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Archive for June, 2011

Ennis, MT to Twin Bridges, MT

Miles: 46

Total so far: 3,559

The Madison Range is in the background as we climb up out of the Madison River valley.

We wanted to make it into Dillon, Montana today for a ride of about 73 miles, but the winds kicked up and pinned us down in Twin Bridges.  Gusts were up beyond 46 miles per hour, and we were doing well as long as we were north bound, but at Twin Bridges we need to turn south-west, right into the teeth of that wind.  The bikes, loaded with the panniers on the front and rear, have the aerodynamics of refrigerator boxes, so we chose to camp at Twin Bridges rather than fight the wind into Dillon.

Twin Bridges, Montana's offer to Trans-Am cyclists

The town of Twin Bridges set up a “Bike Camp” at a rest area, complete with showers, bathroom, a shelter, and sinks, all for the purpose of helping cyclists on the Trans-Am.  We pitched our tents and made ourselves at home (we are becoming experts at getting tents up in raging winds).

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Today we went by a roadside marker where someone was killed in a crash.  This one was constructed of colorful material and patterns made into a cross.  These markers adorn our roads all over the country.

These are important places to us, something that remains difficult to explain to those who have not experienced a sudden traumatic loss.  The places where loved ones die are visited for a number of reasons, not the least of which, people are trying to explain the unexplainable.  We try to understand that which is impossible to understand, and we look for our answers anywhere we can, including there on the roadside.

Just as we could never pass by the places where our lives changed so dramatically without thinking of the significance of the events, we are also moved to mark these places with personal objects.  All over the country, state agencies become concerned with these, and many have standardized the placement of authorized markers.  The state agency authorized markers are being created with the best of intentions, but like the marker I saw today, do they represent the true markers of the heart?

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Andrea Vaughn Rieger

Andrea Vaughn Rieger

Coming home from skiing and enjoying time with friends, Andrea was killed in a collision with a drunk driver.  Andrea, from Big Sky, Montana was 28 years old.

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Hebgen Lake Dam, MT to Ennis, MT

Friendly horn taps: 1

Miles: 50

Total so far: 3,513

The Madison River at Earthquake Lake. The mountain to the left sheared off in an earthquake and dammed the river.

We’ve been following the Madison River since Wyoming, and today we followed it all the way into Ennis, Montana.  This morning, leaving the Hebgen Lake Dam area, we went downstream on the Madison to Earthquake Lake where in 1959 an earthquake hit the area that measured 7.5 on the Richter scale, dropping a whole side of a mountain into the Madison River Canyon, causing a natural dam of the river. The sudden flooding was massive and many lives were lost.

At about the same time we were adjacent to the lake, we met up with Ryan, from

Ryan, going to Astoria, Oregon also

near Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  Ryan is doing the traditional Trans-Am from Virginia to Astoria, Oregon.  When we introduced ourselves, he said he’d been hearing of a brother/sister team going from Florida to Oregon.  Ryan got to know Julie and her partner David before David abandoned the ride, and he’d been travelling with others that we’ve either met or heard about about over the weeks and months.

A community has formed.  Binding us together is the route, whether we are east-bound or west-bound, some of the same goals are lining up as to ending points, pace of riding, riding style, and even splitting the cost of accommodations, be it camping or stopping at hotels. However we are bound, as though moving on a river.

Some of the original groups have splintered as the distances build, the miles accumulate, fatigue sets in and tempers get the best of folks.  Still, there remains the binding element of the route.  They may not finish together, they may fracture and finish another time, but the goal is to finish.  For all of us.

Those whose lives have been affected by the preventable crime of drunk driving are a community also.  We are bound together by our worst nightmares coming to life, by poor decisions, and criminal behaviors that have taken something from us.  We may not know each of our members, but we have a vehicle to seek common ground.  Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  The organization is formed from people affected and acts on behalf of those affected by the preventable, criminal acts of others.  This is our river.  Please consider supporting us.

A closer view of the mountainside that came down forming the lake

Montana. Sallie says it looks like pictures of Switzerland here.

Looking east, away from the Madison River

The Madison River as it goes by Ennis, Montana. The snow run-off has muddied the water some down this low.

 

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Jeremiah James Newman

Jeremiah James Newman

Jeremiah Newman, from Heron, Montana was killed in a motor vehicle collision involving a drunk driver.  Jeremiah was 28 years old.

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The tourist thing

Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park (WY) to Hebgen Lake Dam, Montana

Rude horn honks: 3

Continental Divide crossings: 2

Total Divide crossings so far: 8

Miles: 76

Total so far: 3,463

Yellowstone Lake in the morning

We left Yellowstone National Park today and bid goodbye to Wyoming, entering Montana near the town of  West Yellowstone.  But before we left “the park” as it is referred to, we engaged in the tourist thing, like all the good folks that visit this wonderful national park, we saw buffalo, elk,  osprey, and whatever else was to see including a stop at Old Faithful Lodge for lunch and the noontime show of the geyser.  This delayed us considerably, but we sacrificed the time to get in what we could.

Old Faithful...it was a little bit late, actually

Oh, yea. I said it would be cold? My tent fly was sheathed in ice, the outside from dew, the inside from condensation. We made breakfast in camp at 20 some degrees.

Our transition out of Wyoming included a stop at West Yellowstone, Montana for groceries and a light snack.  We picked back up on the Madison River which we followed out of Wyoming, and circled around north of Hebgen Lake, and then arrived at our stop for the evening just below the dam.  The view so far of Montana is post-card perfect.  Sallie remarked that it looked like pictures of Switzerland.

We arrived in camp at 6:30, with showers, laundry, and dinner to get prepared and finished before retiring.  That makes for a long day, but the scenery was first class all day long.

Yellowstone Lake and remnants of the fires. The new growth is amazing, but young at only 23 years.

Wood carvings by fire - 1988

Firehole River; Jimmy from Cincinatti with a rainbow trout caught on his second cast with nymph

The Madison River (with buffalo in the background)

Buffalo with two young ones...no time for pictures, but I got this one as we were beyond them

...a little better

Best! (these are a little unnerving from a bicycle)

The Madison River with elk bedded down

Bojan Pucelj, from Croatia east bound, Oregon to Virginia.

Leaving Wyoming; leaving Yellowstone; hello Montana!

Hebgen Lake, Montana

Hebgen Lake, Montana

Suddenly, the hillsides in Montana are covered with wildflowers. Do they plant this stuff?

Maybe landscape designers have been at work in Montana?

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Tomorrow’s ride will be dedicated to Katharine Mary Byrd

Katharine Mary Byrd

Katharine may Byrd, from Wolf Point, Montana was killed in a motor vehicle collision involving a drunk driver on October 2, 2003.  Katharine was 18 years old.

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Into the caldera

Colter Bay, WY to Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park (WY side)

Rude horn honks: 2 (in Yellowstone)

Continental Divide crossings: 1

Total Divide crossings so far: 6

Miles: 44

Total so far: 3, 387

This morning as we left Colter Bay, the sky was quite overcast, (but it didn't snow)

Yellowstone National Park:  We took a short day today because in the last few days, we’ve not set up camp until about 6:30pm, and that’s given us little time other than riding, not to mention cutting into our sleep.

Sallie plies the roads in Yellowstone traffic (note the total lack of a shoulder)

 

Clothing adjustments in the cool temperatures. Note the 1988 fire recovery going on in the background.

Sallie is finally getting her appetite back and is more capable on the bike.  We’ve had some hard pulls considering the winds and the distances, and she’s done well, but hasn’t been 100 percent for several days.

I’m no longer panicking at the sight of rain, but I guess I will always remain a little spooked of weather at altitude (for the record, anything over 1,000 feet will be at altitude for my remaining years, thank you very much).  Speaking of which, we are close to 7,000 feet for the night’s camp and it will be cold, lows of 31 to 34 degrees.   There is an unusual amount of snow remaining, and temperatures are still on the cool side with highs in the low 60’s.  Most of today’s ride was in jackets.

In both Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park everything is “Bear Aware” (their slogan for keeping food and other bear attractants locked away).  They have food boxes in the campgrounds, but strangely enough, at Grant Village where there are quite a few hikers and bikers (and therefore without cars to safely lock their food away), in the primitive camping area where we are there are only nine boxes for some 34 camp sites.  At our particular site, there are six bicyclists.  I’m not sure that’s enough food boxes to convince anyone this is a high priority.  They told us a grizzly bear has been visiting the camp, but has yet to bother anyone (they probably always say that).

Lewis River Canyon, Yellowstone

We are set for the night, my blog is finishing up, and we are looking forward to what Yellowstone has to show us tomorrow.  I may even get some needed sleep!

The Lewis River Canyon, upstream

A lot of snow, but...

A promise of summer too!

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Taylor Shane McCollum

Taylor Shane McCollum

Taylor McCollum, from Casper, Wyoming  was injured in a drunk driving collision on March 18, 2006, at the age of 12.

 

 

 

 

 

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Dubois, WY to Colter Bay, WY (Grand Teton National Park)

Friendly horn taps: 5

Continental Divide crossings: 1

Divide crossings so far: 5

Miles: 69

Total so far: 3,343

The Tetons as seen from Oxbow Bend, Teton National Park, Wyoming

Please note…I was unable to post last evening because of a remote area.  In the interest of expediency, more pictures will be post on this entry at a later date.

Today’s ride was difficult, but for beauty it rated as my favorite over any ride we’ve had so far. We climbed Togwotee Pass starting our ride at 8:00am and we were not off the mountain and down in the valley until about 3:30pm. Togwatee is not that much of a difficult climb, in fact going west is the easier side, but the wind came up early and made things difficult for us. Even on the descent I could only muster about 14 miles per hour, sometimes less, on 6% downgrades, and that was with steady pedaling.

West of Dubois there is a turn-off for a public road called DuNoir Creek Road. A rancher has placed a very large, professionally printed sign (perhaps it’s 8′ x 10′) that says the following:

NO TRESPASSING

VIOLATORS WILL BE SHOT

SURVIVORS WILL BE SHOT AGAIN

This sign is placed in a position so as to give the impression that the road belongs to this ranch, and anyone venturing onto the road itself is trespassing. However, it very clearly is a publicly maintained road, therefore open for public use. I think this kind of scrawl copied off a bathroom wall somewhere is in extremely poor taste.

After riding a couple of hours, Sallie an I pulled into the Rawhide RV Park on Highway 287 west of Dubois while climbing Togwotee Pass. Sallie needed to stretch and I thought I’d buy a snack, and maybe have a soda. The office to the RV Park was closed and there was a sign there inviting people with inquiries to locate the camp ground host. I went around the building to the men’s room and encountered this sign:


We each had a snack with us that we consumed and we were leaving when the camp ground host approached us, and asked if we needed anything. I said, “No ma’am. I saw the sign posted on your bathroom door. I’ll tell you quite frankly, that I’ve lived in this state for 30 years and I’ve never encountered an attitude such as this. I wouldn’t stay here if I had to.” She responded that it was not her sign, she was clearly embarrassed and offered to pass on my comments to the owners.

We had a similar experience outside of Lander when Sallie stopped to use the bathroom at an RV park there, the camp ground host said she was free to use the facilities, and then stated quite earnestly, “You’re not going to take a shower, are you?”

As far as I am concerned we are all keepers of the beauty this state has to offer. For people to express themselves this way is a disgrace to everyone who has ever called Wyoming home.

Back to the beauty:

 


On two occasions during our descent of Togwotee, deer came out of the forest and ran down the road in front of us looking for a way back into the timber that wasn’t snow bound. The first one that did that ran about ¾ of a mile before leaping off the road and stumbling her way through the snow. We stopped the bikes to keep the pressure off her, but she continued down the road.

Near Oxbow Bend in Grand Teton National Park, there were some 100 to 200 elk gathered in an open area. I’ve never seen such a thing in June. I began wondering if the presence of wolves in the Park are causing that behavior.

 

 

Pinnacle Butte, on the way up Togwotee Pass

We can do the same thing too.  Motorists, I mean.  We remain in large groups or herds too, and when something threatens us, we can act to warn the proper authorities.  If you see a driver you suspect might be impaired, call 911.  Keep the heard healthy.

Jackson Lake at Colter Bay, Wyoming

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Today’s ride is dedicated to the following, known as the “Wyoming 8”:


On 9/16/2001 eight members of the University of Wyoming cross country team were killed when a drunk driver crossed the centerline of US 287 near Tie Siding, Wyoming.

We will always remember their lives, and their untimely deaths and what it means for all of us:

Shane Shatto, 19; Nick Schabron, 20; Morgan McLeleand, 21; Justin Lambert-Belanger, 20; Joshua Jones, 22; Cody Brown, 20; Kevin Salverson, 19; and Kyle Johnson, 20.

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Lander, WY to Dubois, WY

Friendly horn taps: 2

Rude horn honks: 1

Miles: 78

Total so far: 3,274

Wind River cliffs

It’s been awhile since I’ve “worked the road” as a state trooper.  I know I’ve experienced weather induced trauma, but we all have that.  Certainly anyone who’s run for his life at the sssssshhhhhh sound of a semi truck going sideways on the ice can’t really come away from the experience unfazed.  It’s like finding your self  in a dinosaur nightmare, and the behemoths are out to get you.  I’ve suffered frost bite, and I’ve lost my way in ground blizzards (by that I mean out on foot where I can’t find my car with all the lights running).  I don’t do any of that anymore, I’ve been retired for over five years.

Today, I put on a show for Sallie’s birthday.  We are riding along in the afternoon struggling with some storm cell generated winds.  The storms are coming across at us from the west as we head north-west in the Wind River Indian Reservation. There’s a large combined cell behind us that we are pretty clear of after some hard work, it’s sliding south, but there’s one coming across in front of us and I can see sunshine on the other side, so if it hits us maybe we can ride through it.

Soon the rain starts and it’s coming down suddenly and with a fury stoked by strong winds, but the sun is starting to shine on us, so I get the feeling we may make it through.  That’s when I look up ahead and there is a large semi coming south and he’s churning up a serious amount of spray on the road, and I think to myself, that’s pretty wet, and that’s when the klaxon horns started going off in my head.

AOOGAAH!  AOOGAAH! GET OFF THE ROAD!  THE STORM IS TOO STRONG, SHELTER! SHELTER! YOU ARE GETTING WET, THE WIND IS BLOWING! WIND AND WET! DANGER! DANGER! TEMPERATURE MAY DROP, WIND AND WET AND COLD – DANGER! DANGER! SHELTER – MAN’S FIRST NEED GET SHELTER – GET YOUR RAIN JACKET ON NOW! SHELTER BEHIND THAT SIGN!

I found a road entrance to my right and there is this sign near the right-of-way fence that’s about 3 feet by 4 feet, and it’s maybe 6 feet off the ground.  It’s over to one side of a cattle guard, and I head for it, thinking I have to get my rain jacket out of my left front pannier.  The wind is really huffing now and I stop the bike.  The wind is trying to blow the bike over and my cleat is caught in the pedal and I can’t clip out on the left side, I’m going down!

AOOGAAH! AOOGAH! YOU’VE FALLEN ON THE PAVEMENT! YOU’VE CUT YOUR LEG ON THE CHAINRING! DANGER! DANGER! GREASY CUT ON THE LEG! INFECTION DANGER! SHELTER! SHELTER! FORGET THE LEG! GET YOUR JACKET! -MAN’S FIRST NEED – SHELTER!  YOU CAN’T PUT THE JACKET ON OVER THE CAMELBAK! DISCARD THE CAMELBACK! GET BEHIND THE SIGN! ZIP UP THE JACKET! RAISE THE BIKE BACK ON THE STAND! GET BEHIND THE SIGN YOU ARE VERY WET! DANGER! DANGER!   THE BIKE HAS FALLEN AGAIN! THE WIND IS TOO STRONG! THE CONTENTS OF YOUR HANDLEBAR BAG ARE THREATENING TO SPILL INTO THE CATTLE GUARD! DANGER! YOU’LL NEED A CRANE TO GET THOSE THINGS!

(Meanwhile, Sallie is standing by the roadside, having to hold her foot on her bike stand to keep the wind from blowing her bike over, but she’s perfectly fine, and most importantly, hardly even wet from the rain.)

After some time of gathering up my belongings, cleaning my leg up, and getting the crud  that blew across the pavement when the bike was down off the brake surface of one wheel, we ride off.

And the storm cell passes, the wind dies, and I declare that all my struggle was much to do about nothing.  Sallie agrees.  A mile down the road, I realize I left my Camelbak too.

Either I worked one to many storms, or I’m touching base with the last threads of my sanity as we push ourselves beyond reasonable limits on this ride across the country.

Maybe it’s the former as well as the latter.

Perhaps I jinxed us by taking this rare picture of a windless Wyoming flag today at a rest area

A small one coming over the mountains at us

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to Harriet Phillips and Frank Colavita

Harriet Phillips and Frank Colavita

Harriet Phillips and Frank Colavita, were a sensational couple. Not only were they loving, generous, caring, involved parents but they were an inspiration to all those around them. They loved to go dancing, sailing, and were always drawing friends together for outings to festivals, concerts, art openings, or great dining adventures.  Harriet was an artist. Her prolific collection may be viewed at: www.zhibit.org/harrietphillips. Frank was a recently retired psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh. They both loved their craft and had a passion for teaching it to others. Frank was a nationally ranked runner, having placed first in his age category in the Florida State Championships in 2008, qualifying for a prestigious spot in the Senior Olympics in summer of 2009. They were taken in the prime of their lives by a drunk driver, on February 13, 2009.

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Mosquito run

Jeffrey City, WY to Lander, WY

Miles: 60

Miles so far: 3,196

These three took off only to be chased back - note the dark skies

Waking up this morning to the sound of thunder is an unusual experience.  Thunderstorms are rare in this part of the country so early in the morning without the sun to power them.  That’s not all that’s unusual in Jeffrey City, Wyoming.

This is a stop that worried me.  The only open business I knew of was the Split Rock Bar and Cafe, and for years, the touring blogs have ranked this about as low as you can get.  There are no showers, there is no place to stay (since the only hotel closed), and reportedly the owner of the bar and restaurant was openly hostile to cyclists.  However, we started getting word on the road from other cyclists that there was a change in ownership at the cafe, cyclists were welcome, and a potter set up a business across the street and was allowing cyclists to stay in a trailer and shed on his property.  Bonus!

Proof!

Jeffrey City is positioned roughly half-way between Lander and Rawlins, with no other stops available, so it is vital to cyclists on the Trans-Am.   The town is an extreme example of a boom/bust economy that is experiencing a current and sustained decline.  Jeffrey City used to be a uranium mining town, once thriving, but political and market forces have caused a long-term bust for this Fremont County township.

Upon our arrival, we met up with three cyclists from England and one American that preceded our arrival.  The six of us set up  “shop” in the cafe/bar where the large bathroom was used for “sink showers” and cleaning up, the internet was available through a Wi-Fi connection, and the food was plentiful and quite good.

Setting up our own section

Sallie: "I didn't know pancakes came that big."

The artistry of the potter - monkart.net; Monkingbird Pottery on Facebook

We had to shelter to wait out the morning storms,but once we started out the winds were fair and we got into Lander without any more trouble from the weather — in fact the winds were very much subdued all day, which is always a bonus in this part of the country.  However, areas near the Sweetwater River were so heavy with mosquitoes, if we didn’t have spray, we’d not have survived.  They would have packed us away, 75 pound bikes and all!

The Wind River mountain range is in the distance as we begin the descent of Beaver Rim

These startling colors are found in the cliffs entering the Lander Valley

Upon reaching Lander, we set up behind the Holiday Lodge, where they host a special for cyclists.  We camped on their property behind the hotel, right on the river.  This provides access to showers, laundry and a Jacuzzi.  $10 a person – that’s pretty reasonable by Trans-Am standards.  Aaaah…the bonuses of homeless vagabonds!

Home for the evening

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Tomorrow’s ride is dedicated to John Douglas Greenwalt

Doug Greenwalt

On May 13, 1999, John Douglas Greenwalt of Cheyenne, Wyoming was killed by a drunk driver in a two vehicle collision.  Doug was 20 years old.

Not a day goes by without some reminder of how Doug touched our lives.  He was a special, talented, and kind person.  The memories make you smile when you think you cannot.

Doug’s Family and Friends


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