Archive for July, 2010

Day 60: Marvellous Montana

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

75.74 miles (Total: 3321.78) Avg Speed: 12.2mph Max Speed: 36.5mph

Leaving the tent this morning I was attacked by mosquito’s, they are intense around here. One woman at the lodge this morning mentioned she has lived in Alaska but they are worse here! I give my tyres a morning squeeze and found the rear was flat. I left it till after breakfast to change but on doing so discovered the tyre itself had a slight buldge and was severely worn at one point.  I felt like Joe Meyer, www.ryanandersonneedsatyre.com, I’ve had these schwalbe marathons since Carbondale. I switched the healthy looking front tyre to the back and put a few strips of duct tape on the underside of the other, it should hold until Missoula.

The ride to Wisdom was beautiful and similar to Wyoming I have been surprised by how much colour there is out here. Montana is doing its best to become my favourite state so far, changing wild flowers on the sides of the road set against a mountainous backdrop not mention the people are the friendliest yet.

At the pit-stop in Wisdom I checked on the tyres, feeling good. From here it was about 25 miles to the start of a climb on another pass, which is becoming the story of each day. Lengthy flats, then a gradual climb to a pass most of them aren’t to severe in Montana as we ride through valleys between the mountains and just get to gaze at the surroundings.

Nice roads Montana.

Usual scene at top of a pass.

Once at the top we saw the usual fat people drive up, get out (some just wind the window down) snap a picture of the sign and fly away leaving a dust cloud behind them. The descent which followed was scary as hell but exhilarating. The sights were incredible but unfortunately its not suitable to take pictures whilst bolting down a mountain at 40 mph, breaking isn’t even an option because by the time you stop the photo op would have passed. The descent actually carried on for the rest of the day. We stopped for dinner just short of Darby where the locals were all watching a big foot documentary which seemed to just show the 5 second footage of him over and over. We left into the early evening to reach the campground in Darby and saw a heard of Bighorn sheep along the way. Stefaan had been there several hours after he set out early this morning but had gone into town. The campground owner came out briefly but returned to his trailer to sleep, he said “If you need anything come over by the window there and hit reeeeeal hard ‘cos I sleep good”. I was going to sleep reeeeeal hard too after another good day on the mileage front.

Bighorn Sheep

Day 59: The Two Passes

Saturday, July 31st, 2010

76.36 miles (Total: 3246.04) Avg Speed: 11.3mph Max Speed: 34.5mph

Me and Wim were the slow starters this morning with the others having left as we were just heading to pick up some groceries. Wim was looking at the bottles of wine for this evening when he was informed, not for the first time on this trip, that you can’t buy alcohol on a Sunday. Terry was the first victim of this back in Kansas where local county laws prohibit the sale.

Beaverhead Rock, I don't see it.

We soon caught up with Stefaan who was taking it easy suffering form some saddle sores. After passing through Dillon we had the first of two big passes to deal with. Wim was on fire today and set out to storm up the mountain as me and Stefaan plugged away drafting in the slight headwind. We stopped halfway up for some food and then slowly climbed on. After the first came a steady descent to the base of the second, since Dillon we had quickly ran out of water and Stefaan took the duty of walking up to the few trailer homes dotted along the route to get some. The first two attempts he was barked away by dogs then eventually he found some guy who stumbled out of his home to help fill bottles from the spigot.

Stefaan finally getting some water.

By this time the sun had started falling steadily and we still had the second, longer pass to go. It was slow progress all day especially with Stefaan’s saddle sores. I slowly pulled away from him on the final ascent as my determination to be done with the climbing took over from the pain my arms, neck and legs were kicking out. The road curved up and round the final bend which took an eternity and I was feeling pretty low. I knew by this point Wim, Terry and Jessica were probably already relaxing in Jackson. But a strange sensation happens at the top of a pass. After spending several hours listening to your own heavy breathing and chain winding round in dead silence you suddenly see the curve at the top where the road stops going up and seemingly drops of the other end out of sight. Once you reach that point, without even pedalling, you begin to gain speed as the wheels snowball into action and the dead silence is replaced by the rush of wind reducing your eyes to tears and blasting your ears with noise.

I don’t think I’ve felt as happy all trip as I was to get to the top of the second pass today. I couldn’t even see Stefaan behind me so I was all alone. I threw my fist in the air and when one car eventually passed I shouted “COME ON! WHOO!”.

Top of the final pass.

As I approached Jackson I wasn’t expecting much, maybe some primitive camping and a gas station supper. But as I pulled in I see the other bikes up against the Jackson Lodge building. In the middle of a pretty baron town is this amazing bar, restaurant hot springs resort which allows you to camp out back. We rejoiced with a beer and food at our fortune before taking a dip in the hot spring and hitting the sack.

Jackson Lodge

Day 58: Twin Bridges

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

43.71 miles (Total: 3169.68) Avg Speed: 12.3mph Max Speed: 38mph

I waddled over the road for a breakfast bagel which was nice but really not filling for a person of my appetite, 6/10, then returned to finish packing up before heading out.

Ready to roll bullet?

There was a pretty serious pass to take care of at the start of the day climbing a few thousand feet over about 8 miles. Everybody goes at different speeds so pretty soon were all spread out and I get into my rhythm nicely, but its HOT and my face is pouring with sweat again like the old days back in Virginia.

I get to the top to find Wim sat relaxing and we wait for Stefaan and Jessica, Terry went to the library. A blistering downhill followed into some old restored gold rush towns. Virginia City and Nevada City were now tourist towns but I didn’t think much of them.

After stopping for lunch the aim was Twin Bridges, a place every eastbounder had recommended to us. We arrived to find a great facility setup exclusivley for cyclists. A shelter which included showers, toilets, sink, benches, bike stand and bike pump was built by a guy in town who asks only for donation to keep it going.

The river rang alongside the ‘Bike Camp’ so me, Terry and Wim took a dip first before showering. We hit a place in town for some food and I played Wim at pool winning both times amongst heated arguments over conflicting rules. Apparently in Belgium who have to pot the black ball in the opposite corner to where you potted your penultimate ball, cobblers.

Back at camp me and Stefaan didn’t feel like setting our tents up so we just slept inside on our mats. I downed a chocolate milk to finish of the night, something I have craved most days all trip. Whilst trying to sleep, every so often I would get the buzz of a mosquito in my ear, as the chocolate milk laid uneasy on my stomach. Two bad choices.

Day 57: Easy Rider

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

72.88 miles (Total: 3125.97) Avg Speed: 15.8mph Max Speed: 35.5mph

The elevation profile for today’s ride looked like the best all trip, a long sloping downhill towards Ennis, losing about 2,oooft over the ride. Because of this me and Wim enjoyed a more than casual morning not setting off until around 11am. Getting out of the Yellowstone area provided a nice return to the tranquil riding conditions we have been more accustomed too with hardly a car on the road.

We flew around Earthquake Lake which was unsurprisingly caused by an earthquake many moons ago. We stopped for a brief lunch at a rest area where I went to use the bathroom, there was only one toilet stall. As I was sat a guy comes in with 3 young kids, 2 of which decided to stick their heads under the door to say hi whilst they were waiting, the dad was furious with them but I thought it was hilarious.

The riding continued at a fast pace and in no time we had covered the 70+ miles to Ennis in the early afternoon with hardly exerting any real energy. I checked in a store to find directions to the campground and it turned out the old guy had been to Newcastle for a few days in the middle of a trip around Europe back in the 80’s. We found the others at the campground who had set of earlier than me and Wim this morning and we all talked about how good the ride was today. Terry had even bought a bottle of champagne to celebrate the amazing day, you don’t get many free miles on this trip.

I went and got a cheap subway for dinner then we sat around the table at camp talking for a while when an eastbound cyclist turned up. Wim joked about how is bear spray was really for NRA (National Rifle Association) members after he had a bad experience with a guy threatening him a few weeks ago. Turned out this guy was an NRA member and the joke went down like a led balloon. It didn’t matter the guy was abit of a jerk anyway, currently cycling the TransAm setting up online blind dates in every town. Good luck in Kentucky!

Day 56: A Trapped Tourist

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

55.42 miles (Total: 3053.09) Avg Speed: 13.4mph Max Speed: 37mph

A loud bunch of people on a geology trip woke me up early so I slithered out of my sleeping bag and tent to the chilly morning and stood still in the one patch of sunlight that was breaking through the trees to keep warm. When the others got up we headed back into Grant Village for breakfast. I ended up paying about $8.50 for a single sausage and egg muffin, disgracefully overpriced tourist trap. It made me angry so I was eager to hit the road and get down to business seeing the parks attractions I had already paid the entry fee for.

Early morning glimpse from my tent, that must mean a bear didn't tear me limb from limb last night.

First was the Old Faithful Geyser, it has a scheduled time its that reliable so we sat around the basin in anticipation with the others waiting for it to blow. The schedule time came and past and people started getting restless, everyone had camera in hand waiting to get the picture of it erupting. I knew this thing lasted about 5 minutes once it was going so stayed calm. Eventually it went to the oohs and aahs of the crowd.

Waiting...

Still waiting...

Kaboom!

15 minutes later than scheduled but Old Faithful didn't disappoint.

Next up on the agenda were the geothermal pools. Cycling around Yellowstone has been tricky at times with the large volume of traffic, the main concern is people in their rental RV’s that have no previous experience handling a vehicle that size. Indeed one of them missed me by about an inch as the others let out huge gasps riding behind me seeing how close it came. The pools are another iconic feature of the Yellowstone national park with a strange spectrum of colours emitting from the bottomless pit.

Having had our tourist fill for the day we cycled on towards West Yellowstone which is actually just outside the park in Montana. The gentle downhill meant we cruised through the rest of the ride. The only downside of visiting Yellowstone by bike is that it is far to big see everything, you really need a car. The route takes you through the main attractions but its only the south-western tip, I would love to have been able to see more of the back country and probably more wildlife.

Afternoon.

State No.8 - Big Sky Country!

Once we got into town we contact Stefaan who had been trying to arrange the rest of us accommodation since he road on ahead having visited the park several times previously. The Hostel in town had one female room for Jessica and 3 males bunks, we needed 4. We managed to persuade them to let one of us sleep on the floor for subsidised price, they agreed and Wim offered to be the fall guy for the night.

We headed out for overpriced pizza and then some overpriced beer. This town is the gateway to the parks, it will be nice to get back into the quiet places after being ripped off the past few days.

Day 55: National Parks

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

60.70 miles (Total: 2997.67) Avg Speed: 11.4mph Max Speed: 39mph

The cabin was uber warm last night and the cycle shorts I had washed out yesterday had dried to a crisp. The gang gathered before setting out towards Grand Teton national park where we were supposed to spend last night. My eyes were fixed on the Tetons the whole time and I will not make any apologies for the amount of pictures I took of them today. They are one of the few things I’ve seen which I haven’t been able to do justice, Grand Canyon was another. The problem with capturing the Tetons is perspective. They stick out the water vertically like daggers amongst a flat landscape, scraping the sky. Definitely the single best thing my eyes have ever seen, my brain simply wasn’t good enough to process them. Just visit them.

We had taken in some great views of the range once we reached Colter Bay, I had paid an entry fee for the park though and was determined to find the best view unobstructed by tree’s, people and cabins so I checked the map and saw a foot path that looked as though it led me to the perfect spot. After ditching the bike and walking for about 10 minutes along a shaded trail I found my way out onto a pebbled beach area and got the flawless views I had been after. Well worth it I feel.

Chilling with the Tetons

After getting back on the road we cycled around Yellowstone lake taking in more views of the mountains before stopping for lunch and finding Stefaan who had pressed on ahead. Immediately after lunch we left Grand Teton for a short while before entering Yellowstone national park, they are housed together. I have been fascinated by Yellowstone since the BBC documentary last year so it felt incredible to have actually cycled here!

Funny sign, kind of.

The gang now back intact we continued towards Grant Village and I learnt a little more about the new riding companions. Wim is from Belgium and currently in the middle of a 6 month tour around the US, whilst Stefaan has actually lived in Seattle for 6 years then North Carolina and is now moving to Portland where he is cycling too having shipped his possessions in a container. Needless to say he has a semi-broken American accent now.

Jessica, Terry, Me & Stefaan.

During the wildfires of 1988 over a third of the trees were burnt down in Yellowstone. The burnt splints can still been seen 22 years later as the young trees start to take shape around them.

Stefaan at yet another Continental Divide.

We crossed a few more continental divide signs as we ride right along it. Since Pueblo we have been heading North all this time, the divide determines which ocean rainfall and rivers runs into. On one side of the sign everything goes to the Atlantic and on the other it all flows back out into the Pacific. After reaching Grant Village we got ourselves a hiker biker spot, unlike last night at Colter Bay, here they confirmed they would NEVER turn away hiker/bikers. Its not like we can just turn around an ride a few hours to the next place in a car.

After cleaning up we all headed into the village for a meal at the restaurant over the lake before returning to the site. All food and toiletries were placed in the bear proof container, Wim purchased some bear spray so should we have a grizzly intruder we were prepared. It was going to get down towards freeing point so I put on all the clothes I had with me again, cosy.

Female Elk

View over Yellowstone Lake from restaurant.

Day 54: Grizzly Country

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

54.99 miles (Total: 2936.97) Avg Speed: 9.8mph Max Speed: 35.5mph

This morning was a late start. Terry had put a dent in the whiskey last night and Eli was sleeping soundly. Everyone was eventually up around 9am so we headed back into downtown for breakfast. I glanced at the flags lining the street to see them all flapping the wrong way, today was going to be another hellish headwind. Before setting out I went to a store to grab supplies for the ride it was 11am by this time. The women in the shop, which was apparently famous for a huge Jackalope model, questioned why I would do a trip like this. “It just doesn’t seem like fun” she said. Neither does standing behind a checkout till all day you fool I thought.

Riding the Jackalope.

There was a large early climb of Togwotee Pass which was made incredibly difficult by the headwind. Today wasn’t going to be about speed but persistence, I’m not in a hurry anyway so it doesn’t matter. Halfway up one climb a women pulled over on the other side of the road and jogged down the hill holding something in her hand. She clapped and said “Bravo!” and “Keep riding!” while she handed me a chunk of gourmet fudge as I passed. It tasted amazing and the strange event was enough to let me forget about the headwind and just enjoy the scenery whilst crawling at 4.2mph. Some of it was possibly the best yet, around each corner huge spires dusted in snow climbed above the tree line. This was now grizzly country so I’m staying extra vigilant, the signs dotted along the roadside don’t let you forget. I’ve rode and camped through black bear country but thats hardly a concern really, Grizzly is a different ball game.

Grizzly country, play safe.

There was lots of construction work up on the pass and after climbing over the top we were stopped. JCB’s and cranes we shifting mud about re-laying a section of the road, this one we couldn’t walk through but a pilot car lets you stick your bike in the back and takes you past all the machinery. In the brief conversation he claimed to see 8-9 grizzlies a week up here and that two campgrounds in Grand Teton national park were closed last week due to increased activity. Once past the construction we found the others from last night and began to enjoy the rest of the 17mile decent. At this point there was 6 of us riding together. I love how flexible doing the trip like this is, people come and go as they please, you can ride alone for a while then with company at times to talk. The group is constantly expanding then dispersing and at any given time we could all be riding separate again.

The tribe of solo riders.

We got our first glimpse of the Tetons and they looked amazing, each turn took us closer. We had planned on camping at Colter Bay in Grand Teton national park tonight, this is where Eli would be leaving us as he is going to stay with friends in Jackson just off route. Down the road his ride came to pick him up and we said our goodbyes. He is cutting through Idaho and should meet us again at the start of Oregon which will be great. Like I said in the last post, even though its only been two days riding, they have been some of the longest days on the trip due to the headwind so its felt like weeks.

Terry, Me, Eli. Crisps & Ice Cream.

Another collectors item shot.

Tetons in the distance.

Getting closer.

We get to the entrance of the park and are told all campsites are full. The maps specifically point out they have hiker/biker walk in group areas for us to stay at. The woman doesn’t seem to compute and continues to tell us all sites are full. From the entrance its about 15 miles to the site, or its around 5 miles back from where we just came to a previous one. Its getting dark so we decided to just head back and find they have campsites for $40 a night or cabins for $50, so we take 2 cabins between the 5 of us. We sit and chat through the night until it gets cold and head inside, I can’t wait to see the Tetons in full view.

Wim

Day 53: Windy Wyoming

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

77.41 miles (Total: 2881.98) Avg Speed: 9.6mph Max Speed: 32.5mph

I got up and headed over to the shower block this morning and saw Eli, I asked again if he wanted to ride with us today and he did so we got sorted and headed over for breakfast next door. After getting on the road around 9:30 we killed the first 30 miles entering an Indian Reservation in the mean time. It was cool having another new face to talk too so the miles went pretty quick. Eli had made his own way across to this point and was now hopping on the TransAm route for a while.

The new addition.

We stopped for lunch at a rest area just after turning left into the Wind River valley. Once we took that turn I soon knew the rest of the day was going to be tough. Aptly named along with Windy Mountain and Windy ridge this place was a wind tunnel. Its the first strong headwind I have experienced all trip. After a brief lunch of sardines and bagels we begrudgingly headed back out into the wind.

Create your own caption.

It was tough work in the wind and we had to draft of each other for around 15 miles just to make any progress. It had completely halted our average speed but we still had a long way to go until Dubois. As the day rolled on the wind only got stronger, I estimated our time of arrival in Dubois at 7pm, then changed to 8pm then 9pm. We were crawling. The wind hit like a brick wall and threw my bike side to side. I still managed to find it pretty funny though, here we were on pretty flat terrain with and invisible object rendering us to a standstill, its hilarious! The scenery on the reservation was visibly blasted over centuries by these winds looking worn and tired.

So you've been breaking all my spokes.

On the way into Dubois me an Eli were becoming furious at these drivers cruising about in the dark with no lights on, then I realised we both still had our sunglasses on, dumb. It was still getting onto 9 by the time we reached town and we cruised through looking for a place to stay. At each motel we were confronted with ‘No Vacancy’ signs. We are only an hour or so drive to several national parks so its a busy place. Eventually we find a motel but cruise straight back into town for food before everywhere closes. The two guys and the girl who turned up at the motel last night are about to head to the bar next door.  The two guys are both from Belgium but are not together, Wim and Stefaan. The girl is Jessica Bell from Florida, whose comments I have seen in the various cycling logbooks since I started out in Virginia. We follow into the bar full of kids that look about 14, the women I.D’s Eli, we only want food he knows he can’t drink. She tells him he’s not even allowed in the bar. So he and Terry head back to the motel whilst I wait for a few pizza’s to be cooked and then head back to the motel with them balanced on my handlebar.

When I get back I find Terry has got a carry out of beers so we celebrate finishing the tough day with a drink and some pizza. We have only been riding with Eli for one day but it feels like weeks after that, we were in the saddle about 9 hours.


Day 52: Grounded In Lander

Friday, July 16th, 2010

I woke this morning knowing my bike was long overdue getting the break pads replaced, my clothes were a mess I had nothing clean. I wanted that Brooks saddle and the World Cup final would be on this afternoon. I decide to inform Terry I won’t be riding today and he is only to happy to join me in a zero mile day.

Blog City

It was an amazing feeling opening the day up like that, at 7am I thought I was riding, 10 minutes later its a day off in Lander! We go for a huge breakfast at a cafe, I ordered the 18 wheeler and couldn’t finish. I then took my bike to the shop and investigated the Brooks further. Joe and Cooper both rode Brooks and along with every other tourer they are sworn by as the best saddle money can buy. It an English company but they are still alot cheaper for me to buy here than home so I took the plunge.

For the World Cup final we headed back to the forge where a few dutch people in town had converted the bar for the afternoon. The bartender Victor was supporting Spain and cracked jokes all game winding the dutch up, whilst supplying us with free popcorn. So Spain won, the dutch were sad and we went and picked the bikes up. We couldn’t stay at the Hostel a second night because it was fully booked so took advantage of a motel offer in town which lets cyclists camp at back and use the shower and jacuzzi facilities.

Its going to take me years to get rid of those tan lines.

My new Brooks waiting to be broken in.

At the end of the night the place suddenly went biker crazy, first 2 guys and a girl turned up but got rooms at the motel then two other people on recumbents arrived with another guy called Eli. We chatted briefly, the recumbents had actually just finished their trip but Eli was keen to ride with us tomorrow, he is 20 and from upstate New York. He isn’t following the transam completely but is ending in pretty much the same place.

Day 51: Landed In Lander

Friday, July 16th, 2010

59.72 miles (Total: 2804.57) Avg Speed: 11.1mph Max Speed: 29mph

I woke a little disorientated in the clubhouse wondering if last night really happened, this place is surreal. We went back over to the cafe for breakfast and the women offered to fill our water bottles up, what’s wrong with Jeffrey city! We hit the road expecting undulating downhill towards Lander today. Services were extremely limited again so I had to rely on the last supplies for mid-ride snacks. The only problem was mosquito’s were terrible again, if you stopped for even a second you had 15-20 latch onto you. A nice drivers rest area gave some reprieve but they still managed to get indoors from the people coming in and out all the time.

After taking a breather some random storms started cropping up around us, they were isolated and didn’t look to threatening. We enjoyed a nice descent into the plateau below before the clouds started looking more serious. I really don’t enjoy getting caught in these things so the adrenalin pumps me to ride fast. We got hit by some rain towards the edge of Lander and each car would spray me as they drove by, my poor bike was covered in mud splats.

d

After getting into Lander we went straight to the bike shop, I was considering investing in a Brooks saddle. The shop was great and gave us advice on places to stay in Lander. Its a cool town with lots going on, currently climbers are filling out the town running courses. We managed to get booked in at a hostel across the street my clothes and bike are filthy.

After cleaning up we headed into town first to a bar called The Forge and then for food where we were able to sit out on the deck in the nice evening. I ordered the chicken parmo which was very different to our home delicacy but still delicious. Ready for bed I crashed out after stealing a second pillow from a spare bed.

Chicken Parmo out on the deck.

What's this?

My name is Ryan Anderson, in Summer 2010 I rode my bike across America. Starting on the east coast in Yorktown, VA and finishing in Florence, OR. Read more

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