Leading up to the launch of my memoir Hangry: A Startup Journey, each month I’m releasing a state-by-state recap.
For the original post, click on any Day number heading.
Day 46: Walden, CO to Saratoga, WY
Today’s ride was as representative of the trail as a single day could be. Ups and downs, but more ups than downs. The ups are mostly things I’ve seen before: beautiful views, good conversation, hot springs, mostly downhill. I’ve crossed another state line.
The downs weren’t too bad. There was one nasty hill Paul named Soddingbastardwindinyourfacenocover Hill. After cresting that bad boy and rolling into the town of Riverside, I was on very low energy. After lunch, I put on my emergency playlist. Somewhere around Daft Punk, I started to get my mojo back.
The day ended well with a visit to the National Forest Ranger Station where I picked up some maps and info on public lands near our route. Our intention is to do some dispersed camping over the next couple weeks.
After arriving in Saratoga, Paul, Terry, Chuck, and I enjoyed a soak in a free scalding hot spring before heading off to our campsite. And although the campsite was beautiful, the mosquitos were insane. A pickup truck came by and sprayed some kind of life-shortening mist in the air. Worth the trade-off for less mosquitos.
Day 47: Saratoga to Lamont
We backtracked from the campground to Saratoga for breakfast. I had a cinnamon roll sliced thin and done up french toast style. I was pretty decadent. But then again, I’m riding my bike across the country, so who are you to judge?
About 20 miles in, we enjoyed the unique cycling experience of legally riding a bike on an interstate. There are no other ways to get around this section of Wyoming, so cyclists are allowed. I can say I never want to do it again. All was well and good until road construction dropped the wide shoulder and squeezed us down to one lane.
After a disastrous two hours at Pizza Hut, we were behind schedule. But we decided to push on some serious miles to get to the “town” of Lamont. Another time over the Continental Divide transitions us from lush to desert. The sheer variety of beautiful rock structures continues to impress me.
The final 15 miles of today’s long ride was pretty challenging and the town of Lamont has exactly 0 buildings. Nothing here at all. We find a ramshackle little collection of buildings, farm animals, discarded trucks, and an outhouse. This was the cyclists’ camping we were looking for. Our hostess, JD, was as kind as could be. She built us a fire and in the morning sent us off with coffee. I learned again not to judge a place or a person by their appearance.
Day 48: Lamont to Lander
92 miles to the next real town. Headwind blowing like all get out. Best not to think of it and just start pedaling. Paul, Terry, Jonathan, Jerry, and myself got going pretty early together, but Jerry and Jonathan split off just about right away since the Brits and I tend to lollygag about a bit more. After a few miles of headwind it turned mysteriously into a tailwind, which we didn’t complain about except for the mosquitos it helped out.
We made good time after a poor breakfast and found a really cool historical site at Split Rock. This very recognizable formation was a waypoint on the Oregon Trail, so it has a special significance for us tourers, who are loosely following in their wagon ruts.
During the latter part of the day, the sky was dominated up ahead by ominous anvil-shaped thunder thunder clouds. By sheer luck, we arrived at a rest station minutes before the storm broke, and we didn’t get a drop of rain on us.
A few miles down the road, I split off from the Brits to enjoy some solitude. The views were one hit after another as I emerged from the desert climate of South Central Wyoming. Various stratified cliff faces, ochre outcrops, sandstone promontories, and snowy peaks greeted me as I swiftly cruised the next 30 miles and gradually lost 1,500 vertical feet.
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Day 50: Lander to Dubois
The town of Lander has been good to us. The Pronghorn Lodge had big rooms, a hot tub, coin laundry, a hearty breakfast, and internet. The town sported a few great restaurants, including a local brewery that served one of the best dinners we’ve had. Well rested after a day off, Paul, Terry, and I left our hotel.
We began our journey by cycling through the Wind River Indian Reservation. The landscape varied from lush and flat along the river valleys to arid and not quite hilly. There were lots of truncated hills, forming tiny plateaus.
I have more days now that I think to myself “I’m getting to be a strong cyclist.” I continue to get stronger, and it doesn’t hurt that I’m now lighter than I was in high school. My progress has nothing to do with diet and all about riding my bike 4,000 miles. This is what I told myself as the three of us devoured 6 cinnamon rolls for lunch.
With majestic mountains in the distance, rolling hills are dotted by trees and ribboned with waterfalls. Off to one side, there are dramatic walls of red, ochre, and pink cliff walls inviting me to climb and clamber over them. Sadly, this trip is not the time to linger here.
In front of me, the rushing Wind River crashes against striking red rock structures. Above this grandeur and beauty, anvil-shaped thunderclouds alternate with striking blue skies. The sun pierces through the edge of a cloud, illuminating one feature for a few seconds with brilliant stabs of light, and then jumps over to another. The scene is timeless in the rocks, buttes, and mountains.
This valley is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever experienced. I thank God for the chance to enjoy such an amazing creation. The photos just don’t capture the stunning and grand beauty of this place.
Day 51: Dubois to Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park
The Teton range inside Grand Teton National Park is comprised of about a dozen peaks, ranging from just under 11,000 feet to just over 12,000. The single peak of Grand Teton itself towers over its brothers at 13,770. These mountains are shorter yet more dramatic than the 14k-footers Colorado, with the long plain of grassland to the east, running for miles before abruptly hitting the feet of the mountains. The only barrier between the plains and the mountains are a series of crystal clear lakes that had been carved out by millennia of glacier movement at the base of the mountain.
In my last visit here (2007), I had my first introduction to the concept of cycle touring. I was flabbergasted by the idea that someone could ride hundreds or even thousands of miles with their camping equipment. I had daydreamed about hiking the Appalachian Trail, but it was here at Grand Teton Park the desire to quit my job and ride across the country took hold.
Getting to our campground yesterday was a challenge and a pleasure. We got started late and stopped often. The 2,700 feet ascent to Togwotee Pass was one of the longest single-day climbs of the trip. The grade was moderate at 6%, but fortunately, we are strong enough to make the climb with minimal drama.
We were all on the lookout for wildlife. Kudos to Terry’s eagle eyes for spotting a moose in the midst of some heavy brush. We sat dumbfounded for about 20 minutes as the moose violently tore chunks of bushes apart. As she turned to go, a little calf that had been hidden bounded out beside her.
After cresting the pass, Terry and Paul spotted what looked like a brown tree stump in the distance. But this time it moved. Two bears, about a mile and a half away, with a tell-tale light ridge on the shoulders confirmed we were looking at a grizzly mama and her cub. We did not linger, but it was exhilarating to be this close with a solid, downhill escape route.
We arrived to the full campground late, but fortunately they save a few spots for folks arriving on bikes and we were able to setup our tents outside of the tent pads on the sacrosanct ground itself.
Day 52: Rest Day at Snake River Brewery
My day “off” in the Tetons was relaxing, but still a moderate cycling day. As dawn broke, I went for a swim in Jenny Lake, my favorite Grand Teton tradition. It wasn’t much of a swim though. I lasted about 0.07 seconds before jumping right back out, spluttering frosty expletives.
While we were imbibing our wonderfully hot coffee-like beverage, we decided to take the park shuttle down to Jackson to see the sites. But the shuttle was 25 minutes late when we decided to go back and get our bikes.
With a storm threatening us as we arrived in Jackson, we barely made it to Snake River Brewery. We enjoyed a wonderful meal and wonderfuller beers. The rain forced us to forego much more exploration of Jackson, so we picked up a 6-pack and headed back to the campsite.
The evening was a fantastic blend of cyclists, backpackers, and hitchhikers all cooking their ramen noodles and enjoying some fantastic beers. Suzy, the camp host, sauntered over to enjoy some time with us, and gave us some firewood and chairs. I enjoyed the company of friends who were once strangers well into the night beside a warm fire in the shadow of the Tetons.
Day 53: Jenny Lake to Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park
Sadly, this morning I left the Tetons. On the way out, I encountered a massive hart. Its antlers were stupendously large, which he shook about as he pawed at the ground. Paul mused that taking an excellent shot of one of these beasts with a telephoto zoom lens in just the right light is every bit as challenging as shooting it with a rifle. Of course, that leaves the stately creature for another to enjoy.
The day was cold and rainy, but I’ve got the right equipment for it. The ride out of Teton was pleasant, if wet. At a picnic area just before leaving, I witnessed the beauty of creation on both a grand scale and a minuscule scale. The Teton range across Jackson Lake is spic with rain clouds washing over the mountains. I then witnessed a tiny praying mantis with his head popped out around a purple wildflower.
We arrived in Yellowstone Park and encountered our first notable scenery just past the entrance: our first Yellowstone waterfall. Obligatory blurred waterfall shots abound.
We worked our way through 15 forms, 9 monetary transactions, and 3 hours into nighttime to have a campground with showers and laundry. The campsite itself is a truly beautiful dense alpine forest right out of a 1950s postcard. It snowed for a little last night (yes, in summer). The day’s forecast calls for sunny skies about 24 hours from now, but some sun would be a welcome treat. We’ll see.