2017 Bicycle Ride Across Nebraska: Day 7, Winnebago to Tekamah

A hint of the day to come arrived at 1 a.m. with a sharp snap of the tents. Wind! The flapping and shaking continued all through the night and into the morning.

I fueled up with a parfait of cold oatmeal, yogurt, and fruit, served in a styrofoam bowl and eaten with the plastic lid because the spoons hadn’t arrived yet. That cold oatmeal seemed to be exactly what I needed.

I rolled out of the powwow grounds at 5:30 a.m., and as I departed I thanked the security detail who’d been on patrol all that windy night.

When I turned south onto Highway 75, there was a mile-long hill with about a 5% grade. It was breezy and cool on that narrow, tree-lined section of road, and very little traffic at that time of morning on a Saturday. (Thank goodness, as there was no shoulder.) Very pleasant. I didn’t find the hill to be all that bad. It helped that I had Eye of the Tiger playing on my mental soundtrack. I would have sung it aloud, except I couldn’t remember enough of the lyrics.

The rolling countryside was beautiful in the early morning light, the hills and trees playing peek-a-boo with bucolic vistas.

morning corn field

However, there wasn’t a lot of opportunity to appreciate these visual gifts, because when you were on a hilltop with an opening in the trees that allowed you to see the view, you had to contend with a vicious crosswind that required you to focus on not getting blown into traffic or off the road.

Out of Winnebago land, into Omaha territory.

omaha reservation

I was really appreciating the hills, because at least I sometimes got a hint of respite from the wind on the uphill, and the higher speed I was able to achieve on the downhill was a psychological boost.

I had to kill my momentum on one of the downhills and come to a fast halt because of what I saw coming up out of the right-hand road ditch up ahead:ย  a pack of stray dogs!

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As anyone who has ridden a bicycle with any regularity in a rural area knows, loose dogs can be a horror. They can come silently sprinting out from a farmstead to try to tear a chunk out of your leg, or they can run growling and barking directly into your path. And who hasn’t heard one of those awful stories of packs of feral city dogs attacking people and severely injuring or killing them?

I was facing a pack of six largeish dogs, and I was alone. My adrenaline spiked. I knew there was no way I could outrun them by turning around and fleeing up the hill I’d just come down. I dismounted my bike and prepared to use it as a weapon if need be.

Thank GOODNESS the dogs were uninterested! Five of them continued their line of travel across the road into the east ditch. One of them paused on the road shoulder and took a few steps towards me and stared at me before deciding to join the rest of the dogs off in the shrubbery. W-H-E-W!!!!! I waited a bit longer before continuing on, hyper-alert and ready for a sprint-for-your-life moment if needed.

An artist with a studio down one of the hills had set up a rest area for us. The cups of fresh-cut fruit were sorely needed. It’d been only about two hours since breakfast, but I was expending a lot of energy with the wind and the hills. Only about 20 miles to go!

About three miles later, on the west side of the road, there was an overlook that was said to be a “can’t miss opportunity.”

overlook 1

It was lovely, but better photographed in afternoon light. I probably would have appreciated it more if I wasn’t so tired and eager to be done with the ride.

overlook 2

We descended the final hill into Decatur, which contained this neato little stone house:

stone house

Fifteen miles to go, but it seemed like a hundred. We were now on flat road in open country, and the road had shifted south, so we were now bucking direct sustained headwinds of 20-30 miles an hour, gusting towards 40.

It. Was. Awful.

Soul-sucking.

Demoralizing.

At one SAG stop, someone suggested singing songs about the wind to deal with it. One gal said she’d make up her own song, and the title was “Wind, Kiss My A**.”

It was getting warm, but I was staying cool because of the speed of the wind flowing over my body, evaporating my sweat.

I didn’t eat enough. I didn’t drink enough. I just wanted to get done. Every moment was an “are we there yet?” moment.

I alternated stand-and-pedal, slow slogging, and stopping to take breaks. I thought about trying to flag down a SAG vehicle, but we were nearly there, right? And I’m not a quitter.

Finally, finally, I could hear the cowbells at the finish line! Made it back to the Tekamah high school football field!

I leaned my bike wearily against my car and went looking for my luggage. There was lots of luggage, but none of it was mine. None of the Pork Belly Ventures luggage was there!

Turned out, it was over by the picnic shelter on the other side of the grounds – a quarter-mile away. My car keys were in my luggage. I did not plan that well.

Shoulders slumping, utterly exhausted, I trudged over, found my keys in my bag, and trudged back to my car. I put my bike in my car, drove over to where my bags were, and took a shower. (Thank goodness the shower truck was there!) I tried to avoid eye contact with people. If anyone asked how my ride was, I’d be liable to say something sour and sarcastic, or burst into tears.

I was hungry and thirsty, but all I could see of the freewill picnic the Rotary folks put on were soda and meat-based items – the idea of which turned my stomach. I drove into town and got a veggie sandwich – extra cheese! – and devoured that along with chips and bottles of sports drink and orange juice. Better!

With the help of a quick nap and a half-gallon of coffee or so, I was able to drive back home that night, to fall into a 12-hour slumber in my own bed!

Weeklong bike trips are the perfect vacation – you have fun and see the countryside, but you can’t wait to get back home.

day 7 stats
36.6 miles
1,169 feet of climb
9.5 mph avg
(weather data from Tekamah)
low temp 73
high temp 95
avg humidity 54%
precip 0
wind 21-31 g 38 S

Total ride stats
455.5 miles
17,113 feet of climb

Copyright 2017 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 dรฉcor: 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. ๐Ÿ˜€

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

Cloud ride at Scotts Bluff National Monument

This morning’s ride was magical.

As I pedaled through Gering for an early ride up Scotts Bluff National Monument before it opened to car traffic, I could see the top of the bluff peeking up out of a fog bank.

When I got closer to the bluff, I plunged in and out of the mist draped across the landscape, in full sun one moment, in shadow the next.

On my journey up Summit Road, I had to stop a couple of times to take pictures.

summit road fog pano

Panoramic shot at the beginning of the ride.

sun fog bluff

The scenery in front of the sun fighting through the mist tumbling across the bluff was otherworldly.

grass and fog

Closer to the top, the fog started to break up a bit.

As I neared a final turn, a ray of sunshine broke through and illuminated the fog particles as they rode a turbulent wind gust, around and around and down.

I paused in the parking lot up top to capture the wind in motion, made visible by the fog.

I took a short hike to an overlook, hoping the fog would break up and I could get an amazing shot of the bluff tops hovering above the clouds. Alas, the fog thickened.

Here’s an example of what I had hoped to see, from a photo posted August 6, 2015, on the Scotts Bluff National Monument Facebook page:

SBNM Aug 6 2015 fog

Photo credit: Scotts Bluff National Monument

The fog-filtered light atop the bluff – illumination without shadow – made the flora growing there seem distinct, distinguished.

cloudy sunlight

yellow flower

On my cautious, wet-brake descent, I stopped to take pictures of the tunnels. It was a little eerie looking to the side of the road and seeing nothing but cloud, easy to imagine being at a much greater height than I actually was.

summit road tunnel b

summit road tunnel a

So glad I decided on an early morning training ride today. What a way to start the week!

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw, except photo credited to Scotts Bluff National Monument

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.

Screen Shot 2016-05-07 at 11.17.53 AM

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 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. ๐Ÿ™‚ 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.

dfvdfv

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. ๐Ÿ™‚

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!

Salud!

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Too dangerous to ride

Yesterday, Bugman and I agreed that we would go for a ride today – up to the Wildcat Hills, maybe even our first “up and over” ride of the year.

Late this morning, as we prepared to head out, a sudden gust of wind ripped the cover off the recycle bin on our deck, and we began to question our judgment. The local radio station put out a caution about the wind on social media.

KNEB weatherWe revised the ride down. Instead of heading to the Wildcat Hills, we’d go to Mitchell for an out-and-back ride, taking shelter at the turnaround at the Subway (one of the few places open on Sundays) for a break from the wind and a quick lunch.

“It’s hardcore to be going out in this windy nonsense,” Bugman said.

But we wanted to go anyway – we need to keep getting in our training rides. If we run into windy weather when we’re out on the road during Cycle Greater Yellowstone, we’ll still need to get out there on the bike, so we might as well prepare ourselves for the possibility in our training rides.

We headed west on 20th Street out of town, straight into sustained 25-30-miles-per-hour winds, which were occasionally gusting to 40.

Things that make you go “hmmmmm . . . “:

  • A cardboard box tumbling towards you.
  • A plastic sign flipping end-over-end down the street.
  • Large clouds of windblown soil cutting a diagonal across your path of travel.

Our teeth crunched with grit as we gasped and panted, struggling westward, hardly managing to break 8 miles per hour.

As we crossed the bridge over the North Platte River, I spied an osprey clinging to the top of a fencepost, head down so its body was as aerodynamic as possible, angling this way and that as the wind buffeted from the west, then northwest, and back west again. (I tried to get a picture of the perched bird, but nothing turned out.)

At the railroad crossing, I suggested that we take a break and walk our bike across the tracks, as it would be difficult to tackle the bumpy-and-in-need-of-maintenance crossing in such a headwind. Bugman agreed, and I was glad! I needed a breather and a drink of water!

As we stood there west of the tracks, having a hard time keeping ourselves and the tandem upright against the wind, a couple of motorcyclists slowed to see if we were OK. We gave them the thumbs-up, grateful for the consideration. (I reckon the motorcyclists could empathize about bucking wind like that.)

“Should we turn around?” I asked.

Bugman suggested proceeding to Haig school before heading back.

He got a leg over the tandem, I got into position on the back, and . . . a fierce gust of wind sandblasted us! Bugman had a hard time keeping the bike upright. There was no way he was going to be able to get us started and keep us going in a straight line.

“This is too dangerous,” Bugman said. “Let’s just go back.”

A tandem bicycle is a lot like a semi truck. Because we have more sideways surface area on just two wheels and a long wheelbase, we’re more susceptible to getting knocked over by sideswipes of wind. It’s also more difficult to steer, increasingly so the slower we go. With us unable to go any faster than 8-10 miles an hour into the wind, and with occasional gusts of wind from the side and air disturbances from passing vehicles, it really was just too dangerous to ride. (If we’d been on a smooth, deserted 8-foot-wide bike path, it might have been a different story.)

We turned around and flew eastward home, racking up just 7.8 miles in total, but satisfied with a decent workout nonetheless.

Gee, can you tell when we were riding into the wind, and when the wind was at our backs?

Gee, can you tell when we were riding into the wind, and when the wind was at our backs?

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! โค

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw