Bike Tour 2022 – Darby to Missoula

I neglected to mention yesterday’s brief moment of terror. Near the end of the seven-mile descent, the road surface changed. The Missouri Department of Highway Mayhem added a rumble strip that I managed to hit at 28 mph. I hit one strip then another before escaping to the paved shoulder. No problemo. Just some wet pants.

We ate breakfast in the cabin after a good night’s sleep. Then we lit out for Missoula some 62 miles downhill to the north. Or so we thought.

After the first ten miles I struggled. We were riding on US 93, the only main north/south highway in the Bitterroot Valley. Traffic was unpleasant. After 20 miles or so we were shunted onto a bike path that has seen better days. (US bike infrastructure motto: we build them but we don’t maintain them.)

Both Corey and I were nearly hit by stop sign runners eager to get onto the adjacent highway. When my near collision happened, I abandoned the trail for the chip seal shoulder of the four lane 70 mph highway.

The road had rumble strips so I could hear any encroaching vehicle. I also have a mirror. I felt much safer.

We stopped a couple of times for gas station convenience food, but my body wanted a break. In Lolo we stopped at Dairy Queen. They have a $7 meal deal that was just the right amount of food (with a small ice cream sundae).

After that the trail into Missoula improved immensely. Once we were in town we rode trails five miles to the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association, of which we are all members. The ACA made the maps we are following. I took the lead and somehow brought us to the ACA doorstep without a missed turn.

After some photos we headed a half mile west to a hotel where I stayed in 2018. Our room is a second story walk up but it was recently renovated. It’s my turn to sleep on the floor.

Tomorrow we are taking a day off. We’ve been hitting the hills and the miles hard lately. We need fresh legs for the ride over Lolo Pass on Monday.

Miles today: 70. Tour miles: 2,335.5 (previous day’s miles were messed up)

For most of today I felt like llama poop
Mural along the Bitterroot Trail.
A storm was bearing down on us

Bike Tour 2022 – Jackson to Darby

We ate breakfast in the bunkhouse. Mine consisted of PB&J on two semi bagels (flat bread with a hole in the middle), a banana, and some Dot’s pretzels. Nutrition is my middle name.

We headed north through the Big Hole Valley for 12 miles where we found Wisdom. We were looking for enlightenment but settled for some snacks. It should be noted that Wisdom is the mosquito capital of Montana.

We headed west for ten miles and stopped at the site of the Bog Hole Battlefield. This is where the U. S. Army attacked a Nez Pierce encampment at dawn. The Army set their teepees afire at dawn, burning to death men, women, and children. A fierce battle ensued with the Nez Perce woefully outgunned and undermanned. The Nez Perce escaped only to be chased down farther north where they surrendered. Chief Joseph, their leader, famously said: “We will fight no more forever.”

The Army was following a policy called manifest destiny. It was God’s will that white people should conquer the lands of the west. I wonder if God was pleased when Nez Perce children were burning to death.

The next 16 1/2 miles were a gradual then increasingly challenging climb culminating in our reaching Chief Joseph Pass (elevation, 7,241). There was no sign. Corey made it up more slowly than usual but he made it. A good sign for the days ahead. He reports this evening that his back is feeling better.

We dropped down one mile along the Idaho/Montana border until we reached Lost Trail Pass. It’s a treat to go through a pass while going downhill.

Next the fun began. We descended seven miles through a series of banked curves. The scenery was amazing but I can’t say I took full enjoyment of it as I was trying not to die.

After the descent we rolled north through the Bitterroot Valley, gradually riding downhill. Last year the forest in this area burned. It was quite a site to see the aftermath up close on both sides of the road.

We made a pit stop in Sula where the deli had just closed before our arrival. As we ate and drank convenience food stuff, Mark called ahead to Darby (elevation 3,885 feet) to secure our lodging for the night, a two-bed cabin. Mark is sleeping on the floor. The cabin is small. Corey and I will try not to step on him if we need to use the bathroom in the night.

Corey is cooking tortellini and making a salad in the cabin’s kitchen. We’d help but the kitchen isn’t wide enough for two people.

Miles today: 77. Tour miles: 2,337.5

Wisdom is the Nez Perce word for Mosquito
Named for the best golden retriever that ever was.

Bike Tour 2022 – Ennis to Twin Bridges

We stayed with Rachel and Mike Posthumus, Warmshowers hosts in Ennis. We were joined by Ed and Henry, two British cycletourists, we met at the hostel in Saratoga, Colorado last week.

The seven of us plus Loki, their remarkably friendly and mellow Bernese Mountain dog, had a great time. We initially had to work around a water cutoff situation. Our hosts tried all manner of creative work arounds. Ultimately the city turned the water back on so we could take warm showers and launder our clothes. During the outage we worked on our bikes in their garage that is outfitted like a bike shop.

Rachel is co-owner of Switchback, a bike shop, outdoor gear store, coffee bar, beer bar, and gathering place in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As Mike, who co-founded the business with Rachel, described it, the business model is to get people outside so they have a first hand appreciation for the environment, thereby becoming supportive of environmentalism and environmental policies.

Mike works with a company that designs schools of the future, mostly overseas. He’s the liaison between the clients, and the educational futurists, architects, and builders who are working to meet the clients’ needs. He obviously loves his job.

Rachel and Mike treated us like royalty. Snacks and drinks were followed by a delicious dinner. In the morning, Rachel cooked us a breakfast that far surpassed anything I had during this tour. (Her scrambled eggs were amazing. The secret ingredient is butter.)

We reluctantly hit the road and began our 10 1/2 mile, 1,900 foot assault on the pass to Virginia City. The first few miles were a false flat that made all of us grumpy. Then we hit the steeper stuff.

Damned if my legs didn’t wake up. Two good nights of sleep and fabulous food and drink had me climbing like it was 2018 again. My legs never felt tight; my lungs never maxed out. I just climbed and climbed. Grades of six, seven, and eight percent didn’t matter. After a few miles I decided that I’d ride to the top without stopping, hence no pictures of the valley I was leaving. (It was a cool sight over my shoulder, believe me.)

The summit came one full mile later than my map said. No worries. Pedal. Breathe. Relax.

After Corey and Mark reached the top we began the hairy high-speed descent into blustery winds. I confess let The Mule loose. I have no idea what my top speed was but it was one helluva wild ride. I could see the tall grass near the road ahead blowing this way and that so I was ready to counter the gusts as they came.

We came to a stop in Virginia City, a famous gold mining town of the 19th century (and locale of the TV series Bonanza). We had celebratory ice cream cones then descended some more through Nevada City into Alder Gulch and passed historic sites where robbers and vigilantes squared off. This was the old west of countless movies.

The windy conditions made for honest work. We met Mark, an eastbound tourist, outside Sheridan. We took his advice and ate at Bread Zeppelin, a pizza and sandwich shop. I loved the Italian sandwich and tomato soup but Mark and Corey were less impressed.

In any case, it was too much food. I slowed down considerably. No worries. We were headed only ten miles further. The ride was slightly downhill into that annoying wind.

We reached Twin Rivers, like Ennis a fly fishing hot spot. We are camping at the town’s bike camp. Showers, a sink for washing up, and a loo. We’ll be camping next to the Beaverhead River. Nice.

Miles today: 44. Tour miles 2,111.5

Bike Tour 2022 – West Yellowstone to Ennis

We were once dead legged then we became bicycle gods.

Pizza for dinner and a good night’s sleep led us to believe we would be recharged after the last week of climbs and headwinds.

It soon became apparent that our legs were not interested in our beliefs. We knew that today would be a long, downhill ride. We neglected to notice that the first 30 miles was more or less level. We pedaled hard but couldn’t maintain a decent speed. We stopped at a convenience store and complained about our sorry state.

We were riding around Hebgen Lake. Big surprise it’s beautiful.

Roadside signs told us about a massive earthquake, 7.5 on the Richter scale, that hit this area. This is the biggest recorded quake in Rockies.

The quake pinched off the valley and created Quake Lake. We stopped at the Quake Lake visitor center. It was on a hill overlooking the lake. It told stories of people killed and harrowing rescues.

We left the center under threatening skies. Somehow we managed to thread the needle in the storm. The road started tilting downward. Suddenly we were zooming along at 25 mph. We are gods. Then we noticed the grass leaning in waves toward Ennis. A big stinking beautiful tailwind! We were now in the broad Madison River valley.

Aside from some unpleasant traffic (I was coal rolled again) and a stretch where the rumble strips took up all but a foot of the paved shoulder, the riding was bliss. Even the few uphills could not slow us.

We made it to Ennis about 1 p. m. 73 miles.

This was our payback for that awful day along the Wind River last week.

I crossed the 2,000 mile mark for my tour this morning. Last night I started looking into the logistics of getting home. It’s too soon to guess when we’ll be done but 3 1/2 weeks isn’t far off.

We are staying with a Warmshowers host. Unfortunately the town shut off the water to her street, repairing some pipes. Our hosts offered to drive us to a friend’s house to clean up. Nice people.

Miles today: 73.5 Tour miles: 2,067.5

Bike Tour 2022 – Hatchett Campground to Grant Village Campground in Yellowstone

Another tough one in the books. I sleep poorly in a tent especially when I’m freezing. It was in the 30s when we woke up.

After breakfast in the resort next door we lit out for Grand Teton National Park. It was mostly downhill and the views defy description.

We stopped often to gawk. Throughout the day we stopped to chat with eastbound riders from both the TransAm and the Great Divide mountain bike route. We gave up after a while because there were so many of them.

We rode along Jackson Lake for many miles. It’s water level was obviously low.

When we entered Rockefeller Wilderness the trees were mostly dead. Wildfires? Blight?

There was a 6% climb that killed my legs. When we rode into Yellowstone we had to ride over the Continental Divide again. I was on fumes. To my right was the Lewis River. It carved a spectacular canyon into the landscape. It gave me vertigo to look way down there. It didn’t help that there were no guardrails on many places.

Traffic was strangely light. It looks like many visitors cancelled their plans to visit the park after the floods wiped out the roads to our north.

It was a relief to see the sign for Grant Village. The check in for the campground was chaotic. The clerks had no idea what they were doing. We ended up with a decent campsite after much agro.

We all had hot showers which felt divine for me since I hadn’t had a shower in three days.

After our bathing, we rode to the restaurant. Reservations are normally needed but there were so many cancellations that we were seated immediately. Mark and Corey had bison burgers. I had spinach ravioli which was amazingly good.

I bought a fleece throw to supplement all the clothes I could wear in my tent. Fingers crossed that, unlike last night, I don’t have to visit the toilet at 3 a. m. like last night.

We had planned to ride 30 miles to Madison in the park but it is closed as are most other facilities. Tomorrow we’ll ride 50 miles to West Yellowstone and go as much sight seeing as the day allows.

Pictures when I have a better signal

Miles today: 60 Tour miles: 1,938

Bike Tour 2022 – Dubois to Hatchett USFS Campground

Exhausted after yesterday’s monster ride we awoke to a kind tailwind. After taking care of breakfast and on-road snacks we headed northwest to tackle Togwotee Pass at 9,600+ feet, a 30-mile climb of about 3,000 feet.

We made decent progress for the first hour or so. The last 7 1/2 miles were serious work, especially considering how tired our legs were.

The scenery kept us diverted. Wyoming is just crazy amazing. The geologic wonders on one side of the road, differ markedly from those on the left. For a long way we saw millions of trees that had been turned gray by blight. It would have been all the more beautiful if the trees were green.

We made the pass after hours of grinding away. Oddly the continental divide was about 30 feet higher in elevation a couple of hundred yards later.

To our chagrin our tailwind disappeared and a rather unwelcome headwind replaced it. Instead of screaming down the mountain at 40 mph, we were held to the high 20s. At least my rims didn’t overheat from braking.

After only six miles the descent ended. Nooo! No worries. After some annoying climbing we began a nine mile, 6% descent. And our headwind was gone!

And we had spectacular views of the Grand Tetons. Wow! Just Wow!

Signs on the road warned drivers not to stop for bears hanging out in the road. Being a bicyclist not similarly constrained, I stopped to pet a grizzly cub.

I’m kidding

We had intended to ride 70 miles to a hiker/biker campground in Colter Bay. We settled for a Forest Service campground 20 miles to the east. The price was a whopping $6.

Tomorrow Yellowstone.

Miles today: 49 Tour miles: 1,878

Great Divide riders.
Blighted trees for miles and miles
The Hack memorial dedicated to lumberjacks who cut down trees to make railroad ties in wintertime.
Someday I will investigate this in person
Geology out the wazoo
Hello my old friend
Downhill to the Tetons

Bike Tour 2022 – Jeffery City to Dubois

We knew today would be hard and it lived up to expectations. We left the motel and rolled next door to McDonalds. After a quick breakfast, we left at 7:10. We had a brief chat with another westbound TransAmer, then we rolled across town and stopped at a grocery for supplies.

After that the real festivities began. Let’s cut to the chase, 82 miles, uphill, into an increasingly strong headwind.

The winds were light initially. We knew this was temporary, after all we would spent most of the day riding through the Wind River Reservation.

We stopped at Fort Washakie at 15 miles for a break. Afterward Mark and I went seven miles off route to check out the burial site of Sacajawea. The cemetery is still in use by the resident Eastern Shoshone tribe.

On our way back to the route we rode through a residential area. Shoshones like dogs. Every house had at least one. Only one gave chase. He was just going for a run with his new buddies. For about a mile.

Back on the route the winds were obviously stronger. There were a few climbs but mostly we rode up false flats.

We stopped at Crowheart, a crossroads near the amazing Crowheart butte. Mark wisely decided to buy a gallon of water. We needed it later.

The last 30 miles felt like 60. Mark zoomed ahead and ultimately secured us space in a church hostel in the town of Dubois, pronounced Dew Boys with the emphasis on Dew.

We are exhausted. There will be food, medicine, and sleep.

Sacajawea Memorial at burial site
Jim and Pam – eastbound on the TransAm
Crowheart Butte
Note the flags
You have no idea how happy I was to see this sign. The winds continued, however.

Miles today: 82 Tour miles: 1,829.

Bike Tour 2022 – Jeffery City to Lander

Jeffrey City is a sad place but it does have a church that provides shelter to TransAm bicyclist. We had quite the crowd last night.

We had heard about Rob from Philadelphia from two cyclists we met yesterday. Rob was riding eastbound with them when he had three flats and then broke his chain. He walked and glided nine miles back to Lander to a bike shop. I can’t even. He hoped to catch up to the others in a day. Dang.

Ed and Harry as well as Mark and Sue all of whom we met at the church hostel in Saratoga were there.

Joan from Sacramento and Cheryl from Helena, eastbounders, met on the road. They seemed like old friends. They were upbeat and energetic. I think they had a tailwind.

Mark, Corey and I had dinner at the smoke- filled town bar. Haute cuisine it wasn’t.

We went back this morning for breakfast (with Rob) at 7 a. m. The service was slow but the food was terrific.

Breakfast delayed our departure until 8:15. The winds around here pick up in the late morning so the late start doomed us to a very blustery day.

And for the most part it was. There was more stupefying Wyoming scenery. And we met Ed Rodrigues, and eastbound rider who gave us hood info on the bike shop and camping in the park in Lander (very noisy).

The highlight of the day was a long 6% downhill in gusty winds. Had the winds been calm we would easily have surpassed 40 mph. I dared to look down at my speedometer only once. It said 37. Dang.

Some time later we hit a long section of repaving. Unlike the other day, the milling was agreeable with our thin-ish tires and only lasted a short bit before we were treated to many miles of fresh pavement. (Ed said it was “ like buddah”.

We took a break for lunch out of our panniers about 15 miles from Landers. I was feeling anxious because I thought it was much later in the day.

I wanted to get to the bike shop in Lander before it closed. As it turned out it was only a little after noon. Maybe I should reset my bike computer to Mountain time. After a few more miles my new found punctuality was augmented by a refreshing tailwind.

At the bike shop, Gannett Peak Sports, Ed greeted me with a calm reassurance that they’d fix my bike in short order. While I was waiting, he offered me an ice cream sandwich or a beer. (I took the ice cream.) this is a courtesy they give to all TransAm customers.

Thomas went to work on my bike. He replaced my chain and cassette (the cluster of gears on the back wheel). He cleaned my filthy freewheel hub body (to which the cassette is attached), adjusted my brakes, and straightened a tooth on my middle chainring. He also replaced some worn parts on my pump. He walked me through everything he was doing to make sure that I agreed with his assessments and repairs. He could not have been more reassuring.

Customer service at Gannett Peak Sports is pretty terrific. The price for repairs is quite a bit lower than DC area bike shops, a pleasant aspect of good bike shops in lower cost areas. And Gannett Peak Sports looks to me like a very good bike shop.

After the bike shop I rode to the motel that Corey and Mark had found for our shelter. (We had planned on camping on the town park but it was booked for an event and closed to camping.)

We had pizza for dinner and ice cream cones for dessert.

Tomorrow promises to be really hard. Seventy miles, uphill, into a headwind. Dang.

Miles today: 61 Tour miles: 1,747

Corey and Joan are gaga for Guatemalan coffee
Cheryl, Joan, and Rob
Riding through wide open spaces
The big descent. Zoom in and you’ll see a truck waaay down yonder and the road winding off into the distance
Ed Rodrigues (sp?) from Seattle heading east
Thomas, the mechanic, working on The Mule
Joan with her Java
Rob: three flats and a broken chain. No problem!

Bike Tour 2022 – Saratoga to Rawlings

For a few minutes, we thought we were mighty. Alas we proved to be suckers for a tailwind.

The hostel worked out great. There were two couples who stayed there. We had met Mark and Sue on the street in Walden. They stayed at the same motel as us. Ed and Harry, two young Englishmen from Devon, rolled in just before dusk. They had ridden over 100 miles in that brutal wind. They looked whipped but seemed in good spirits.

Corey, Mark, and I were up at dawn on the longest day of the year. We had aspirations of riding over 100 miles. And for about 90 minutes we were confident we’d get the century ride done.

We left at 7:15. Temperatures were in the low 40s. A light tailwind out of the south have us a gentle push up a series of small hills, each with a gradual incline.

I locked into a groove and rode much faster than usual. Corey and Mark stopped often to smell the figurative roses.

After 21 easy miles, we arrived in Walcott Junction and took a breather. Then we headed west on the Lincoln Highway (a great book, by the way), US 30. It also happened to be I-80.

The interstate had a wide, paved shoulder with a rumble strip. We were quite safe and legal. We expected the winds to be crosswinds but they had shifted into headwinds.

Oof. So much for my groove. I struggled mightily the entire way. Corey and Mark rode together and swapped leads until Mark left him weeping in his wake.

We left the interstate in the town of Sinclair, home to an oil refinery. I was relieved when we were upwind of the place. Stinko!

The town itself was interesting. It was a pre-depression planned community. The buildings featured the Spanish Colonial revival style. The town was established by an oil refiner whose business, the P&R Company or PARCO, went belly up. He sold out to the company that would become Sinclair Oil.

Another seven miles of riding into the wind followed. I stopped to talk with two eastbound TransAm riders. We swapped info on places to stay and avoid.

I finally arrived in Rawlings, passing some interesting white mineral deposits along the way. They looked like salt. The hotel clerk said they were calcium.

Over lunch Corey surrendered. He wanted nothing to do with riding 60 more miles. I concurred. Only Mark seemed interested in another6 hours of masochistic pedaling.

Long story short, we checked into a hotel at 1 and decided to treat this as a semi-rest day.

Miles today: 42.5 Tour miles: 1615

The Overland Trail passed this way
The I-80 Lincoln Highway
The Sinclair oil refinery
The PARCO Inn
Susan and Colleen, eastbound TransAm riders from Eugene, OR

Bike Tour 2022 – Walden, Colorado to Saratoga, Wyoming

It was the best of winds; it was the worst of winds.

We knew what we were getting into. The weather forecast called for light tailwinds in the early morning followed by strong gusty winds in the afternoon. The route called for us to descend from Walden, Colorado at 8,099 feet to Encampment, Wyoming at 7,277 feet. Downhill yay!

We left Walden around 8 and had a nice tailwind. The road wasn’t exactly downhill but we were cruising along without a care heading north.

Then the road, the very bad road turned west and we felt the power of a crosswind. Bad.

Soon we were once again enjoying a tailwind. La di da.

Somehow somebody put a honking big hill in our way and a mighty crosswind began blowing us all over. No fun. Corey thought the hill was harder than Hoosier Pass. I think I agree.

After way too much wind and four stops by yours truly the big bad hill was defeated. Mark had been waiting a long time at the top so we didn’t linger very long after I crawled to the crest.

Back on the road, Mark took off. Corey and I did not give hot pursuit. Corey is tall and I am wide (plus my panniers act like sails).

Here we are being good bike tourists getting blasted all over the place when we came to an 11 mile stretch of road maintenance. Crews had milled the pavement for re-paving. Of course, it was downhill.

It was scary riding. The tread on my tires did not agree with the milling. Add in some strong gusts and you have Danger Will Robinson!

The milling stopped at Riverside, a town adjacent to Encampment. After conferring with a vintage barkeep, we decide to ride on to Saratoga.

Turning north, we caught a tailwind to die for. Corey zoomed ahead. Dang. Mark pulled ahead of me but he stopped to talk to two eastbound TransAm tourists. We heard interesting things about Jeffrey City which we will ride through soon.

The last few miles to Saratoga were a slog through truly brutal crosswinds. We caught up to Corey who had been waiting 20 minutes at a grocery store. After shopping we rode to the St Barnabas church in town where there is a hostel for bike tourists.

In a sense we were fortunate that temperatures remains in the 50s foremost of the day. We started to see more wildlife. I watched four redwing black birds in a dogfight with a crow. I also saw a seagull snatch a small rodent (alive) off the roadway. There were several pronghorns and cattle from time to time. Corey saw a bald eagle perched on a roadside fence post.

Oh, and The Mule turned 66 today.

And, Wyoming became the 35th state I’ve ridden in.

Total miles: 68 Tour miles: 1,572.5

My “salad” last night. Mark accidentally ordered extra chicken with his. It was monstrous. He had plenty left over for breakfast.
The Chicks sang about this.
Too bad my camera couldn’t capture the wind
Wyoming: we have rocks
The Mule turns 66