Update From the Road #4:  Cross Country Bike Trip 2005 Archive

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Greetings from west of the Rockies! I figured I would give you a little Monday morning reading. I am in the town of Meridian, Idaho, a suburb of Boise. Things have not been boring since last update. I know that I already mentioned just how bad the wind has been, but it has gotten worse since last update. Coming through Wyoming sand was blowing off the prairie so hard that it stung when it pelted my skin. There were also a few times where my bike got a little sideways in the wind while riding and I had to turn around so as the wind wouldn’t blow me over. Ok, I know, enough with the wind, you get it already.

It also seems that I can’t send out an update without some sort of dog incident. This time I was in Wyoming pedaling down the road minding my own business, miles from any town. A woman passed me in her car coming the other way making all sorts of weird hand signals. I just shrugged it off, but about a mile up the road two wild dogs spotted me and made a run. I had some good distance between us, but they just kept barking and coming. I had nowhere else to go but back the way I came. I ended up going back a half-mile and waited until I could flag down a passing pickup truck. I hopped in the back until we passed the dogs, got out, jumped back on my bike and continued on. I didn’t make it this far to be mauled by a couple of wild dogs. They weren’t a Poodle and a Dachshund either.

All along, one of my big concerns on this trip was beating the snow in the mountains. Well, I failed. Not only did I not beat the snow, but I got snowed in. I left Dubois, WY hoping to make the 3,000-foot climb over the continental divide to Jackson Hole in a day. The forecast for the day was scattered showers and I got plenty of those at lower elevations. The high temp for the day was in the low 40’s. There is nothing quite like a cold rain. Between the rain and the temperature my hands went numb. To boot, there was a sign on the side of the road that read “Beware Grizzly Bears”. Great. Another couple miles up the road the thunder started, then the lightning. As I didn’t want to be, “that idiot on a bike who got hit by lightning”, I started looking for some shelter. Luckily a mile or two up the road was the Lava Mountain Lodge. I pulled in to warm up and try to wait out the rain, but it only turned to snow. Cars coming over the mountain were blanketed in snow and I figured my hopes of making it to Jackson Hole were shot. I had to call it a day 17 miles in. Although, at 2:00 it cleared a bit and I thought I might have a chance, but by 2:30 the clouds were dark and the sky white with snow. So I sat in my room all day cleaning my bike, watching reruns of the Drew Carey show as the snow fell.

The following day the weather broke, or seemingly so. Being that the warmest clothing I had was a pair of bike shorts and a rain jacket, I waited until 11:00 to make another run at the mountains. It was a 10-mile climb straight up. I kept waiting for the road to level out to catch a breather, but it never happened. The mountains were still blanketed in snow from the previous day, but the road was clear. About halfway to the top it started snowing. Despite being frozen solid, the scenery was quite beautiful with the snow coming down. At one point I stopped to put plastic bags on my feet and hands. With my ghetto cold weather gear I felt a bit better. While it was a long climb, it wasn’t very steep at a 6% grade. After a tough climb and with snow falling, I made it to the top of Togwotee Pass. It was 9,658 feet and will be the highest point above sea level of the trip.

Normally, the 17 miles downhill on the back side of the Rockies would have been the highlight of my trip, but when it is 25 degrees and I am hitting the brakes to keep it below 30 MPH because the wind-chill has taken it to me and the plastic bags on my extremities, its not. Hitting an icy spot on the road would not have enhanced my enjoyment of the trip. I had to stop at the first rest stop after about 8 miles and another about the same distance further down the mountain. By this point the rain turned to hail and damn, it hurt. The road stayed clear, but if much more hail or snow came down, I would have to again cut my day short. Luckily, a little further down the mountain the hail turned to rain. It was still cold, but I was able to ride. I had to wait about an hour at my second stop for the shivering to subside, but after that I was good to go for the rest of the day.

I took a day off in Jackson Hole, WY after the Rockies. I checked out the town, but more importantly bought some long biking pants, gloves and booties. The next day I had to climb another 2,000 feet to clear the Tetons at 8,431 feet, which hem in the west side of Jackson Hole. The main climb wasn’t as long as the Rockies, maybe 6 miles, but it was at a 10% grade. That is a 10% grade. Did you catch that? A 10% grade. I thought the Tetons were a much harder climb than the Rockies. On a positive note though, there was a 10% grade down the backside of the Tetons as well. This time I was prepared clothing wise and it wasn’t snowing/hailing/raining. Ripping down the mountain crossing into Idaho I clocked my new top speed, 52.8 MPH. When I slowed down to 30 it felt like I was barely poking along.

In Idaho, which has scenery much like Wyoming, I stayed in glorious towns such as Arco, which was the first town in the US to be powered by atomic energy. The town is located just outside the Idaho National Laboratory, home to over 50 nuclear reactors. I also made a stop in Gooding, which has no particular significance other than it is where I spent my Saturday night. The Motel/Restaurant/Bar is for the most part the only place to stay in town. I had to walk through the restaurant to the bar to check in. You never get any funny looks walking through a restaurant or a bar while wearing bike clothes, nah. The bartender walked over, spitting in the garbage can before he mumbled “Cai hep ya?” I don’t know what was more obvious, the number of tattoos he was sporting or the massive scar on his bald head. The motel room, well, I’ll start with the fact that there was no blanket and the sink had no knob for the hot water. Do I have to go any further than that? Although I have no evidence of it, I am almost certain that at some point in time there was a chalk outline of a corpse on that floor.

I was sitting in the room at ten o’clock when the band started playing in the bar. I had no shot at getting any sleep as I could hear the music as if I were standing next to one of the speakers. You know what they say; if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em, so I went to the bar for a few beers. My bartender friend was still working and I didn’t really think about it earlier, but if you gave him a blazer and put two bolts in his neck, you would have a good stunt double for Frankenstein.

On the ride in the past two weeks I have been able see a number of national parks, even if it was just passing through. They include: Thunder Basin National Grassland, Shoshone National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, Targhee National Forest and Craters of the Moon National Monument. Craters of the Moon National monument looks exactly like the moon…if the moon had grass on it. It was actually pretty cool, but looked more like the area around Volcano Chico in the Galapagos. But hey, they didn’t ask me to name the park.

Well, if all goes well tomorrow, I should end the day in Oregon. Here are the stats:

Days Ridden: 38
Total Miles: 2,812
Average Miles a Day: 74.0
Most Counties ridden through in one day: 4
Most Bike friendly town: Jackson, Wyoming


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