2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 7: Powell to Red Lodge

As forecast, the wind did indeed come up during the night. Our tent rippled and flapped like mad, but stayed firmly planted to the earth. I inserted earplugs and tried to ignore the tempest and get some sleep.

Come morning, the wind had not abated. There were rumors, none true, that the ride start had been delayed, or that the day’s riding had been cancelled, though I think there had been some alternative arrangements made for people who had tight times schedules for meeting airport shuttles.

At breakfast (inside a building at the Park County Fairgrounds, thank goodness), as I juggled my plate of eggs and cup of coffee, one of the community volunteers asked if she could help in any way.

“Could you calm the winds down for us?” I asked, jokingly.

“I’m afraid not,” she replied with a sad smile.

Well, it was worth a shot, anyway.

The final day of CGY would be a long, hard slog into headwinds of 15-20 MPH, gusting to 30-40. On top of that, the day started out at 44 degrees, and we had an additional 3-mile detour that morning, to avoid some fresh chip seal in a construction zone.

As we bundled up and headed out, a few people asked, “You riding today??”

“Of course. It’s what we’re here to do.”

Sag 2 in the fairgrounds parking lot at 7:10 a.m. - probably the emptiest it would be all day.

Sag 2 in the fairgrounds parking lot at 7:10 a.m. – probably the emptiest it would be all day.

Wind, wind wind, wind, WIND! In our faces or buffeting us from the side. With occasional spray from windblown irrigation sprinkler mist. Ugh!

We had a brief moment of respite when the shower truck passed us on its way to Red Lodge and sheltered us in its lee. Then it was right back to the wicked, whipping wind.

“Come back, shower truck! Come back!”

Bugman’s shoulders kept tensing up from the strain of trying to keep the tandem headed in a straight line. Luckily, he travels with his own personal masseuse. 🙂 We took occasional breaks along the shoulder of the road so I could work the knots out of his muscles. Our noses were running from the cold.

About 14 miles into the ride, we came across a nice downhill that we remembered from 2013. It was windy back then, too, but not quite like this. We topped out at 20 MPH on the descent.

The hill on 294 west of Powell this year.

The hill on 294 west of Powell this year.

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. 🙂

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

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2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 6: Cody to Powell via Lovell

Nothing says HELLO, WAKE UP! quite like dodging deer as you start your day’s ride. Cody is lousy with deer, and they have very little fear of people. Honestly, I don’t know how anyone can have a garden there.

Those are not lawn ornaments.

Those are not lawn ornaments.

At the bottom of a steep hill on the way out of town, we had to brake hard to be sure not to smack these two.

At the bottom of a steep hill on the way out of town, we had to brake hard to be sure not to smack these two.

The sky was cloudless, but still hazy with wildfire smoke.

The sky was cloudless, but still hazy with wildfire smoke.

We cast a weak shadow across the road. The hazy sunrise diffused some interesting color onto the hay bales, though. Thinking of Monet again . . .

Our tandem cast only a weak shadow across the road in the hazy light, which diffused some interesting color onto the hay bales. Thinking of Monet again . . .

The colorful tanks at this farmstead caught my eye.

The colorful tanks at this farmstead caught my eye.

“Wyoming is beef country – enjoy both”
Why, thanks. I shall!

?? Not sure what that's all about.

?? Not sure what that’s all about.

We had a bit of gravel and construction to ride through. This shot is closer to what I normally see on the tandem when looking forward - mostly Bugman's back.

We had a little bit of gravel and construction to ride through. No big deal. On a side note, this shot is closer to what I normally see on the tandem when looking forward – mostly Bugman’s back.

Saw a couple of farmers out setting siphon tubes that morning.

Saw a couple of farmers out setting siphon irrigation tubes that morning. Looks like a field of sugarbeets at left, with some kochia (which dries to become tumbleweeds) along the edge. Surely this is irrigation water that came out of the Buffalo Bill Reservoir. See here for a 20-second closeup video of setting tubes. See here for a blurb about setting tubes, on the webpage of the museum I used to work at.

The water stop at Willwood gets my vote for prettiest

The water stop at Willwood gets my vote for prettiest “greenhouse” setting.

Already at the Penrose Cemetery water stop! There was a cattle grate across the cemetery entrance. Bugman suspected that, rather than keeping cattle out, it might be useful for keeping zombies in.

Already at the Penrose Cemetery water stop! We were making pretty good time on the ride, as the first 50 miles of the day’s ride were all a gentle downhill – good for a tandem! There was a cattle grate across the cemetery entrance. Bugman suspected that, rather than keeping cattle out, it might be useful for keeping zombies in.

The semi-arid landscape is not too green in late August without irrigation water from stored springtime snowmelt.

The semi-arid landscape is not too green in late August without irrigation water from stored springtime snowmelt.

Lunch in Lovell already?!? It's only 10:43 a.m.! I guess this is what the fast people experience every day. There was a small basket of pins for cyclists to take, which boasted of Lovell as The Rose City.

Lunch in Lovell already?!? It’s only 10:20 a.m.! I guess this is what the fast people experience every day. There was a small basket of pins for cyclists to take, which boasted of Lovell as The Rose City. I didn’t notice the roses, but I did notice the murals and businesses on the downtown’s main drag as we went through.

The Hyart Theater intrigued me.

The Hyart Theater intrigued me. I love that it’s still in operation, and that it has an interesting history. Because of the scarcity of metal when construction began in 1950, the trusses for the roof were made of salvaged train rails from “old mines at Bearcreek, Montana” – maybe the one we would pass on our route the following day?

The storage towers of the Western Sugar plant dominate the Lovell skyline - a familiar sight to someone from the North Platte River valley in Wyobraska!

The storage towers of the Western Sugar plant dominate the Lovell skyline – a familiar sight to someone from the North Platte River valley in Wyobraska! I got to tour my local sugar factory a few years ago. According to an article in the Powell Tribune, the Lovell factory towers measure 35 feet in diameter and are 165 feet tall. “Combined, they hold about 300 million pounds of sugar – enough for 500 million Snickers bars or 500 million cans of pop.”

These were not pieces of mining equipment. Rather, they are used for piling sugar beets. At beet harvest, the beets are stored in gigantic piles near the factories, which run full-tilt to process the beets ASAP, before the sugar content declines too much.

We saw a few of these along our route. They are not pieces of mining equipment. Rather, they are used for piling sugar beets. At fall beet harvest, the beets are stored in gigantic piles near the factories, which run full-tilt to process the beets ASAP, before the sugar content declines too much. Here’s a video clip of a piler in action.

Some highly photogenic longhorns near Cowley.

Some highly photogenic longhorns near Cowley.

The day was getting pretty warm. We planned to stop at the water stop in Deaver to refill our water bottles. But this happened:

I love surprise ice cream! Those sherbet

I love surprise ice cream! Those sherbet “cool tubes” rocked! (Though the bright color did scare me a bit.)

Near Powell, we passed several alfalfa fields with some puzzling structures in them. All the alfalfa in our area is grown for hay. Here, it was being grown for seed, which means pollination was necessary. The structures were housing for bees, probably alfalfa leafcutting bees!

Near Powell, we passed several alfalfa fields with some puzzling structures in them. All the alfalfa in our area is grown for hay. Here, it was being grown for seed, which means pollination was necessary. The structures were housing for bees, probably alfalfa leafcutting bees!

At the end of our ride, we got a boost from a kind cyclist who offered to let us draft him for a ways. We were going a solid 20 MPH there! Wheee! We arrived in Powell shortly after 1 p.m. – about 6 hours after we departed – an amazing time for an 80-mile ride, including rest stops and a lunch break!

We had plenty of time to get cleaned up and head to downtown Powell, and reason to go there as well – we were seeking air conditioning! It was hot out in the (smoke-hazed) sun! I was very glad we had the time. I enjoyed Powell!

We stopped in at the Powell Post Office, one of many to have gotten gussied up with murals in the 1930s.

“Powell’s Agriculture Resulting from the Shoshone Irrigation Project” by Verona Burkhard

Then there was the detour into WYold West Brewing Company, which clearly knows how to tap an audience as well as a keg.

Then there was the detour into WYOld West Brewing Company, which clearly knows how to tap an audience as well as a keg. The pub was just barely open, the restaurant and brewery still to be completed. I guess we’ll have to come back when they’re serving their own beers!

While Bugman went next door to grab some nachos, I went into the True Colors gift shop, which is the kind of place that you exit reeking of incense. The shop owner has a shelf on which she collects images around a different theme each year. This year it was bicycles!

I loved the

I loved the “bicycle sugar skulls” she’d framed from packages of DOMA coffee.

I made a purchase – something I’ve been coveting for a few years: a 7-year pen! Best of all, it had a bicycle design!

I swiped this image from the Walker Art Center shop's webpage. If you want a bicycle 7-year pen of your very own, check out the Walker Shop.

I swiped this image from the Walker Art Center shop’s webpage. If you want a bicycle 7-year pen of your very own, check out the Walker Shop.

Bugman and I took the nachos to a shaded downtown plaza and inhaled them. Then we went back to camp and stood in the dinner line. Ah, the joys of burning crazy amounts of calories for days on end!

Local volunteers came to help out a mealtimes. In Powell, it was the Red Hat Society. Thank you, ladies!

Groups of local volunteers came to help out at mealtimes. In Powell, it was the Red Hat Society. You can kind of pick out two of them in this picture, down at the meat trays. Thank you, ladies!

We had our final announcements session that night, the thank-yous and raffles and all that, since everyone would probably disperse pretty quickly after tomorrow’s ride, the last day – already!

UPDATE: I forgot to mention something cool that was brought up at the final announcements, of which I was unaware: four American Wounded Warriors were sponsored guests on this year’s CGY. I think this is a great program. And I bet the conditions on the ride this year were nothing compared with some of what these Veterans have gone through.

The weather wasn’t done with us quite yet. We were informed that high winds were expected in Powell, beginning around 11:30 p.m. The building on the fairgrounds where our meals were served would be kept open all night, in case we tent campers needed to take shelter.

When Bugman and I returned to our tent, our grasshopper tent marker had already blown off. We stowed him away for safe keeping, and pounded in a few extra tent stakes to make sure we’d stay grounded overnight.

Copyright 2015 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.

flotsam closeupflotsam closeup 2

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.

bee on clover

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

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 4: Cooke City to Cody

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

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

The inside of the tent fly was coated in frost!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bugman said,

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

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

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

Such a beautiful road!

Such a beautiful road!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go!

Here we go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking a break to take a picture.

Taking a break to take a picture.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And the pines up on the bluffs.

And the pines up on the bluffs.

A look back the way we'd come.

A look back the way we’d come.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw

Cycle Greater Yellowstone 2015: Day 0

Well, another Cycle Greater Yellowstone ride is in the books, and I’m proud Bugman and I made it, though I’m a bit embarrassed to say that we sagged on portions of three ride days (more details in posts to come). We completed 376 miles of the original 523, though we had no intention of doing the optional century ride on day 5. That was an important rest day for us!

Many thanks to the volunteers who helped us along the way! I can’t say enough about those fine folks!

Screen Shot 2015-08-24 at 5.50.51 PMIt was a challenging ride this year, with rain, hail, wildfire smoke, snow, and WIND on the ride, along with some serious mountain-pass climbing.

EDIT: I'd forgotten to add the ride profile before I hit

EDIT: I’d forgotten to add the ride profile before I hit “publish”.

But that’s to be expected.

We’re in the mountains, so there is climbing. Day 3 alone was mapped at over 8,000 feet of climbing!

Also, we’re in the mountains, so there is weather. I heard the temperature extremes were 27 degrees overnight in Cooke City to 90 degrees mid-day in Powell.

I think there were some near if not full-blown cases of both hypo- and hyperthermia, and I heard of a rider who developed an infected/abscessed saddle sore (ow!). Truly, you need to be prepared for anything out there in those wild lands, a good portion of which has no cell service. (The payphone on the main drag in Cooke City is not there for nostalgic effect.) The ride is supported, but you need to be able to support yourself as much as possible.

It’s not a ride to be taken lightly, but still, I don’t consider myself to be a Hard Core Cyclist, and here I am, three days later, after having done CGY on a tandem (not the best bike for climbing), and the sore lungs and sore legs are long gone (though the saddle sores and wind-and-soap-ravaged skin are hanging around a bit longer). In fact, my legs feel really strong, like I want to go try to tackle some big hill again. RAOWR!

Most of all, I’m THRILLED that Bugman and I finally had the chance to ride the Chief Joseph Highway. We missed it during CGY 2013 due to a cracked rim, and it totally lived up to all the gushing descriptions we had plugged our ears not to hear that first year.

Jubilant at Dead Indian Pass (geez, I hate that name) on Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.

Jubilant at Dead Indian Pass (geez, I hate that name) on Chief Joseph Scenic Highway.

I much preferred Chief Joseph Highway, and the portion of Beartooth that we survived, to Teton Pass last year. Chief Joseph and Beartooth are engineered such that the grade is generally steady – I heard somewhere around 5 percent. If we stopped our tandem, we could get it started again. Not so on most of the climb on Teton Pass – it was too steep.

As I did in 2013 and in 2014, I will write a post on each day’s ride and add links to each post at the bottom of this page. Again I got lots of comments from people that my blog helped them decide to give CGY a try. Very cool! Hopefully they don’t regret it after this year’s crummy weather. Makes for good stories, though, eh?

I’m amazed that people recognized us, even off the bike. Several people said “Hey, it’s Bugman and . . . what’s your name again?” Ah, the curse of the writer using first person and having one’s name forgotten. So . . .

Hi. My name is Katie, which I often abbreviate as KT. I'm a writer. My husband, Jeff, AKA Bugman, is an entomologist. We're from Illinois originally, but we now live in western Nebraska, AKA Wyobraska. In 2013, we started riding a Co-motion tandem, Ferrari red (it goes faster, the dealer said). That same year we did our first CGY, and we keep coming back for more.

Hi. My name is Katie, which I often abbreviate as KT. I’m a writer. My husband, Jeff, AKA Bugman, is an entomologist. We’re from Illinois originally, but we now live in western Nebraska, AKA Wyobraska. In 2013, we started riding a Co-motion tandem. That same year we did our first CGY for our 15th wedding anniversary, and, for some strange reason, we keep coming back for more. I took this selfie above the treeline on Beartooth Pass this year, before the snow and wind made us sag.

A few statistics from 2015 CGY:

  • Youngest rider: 14
  • Oldest rider: 80
  • Average age: 55
  • Percentage of female riders: 33
  • Number of states represented: 47 (I think Delaware, Rhode Island and Hawaii were missing this year?)
  • Number of foreign countries represented: 3 (or was it 5?)

The ride was a little bit different this year, in that the number of riders was capped at 350, about half the number of riders in prior years. Registration numbers were down, and it didn’t make sense to double the support infrastructure without a comparable number of riders, so registration was cut off.

I noticed that the food lines were shorter, and there seemed to be less waiting at the “greenhouses” (portable toilets) in the morning. There seemed to be fewer bikes passing us out on the road, too. (We are slower riders, so we get passed a lot. Except on the downhill. Tandems are fast downhill.) The smaller number of riders would make it easier to find campsites for the group, I would think.

I wonder if the decline in registrations was because of Beartooth Pass being on the route. Bugman and I were “ambassadors” this year, and spoke with area cyclists about the ride. Some interested folks looked at the intimidating ride profile and said “uh, maybe next year.”

My ride bling this year. The orange rider ID band, green band for vegetarian meals (I'm not a vegetarian, but I don't eat very much meat, so I prefer to go the veg route on this ride), and the yellow

My ride bling this year: the orange rider ID band, green band for vegetarian meals (I’m not a vegetarian, but I don’t eat very much meat, so I prefer to go the veg route on this ride), and the yellow “ambassador” band, which entitled me to visit the ambassador tent, which had free drinks and a meat-and-cheese platter each evening.

To wrap up this post, a couple of pictures from Day 0 in Red Lodge, Montana:

Sherpa tents and bike corral, at our campsite for days 0, 2, and 7 in Lions Park. I'm glad we got to give Red Lodge another shout-out, since in 2013 wildfire scuppered our stay there.

Sherpa tents and bike corral, at our campsite for days 0, 2, and 7 in Lions Park. I’m glad we got to give Red Lodge another shout-out, since in 2013 wildfire scuppered our stay there. Alas, wildfire smoke moved into the area that evening and hazed the views.

Überbrew was one of the sponsors of this year's ride (along with presenting sponsors Montana tourism and Coca Cola, and other supporting and mile-marker sponsors). Überbrew provided free beer for the event - White Noise Hefeweisen, Stand Down Brown Ale, and (our favorite) Iconic Pale Ale - and donations to the cause were solicited in lieu of payment and tips. Überbrew got a standing O at the wrap-up on the evening of day 6.

Überbrew of Billings was one of the supporting sponsors of this year’s ride (along with presenting sponsors Montana tourism and Coca Cola, and other supporting and mile-marker sponsors). Überbrew provided free beer for the event – White Noise Hefeweisen, Stand Down Brown Ale, and (our favorite) Iconic Pale Ale – and donations to the cause were solicited in lieu of payment and tips. Überbrew got a standing O at the wrap-up on the evening of day 6.

Each night, Greater Yellowstone Coalition Executive Director Caroline Byrd spoke to the group before the evening lecture, announcements, and entertainment. The gent in the hi viz vest at left is Rob, the Head Honcho of Site Coordination. He was a very busy guy.

Each night, Greater Yellowstone Coalition Executive Director Caroline Byrd spoke to the group before the evening lecture, announcements, and entertainment. The gent in the hi viz vest at left is Rob (I think that is his name –  I could be mis-remembering!), the Head Honcho of Site Coordination. He was a very busy guy.

Evenings also meant live entertainment. The first night was, I think, the Thrift Store Cowboys. I have to admit that I didn't give most of the performers their due. I was usually too busy with some aspect of post-ride cleanup or camp setup or pre-ride planning or just jabbering with the neighbors. But it was nice to have something other than silence to keep the mood up. I was also glad that the bands stopped playing by 9, so I could get to sleep.

Evenings also meant live entertainment. The first night was, I think, the Thrift Store Cowboys. I have to admit that I didn’t give most of the performers their due. I was usually too busy with some aspect of post-ride cleanup or camp setup or pre-ride planning or just jabbering with the neighbors. But it was nice to have something other than silence to keep the mood up. I was also glad that the bands stopped playing by 9, so I could get to sleep.

Speaking of sleep, it was pretty hard to come by for me, most evenings. I am so glad I brought both earplugs and a sleep mask. You never quite know what the campsites are going to look like. In Red Lodge, our tent was directly adjacent to a business that had bright lights on all night.

Speaking of sleep, it was pretty hard to come by for me. I’m not generally a sound sleeper. I am so glad I brought both earplugs and a sleep mask. You never quite know what the campsites are going to look like. In Red Lodge, our tent was directly adjacent to a business that had bright lights on all night.

A final thought on some complaints I heard during the ride: this is primarily a volunteer-supported operation, the point of which is to get out onto the back roads and into the wilderness. It is not a five-star hotel.

The sherpa tents are designed to fit two people, snugly, for purposes of shelter – luggage will likely need to go under the rain fly outside. The gear trucks are not set up to transport delicate items like laptop computers, and you’ll struggle to find places to charge them and connect to wifi anyway. Yes, there are shower trucks, but you will most likely need to wait in line to use them (a good way to make some new friends!). The portable toilets are well maintained, but will inevitably smell bad at times. (An aside: check out the vanity license plates on the South West Septic trucks if you go next year & they are the vendors. They have a sense of humor!) There are meal buffets and rest-stop snacks for you to choose from, and while the caterers and volunteers are as accommodating as possible, you will not be able to order exactly what you want. There are multiple options, including vegetarian and gluten-free, but if you are a picky eater, you may be out of luck. And note that food produced in quantity will sometimes suffer in quality. (I got a good laugh out of the fact that I broke a plastic fork on a pancake one morning, only to have a nearby diner suffer the same fate a few moments later. The crew got up before dawn to make a huge batch so everyone could get fed and get on the road in a timely manner, and the pancakes had suffered from waiting around awhile in the warming pan.)

There is an option for you to book all your own hotel rooms each night and get transported to/from camp, but I think you lose a bit of the camaraderie this way. (Confession: I was pretty jealous of the hotel dwellers that frozen morning in Cooke City.)

If you are not OK with being outdoors a lot and enduring some inconvenience and discomfort in exchange for amazing scenery and bonding experiences with fellow cyclists, this may not be the ride for you.

Also, the point of the ride is to draw attention to the ecosystem in the Yellowstone region and to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition, which works to preserve and enhance that ecosystem. Expect some environmental proselytizing. Expect that you may begin to care deeply about the landscape you are riding through. It’s an amazing place.

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 1: Red Lodge to Absarokee

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 2: Absarokee to Red Lodge

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 3: Red Lodge to Cooke City via BEARTOOTH HIGHWAY

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 4: Cooke City to Cody

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 5: rest day in Cody

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 6: Cody to Powell via Lovell

2015 Cycle Greater Yellowstone Day 7: Powell to Red Lodge

Copyright 20125 by Katie Bradshaw

2014 Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 6 Lander to Dubois

Day 6, August 22, was my and Bugman’s 16th wedding anniversary, and a challenging day for a ride. I gave Bugman an anniversary card with an illustration of a tandem bike on it, and it would wind up rain-soaked in our non-waterproof bike trunk.

There was rain overnight, and the dawn was chilly that morning in Lander, but at least we had a dry start. Check out this timelapse video of the bike corral emptying out that morning.

The warmth of the sun was most welcome, but it wouldn't last long.

The warmth of the sun was most welcome, but it wouldn’t last long.

I'm not sure what the story was behind this shredded-looking tipi. A sculpture, maybe? It made me feel sad.

I’m not sure what the story was behind this shredded-looking tipi. A sculpture, maybe? It made me feel sad.

Welcome to the Wind River Indian Reservation. The photo was slightly out of focus, so I enhanced it by tweaking the color saturation.

Welcome to the Wind River Indian Reservation. The photo was slightly out of focus, so I made it prettier by tweaking the color saturation.

Reflections on Ray Lake

Gray reflections on Ray Lake.

As we were heading into Fort Washakie, it started to rain. We pulled over, put on our rain gear, and cycled up what was probably the steepest climb of the day in a gentle rain. My Gore Tex jacket was cozy, and I got to feeling a bit cheeky. As the photograhper / videographer car pulled up alongside us, I called, "Come on out - the weather's fine." "Do you like riding in the rain?" the guy asked. I grinned and replied something to the effect of "as long as it's in liquid form."

As we were heading into Fort Washakie, it started to rain. We pulled over, put on our gear, and cycled up what was probably the steepest climb of the day in a gentle rain. My Gore Tex jacket was cozy, and I got to feeling a bit cheeky. As the CGY photograhper / videographer car pulled up alongside us, I called, “Come on out – the weather’s fine.” “Do you like riding in the rain?” the guy asked. I grinned and replied something to the effect of “as long as it’s in liquid form.” No hail rider am I.

The rain began to let up, and I pulled my camera out from under my jacket to photograph the scenery.

The rain began to let up, and I pulled my camera out from under my jacket to photograph the scenery.

There were some strange landforms in the area. Those regular hills made me think of the Sidney Army Depot.

There were some strange landforms in the area. Those regular hills in the distance made me think of the Sioux Army Depot near Sidney, Nebraska.

There's the photograhper / videographer car. Ckick! Right back at ya!

There’s the photograhper / videographer car. Click! Right back at ya!

With the sun out and the day warming, cyclists stopped en masse to strip off rain gear.

With the sun out and the day warming, cyclists stopped en masse to strip off rain gear.

And away they go!

And away they go!

Here's a lovely bit of downhill.

Here’s a lovely bit of downhill.

Aaaand - another construction zone. We were given instructions on how to handle this intersection at evening announcements the night before. We were to pull up and wait until traffic was told to proceed, let all the cars got first, and then travel through the construction in a bike mob. We were also told there would be a surprise waiting for us there. Bugman and I were at the back of the pack and didn't have to wait long, so our surprise was, there was no surprise. Other riders further ahead of us got candy bars and trinkets.

Aaaand – another construction zone. We were given instructions on how to handle this intersection at evening announcements the night before. We were to pull up and wait until traffic was motioned to proceed, let all the cars go first, and then travel through the construction in a bike mob. We were also told there would be a surprise waiting for us there. Bugman and I were at the back of the pack and didn’t have to wait long, so our surprise was, there was no surprise. Other riders further ahead of us got candy bars and trinkets.

In the construction zone: cyclists pass a giant dump truck.

In the construction zone: cyclists face a giant dump truck.

A view forward of the pack of cyclists on a packed-dirt section of the road. (Dumb camera decided to focus on the edge of Bugman's helmet instead of the riders ahead. Thank GOODNESS it was not raining when we went through here!

A view forward of the pack of cyclists on a packed-dirt section of the road. (Dumb camera decided to focus on the edge of Bugman’s helmet instead of the riders ahead. Thank GOODNESS it was not raining when we went through here!

A random snap behind reveals a friendly fellow biker.

A random snap behind reveals a friendly fellow biker.

I see rain in our future. *sigh* We pulled over, put on the rain gear, and rode through pretty heavy rain to our lunch stop.

I see rain in our future. *sigh* We pulled over, put on our gear, and rode through pretty heavy rain to our lunch stop.

It was still raining when we got to the lunch stop at the fire station at Crowheart. But people were still smiling!

It was still raining when we got to the lunch stop at the fire station at Crowheart. But people were still smiling!

Any port in a storm! Many cyclists took refuge under the lunch truck. Hey! I recognize those cyclists! It's Kurt and Rhonda from Georgia!

Any port in a storm! Many cyclists took refuge under the lunch truck. Hey! I recognize those cyclists! It’s Kurt and Rhonda from Georgia!

When these cyclists vacated their spot, Bugman and I took their place. A fellow cyclist commented, "Did you ever think you'd be eating lunch under a truck?" Nope, can't say that I have.

When these cyclists vacated their spot, Bugman and I took their place. A fellow cyclist commented, “Did you ever think you’d be eating lunch under a truck?” Nope. New life experience for me.

We had a brief period of wonderful sunshine at lunch, but the clouds returned, as did the rain, intermittently. I liked how the clouds and road curved in this photo.

We had a brief period of wonderful sunshine at lunch, but the clouds returned. I liked how the clouds and road curved in this photo.

It was another busy day for the sag wagon.

It was a busy day for the sag wagon.

Some blue sky! Come over here, blue sky! Over here!!

Some blue sky! Come over here, blue sky! Over here!!

The road descended into a valley with beautifully colored rock.

The road descended into a valley with beautifully colored rock.

Here's our rain jacket selfie, with our bike trunk wrapped in a plastic grocery bag. The bag kept it from getting soaked from above, but the tires kicked up water from the road, which seeped into the bag from below.

Here’s our rain jacket selfie, with our bike trunk wrapped in a plastic grocery bag. The bag kept it from getting soaked from above, but the tires kicked up water from the road, which seeped into the bag from below.

Here's a better view of that beautiful rock behind us in the previous photo. Reminds me of Quebrada de Humahuaca in northern Argentina.

Here’s a better view of that beautiful rock behind us in the previous photo. Reminds me a bit of Quebrada de Humahuaca in northern Argentina.

Our last rest stop of the day was at Antlers on the Wind. If you are ever in need of a hunting knife with a fancy antler grip, this is the place to go.

Our last rest stop of the day was at Antlers on the Wind. (If you are ever in need of a hunting knife with a fancy antler grip, this is the place to go.) The snack was ice-cold popsicles. We riders, nearly becoming popsicles ourselves, mostly declined the offered treat.

Pretty place for a tire change, no?

Pretty place for a tire change, no?

We went inside to warm up a bit - and found some antlers!

We went inside to warm up a bit – and found some antlers!

After we left the rest stop, we were walloped with wind and rain. I packed the camera away in a plastic bag, and we slogged uphill, into the wind, in the rain, for about 10 miles. That was pretty miserable. And cold. Good thing we had our mittens with us.

The rain finally quit, and we made an unscheduled stop at River Park Drive so Bugman could eat something. He was bonking. Good thing we'd hoarded our lunch cookies.

The rain finally quit, and we made an unscheduled stop at River Park Drive so Bugman could eat something. He was bonking. Good thing we’d hoarded some cookies!

Our phone batteries were dead, so we weren't sure how much further we had to go. We asked a fellow cyclist with a bike computer, and they replied "5 miles." A few miles down the road, we saw this awesome family cheering and ringing cowbells alongside the road. That was so wonderful! I'm quite sure it's what got me those last couple of miles into town.

Our phone batteries were dead, so we weren’t sure how much further we had to go. We asked a fellow cyclist with a bike computer, and they replied “5 miles.” A few miles down the road, we saw this awesome family cheering and ringing cowbells alongside the road. That was so wonderful! I’m quite sure it’s what got me those last couple of miles into town.

The Dubois laundromat. Oh my.

The Dubois laundromat. Oh my. That’s got to be the most interesting laundromat entrance I’ve ever seen. Dubois had a cute-looking downtown, but we didn’t stop. Bugman and I were cold and hungry, and we wanted to get to camp.

Our camp that evening was in the city park in Dubois (another pronunciation learned – it’s doo-BOYZ). There wasn’t much grass to speak of where the Sherpa tents were pitched, which meant we had mud right outside the tent. I’d heard a fellow camper mention having used cardboard from the recycling stations as a doormat for their tent, so I went in search of some. All of the recycle bins were empty. I asked a volunteer where I might find some, who asked another volunteer, who knew that the manager of the Family Dollar across the road was volunteering. A text message later, and we were told we could pick up some empty boxes at the Family Dollar. Yay!

Taking a warm showed and getting into dry clothes helped my mental state tremendously, but the continued rain was making me cranky, and I was beginning to be glad the ride was almost over.

I was ever so glad there was a building available to serve as a mess hall at this site.

There were rumors of snow at elevation along our route the next day.

Ride summary

Distance and elevation gain (per the official route stats – I’m giving up on the inaccurate elevation on my mapping software) were 76 miles, 2,815 feet

Min temp: 44, Max temp: 55, Winds 8-20, gusting to 24 mph, Precipitation: “none”?? Well, maybe it was dry at the airport . . .  [data from Dubois]

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw

2014 Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 5 Lander rest day

Day 5 of Cycle Greater Yellowstone offered an optional 33-mile out-and-back ride (with 3,297 feet of elevation gain) up Sinks Canyon. The “never quit” side of my personality urged an attempt at the canyon ride, but my butt (and my riding partner) said “no way!”

It was probably good we didn’t ride, as the wind picked up a bit, and I heard the switchbacks at the top of the canyon were a bit unpleasant with the headwind/tailwind flips.

It was a real relief to have a day off the bike. We didn’t exactly rest, though. Thanks to some Chamber of Commerce volunteers, we were able to hitch a ride up to a trailhead in Sinks Canyon and go for a 3-plus-mile hike.

Off the bike for the first time in 5 days, and grinning. #popoagieselfie

Off the bike for the first time in 5 days, and grinning. #popoagieselfie

We made way for a couple of equine hikers on the trail.

We made way for a couple of equine hikers on the trail.

Of course, Bugman had to stop to turn over rocks in a search for aquatic insects. We are not fast hikers. We are stop-and-lookers.

Of course, Bugman had to stop to turn over rocks to search for aquatic insects. We are not fast hikers. We are stop-and-lookers.

Quite beautiful in the canyon. A couple of times, we came upon our CGY colleagues sitting solo on a rock rim above the rushing water. It is a lovely, meditative place.

Quite beautiful in the canyon. A couple of times, we came upon our CGY colleagues sitting solo on a rock rim above the rushing water. It is a lovely, meditative place.

There were still flowers blooming in abundance in late August, on the cusp of autumn in the high country.

There were still flowers blooming in abundance in late August, on the cusp of autumn in the high country.

flowers

But many of the flowers had turned to fruit. I began to get that deep-seated urge to gather and store. We were warned by the gent who dropped us off at the trailhead that the grizzly bears in the area were feeling the same. I can identify the wild currant and rose hips for certain, probably chokecherry, and possibly serviceberry / huckleberry, too. The white berries are known to some as corpse berries are are not edible by humans.

But many of the flowers had turned to fruit already. I began to get that deep-seated urge to gather and store. We were warned by the gent who dropped us off at the trailhead that the grizzly bears in the area were feeling the same. I can identify the wild currant and rose hips for certain, probably chokecherry, and possibly serviceberry and huckleberry, too. The white berries are known to some as corpse berries and are not edible by humans.

Yet again, the mountainous West had something to teach me about pronunciation. Last year, it was Absaroka (pronounced ab-SOR-ka). The river we were hiking along on this day was the Popo Agie. Would you believe me if I told you that name rhymes with "ambrosia"?

Yet again, the mountainous West had something to teach me about pronunciation. Last year, it was Absaroka (pronounced ab-SOR-ka). The river we were hiking along on this day was the Popo Agie. Would you believe me if I told you that name rhymes with “ambrosia”?

A rabbit bush we passed was full of life, with buzzing pollinating insects endangered by the healthy population of cryptically-colored crab spiders.

A rabbit bush we passed was full of life, with buzzing pollinating insects endangered by the healthy population of cryptically-colored crab spiders.

Another cryptically-colored little dude. This little brown snake happened to cross our path, and we herded him into camera range.

Another cryptically-colored little dude. This little brown snake happened to cross our path, and we herded him into camera range inside a low-growing shrub.

At our turnaround point at Popo Agie Falls.

At our turnaround point at Popo Agie Falls.

As the day warmed, insects became more numerous. An aged fritillary, its wings tattered from a hard-knock life, supped on late-blooming flowers.

As the day warmed, insects became more numerous. An aged fritillary, its wings a bit tattered from a hard-knock life, supped on late-blooming flowers.

Bugman attempted to catch a  couple of grasshoppers that seemed to be harassing us on the trail, repeatedly flying around our heads with a loud clacking sound.

Bugman attempted to catch a couple of grasshoppers that seemed to be harassing us on the trail, repeatedly flying around our heads with a loud clacking sound.

This bright-red ladybeetle really contrasted with its perch in the foliage.

This bright-red ladybeetle really contrasted with its silvery perch in the foliage.

It was nearly noon, and we were hungry, so Bugman and I hitched a ride back to camp with another Lander Chamber of Commerce volunteer, skipping The Sinks and The Rise – a curious geological phenomenon in which the Popo Agie River disappears into an underground cavern with a roar and meekly burbles to the surface in a pool a quarter-mile downstream. We’ll go back someday to see it.

Next up – downtown Lander, and ice cream!

We stopped in at Ken & Betty's, an ice cream shop run as an add-on to a screen printing business. The ice cream was good, and the interior decor was cool, but don't expect the cute little old couple on the business sign to be behind the counter. The place was named after the owner's parents, and the scooper might just be an ennui-inflicted young man. There's another ice cream place down the street - the Scream Shack - but it appeared to be closed when we were there.

We stopped in at Ken & Betty’s, an ice cream shop run as an add-on to a screen printing business. The ice cream was good, and the interior decor was neat, but don’t expect the cute little old couple on the business sign to be behind the counter. The place was named after the owner’s parents, and the scooper might just be an ennui-affected young man. There’s another ice cream place down the street – the Scream Shack – but it appeared to be closed when we were there.

Lovely mural on a concrete block wall abutting a parking lot. Reminds me of a cattle drive mural in my town of Scottsbluff.

Lovely mural on a concrete block wall abutting a parking lot.

Continuing on the bison art theme - a heavy metal bison.

Heavy metal bison!

We didn't eat here because we had already spent plenty of money downtown and there was a fajita meal awaiting us back in camp, but I liked the logo enough to buy a hat for my sister. I want one for myself, too.

We didn’t eat here because we had already spent plenty of money downtown (we cycling shoppers were a boon for downtown business) and there was a fajita meal awaiting us back in camp, but I liked the logo enough to buy a hat for my sister. I want one for myself, too.

We added a piece of art to our collection at Global Arts - a painting of aspen trees on corrugated metal by Cristin Zimmer. Loved her work! Loved the inappropriately named Global Arts shop, too (they sell local art, not imported stuff).

Our shopping spree included a new piece of art for our collection – a painting of aspen trees on corrugated metal by Cristin Zimmer. Loved her work! Loved the inappropriately named Global Arts shop, too (they have a nice selection of local art, not imported stuff).

 

When we rode into town the day before, I did not notice the bike perched high atop the former-feed-mill-turned-bike-shop. It took a photo on a greeting card to bring it to my attention.

When we rode into town the day before, I did not notice the bike perched high atop the former-feed-mill-turned-bike-shop. It took a photo on a greeting card to bring it to my attention.

Back in camp, a quick pic of the bike corral on the tennis court. I heard more than one person comment on the total value of all of those bikes.

Back in camp, a quick pic of the bike corral on the tennis court. I heard more than one person comment on the total value of all of those bikes. Here’s another photo of the bike corral.

The Lander police had appropriate rides for patrolling our camp. Check out the fat tires!

The Lander police had appropriate rides for patrolling our camp. Check out the fat tires!

I took advantage of the downtime to write some letters. I LOVED these notecards I bought at Fitzgerald's Cycles in Victor, ID.

I took advantage of the downtime to write some letters. I LOVED these Mimi Matsuda notecards I bought at Fitzgerald’s Cycles in Victor, ID.

Had a little local beer and pizza, too. A pre-dinner snack.

Had a little local beer and pizza, too. A pre-dinner snack.

I can't say enough about our lovely campsite in Lander City Park.

I can’t say enough about our lovely campsite in Lander City Park. I slept really well there.

Our evening entertainment was a local reggae band. They were pretty good, but by the time 9 p.m. rolled around, I was ready to take a hatchet to the speaker cords. There's only so much reggae I can take at full volume when I am unable to escape, and when I am trying to get to sleep before another big day of riding.

Our evening entertainment was a local reggae band. They were pretty good, but by the time 9 p.m. rolled around, I was ready to take a hatchet to the speaker cords. There’s only so much amplified reggae I can take when I am trying to get to sleep before another big day of riding.

Ride summary

Distance and elevation gain N/A

Min temp: 54, Max temp: 79, Winds 8-25, gusting to 32 mph, Precipitation: 0.02 inches  [data from Lander]

Copyright 2014 by Katie Bradshaw