The Lake House restaurant overlooks Yellowstone Lake. It’s a tad pricey but they make a mean spinach ravioli. Corey and Mark report that the bison burgers were pretty tasty too. Breakfast was a buffet. I ate all the Cheerios and some eggs and sausage.
In between meals I froze in my tent. Message to self: choose your sleeping bag for the most extreme conditions. Mine is rated to 55 degrees. I add a bag liner that brings the rating down to perhaps 50 degrees. I bought a fleece throw at the Grant Village store. It helped some but I sleep poorly in a tent anyway. Suffice it to say, today was the second day that my riding suffered because of sleep deprivation.
We broke camp and started to climb over the Continental Divide. It wasn’t particularly hard. Oddly after climbing to the divide we continued going up.
This was followed by a plunge and another climb to the divide. The last 40 miles or so were downhill. Thank you Jesus.
The scenery and the weather couldn’t be beat. Rock formations, deep blue streams with rapids, mountain meadows, geothermal wonders.
We stopped at Old Faithful and saw it do its thing. Today the tourists were back in force. Every geothermal site was mobbed. I’ve seen them all before so there was no need to stop. I was actually enjoying the rivers and streams and woodlands at 13 mph.
I saw two bison today. One was at the Old Faithful complex, just grazing near a bike path. The other was along the road. A car had stopped to check it out causing a back up on the opposite side of the road from me. A park ranger pulled up behind me and used a bullhorn to tell the driver to move along. (There are signs every mile telling drivers not to stop in the roadway to gawk.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Last night I self medicated: vanilla shake, gas station junk food, and three Advil PMs.
I slept for about ten hours. When I awoke, I felt infinitely better. A motel room breakfast of PB&J on a mini banquette and some of Corey’s oatmeal and I was ready to roll,
The first seven-ish miles had us continuing east alongside the Colorado River. Dang it was pretty.
At 7 1/2 miles we turned north to follow Willow Creek. After stripping off my cold weather layers, I felt as if I had never been sick. I remained wary that my body could betray me at any moment but the moment never came.
The route took us through an extensive area of forest fires that happened a couple of years ago. It was interesting to see how the forest is recovering. So many colors red, yellow, blue, green.
As we rode up the gradual climb to Willow Creek Pass, we benefited from a strong tailwind. For once I could climb and enjoy the scenery instead of looking at the road in front of me as I churned away on the pedals.
For about 15 miles the climb seemed weirdly level. Clearly we are acclimated to the elevation. The brisk tailwind didn’t hurt one bit either. The last few miles to the summit required some work but nothing like our previous two passes.
We stopped for the obligatory summit photos then had the joyful experience of descending with a tailwind. For ten miles we descended, with only a few short uphill sections now and then. We stopped at a funky bar in the town of Rand for lunch.
After lunch another 22 miles of downhill brought us to Walden. The only thing keeping us from laughing the whole way was the expansion joints in the roadway. Every 20 yards: THUD.
All day long we could see ominous storms in the distance so we took a motel room. It proved to be a good choice because one heckuva wind hit town in the early evening.
Our clothes are now squeaky clean except for my arm warmers which were once white and are now a dull brown. They will be sacrificed to the bike gods later on the trip.
Corey dined in the room. Mark and I went to the River Rock Cafe for salads that turned out to be humongous.
The town of Walden is thick with TransAm riders and racers. Some are headed west so maybe we’ll see them along the way.
We expect tomorrow to be our last day in Colorado.
Last night’s motel was kind of scuzzy, but after spending a night in the hellhole at Guffey it seemed like the Ritz.
I worked on cleaning my chain and trying to fix a few annoying shifting problems. Mark used Corey’s screwdriver to lower the chain catcher (it’s designed to keep the chain from falling off to the inside). I cleaned and lubed everything I could. It did not pass Corey’s cleanliness inspection so I wiped the chain down with my bandanna in the morning. The bandanna died a hero.
Last night’s dinner was Asian fusion. Corey had Drunken Noodles with jalapeño slices. Mark had broccoli stir fry. I had a disturbingly large bowl of chicken fried rice. Thumbs up all around.
Corey had oatmeal in his motel room for breakfast. Mark and I went across the highway to a diner. Mark had the basic eggs, hash browns, and toast. I went for huevos rancheros. Note to self: order the eggs scrambled or you get a near liquid breakfast.) I also had coffee for the first time above 7,000 feet. It didn’t give me a headache which tells me I was pretty well adapted to 9,900 feet of elevation.
After breakfast the fun began. We rode six miles uphill to the town of Alma. Once again I expected tough climbing and once again I was treated to false flats. I handled them fine.
The weather could not have been better. Tail breezes, comfortable temperatures, low humidity, and sunny skies. And scenery that improved by the mile.
Alas, the ride to Alma was a mere warm up for the next five miles up another 1,100 or so feet to Hoosier Pass.
Just shift into your granny and start pedaling. There was only about 60 feet of descending so the climb was very nearly relentless. Head down. Breathe. Try not to wobble.
I stopped intentionally three times. After about a mile and a half I had to get my heart and lungs under control. Then I did another three miles before stopping where Mark was taking a break, I stopped one more time about a half mile before the top. I stopped a couple other times to bail out from the vehicles going uphill. The road had a sandy unpaved shoulder and a jagged edge to the pavement. And did I mention beaucoup traffic?
The summit came a bit earlier than I expected. Corey and Mark we’re waiting. I took a selfie at the summit sign and a couple of day hikers took a picture of the three of us. (We reciprocated, of course.)
The three of us put on windbreakers and gloves and began the descent. It’s a good thing there were occasional bumps in the pavement or I’d have zoomed right over a guardrail into the unknown.
There were switchbacks at the top then gentler curves. I feathered my brakes, aware that rim brakes can overheat and cause a blowout. (Mark and Corey had disc brakes.) No worries. I’ve done this before.
For family, the descent reminded me of Deepwater Mountain in West Virginia but much, much longer.
For the life of me I have no idea how west to east riders on the TransAm make it up this hill. When I think about the people who rode up this on ten speeds in the 1979s and 1980s, I am flabbergasted.
On the way down we entered a construction zone. A crew was painting new center lines. This meant that traffic couldn’t pass us for several miles. The shoulders were unusable so we took the lane and kept a steady pace over 30 mph.
We returned to Planet Oxigen after 11 insanely fun miles in the town of Breckinridge. The place was swarming with touroids. We didn’t stop. We found the very nice paved bike trail that would take us downhill all the way to Frisco.
What a treat to leave all that traffic behind and cruise along at 20 mph.
In Frisco there was a BBQ festival going on but we needed to sit and recuperate a bit. We had lunch in a brew pub, sans brews.
Over lunch we decided to book beds in a hostel in the next town of Silverthorne. We booked three beds in a four bed room, the hit the trail again.
We needed to buy some provisions so we pulled into a Walmart right along the trail. A squall line came through so we ended up hanging out. Five hikers on the Great Divide Trail were there so we had an entertaining conversation.
We took the bike trail all the way to Frisco. Several times we had navigational issues but the trail led us to the front door of the hostel. It’s called The Pad. It’s brand new and could not be a nicer place to stay.
There is a bar in the lobby. I think I could do with a celebratory root beer. Or maybe skip the root part.
It was tolerably cold last night; temperatures were in the high 40s at dawn. We started our ride with a steep 1.3 mile descent. It woke us right up.
Heading north on Highway 9, we came across an interesting scene right out of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. In a field to the left of the road a coyote (or perhaps a wolf) was chasing a small deer. For a while the canid had the deer by the throat. The deer ran and fought eventually shaking the attacker off and making its escape.
A short while later we stopped along the road to peel off our warm layers. The early morning’s work involved climbing to Current Creek Pass at 9,404 feet. We bombed down from the pass, rode through a valley, then climbed right back up an unnamed hill of the same elevation.
The serious business behind us, we enjoyed a 13 mile ride through Buffalo Gulch to second breakfast in Hartsel.
The 18-mile ride that followed featured a view of mountain valleys and snow capped mountains. My map said that there would be a series of short climbs on this stretch but what we experienced was more like an 18-mile false flat. A false flat looks level but actually ascends gradually. It’s just enough elevation gain to be demoralizing. We arrived at Fairplay dog tired.
We had discussed continuing on ten miles to Alma but we were toast and we knew it. We checked into a dumpy motel and called it quits.
I’ve been having mechanical problems with my drive train. I switched chain lubes in Kansas and the chain has become a mess. At the motel I methodically cleaned and re-lubed the chain with my old lube. I hope this fixes the problem.
We are now at 9,984 feet. Tomorrow we will climb to 11,515 feet to ride over Hoosier Pass, the highest point in the trip. After taking some photos we get to descend through Breckenridge to either Silverthorne or Frisco.
We continue to closely monitor the situation in Yellowstone. We are more than a week away so we hope to luck out and get to ride through the southwest corner of the park.