of sleep. I don’t make good decisions when I’m in a state like that. If I’d been making good decisions, I would have taken up an offer to sag to lunch, which was still 19 miles away. That way I perhaps would’ve had the energy to explore the Bannack ghost town, or even ride the hill triumphantly down into Dillon. Instead, that darn John Wayne billboard from the day before . . . don’t much like quitters . . . got into my head, and I insisted on continuing the ride to lunch.

Saw an unfamiliar contraption I assumed was for haying. Google/Wikipedia told me it’s a beaverslide.

27 beaverslide

Wonder if this was a dugout home? An old mine shaft?

28 old dugout

Since we didn’t dawdle at Polaris, we got out of the rest stop ahead of a few people. As we turned off the Pioneer Scenic Byway onto Highway 287, I looked back and took a picture of the cyclists following us. There was that older gent we’d passed on the hill – the fourth cyclist in the photo.

29 look back from hwy 278

Nine out of ten horses agree . . . biting flies suck!

30 horses hate flies

Looking back on a short but nasty hill, on which we were passed by a cement truck. The driver gave us plenty of room. I was glad.

31 look back at climb

We reached the turnoff for Bannack State Park, where lunch would be waiting for us. It was 2 p.m. A prickle of worry formed when the EMT vehicle parked at the turnoff turned on its sirens and took off. I hoped all the cyclists were OK. But I didn’t think too much of it. Fatigue had numbed my brain.

When we got to the lunch line, they were out of vegetarian sandwiches. Normally I would opt for a lunch meat sandwich, but today I didn’t feel like my stomach could handle it. I was handed a gluten-free vegan sandwich instead. I took a bite. Man, it was dry. I grabbed a couple packets of mustard. I tried to open the sandwich to inset the mustard, but the gluten-free “bread” crumbled to pieces, revealing slimy cucumbers tinged gray from adjoining mushrooms, topped by a slice of greenish hard tomato.

At that point, I totally lost it. Last straw. Put my face in my hands and cried. So embarrassing, but I couldn’t stop myself. I wound up eating a snack-sized bag of chips for lunch, and Bugman went to inquire about sagging to camp, bless his heart. I tried to get another glass of tea, but the lunch station was packed up already. A volunteer took pity on me and found the iced tea container so I could get a refill.

We interrupt the regularly scheduled program to bring you this insect photo, possibly a spotted pine sawyer. (Bugman, true to form.)

32 spotted pine sawyer

No time or energy to explore the Bannack ghost town, we got loaded into the bag drop van to sag to camp.

33 sagging

We weren’t the only ones sagging. It’d been 64 miles already, and it was another 24 miles and a hill climb to Dillon still.

34 filling sag van

The gear drop driver, Thomas, was a witty, mile-a-minute guy. His repartee, me being seated on something other than a bicycle, and the van’s air conditioning began to lift me out of my funk.

The first thing I saw in camp in Dillon charmed me. A playground swingset had been turned into a makeshift sun shelter.

35 swing shade

I got my shower and then lay in the tent on top of an uninflated air mattress, which I was too tired to mess with. I just lay there. It was quiet. I didn’t sleep, but I kind of dozed. I still didn’t feel hungry – not a good sign.

Bugman set up the tent that evening – a chore I usually do.

35 tent prep

At 5:30, we wandered over to the mess tent. The meal that night was tacos, with options for black beans and veggies and cheese – a meal I would ordinarily eat at home. There was also fish taco toppings. I took some of that as well. The food tasted good, and my digestion was surely helped by the soulful mealtime entertainment we had from the Dillon Junior Fiddlers.

37 fiddle concert

Announcements that evening started on a somber note – the ride organizers relayed that a cyclist had been taken to the hospital after suffering a heart attack on the course, but they couldn’t share more information without the family’s permission. Bugman and I looked at each other. Was it the older gent? The one who’d had trouble getting started again after the Lupine break? The one we’d passed on the hill? I sent out some positive vibes into the universe for whoever the stricken cyclist was.

After dinner, I had hopes of visiting the Patagonia outlet store in downtown Dillon, which had advertised a clearance sale. I wanted to see if I could find a replacement for my broken sandal, which duct tape had failed to fix. Alas, the store closed at its regular 6pm time instead of staying open late for us cyclists (I don’t think they sell footwear, anyway), so I spent the rest of the journey flapping around with one loose sandal.

There were some interesting things to see in downtown Dillon, even if most of the stores were closed.

The Dillon post office has a New Deal mural from the 1930s, “News from the States” – one of just six such murals in Montana (and one of the few in the nation painted by a female artist).

37 post office mural

The Dillon library charmed me, too. It stayed open late for us cyclists!

38 library open

It’s a Carnegie library, built in 1902.

39 library door

We chatted for a bit with the staff person on duty. Apparently, Andrew Carnegie was not enamored of the turret in the building design, so he refused to fund that part of it. Local townsfolk came up with the difference, and the Romanesque Revivial structure has its turret. Recently, firefighters hosed down the roof so staff in the attic could identify where water leaks might be coming from. Here’s a shot of the ceiling:

40 library ceiling

I spy a gargoyle!

41 library gargoyle

Further down the street, the name of this furniture and appliance business caught my eye:

42 dilmart

A pretty window.

43 pretty window

A yarn-bombed tree (and a bicycle in the window):

44 yarn bombed tree

Presumably, in Dillon, government has a “git ‘er done” attitude.

45 dillon city court

That not everyone likes.

46 unfair dillon

But, hey, what’s not to love about a town that has atomic boots?

47 atomic 79

Like stereotypical cyclists, we found our way to the local brewery: Beaverhead Brewing Company – and just barely had time for a pint before closing time at 8 p.m. (We can recommend the Snowcrest Dark Lager and the Pioneer Porter.)

48 beaverhead brewing co

The sunset that evening was a marvelous pink-and-purple confection that perfectly matched this downtown mural.

49 mural and sunset

One more stop before heading to bed: Muffaletta’s, which put out the welcome mat and was also opening early the next morning for cyclists who wanted fancy coffee.

50 muffalettas

One of the schticks at Muffaletta’s was the self-serve frozen yogurt machines and jars of shake-on toppings, which you put into an oversized paper cup and paid for by the pound. Bugman was one happy camper and would sing Muffaletta’s praises for days to come.

51 happy jeff

Day 5 stats
127.9 miles (days 4 & 5 combined)
6,656 feet of climb (days 4 & 5 combined)
10.2 mph avg (days 4 & 5 combined)
low temp 50
hi temp 82
precip 0
wind 11-28 g 36 NE

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 7: Powell to Red Lodge

As forecast, the wind did indeed come up during the night. Our tent rippled and flapped like mad, but stayed firmly planted to the earth. I inserted earplugs and tried to ignore the tempest and get some sleep.

Come morning, the wind had not abated. There were rumors, none true, that the ride start had been delayed, or that the day’s riding had been cancelled, though I think there had been some alternative arrangements made for people who had tight times schedules for meeting airport shuttles.

At breakfast (inside a building at the Park County Fairgrounds, thank goodness), as I juggled my plate of eggs and cup of coffee, one of the community volunteers asked if she could help in any way.

“Could you calm the winds down for us?” I asked, jokingly.

“I’m afraid not,” she replied with a sad smile.

Well, it was worth a shot, anyway.

The final day of CGY would be a long, hard slog into headwinds of 15-20 MPH, gusting to 30-40. On top of that, the day started out at 44 degrees, and we had an additional 3-mile detour that morning, to avoid some fresh chip seal in a construction zone.

As we bundled up and headed out, a few people asked, “You riding today??”

“Of course. It’s what we’re here to do.”

Sag 2 in the fairgrounds parking lot at 7:10 a.m. - probably the emptiest it would be all day.

Sag 2 in the fairgrounds parking lot at 7:10 a.m. – probably the emptiest it would be all day.

Wind, wind wind, wind, WIND! In our faces or buffeting us from the side. With occasional spray from windblown irrigation sprinkler mist. Ugh!

We had a brief moment of respite when the shower truck passed us on its way to Red Lodge and sheltered us in its lee. Then it was right back to the wicked, whipping wind.

“Come back, shower truck! Come back!”

Bugman’s shoulders kept tensing up from the strain of trying to keep the tandem headed in a straight line. Luckily, he travels with his own personal masseuse. 🙂 We took occasional breaks along the shoulder of the road so I could work the knots out of his muscles. Our noses were running from the cold.

About 14 miles into the ride, we came across a nice downhill that we remembered from 2013. It was windy back then, too, but not quite like this. We topped out at 20 MPH on the descent.

The hill on 294 west of Powell this year.

The hill on 294 west of Powell this year.

dfvdfv

The view from that same hill in 2013, sans wildfire smoke.

Finally! Our first rest stop, at the bottom of the hill. Bugman and I were exerting a lot of energy to buck the wind, so we made sure not to repeat our mistake from the Beartooth Pass ride - we made sure to eat! We chowed down a Kate's bar hunkered in the lee of the pickup truck.

Finally! Our first rest stop, at the bottom of the hill. Bugman and I were exerting a lot of energy to buck the wind, so we made sure not to repeat our mistake from the Beartooth Pass ride – we ate! A lot! We chowed down some Kate’s Stash Bars as we hunkered in the lee of the pickup truck. We would stop a few more times along the road to consume candy bars and other carb-heavy snacks.

At the rest stop, sag 1 was full. (Every time I saw the side of this van, the A-Team theme song would pop into my head. "I love it when a plan comes together.")

At the rest stop, sag 1 was full. (Every time I saw the side of this van, the A-Team theme song would pop into my head. “I love it when a plan comes together.”)

Sag 3

Sag 3, the “vulture.” Heh.

Despite the challenging conditions, this volunteer was chipper. (Love her hat!) I've forgotten her name, but I think she came up from Florida?

Despite the challenging conditions, this volunteer was chipper. (Love her hat!) I’ve forgotten her name, but I think I remember she’s a friend of Jennifer Drinkwalter who came all the way up from Florida to help out with the ride.

Bugman and I had to keep stopping to eat and drink. (It's too hard for him to do that on the run while piloting the tandem, even on a calm day.) At this stop, I spotted a salticid (jumping spider) on the signpost. I get a kick out of salticids. They have personality.

Bugman and I had to keep stopping to eat and drink. (It’s too hard for him to do that on the run while piloting the tandem, even on a calm day.) At this stop, I spotted a wee salticid (jumping spider) on the signpost. I get a kick out of salticids. They have personality.

9:49 a.m., mile 23. This is starting to feel like Desolation Road.

9:49 a.m., mile 23. This is starting to feel like Desolation Road.

We had two brief respites from the wind. At mile 27, we had a half-mile downhill with the wind at our backs. Joy!!!! It felt so good to get up over 10 MPH! Then, around our water stop at mile 33 on a school property near Clark (on a road not yet mapped by Google!), the topography sheltered us for awhile. It gave us a false sense of optimism that perhaps the wind was done with us.

Nope. It was another windy 20 miles to our lunch stop.

There was another cyclist who left the water stop at about the same time as us who was really struggling. When we would stop for a break, he often would, too. For a time, he drafted us, but then we hit a patch of downhill, and he couldn’t keep up with the tandem’s gravity advantage.

Some cyclists commemorating their passage back into Montana at mile 42.

Some cyclists commemorating their passage back into Montana at mile 42, around 11:45 a.m.

The further north we got into Montana, the more the wildfire smoke seemed to clear. Interesting!

The further north we got into Montana, the more the wildfire smoke seemed to clear. Interesting!

I swear, there were whitecaps on Clark's Fork.

I swear, there were whitecaps on Clark’s Fork.

There was a steepish ~100-foot climb outside of Belfry that about did us in. The buffeting we got from the wind at the top was rather disconcerting.

The cemetery 2 miles outside of Belfry seemed awfully inviting . . . but we knew we had to be close to our lunch stop and our opportunity to take a break!

Full disclosure: I took this photo the next day, on our way home. My photo reflexes were slowed due to fatigue, and I missed my opportunity during the actual ride.

Full disclosure: I took this photo the next day, on our way home. My photo reflexes were slowed due to fatigue, and I missed my opportunity during the actual ride.

Hooray for the Belfry Bats, my all-time favorite town/mascot combination!

Mile 53, 1 p.m. Hooray for the Belfry Bats, my all-time favorite town/mascot combination!

The school was kind enough to open up the atrium to the gymnasium to allow us a little shelter. My mood was kind of grim. I wasn't sure if we'd be able to complete the ride. But a couple of people on their way out were psyching themselves up, and their gumption rubbed off on me. "Maybe we can try making it to Bearcreek," I said to a skeptical Bugman.

The school was kind enough to open up the atrium to the gymnasium to allow us a little shelter. My mood was rather grim. I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to complete the ride. Especially that last hill into Red Lodge, which, as I recalled from two years ago, had a slope steep enough to slow us to a crawl – not a good thing on a windy day like this. But a couple of people on their way out were psyching themselves up, and their gumption rubbed off on me. “Maybe we can try making it to Bearcreek,” I said to a skeptical Bugman.

We headed out to find a sag driver, to discuss the possibility of arranging a pickup at the water stop in Bearcreek, 8 miles away. As it turned out, our fellow tandemites Nico and Jeanne had already talked to the support crew – they were planning to sag in the sign van with their tandem to the top of the hill, then ride the final ~2.5 miles to the finish. Peer pressure! (And, whew!) We would save ourselves some pain and join the sag.

We four loaded our two tandems into the sign van, then caught a ride in another vehicle, stopping here and there as the driver took pictures of other riders continuing up the hill under their own steam. We stopped at a pullout for an electrical service station at the top of the hill and were reunited with our bikes.

The "we're almost done" smile.

The “we’re almost done” smile.

Two tandems, ready to ride that final hill down into Red Lodge.

Two red tandems, ready to ride that final hill down into Red Lodge.

Our rescuers - Bruce, who drove the sag (who I mistakenly called "Jim." Oops.), and - darn! - I can't remember the woman's name. Thank you so much, Bruce and photographer lady, for helping us have a better time on our final day of CGY!

Our rescuers – Bruce, who was in the sign van (who I mistakenly called “Jim.” Oops.), and – darn! – I can’t remember the woman’s name. Thank you so much, Bruce and photographer lady. You could have taken us straight to camp, but you didn’t. You took the trouble to help us have the experience of a last downhill on our last day of CGY. You guys rock!

As we rolled across the finish at Lions Park in Red Lodge, we got a big cheer. I kind of felt like we didn’t deserve it, and corrected people that we had sagged up that last hill. But our cheerleaders dismissed my qualification. We’d had a tough day, and we deserved some accolades. Well, OK, then. 🙂

Bugman and I found our bags, checked into our hotel, and cleaned up.

Interestingly, the summer 2015 issue of Mountain Outlaw was in our room, and the feature story was about wildfire.

wildfire articleWe returned to camp to schlep our final bag and our bike to our car in long-term parking. A volunteer had offered to let us borrow her car, but we declined the offer – it wasn’t a very long walk, and we balanced the bag across the bike seats, so we didn’t have to carry any weight.

We got to the car and . . . the power locks wouldn’t work. Our battery was dead! Recall the #foreshadowing in the day 2 post? Bugman must have left a dome light on when he was drying our wet clothing. Darn!

No worries – there happened to be a cyclist from Boulder who was departing from his parking spot right next to us in the nearly-empty lot. We flagged him down and asked if he could give us a jump.

“I don’t have jumper cables,” he said.

“We do,” I said. In fact, we’d used them at the end of the 2013 CGY, when our car battery died after our radio malfunctioned. (What is it with our car battery and Red Lodge??)

No problem – I’ll just dive into the back of the car and fish the jumper cables out from under the cargo bin, where they live in a little storage compartment . . . except, they weren’t in the storage compartment. I rummaged around in the car, getting increasingly frustrated. Where the heck could those dumb jumper cables be? We wouldn’t have taken them out of the car. All of our other emergency supplies were there! What the heck?!??

I may have let my accumulated frustration get to me. I may have yelled and pounded on the car seat. It may have felt really good to do that.

The guy from Boulder was totally cool and overlooked my outburst. He offered to swing by camp on his way out of town and alert the CGY crew that we were in trouble.

Within minutes, a jeep pulled up, and Site Coordinator Rob asked, “Which side is your battery on?” Our car started on the second try. The CGY crew saves our bacon yet again!

We loaded up, moved our car to the hotel parking lot, and headed out on the town to celebrate the day, which was our 17th wedding anniversary. I was reeeally craving pizza, so we went to the Red Lodge Pizza Company, which we had enjoyed on our 2013 visit.

Toasting our marriage with some champagne-flavored jelly beans from the Montana Candy Emporium.

While we wait for a table, a toast with some champagne-flavored jelly beans from the Montana Candy Emporium.

The CGY crew happened to be having their end-of-ride celebration in a back room at the pizza place, so we saw lots of familiar faces going by.

2015 CGY Ambassador coordinator Dixie came over to our table to say hello, and she took a photo of our anniversary toast with our beer from Red Lodge Ale (a 2013 sponsor).

2015 CGY Ambassador coordinator Dixie came over to our table to say hello/goodbye, and she took a photo of our anniversary toast with our beer from Red Lodge Ale (a 2013 sponsor) and texted it to me.

It was a rough ride this year, but we came away unscathed, with some great memories of the places we saw and the people we met.

One of the reasons I appreciate Cycle Greater Yellowstone, other than the excellent organization and the amazing scenery, is that the challenge of the ride scares me and provides strong incentive for me to stay in shape, which also helps me to (hopefully) avoid or mitigate the types of health problems that have stalked the members of my family as we age.

We’ll see what 2016 brings!

Salud!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

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 3: Red Lodge to Cooke City via BEARTOOTH HIGHWAY

I need to work on my camp sleeping skills. I did not sleep at all the night of day 2.

It was a combination of factors: clammy nylon sleeping bag, too-flat inflatable pillow, fussy sleep mask and earplugs, crackly air mattress that I just couldn’t get comfortable on. Oh, yeah – and then there was the fact that we were facing a total climb on day 3 of over 8,000 feet, up and over Beartooth Pass at 10,000-plus feet.

The prospect of the climb was definitely making me nervous. We had never ridden anything like that before. And then the added time pressure, to try to beat the forecasted storm. Egad!

I shut off my alarm before it sounded at 4:15 a.m., poked Bugman to wake him up, and started getting dressed. With the super-early start time, I developed a camp technique that I would use for the rest of the trip: pack the next day’s clothes into my pillowcase. That way, there was no frantic searching around in the dark, and also, my clothes were pre-warmed when I put them on.

We took off at 6:04 a.m. with our bike lights a-flashing.

The first picture of the day, a half-hour in. Mountains calling! And a clear sky! (For now.)

The first picture of the day, a half-hour in. Mountains calling! And what a lovely clear sky!

The route was pretty much all-climbing-all-the-time from this point, so we were getting passed a lot. The thick cover of young trees along the side of the road here made me wonder what kind of critters might be hiding in there, watching me go by.

The route was pretty much all-climbing-all-the-time from this point, so we were getting passed a lot. The thick cover of young trees along the side of the road here made me wonder what kind of critters might be hiding in there, watching me go by.

There was some of our emergency support crew up ahead, keeping watch on us riders. 7 a.m. now - a few clouds developing.

There was some of our emergency support crew up ahead, keeping watch on us riders. 7 a.m. now – a few clouds developing.

Entering Custer National Forest. The morning started out pretty chilly - in the 40s, I believe. It seemed to be getting colder.

Entering Custer National Forest. The morning started out pretty chilly – in the 40s, I believe. It seemed to be getting colder.

At the first rest stop at mile 11, I really appreciated the soothing sound of Rock Creek. I could have stayed there longer to rest, but I started getting cold just standing there.

At the first rest stop at mile 11, I really appreciated the soothing sound of Rock Creek. I could have stayed there longer to rest, but I started getting cold just standing there.

Nice scenery for a rest stop, eh? Bugman was getting cold, too. He already had his hand warmers in his flip-mitt long-fingered cycling gloves, but picked up an extra pair of warmers at this rest stop to tuck into his shoe covers. We brought pretty much all our cycling outerwear along on this ride, smushed into the bike trunk. We'd had another option. The ride organizers on this day had a reverse gear drop. Instead of picking up discarded clothing as they day warmed, the crew would haul a bag of warm clothes to the lunch stop at the top of the pass, for riders to wear on the descent. I'm glad we had all our stuff with us. We'd wind up needing it.

7:45 a.m. in this picture at the Rock Creek rest stop, and the sky was clouded over. Bugman was getting cold. He already had his hand warmers in his flip-mitt long-fingered cycling gloves, but picked up an extra pair of warmers at this rest stop to tuck into his shoe covers. We brought pretty much all our cycling outerwear along on this ride, smushed into the bike trunk. We’d had another option. The ride organizers on this day had a reverse gear drop. Instead of picking up discarded clothing as they day warmed, the crew would haul a bag of warm clothes to the lunch stop at the top of the pass, for riders to wear on the descent. I’m glad we had all our stuff with us. We’d wind up needing it.

8:45 a.m. - climbing, climbing - oh, the relentless climbing! Never too steep, but never ending!

8:45 a.m. – climbing, climbing – oh, the relentless climbing! Never too steep, but never ending!

About 15 minutes later, we saw the sign van pulled to the side of the road up ahead. Bugman and I checked in with each other: should we sag to the next rest stop? Our energy was flagging, and we still had a long way to go. Perhaps we’d not been eating enough. We always seem to need to re-learn that lesson. Also, I knew we were towards the back of the pack – maybe we would get hopscotched ahead soon anyway? And we couldn’t use a regular sag van – we’d have to take the sign van opportunity while we had it. We called it. After 15.5 miles and three hours of climbing, we were going to sag a bit and bypass the switchbacks.

We weren’t the only ones sagging there. Another couple on a tandem – a red Burley – loaded their bike into the sign van, too. Not sure where the two of them went, but Bugman and I rode inside the sign van, keeping a hold on the two tandems.

Sag van ride #2

Sag #1 of the day

The view from the sign van window, looking down, down, down at the switchbacks we were bypassing.

The view from the sign van window, looking down, down, down at the switchbacks we were bypassing.

The refuel stop at mile 21, at Rock Creek Vista, at which lived some of the most corpulent chipmunks I have ever seen. I was pretty hungry and wolfed down two packages of peanut M&Ms. I know we are not supposed to take multiple items, so as to leave enough for the rest of the folks, but I was needing energy, and the candy was the only thing that sounded good.

9:30 a.m. – the refuel stop at mile 21, at Rock Creek Vista, at which lived some of the most corpulent chipmunks I have ever seen. I was pretty hungry and wolfed down two packages of peanut M&Ms. I know we were not supposed to take more than one, so as to leave enough for the rest of the folks, but I was four hours past breakfast, and I was needing some serious energy, and the candy was the only thing that sounded good to me at that moment.

It was starting to drizzle, so Bugman put his full rain gear on.

It was starting to drizzle, so Bugman put his full rain gear on and we headed out to tackle the “hill” again.

10 a.m.: we've climbed up far enough to look down on the rest stop. The drizzle is changing to snow.

10 a.m.: we’d climbed up far enough to look down on the rest stop. The drizzle was changing to snow.

The snow got heavier.

The snow got heavier.

10:15 a.m. - we had to stop to remove layers. We were working so hard on that climb above the treeline, above 9,000 feet, that we were sweating. Bugman took off the rain pants. I took off my rain jacket and relied on my long-sleeved fleece. It was a difficult dance to thermoregulate on that climb. As soon as we'd stop for a breather, we'd start to get uncomfortably cold within 30-60 seconds. But if we put on more gear, we'd overheat when we got moving again.

10:15 a.m. – we had to stop to remove layers. We were working so hard on that climb above the treeline, above 9,000 feet, that we were sweating. Bugman took off the rain pants. I took off my rain jacket and relied on my long-sleeved fleece, constantly zipping and unzipping it. It was a difficult dance to thermoregulate on that climb. As soon as we’d stop for a breather, we’d start to get uncomfortably cold within 30-60 seconds. But if we put on more gear, we’d overheat when we got moving again.

Still snowing . . .

Still snowing . . .

10:45 a.m. - a moment of sun! It felt so much warmer! Oh, we could keep going if it would just stay like this!

10:45 a.m. – a moment of filtered sunlight! It felt so much warmer! Oh, we could keep going if it would just stay like this!

About ten minutes later, we crossed into Wyoming. The sun was coming and going in patches, but the wind was picking up. Bugman's responses to "how're you doing?" were becoming more noncommittal. His hands were getting really cold.

About ten minutes later, we crossed into Wyoming. The sun was coming and going in patches, but the wind was picking up. Earlier, my hands had gotten too hot inside my mittens with the handwarmers in them, but I had to put them back on at this point. Bugman’s responses to “how’re you doing?” were becoming more gloomy. His hands were getting really cold.

We were over 10,000 feet now. The clouds were broken up a bit, but it felt bitterly cold with the wind. Bugman's hands wouldn't work properly anymore. We had to stop. But if we stopped, we froze. I handed Bugman my rain jacket, and he wrapped his hands in it. I took the bike, and together we trudged upward on foot, awaiting an opportunity to sag. A sag van came along, but there was no space along the narrow two-lane road for a rescue, so the van continued a few hundred feet to a pullout above Twin Lakes, and we walked the bike alongside the road to meet them.

We were over 10,000 feet now. The clouds were broken up a bit, but it felt bitterly cold with the wind. Bugman’s hands wouldn’t work properly anymore. We had to stop. But if we stopped, we’d just get colder. I handed Bugman my rain jacket, and he wrapped his hands in it. Thick ski mitts were the only thing that would have kept him going, I think. I took the bike, and together we trudged upward on foot, awaiting an opportunity to sag. A sag van came along, but there was no space along the narrow two-lane road for a rescue, so the van continued a few hundred feet to a pullout above Twin Lakes, and we walked the bike alongside the road to meet them.

Twin Lakes, where we officially sagged off the course for good that day, at 11 a.m., after making it another 5 1/2 miles up the pass, but 6 miles short of the summit.

Twin Lakes, where we officially sagged off the course for good that day, at 11:20 a.m., after making it another 5.5 miles up the pass, but 6 miles short of the summit.

The sag crew didn't think they could get the tandem on the roof of the vehicle, so they radioed to request the sign van. Meanwhile, we joined the other cyclists inside the sag van to warm up. Several more people coming up the hill behind us decided to sag, too, including another couple on a tandem. There was no more room in the van. Bugman and I got out of the van and put on all our rain gear, to make room inside for others who were worse off. The sign van arrived, and we loaded up the two tandems and headed off for the lunch stop at the summit.

The sag crew didn’t think they could get the tandem on the roof of the vehicle, so they radioed to request the sign van. Meanwhile, we joined the other cyclists inside the sag van to warm up. Several more people coming up the hill behind us decided to sag, too, including another couple on a tandem. There was no more room in the van. Bugman and I got out of the van and put on all our rain gear, to make room inside for others who were worse off. The sign van arrived, and we loaded up the two tandems and headed off for the lunch stop at the summit.

Our speed profile that day. It's pretty obvious when we were sagging. The first part of the day, we were moving at 5-12 MPH. After the rest stop we sagged to, we were only managing 2-7 MPH.

Our speed profile that day. It’s pretty obvious when we were sagging. The first part of the day, we were moving at 5-12 MPH. After the rest stop we sagged to, we were only managing 2-7 MPH.

snow lunch tent wind

It was so good to eat food!!! Especially the soup!! I was also very thankful for the windblock around the food tent, and for the volunteers braving the cold to help us out, way up there at Top of the World. The snow was starting to accumulate, and gusts of wind would send clumps of snow sheeting off the top of the tent. Nobody was biking down now. One cyclist had tried, but he turned around because the visibility was so poor. We just hung around, waiting for a sag ride down to camp at Cooke City.

Überbrew has a good picture on their Facebook page of what the summit looked like when we left – a pile of bikes covered under a thin blanket of snow. I’ll share it here if they give me permission. One of the bikes was an orange tandem belonging to a couple from Iowa. They summited! Well done, Brian and Andrea!!

This is our decidedly non-triumphant Beartooth summit picture, from the inside of a pickup truck belonging to one of the radio volunteers. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I'd probably consider this one a win, though. We didn't get hypothermic. As we passed dozens of cyclists still out there pedaling away, braving the rain at the lower elevation, gutting up that final, awful climb into camp, I was in awe. There were a lot of tough people out there!

This is our decidedly non-triumphant Beartooth summit picture, from the inside of a pickup truck belonging to one of the radio volunteers. Oh well. You win some, you lose some. I’d probably consider this one a win, though. We didn’t get hypothermia or frostbite. As we passed dozens of cyclists still out there pedaling away, braving the rain at the lower elevation, gutting up that final, awful climb into camp, I was in awe. There were a lot of tough people out there!

When we got to camp, it was definitely warmer than up top. It had started to rain, but the precipitation didn’t last long. The sun came out and was oh so welcome!

Our grasshopper-bedecked sherpa tent at our campsite in Cooke City. The site was a former ball field surrounded by a fence. Because of bear activity in the area, our camping permit required that we store all food and scented toiletries in a truck overnight, to avoid attracting bears into the campsite. I noticed all the garbage cans were packed away, too. We were also required to have a sentry up all night with a flashlight and bear spray, just in case. There were no bears that I know of, but I had the best sleep of the whole ride that night.

Our grasshopper-bedecked sherpa tent at our campsite in Cooke City. The site was a former ball field surrounded by a fence. Because of bear activity in the area, our camping permit required that we store all food and scented toiletries in a truck overnight, to avoid attracting bears into the campsite. I noticed all the garbage cans were packed away, too. We were also required to have a sentry up all night with a flashlight and bear spray, just in case. There were no bears that I know of, but I had the best sleep of the whole ride that night.

I’m glad I finally slept well. There would be another mountain pass to climb on day 4!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw