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.”
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
We 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.
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.
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