Y Not Ride, community ride 2016

This year’s Y Not Ride community ride was a bit challenging. There was a stiff breeze out of the east (25 MPH sustained, gusting to 35-40), and there was wildfire smoke from Canada, and some folks on the 54-mile route got caught in rain showers, but it was still a great kickoff to the cycling season. I appreciate all the volunteers & sponsors who make it happen! Thanks as well to the Bayard Depot Museum and Scotts Bluff National Monument for serving as rest stops!

A few pictures from the ride:

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A Western Nebraska Bicycling Club member passes us on our tandem. The fact that the smoke from the sugar factory stack in the background is going horizontal gives an indication of the wind.

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Cattle sloshing around in a marshy area. Note how hazy the air is. That wasn’t moisture. It was wildlife smoke. As the day went along, the smell of smoke got stronger and the density of smoke particles got thicker.

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The wildfire / air quality map from that morning, from airnow.gov.

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Hooray for the SAG volunteers! Also, hooray for the fact that this was our turn on the 28-mile route, and we could quit bucking the wind! (I do much prefer to have a headwind on the way out, when I’m fresher, so a wind out of the east wasn’t the worst thing in the world.)

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More cattle. The babies gamboling on the greenery were so fun to watch!

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Approaching the overpass bridge in Gering, you can just baaarely make out the outline of Scotts Bluff National Monument in the distance. Darned smoke! *koff koff*

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Rolling through Gering, 53 degrees, pushed along by the same wind pulling the flags out horizontal.

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A touch of sun illuminates the smoke-blurred bluffs.

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At the Scotts Bluff National Monument rest stop. I was rather wishing I’d brought my jacket as this point. Kind of chilly. But we were almost home! (Photo courtesy of water station volunteer.)

I’m looking forward to the end-of-season “Monument to Monument” Y Not Ride challenge ride in September! (Note: the M2M ride is a great supported 50- or 100-mile ride for out-of-towners who want to see two National Monument properties and some gorgeous High Plains scenery. Keep in mind, while it’s the “plains,” it’s not flat.)

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

 

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 5: rest day in Cody

Day 5 brought the opportunity to do a century ride, out and back from Cody to the east entrance of Yellowstone, along the North Fork Highway / Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway – a route that had been recommended by local riders back in 2013 when wildfire forced some rerouting on CGY. It sounded cool, but Bugman and I definitely needed some recovery time, so we passed.

I heard it was kind of a tough ride with the headwinds and wildfire smoke. For those who missed the ride, or who wanted to see some of the scenery without smoke, here’s a YouTube video that captured parts of the route in 2010, apparently heading east (you may need to mute your computer – the music in the video is loud).

Not to say that we didn’t ride at all. The CGY organizers had worked to secure a permit for our group to ride the Old Dam Road out to the Buffalo Bill Dam, a 14-mile out-and-back. We dawdled over breakfast, vacillating, but then made a snap decision to go after all, and scrambled to get on the road by 8:30 a.m. – the latest riders are supposed to head out on the route.

It's a very pretty ride down there in Shoshone Canyon.

It was a very pretty ride down there in Shoshone Canyon.

Tunnel!

Tunnel!

Just after passing through the tunnel, I felt like I was going to fall backwards off the tandem. We'd hit the 17% grade ride organizers had mentioned the night before during announcements. They'd asked riders who didn't think they could "make the grade" to dismount and walk up the hill. We knew there was no way we could get up an incline like that, and planned to dismount. However, we were taken by surprise, as we understood there would be a volunteer stationed there to warn us of the grade, but nobody was there, perhaps because we'd gotten started late.

Looking back:  just after passing through the tunnel, I felt like I was going to fall backwards off the tandem. We’d hit the 17% grade ride organizers had mentioned the night before during announcements. They’d asked riders who didn’t think they could “make the grade” to dismount and walk up the hill. We knew there was no way we could get up an incline like that, and planned to dismount. However, we were taken by surprise, as we understood there would be a volunteer stationed to warn us of the climb, but nobody was there, perhaps because we’d gotten started late. We careened to a stop at the intersection with a side road that went down to the water and started hoofing it.

*big sigh* that such signs are even necessary

*big sigh* that such signs are even necessary

The platform and tunnel at the "right abutment outlet works" (bottom left in photo) looks like it would make a great supervillain lair

The platform and tunnel at the “right abutment outlet works” (bottom left in photo) looks like it would make a great supervillain lair. You can easily see on the dam face the 25 feet of new concrete added between 1985-1993 to the dam, which was the tallest in the world, at 325 feet, when it was completed in 1910. Here’s some good background info on the dam project. Much better than the official website for the dam visitor center, which includes the regrettable title of “fun facts” over a list that includes “seven men were killed during construction.”

The normally-closed gate that was opened for us.

The normally-closed gate that was opened for us.

The view down the canyon from atop the dam. You can just make out a couple of cyclists climbing. Well done, cyclists!

The view down the canyon from atop the dam. You can just make out a couple of cyclists climbing on the road, center left. Well done, cyclists!

View of the dam road from inside the visitor center. It's shocking to think of that road as part of the route to Yellowstone. It's so steep and narrow, with sharp dropoffs - it's no wonder they keep it closed ordinarily.

View of the dam road from inside the visitor center, with plenty of cyclists walking, having stashed their bikes somewhere downhill. It’s shocking to think of that road as part of the route to Yellowstone. It’s so steep and narrow, with sharp dropoffs – it’s no wonder they keep it closed ordinarily.

I was pretty fascinated by the flotsam logjam floating on the reservoir against the dam. Very visually interesting.

I was pretty fascinated by the logjam floating on the reservoir against the dam. Very visually interesting. Because of the steepness of the terrain upstream from the reservoir and the velocity of the inflows, the reservoir tends to silt up rather quickly and collect a lot of debris.

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A picture of a picture from inside the visitor center, of one of the ways the floating debris is periodically cleaned up.

A picture of a picture from inside the visitor center, of one of the ways the floating debris is periodically cleaned up.

We asked a random fellow cyclist to take our picture partway down the dam road. We were in our "civvies" that day. No need for a bike kit for such a short ride.

We asked a random fellow cyclist to take our picture partway down the dam road. We were in our “civvies” that day. No need for a bike kit for such a short ride.

We rode the brakes all the way down that 17% grade. We <3 disc brakes!

We rode the brakes all the way down that 17% grade. We ❤ disc brakes!

On the way back into town, we noticed the flag outside the Wapiti Ranger District Office of the Shoshone National Forest was at half-staff.

On the way back into town, we noticed the flag outside the Wapiti Ranger District Office of the Shoshone National Forest was at half-staff. We learned this was because of the deaths of three wildland firefighters in Washington the day before.

The smoke form western wildfires was hazing the skies for hundreds of miles across the country. Visibility in Cody was poor that day, as seen in this image I took as we climbed the bluff towards our campsite.

The smoke from wildfires in Washington and Idaho was hazing the skies for thousands of miles across the country. Visibility in Cody was poor that day, as seen in this image I took as we climbed the bluff towards our campsite.

Here's a different image of Cody from a similar vantage point, from when we were there with CGY in 2013.

Here’s a different image over Cody from a similar vantage point, but looking more to the north, from when we were there with CGY in 2013. You can actually see the mountains.

After returning from our morning ride, Bugman and I rounded up our laundry and headed to the closest laundromat just a couple of blocks away. The place was, as you could imagine, swamped. In addition to the constant stream of individual cyclists, the laundromat had taken on a new task from a commercial-sized customer that day – the tent sherpa towels! I asked the lady working there if she’d been warned about the locust-like onslaught of cyclists. She said she had, but that she’d been told that the cyclists wouldn’t be in town much, that they’d be out riding. She was very nice, and helped me find empty washing machines to use, and plugged another quarter into a dryer when I managed to trigger an error code on it.

Back in camp, drying laundry on our multi-purpose tandem.

Back in camp, drying laundry on our multi-purpose tandem.

While Bugman retreated to charge his cell phone, browse the web and drink cold beverages in the cafe at the Park County Public Library, I dragged my air mattress out from the tent (it was too hot in there), lay down in the shade of some trees next to the faux burbling brook running into the pond next to the library building, and tried to take a nap. I got distracted watching a bumblebee forage on clover near my head.

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Awhile later, I was looking for Bugman and found him sitting on a rock next to the faux stream. That really is a beautiful library campus.

Awhile later, I was looking for Bugman and found him sitting on a rock next to the faux stream. That really is a beautiful library campus.

A beautiful place to camp, too.

A beautiful place to camp, too.

We could have gone with the group to the Cody Rodeo, but we opted out. We’ve already been to Cheyenne Frontier Days, and I learned I don’t really enjoy rodeo. Too many opportunities for people and animals to get injured. Not that I don’t appreciate the practicality of some of the skills involved in rodeo, which are needed to manage range cattle, as I saw when I attended a branding a few years ago.)

Instead, Bugman and I wandered downtown Cody, a place someone said “has more personality than it knows what to do with.”

A shot of the smoky sunset, looking west down Sheridan Drive past the historic Irma.

A shot of the smoky sunset, looking west down Sheridan Drive past the historic Irma.

There were artful bison sculptures all over the downtown. When seen from a certain angle, they made me think of alien pods.

There were artful bison sculptures all over the downtown. When seen from a certain angle, they made me think of alien egg pods.

A candy shop specifically welcoming me? Well, gee, I guess I have to go in!

A candy shop specifically welcoming me? Well, gee, I guess I have to go in!

Our ultimate destination that evening was Pat O’Hara Brewing Company. When we’d been in town two years ago, they weren’t yet serving their own beer.

They were now. Livin' the Dream Pale Ale.

They were now. Livin’ the Dream Pale Ale.

By the time we hiked back up the hill to camp, it was time to hit the sack. Another day of riding ahead!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 3 ride to Gardiner

Day 2

Distance and elevation gain (per my mapping software): 58.49 miles, 1,946 feet

Min temp: 64, Max temp: 89, Winds 8-26, gusting to 32, Precipitation: none

We started the morning with a visit to the mechanic tent to get those obviously loose spokes tightened up. Spokes should not wiggle easily back and forth – especially less than a week after having been retensioned!

The mechanic didn’t have a spoke tensiometer on him, so he gave it his best guess, taking care not to overtension the spokes, and at least got the spokes to the point where they didn’t rattle and the wheel to the point where it was nice and true again. I plucked the spokes like harp strings, and they all sounded pretty much the same – plink, plink, plink, plink – except for one spoke on that pesky back wheel that the mechanic could not get to tighten – plunk! We had discovered loose spokes on a 94-mile ride back home just before we got the wheel trued and didn’t seem to have any problems, so we figured the job would be good enough to get us through, and we’d stop back by the mechanic’s tent that evening to have the spokes checked again.

This is the bridge over the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley – a very beautiful place where we almost clocked a fellow cyclist who, along with many other cyclists, had dismounted on the bridge to take pictures but, unlike the other cyclists, had failed to look for traffic before she walked out into the road. Another advantage of the tandem: I don’t have to watch the road or steer, so I can take all these pictures from the back of the bike without risking getting clocked by traffic.

Paradise Valley was pretty smoky that day from the Emigrant wildfire. The night before at announcements, the ride organizers had checked the forecasts and said that smoke would likely be “moderate” and would not bother most people, but if anyone was concerned, there would be a physician available in the morning to see patients and prescribe inhalers if needed. Have I mentioned that this ride was well organized?? These folks thought of everything!

Bikes on the road in Paradise Valley. I’m sure a lot of locals knew about the ride and were expecting to see cyclists, but I wonder what the uninformed thought when encountering miles of cyclists along the road. Side note: some of the fanciful ranch names in Paradise Valley: Jumping Rainbow, Dancing Wind, Paradise Found, Imagine Ranch.

Another cute little Montana schoolhouse

Lunch stop at River’s Edge Bar & Grill in Emigrant.

After lunch we were far enough south to be upwind of the Emigrant fire – no more breathing smoke.

Rest stop on Montana DOT land.

We crossed onto Gallatin National Forest land (Paradise Valley is a narrow private-property “V” into the national forest) and were met with a “bison on road” caution sign. Didn’t see any bison, but the scenery was beautiful.

We rolled into Gardiner around 3 pm. While everyone else was lining up their bikes to be loaded up for shipment to our next campsite after our rest day and bus tour of Yellowstone the following day, we and headed for the mechanic tent to have our loose spoke checked on.

As a mechanic approached and I bent down to show her the problem, I noticed – OH NO!! – a crack in our rear wheel rim at the loose spoke!

And we’ve got that fancy-schmancy Rohloff hub. No at-hand replacements for us!

Cracked rim! Dun dun duuuuuun….

We talked through our options with the head mechanic. The next day was a rest day, so we had a day to get things done without cutting into the ride. If our future rides were like today’s ride – 56 miles and no serious hills – we could probably ride the cracked rim a bit longer. But the scheduled ride in two days was through from Pilot Creek to Cody via Chief Joseph Pass (6 miles of 5 percent grade followed by a helluva descent that could really get a tandem rolling fast). That would not be safe to ride on a cracked rim. We’d have to get things fixed.

We got our bike in March, so it was less than 6 months old and had less than 700 miles on it by this point, so the bike would still be under warranty.

We tried calling the bike shop in Denver where we purchased the bike. It was Tuesday. They were closed.

Next, we spent several frustrating minutes trying to look up the bike manufacturer’s phone number via a barely-there cellphone Internet connection. We found the number and got through to a live person right away. I explained our dilemma and directed my attention back and forth between the bike mechanic’s suggestions as he thought things through and the bike company guy.

Could we have a rim overnighted to a bike shop in the Silver Gate / Cooke City area, our next stop?

Probably not a good idea. It’s rural Montana, the delivery might not make it even if overnighted, and the mechanics had not been able to contact a bike shop in that area.

How about 2-day shipping to the bike shop in Cody? It would mean we would miss a day’s riding – purportedly the most beautiful day to ride. But 2-day shipping was a more reasonable cost, and we would be responsible for covering the difference in cost between regular and expedited shipping for the warrantied rim replacement. There had been solid contact with the shop in Cody. We could pick up the rim and have the mechanics rebuild the rear wheel in the evening at camp.

Was there still time to make the UPS pickup at the bike manufacturer in Oregon? Yes. We still had 30 minutes.

I gave the bike manufacturer guy my credit card number to cover the cost of the shipping, and that was all we could do for the time being.

We added our bike to the line to be packed up and transported to the next camp and went about our business.

View of wildfire smoke from our tent in Gardiner. It was interesting to note how the smoke “pulsed” over 24 hours – dying back at night and flaring up again with the heat of day.

After we got cleaned up, we left our campsite on the Gardiner school football field, at the corner of Main Street and Main Street (??), to run some errands.

The Gardiner laundromat is probably the cleanest one I have ever been in. Just please don’t wash your horse blankets there.

While we were waiting for the laundry to be done, we decided to go find a beer. We walked into the Two Bit Saloon only to walk out again a few minutes later after the bartender got into a loud argument with a patron. Oookaaaayyyyy…Walked to the Blue Goose Saloon, but there was heavy metal music blasting inside. Not our scene.

We settled for ice cream cones instead. While we were sitting outside the shop eating the ice cream and looking out over the Yellowstone National Park fence, we spotted our first megafauna.

A slightly lost elk on the wrong side of the fence.

I guess I hadn’t realized that the community we were in was literally at the gate of Yellowstone.

Our evening announcements in Gardiner featured the Roosevelt Arch in the background.

Sunset concert in Gardiner – with Little Jane & the Pistol Whips.

A few minutes later, Bugman pointed out the ride’s professional photographer focusing his lens towards the gate. Full moon perfectly framed!

Full moon framed by the Roosevelt Arch, as interpreted by my point-and-shoot camera.

Soon there was a photography scrum at the stage.

The wine tent in Gardiner sure was pretty. I loved how different local wines and beers were featured at our campsite concerts.

Our campsite runway. Every night there were solar-powered yard lights set up to help guide us around camp. (See? The organizers thought of everything!)

Day 4

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw