2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 7: Ennis to Bozeman

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

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

1 chilly morning

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

2 frosty table

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

3 pond mist

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

4 fellow tandem 1

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

5 tandem shadow

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

6 honker

Rolling out into the morning.

7 rolling into the morning

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

8 morning sun

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

9 conquering the hill

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

10 warm up hands

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

11 fellow tandem 2

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

12 tense descent

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

RANGBOOTLEFIGGERSCHNARK!
SIXTABLASTIDHANGDAFARGG!
HEGDOGGLETIZADONGER!
AAARRRRGH!

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

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

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

13-norris-boom-bax

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

14-walk-bikes

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

15-along-madison-river

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

16-lflies-and-fishing

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

17-rumble-bars

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

20-law-enforcement

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

18-my-view

Fishers, two kinds.

19-fishers-two-kinds

Our riverside rest stop at mile 29:

21-riverside-rest-stop

I wasn’t the only one capturing the scenery.

22-photo-opp

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

23-walk-the-gravel-hill

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

24-awesome-volunteers

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

25-another-hill

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

26-bear-knuckles

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

27-right-turn

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

28-three-montana-elements

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

29-montana-barn

T-H-E  E-N-D

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

30-the-end-at-cgy-hq

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

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

31-hotel-bottle-opener

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

32-bozeman-garbage

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

32-shirt-2

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

33-cattle-theme-extreme

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

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

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

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

2016 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 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

A valve stem and passersby

We were on the bridge over the Gering Valley Drain on Highway 71 when it happened.

Whump! Ping!

“Wow, that was a really big rock,” I hollered to Bugman.

“What rock?” he yelled back from the front seat of the tandem.

Whump! Ping!

I looked down at the back tire, and . . .

“Argh! Pull over!”

Flat tire.

Out came the rim tools, spare inner tube, and mini pump.

In a matter of minutes, Bugman had stripped the flat tire off the bike and found a hole in the inner tube. Meanwhile, I scanned the tire for any possible re-puncture points. I found nothing but a hole. Stupid road debris.

With the spare inner tube in place, Bugman started to reassemble the bike. I posted a picture on social media to alert local friends, just in case something went wrong and we needed help getting back home.

Wyobraska Tandem flat tire

Day taking a detour. ‪#‎flattire‬

We took turns working the mini pump. It’s not much fun to inflate a 100-PSI road bike tire with a mini pump. Especially on the side of the road. At least it wasn’t raining.

But then . . .

Bugman attempted to remove the mini pump to check the pressure, and  – WHOOSH! – all the air suddenly released from the tire.

“Aw, crap!”

“Did the valve stem tear?”

“No, it came unscrewed.” (Didn’t know that could happen!) “Do we have a pliers in the bike bag?”

“Um – nope. Just the multi-tool with all the hex wrenches.”

Maybe we’d need to call on friends for a rescue after all??

Just then, a northbound vehicle slowed. The white suspension-lift SUV pulled a u-turn and rumbled up next to us in the southbound lanes, the men in the front seat peering over at us.

“Need some help?”

“Yeah – do you have a pliers? Our valve stem came unscrewed.”

After pausing to retrieve an empty can that fell when he jumped down, the passenger walked around to the back of the vehicle and rummaged in a large toolbox.

“Here ya go,” he said, handing the tool to Bugman.

“Ah, needle nose. Perfect!”

Bugman tightened up the valve stem and handed the tool back.

“Thank you!”

The SUV chugged away as we focused on inflating our bike tire again – successfully this time.

I didn’t ask for the names of our roadside rescuers, nor even catch where the vehicle license plate was from. Like so many people who stop to lend a hand with no thought of reward, they melted back into their everyday lives.

I sent them good-karma thoughts as we resumed our cycling journey on our newly-inflated tire.

Thanks, guys!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

A change of scenery, critters, and cross training

Recently, I got a bit of a different view from the back of a tandem than what I’m used to:

my viewHey! That’s not western Nebraska!

Nosireebob! That there’s the eastern coast of the island of Kauai, in Hawaii.

Bugman and I traveled to Hawaii with his parents, Ma and Pa Bug, to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

Pa Bug helps Ma Bug with her morning cup of coffee.

Pa Bug helps Ma Bug with her morning cup o’ joe.

While we were on Kauai, Bugman and I rented a Trek tandem from Coconut Coasters and cycled up and down the couple of miles of Ke Ala Hele Makalae (“The Path That Goes Along the Coast”).

There is arguably no better place to eat a box of Girl Scout cookies after an invigorating tandem ride than a Hawaiian seaside cliff.

There is arguably no better place to eat a box of Girl Scout cookies after an invigorating tandem ride than a Hawaiian seaside cliff.

At one point while cycling along, I made Bugman stop and do an about-face.

“That woman was carrying signs!” I said.

We’d gotten a voicemail from Pa Bug a bit earlier – there was ilio holo i ka uaua (Hawaiian monk seal) on the beach near the hotel, and some volunteers had cordoned off the area.

Ma and Pa Bug's shot of a Hawaiian monk seal. What a cute face!

Ma and Pa Bug’s shot of a Hawaiian monk seal. What a cute face!

Sure enough, there was a seal on the rocks down below us, near where a volunteer was planting a “do not approach the seal” sign near a piece of bleached driftwood.

Can you see the seal? Hint: a wet seal is shinier than porous volcanic rock.

Can you see the seal? Hint: a wet seal is shinier than porous volcanic rock. Another hint: look bottom center.

Hawaiian monk seals are critically endangered, with only about 1,100 individuals left. One of the threats to their survival is human interference – specifically, bothering seals that have come ashore to rest. Volunteers patrol the cost and respond to tips from a hotline, ready to set up signage and barriers to keep the tourist paparazzi at a safe distance when the seals beach themselves.

The woman volunteer told us that the seal was a young female (as we learned from signage later, she was born May 29, 2014), and that her mother was one of the seals that was currently beached to the south, near where we were staying.

We continued down the path to the beach behind our hotel, and, happily, the seals were still there! (Some seals, anyway. These might not have been the same two seals that were on the beach when Ma and Pa Bug were there.)

A seal patrol volunteer speaks to tourists. From the volunteers at the site, we learned that the momma seal was about 15 years old. The younger seal, about 5 years old, was a male and unknown to the volunteers. Young seals pupped in the area are tagged after they are weaned, so they can be identified and tracked.

A seal patrol volunteer speaks to tourists. From the volunteers at the site, we learned that the momma seal was about 15 years old. The younger seal, about 5 years old, was a male and unknown to the volunteers. Young seals pupped in the area are tagged after they are weaned, so they can be identified and tracked.

The "do not approach the seals" signage. The two lumps on the beach in the distance are the seals.

The “do not approach the seals” signage. The lump on the beach in the distance is the momma seal.

Ho hum, basking in the warm sun . . . The signage posted at the site said this female was the "most heavily scarred seal on Kaua'i." The injuries were caused by ropes, boat propellers, and sharks. Apparently dogs are a pretty big threat to beached seals, too. (Keep 'em leashed on the beach, friends!!)

Ho hum, basking in the warm sun . . .
The signage posted at the site said this female was the “most heavily scarred seal on Kaua’i.” Her injuries were caused by ropes, boat propellers, and sharks. Apparently dogs are a pretty big threat to beached seals, too. (Keep ’em leashed on the beach, friends!)

Whaddaya lookin' at?

Whaddaya lookin’ at? (Photo by Bugman)

The young male got restless and hauled himself back into the surf, at one point making a rude raspberry-type vocalization as he swam.

seal 4seal 5seal 6seal 7

While Bugman was photographing, the young male seal got restless and hauled himself into the water. Bugman kept a close eye on it as it swam behind him. The seal ducked and rolled in the surf at water's edge, and at one point, made a rude sort of raspberry sound.

Bugman kept a close eye on the seal as it swam behind him, ducking and rolling in the surf at water’s edge.

Swimmer seal. (Photo by Bugman)

Swimmer seal. (Photo by Bugman)

Nose itch!

Back to momma seal: nose itch!

That’s about it on the biking and the seals, but I have more to share. Continued in Part 2 . . .

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

How did you train for Cycle Greater Yellowstone?

When Bugman and I signed up for our first Cycle Greater Yellowstone, I was really freaked out about the distance and hills. I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to do it.

I asked for training advice, and I heard, “Ride as much as possible. Get in long rides. Ride on consecutive days. Just ride.”

To me, that wasn’t specific enough advice, but it seemed to work. We survived year 1. (Granted, we missed the two biggest climbs of the ride because of a bike breakdown and a forest fire, but we DID do the century ride that year.) We also managed to squeak by on year 2, but we did not have fun on that Teton Pass climb.

I’ve had someone else ask me recently, “How did you train for this?”

In the interest of providing some numerical means of comparison for others wanting to know, I went back and looked up all the tandem rides (and some running) that we did in preparation for both year 1 and year 2 of CGY. I was surprised. It *felt* like we rode more than we actually did.

I present below, the “Wyobraska Tandem 19-or-20-week ‘non-program’ of CGY training,” with some important caveats:

  • I am not a trainer. I don’t recommend that you follow this program. It’s just a record of what I did, by way of comparison.
  • I would definitely have gotten in more mileage and climbing if possible. It would have made those high/long days on CGY more bearable. But, Bugman and I are busy people. And weather happens. And illness. And excuses, excuses.
  • The totals below do not include my cycling to work, which could range from 0 to 30-40 miles per week. Only on-the-tandem bike training is included below.
  • Numbers were based on my perhaps-not-so-reliable phone app. Miles is miles traveled. Feet is the total climb.
  • Sometimes where it looks like I did no training one week and a lot of training the following week, it’s just because I was riding on weekends, and if one weekend I rode Saturday and the next weekend rode Sunday, it could throw off the weekly totals.
  • I was also training for a marathon during my year 1 CGY training. I got significant cardio work from that, so I included my running totals for that year. No running in year 2 due to my stupid ankle.
  • In each training season, I aimed for at least one century or near-century ride, and one weekend with two back-to-back long ride days before CGY.
  • I’ll probably come up with some more caveats. Just give me time.

So, for the number-needy among you, here are my CGY training totals, with breakdowns by week:

Year 1 Total training: 758 miles, 24,151 feet, plus 378 miles of running

Year 2 Total training:  831 miles, 33,246 feet

Year 1

Running in March:  47 miles

Running in April:  69 miles

Running in May:  66 miles

Running in June:  64 miles

Running in July:  77 miles

Running in August:  55 miles

Week 1:  47 miles, 1530 feet

Week 2:  30 miles, 1259 feet

Week 3:  0

Week 4:  0

Week 5:  54 miles, 1496 feet

Week 6:  0

Week 7:  0

Week 8:  39 miles, 1168 feet

Week 9:  53 miles, 1231 feet

Week 10:  30 miles, 1259 feet

Week 11:  120 miles, 3545 feet

Week 12:  0

Week 13:  69 miles, 2146 feet

Week 14:  68 miles, 3116 feet

Week 15:  30 miles, 1192 feet

Week 16:  0

Week 17:  50 miles, 1142 feet

Week 18:  94 miles, 2799 feet

Week 19:  74 miles, 2268 feet

Week 20:  0

Week 21: CGY

Year 2

Week 1: 38 miles, 1127 feet

Week 2:  0

Week 3:  41 miles, 1250 feet

Week 3:  82 miles, 2691 feet

Week 4:  55 miles, 1488 feet

Week 5:  30 miles, 1227 feet

Week 6:  0

Week 7:  0

Week 8:  39 miles, 1794 feet

Week 9:  120 miles, 5543 feet

Week 10:  0

Week 11:  73 miles, 1995 feet

Week 12:  35 miles, 2162 feet

Week 13:  0

Week 14:  0

Week 15:  0

Week 15: 100 miles, 5500 feet

Week 16:  0

Week 17:  62 miles, 3085 feet

Week 18:  156 miles, 5384 feet

Week 19:  0

Week 20:  CGY

And, for the record, Beartooth on the 2015 CGY route scares me.

Good motivation to train harder!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Valentine’s Day on a bicycle built for two

What better way to celebrate an unseasonably warm Valentine’s Day than to go for a spin on a bright red tandem!

When we headed to the grocery store to pick up some supplies for a mid-ride picnic, it was promising to be a lovely day, the temperature pushing 50 degrees.

Alas, when we came home and prepped the bike, Bugman’s Meniere’s disease flared up with an episode of vertigo, and he had to rest on the couch for an hour.

We didn’t hit the road until 2 p.m., by which time the temperature was dropping: 46 degrees at the start, 32 by the time we got home two hours later. The wind was also pretty intense, at 25-30 miles per hour. Our ride out with the wind was fast, but the ride back would be be less so.

My initial plan was to head to the picnic shelter in Lyman, as we had previously done for Easter. Then we scrubbed that in favor of a loop through Morrill. Ultimately, we cut the journey to a 25-mile loop through Mitchell, with the hope that some business in downtown Mitchell would take pity on us and let us picnic inside.

Despite the wind and the chill, it felt good to be back on the tandem again after a five-month hiatus. The countryside delivered its usual diversions. We laughed as whole herds of cattle stared at us, cornstalks dripping from their mouths. Prairie dogs barked at us and scuttled into their burrows. A hawk rose up from a field, a small rodent’s body clutched in its talons along with some grassy debris. On a grueling stretch of road where we bucked the wind, we had the diversion of a youngster who piloted his ATV alongside us and chatted. (“You’re doing 15 miles an hour!” he said encouragingly.)

Thankfully, the gent holding down the fort at Hometown Harvest Cooperative was more than happy to let us camp out inside the store for a little bit, to warm up and fuel up with the picnic items we’d packed.

Bugman looks to be rubbing his hands in anticipation of eating, but he was actually rubbing them to warm them up.

Bugman looks to be rubbing his hands in anticipation of eating, but he was actually rubbing them to warm them up. Poor guy. He bucked the brunt of the wind as captain of the tandem.

Our Valentine's day red-and-white food picnic: grape tomatoes, cheese curds, roasted red peppers, banana-and-strawberry salad, yogurt-raisin/peanut-M&M/dried-cranberry trail mix, and to drink, a white chai beverage and a red fruit smoothie.

Our Valentine’s day red-and-white food picnic: grape tomatoes, cheese curds, roasted red peppers, banana-and-strawberry salad, yogurt-raisin/peanut-M&M/dried-cranberry trail mix, and to drink, a white chai beverage and a red fruit smoothie.

Thanks for the much-needed shelter, Hometown Harvest!

Thanks for the much-needed shelter, Hometown Harvest!

Happy Valentine's Day, from Wyobraska Tandem! <3

Happy Valentine’s Day, from Wyobraska Tandem! ❤

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Spring flowers for Juneathon

juneathon_participant_logoThanks to Red Hen – an Irish runner whose blog I started following after the Dublin Marathon – I learned about this thing called “Juneathon.” You run (or bike, or walk, or do jumping jacks – some kind of exercise) every day in June and blog about it. As simple (or fiendishly difficult) as that!

Several of my friends are doing a “40 day challenge,” which I already wimped out on, and I need to get in some more cross-training other than biking, so perfect timing with the Juneathon!

Here is my first official Juneathon post which, like redhenrun’s, will feature wildflowers.

I like biking south out of town on Highway 71. The traffic is easy to manage, and there is a good challenge getting up and over the Wildcat Hills. Last week, Bugman and I turned around at the westbound Highway 88 intersection. This week, we set a turnaround of the former Banner County Cafe.

Distance: 53 miles (85 km)    Total climb: 2,469 feet (752 m)

I just cannot get over how green the countryside is now. My eyes are drinking it up after the drab browns of winter.

One of the emerald views of the Wildcat Hills on the way up.

One of the emerald views of the Wildcat Hills on the way up.

The cloud cover came and went, but we did not get rained on this time.

The longhorns from the museum where I work are on holiday on their summer pasture in Banner County. Hellooo, ladies!

The longhorns from the museum where I work are on holiday on their summer pasture in Banner County. Hellooo, ladies (and babies)!

Some of my favorite birds were out in force: western meadowlark, western kingbird, lark bunting, mountain bluebird, loggerhead shrike.

A quick pic of the tandem at our hilltop turnaround, and then some wildflower photos. It’s Nebraska Wildflower Week, after all!

Bike resting on a "bobwore fence." It's so stinkin' beautiful here!

Bike resting on a “bobwore fence.” It’s so stinkin’ beautiful here!

Note: most of these flowers are small and unassuming. You typically have to get out into the grassland and hike if you’re not lucky enough to be able to spot them roadside from a bicycle saddle. While I saw all of these flowers today, some of the pictures were taken in other years.

western wild rose

western wild rose – it smelled so lovely next to this bush! Made me think of my grandma Rita.

shell leaf penstemon

shell leaf penstemon

wild blue flax

wild blue flax

scarlet guara

scarlet guara

scarlet globe mallow

scarlet globe mallow

lavender leaf primrose

lavender leaf primrose

And one more photo pf lavender leaf primrose in a background shot, to show how the blossoms fade from yellow to orange, and also to show off one of the cuter reptiles in western Nebraska - the horned toad (aka short-horned lizard). This photo was taken during a wildflower hike in Kimball County in 2010.

And one more photo of lavender leaf primrose, to show how the blossoms fade from yellow to orange, and also to show off one of the cuter reptiles in western Nebraska – the horned toad (aka short-horned lizard). This photo was taken during a wildflower hike in Kimball County in 2010.

Not all of my Juneathon posts will be this photogenic, but sometimes western Nebraska just can’t help it!

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

A turkey of a ride

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

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

“I don’t care! We’re going!”

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

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

Or so I told myself.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

nine miles to mitchell

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

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

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

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

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

turkeys

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Have a breakdown?”

“No. Just readjusting the cargo.”

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

“We bought it last year.”

“But is it new?”

“Yep. Brand-new.”

“How fast goes it go?”

“What, downhill?”

I grinned.

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

. . . 38 miles per hour

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

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

Wheeee!

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

A visit to The Haig

I didn’t spell the title of this post wrong. Bugman and I didn’t go to The Netherlands this evening. First tandem trip of the year, and we went to The Haig.

See?

the haig

We picked up our freshly-trued front wheel from Sonny’s Bike Shop this evening after work, and the weather was grand. Couldn’t resist taking the tandem out for a spin.

It’s 12-miles round-trip to the now-closed rural school at Haig – a perfect distance for an evening ride.

Bugman preparing to saddle up.

Bugman preparing to saddle up.

I was so happy to be out riding, I laughed out loud for the first block. I’m sure my neighbors thought I’d cracked.

Back seat selfie!

Back seat selfie!

Looks like some momma cows have been busy. Must have been tough with those calves in the spring snow we got this past weekend, which you can still see in the crevasses of the bluffs.

Looks like some momma cows have been busy. Must have been tough with those calves in the spring snow we got this past weekend, which you can still see remnants of in the crevasses of the bluffs.

The Canada goose numbers in the North Platte flyway aren't what they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a substantial number settling down into the stubbly fields.

The Canada goose numbers in the North Platte flyway aren’t what they were a few weeks ago, but there were still a substantial number settling down into the stubbly fields. I heard a western meadowlark, too. He sounded kind of garbled, like he was really out of practice.

Rear view sunset. I was sure glad when the sun set. On an out-and-back west-east route, the late-day early-spring sun is not your friend. I had "floaters" from attempting to watch traffic behind us as the sun was laying on the horizon.

Rear view sunset. I was sure glad when the sun set. On an out-and-back west-east route, the late-day early-spring sun is not your friend. I had “floaters” from attempting to watch traffic behind us as the sun was balanced on the horizon.

A big THANK YOU to all the courteous drivers out there who gave us plenty of room on the road!

It was a good ride.

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 2 ride to Livingston

Day 1

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

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

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

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

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

A doozy of a hill.

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

7 percent grade for the next 2 miles? Wheeeeeeeee!

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

Heading back on the road after a water stop.

Ranchers care for their land and animals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Luckily, we had a spare tube and pump.

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

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

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

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

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

Gulp!

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

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

Gosh! Beautiful scenery!

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

Hurrah! We think we can make it!!

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

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

One hundred miles! My first century ride!

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, no! Flat tire!!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I got the last of the chopped peanut topping.

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

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

Day 3

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw