TABR16- Day 11

When I went to sleep at 1:30PM in Saratoga, my plan had been to sleep the afternoon and then ride in the evening to try and minimize the effects of the winds on my progress. I was so sick of headwinds! It seemed like it was everyday. I got up with my alarm at some point in the late afternoon/early evening and the wind was still howling out of the south. I was hungry, so I went downstairs to the hotel’s restaurant and ate a big meal, then went back upstairs and went back to bed. I just didn’t have it in me to go.

Finally, I got up about 1:00Am. I had slept or at least rested and eaten for over 12 hours. I wasn’t real excited to get back out there, but I knew I should. I was beginning to get embarrassed for the amount of time I had spent down. Friends and family had been texting and calling, wishing me a happy 44th birthday, but also wanting to know what was up. I needed to get moving. I packed up, went across the block to the Kum & Go for supplies and headed out into the dark, cold night.

The winds were still blowing out of the south pretty good and progress was slow, but I had to keep moving. It was a slog for me to Riverside and I was cold in the night mountain air. It took me 2 hours to make the short 17 miles and I was already fighting sleep. Really?!?!? Frustrated with the situation and myself, I rolled into town. Across the street from where I was supposed to turn east onto Hwy 230, there was a community center and out front a teepee. I decided that would be a great spot and quickly opened the flap door, pulled my bike inside, rolled out my bivy and crawled in it for a nap. I slept almost 2 hours.

When I woke, the sun was coming up. I grabbed my things and quickly hit the road. It was cold and there was still a headwind, but I felt better about things and started to actually make some progress. I wasn’t breaking any land speed records, but progress is progress. By 10:00AM I made it to Walden, Co. I went to a restaurant on the main drag and ordered a big breakfast.

While I sat eating, in walks none other than Jason Kulma. Jason lives in Sty Louis, just 70 miles away from my home and he and I have done quite a few of the same events over the last few years. I was both happy and sad to see him. I was happy to see a familiar face, but if there was anyone in the race that I wanted to end up in front of, it would be him. I don’t mean that in a malicious way, just in a friendly rivalry sort of thing. This spurred me to finish my food and get going. As I was getting ready to leave, in came Jimmy Bisese, Janie Hayes’ husband. Jimmy sat with Jason and I hit the road.

I grabbed some things at a gas station on my way out of town and got going. Just outside of town I was met with more nasty headwinds. They were relentless it seemed! Fueled by competition and wanting to stay out in front of Jason, I stayed moving, making it across the valley to Rand and then up Willow Creek Pass. Crossing Willow Creek Pass was significant in my mind as it was the next to last pass in the Rockies. Next up- Hoosier Pass and then the mountains were done…for awhile.

A few miles after coming over the pass, as I passed a turnoff for a gravel road, I heard someone holler my name. It was JD, local bike mechanic and fellow TABR15 veteran! He had been coming out to meet all the racers and provide bike service if needed. I was in desperate need of some chain lube and he was happy to oblige. He also topped off my tires with his floor pump while we chatted a few minutes. It was great to see another familiar face! I didn’t stay long and hit the road right away, thanking JD for his help to me and all the other racers. What a treat!

Leaving JD, I continued on, making the turn onto US40 and then to Hot Sulphur Springs. When I got to town it was a little after 4PM.

I headed straight for a little roadside dairy bar that I had eaten at before. Sitting there was Luke Kocher and George Koefler. We chatted while we ate and discussed plans. Luke said he had ridden through the night and was exhausted. He was going to get a room in town and sleep for awhile. George and I both planned to go on. It was early still and despite the howling headwinds from the south, I needed to stay moving. The two of them left, I finished my food and then headed out of town.

The ride out of Hot Sulphur Springs was a slog. It is all down hill through the Colorado River gorge, but the winds were screaming up the gorge and there was zero coasting. Once out of the gorge and on the flatter sections beyond Parshall, riding was better, but the wind was something else.

I got to Kremmling about 6:15PM and had to make a decision. Kremmling is fairly high at 8000′ in elevation. It was pretty cool out that evening and I knew the temps would drop at night. I didn’t have the gear to bivy in the cold at that elevation and didn’t want to get stuck having to try to find a hotel room in the tourist traps ahead of Dillon, Frisco and Breckenridge. I decided to get a room at the Super 8 in Kremmling and get an early start the next day. I was disappointed that my mileage was so low. I had only made 148 miles on the day.

First things first, I went to the Kum & Go across the street and loaded up on food. Then I went to the hotel, checked in and started my laundry. Jimmy Bisese got to town not too long after me and stayed in the same hotel. He came down to do his laundry as well and asked if I wanted to have dinner and birthday beers at a Mexican restaurant across the street. I declined and said that I was going to sleep and get an early start the next day. I really regret not accepting his offer. It would’ve been a great way to celebrate my birthday and I know I would’ve enjoyed the company. I finished my laundry, ate my gas station burritos and went to bed.

 

TABR16- Day 10

When I woke at the Rawlins Western Lodge, I was still very tired and very hungry. Much to my frustration and despite my plan, on my way to Rawlins I had ran out of food and went to bed without eating. As I gathered my things and packed up, I was starving. I was up early and made my way down the street to an auto parts store. My plan was to grab a tire patch kit there so I didn’t have to wait until a bike shop opened at 10AM. All they had was a car tire repair kit so I bought that and ditched everything but the cement. That would make sure I had a way to fix a flat until I could find a bike shop and get some tubes.

I then went in search of food. The closest place was McDonald’s and I wasn’t feeling real picky. I was surprised, but pleased to find fellow veteran racer Michael Wacker  there. He and I both raced in 2015 and DNF’ed. I was looking forward to seeing what he would accomplish in the 2016 race. I ordered big and sat down with him to eat. He was nursing a sore knee and was worried about the copious amounts of pain relievers he was having to take just to get by. He didn’t want to do permanent damage to his knee, so had made the decision to pull out of the race. I was gutted for him. What a difficult decision to make after all the planning for another year. Despite the somber mood of the occasion, it was a treat to get to share a meal with him. Once I was done eating, we said our goodbyes and I went my way.

On the way out of town, I loaded up to capacity with supplies at a gas station. No more running out of food!!!

The portion of the Trans Am that I was on was my absolute least favorite. Rawlins is just ok. Then just a couple miles down the road is Sinclair, home to Sinclair Oil’s head quarters and oil refinery. The stench of crude oil being processed permeates everything. Then it is 13 stress-inducing miles on the shoulder of Interstate 80. In my opinion, it just doesn’t get much worse than that for cycling. I muddled through it and was glad to have it behind me.

When I turned off I-80 and started south toward Saratoga, I was immediately confronted with a nasty head wind. It took almost 3 hours to make the simple 20 miles from the interstate to Saratoga. Add in the lack of energy from the previous night’s blunders and I was beat when I got to town. To make matters worse, I was well aware that typically the winds get worse in the afternoon. I found a ice cream parlor/diner on Main street and sat down to eat, recover a bit and make some decisions.

While I ate, I found myself doing all the things a racer shouldn’t.

  • First off, I wasn’t moving or asleep. That is never good. In the words of Mike Hall, “if you aren’t riding, eating or sleeping during a race, there better be a damn good reason why you aren’t.” I try to abide by that mantra usually, but my best excuse I can give is I was broken. Winds, hunger, disappointment of not being where I wanted to be and just plain being exhausted were all colluding to make things rather difficult for me and I was succumbing to the forces that be. Granted, I was eating, but I made a production out of it and was basically just wasting time shoving food in my face because I didn’t want to go back out there.
  • Second off, I was checking weather and  Trackleaders like they were going out of style. I was watching forecasts to see when the wind would die down. I was watching a few folks just behind me. They were closing in and wouldn’t be long catching up. I was also watching a few just ahead of me. I figured they were in the wind and hating it. I didn’t want to be out there hating it. I wanted to make the best use of my finite energy.
  • That all led me to doing “math” again. I was trying to figure out how I could stay out of the wind and make the best use of my time and energy.

In the end, I convinced myself that my best move was to get a motel room in town, sleep the afternoon away while the winds were worst. I would then get up in the evening and head out, riding through the night in conditions more conducive to progress and energy management. I went next door to Hotel Wolf, got a room and went to bed. It was 1:30 in the afternoon and I had made a whopping 43 miles on the day thus far. I hoped to make up for that in the evening, but the fact remained that the day was a bust.

TABR16- Day 9

I spent the night in the no-so-elegant Wind River Motel mostly because I like it. The rooms are old and the furnishings are scant, but it just felt right for me to be there. That and the rate was super cheap!

I slept longer than I should have and once up, went across the parking lot to the Village Cafe/Daylight Donuts. I ate a huge breakfast plus a couple donuts and waddled to my bike for what I planned to be another big day. I was on the road by 7:00AM.

The ride was easy and before I knew it, I was in Crowheart. I stopped at the general store for a quick snack and was back on my way. I was trying to keep my stops quick and stay moving as much as possible.

In Fort Washakie, I was a bit taken aback when the reservation sheriff pulled out in front of me from a side road. There was no question he had seen me. I guess he wasn’t much of a cyclist fan. Oh well.

As I approached Lander, I was getting pretty excited. In 2014 Phil and Linda Cardinal came through my hometown touring the Trans Am. My wife and I happened upon them and spent an evening hanging out together at Country Days, a fair the city puts on the first weekend in June every year. Phil and Linda had since moved to Wyoming and we had stayed in contact via Facebook. They were coming to meet me in Lander, if just for a moment, and say hi! We texted a bit and it was decided I should look for them at McDonald’s.

When I got to the golden arches, much to my surprise I found race director Nathan Jones and his partner in crime Anthony Dryer in the parking lot. They were out on course, taking pics and video of racers and had backtracked from the front of the pack to catch some mid-pack folks. It was great to see them!

Inside McDonald’s I found Phil & Linda. We sat together chatting in a booth while I stuffed my face with burgers, fries and apple pies. All too soon, my food was gone and I needed to hit the road. We said our goodbyes and I went across the street to a gas station for, you guessed it, supplies. 🙂 Added to the extra food I had gotten at McDonald’s, my plan was the supplies would get me the 80 miles to the gas station at Muddy Gap, where I would supply up for the next push to Rawlins. I left Lander a little after 2:00PM.

Not far outside Lander I could see the sky turning dark to the south. I figured I would have to deal with a storm and a check of radar on my phone confirmed it. It looked like a pretty nasty little bugger too. I remembered Scott McConnell’s tale of being stuck in a storm in this very valley the year before. Granted he did it at night, but I had no intention of riding through it if things got dicey. I felt I needed to respect the mountain weather.

I rode on, crossing over the Beaver Creek valley, hoping I could make it to Sweatwater Station (where there is a rest area) before the cold rain hit. As I reached the base of the climb up to the Beaver Divide, I could tell that I wasn’t going to make it. The wind was picking up and the air turned cold quickly. I was still about 9 miles and a pretty good climb away from the rest stop. The storm was bearing down on me and I was in the middle of nowhere in a desolate part of central Wyoming.

The storm was nearly on top of me and I was looking for anything for cover. I noticed a guardrail up ahead. I figured that meant a bridge. Maybe I could get under it and have some cover? I rode up to it, leaned my bike against the railing and bailed off the side of the road to inspect what was there. It was a big concrete culvert, likely designed for drainage after spring storms and snow melt. There was also a gate in the adjacent fence, making me think that it was used for livestock crossing under the highway too. About 10’x10′, it was plenty big and I felt that it wasn’t going to be a danger of flooding. I went back up, grabbed my bike and ducked into my “shelter”.

At first, I was disappointed in my holing up. The wind blew a bit and it looked nasty, but not much else was happening. About 10 minutes later, as I was about to “man up” and head out into the fray, the rain came. Due to my limited perspective from the culvert, I hadn’t see the massive black cloud coming overhead that brought fat drops of icy rain. I got cold with the wind whipping through the tunnel and put on my warm gear. It absolutely poured for 10-15 minutes. Rain was coming down hard enough to make it difficult to see. I was very thankful for my hiding spot!

As the rain let up, the wind died down as well. After a bit, I got out and back on the road. All total, I stayed holed up in my spot for about 45 minutes. 45 minutes well spent in my opinion. I stayed safe and didn’t have to deal with wet clothes robbing body heat afterward. I finished the climb and the remaining few miles to Sweatwater Station, where I stopped for a quick nature break and to fill my bottles in the rest area. A quick check of Trackleaders showed that the pair of Jay Petervary and Mark Seaburg were closing in on my pretty quick. I really knew nothing about Mark, but Jay is an icon in adventure bikepacking races. If there was any way at all that I could remain in front of them, I wanted to make it happen.

I left Sweatwater Station with a vengeance, aiming to put down miles and do so quickly. Despite being exhausted with tired legs, I found the energy to push out near a 25mph average for the 15 miles to Jeffery City. As I rode, I decided to eat my food from McDonald’s in Lander. I didn’t plan to stop in Jeffery City and I figured just about everyone in the race did plan to stop there due to it being the only spot for supplies within a 80 mile stretch. A check of Trackleaders as I rode out of Jeffery City showed I was making a little bit of ground, but only just staying in front of Jay and Mark. I kept the “gas pedal” mashed.

I became a bit obsessed about wanting to stay in front of Jay. Then I realized the time of day. If I stayed hammered down, I would make Muddy Gap a little after 9:00PM. Would the station be open? I didn’t know, but I was about out food and had nowhere else to go. I kept pushing hard and had my sites set firmly on that station. Of to the south, big black thunderheads were soaking the mountains and providing a spectacular lightning show. At Muddy Gap, I would turn south and likely have those storms in my path. Then I felt the mush of a slow leaking front tire.

I tried to be in denial for a bit, thinking that if I rode with more of my weight toward the back of the bike I could limp the 10 miles or so to Muddy Gap, but soon enough I had to stop. It was a slow leak and I didn’t want to take the time to change the tube to only end up with the station closed when I got there, so I pumped the tire up and went back to riding. Just a few miles down the road and it was about flat again. I ended up having to stop and pump it up three times.

When I got close enough to the station at Muddy Gap to see it, I could tell it was a ghost town. It was 9:15PM and I had missed it. Come to find out, they had closed at 7 or 8, so the entire plot was for not. I wouldn’t have made it anyway. I sat down next to the gas pumps and opened up my front tire. I planned to patch it and save my last spare tube for an emergency. I had used my first spare when I flatted coming out of Kooskia, ID and hadn’t replaced it yet. When I opened my patch kit, the rubber cement was completely dry. Nothing at all. I was gutted. I scoured the inside of the tire to do my best to make sure there wasn’t a small thorn or piece of wire stuck in it, then put my tire back together with my only spare tube.

I now had no spares, no patch kit, no food, little water and about 50 miles to Rawlins across some of the more desolate parts of the route in Wyoming at night with storms looming on the horizon. It was now 9:30PM and the temps were dropping. It was shaping up to quite possibly be a really interesting evening.

All I could do was ride. I quit checking Trackleaders and radar. If someone caught me, so what. If the rain came, I would get wet. If I bonked completely from lack of food or I had a flat, I would walk. I had no choice but to just ride. I put my headphones in and rode across the dessert in the dark. On and on, just keep moving. Up and over a climb. Down into the Great Divide Basin. Then the climb out of the basin. I was hungry, thirsty and tired, but I just rode on.

Once out of the basin, I knew it wasn’t far to Rawlins, but all down hill. I was cold and ended up putting on everything I had. I even had my puff coat on with my rain jacket over it. As I started to see the lights of town, I was getting excited. I had made it! It was 1:30AM.

Upon reaching Rawlins, I was gutted again to find nothing open. Every gas station and restaurant was closed. Nothing to eat at all. Later I would have the chance to chat with Jay and he told me about a diner on the bypass that stays open all night. I had followed the Trans Am route through town and missed it. Dejected, I went to look for a hotel.

I stopped at the same one I stayed at in 2015, Rawlins Western Lodge. The door was open, but to my surprise, there was a note that said they were closed and would be open at 10AM. There was also a note that said that if guests needed someone, to push a doorbell button there. I needed a room and wasn’t going anywhere until I had one. I pushed the button…and then again….and then again. Finally the woman came to the desk, sleepy eyed. I had obviously woken her. I apologized and said I need a room and asked if they had vacancy. She muttered things and began checking me in. In her frustration, she said something to the effect of, “can’t you read?”, referring to the sign that they were closed. I said, “do you want my money or not?” She finished the transaction and gave me a key. I thanked her and found my room down the hall. I felt bad about the way I reacted to her, but she had been a bit rude. In the end, I guess I was at fault for ignoring the sign. It is easy for me to get snippy when I am exhausted and hungry.

After having wandered around town looking for food, then the checking in process, it was getting pretty late. There was guest laundry facilities just down the hall from my room. I put my clothes in then went to shower. I came back then and put clothes in the dryer and set an alarm to get up and get them when they were done. Then I went to sleep “for real”. What a day. I finished the day with 210 miles. I was good with that, thinking that the next day I would be in Colorado!!!

TABR16- Day 8

After a disappointing day 7, I woke at the Driftwater Resort to my alarm at 4:00AM with renewed vigor. Day 8 would be a much better day and I was going to make it happen!

I gathered everything and hit the road quickly. It was a cold morning, but I was prepared with the kit I had. I made pretty quick work of the route along Quake and Hebgen Lakes, then made my way into West Yellowstone for a super fast breakfast at McDonalds. I ran across the street to a gas station for supplies and a nature break, then headed for Yellowstone. I spent a total of 15 minutes in town. I was bound and determined to get as far as possible into the park before the throng of people came.

Being the 100th anniversary of the national park service and the fact that it was Yellowstone on a Saturday in June, I figured the park would be crawling with tourists and traffic jams. I have traveled through this part of Yellowstone 3 times prior to this trip, so I had no desire to see anything except for the miles flying by. I went through the west gate about 8:00AM and after paying my fare, didn’t slow down until Grant Village. I passed right by every spot to stop and see something, right by all the traffic stopped to look at buffalo (I just rode on the small shoulder right passed them) and right by the buffalo themselves as they stood in the road. I was a little sketched out by the beasts being that close, but I figured as long as they were there, the cars couldn’t get by and I would have smooth sailing on the other side.

At one point I needed to pee REALLY bad, but I was climbing one of the passes in the park and the traffic was too heavy to just stop and go along the road. I decided that at the next little pullout, I would go up in the woods and take care of business. When that next pullout came, I started to slow down, but noticed a bike in the woods just a few yards off the road. Upon further inspection I saw the bikepacking bags on the bike and a bivy on the ground. I knew then it was a racer, so I never put a foot down, kept riding and tried to be as quiet as possible so as not to wake them. Every person I could pass made me feel a bit better about my debacle from the day before. Later I would look at Trackleaders and see it was Lee Fancourt taking a nap.

I made the 51 miles from West Yellowstone to Grant Village in right at 4 hours. I was super pleased with that given it was through the park with traffic and several significant climbs. I resupplied there and tore off again, aimed at getting over Togwotee before the night was over.

As I came out of Yellowstone and into Tetons, the weather was beginning to turn. Clouds were moving in and there was a bit of cold rain. The mosquitos were atrocious as well! I stopped at the station at the turn to Colter Bay, then headed off again. Just up the rode about a mile I came across two young guys who were obviously touring and had one of their bikes turned over changing a tire. I stopped to make sure they were ok and found they weren’t. The new tire they were installing was super tight and they had been trying for an hour to get it on the rim. I put the tire on for them and asked if they needed help airing it up. They blushed and said no, so I left them be and headed on. Later, when I got home after the race, they got in contact with me as they came through my home town. Come to find out I had punctured the tube with the tire levers while putting that tire on and they had to do it over! What a dope! They were good sports about it all and just grateful that I stopped to help. They mentioned I was the first racer they met as the others wouldn’t stop. That made be feel good. It is a race, but sometimes you gotta let it go.

My view of the Tetons was obscured by clouds as I rode passed Jackson Lake. No matter. I kept rolling with intent. Soon I made the turn at Moran Junction and headed East for Togwotee Pass. As I passed the Hatchet Resort at the base of the climb, cold rain began again. It set in and made things a bit nasty. I was fine with it. I was staying warm by climbing. The digital highway sign stating “Stay in your car!!!! Bears on the road!!!” didn’t help though. I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to combat that. I just made as much noise as I could, singing and talking to myself as I climbed in the rain.

Half way up the pass (or so), I stopped at Togwotee Mountain Lodge and went inside for some food. I knew at this point that I would make it over the pass that night, but I wasn’t sure I would get to Dubois in time to get any food, so it was a no brainer to me. I wasn’t going to go through the same thing that I did in Twin Bridges. After a quick meal, I headed back out into the rain and fleeting light of day to finish the climb. It was only 7:00, but with the clouds and rain, it seemed pretty dark.

The remainder of Togwotee was fairly uneventful. Toward the end of the climb, the rain stopped. I never saw a grizzly, but it wasn’t for lack of watching. At the top, I stopped and put on clothes for the descent. It was cold and wet and I was a bit sketched by the curvy, wet road in the earliest, steepest part, but it was uneventful as well. I did have a few times where there were deer very near the road on my way down. That always makes me nervous, thinking they may run out in front of me. Nothing doing. They would look up as I passed, but then return to grazing. A few miles down, I stopped at Lava Lodge for a cup of coffee to warm up. It was a short stop, but a nice respite from the cold of coming off the mountain.

The sun set and I finished the ride into Dubois, pronounced DO-boys. Just ask the locals. As I came into town, I was pleased that I stopped at Togwotee Lodge for a meal. Nothing was open. I passed by a couple of chain hotels at the western edge of town and headed for a particular mom & pop place that I have stayed at before. The Wind River Motel is a 1940’s era place. Not much in the name of accommodations, but it suits me fine. As I was pulling in the lot, the old lady that runs the place was shutting the lights out in the office. I rushed over and she was gracious enough to rent me a room. I thanked her, did our business, took the key and found my room for the night.

In the end, I made 188 miles on the day. Not an earth shattering amount, but not bad considering it was through the parks and over the second highest pass on the route (9658′). Much better than the day prior. I went to sleep, pleased with my come back and anxious to make more headway the next day.

 

TABR15- Day 12- Rawlins, WY to Kremmling, CO

6:30AM- My alarm went off and I’m was up, getting dressed and packing my things. After a great night of sleep, I was feeling pretty good. I hit a gas station on the way out of Rawlins for some supplies and breakfast. The last two days I had caught Scott late in the day. My plan was to make up that ground earlier. Time to make hay.

As I rode out of town, I checked Trackleaders on my phone. Scott was bedded down in Saratoga after having gotten there a little after 2:00AM. Adam showed bedded down in Sinclair, just a few miles ahead. His tracker showed he went down about 11:15PM. I was on the move before both. Good.

I rolled through Sinclair and saw a city park where I expected to find Adam. No Adam. I didn’t look too hard. Just glancing around as I rode by. Maybe he was out of view somewhere. No matter. It looked like I was back in front of him. Get going!

I left Sinclair and started the section of I-80 on the route. It is only about 15 miles of interstate shoulder, but still not much fun. Lots of debris to dodge and 80 MPH traffic a few feet away. It’s a must though as it is the route. I made quick work of it and was happy to see it end.

Back on two lane roads and headed south toward Saratoga, I was warmed up well and feeling good, ready to put in a good day. Just a couple miles up the road, I started a climb and had my head down, chugging along. I looked up to see a cyclist not far in front of me stopped along the road. As I neared him, I realized it was Adam! He was fine, just readjusting some things, but looked surprised to see me. As I passed, he got moving. I went on and kept the hammer down, leaving him fairly quickly. I never asked, but I assume he just wasn’t feeling it that morning.

I made Saratoga and stopped at a gas station for some grub and to refill bottles. Gas station pizza and ice cream with a chocolate milk chaser was on the menu. It did all I needed it to do. I checked Trackleaders and saw Scott was about 20 miles ahead. I figured I could make that up pretty quick. Looking back at Adam’s, I realized that I had been mistaken earlier when I thought he was bedded down. It hadn’t updated on my phone. He had actually gotten up and left a few minutes before I got up. Strange how the trackers and the system work sometimes. Certainly not an exact science.

Down the road I went, into more rollers as I went through Southern Wyoming. Although it is a bit bleak and arid looking, it has its own beauty.

I grabbed food and drink in Riverside, just 20 miles down the road. I knew it would be the last stop before Walden, CO some 50+ miles ahead, and quite a bit of climbing along the way. Scott was still 20 miles ahead of me. I had made no ground on him.

The climbs south and east of Riverside didn’t feel quite as difficult as I remembered them to be in 2011. My legs were feeling strong and I had slept well. I cruised on ahead and was nearing the Colorado state line. All at once, it hit me. Very near the border, I bonked.

I’m usually good about having some sort of food with me and have never really hit bottom with a calorie deficit before. It happened quickly and unfortunately all I had left to eat was a stick of beef jerky. It was food, but it would take way too long for my body to process it. I needed some carbs bad. Nothing I could do, I ate the jerky and lumbered along. My legs that had felt awesome all day went to jelly. No power. Nothing. As I tried to eat my jerky, I met a car that was taking pictures of me. If I had been in a better state, I might have realized it was the serial dot watcher Olaf Sorenson. He was a very long way away from his home in the Pacific Northwest, but had taken vacation to come out and see the racers in their element. I wish I would’ve said a proper hello. All I did was give a wave and continue moseying along.

I kept moving, albeit very slow. I crossed into Colorado and made my way the remaining 25 miles to Walden. I was famished and beat. I pulled into a gas station and found Scott there. He was happy to see me, as usual. I don’t think that guy ever gets down. He had eaten at a restaurant up the street and had just bought supplies for the ride ahead there at the station. He asked if I wanted to ride along with him, but I explained that I bonked out and needed to eat. He rolled out saying he would soft pedal and see me later. I told him I would do my best to catch up after I ate. I grabbed a chocolate milk and chugged it, then headed up the street to find real food.

The restaurant that Scott had eaten at was where I went. It was one of the places I had been to in 2011 as well. A monster cheeseburger with fries and coke helped. I ate dessert too. Once I finished, I went back to the gas station and supplied up. I actually bought too much. I didn’t want to run out again! I was feeling much better after having eaten and was ready to go chase down my little single speed buddy.

I headed south out of Walden. The first 30 miles were through the valley and a pretty easy ride. I rolled along well, keeping the pace up. As I started out of the valley, climbing up toward 9621′ Willow Creek pass, I naturally slowed, only to find out that the mosquitos were atrocious! Now being 150 miles into the day and having spent myself so completely earlier, my legs weren’t strong enough to keep my speed fast enough to stay away from the beasts. It was a long 5 miles or so to the top.

Reaching the top of Willow Creek Pass, I didn’t stay long. I slowed for a second, hoping to get a pick of the Continental Divide crossing, but the mosquitos swarmed and I bailed down the pass. Not worth loosing any more blood for it!

As I descended, the day was waining. I fully expected to see Scott any time. He might climb just a tad faster than me, but the flat areas and descents were where I made up ground. Around each turn I watched with no sign. The miles ticked off and I was concerned that I missed him somehow. Maybe he got off the side of the road somewhere and was behind me?

I kept moving and knew I was nearing the turn onto Hwy 40. It was now dusk and I had my lights on. There had been several stretches of open road where I could see quite a ways in front of me and I hadn’t seen any lights, so I figured I had either missed Scott or he was way in front. I was disappointed either way. I descended that last hill down to 40 and as I turned right, there he was on the side of the road. Sitting down, he was making a wardrobe change, adding a layer for the night chill. I did the same and we headed south together toward Hot Sulphur Springs.

Just a mile or so down the road, I had a flat. I made fairly quick work of it, but the time lost would come back to bite me.

We rolled into Hot Sulphur Springs a bit late- around 10PM. It’s a small town anyway, but the few shops that were there were closed. The last hope was a gas station with lights on, but when we pulled up, the door was locked. We were just minutes too late. The attendant was inside, but just doing after-hours chores. I was so thankful that I over bought at the station in Walden!

With a little less than 20 miles to go to Kremmling, we set out in the dark. We chatted as we rode. I explained how cool of a ride it was through that part in daylight. You descend into a canyon that has a river in the bottom with a railroad along side it. Great views can be had, but all we saw was black. The company was great though.

Chilled and tired, we arrived in Kremmling about 11:30PM. We both were tired and ready to rest, but needed to eat. We found a 24 hour gas station there and went in for the typical delicacies. I had a Bomb burrito the size of my head, chocolate milk and a bunch of other junk. It hit the spot, despite the lack of nutritional value. We checked out the ACA map for places to stay in town and ended up just going next door to the Super 8. Once again, we shared a room, however this time there were two beds. By the time I showered and rinsed my kit, then hit the sack, it was after midnight.

The mileage for the day was right at 200. It had been a great day overall. I had bridged up to Scott and met my mileage goal. I just wanted to keep that momentum going and make it out of the mountains the next day. Just one more day to the plains. There, with my gears, I would probably leave Scott and his single speed behind. I didn’t know what to think about that. Bittersweet I guess. I would worry about it when I got there. In the present, I needed to sleep.

TABR15- Day 11- Lander, WY to Rawlins, WY

After the debacle that was the day before, I decided to gather my wits and focus on the task at hand. I made a Lander-exit strategy and maximized my sleep to fit it. After having used my spare cleat in West Yellowstone, I now needed to find a new one. The earliest a bike shop opened in town was 10AM, so I slept until 9:00, then walked across the lot to a diner attached to the hotel for breakfast.

I ordered something like “the cowboy breakfast” which included my usual fare- pancakes. When I asked how many came in an order, the waitress said two. I thought about it and decided to stick with that as there were eggs, sausage, hash browns and toast with it. When my order came, I was amazed! The plate was a platter and the “pancakes” were hanging off every edge! I told her that I was glad I didn’t order 3 like I wanted to. Her response was, “I wouldn’t have let you order three.” LOL!

I ate until I was nearly ill, drank more coffee than 3 men should, payed my bill and waddled out. Stuffed to the gills, I was certainly not hungry that morning!

I gathered my things, lubed my chain, aired my tires and made my way to the bike shop right as they opened. In luck, they had my cleats. I bought a pair and stuffed them in my pack. Down the street a block was a gas station. I went inside and got supplies for the day- eats and drinks for along the way.

When I rolled out of Lander, I felt prepared and ready to take on the day. It was 10:30- late for sure, but there was no stress to speak of. Time to win the day!

About 10 miles out of Lander, the highway makes a turn to the east and exactly at that point, I turned into a nasty headwind. The kind of headwind that demoralizes you and makes you feel like you are going backwards with every pedal stroke. For 35 miles or so, the wind blew and I was hating it.

When I got to Sweetwater Station, which is little more than a rest area in the middle of nowhere, the wind flipped on it’s ear and started blowing from behind. Sweet joy! The next 20 miles went by in less than an hour.

Jeffery City came into view. A mining ghost town, there is just almost nothing there. The local bar is one of the few things open anymore, but they serve food, so most cyclists stop. I had a bad reaction to Taco Tuesday there in 2011. You can read about that here. 🙂

I went inside the bar and ordered my usual cheeseburger and fries. I washed them down with a couple Mt Dews and chatted with the barkeep. I wasn’t there long. I didn’t want to waste that fantastic tail wind and I was hoping to catch Scott before the day was done.

When I went outside, I saddled up and started to ride out. The parking lot was graveled and had a couple monster water puddles in it. For some dumb reason, I decided to ride through one and instantly knew it was a mistake. Unlike the hard pack that the rest of the lot was, in the puddle was thick mud. I managed to make it through it without having to put a foot down, but once I came out and rode across the remaining gravel to the road, the mud on my tires picked up rocks and jammed my rim brakes full. I made it to the road shoulder and started cleaning everything out so I could move.

As I cleaned, I noticed a rider coming up. It was Adam Kazilsky! He had been slowly making up the gap and had finally caught me. We chatted a minute and he headed into the bar & grill for some grub. Frustrated that I had wasted the time acting like a kid in the mud puddle and a bit flustered that I had been caught by someone, I hit the road with fervor…and a tail wind.

The wind pushed. I pushed. The sum was a great average speed. I flew right along and reached Muddy Gap pretty quick. I stopped at the gas station there, doctored my bum, filled bottles and resupplied. I checked Trackleaders and saw that Adam was on the move again, headed my way. Scott was nearly to Rawlins. I wouldn’t catch him unless he stopped for a bit. I didn’t dally too long and headed back out.

Before long, I dropped into the Great Divide Basin, named so because precipitation that falls there goes neither to the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans. It stays there. Granted, there is very little rainfall there at all. If there was any one place that I did not remember fondly along my 2011 tour it was this place. The weather is tricky in the basin- sometimes it rains, sometimes it is super hot, usually the wind blows hard. To add insult to injury, the 2 lane road is a major thoroughfare for regional semi traffic and the speed limit is 65 MPH, making riding in the lane unfavorable. You would think that you could just ride the ample shoulder instead, but it is pock marked with big cracks and potholes everywhere. There is also a rumble strip right next to the white line, gobbling up almost all of the remaining good real estate.

When you add it all up, in 2011 I rode on a strip of pavement just to the right of the rumble strip that was about 3″ wide. Just 12″ to my left was speeding truck traffic that was unfriendly and the wind was blowing really hard from the left. Each time a truck would go by, the wind effectively stopped for a second, then returned as soon as the truck was gone, nearly blowing me over every time. It was a miserable ride.

Not looking forward to the next bit, I dropped into the basin and just put the hammer down. I figured there was no sense staying there any longer than I had to. Fortunately, the traffic was lighter than my previous experience and after a few miles, I came upon new pavement! Wyoming had finally given me something to cheer about! The remainder of my ride across the basin was easy and I was relieved. The only thing left to do was climb  out at the end.

The climb out of the basin is a proper one. To make it more of a challenge, it has several false summits. I knew this and didn’t let it bother me. Along the way I texted Scott. He was in Rawlins at McDonald’s. I told him I would be right there. I cruised right along and soon was heading down hill toward Rawlins. Feeling pretty good, I was flying. Then I flatted. Flats on downhills suck, if for no other reason than they make you stop, killing the buzz.

After the repair, I cruised into Rawlins and found the golden arches. When I pulled up, I saw the familiar sight of the single speed outside. I had caught him!

Inside it was handshakes and backslaps. Then lots of food and coke while we told our stories. He had a miserable experience in the rain overnight and had more than once wished he hadn’t went on from Lander. He had tried to bivy up along side the road, but it wasn’t a good spot. He said he had eventually slept in the rest area floor at Sweetwater Station, cold, wet and leary of people that came in through the night. I told him about my day and was glad that I had stayed in Lander. Scott had a bivy and could bed down mostly anywhere. With my hammock, I needed trees to hang in and they were in extremely short supply around those parts. When rain came, I had no shelter without trees. I would’ve been truly miserable had I went on.

Scott was looking at his map and had that look in his eye. He planned on pushing further to Saratoga, about 50 miles away. A quick look at the weather showed a good chance of storms again. I wasn’t having any of it. I planned to get a room in a hotel just down the street.

Straight away, Adam came in. We all exchanged our stories again, and then went on to plans. Adam had a bivy and a great streak of no hotels going that he didn’t plan to break. He would ride on as well. Around 9:00PM, Scott left, I went to my hotel and we left Adam at the McDonald’s eating his supper.

At the hotel, I washed my kit, got a shower and called Jeneen. With 135 miles on the day, I was well below the mileage I wanted, but because of my choice of sleep system, I was limited. Of course I could have just rode on through the night and the rain, but I thought that sleep was best. I would make hay another day. Thankful again to be warm, clean, fed and dry, I crawled in bed and slept.

TABR15- Day 10- Hatchet Resort to Lander, WY

After getting in bed at the Hatchet Resort at 11:30PM the night before, my 4:30AM alarm was not welcome. I had a monster pass to climb, so I got moving anyway. I bundled up, carried my bike back down the rickety stairs, dropped the key in the after hours box and started cycling down the road. Scott was right there as well. We hit the road by 4:50.

Right away we were climbing, headed toward Togwotee Pass. Scott seemed to be feeling pretty good and enjoying himself. I felt like crap. I was cold, hungry and tired. That’s a bad combo for endurance racing, folks.

I just couldn’t seem to get in a rhythm on the climb. My head wasn’t in it, my legs were rubber and it just wasn’t working. Scott rode on ahead toward Togwotee Mountain Lodge where I planned to get some breakfast.

After what seemed like an eternity, but was actually only an hour and a half, I reached the lodge. In that 1.5 hours, I had only covered 9 miles. It certainly had been some climbing, but I had nothing to give. I needed a break, some warmth and some food.

Scott and I walked into the lodge to find the restaurant wasn’t open. It was 6:30 and they wouldn’t open until 7:00. Scott didn’t want to wait and grabbed a cup of complimentary coffee, a couple candy bars and a drink from the cooler, paid at the register and was ready to leave. I was like an old donkey- not moving.

Cold, tired and hungry, there was no way I was going back out to finish climbing the pass. Scott was rearing to go and it just annoyed me. I wanted to race my own race! After he prodded me a bit, trying to encourage me to go, I snarled at him a little. He finally relented and decided to go on. He said that he wanted to get the pass over with and planned to stop at Lava Lodge for a bite, about 20 miles or so down the other side. We said our goodbyes and he left. He mentioned Lava Lodge again as he left, expecting that I would catch him.

I sat there waiting for the dining hall to open. I was shivering and couldn’t get warm. I was inside and the lodge was room temperature, but I couldn’t get warm. My mind was racing, thinking bad thoughts and just wanting to break down, but I didn’t want to look like a fool. Finally they opened the dining room and I found a seat at a table along the wall with an outlet right behind it. I plugged up my phone, ordered coffee and a big breakfast. When I got my food and started eating, I began to warm up a bit.

As I ate, the room began to fill up with folks who were staying at the lodge. They were mostly retirees and their spouses who looked to be fairing well in their lives. Although they probably didn’t even notice me, I felt like every eye was watching me, wondered why they let riffraff like me in such a nice place. I kept my head down and finished my food. I was warmer and no longer hungry, but still very tired and my mental state was failing. It didn’t help that while I ate, I had used the lodge’s wifi to check weather. There was a big storm rolling in and it didn’t look good.

I finished eating, gathered my things and reluctantly walked outside to my bike. I DID NOT want to get back on at all. I was ready to just throw in the towel right there. Looking out to the west, I saw a very angry looking dark sky. It scared me and I didn’t know what to do. Scott would be expecting me. I needed to move, not just because of him expecting me, but because of me. I needed to race. I just didn’t feel like I could do it. I felt my eyes welling up and then I saw a woman walking down the porch toward me. I gathered myself, took a deep breath and smiled in my best attempt to be cordial. She smiled back and I opened the door for her.

As she walked in, the young woman that had been working the front desk came out. I made mention of the ugly sky, the coming storm and my fear of being caught in bad weather climbing the pass. I asked if there was anywhere I could hole up until the storm blew over. She mentioned the Fireside Room and said that I could roll my bike around to the back, go in the back door and wait it out. I could have kissed her right there. Thankful for the hospitality, I did what she had said and went around back.

I put my bike under a shelter where they keep firewood and went inside to find a cozy little recessed den area with big leather couches next to a monster fireplace. The fire was warm and there was no one around. I plugged my phone up, stripped out of my outer layers and got comfortable on the leather couch. At that point, I broke and the tears started flowing. “What in the world am I doing? How am I going to do this?” I was miserable and just wanted to go home. As I got warm by the fire, I got comfortable and fell asleep.

Looking back now, I see that my state at that point of the race was an accumulation of exertion, lack of rest and disappointment for not being where I had wanted to be. The long days in the saddle and lack of sleep were going to be there. Can’t help that. The stress I was putting on myself was the tipping factor. I was constantly thinking about the miles. When I set out on the race, my goal was to make the trip in 21 days. That would mean a bit over 200 miles per day. Covering 1440 miles in the previous nine days left me with an average of about 160 miles. I was more than 2 days (440 miles) behind already and had no way to catch back up. I knew I only had so much money and so much time to be able to finish. I needed to start riding 200 mile days and I needed to do it everyday in order to have a chance at finishing. Already, it wasn’t looking good.

I awoke at a start, wondering how long I had been asleep and how many of the well-to-do people from the lodge had walked by and saw this apparent homeless person lying on the couch asleep by the fire. A check of my phone showed it was nearing 10AM and I had been there too long. I checked the radar and saw that the storm hadn’t amounted to as much as I thought it would and I felt I had stayed for little reason. On the bright side, I had gotten some much needed rest and was feeling a bit better. A little more resolved anyway. I went to the restroom, cleaned and doctored my bum, then gathered my things and prepared to leave. I went back up to the front and thanked the young desk clerk. She probably had no idea just how much that private break and nap by the fire meant.

Back on the road and it was right back to climbing. Along the way, I got a bit of cell service and received a text from a friend back home. In what he intended to be a joking kind of way, he said something to the effect of “What are you doing sleepy head?!?! Scott is getting away from you!!!” He was watching the blue dots on Trackleaders and had the cheap seats. From his vantage point, I was sitting still while Scott rode on. He had no clue about anything else other than I wasn’t moving. I was instantly furious. “How dare he say something like that to me! He doesn’t have a clue what its like to be out here busting my hind end, exhausted and cold!” I didn’t reply, thankfully. I used my anger as fuel and kept climbing.

It rained on me off and on, but nothing too bad and eventually I reached the pass. There was a bit of snow here and there that had fell from the storm and I felt like I shouldn’t linger. The sky still looked rough and like it could dump at any moment. I took a quick photo and headed down the other side of the pass, taking it easy in the slushy spots.

Soon enough I was at Lava Lodge and stopped in for a coffee to warm up a bit. I asked about Scott and the clerk didn’t have much to say. A quiet chap, he just said that Scott had been there awhile back. I drank my coffee, connected to their wifi and sent Scott a text with a very short version of my Togwotee stay and an apology for acting the way I had. I went outside, mounted up and rode on, beginning to feel better about myself and the ride.

I rolled into Dubois about 1:30PM and was looking to eat. I found the same diner that I had eaten at in 2011 and parked my bike outside. Inside it was a big burger plate and fries with lots of coke. I gobbled it down like nothing. While I ate, it started raining outside and I texted my wife, complaining about all that had happened and my friend who was ribbing me. She did what she always does and calmed me down. He didn’t mean any harm by it and I was going to be fine. She is such a peach.

Before I made it back outside, the rain had stopped. It had been cold rain and the air was dank. I saddled up and rode on through town. Before I left town, I made a stop by a little motel. Not to stay, but rather to right a wrong, albeit unintentional.

In 2012, my wife and I had taken the kids on a vacation out west, seeing the sites. We had stayed at the little motel and rather enjoyed it. The owner is a man near our age who had taken the business over from his parents. He was a super nice guy. We needed to do some laundry and needed coins for the machines. He gave me a roll of quarters and we stood and chatted for near a half hour. I went on, did my laundry, went to bed and left the next day. Along the way the next day, I found the $10 bill that I was supposed to have given him in my coat pocket. We were miles and miles away, so I wasn’t going to turn around, but planned to mail it to him when we got home. Once home, I forgot about it. As I had approached Dubois, I thought, “I’m gonna make this right.” Unfortunately he wasn’t there, but I was able to leave the money in an envelope with the desk clerk. The story brightened her day when I told her and with that, I felt much better. Funny how little things turn your mood.

Back on the road, I rolled on. My legs were back around, my mood was better, I was full and had an open road before me. Good times! I hammered on, enjoying the views and reveling in the better mood. Before I knew it, I reached Crowheart and stopped at the little station there for supplies. I sat outside and ate for a bit, then hit the road again, eyes on Lander.

On ahead, through Fort Washakie and heading toward Lander, I got a text from Scott. He was in Lander and at the Gannett Grill, getting ready to eat. “They have food, wifi and plugins! The trifecta!!” I said I was on my way and put the hammer down further.

I rolled up to the Gannett Grill right about 8:45PM and went inside. I found Scott with a great big smile on his face. He was very happy to see me and that made me happy. What a great dude. We ate and talked about the day. I told him all about my low point and the rest of my tale of getting my head screwed back on straight as the day went on. I felt good. I was back.

Scott had a fire in his eyes that I recognized from the day before. He wanted to go on and ride into the night. No way man! I told him I was staying in Lander. I had my eye on a cheapo motel up the road and there was no convincing me. He said, “are you sure?” I confirmed. He smiled and relented. Ride your own race. 🙂

After dinner, we went outside and began preparing to leave- he to the south and myself back north a few blocks to the motel. There was a touring rig there, with a vibrant young lady named Megan. She was traveling the Trans Am, touring the opposite direction and was going to be staying with a Warmshowers host in town. She wanted to know all about our bikepacking rigs. We all shared Facebook information so we could follow each other later and went our separate ways. That’s the way it is when you travel by bike. You met cool folks, chat a minute, connect and move on. It’s really awesome.

I rode back north a few blocks to the Maverick Motel. As I rode, it began to rain steady. I found the motel and checked in. It was a cheap room, but all I needed. A quick shower and I laid down. It was 10:30 and it had been a rough day. I had only ridden 130 miles, but I had learned some things about myself. I had a fleeting thought that I wished I had carried on like Scott, but I felt like sleep was the best thing I could do. As I listened to the rain falling outside, I thought of Scott and hoped he was ok. Happy to be in a warm bed, sleep found me once again.

 

TABR15- Day 9- West Yellowstone to Hatchet Resort

I woke up groggy to the sound of my alarm. It was late (about 10AM), but after the near 200 miles the day before that ended after 3AM, I was still tired. Scott and I kitted-up, packed our things and headed over for the continental breakfast. It wasn’t much, but better than nothing. We rolled out by 10:30 and started making our way through the crowded streets of bustling West Yellowstone.

I had a broken cleat that I had attempted to remove in our room, but in the end I stripped one of the allen head bolts out and couldn’t get the stupid thing off. I had put the other two bolts back in and was looking for a bike shop. Funny coincidence- this EXACT same thing happened to me on my 2011 tour…in West Yellowstone. Back in 2011, I went to Free Heel & Wheel, a cool little bike shop/cross country ski shop on the main drag out of town toward the park. They let me borrow tools to fix it myself, which was greatly appreciated. With that experience in mind, I made my way to Free Heel & Wheel to do the same again. Scott went across the street to a Mobil station to grab some supplies for the day.

I went in the bike shop and they were busy. Good! I explained my plight and the owner said I could borrow their work area and tools. As they handled their customers, I was left alone to handle my own issues. After removing the two good bolts, I grabbed the same pair of huge channel lock pliers that I had used 4 years before and tried to twist the broken cleat off with its stripped bolt. This worked in 2011, but not this time. What now? They had a cordless drill under the bench, so I went to town and began drilling out the stripped bolt. The owner came back between customers and sees me, one shoe off, that shoe upside down on the bench and me leaning on his drill like I’m going to run a hole through my shoe. He just shook his head and went on. 🙂

Quickly enough, the bolt head was gone and the cleat was free. I grabbed the pliers, twisted the headless bolt that was now free out of my shoe and proceeded to put my good cleat on. I made quick work of the whole thing and was done before Scott could make it back over from the gas station. I offered the shop some money for the use of their space, but they refused. Very nice folks!

I jetted across the way and into the gas station, quickly grabbed some supplies for the day and we rolled out. The traffic was all wadded up. Long lines of cars and SUV’s standing still, waiting in line to go through the gates to Yellowstone. Scott and I went around the traffic and made our way to the front. We paid our fee to enter the park and took off. It was right around 11AM. It had been a productive hour or so!

Riding through Yellowstone was beautiful, but terrible. The scenery is out of this world. Just amazing. However the traffic sucked! I mentioned to Scott several times that I didn’t understand why so many people come from all over the world ON VACATION to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and see the wonders that Yellowstone offers, only to rush around in a big hurry once they get there with no consideration for anyone or anything. The narrow roads coupled with lots of traffic made cycling a chore and a bit scary at times. Cycling there in June was exponentially worse than September as I had done in 2011.

We rolled through the geothermic area of the park and neared the main attraction- Old Faithful. Neither of us were interested in sitting around and waiting for the old girl to go, but it was now near 1:30 and we wanted to eat. After putzing around at several of the buildings, we finally found a simple restaurant. It was packed so we asked to grab a couple burgers to go. No can do- they don’t do carry out. You are required to wait your turn for an empty seat, then wait for your meal like a normal human. Well, that just wasn’t going to work. We rode off and headed across the lot to a gas station where we grabbed some grub. We said screw it and sat down outside on the pavement to eat. The breeze had been cool all day and sitting on the blacktop with the sun shining was nice.

After eating, it was back at it and down the road. There is a lot of climbing in Yellowstone and we crossed the Continental Divide a total of three times before we left the park. All that climbing was a challenge so before we crossed the divide for the third time, we stopped in Grant Village to refill our water bottles. At this point it was 4:30. Yellowstone is just so big.

Back on the road, we climbed the last pass in the park, up and over the divide again. There was a big payoff though as it was almost all downhill out of the park. We left Yellowstone behind and in my opinion, it was good riddance. I look forward to one day going to that park when there isn’t much traffic.

Cruising on south, we came across Flagg Ranch. For Tour Divide racers, Flagg is an oasis. For me, it is just a really expensive place to stop between two beautiful national parks. I had stayed there in 2011. I had been stuck with nowhere to stay and a night that was going to be too cold for the gear I had with me. I ended up paying north of $150 for a room with no TV and no wifi. Just a shower and a bed. This time I wasn’t staying, but after some discussion, Scott and I decided to eat at their restaurant. He had remembered it fondly from racing the Divide and I was looking for a good meal. You see, it was my birthday. 43 years young and racing the Trans Am- yeah, that deserved a good meal.

We went in and ordered. I had a pretty good buffalo burger, fires and a beer. For desert it was a big piece of chocolate cake. Fantastic! As we ate, we chatted and charged phones. They had wifi in the restaurant, but it was spotty at best. We did the best we could to catch up on Facebook posts and whatnot. Then it was back to the road.

Quickly we were into Grand Tetons National Park and right away, Gavaskar rode up to us. The three of us rode along Jackson Lake taking in the view. With the sun setting behind the Tetons, it was gorgeous. We rode along taking it all in. The sun goes down late that far north in the summer and right as the last light of day was going behind the mountains, we reached the gas station at the turn off to Colter Bay. It was 9:45 and the attendant was closing up for the night. The discussions began.

Gavaskar was beat and was looking for a place to stay. He was once again hoping that we would all go in together and get a room in Colter Bay. I wanted to go on a bit and had my eye on Hatchet Resort, an old motel about 20 miles up the road. Scott was looking to keep moving and go over Togwotee Pass and on toward Dubois, about 70 miles away. The issue I had with going on toward Dubois was the temps. We would be climbing Togwotee (9658′) at night and it was already chilly. Up on the pass it would be down right frigid. All this was discussed while we grabbed supplies and ate. Meanwhile, the attendant was getting antsy because she wanted to close up and go home. She called the Hatchet for me and confirmed that there was a hostel style room (private bedroom with bath down the hall) for $60. Once I knew that was confirmed, I was ready to roll. I just didn’t want to be stuck out in the cold. I went ahead and reserved the room and was told that the office would be closed, but my key would be in an envelope on the door. Pretty cool.

Gavaskar was headed into Colter Bay so we said our goodbyes. Scott and I took off into the dark and cool night. Having reached the gas station at sundown and thinking about all kinds of other stuff, I hadn’t thought to put my cold gear on and quickly I was freezing. I stopped to suit up a bit and Scott rode on. As I stood along the side of the road getting dressed, two bikes came flying bye in succession and I heard a “what’s up” from both of them. I had no clue who it was! I hurried up and got back on the bike, found another gear or two and took off in chase. I caught up to them right as they caught Scott.

It was Justin Chadwick and Bradford Smith! The last time I had seen them was at Lochsa Lodge, right before the climb up Lolo pass in Idaho. They had started the race with lower mileage days and were really finding their stride. They had every intention of going over Togwotee and Scott liked the idea. I was kinda feeling like the odd man out, but was pretty much dead set on staying at the Hatchet. What would we do?

The four of us rode along together in the cold, talking and cutting up a bit. Brad and Justin were pushing the pace and I was feeling it. They were just stronger than me and it was getting in my head. It seemed like a long 20 miles, but we finally saw the Hatchet come into view.

I was relieved. I just wanted to get off the bike, get warm, get some sleep and tackle the monster that is Togwotee in the morning. Scott still wasn’t sure and didn’t make up his mind until we got to the driveway turn in for the Hatchet. He said he would stay with me. I still don’t know why he chose to do that, but at the time, I took comfort that I wouldn’t be alone the following day. We said our goodbyes and watched as Brad and Justin rode off into the night. I’ll admit I was a bit worried for them. Togwotee can be a real bugger of a pass and it sometimes has strange weather. In 2014, the TABR riders that were mid pack got snowed on there pretty good there. I took solace in that I would have a warm bed.

I went over to the office door, grabbed the envelope with the key and headed off in search of the room. Around behind one of the buildings which looked like a regular house was a very narrow, steep and rickety staircase that led up to a hall where I found the room. It was a trick carrying the loaded bike up those narrow steps in the dark. Once inside, we found the room and it’s one queen size bed. Scott offered to take the floor, but I didn’t think that was right. We vowed to never tell anyone (sorry Scott!) and pretty much marked out the centerline of the bed as a no go zone. I went down the hall and got a quick shower and got in bed. It had been a long day in the saddle with lots of climbing, but we didn’t cover near as much ground as we would have liked- just a little over 100 miles. I was feeling some mental strain from not doing what I had intended to do and being torn between riding with Scott or on my own. Added to that, my body was exhausted. I was asleep quicker than I could ever imagined.

Two long days

Yesterday

I’ll make this short and sweet. Yesterday sucked. I rolled out a little later than I wanted to ( I’m starting to see a pattern here!), had a big day planned, really didn’t feel like being on the bike, but pushed through anyway. It was a long day.

Had lunch in Jeffery City, what used to be a booming mining town of about 5000, but the mines shut down in the 80’s and now there are only 50 people there. It was “taco Tuesday” at the only place in town to eat. Since it was the only town in a 70 mile stretch, I went with the tacos. Not bad, at least for then.

Some wind issues in the afternoon for about 15 miles. Then I had to push really hard to get to Rawlins before it got dark on me. Trying to hold a high pace (low 20’s) after riding the 100+ miles before it was really tough. I made it though. Barely.

By the way, Rawlins was the end of map 5.

Stats:
Mileage-133.91
Total-1846.01
Trip time-9:24
Avg speed-14.23
Max speed-35.80
Climb-4772

And now today. I wasn’t feeling too hot right out of the box this morning. Rumbling stomach and all that goes with that. It took me awhile to get going, spending so much time in the restroom. I guess taco Tuesday might not have been such a good idea.

Once I hit the road at 8:30, the weather didn’t look good. Cloudy, 45 and rain all around, just not right on top of me. Not looking to be a great day.

After about ten miles, I came to the only spot along my route that I had to go on the interstate. I-80 looked a bit scary to me with all the truck traffic. It was just for 13 miles so I put my head down, got over on the shoulder as far as I could and ground it out.

I survived. At one point, right before I was to get off,  there was a spot with no traffic. Yeah, I had to do it. I have now ridden my bike down the fast lane of I-80! Lol! Ok, it was only for about 10 feet, but I did it!

About 15 miles after I got off the interstate, the sun came out, it warmed up and the wind stopped. Turned really nice. I stopped in Saratoga and had some gas station pizza for lunch, as my stomach felt better.

After lunch, I left town and the wind picked back up. It didn’t matter which direction I went, it was in my face for about 40 miles. Lots of uphill too. Just a nasty afternoon.

I got a break when I turned south for the last 13 miles into Walden. I was so spent at that point that it really didn’t matter though. I rolled into Walden right at dark.

So to wrap up the day, I’m finally in Colorado!  Thank God. I have to say, I hate Wyoming. Just a very desolate place and the wind is relentless. If I ever have to ride in Wyoming again, it will be too soon.

That being said, now they are talking snow here in Colorado for tonight and tomorrow. Not good! We’ll see.

Stats:
Miles-113.56
Total-1959.57
Trip time-9:02
Avg speed-12.55
Max speed-34.90
Climb-4706

Dubois to Lander

So today I planned on being an easy day. Just 75 miles from Dubois to Lander and according to the elevation profile, pretty well all down hill. 

Being an easy day, I slept in till 8, went across the parking lot to a little cafe and had a hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy with a side of pancakes. Good fuel and filling! Then I went back to my room and got everything ready to go. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I didn’t roll out until 10:00.

The first 30 miles were a joy. Perfect 72 degree weather, slightly downhill and no wind. Just a great morning of cycling. 

I stopped in Crowheart at a gas station and had a snack. Bonus- Jeneen called while I was sitting there! Then it was back to the road. 

Just 5 miles down the road, I met a westbound touring cyclist. Robert Ralph started in Greensboro, NC and will finish in Astoria. A very nice man and a new friend. Look for his blog in the links section on the right. It’s at recycledsweat.com

After I left Robert, the wind picked up and things slowed down. Actually, most of the last 20 miles I had a 20-30 mph headwind. There were times I was going downhill, in my lowest gear, doing a whopping 7-8 mph with my heart rate over 120. Not fun. 

When the road turned a little so that the wind was at my right, it blew so hard at times I was leaning into the wind to the point I could see the entire left side of my wheel as I looked down. Wild stuff. 

Then with 10 miles to go, the rain started. Not pouring, but enough to get me wet and cold. It quit right before I came into town. It had been awhile since I was that happy to get off the bike. 

Stats:
Mileage-76.38
Total-1712.10
Trip time-5:39
Avg speed-13.50
Max speed-35.80
Climb-1727