A ride north on highway 71

A sunny spring morning with predicted temperatures in the 60s. Time to go for a ride!

But where?

We had just gone to Mitchell. The hill up into the Wildcat Hills seemed a bit much to tackle just yet. A friend suggested heading north out of town on Highway 71.

I haven’t been outside of a car on Highway 71 since I ran in the torch run. Sure! Why not?

On the way out of town on 42nd Street, we passed Steve Frederick, who was out walking with his wife and dog. He’s been out walking a lot lately. (I have to give him props for the changes he’s made in his lifestyle. Good on ya, Steve!)

Not too long after we took to Highway 71 northbound, I began to regret our choice of route.

Outside of Scottsbluff, the road shoulder narrowed, and there was a not-insignificant amount of Sunday morning traffic.

It REALLY made me nervous when a pickup truck behind us decided to floor it and speed around us, leaving us choking in a cloud of diesel fumes, rather than slow down and wait for the oncoming minivan to pass.

There were quite a few semi trucks on the road, too, but at least all of them pulled fully over into the other lane to pass us, even if it meant they had to slow down for oncoming traffic. (THANK YOU, truck drivers!!)

We were stared at as we passed a feedlot. The young cattle got up and approached the fence, but the older cattle just looked at us. “Ho hum – we’ve seen cyclists before.”


Near the peak of our route, at 4,300+ feet, a radio tower.

highway 71 radio tower

At the Sioux County line, what little road shoulder we had disappeared completely.

entering sioux county

The descent into Sioux County.

sioux countyWe didn’t really want to be on a shoulderless road with semi trucks and curves and hills, so at 12.5 miles, at the entrance to the High Plains Feed Yard, we turned around to head back home.

turnaround at high plains feed yard

Got some good speed southbound, up to 30 miles per hour downhill into Scotts Bluff County.

It was a decent ride, but the traffic made me nervous. I can’t say I’d recommend that route, unless there are no other alternatives to your destination.

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

A turkey of a ride

The forecast called for 70-degree temperatures. How could I not want to go for a ride?

“Uh . . . listen to that wind,” Bugman said, as the swiftly-moving air wooshed through the neighborhood trees and clanked the vents on our rooftop.

“I don’t care! We’re going!”

If we waited for a non-windy day in western Nebraska, we’d never get to ride!

Besides, it’s good training for Cycle Greater Yellowstone.

Or so I told myself.

The winds during our ride between 12:15 – 2:45 p.m. were clocked at a sustained SW 18-28 MPH, gusting to 36 MPH.

The flag at the HorizonWest Case IH dealer on the edge of town illustrates what we were biking into for the first 8 miles of our ride.

The flag at the HorizonWest Case IH dealer on the edge of town illustrates what we were biking into for the first 8 miles of our ride.

That was pretty miserable. We could only manage speeds of 6 – 11 MPH.

“Reminds me of our ride into Ennis,” I shouted into the wind.

“Yeah,” Bugman said halfheartedly, his reply barely audible as it flew past my ears at 30 miles per hour.

Only 9 more miles to Mitchell, our destination for this ride.

nine miles to mitchell

Finally! We made it to the top of the hill and South Mitchell Road!

The ride down the other side of the hill was a little dicey, as now the gusty wind was hitting us from the side, threatening to toss us into the ditch.

“It’s really hard to steer,” Bugman hollered.

I tried to make myself as small as possible to catch less wind. We rode smack in the middle of the lane to lessen the danger of unintentional off-roading and were grateful for the cars that pulled all the way into the other lane to pass us. We sure needed that maneuvering room!

. . . spotted from the North Platte River bridge, the eponymous turkeys of this post:


We saw at least seven birds, but there were probably more, hiding in the wooded riverbank. On the return trip, several of the birds were still there, camped out in the shade. I guess a 70-degree day gets warm if you’re covered with dark feathers.

Our destination in Mitchell on this day: Hometown Harvest Cooperative, for a bit of grocery shopping. We’d put pannier bags onto the bike to hold our haul. I forgot to take a picture! So I will instead post a photo of the front of the store, pulled from their Facebook page:

No, we did not buy any turkey products. But that would have been appropriate.

No, we did not buy any turkey products. But that would have been appropriate.

On the way home, we had to stop to readjust our bags, as the line of sight to my rearview mirror was blocked.

A man driving in the opposite direction pulled to a stop.

“Have a breakdown?”

“No. Just readjusting the cargo.”

“I haven’t seen one of those in years. Is it new?”

“We bought it last year.”

“But is it new?”

“Yep. Brand-new.”

“How fast goes it go?”

“What, downhill?”

I grinned.

On this day, with the wind at our backs, homeward on Highway 92?

. . . 38 miles per hour

The ride home made up for the slog uphill and into the wind on the way out. Got up to 38.1 miles per hour, averaging 24 miles per hour for 3 miles - without even pedaling!

The ride home made up for the slog uphill and into the wind on the way out. Got up to 38.1 miles per hour, averaging 24 miles per hour for 3 miles – without even pedaling!


Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 2 ride to Livingston

Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

A doozy of a hill.

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

7 percent grade for the next 2 miles? Wheeeeeeeee!

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

Heading back on the road after a water stop.

Ranchers care for their land and animals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily, we had a spare tube and pump.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Gosh! Beautiful scenery!

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

Hurrah! We think we can make it!!

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

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

One hundred miles! My first century ride!

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, no! Flat tire!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got the last of the chopped peanut topping.

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

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

Day 3

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw