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:


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


Fishers, two kinds.


Our riverside rest stop at mile 29:


I wasn’t the only one capturing the scenery.


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.


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!


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!


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!


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!


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


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


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.


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.)


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


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.


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.


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

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 4: Whitehall to Dewey

When I woke up and got out of my tent just before before 5am, the moon was setting over Whitehall High School, looking peach-like, orange from the smoke of distant wildfires and fuzzed by thin clouds. The sunrise was lovely as well.

1 sunrise

As we rolled out of town, we passed some of the numerous murals for which Whitehall is known.

2 mural

Some Whitehall businesses have incorporated the mural theme into their signage as well. I like it!

4 business sign

Vintage small-town theater alert!

3 theater

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

5 my view

We passed a tethered llama, which looked agitated at our presence. I wondered about llamas’ spitting range.

6 tethered llama

Recalling the hay bale roping dummies from the Sudan School on Day 1, here’s a more anatomically correct one:

7 roping dummy

Headed into the mountains.

8 into the mountains

Montana, where things are so fertile, the wood of your deck just might sprout back into a tree. 😉

9 pine growth

Had to take a picture of this old “prancing pony” gate for my mom.

10 prancing pony gate

I appreciated the message of the sign and acknowledged the fact that the number of characters was limited, but the grammatical incorrectness of the “BIKES ON ROAD / DRIVE CAREFUL” sign still irked me every time I saw it. #editorproblems

11 bikes caution

After we passed through a narrow-ish cut, I turned the camera behind us and took a picture. This looks like it would be a tough section of road for snow-clearing operations.

12 view behind

Our embedded photographers sent their camera-bearing aerial vehicle into the sky and captured cyclists streaming into this cut. There’s a video posted on the Cycle Greater Yellowstone Facebook page, but I can’t figure out how to share just the video link. Maybe it’ll wind up on the CGY Vimeo page. (It’s fun to watch the time lapse films of Tent Sherpas setting up camp and of previous rides’ routes and camps.)

13 drone pilots

I had plenty of time to look at the rocks as we slowly climbed upward. I kept seeing faces and fanciful beings in the rock forms. We also got scolded by a lot of rock-crevice-dwelling chipmunks. The morning light made the rocks glow with a warmth they did not yet contain. I was glad to be doing all this climbing in the cool of the morning.

14 morning light rock

Given that we had more than two hours of constant climbing, we needed to take periodic breaks to rest and eat. (We remembered lessons from prior rides and made sure to eat as we were climbing.) When we stopped at one driveway for a rest, a passing cyclist called, “Are you checking out the real estate?” I decided that would be a good euphemism. We’re not taking a break . . . we’re “checking out the real estate.” (See also: “checking out the view” and “reading the historical point signage.”)

15 checking out real estate

On this day, we generally experienced courteous driving. Then there was this person. Sigh. We heard a barking dog in the distance – a sound that always piques a cyclists’ attention due to the tendency of loose dogs to chase bikes. But the sound kept getting closer, unnaturally quickly. barkbarkbarkbarkbark – silence- barkbarkbarkbarkbark – silence- BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK – silence – BARKBARKBARKBARKBARK! I looked in my rear view mirror and figured it out – it was a dog riding in a vehicle, barking furiously every time the vehicle passed a cyclist. And the driver left the rear passenger-side window open so the dog could startle every single cyclist it passed. Not nice.

16 barking dog

Entering Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest.

17 beaverhead deerlodge NF

At a rest stop, I decided the peanut-butter-filled chocolate Clif bar was the BEST THING EVER! Ah, one of the benefits of prolonged exercise: eating becomes almost a transcendental experience. Please mentally add halo rays and a heavenly chorus soundtrack to this photo:

18 calories

There were a hojillion of these moths flying across the road in the forest. These little things can be crazy hard to key out. When I asked Bugman what it was, he grimaced and said, “A moth . . .”

19 moth

We summited Pipestone Pass and failed to recognize that a pullout on the opposite side of the road was the official marker of this Continental Divide crossing (6,418 feet), since it didn’t have the green elevation sign we were accustomed to seeing. So, we missed a photo opportunity, alas.

The descent was fun, despite the un-smartness of the highway crew that decided to repaint the center lines on that section of highway – on the same day that several hundred cyclists would be on that route. Actually, by the time we got to the descent, the painting crew was pulled over taking a break. The only thing we had to deal with was the cones along the centerline, which made it harder for motorized vehicles to pass us. I heard another cyclist express appreciation for the painting project, which she believed had slowed drivers down.

As we approached Butte – “The Richest Hill on Earth,” I was awed. That open pit copper mine looked as big as the town itself!

20 butte

Confirmed! See Google maps image:

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 2.56.51 PM

I found it somewhat creepy that the tailings pond had such a lighthearted name. Yankee Doodle Tailings Pond? Sounds like a recreation area rather than a hazardous waste management area.

I really got sucked into an internet rabbit hole reading about Butte and its mining history. I overheard a fellow cyclist shuddering about Butte and its status as a Superfund toxic waste cleanup site. She had known people who worked in and around other contaminated sites who were dying of cancer in their 20s and 30s. It just absolutely irks me that companies have been allowed to profit from a business that then sticks the government with a huge cleanup bill from the aftermath. For economics nerds, this is considered a market failure. Negative externalities galore! Fingers crossed that things are changing for the better. Attitudes towards our environment are a lot different now than they were in the 1950s.

While the warren of mining tunnels under Butte were begun in the 1800s, that gigantic open pit was created since 1955. See this blog post for a historic photo overlaying the current extent of the mining pit, which ate up the communities of Meaderville and McQueen and the Columbia Gardens. Another part of Butte that struck me was the ramparts of copper slag was saw. I neglected to take a picture, but here’s one from another blogger’s post.

Berkeley Pit, which filled with acidic water after mine pumps were shut down, has become a tourist attraction, despite things like the need to employ hazers to chase off migratory waterfowl lest they be poisoned by the water.

Still, there’s a lot of recreation opportunities around Butte, and some interesting museums as well. I would have liked to explore Butte a bit rather than just passing through.

Ah, the innovative smaller-city multitasking business: heating stove and brewing/winemaking supplies sold alongside recreational vehicles:

21 butte multitasking

At announcements the day before, we’d been warned about the traffic we’d face heading through Butte. Perhaps it’s because we hit the city before the lunch rush, and perhaps it’s because we were lucky with traffic lights and courteous drivers, but I didn’t find it that bad.

And look! Sharrows! Butte acknowledges the existence of bicyclists!

22 butte sharrows

A few of the auto towing/wrecking/repair business slogans we saw on our journey through the western outskirts of the city cracked me up.

See you in the ditch!

You meet the nicest people by accident!

A great place to take a leak!

After lunch, we wound up on several miles of a really nice bike path. Bummer we had to dismount to get over a berm put in place to protect the path from heavy equipment.

23 blocked path

This “gritty Duke” billboard would come to mind later in the ride: “Don’t much like quitters, son.”

24 duke sign

A man walking his dogs stepped off the path to let us and another cyclist pass. Turned out the other cyclist was a local, not a CGY rider, which confused a course monitor stationed to direct CGY traffic around a confusing bit of construction at the end of the bike path.

We were routed through an industrial area with one of the bumpiest railroad crossings I’ve ever encountered. Did we heed the course monitor’s admonition to dismount and walk over the tracks? Oh yes, we did!

25 bumpy tracks

And now we get to the part of the route where I feel a little sheepish. In the Day 0 post, I described encountering some event cyclists on the shoulder of I-90, and said I would never want to ride on the interstate.

Well . . . due to a lack of other road options, we wound up riding 3 miles on I-15.

26 onto interstate

I was nervous. More nervous than I was about riding through Butte traffic. But I needn’t have been. With the nice, wide shoulder, the two lanes for traffic, and the patrol car stationed at the on ramp . . .

27 state trooper

I felt way more comfortable riding on the interstate than I did on Highway 287. Ugh, here we are with the “DRIVE CAREFUL” issue again, despite having enough room for the more correct “CAREFULLY.” Oh well. They’re consistent, I guess.

28 bikes on road

It was getting hot out, and the day was starting to wear on me. When I saw the wisp coming out of the top of this cloud, I imagined it as the buried undead stretching a withered arm up out of the grave. Brains . . .

29 cloud

116 – here’s our exit!

30 exit

So long, I-15. We’re headed for a frontage road.

31 I-15

Another 5 miles, and we hit a much-needed rest area. Time to wet down the arm coolers again! Aaaaahhhh! A female bikepacker happened by the rest area and was really excited by the prospect of actual toilets. She hesitated, asking if she would be allowed to use one. We heartily invited her over. Bicyclists supporting bicyclists! I hadn’t realized that the reason I was seeing so many bikepackers is that western Montana is crisscrossed by several cross-continental “adventure cycling routes.”

32 bikepacker bike

A bummer about this rest area – there had been a road surfacing project there recently, and there were blobs of road tar lying around disguised in sheaths of pebbles. The bike mechanics warned me about it, and I told Bugman, too, but it was too late. We went to try to take off, and he couldn’t get his left shoe clicked into the pedal. It was like a board game: tar ball cleat clog – move back two spaces!

33 tarball in shoe

The rock Bugman was using for a tool to clean his cleat just wasn’t cutting it. A kindly bike mechanic came to his rescue, using a screwdriver to scrape out the bulk of the offending tar.

34 tarball in shoe

The next couple of times we stopped, we had to re-clean his shoe cleat with whatever rock or stick was at hand, because the remaining tar would glom onto significant quantities of debris. Nasty stuff!

The next 10 miles were hot, hilly, and deserted. It’s the kind of place where you start to wonder if you’ve taken a wrong turn because you’re seeing no one and nothing except circling vultures.

35 vultures

Finally, finally! A turn, and a sign! We’re headed for . . . the Big Hole? I had no idea what the Big Hole was, and, coming after our journey through open-pit mine territory, I was a tad apprehensive.

36 divide and big hole

But Wisdom was near!

37 wisdom

The Big Hole is not a mining scar but a river. A rather lovely river!

38 big hole view 1

I was rather glad to have this gorgeous scenery to distract me from the pain my bike saddle was causing me.

39 big hole view 2

I was ever so glad to arrive at our campsite in tiny Dewey, where a colorful beetle landed on Bugman. We contemplated it along with CGY volunteer Bruce. Bugman thinks it’s a spruce zebra beetle.

40 spruce zebra beetle

I bypassed the Sno Kone booth in camp, thinking I could get some later. (I was wrong, alas – the booth was abandoned by the time I came back.)

44 sno cones

The ride had been hard on me today, and all I wanted was to get out of my bike clothes and rest. It turned out that our campsite was adjacent to the Big Hole River, and cyclists were finding their way down there to soak in the cold, clear water. We joined them forthwith!

41 big hole river play

The water was gaspingly cold at first. It was probably a good balm for sore muscles and a sore bum. We had to keep an eye out for trout-fishing boats floating downstream, though.

42 fly fishers

This was excellent trout habitat. Another CGY rider had brought along swim goggles, and he could see a number of trout darting around near where we were swimming. Bugman scoped out the shallows and found numerous invertebrates that are a part of the trouts’ food chain, including mayfly niads:

42 mayfly niad

I showered right away after leaving the coolness of the river. That was probably a good move. My swim shorts had collected rock algae and a few invertebrates!

We did some more pod laundry and hung it to dry in nearby trees. Laundry ornaments! Note: it’s acceptable to hang laundry on a cedar tree. Not so much a pine tree, which may ooze sap all over your clean laundry. #learningfromexperience

43 laundry tree

The campsite where we stayed (I’m still not sure what kind of property it was, or who it belonged to) was dotted with numerous “varmint holes” – for lack of a better word.

45 varmint hole

Some problem-solving campers piled sticks into a particularly large hole that just happened to be in a main travel path.

46 blocked varmint hole

Dinner that night just didn’t seem to appeal to me. Beef stroganoff. Bleh. I choked down some buttered noodles topped with steamed broccoli and cheese from the salad bar. I knew it didn’t bode well if my appetite wasn’t raging after a 64-mile ride with plenty of climbing. I was going to need to fuel up for the extended climbing I would face the next day. My body just wanted to rest. Other things were starting to break down, too. My air pillow sprung a leak, and a strap on one of my sandals broke.

After announcements that night, a short documentary about the struggle to prevent a dam being built on the Clark Fork River was shown in the dining tent. (I imagine it was no small feat to get a screen and projector out there in rural Dewey.) I thought maybe the film would be available online (alas, only the trailer is), so I skipped the film in favor of hurriedly setting up our tent as rumbling storm clouds drew near.

We did get a little rain. Thankfully not enough to turn the campsite into an utter mudpit. The sound of thunder crashing through the mountain valleys was most impressive, as was the sight of the rain-drenched sunset.

49 rainy sunset

The moonlight of that sleepless night blended softly into the dawn. At least I probably got more rest in the tent than I would have in the old cabin in the adjoining field.

48 accommodation

day 4 stats
daily mileage and climb unknown, since Strava doesn’t work in areas with no cell signal
low temp 45
hi temp 87
precip 0.03 inches
wind 5-24 g 32 SE

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 3: Bozeman to Whitehall

As we headed north out of Bozeman on Day 3 of Cycle Greater Yellowstone, I couldn’t help but notice the multiple new housing developments and lot-for-sale signs. I wondered how all this out-of-town development was affecting things like traffic, water quality, existing agricultural practices, and wildlife migration.

1 housing development

Speaking of migration, we heard a number of sandhill crane serenades as we pedaled along fields adjacent to the East Gallatin River and its tributaries. (Those dark specks in the field in the photo below are cranes.)

2 cranes

Oh, look – a ranch! The sign on the barn says so! House-moving operation, too. I wonder if the house was coming or going.

3 ranch

This was a speedy morning for Wyobraska Tandem, as the route was primarily downhill for the first 35 miles or so. We made good time to the water stop at the Dry Creek Church. I coughed a bit on the ride – wildfire smoke in the air. Luckily, we soon moved out of the smoky area.

4 dry creek church stop

Just past the water stop, we spotted two does and two fawns out standing in a field.

5 deer

A quick spin through Manhattan, population ~1,568 – home of the seed potato.

6 manhattan

Next rest stop: Sacajawea Hotel in Three Forks.

7 sacajawea hotel

The bison sculpture on the lawn was a popular photo backdrop and bike stand.

8 bison sculpture

We’d been by the Sacajawea Hotel in 2013, but I hadn’t taken the time to peek inside. This time, I did, being careful to take off my cycling shoes so as not to scratch the lovely wooden floor. What a gorgeous ceiling!!

9 interior of hotel

I’d had a pretty relaxing morning thus far, aside from a honker on a residential street in Manhattan. But the 7 miles on Highway 287? Not my favorite.

10 ride single file

Maybe I’ve become a wimp by choosing to avoid traffic-y routes on my training rides back home, but on that section of 287 after the gravelley shoulder disappeared, my spirit animal could’ve been a fanned-out porcupine, I felt so prickly. There was a lot of traffic passing us, heavy on the trucks, mostly at a high rate of speed, sometimes on blind hills and curves, sometimes way too close. I found myself muttering prayers of protection for us and for other cyclists.

Double-trailer, flammable material, coming through! (This was one of the more comfortable passes, as the driver had slowed down – THANK YOU, DRIVER!! – and I was actually able to take a picture instead of bracing for airwash.)

14 truck pass

When we found ourselves being trailed by an RV, we opted to pull out at a viewpoint for a pleasingly decrepit log house, to let built-up traffic pass.

13 pull off with old cabin

I looked back and saw a string of cyclists laboring among a train of semi trucks. Yikes! When the lead trucker in this photo went by, I waved and smiled as a thank-you for being courteous around the cyclists, but I got a frown and a shake of the head in response.

12 intimidating traffic

I was soooo glad to turn off Highway 287 onto Highway 2 towards Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park! My nerves were about shot.

16 turnoff to cavern

Also, it was getting pretty hot out. Cattle sought shade next to and inside of an old cabin.

15 cattle in shade of cabin

Rats! Uphill climb. We couldn’t manage more than 9 miles an hour, even with the temptation to mash the pedals to get a higher reading on the radar sign.

17 speed radar

On Highway 2, we passed a vast, dusty parking area that looked like it was meant for a crowd of thousands. Thousands of potentially unruly people, apparently. The signs plastered at every entrance read “NO PETS NO WEAPONS NO VIOLENCE.” There was a prominent, random “bridge over nothing.” I later learned this remote location is the site of a huge music festival: Rockin’ The Rivers. SO glad we didn’t intersect that event. I’m sure the traffic would’ve been a nightmare. (As it was, there was a pickup that unwisely passed us when there was a motorcycle oncoming. The motorcycle driver made a rude hand gesture.)

18 bridge near three forks

My favorite part of the day was the ice cream at lunch. YAY, ICE CREAM!!! Bugman was posing for a cheesy photo with the ice cream when Roger from Missouri jumped into the action, too.

19 ice cream

On the way out of our lunch stops, signs for the ride sponsors were scattered about. I thought I’d post a picture here and give them a shout out. Thanks, sponsors, for helping to make this First Best Ride in the Last Great Place happen!

20 sponsors

Before departing lunch, we slathered on more sunscreen and wetted down our arm coolers. Aaaaah! So refreshing!

The next couple of miles between the Caverns and LaHood were one of my favorite segments of the whole trip, I think: scenic, fairly flat, relaxed traffic, coolness emanating from the rock on the shaded side of the canyon.

21 jefferson river ride

22 jefferson river ride

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

23 my view

At LaHood there was a historic point that actually had some shade, so Bugman and I stopped to drink and rest along with several other cyclists.

24 shade stop

As we rode along an I-90 frontage road, the driver of a passing semi on the interstate waved exuberantly at us. Wow. That was one friendly truck driver! (I later learned that some of Jennifer Drinkwalter’s family is in the trucking industry, and that the driver may have known exactly where all the cyclists came from that day.)

A funny sign from a gas station next to the interstate: “TOMORROW WE WILL EAT KALE BUT TODAY IS FOR ICE CREAM.” Yes!!!!

25 fun sign

More cattle taking shelter in whatever shade they could find. Hard to see them in this photo, as their dark color blends them into the shadow pretty effectively. It was uncomfortably hot out in the sun.

26 cattle in shade

H’lo, mules.

27 mules

As we approached Whitehall, we could see some colorful streaks on one mountain peak, with a barren slope below.

28 mining

I later learned it was the Golden Sunlight gold mine. Here’s a Google maps view, with the yellowish scar of the bared rock of the open-pit mine clearly visible to the northeast of Whitehall.

Screen Shot 2016-08-26 at 9.48.07 AM

I’ll admit to a bit of a BANANA (Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything) reaction to the mine’s alteration of the landscape. But I felt like a hypocrite. I have a gold wedding band on my finger. My bike is made of metal. My car is made of metal. My cellphone and computer have bits made of rare mined elements. And mining provides critical livelihood and tax revenue for many people and communities (though it’s a tenuous source of income, given market fluctuations).

But open-pit gold mines are not benign. I had a recent conversation with a materials engineer who was overseeing part of the American Solar Challenge, and he noted that when you are mining for a particular element, lots of other potentially toxic stuff comes up with the desired material. People who live near mines or farm or ranch near mines or work in tourism businesses near mines would be wise to keep an eye on those mines. According to an abstract in the PubMed database from the journal Reviews of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology, there can be serious impacts to water supplies from open pit gold mining:

To prevent flooding in mine open pits, and to enable earth moving on a large scale, it is often necessary to withdraw groundwater and use it for irrigation, discharge it to rapid infiltration basins, or, in some cases, discharge it to surface waters. Surface waters are diverted around surface mining operations. Adverse effects of groundwater drawdown include formation of sinkholes within 5 km of groundwater drawdown; reduced stream flows with reduced quantities of wate available for irrigation, stock watering, and domestic, mining and milling, and municipal uses; reduction or loss of vegetation cover for wildlife, with reduced carrying capacity for terrestrial wildlife; loss of aquatic habitat for native fishes and their prey; and disruption of Native American cultural traditions. Surface discharge of excess mine dewatering water and other waters to main waterways may contain excess quantities of arsenic, total dissolved solids, boron, copper, fluoride, and zinc. When mining operations cease, and the water pumps are dismantled, these large open pits may slowly fill with water, forming lakes. The water quality of pit lakes may present a variety of pressing environmental problems.

The mining industry is aware of these problems and is working on solutions. For further reading, see Mission 2016 from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

But this brings me to a point the Greater Yellowstone Coalition staff made during presentations and side conversations on the group’s ride: while larger mining companies are working on solutions and taking care to select only the best sites, and there is an acknowledged need for metal mining IN THE RIGHT PLACES, some smaller companies with fewer resources appear to be going after some tenuous opportunities. Case in point, a proposal to explore a gold mine bordering Yellowstone National Park, on a site that looms over the Yellowstone River. Here’s a photo from the Greater Yellowstone Coalition‘s website:


This just seems the epitome of stupidity to me, since gold mining damage cannot be undone, and especially because the Yellowstone River, which supports a huge chunk of the Montana economy through tourism-related businesses, is already stressed by climate change and other human impacts. (ICYMI: 183 miles of the Yellowstone River, plus tributaries, was closed to all recreations activities on August 19 to try to prevent the spread of a deadly fish parasite outbreak thought to be enabled by warm water temperatures and low water flows.) There needs to be a place for mining – our modern world depends on it at the moment. But there are some places mines just should not go, and it seems to me the upstream borderland of Yellowstone National Park is one such place.

Back to the bike ride!

I was so glad when a course volunteer told me we only had a few more miles to go, that I could use a blue water tower on the horizon as a landmark for the finish line. I was hot, and I was tired.

Not so tired not to be delighted by the Pac Man fire hydrant I saw at the roadside in town, though. I wish I’d had the energy to get a photo of it and to go seeking more decorative fire hydrants. A community volunteer told me there’d been a contest, and I’m sure I could’ve created a fun photo compilation of them.

The Whitehall residents I spoke with were lovely, welcoming people. I got the sense not everyone was thrilled we were there, though. A pickup truck coal rolled the finish line just after I arrived. Not nice.

Shade was at a premium at our Whitehall High School campsite on this hot, dry day. A couple of cyclists took advantage of the shady area under the school’s renewable energy station. Solar panels: good for producing energy, and shade!

30 high school energy

The CGY organizers were cognizant of the need for shade as well and purchased a number of tarps to rig up into an impromptu sun shelter along the tennis court fence.

31 improvised shade

Many cyclists headed next door to cool off in the community pool.

I slept quite well in Whitehall. The well-watered grass was nice and cushy under the tents, and the sound of vehicle tires thrumming on I-90 about 1,000 feet away drowned out other sounds and soothed me to sleep. 😀

Day 3 stats
76.5 miles
1,466 feet of climb
14.2 mph avg speed
low temp 43
hi temp 88
precip 0
wind 5-17 g 20 E

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 2: Livingston to Bozeman

Day 2 of Cycle Greater Yellowstone backtracked us back to Beall Park in Bozeman again. The full route included a 50-mile out-and-back down Paradise Valley, but, given that there was no rest day this year, our training was minimal, we had already ridden Paradise Valley in 2013, and the day was supposed to be hot, we opted for the shorter route of 35 miles of mostly hills back to Bozeman, which Jennifer Drinkwalter had described the day before as “up, down, up, down, up, up, down.” Not quite, but, still – hills. All uphill for pretty much the first 14 miles.

I started out the morning in a bad mood. I hadn’t slept well – for the third night in a row. We couldn’t buy a replacement water bottle for the hot day ahead, as the mechanics were sold out and the CGY help desk couldn’t help. We got on our bike and found it had a new, loud ticking sound that wasn’t there the day before. What the heck? Maybe our bike had fallen over in the wind the day before after we’d parked it (against a tennis court net, which offense apparently had enraged the local tennis court boosters – oops).

Yeah, I had a case of the Mondays on vacation. I was feeling junky.

1 junky

Thank goodness there was another rider – Ken from Illinois – who was babying a sore knee and “going slow” (AKA “our pace”) who rode with us and kept us distracted from the hill with conversation. That really helped! (Thanks, Ken!)

Here’s us with Ken at the first water stop on the 35-mile route, at Montana Grizzly Encounter.

2 bear encounter stop

The Grizzly Encounter place was a total surprise to me – I hadn’t been aware there was anything special. We all got to go inside to see the bears, which had been rescued from some unfortunate situation or another and couldn’t make it in the wild.

A wall of the compound made a good bike parking surface.

3 bike parking

Me and Dixie Hooper (a super enthusiastic gal I met last year as part of the CGY ambassador program) and a new friend. (Photo by Dixie’s beau, Andrew.)

4 me & Dixie

First things first: what to do if you encounter a bear at close quarters:

5 bear tips

Bugman watching the two bears out in the display yard that morning.

6 jeff and bear

A wee tiff?

7 bear fight

Back out on the road again (with our sun sleeves freshly wetted down – ahhhh, so cool!), we passed the quaint, octagonal Malmborg School.

8 malmborg school

Downhill. Wheeee!

9 downhill

Whoa. That’s a heckuva snowplow!

10 heckuva snowplow

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

11 my view

Our next rest stop was at Lower Bridger School, which we had ridden past in 2013. We even got to go inside!

12 lower bridger canyon school

Next, we headed up Kelly Canyon Road. And I mean *up*. I have two words for that short-but-wicked ascent: UFF and DA. I got no pictures of us walking our tandem up the last yards to the summit – too demoralizing. It was simply too steep for us to continue pedaling and stay upright. We met some local cyclists up there, including a couple on a tandem. They commiserated with the steepness of the climb, noting that the grade was 18% at some point. Eighteen percent! Egads! No wonder we had to walk.

The coast down the other side was quite nice.

Closer into town, we got stopped by a train. Made me think of my dad.

13 stopped by a train

Somewhere after crossing this train track as we approached Bozeman, traffic got hairy. No honkers, but plenty of risky passing. Made me nervous! Also, we managed to roll into Bozeman during the traffic-y lunch hour. Not very fun. We wound up dismounting and walking our tandem across one particularly busy intersection. It’s just too hard to get started quickly when a traffic opening briefly appears.

Earlier that morning, as the Tent Sherpa crew was packing up the tent city while I prepared for our leisurely 8am start on this “short route” day, I had asked the crew if they might consider reorienting the layout for double-occupancy tents to allow access to both tent doors. In previous years we’d been able to use both tent doors and vestibules for access and gear storage, but this year, the tents had been set up so close together that we couldn’t use the back door or vestibule. When we rolled into camp in Bozeman, we found this:

14 camp back in bozeman

Yup – that’s our tent, on the end, with both doors accessible. There would be some similar accommodation for the rest of the double tents for the rest of the trip. Awesome crew!!

Our bag lunches were waiting for us in camp. For once, I was able to get into the shower without waiting in line. We took the opportunity to do laundry while there was no waiting as well. (So THIS is what it feels like to be a speedy person and get into camp early!) We were able to buy a new water bottle from the mechanics’ restocked supply, too.

Then, we wandered the shops of downtown Bozeman for a bit. (Well, I shopped, Bugman tagged along and checked work emails on his phone.) I mostly bought gifts, but I did buy two things for myself: a Halloween dishtowel with a cycling skeleton, and a book of poster art of National Parks done in the style of the old New Deal/WPA posters.


As Bugman and I were headed back to camp, a young man on a bicycle hopped a curb towards us. As he did so, something fell from his bike, which he then ran over. He skidded to a stop next to us. “Dammit!” he said, looking back at what I now realized was a torn-open can of beer. “I biked six miles with that beer!”

I sympathized with the guy, but Bugman and I also got a good chuckle. #hipsterproblems

When we hiked back up to long-term parking in the fairgrounds parking lot to offload our purchases, we could smell smoke and could see a plume rising to the north. Uh oh.

15 grass fire

During announcements, Jennifer noted that the crew was keeping an eye on a grass fire near our morning route. That evening, flakes of ash fell on us in camp. Luckily, the fire was extinguished by nightfall, and the wind that came up in the night didn’t appear to restoke it.

Day 2 stats
36.7 miles
2,360 feet of climb
10.6 mph avg speed
low temp 47
hi temp 92
precip 0
wind 8-22 g 30 NE

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 1: Bozeman to Livingston

Ah, the first day of Cycle Greater Yellowstone, when all is fresh and new! I tend to take a lot of photos on day 1. This year was no exception. There are 50 photos in this post!

Here’s the only picture we got of us together. (Another photo we attempted at the top of a hill did not turn out – alas!)

1 headed out

Our Thing-1-Thing-2 getup attracted the attention of a TV reporter, and we wound up on the evening news. (Another rider dubbed us “The Things” and would greet us on the route, “Hey, Things!”)

The official start line! (With the TV reporter off to the side.)

2 start line

A grain elevator with a ghost sign. “IT’S THE WHEAT FLOUR . . . A PERFECT PRODUCT”

3 grain elevator

I did a double-take on this one. CaLfe? I looked it up. Stockyard Cafe. I get it! Calf-cafe. Ha!! To quote from their website: “This is recreational restauranting…. Stockyard Cafe…barely above camping :)”

4 stockyard calfe

The early morning light made the scenery glow. (Since we’re slow, we always try to be on the road when the course opens at 7am.

5 morning light

A high fire danger day. We were impacted by a bit of wildfire smoke on one day, and the organizers were keeping an eye on a grassfire near the route, but otherwise, we lucked out this year and avoided wildfire conflicts. I suspect wildfire season is part of the reason CGY organizers are thinking about moving the date into September next year.

6 fire danger

Bridger Canyon is lovely!

7 bridger canyon

I had to manipulate the photo settings to get the colors to show up – wonder if anyone else noticed the iridescent clouds that morning.

8 rainbow cloud.jpg

Hay bale art: a bonny Scottish coo? (Would explain the hair-over-the-eye look.)

9 bale buddy

I was loving the scenery!

10 more bridger canyon

But some drivers weren’t loving the bikes on the road. We encountered the first of the week’s honking drivers along this road.

I don’t know if it was the route, or if people’s behavior is changing, but there seemed to be a lot of rude and impatient drivers this year. I have a hypothesis that the increased speed limits on interstates and rural highways have made drivers more accustomed to higher speeds and more likely to get impatient if they have to slow down. Whatever the cause, I don’t like it. Not one bit.

This cow was offended by the rude honking, too:

11 shocked cow

We saw a lot of magpies along the route all week. You can just make one out in this photo, sitting on a fencepost.

12 magpie and mountain

Tandem shadow! On this section of route, we were passed by a number of vintage cars. Not all of them passed carefully. Some were so eager to pass the bicycles that they risked head-on collisions with oncoming traffic. You would think people driving classic cars would be a little more careful.

13 tandem shadow

Before it landed on the ranch gate, this raven flew behind us for several hundred yards. I watched it follow us in my rear view mirror. Corvids are pretty intelligent birds. I wonder what it was thinking.

14 raven ranch gate

Being slower on the uphill on a tandem, we got passed a lot on the first part of the ride.

15 being passed

A rest STOP.

16 stop

The uphill climb continues, we get passed some more.

17 passed again

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

18 my view

Passed again!

19 passed again

At last – Battleridge Pass (elevation 6,372 feet). Mostly done with the day’s climbing!

20 pass stop

Zooming along on the downhill, cyclists tend to take the lane. You need more room to maneuver at higher speeds.

21 passed again

A cattle corral, with bees. You can’t see the bees in the photo, but when we went by, there were a bunch of what appeared to be honeybees crossing the road. One cyclist got a bee caught in her sunglasses and got stung next to her eye. Ow!

22 corral

This is a working landscape here. Lots of alfalfa, like this side-roll-irrigated field.

23 side roll irrigation

Bikes weren’t the only slow-moving vehicles on this road. Watch for farm equipment, too!

32 watch for farm equipment

The rest stop at the Sedan School was fun. As soon as we arrived, we were mobbed by youngsters offering to fill our water bottles for us. ❤ We had our photo taken with a couple of girls. Our jerseys went well with their recent Dr. Seuss readings. 🙂

24 water bottle helpers

I think the folks at the rest stop were keen on introducing us to roping, but the roping dummies were too attractive as bike parking.

25 roping dummy bike parking

The dummies also made for great silly photo opportunities. 😀

26 roping dummy clowns

Then there was the slide . . .

27 giant slide

They sure don’t make ’em like that anymore! A few of us cyclists couldn’t resist a trip down that tall slide. It was high-diving-board intimidating at the top. The trick was being prepared for how it launched you forward at the end. I executed a rather ungraceful double-hop landing.

28 cannot resist

The source of our potable water at the water bar at the Sudan School stop: Black Magic!

29 black magic support truck

Everyone was exhorted to drink plenty of water and keep their water bottles filled. It was getting hot, and the air was dry. The SAG crew was sheltering in the shade of their van.

30 SAG crew

Gravel and a cattle guard on the turn into and out of the rest stop were a bad combo. Much easier to walk the tandem over the plywood.

31 rolling over cattle guard

The view west from the bridge over Flathead Creek.

33 meandering stream

A Historic Point, and a good excuse to pull over and rest, though we rarely did. Need to keep moving if you’re slower than most!

34 historic point

Did anyone see the elk? Haha.

35 elkhaha

When in Big Sky Country, don’t forget to look up.

36 big sky

We stopped for lunch at mile 47, at Clyde Park. I distinctly remember that lunch included gazpacho. It was divine. Cool, salty, cucumbery – the perfect meal on a hot day! The water bar was a popular place.

37 refill at water bar

Back on the road again. The road surface was unpleasantly gravelly in spots. I found this business sign amusing. “Have gravel will travel.”

38 have gravel will travel

We waved to a bikepacker family we met on the road. Mom was riding behind this dad and kid, waving her arm to try to slow traffic for safe passing. It didn’t work. Drivers flew past, taking risks I really wish they wouldn’t take.

39 bike packer family

As we turned west towards Livingston, the last 5 miles or so wound up being dab-on into a headwind. Not very fun at the end of a ride.

But we made it to Livingston! I love Sacagawea Park! It’s right on the Yellowstone River. I remembered it from the first year, but this time, we arrived in camp with plenty of time to get cleaned up and explore the downtown.

40 livinston tent city

There was a beautiful antique bus available to ferry us downtown. Downtown was only a couple of blocks away, though, so we walked. (Ah, that Day 1 energy!)

44 beautiful bus

Such an iconic historic-mountain-town view!

42 downtown livingston

Great vintage theater marquee!

41 livinston theater

We had to stop at a sandwich shop for some ice cream. The cone was stamped with a suggestion I followed: “EAT-IT-ALL”. Across the street was a bar advertising itself as a “husband day care center” while the wife shopped. Ha!

43 ice cream eat it all

My Überbrew pour that evening had a baristaesque touch: there was a heart in the foam!

45 i heart beer

After dinner, we retired to the banks of the Yellowstone River. I remember the river being higher and louder back in 2013. It had soothed me to sleep at the campsite that year, but this year I couldn’t hear it from the tents. Wonder if the channel shifted, or if the flow is low this year?

There was a family of osprey screaming around in the trees on the opposite bank. When I looked closer at a photo I managed to grab, I could see that the bird was carrying a fish!

46 osprey

I was having great fun playing with the colorful river rocks. (With thoughts of Andy Goldsworthy – one of my favorite artists. I am certainly no Andy Goldsworthy.)

47 colorful rocks

48 shades of grey

Alas, we broke one of our water bottles after dropping it on the rocks. Bummer! We’d need it the next day, which was predicted to be another hot one.

The sunset on the river was breathtakingly beautiful.

49 sunset phase 1

It kept getting better. I saw several people in camp rush to the riverbank with their cameras.

50 sunset phase 2

What a day! Can the first day be my favorite?

Day 1 stats
68.3 miles
2,501 feet of climb
12.5 mph avg speed
low temp 48
hi temp 88
precip 0
wind 5-16 g 22 east

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 0 Bozeman Base Camp

If you ask me at the end of a long day of riding on Cycle Greater Yellowstone if I am having fun, my answer might not be in the affirmative. The long miles and climbing are pretty tough on me. I don’t particularly enjoy the multiple nights of camping-related poor sleep, the inevitable muscle soreness, or the constellations of saddle sores I tend to collect. It certainly didn’t help that this has been a travel-y/hot/hailstorm-y year, and Bugman and I only got in about 375 training miles on the tandem before the ride. (In past years we did more like 900 training miles. Thank goodness I was at least able to get in 500 training miles on my new single road bike!)

It was an especially challenging route for me this year, since there was no layover or option to be off the bike for a day to rest my derrière and leg muscles, and early hot weather encouraged those darned saddle stores to start up right out of the gate. Of the possible 512 course miles, we rode 434, opting for the shorter 35-mile route on day 2 (rather than 85), and sagging out on the last 25 miles on day 5 and 3 miles of hill on day 6 when either Bugman or I started bonking with all the climbing. (It’s extra tough climbing with a tandem!)

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 10.42.25 AM

But I do enjoy the camaraderie of a couple hundred other cyclists on this well-supported ride. I especially appreciate that many of my fellow riders are of retirement age or better (last year, the average rider age was 55). I see them as role models for maintaining long-distance cycling as a lifelong activity. Signing up for CGY is a good incentive for me to ride regularly and stay fit!

I also love discovering small communities and natural wonders along the way. I appreciate the scenery as it slowly moves by at a human speed, the opportunity to hear the birds and smell the greenery and ponder the various barbed wire fence designs. And I enjoy mulling over my experiences with the aid of photos, mostly taken from the back seat of our tandem.

I’ll share my experiences with the 2016 CGY ride in this post – look for links at the bottom, which I will update with posts on each day as I complete them. Look to other links for blog posts on the 2015, 2014, and 2013 rides. (Yep, this was our fourth time doing this ride on a tandem bicycle. We are crazy people!)

Since we live in western Nebraska only about 600 miles from the start in Bozeman, Montana, we packed the tandem atop the car and drove.

Along I-90 in Wyoming, the highway sign warned “BIKE EVENT TRAFFIC NEXT 15 MILES USE LEFT LANE.” Not everyone used the left lane, of course (see camper in photo, being passed by a semi truck).

bike event traffic.jpg

I wondered how scary it was for those riders on the interstate, and commented that I wouldn’t pay for the privilege of riding on the Interstate. (Heh. I should have studied the CGY course maps more carefully. To be continued . . .)

I never could find out what this ride was. If anyone knows, please comment!

We parked in long-term parking at the Gallatin County Fairgrounds. When you see a bunch of out-of-state license plates and bike racks like this, you know a big bike event is in progress!

parking lot

Ah, here we are at Tent City, at basecamp Bozeman in Beall Park!

camp tents

We met a couple of awesome camping neighbors here on Day 0, with whom we’d have some good conversations over the next week: Roger from Missouri and Sharika from Florida. (A special hat tip to Sharika, who is an Army veteran and participant in World T.E.A.M. Sports.)

After getting settled in, the next order of business: finding the beer tent! (Yaaay, Überbrew, for being a super-awesome ride sponsor again this year! All the money people paid for beer went back to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition.)

uberbrew tent

Right next to the beer tent was a booth selling bike-related pretty things from Glassisum Designs, which donated a special Überbrew “growler” bike panel for a fundraiser auction. (Alas, I didn’t capture the “pretty side” of the panels –  my camera wouldn’t cooperate with the backlighting that day.)

stained glass

As usual, announcements followed dinner. This year, during announcements there were raffle drawings for prizes provided by sponsors (including Roswell Bicycles). Since you had to be present to win, this provided an extra incentive for people to stick around for announcements. A great idea! (Although, why someone wouldn’t want to listen to important announcements about the campsites and course and weather updates in the first place is beyond me!) Here, CGY Coordinator Jennifer Drinkwalter hands off a prize to a lucky winner. The bike mechanic tent is in the background – another important aspect of daily camp setup (and on-course support), since breakdowns happen!

nightly drawings

A few other standards of camp:

The shower trucks. Oh, the shower trucks! This is one of the things that makes me love this ride: the ability to take a hot (or cold, depending on the weather!) shower at the end of each day’s ride. The stalls inside are very nice. (Yes, I felt slightly creeper-ish taking a picture in the showers):


Along with the showers are also hot/cold sinks as well as a charging station for phones, cameras, bike computers, etc. You can leave your device there to charge and not worry about it walking off while you’re gone. It cost $20 for a 5-charge punchcard, I think. As part of the Sherpa tent service this year, we got a free charge punchcard. Nice!

Some folks had other methods of charging their devices. Go, Sol ☀️!

solar charge

A new option in camp this year was the laundry pod – basically a souped-up salad spinner for doing laundry. (This is the official pod explanation video, but this one is more fun.) Bugman and I used this option, since there was no rest day or midweek short ride with town access affording an opportunity to hit the laundromat. They worked OK, provided you soaked/agitated the clothing long enough, followed directions not to use too much soap, and didn’t try to wash too many clothes at once. Between the spin function and the hot, dry Montana weather, clothing dried pretty quickly! Filling the pods at the water bar:

laundry pod

When you think about other hygiene needs in rural Montana, you might think we had to resort to this (view across from Sedan School):


But, no! We had access to modern portable toilets and handwashing stations at camp and rest stops, provided by family-operated South West Septic. (I enjoyed listening to Mary Smail tell the story of how she went from dental hygienist to septic business owner. “I’ve dealt with cleaning both ends,” she said. I love her sense of humor! Check out the company license place compilation on this page.)

Props to all the volunteers who helped us in camp and along the course, including the radio operators who made sure we stayed in contact in cell-signal-less areas!

radio volunteers

One of the benefits of camping in town is easy access to shopping and entertainment options. After dinner and announcements, Bugman and I poked around in downtown Bozeman. I liked it! It’s a bike-y place with interesting architecture, where people actually stop for pedestrians in crosswalks!

Lots of bike parking in downtown Bozeman:

bike parking

Although, if the parking wasn’t near where people went, light poles got used instead:

bikes parked

Some businesses participated in a discount program for people who bike to shop. Cool!

bozeman bike program

Some fellow CGYers window shopping at one of two downtown bike shops.

bozeman bike shop

I spy gargoyles!

bozeman architecture

A view inside the 1928 Hotel Baxter:

hotel baxter

While it was nice being close to such amenities, there were drawbacks to camping in an urban area. Train horns. Helicopter flyovers. Car alarms. Streetlights. I was glad I brought my earplugs and sleeping mask, especially since our tent was directly under the streetlight on the first night. No need for a headlamp when using the toilet in the middle of the night!

bright camping

And shortly, on to posts about the riding!

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 1: Bozeman to Livingston

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 2: Livingston to Bozeman

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 3: Bozeman to Whitehall

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 4: Whitehall to Dewey

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 5: Dewey to Dillon

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 6: Dillon to Ennis

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 7: Ennis to Bozeman

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.


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!


Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 4: Cooke City to Cody

When I unzipped the tent in the morning, and my headlamp illuminated the tent fly, I knew why I’d slept so well.

The inside of the tent fly was coated in frost! Because it had rained and the fly zipper was wet, it had frozen and was difficult to open.

The inside of the tent fly was coated in frost!

I tend to sleep best when it’s cold. It sho’nuff was cold!

The tent fly zipper was frozen and difficult to open. I climbed outside and crunched across the frosted clover that covered the field under our tents to get some coffee.I brought a cup back to the tent for Bugman, to help him wake up. He’s not terribly fond of mornings, or of cold. I was grateful at breakfast that the dining chairs were made of plastic. Metal would have been co-o-o-old to sit on!

How about a cool, refreshing drink from a frozen CGY water bottle?

How about a cool, refreshing drink from a frozen CGY water bottle?

It was mighty brisk in the pre-dawn light. Bugman filled a water bottle with hot water and used it to de-ice the bike so the belt drive and brakes would work.

It was mighty brisk in the pre-dawn light. Bugman filled a water bottle with hot water and used it to de-ice the bike so the belt drive and brakes would work. I didn’t get a picture, as I was too busy packing up our gear.

Come on, sun! Let's get this day warmed up! We have some hills to ride!

Come on, sun! Let’s get this day warmed up! We have some hills to ride!

We wheeled our bike into a patch of sunlight and rubbed it and worked it until it began to defrost in earnest and we were sure no remaining ice would hang up any vital parts. Meanwhile, I got distracted by the beauty of frost-covered vegetation.

frosted flowersWe were pretty chilled when we first started out that morning. We were wearing all of our warm bike clothing layers, with the exception of my shoe covers, which were still wet from the day before and had frozen stiff. My feet were cold, so I improvised with a split plastic bag and some duct tape. Ugly, but functional.

By the time we started to climb the hill outside of Cooke City, we were starting to overheat and had to shed some layers.

It was a glorious morning for a ride, and a glorious route!

We asked a random fellow cyclist to take our picture with Pilot Peak in the background. (Oops! There was a little condensation on my camera lens.)

We asked a random fellow cyclist to take our picture with Pilot Peak in the background. (Oops! There was a little condensation on my camera lens.)

Beautiful, beautiful ride that morning. There were people stopping all over the place for pictures.

Beautiful, beautiful ride that morning. There were people stopping all over the place for pictures. Nota bene: that road shoulder looked all nice and smooth, but at the edge near the guardrail, it was loose gravel – soft enough to capture impressions of the hooves of passing ungulates – that exactly matched the texture of the pavement. I saw one cyclist almost wipe out when his front tire dug in.

I absolutely loved this ride. Lots of descending – nice and fast on the tandem (15-30 MPH), then some rollers later on. For sure my favorite morning!

By the time we got to the refuel stop at Painter's Outpost at 10:30 a.m., the day was plenty warm. We stripped off our winter wear and, for the first time, deposited excess clothing into gear drop box.

By the time we got to the refuel stop at Painter’s Outpost at 10:30 a.m., the day was plenty warm. We stripped off our winter wear and, for the first time, deposited excess clothing into gear drop box. Then we slathered on the sunscreen. I managed not to get too burnt on this trip!

As we passed this pond, a small flock of preening coots splashed around in the water, breaking the surface into ripples and dazzling flashes of reflected sunlight.

As we passed this pond, a small flock of preening coots splashed around in the water, breaking the surface into ripples studded with dazzling flashes of reflected sunlight.

Bugman said,

Bugman said, “Horses! Take a picture for your mom!” (She loves horses.) OK. Here it is, mom. ❤

Did you happen to notice the driveway cattle guard in the photo of Painter's Outpost? We saw a lot of them on this day, as we were in range cattle country. The CGY crew marked cattle guards with orange paint, but at least on cyclist hit a cattle guard wrong and flew off his bike. That's what the ambulance was was responding to this image. Bummer.

We saw a lot of cattle guards on this day, set right across the highway, as we were in range cattle country. Apart from the bumpiness, they can be pretty nasty for cyclists at the seams where the metal comes together. Many of them have gaps parallel to the lane of travel that are just the right size to ensnare a bike tire. The CGY crew marked cattle guard hazards with orange paint, but at least one cyclist hit a cattle guard wrong and flew off his bike. That’s what the ambulance on the road ahead in this image was was responding to. Bummer.

Such a beautiful road!

Such a beautiful road!

There's our fellow tandemites, Nico and Jeanne, pausing just before a fast, steep descent into the next rest stop. They are faster than we are on the downhill, and they passed us - headed right towards some kind of grouse, which was sitting stupidly in the middle of the road. There was no collision, thank goodness, as we two tandems and a few other cyclists whizzed past the bird. Just bummed I wasn't able to get my camera out. I don't like to take pictures from the back of the bike when we're going much more than 15 MPH.

There’s our fellow tandemites, Nico and Jeanne, pausing just before a fast, steep descent into the next rest stop. They are faster than we are on the downhill, and they passed us – headed right towards some kind of grouse, which was sitting stupidly in the middle of the road. There was no collision, thank goodness, as we two tandems and a few other cyclists whizzed past the bird.

I wish I'd gotten my camera out in time to capture an image to try to identify the bird. I got a picture of my shadow instead.

I wish I’d gotten my camera out in time to capture an image to try to identify the bird. I got a picture of my shadow instead.

Here are some cyclists passing over Sunlight Creek Bridge (the highest bridge in Wyoming), as they come down off that hill to the refueling stop before the big climb - 2,000 feet!

Here are some cyclists passing over Sunlight Creek Bridge (the highest bridge in Wyoming), as they come down off that hill to the refueling stop before the big climb – 2,000 feet!

The sag van was busy again. (See the volunteer showing off her muscles.) But WE WERE NOT GOING TO SAG! Not today!!

The sag van was busy again. (See the volunteer showing off her muscles.) But WE WERE NOT GOING TO SAG! Not today!!

Here we go!

Here we go!

Getting high enough up that we can really get some great views - and marvel at that road waaay down there that we were just on. But at the same time - and I didn't get any pictures of this - we'd look waaay up the hill . . . and there was a guardrail up there, taunting us, saying

Getting high enough up that we can really get some great views – and marvel at that road waaay down there that we were just on. But at the same time – and I didn’t get any pictures of this – we’d look waaay up the hill . . . and there was a guardrail up there, taunting us, saying “Oh, you think you’ve climbed a lot? Ha! You’re not done yet!” I did like this climb, though. It was long, but not too steep – nice and steady.

I think for the first time in my life, I was grateful for road construction. Yes, you read that right. Here was the situation: the road crew was doing a tar-and-chip seal of the shoulders of the highway midway up the hill. The road was shut down to one lane through that stretch, and the construction crew used a pilot car shuttling back and forth to guide the stopped and waiting cars up and down the hill, past the tar truck. Since we cyclists would be going so slow up that hill, the WYDOT folks permitted us to proceed without waiting for the pilot car! We were just warned to stick to the one side of the road, and to give the tar truck plenty of room when we passed it. The beauty of this was, the automobile traffic that did pass us was slow, all in one lane, and in pulses. That was THE BEST WAY EVAR to cycle that road! Thank you so much, WYDOT! :-D

I think for the first time in my life, I was grateful for road construction. Yes, you read that right. Here was the situation: the road crew was doing a tar-and-chip seal of the shoulders of the highway midway up the hill. The road was shut down to one lane through that stretch, and the construction crew used a pilot car (pictured above, followed by a sag van) shuttling back and forth to guide the stopped and waiting cars up and down the hill, past the tar truck. Since we cyclists would be going so slow up that hill, and we took up so little space, and the construction project was simple, the WYDOT folks permitted us to proceed without waiting for the pilot car! We were just warned to stick to the one side of the road, and to give the tar truck plenty of room when we passed it. The beauty of this was, the automobile traffic that did pass us was slow, all in one lane, and in pulses. Perfect!!!

The scale of the landscape was awe-inspiring. Look how small the cyclists appear!

The scale of the landscape was awe-inspiring. We cyclists looked like ants.

We made it! Vista Point! (GOSH, I hate that name

We made it! Vista Point! (GOSH, I hate that name “Dead Indian.”) Elevation 8,066 feet, according to our tracking software.

Looking down from Vista Point. Yeah. We biked that!

Looking down from Vista Point. Yeah. We biked that!

Have to post a repeat of our triumphant summit pic from the day 0 post. It was a good day on the bike!

Have to post a repeat of our triumphant summit pic from the day 0 post. It was a good day on the bike!

The crowd was thinning at the lunch stop. It was 2:30 p.m., we were towards the back of the pack again, and we still had another 33 miles to go. Yes, that would include a 3,000-foot drop over the first 12 miles, but there was another 1,000-foot climb awaiting us, at a lower elevation and higher temperature.

The crowd was thinning at the lunch stop. It was 2:30 p.m., we were towards the back of the pack again, and we still had another 33 miles to go. Yes, that would include a 3,000-foot drop over the first 12 miles, but there was another 1,000-foot climb awaiting us, at a lower elevation and higher temperature.

Taking a break to take a picture.

Taking a break to take a picture.

There was some beautiful geology on the descent, the landscape continuing to make ants of us cyclists.

There was some grand geology on the descent, the landscape continuing to make ants of us cyclists.

Curving into drier, hotter land. No lush pine-spruce-fir-aspen forest here.

Curving into drier, hotter land. No lush pine-spruce-fir-aspen forest here.

The only trees were the cottonwoods down along the river courses.

The only trees were the cottonwoods down along the river courses.

And the pines up on the bluffs.

And the pines up on the bluffs.

A look back the way we'd come.

A look back the way we’d come.

I haven’t got any more pictures from this day. I was just too gassed to care about capturing the moment anymore.

But reaching that last rest stop at the top of the big hill at mile 62.5 was sweet. And they had icee pops! Cool, sweet icee pops!

It was a little anxiety-inducing that we were at that rest stop right around 5 p.m. The course was supposed to close at 5 p.m. But we were allowed to continue the final 15 miles into town. Thank you to the volunteers who worked longer shifts to allow us slower cyclists to do that!

Also, one of the sign van volunteers, who probably was glad to see us finally complete a challenging ride day, gave us a “Tour de France start.” I’ve not watched much bike racing, so I didn’t know what he was talking about. As soon as we were pedaling, the man gave our bike a good running push from behind. I laughed the whole time. It was fun to get up to road speed so quickly with so little effort. 😀

When we finally straggled into camp, we couldn’t find room in the bike corral to park our bulky tandem, so we wound up leaning it against a tree next to someone’s tent. We managed to get cleaned up in time to grab dinner and catch most of the evening announcements.

I was glad for the rest scheduled the next day. No way were we going to attempt that optional 100-mile out-and back! It’s a vacation, after all!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw