Missoula July 19, 2015

Missoula July 19, 2015

We had a nice, relaxing evening at our campground. We enjoyed a leisurely dinner prepared by Nate, probably the last meal, this trip. We met a couple of fellow travelers at the campground. These guys were riding mountain bikes and had started out riding the Continental Divide Trail. Their aim was to ride and fish at every decent body of water that they had found. They had discovered that the Continental Divide Trail took them beside a lot of water, but the water was generally inaccessible from the trail. The trail was generally hundreds of feet above the water. They had decided to leave the Continental Divide Trail and pick up the Trans-America Trail and fish along it. They were going to really slow down and spend a good deal of time in Montana and fish there. When we broke camp this morning it appeared they were making good on this change, since they were still tightly buttoned up in their tents and not out on the river yet…

The first thing I heard when I opened my eyes this morning was the wind blowing through the trees. I had hoped for a calm morning, but it seemed Montana was going to give us one last dose of wind. I crawled out of the tent and could not believe my eyes. Yes, the wind was blowing, but this was going to be a tailwind. We scurried around breaking camp and packing the trailer. We had eaten the last of our cereal and were going to eat breakfast at a cafe this morning. We piled into the car and headed out to The Coffee Cup restaurant. The Coffee Cup had been recommended to us by the clerk at the campground. As a last hurrah and indulgence I ordered a huge caramel and nut cinnamon roll. It was delicious and I am proud to say I cleaned my plate as I had been taught.

Our ride this morning takes place mostly on a bike path. Traffic has steadily been picking up the closer we have come to Missoula. The bike path runs for about 35 of the 45 miles to Missoula. The only problem is that we had to wander around town for about 10 minutes before we found the path. Once we were on the path, we made great time. The early morning tailwind was gone by the time we hit the road, but with a slight downward trend, a good surface and little to no traffic we made very good time. Riding like this is a pleasure to me. I can ride relatively quickly and still have time to look around and see the scenery around me.

The scene on both sides of the bike path consisted of what passes for urban sprawl in Montana. We rode through 3 little towns before we ran into Missoula, but the towns have kind of grown together. We saw at least 3 log home factories in this stretch of road. It seems this is a big business in this part of Montana.

As we passed through Lolo, MT we were taken off of the bike path and put back onto the highway. As I rode through town I was picked up by radar by a traffic sign. I am happy to report that I was not speeding. i was doing a mere 19 mph in a 35 mph zone.

The final 10 miles into Missoula was unpleasant. We were taken back out onto the shoulder of the highway. Traffic was extremely heavy (especially for a Sunday morning-I don’t think they were all headed for church either…). Cars blew past us, one after the other. We had a nice wide shoulder, but the cacophony from the highway made the ride less than pleasant.

entering missoula

Soon we were in the town of Missoula. We found a “Welcome to Missoula” sign, took a picture and called our ride finished. We loaded the bikes and began the ride home. I am so glad that we did not have to ride our bikes through Missoula. The city is a “bike friendly” city, but there was traffic everywhere. Riding a bike and trying to read a map to navigate this city is not something that I am interested in doing.

I really enjoyed this leg of our journey. I love the Rocky Mountain West. The mountains are beautiful, but what I really love is the wide open spaces it provides. This is huge country that is sparsely populated. The people who live out here are by and large tough, self reliant, industrious and incredibly capable. They are willing to help a neighbor in need and rely upon each other to survive in this beautiful, but oftentimes harsh and unforgiving environment.

I have also developed a deeper admiration for those cyclists who ride the Trans-Am unsupported. Riding it the way that we have been is hard enough. Riding the entire 4300 mile length of the route at one time (45-60 days) without the ability to jump in a car or haul enough emergency repair supplies is an admirable undertaking. We have ridden some hills that were quite challenging. I can’t imagine climbing that same hill on a bike loaded with 30-50 pounds of gear. These travelers deserve our admiration and respect.

And know for something completely different… Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I love cars. I find them to be beautiful and admire the mechanical workings of these machines. With that said, I am appalled at how insulated from the travel experience modern cars can make us. A passenger can travel across this great country of ours and never experience any sensation of the open road. We are surrounded by comfort in our cars. The plush leather seats, climate controlled environment allows the passenger to focus fully on his electronic devices and never be bothered with the beauty that surrounds him on every side.

Traveling by bicycle has given me a true understanding of the size of our country. I can’t imagine how daunting the task of crossing the country in a wagon, without any roads, and with hazards all around it must have been. The pioneers, our ancestors, were a strong, resourceful and optimistic bunch.

Next year we take on the final leg of our journey. We will ride Missoula to Astoria, Oregon (or vice versa). This last leg of our journey is right around 1000 miles. See you next year!

BTW, if you want to ride along let me know.

Advertisements

Chief Joseph Pass July 18, 2015

I decided that we needed to take our stranded fellow cyclist into Hamilton last night instead of this morning. I told him my thoughts and we loaded his bike and gear into the car. The ride was about 70 miles each way, but it did give me a chance to take a look at the road that we would be riding on in the morning. I got a good look at the road and we made it into Hamilton without incident. One thing I noticed on the way was that Darby, MT was having a loggers festival on the 17th and 18th. Definitely something that we would have to check out tomorrow. I saw about 20 deer on my way home, but none of them darted out in the road and I was safe and sound back in my tent by 10:30.

The campground that we were sleeping in was surrounded by a large pasture full of grazing cattle. Guess what, cattle are quite noisy. Between the cows bawling and munching all night and the singing coyotes we were treated to quite a concert during the night. Last night had to be the coldest night we have had on the trip. It easily got down to 40 degrees. In the morning we were all wearing everything we own!

The road to Chief Joseph Pass runs right beside the Big Hole Historic Battleground. This battleground is where the U.S. Army attacked the Nez Pierce who had refused to be placed on a reservation. Numerous individuals from both sides were killed, with the Nez Pierce casualties including many women and children. Such a sad story.

The topography really changes on this section of our ride. The Big Hole Valley is all grassland with very few trees. As we travel along towards Chief Joseph Pass grassland gives way to mountains and forests with beautiful rivers flowing through it. All of this change takes place within a few miles.

trappers peak

Chief Joseph Pass is the last pass we will go over on this section of the trip. It’s summit is at 7200 feet. The road climbs gently until the last four miles where it gets much steeper. We were blessed with a still day (quite chilly, but no wind). Nate and I easily climbed the pass (our climbing skills have improved quite a bit on this trip) and reached the summit at the same time. This is our last crossing of the Continental Divide (for this section). The road that we have been riding on runs out about a mile from the top of the pass. It dead ends into another road.  Turning left at this intersection will take you immediately into Idaho while turning right takes you towards Mizzoula. Nate and I rode over into Idaho to take a picture and since we didn’t get a good picture when we entered Montana we crossed the street and took a picture at the Montana sign.

welcome to idaho welcome to montana

Now that we were at the top of the pass it was time to head down. I am very glad we climbed the pass from the side we did rather than our downhill side. This side rises from about 3000 feet to 7200 feet while the side we rode up only picked up about 1200 feet from where we were (don’t get me wrong, we climbed those feet earlier, they were just spread out a little more). The descent into the Bitterroot valley was quite steep. Nate raced down the mountain, while I took a much more conservative approach. We met up in Sula after 10 miles of downhill roads.

We had a quick snack and then jumped back on the bikes to finish our morning ride. What a difference from yesterday. Our spirits are much higher and we have so much more energy. It is amazing what a negative effect a strong wind has on the cyclist.

After we finished the ride we loaded up the bikes so that we could find a campground for the night. There is nothing available in Darby, because of the Logging Festival. We ended up in Hamilton just a few miles down the road. The campground is nice enough and we have a good place to set our tents.

packing the trailer

Bikes are good for more than riding.  Mine makes a great clothes line.  Nate's is too good for such work!

Bikes are good for more than riding. Mine makes a great clothes line. Nate’s is too good for such work!

After a quick shower and change of clothes, we unhooked the trailer and headed back to Darby for the Logging Festival. This was great fun! We watched several contests including a tree felling contest, a cut, split and stack contest and a birling or log rolling contest.  We just missed the springboard contest. Chainsaws roared throughout the afternoon and the crowd cheered. This just goes to show you that people will make a contest out of everything. A bunch of bikes were given away to some lucky kids and a V8 powered chainsaw was demonstrated. The logging champions were crowned and the kids participated in digging through the sawdust pile trying to find the treasures buried within. I am really glad we got the chance to participate in this festival. It is not something that we see at home.

springboard logger birling birling championship v8 chainsaw

Immediately following the Loggers Festival was a Strawberry Festival in town. This festival featured live music, and all kinds of things made from strawberries. There were cakes and cookies and ice cream galore. We decided not to stop. I was willing, even though I believe I am more than a little allergic to strawberries. Dinner and camp was calling, so we rolled on through and headed for “home.”

There is so much opportunity for fishing here. Every river and stream seems to be full of fish. Every town has fly fishing shops and boats for rent. I do think that I will be returning someday to try my luck.

hamilton bitterroot

Tomorrow we will make it to Mizzoula. It is only about 45 miles from here and there is even a bike path that runs almost into town. This will end this portion of our journey. It seems impossible that we have covered so much ground and seen so much in just two weeks!

I have been taking a lot of pictures and will be editing and posting them once I get back home.  Make sure you check back so that you can see some of the beautiful and unique things we have seen.

Yes, The Wind Blows in Montana July 17, 2015

 

We woke to the sounds of birds singing and the wind blowing. A peek outside the tent showed the sky completely filled with clouds. A gloomy, windy day, exactly what we had hoped to avoid!

Last night’s dinner was excellent. Nate whipped up a delicious meal of beef chow mein. He supplemented the meal with a leftover steak I had in the cooler. He made a gigantic skillet full. There did not seem to be any way that we would be able eat it all, but at the end of the night there was not a single scrap left. I have to say that I prefer chef duty to dishwashing duty, but when you are camping you are pretty careful not to get too many dishes dirty. The campground had a big sink that we could use for clean up, so it really wasn’t bad at all.

Buster drove us to the edge of town to where the route started. I was hoping against hope that we would not be starting out directly into the wind, but it was not to be. The wind was coming straight toward us with a vengeance. We had a lot of climbing to do today and the wind in our faces was just going to make things that much harder. We have two passes to climb today, Badger Pass and Big Hole Pass. Both passes are at about 7000 feet. The contour map shows that we will be picking altitude up quickly towards the top of the passes, so we know they will be steep!

looking back over big hole pass

We were successful in climbing both of the passes today. Our mileage total was 61 miles and it took us over 6 hours to cover this distance. We worked hard all day long! There was never a respite from the wind. Although our path shifted to the east and west of north, we were facing the wind all day long. Tomorrow we change directions and head due west for a time. Keep your fingers crossed that we don’t face the wind again.

flag wisdom

We are spending the night in Wisdom, MT (population 152). We had our choice of accommodations. We could either pay to spend the night in the RV park or stay in the free American Legion campground to the west of town. The RV park did have showers, but the entire park was completely full of rocks. I did not see a single spot where we could set up a tent. At least the American Legion campground had grass.

We opted for the American Legion campground. We met a cyclist there who was having severe problems with his bike. Buster is going to ferry him to Hamilton tomorrow and drop him off at a bike shop. Buster will then come back to meet us at the top of Chief Joseph Pass.

Tomorrow we ride our last pass of this section of the ride. I am really glad we are coming at it from this side rather than the other side. Both sides are steep, but we will start about 2000 feet higher coming at it from this direction.

Not much else to report today. We are sitting in the pavilion preparing dinner. The wind is whistling through the wire screen windows. Our non-potable water source comes from a hand pump in the middle of the campground. It reminds me of one my grandparents had in their kitchen when I was growing up.

hand pump wisdom

See you tomorrow…

It’s Contagious! July 16, 2015

What a wonderful, restful night we had. Nothing beats a nice comfortable bed, especially after a night spent in the car. The motel we stayed at wasn’t anything special, but it was clean and comfortable and as a bonus, the room that I ended up in had a kitchenette. This kitchenette made dinner preparation a snap. The stove doubled the number of burners I had at my disposal. We had brats with baked beans, cheddar pasta and salad. It was quite tasty. Tonight we switch cooking duties. Nate will be the head chef from this point forward. I am looking forward to what he is going to whip up for dinner tonight!

If you recall, I had a flat tire last yesterday. A thin piece of steel pierced both my tire and inner tube. Well, it was contagious. As we were getting ready to leave this morning, Nate discovered he had a flat tire on the front of his bike! Once he got it apart, he discovered exactly the same issue with his tire that we had with mine. The tires we are using are very tough, but once in a while flats happen. I hope we are done with them for this trip. I only have a couple of tubes left and then we are stuck with trying to repair the tubes with patches. Someone did ridicule me earlier in the trip regarding the number of spare tubes I brought along, but if we are not careful we are going to run out. That certain someone who gave me a hard time shall remain un-named, unless he gets on my nerves…

We were facing a pretty steep climb this morning. There is a bit of a mountain range between Ennis and Virginia City and our maps pointed us right at it. Ennis is at about 5000 feet and the top of the pass we were crossing was around 7000 feet. It was 10 miles from Ennis to the top of the pass and the altitude came on pretty quickly. We set out and soon we were climbing. The road was steep and didn’t offer any breaks, except at around the 8 mile mark where there was a nice turnout. The climb was tough, but we both made it to the top without any difficulties.

looking back before virginia city

Once we crested the pass, we were rewarded with one of the cyclists’ favorite sights. A sign announcing steep downhill, 7% grade. We flew down the hill and were soon in Virginia City. Nate set a new speed record for his bike, hitting 42mph. I am a little more conservative. I topped out at around 35mph and got the chance to try out my brakes a little bit. I was actually speeding once I hit Virginia City (29 in a 25mph zone).

Virginia City and Nevada City were very interesting and deserve a longer look than we were able to give them. They are historic mining towns that have been preserved to look very similar to how they looked in the 1880s. I know my wife will love them. I am planning on bringing her in September to check them out.

virginia city blacksmith virginia city better nate virginia city

Our lunch spot was in Twin Bridges, MT. As we were pulling into town we saw the factory for Winston fly rods. We stopped to check it out. They had a nice little showroom with a receptionist manning her post. Nate asked prices and I was shocked when she mentioned $600 to over $1000 per rod. This is a little over my price range. They did have some nice t-shirts piled in the corner for $10 each, much more my speed.

We ate our picnic lunch in a riverside park in Twin Bridges. It was quite scenic and very beautiful. We were treated to the sight of a group of kayakers floating down the river. It seems that the rivers are a central part of each of the little towns we pass through. We have seen many fisherman and most people have a river fishing boat sitting in their front yards. The fish that I have seen seem very fat and I know that it would be a treat to fish here!

As we ride through, I am struck by how much Montana looks like many parts of Colorado. It just seems that there are not that many people and there is a lot more water flowing through than we see at home. I’m afraid the winters might be kind of tough, but it is sure beautiful country. As far as “Big Sky” goes, that had to come from an easterner. They have so many trees, they never get to see the sky. The sky looks a lot like home to me.

It seems strange riding through all of these unfamiliar mountain ranges. It looks so much like home in so many ways, but all of the mountains are unfamiliar and in the wrong places… I can’t just look to the mountains and immediately know where west is.

We have started to see more and more sheep. I tried to talk to one today, but sheep are not very good conversationalists. Cows will at least try to talk to you, even if you have nothing in common, but the sheep just seem to stare. We have decided that they are probably not that smart. We decided on the intelligence scale they probably rank somewhere between a turkey and a watermelon. With that said, they do seem to be smart enough not to try to ride their bicycles across the U.S.

We had a tough ride in the afternoon. Distance-wise it was not bad, only about 30 miles. The issue was the wind. We rode directly into the wind the entire distance. Always the optimist, I told Nate the wind would probably help us out a little down the road. Sadly, this was not to be. Riding into the wind exhausts me. I really need to be able to take little breaks as I ride. Coast a little now and then. With the wind blowing like it was, I was pushing the entire way.

Overall, we had a nice day of riding. Kind of slow, our riding time was a little over 6 hours today.

We are spending the night in a campground. As I write this entry I am sitting in a porch swing about 15 feet away from the river. The fish are rising and I have seen a couple jump out of the water to nab insects that get a little too close to the water’s surface. I have heard turkeys gobbling across the way and just a little while ago I saw a beaver swimming down the river. This is a tough job, but someone has to do it…

Nate and Buster are sitting a little further up the bank. They are talking about some of the things they have seen to include in the “anti-blog.” As I listen to them, I am reminded of so many things that we saw that I have not included in the blog. These trips have been an incredible experience. Our country is so big, diverse and beautiful. I will never forget these trips… We have less than 200 miles to go to Missoula. This chapter in our journey will soon be over. Three more days of riding and then we head back to the lives we have temporarily put on hold.C

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head July 15, 2015

We woke up in the RAV at about 7:30 in the morning. We had all actually been able to sleep some, and as a bonus, the car had not been towed away with us in it. As I began to open my eyes, I was treated to the lovely sounds of raindrops gently falling of the rooftop. Bummer, Rain!

We decided we needed to gas up the car, dig out our new maps for Montana, find a cafe for breakfast and figure out what we were going to do. We all ordered the Jedidiah Smith breakfast (they serve it on plates, but it might be more appropriate to bring it in troughs-it was a gigantic breakfast). After looking at the maps, we decided we would shoot for Ennnis, Montana 71 miles away. Actually, this was an easy decision-this part of Montana does not have many towns.

We ducked into the restroom at a gas station so that we could put on our riding clothes. Since it was rainy, cloudy and cold I opted for my long sleeved jersey. I hesitated about bringing this jersey along on the trip. It is July, always warm here in the west… I have worn this long sleeved jersey more than I have worn any other so far.

After about 20 minutes of wandering around West Yellowstone, trying to figure out which way and which road to take, we finally took off. Our ride took us alongside Earthquake Lake. It seems in the 1950s a 7.5 earthquake shook the area and dammed up the Madison river with a huge landslide. This landslide blocked the river and instantly created a new lake. 28 people lost their lives and the lake still stands.

earthquake lake

We had a great morning of riding. We actually had a tailwind and we were trending downhill. I did have a close call though. I was flying along at about 30mph when a 8 foot length of wire went sailing past my head and under my front wheel. I looked down and saw that the wire was travelling along with me. For a minute I thought my chain had let go, but no. I just couldn’t figure it out. I quit pedaling and braked to a stop. A close examination revealed that a piece of guy wire from the telephone poles had gotten stuck in my pedal somehow and had flown over my head and in front of me. I pulled it out of my pedal and reflected how bad things would have been if the wire had jammed my front wheel. A sudden stop like that at 30mph is never a winning proposition!

I jumped back on my bike and took off. Nate and I were positively flying. He had not seen me stop and consequently had moved far ahead of me. I soon got up to speed and then heard a thundering boom. I looked over to the south and saw that it appeared that a storm was building up against the distant mountains. No worries, I would just keep an eye on it as I pedaled along. A flash of light caught my eye. Lightning! Still it was far to the south, I counted, 12 seconds before I heard the boom. Good, the storm was far away. I looked and saw the wind was coming from the north and felt even better. The wind was blowing the storm away from me. I ducked my head and pedaled away. Wow, we were really making good time. Nate was still ahead of me, but he wasn’t pulling away. I was about 1/2 mile behind. No problems. I cranked along and then, Oh Crud! What was that sound? I shouldn’t be hearing a shushing sound from my bike. I looked down and saw that my rear tire was rapidly deflating. I can’t believe it, a flat! My gatorskin tires have been so good. I haven’t had a flat in over 1000 miles and this is a brand new tire. I stopped and turned my bike over. Nate was now a good 3/4 of a mile away. I was on my own for a while. I turned my bike over and got out my kit. I had a new tube, so I just needed to pull off the wheel, take off the tire, find what caused the flat, pull it out, reassemble, reinflate, put it back on the bike and then good as new. Except… FLASH,BANG! While I was evaluating the tire situation I forgot about the weather and guess what? The faraway storm was right on top of me. I quickly texted Buster and asked him to come get me-would he get it, who knows, service is so sketchy out here. I started working on the flat and the rains came down. I was so intent on getting the thing fixed that I didn’t hear Nate yelling at me over the storm. There they were across the highway with the RAV. I threw my bike back together, flat tire and all and loaded it up. Once we got into the car the deluge began. As soon as I got set in the car Buster’s phone dinged letting him know that my text was there. He never got my text letting him know I was in trouble until it was too late. It seems he was waiting for us up ahead, saw the storm and headed back to get us. He found Nate first, got him loaded up and then came and found me. Buster, the Knight in Shining Armor!

We drove the few remaining miles into Ennis and are now nice and warm in our hotel rooms. I was able to fix my tire. It had a thread of steel from a car tire in it. I have serviced the bike and now it is ready to go. We are getting closer to the end of this portion of our trip. We have a few days left and then we will roll into Mizzoula. Hope to see you tomorrow.

Note to Self July 14, 2015

Today we face Togwatee Pass. This pass is 9600 feet in elevation and is quite steep. The contour map makes it look very intimidating. We are hoping for a good weather day for this ride with little to no wind if at all possible.. This will be our last big climb in Wyoming.

We started our day as usual, with a little twist. We broke camp, but instead of Nate and I jumping on our bikes and riding off, we left our bikes on the trailer and piled into the RAV. The wives of the travelers that we met yesterday were so excited that there was a doughnut shop in Dubois, that we decided we needed to sample a couple of these purely for comparison sakes. Of course, I insisted that I needed to eat breakfast before we left as well, because as I told Nate, I wasn’t going to face Togwatee pass with only a couple of dozen doughnuts in my belly. The doughnut shop was a Daylight Doughnuts (we have a couple of these in town). We each ordered two of our favorites and then blissfully consumed them.

We left Buster to replenish our supplies and off we went on our bicycles. It was going to be a 30 mile climb to the top of Togwatee, with the first 20 being a relatively easy climb and the last ten a much more intense climb. Our day progressed along just fine. Of course we did have to face the wind, but we were used to it by now. Today’s climb would actually feature two passes, Union Pass (7600 ft) and Togwatee Pass (9600 ft). Our ride up Union Pass was relatively uneventful. Once I reached the crest, I was rewarded with the sight of 3 antelope standing in the middle of the road.

Our next task was Togwatee Pass. Nate and I rode together until the actual climb began. I warned Nate that I would probably stop a couple of times on my way up to the top. As the ascent steepened, Nate began to pull away from me. We rode along. The road was steep, but manageable. I stopped at the 5 mile mark to take a short break and also stopped once to take a few pictures. I don’t believe Nate stopped at all on his way up. As I rode, I kept an eye on both my altimeter and my odometer. I knew the pass was right about 9650 feet and that my odometer should read 30 miles once I reached the top. The contour map had showed that the steepness of the pass really increased at about 9500 feet and 1 mile from the top, so I was keeping an eye open, knowing this was in store for me. Well, I was pleasantly surprised. The pass actually crested at about 9550 feet and at about 29 miles. I was still looking for the super difficult portion to begin and was shocked to see the sign noting the top of the pass. This was really a nice bonus for me, I rode right through the extra-difficult section and did not even know it!

nate climbing in wyoming

Going down the opposite side of the pass was much more enjoyable than the climb. The sign at the top warned of a 6% descent for the next 17 miles. Nate and I took full advantage of the free miles! As we sped along, we were rewarded with beautiful views of the majestic Grand Tetons. What a beautiful sight.

grand tetons first sight

Today we were riding to Moran Junction which is at the entrance to the Grand Teton National Park. Once we reach Moran Junction, we are going to load the bikes and then take the car to tour the Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park.

grand tetons1c

We saw many beautiful sights within the boundaries of the parks. I had never seen a geyser before, but today, I was able to witness the eruption of two of these natural phenomena. Equally impressive, to my mind, are the numerous boiling pots and other geothermal features. In addition to the geysers, we saw waterfalls ,cascades, lakes and beautiful scenery. We saw these along with the thousands upon thousands of other visitors to the park. Buster remarked that the parking lot at Old Faithful reminded him of Disneyland. There were people everywhere!

yellowstone river with geysers yellowstone hotpot yellowstone geyser getting ready to go yellowstone geyser getting ready to go 1a yellowstone falls yellowstone cascades 1ayellowstone the boys with the geyser  yellowstone baby geysers old faithful hebgen lake grand tetons 1b

As the day began to draw to a close, we decided that we needed to get a campsite. Our plans were to camp at the eastern edge of the Grand Teton National Park and then ride our bikes through both Grand Teton and Yellowstone. We called our preferred campground to reserve our campsite and were told all of the spaces were on a first come, first served basis. We said okay and began the nearly 80 mile drive back to the campground. As we drove along, we started to notice a disturbing trend. All of the campgrounds we passed had “Campground Full” signs posted. Surely our chosen space would have room, after all the brochure said it could accommodate 300 campers. Well, we arrived and our chosen campground was full. We decided to drive to Jackson and to find a place there and then we would drive back to Grand Teton in the morning and then ride through the parks.

Jackson is a hopping place. In order to save time, they should just hang a no vacancy sign out at the city limits. After a couple of hours of searching we gave up. We did find one place with rooms, but $250 per night, per room for mediocre lodging did not appeal to us. We were in a quandary. It was getting late (9:00) and we had no place to stay. We finally decided we would drive back to the park, drive through and check out lodging on the other side. We just would have to skip riding through the parks.

We drove into the park, got lost, drove on 7 miles of road that had been completely taken out (twice, in the pitch dark), burned through an entire tank of gas, got rained on, and all kinds of other stuff and finally arrived in West Yellowstone, Montana at 2:00 in the morning. Of course, we could find no place to stay. Everything was full or shut up tight. We finally gave up, found a place to park and fell asleep in the car. Well, the snorers fell asleep in the car. I was treated to a symphony of otherworldly sounds. I didn’t know humans could make noises like that. The boys even developed a harmony in their snoring. At one point, I think I heard a few bars of “Ebony and Ivory.”

Note to self: DON’T VISIT YELLOWSTONE IN THE SUMMER!

We are out of Wyoming. After careful consideration over the past few days, I have decided to write a strong letter to the Wyoming legislature. My letter will recommend a change to the Wyoming license plates. I think they should remove the cowboy (a fine second choice) and replace it with a picture of a wind sock. There should be, after all, truth in advertising.

 

Crowheart July 13, 2015

We woke up at our regular time at the Sleeping Bare, oops I mean the Sleeping Bear Campgrounds. We had a restful night even though the campgrounds were located in the flight path of the local airport. Fortunately for us, the airport only seemed to service small aircraft. I actually enjoyed watching the small planes climbing into the Wyoming sky.

Lander was a very nice little town. I especially enjoyed watching several teenagers playing basketball (kind of) in a local church yard. It reminded me of my youth. I can’t count the number of hours we spent hanging out at the church, playing basketball or ping pong or whatever. Those were truly enjoyable times. The only thing I can’t figure out is why I never really got any better… To busy messing around I guess.

After we cooked dinner and had cleaned everything up we spent some time hanging around and talking. As the night began to turn darker we were able to see two planets hanging low in the western sky. Buster said he thought they were Jupiter and Venus. It was a treat to get to see them. My wife reminded me that we should watch the Montana skies for the Northern Lights when we get closer to the end of our trip. We are having such a good time seeing all of this country that we have never been in before. The bikes really make you slow down and notice the things around you. One thing that we have seen on this trip are some truly beautiful horses. I don’t know if it is the setting, or that we have actually been seeing superior animals, but each one of us has commented on their beauty.

We are in cowboy country. I believe the cattle outnumber the people here. My wife commented to me today that she has never heard of most of the towns that we have been riding through here in Wyoming. I told her that was not surprising. Most of the towns are quite small. It is not unusual for the population of towns to be less than 100 people. I believe the total population of all of the towns we have visited would total less than 20,000 people.

A good deal of our day was spent in the Wind River Indian Reservation. As we were riding through, I was thinking that there were far fewer signs of poverty on this reservation than I have seen on most of the reservations I have visited. I saw no government housing and it appeared that the majority of people were farmers or ranchers. Then we arrived in the town of Washakie. This population center was filled with run down government housing and resembled many of the reservations that I have visited in the past. An item of note is that the grave site of Sacajawea is located in the town of Washakie.

As we rode through the Wind River Indian Reservation we came across a historic marker. This marker pointed out Crowheart Butte and explained the origination of the name of this landmark. It seems in 1866 a major battle between the Shoshone and the Crow Indians took place in this area. The Shoshone soundly defeated the Crow and during his victory dance Chief Washakie danced with the heart of a Crow warrior stuck to the end of his war lance. Since I am a student of the history of the American West, I was able to point out a few lesser known landmarks to Nate. Off to the right we were able to identify “Washakie is a Jerk Hill, We Hate Washakie Rock, and finally Washakie Wears Women’s Underpants Creek all named by the retreating Crow warriors. Nate remarked once again how appreciative he was of my expertise and knowledge.

We met a couple of fellow travelers as well as a pair of wives who were driving a support vehicle for their husbands who were riding the Trans-Am. We had fun exchanging stories and hearing of their adventures. The travelers we met were from Germany and had been touring since the month of April. They had started in San Francisco and were eventually were going to end up in New York. I think they still had a couple of months to go before they were going to finish their journey.

The four individuals that we met all insisted that we try the Cowboy Cafe for dinner when we were in Dubois (pronounced Due Boys, not Due bwah). We followed their advice and fully enjoyed our dinner tonight. Dubois is a historic western town. One of the stores (Gentry’s) has a sign that says that Butch Cassidy had shopped there (no mention of what he bought…)

weltys store_edited-1

dubois mine

The country we are riding in is changing once again. We are back in the mountains. Today we rode along the Wind River and were surrounded by beautiful red and white sandstone cliffs. Our ride today was mostly uphill and we faced a headwind for a good portion of the day. We were actually quite bitter when we saw a couple of riders headed the opposite direction, enjoying a downhill with a strong tailwind.

sandstone cliffs 1b

red sandstone cliffs with river

red sandstone cliffs

It is hard to believe how close we are getting to Yellowstone. In just a couple of days we will get to experience this natural wonder from the seats of our bikes. We do face a bit of a challenge tomorrow. Ahead of us is Togwatee Pass, elev 9600 feet. We will need to pick up about 2000 feet in 30 miles tomorrow. As usual it appears that the last four miles will be a killer.

We have already crossed the Continental Divide four times on this journey. As I look ahead, I see we will cross it again at least 3 more times. I know we will end up on the Pacific side of the divide, but am not sure which side we are on today.