Sunday, July 31, 2016

Zigzag for Miles

Day 55 - July 30th
48.4 miles
Total: 2265.8 miles
Moving Avg: 9.3 mph
Overall Avg: 5.4 mph

Our hosts brought out a tray of hot coffee this morning. What a nice treat to wake to as we set out for Whitefish. We said our goodbyes to the hosts and the two other cyclists (from Holland) and ventured north.

Today can be described as a miniature snapshot of the whole Great Divide Mountain Bike Trail.

We certainly didn't get the arid desert experience, but we got most everything else on a miniature scale. The route from Ferndale was a series of connected roads, paved and gravel, which zigzagged northward toward Whitefish. It was not the fastest or most direct route between the two cities, but the route has never really cared for the most direct route.

We passed through ranchland, like almost the entirety of the trail. We passed through farmland like some small sections of the trail (I'm looking at you Idaho). We passed through open treeless plains, like some big sections of the trail (I'm looking at you Wyoming). We passed through forested green corridors, like some recent stretches of the trail (I'm looking at you Montana). We passed over long gradual climbs that were perfectly graded for easy climbs, like some passes we have seen (I'm looking at you Colorado). But to be fair, these climbs were one hundred feet, not three thousand. Keep in mind this is a scaled down Great Divide Route.

We passed through hot beating sun like New Mexico, and windy stretches like Wyoming. We rode on gravel. We rode on paving with good shoulders, and paving with no shoulders. We rode on highways and private property. We stopped for coffee at road side diners, and we stopped for burgers at town restaurants.

We told people of our adventures, and we passed other cyclists. And to top off the day we had a drink in Whitefish and then bought ice cream. We thought we bought three Klondike Bars from the grocery store, but we actually bought six by accident. Since we couldn't eat them all by the time the heat melted them, we gave them to strangers on the street. Everyone we offered them to said no at first, but then quickly changed their mind and happily took the cold treat on a hot day.

Then we biked to our Warm Showers host, who have given us a royal treatment that feels akin to a luxury hotel or bed and breakfast. Tonight we shall sleep like king and queen.

Live life at a slower place.

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Saturday, July 30, 2016

Welcome to the Jungle

Day 54 - July 30th
46 miles
Total: 2217.4 miles
Moving Avg: 8.4 mph
Overall Avg: 5.8 mph

I suppose if a man brings a weedwacker to the forest, he may be loud. Or maybe the chainsaw could be a clue. Or perhaps the fact that he brought an ATV that was turned on between weedwacking and chainsawing should have been the clue that prepped us. Or maybe when he said "I like dispersed campsites" said with bunny ears around dispersed might have been a red flag. We even ignored the comment about his "sweet sound system that [he] likes to crank up."

Shortly after we crawled into bed, Welcome to the Jungle and other great 80s rock music was blast into the thick of trees. Our ear plugs drowned out most everything, but the bass beats. Then just after dozing off he decided it was time to fire off a couple of rounds from his gun.

At least no bears will come by we thought as slept took over.

At five thirty we woke, hoping to get a jump start on the day. The last several days have been mighty hot and humid, and we wanted to get as many miles under our belt as possible before the heat swallowed us in its stifling embrace.

One quarter of a mile later, we passed homes with "Slow Children At Play" signs. I hope last night's gunfire was well aimed.

The rest of the ride was through the green tunnel, or maybe green corridor. There was little to no views of the mountain ranges surrounding us. Instead we had to find joy in the "impressive stands of Larch, Douglas Fir, and White Pine" in the area. I do have to admit though, the ride was fairly enjoyable. It had rolling hills of easy grade, and a surface that was just smooth enough to not annoy, and just bumpy enough to have fun with path finding.

As the heat climbed, we dropped off the hillside and crossed Swan River to catch a soda at the town of Swan Lake. From there we bypassed a hot viewless climb through the green corridor, by riding the highway to camp. It was a moderately quiet highway, which passed along the lengthy Swan Lake. The views of the lake and the forested hillsides were a nice trade up.

At the end of our ride, we arrived at our hosts place, but not without difficulty. Googlemaps directed us through private property and then through landscaping with no path or road. We had to backtrack and do our own route finding. I couldn't even use my GPS map because it stopped loading for me today.

We made it to our hosts, and found our way into a Teepee for the night. That's pretty neat.

Live life at a slower place.

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Single Track for Miles/Pretties

Day 53 - July 29th
55 miles
Total: 2171.4 miles
Moving Avg: 7.1 mph
Overall Avg: 5.1 mph

Today the trail gave us a special treat. It was beautiful for once. I am, of course, being facetious. Much of the trail is beautiful, it just happens that today felt like the beauty I set out to see.

We woke early to tackle the 2600ft climb before us. The guidebook described the trail in a manner which ached for us to opt for the easier highway route, but cyclists didn't speak so negatively on its difficulty. So, after quiche and coffee, we began the slow arduous ascent up and around Richmond Peak. We were facing five to six percent grade with warnings of washed out roads and downed trees.

The first fourteen miles slid past almost effortlessly. The grade was a little steep, but our strength was replenished after yesterday's semi rest day. We didn't need to push at all on the gravel roads, and only pushed when we hit the single track route near the top. It, however, had such a beautiful view that it would be a shame to ride through. One of the problems with single track riding is that you are so focused on path finding for your wheels that you don't get a chance to absorb the nature you are passing through.

So we pushed.

And we looked at the steep ridge lines and plummeting valleys. We looked at the striations in the rock, and how the vegetation crept up the seems of those cracks. We looked at dense green valleys fed by the watershed, and the rich variety of plants found here. We looked at the burnt trees, and the fire weed that has grown to restore the sole pH. We looked at the trees scarred by Bark Beetles, and the mixture of living and dead trees.

Sometimes my eyes wandered too long, and I would overlook a stick jutting into the single track. It would scratch my leg and remind me that I needed to watch the path before me as well.

After the climb, we had a long descent to our destination of Peck Lake. The trail dropped down to warmer air, and sun helped bake the surroundings. Our rests fell in shade patches, and once we hit the Swan Highway we were ready for a soda. We cycled past our turnoff to get soda at a nearby restaurant. Rather than backtrack, we followed the highway a little further and took a turnoff to reconnect with the trail to Peck Lake. The views from the highway were fantastic, as it ran along the Swan River in the valley between the Swan Mountains and Mission Mountains.

We rode back up to the trail, which is carved narrowly through the trees. This offers few views, but instead gives us the long green tunnel effect.

When we arrived at Peck Lake, it was a little more like a murky Lily Pad covered bog than a lake, and the whole place gave us the hee bee jeebies. We opted to move on to the next available site. Half a mile later we hit a stream with a roadside site being used by some RV campers. We introduced ourselves and asked to camp near them, and they obliged.

Shortly thereafter our warm salty skin was in the cold fresh stream, our bellies were filled with food, our bear bag was hung in the tree, and our tent beckoned for some prone rest.

Live life at a slower place.

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

To Seeley Lake for Rest

Day 52 - July 28th
31.4 miles
Total: 2116.4 miles
Moving Avg: 8.2 mph
Overall Avg: 5.7 mph

Nature told us to rest today. Well sort of.

When the alarm sounded at the museum, we popped our eyes open and looked out of the barred window of our Hoosgow. It looked like the building down the road was in fire, but in truth it was just the strange orange glow of the old school street lights. It wasn't a fire alarm, but rather the security alarm for the museum. We stood outside the Hoosgow with our headlamps looking this way and that way trying to figure out what was going on. I had the sneaking suspicion that if the police came, and they saw us with our headlamps we would have been arrested and thrown in a real jail.

The police never came. The alarm did finally shut off, but only after making sure we were fully awake. Eventually we fell back to slumber land. Coffee awaited us in the morning, with welcome wafts.

After enjoying coffee, and hashing over route options, we settled for the official route. It is fairly apparent to both of us that we are tired, and ready to wrap this tour up. We do, however, know that the most beautiful miles lay before us.

We hit the road, which wandered through a little ranchland before dumping us deep into the dense forest. The road was very smooth by Montana standards, and the miles rolled past fairly easy, despite the climb. The dense forest gave way to slightly more sparse lodgepole pines which gave way to greater variety in vegetation.
We were debating on whether to side route to Seeley Lake for lunch, and a possible alternate. After running into a couple southbound cyclists, they sold us on the town. It had cheap camping, laundry, and showers. With the last two days being fairly exhausting, and a solid climb ahead of us, we settled on making the day a short one.

As if to seal the deal, the humid day turned to rain just before we hit the turnoff. It was a light sprinkle, but just enough to say: You are human, you don't belong here, you should find shelter.

By the time we made it down to Seeley Lake the sprinkle had stopped. We went to the campground, which did not have showers. Back on the bikes we rolled the other direction down the highway to the RV Park behind a motel. They had showers, and complementary sodas. What luck!

Cleaned and refreshed we went to the laundromat and to lunch. Our schedule will need a rework, but one of the last major climbs in Montana is now saved for a morning climb.

....and then the picnic table fell over with us on it.... but that's another story.

Live life at a slower place.

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To the county Hoosgow (Jail)

Day 51 - July 27th
51.1 miles
Total: 2085 miles
Moving Avg: 8.7 mph
Overall Avg: 5.2 mph

We had a monumental climb this morning. It wasn't much bigger than other climbs we have done. All in all, it was about 2200 feet to gain. What made it monumental is that most of it was in a three mile stretch. We were pushing our bikes up rocky 10-12 percent grade slopes, and not liking the challenge too much.

In reality, it wasn't too bad. Just a little toasty and humid and steep and rocky. Apricots had a mini freak out at the top. Her odometer tends not to work at slow paces, so she was watching it not tick up for several minutes as she made the slow climb. It was defeating her will to be exerting all this force uphill on her bike, and not see any digital progress on the odometer screen. She finally rage quit, throwing her bike, and helmet. It was sort of funny to see, but I knew it just meant that it was time for second breakfast. Half a mile later we reached the top, and had downhill for miles.

The downhill started steep but not too rocky. Unfortunately, most of the first few miles required us to ride our brakes 100% of the time. Eventually this gave way to a more gradual slope, and we slowly up ticked our average moving speed. Humerously enough, when we had made our way down to the other side, our overall average was still slower than when we hike.

Ten miles later, ice cold soda in Lincoln, MT. A couple hours after that we were having ice cream in Ovando, MT. Tonight we are staying in Ovando. We were able to reserve the county Hoosgow (jail) from the historic museum in the town. They allow cyclists to sleep in their jail cell (no longer functioning). This wooden hut with iron bars was built in the late 1800s and has housed some of Ovando's deviant criminals. It is a little toasty in this wooden box, but what a fun experience,

Live life at a slower place.

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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Two Thousand Miles, Baby!

Day 50 - June 17th
44.5 miles
Total: 2033.9 miles
Moving Avg: 6.9 mph
Overall Avg: 5.0 mph

Well the day was better, but our exhaustion from yesterday must have played into our performance today.

This morning we woke to clear skies and had breakfast with Ville. It wasn't anything glamorous, but it was our last meal together. Today we moved north and Ville headed into Helena. Our goal is to reach Banff by August 8th, he has until late August so he is slowing down.

We said our goodbyes and rolled down the trail. The route we took passed us through a bleeding gash in the earth, fresh clearcuts. Many clearcuts that we have passed through have started rehabilitation, this one was freshly clear cut so it had the mixed aroma of sawdust, mud, and diesel.

We passed the logging operation and dropped a steep rough drop to Rimini, MT an old mining town that once had over 100 mines feeding the wealth of its citizens. Now, fewer than fifty residents live there. Shortly past the town, the gravel road was being prepped for paving. As such the road crew wouldn't let us cycle through. They had to load our bikes in the pilot car and roll us the five miles downhill. The whole operation took longer than it would have if we had just cycled ourselves downhill, but I guess "Safety First."

After getting back on the saddle, we made the long bumby climb over the next pass. It is our conclusion that each state is trying to kill us in its own special way.
New Mexico - Heat
Colorado - Beauty
Wyoming - Wind
Idaho - Pesticides
Montana - Steep roads of dismal condition.
Canada - Bears, I suspect.

We eventually made it to the top of the very bumpy pass and then started the descent. You know the road is steep and rough when you are constantly riding your breaks, and the bumps don't let you safely ride beyond seven miles per hour. Our hands got more exhausted than our legs.

Fortunately we had an amazing host awaiting our arrival. Barbara Nye puts cyclists up in her cabin. She even had it stocked with wine, beer, food, water, and candy for us. We sat and socialized with Barbara Nye and John Denver until the rain sent them indoors to their house. We made use of the cabin to rest up, prepare dinner, and plan for tomorrow.

As of eight o'clock, it appears as though we may have the tiny cabin to ourselves. A welcome retreat after two rough days. I wonder how tomorrow will fare.

Live life at a slower place.

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Full Spectrum Day

Day 49 - July 25th
55.9 miles
Total: 1989.4 miles
Moving Avg: 6.6 mph
Overall Avg: 4.9 mph

Ooph, today was a beast. The maps had an alternate route which could be used to bypass some of the "routes most difficult miles." Since Apricots and I are not planning on going to Helena, the alternate route was out of the way for us. Besides, we wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

This morning we woke up and had more cheesecake with our hosts before saying goodbye. We had a big day ahead with two major climbs, not to mention the climb out of Butte.

We hit the road at 8am, and made the initial climb out of Butte, exiting through the backdoor of the town, meandering through a bit of ranchland before beginning the first climb which took us over a pass to the small town of Basin. Along the way we all commented on the quietness of the road, as if it were the calm before the storm. The road was packed dirt with decomposed granite, the forest was pine with hints of aspen, and the sky was blue. Overall the forest felt more like a hunting forest than a camping and admiring nature forest.

Ville caught up with us at the summit while we talked with a group of five or six cyclists who were southbound with a support vehicle. After passing the Continental Divide Trail at the summit, we rolled down to Basin taking lunch before deciding our plan from there. Ville is heading in to Helena, and we are not. Ultimately we have different time tables and can no longer cycle together. He had to decide whether to say goodbye to us at lunch or roll the next 25 miles with us before our paths parted ways.

He opted for 20 more miles with us, which we had heard glorified/horrified stories of its difficulty. We hit the trail, and made a beautiful but steep climb up a canyon with the stream at our side. The blue sky, however, had been replaced with a daunting gray cloud looming over us. It was hard to ignore, as our climb was so steep our bikes were practically pointed at the cloud as we ascended.

Suddenly the steep climb turned mild. The good thing about steep climbs is that you gain the elevation much quicker. We commented that maybe all the horror stories were exaggerated from southbounders who had hit their first true challenge, and that maybe we had built up the challenge too much in our heads.

Then fourteen miles after lunch, as per map directions and gps route, I turned a sharp right into the woods. Ville said, "You're joking, right?" Apricots scanned her narrative closely and questioned whether I made a mistake.

I had not, we were about to "enjoy" the difficult stretch we had heard so much about. The next three miles were rough but rideable, even enjoyable. Then I made a right turn up what can only be described as cycling up a water free cascading waterfall. The steepness was too great for any of us to ride, and pushing was also difficult, but we managed. Then the route became rideable for another short jaunt before encountering the steepness that even a skilled rider with a full suspension would likely opt out of on the downhill.

Fortunately, that only lasted half a mile. We crested the climb, and suddenly thunder boomed in the proximity of our route. We had one mile to the high point and then five downhill miles. Well, it turned out that the next three miles were equally difficult for the novices that Apricots and I are. While Ville moved along fairly steadily, the two of us were constantly stepping off bike to push around the boulders and tree roots which obstructed the steep trail.

I fell after hitting a batch of sand, and fell a little later on when I misjudged gear combination and route choice. Apricots fell a little further down the trail when she couldn't unclip her foot fast enough at a precarious maneuver. When we finally emerged from the difficult terrain Ville shouted joy at finding a real gravel road. He started pedaling fast and joyously swerving happy turns until he hit a sandy turn at full speed and completely whiped out on his bike. Apricots and I were going three miles per hour or less when we fell, Ville fifteen to twenty. He shredded his leg with some serious road rash.

Then the rain started. We pedaled fast as lightening started striking within a mile of us. Then the rain turned to hail. We had one mile to the campsite. A woman drove past us giving us the "are you crazy" eyes. Finally, near the campsite we saw an outhouse. The three of us huddled under its small shelter waiting out the brunt of the storm.

After the rain passed, we pushed the final quarter mile to the lake where we found a campsite, and a nearby camper with fire. Shortly thereafter we had a fire built with the assistance of the two boys at the neighboring site. They happily ran around gathering the best wood for us, giving us tips on how to build a fire.

Ooph, what a day.

Live life at a slower place.

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Zero in Butte

Day 48 - July 24th
0 miles
Total: 1933.5 miles
Moving Avg: 0 mph
Overall Avg: 0 mph

Our hosts were amazing. They took the day to go fishing, and they left the house to us. We napped, blogged, finished laundry, and planned our next leg. They even left us keys to their truck so we could go out and see lovely Butte in all her glory.

The funny thing is when you are on a vacation like this, a rest day is not one wasted on sight seeing. We were deliberate and quick with the truck. Apricots and I shot over to the Pizza Ranch, where we gorged on all you can eat pizza, salad bar, and desert bar. Ville did not accompany us, as he opted for home cooking a meal instead.

After lunch, we hit up the grocery store, then returned home for laziness.

In the evening we played a board game with the hosts and enjoyed cheesecake. Ville came in last place.

Thank you Sarah and Jordan (and Brock and Yogi).

Live life at a slower place.

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Sunday, July 24, 2016

To Butte

Day 47 - July 23rd
55.8 miles
Total: 1933.5 miles
Moving Avg: 9.0 mph
Overall Avg: 6.0 mph

This morning we had the choice between a highway alternate for ten miles or the legendary Fleecer Ridge route. The ridge is legendary because of a section which is too steep and eroded to ride in either direction. We have heard stories of cyclists pushing bikes through plants and shrubs to gain traction on the way down, as well as cyclists whose shoes were destroyed by the sharp shale that covers the non trail "trail". Up until this point most of our climbs range in the 2-6% grade, with spurts up to ten percent. Fleecer Ridge carried a whopping 24% grade. In cycling terms that is pretty much a vertical climb.

We had no desire to push our bikes up a disgustingly steep and dangerous hill, so we opted for the alternate route. This path followed the Big Hole River downstream from Wise River, just before turning to parallel a rail line. The first ten miles were through the rugged rocky river canyon, with a wide shallow river peppered with early morning fishermen. The next ten miles was a giant climb, keeping to the grade of the nearby rail line.

After this, the alternate rejoined the main route, and we had a beast of a climb to deal with, arguably the third most difficult climb of the entire route (if judged by steepness alone). It was mighty tempting to continue following the freeway all the way to Butte, but we settled on the official route and made the 1500ft climb on hard packed dirt over 3.7 miles. Overall, the grade was an average of 7.2 percent, but there were definitely sections too steep to push a bike in a straight line. We better get used to this, as Montana tends to avoid switchbacks in favor of the straight climb.

The high desert landscape started to grown boulder outcroppings, and the sage was soon replaced by trees rich in their dry forest aromas. After the initial climb, the trail bobbed up and down, slowly gaining more elevation until we crested the divide and began our final descent to Butte.

Along the ride down we saw a person carrying their bike up the hill with the front wheel dragging and the back wheel lifted in the air. After some silly comments about the improper riding technique he was demonstrating, we checked if he needed any help. Apparently his music ear buds fell out of his control and got sucked up into his gears. Since he was not packing any gear, we offered up a knife and tweezers to perform an earbudectomy on his bike. Several minutes later his SAG wagon showed up (support and gear). With more tools available, he was able to give the gears a full cleaning job. Apricots and I were gifted some home made chocolate peanut butter bars for our services. Yum yum.

We continued our descent into Butte, swapping tips with southbound cyclists from Portland. Once down in Butte, we grabbed some danishes and rolled to our Warm Showers host.

Since we arrived around four, we opted to head out for dinner after showers. We gorged ourselves on pizza, and then watched a little bit of a spectacle at the Evil Kneivel Days.

Tomorrow, one of our last rest days before wrapping up this adventure.

Live life at a slower place.

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Saturday, July 23, 2016

Tree Switch Activated

Day 46 - July 22nd
56.8 miles
Total: 1877.7 miles
Moving Avg: 10.5 mph
Overall Avg: 7.6 mph

We rose to a warm morning. The clouds rolled in late last night trapping the heat of yesterday. It made for an easier start, as the fingers and toes were not numb. Twelve miles down the road we stopped and chatted with a couple Trans America cyclists (from New Zealand). Our two trails intersected at Bannack State Park.

Ten miles later we grabbed a small breakfast at Grasshopper Inn. The servings were tiny, but the prices were fair, and we only needed a little juice to push us up the 1400 foot climb.

The tree switch was turned on around Polaris, as promised by several southbound cyclists. It was a beautiful climb along a very very quiet scenic highway. The views seen on the south side were bypassed by the views on the north side. The landscape varied immensely in the various wooded regions and pastoral parks we passed through. Thick timber with no sunlight passing through at times. Other times the trees were sparse and we could see deep into the forest.

The descent lasted a little over two hours, but it was the most enjoyable part of Montana so far, and one of the highlights of the trail for me. Boulder filled streams intersected the road between basalt rock slides. To top it off, the trees did not really turn off when we hit the lower elevations. It may appear as though the high desert has been left behind.

Yes, Wise River (our destination) is fairly tree free, but it is deep in an arid valley which we will climb out of tomorrow.

We ended our evening in the Wise River Saloon listening to live music. The man stuck to old timer country music and Johnny Cash. The two have a solid overlap. During the breaks in music, the stage was open to anyone to come up and play. The one singer that stepped up had some comedic stories to back up his songs, which all carried a nice theme and bluegrass feeling.

I would say we stumbled out the back door to our tents behind the saloon, but we stayed sober, limiting ourselves to one drink before tomorrow's fifty mile ride to Butte (which I hear is having a giant Evil Kneivel Festival).

Live life at a slower place.

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Friday, July 22, 2016

To Bannack

Day 45 - July 21st
64.9 miles
Total: 1820.9 miles
Moving Avg: 9.1 mph
Overall Avg: 6.2 mph

We knew we had a bigger day today, so we rose early, hitting the road by 6:45am. Our hands were numb from the cold, and our toes were disturbingly numb. We just wanted sunlight, but we were winding our way through a canyon. It took a few miles, but we eventually found the sunlight (which we would hide from in a few hours), and it cast it's warming rays on us so we could more completely enjoy the beautiful canyon.

The rocks pushed through the soil in extravagant outcroppings, leaving seams for vegetation, cracks for nesting birds, and bold lines which cast deep shadows. After climbing out of the canyon we made our final ascent to the Medicine Lodge Sheep Creek Divide, but not without first giving us a short grueling slodge up the final 500 feet.

At the top Apricots and I had first lunch. It was thirty miles of gradual descent and flat spots from there to the next water source. We wanted to push those thirty miles before second lunch, and we did. We rode down the hill following a valley most of the way, but the arid openness brought back not so fond memories of the great divide basin. It is a strange thing though, from a distance the landscape looks like a soft velvet blanket draped over the land. Up close, however, it is harsh and pointy, not the sort of blanket you would want to lay on.

Ville was quoted as asking, "Does America have anything besides high deserts?" after another cyclist informed him of the beautiful desert ahead. I think the three of us have seen enough high desert for the trail. We are ready for the trees of northern montana and canada.

Apricots and I took shelter in the shade of a small school house in Grants, MT for second lunch. We chowed down food and then washed our clothes under a spigot before cycling the final 13 miles to camp. It is so refreshing putting on wet clothing in 90 degree heat - a shock to the system, but worth the feeling for the next ten minutes of riding.

Camp tonight is at Bannack State Park, a very well preserved Ghost Town that was the original site for the Capitol of the Montana territory. After dinner, Apricots and I took a stroll through town. I was disappointed to see no ghosts, but we did see some snazzy old buildings that were fairly well preserved.

Tomorrow we should get to the trees. I am sure the trail will give us new struggles.

Live life at a slower place.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Holy Cow

Day 44 - July 20
50.7 miles
Total: 1756 miles
Moving Avg: 8.8 mph
Overall Avg: 6.3 mph

In the middle of the night, clouds rolled in and rain started falling. It was just a little spit, but we had left the fly off our tent. Ville had as well, so we both jumped out in the middle of the night and put flies on our tents.

When we woke in the morning, the sky was clear. It was my intention to wake early to beat the winds which pushed through the valley, but I couldn't muster the motivation to get out of bed. Neither could the other two, so I suppose we needed the rest after yesterday's battle. Everyday a new struggle.

We packed camp and rolled on. About eight miles into the day we passed some perfect camping areas, and were dismayed that we didn't push further yesterday. I suppose that is rather commmon though, to find a better campsite just past the bad ones.

When we rounded a bend, Apricots said "holy cow!" A few yards later, we realized it was just a long black fence, and not a wall of cows, as expected. Then a quarter mile layer we realized that Ville had stopped, it was then that our initial suspicions were confirmed. That giant mass of black blocking the road was indeed a herd of cows. This herd was the biggest we have seen since the border, and it was completely blocking the road and mooing up a racket. We dismounted our bikes and pushed through whooping and hollering at the cows. We got through and remounted for the ride to Lima.

Our ride continued to follow the Red Rocks River through the valley, where it filled Lima Reservoir toward mile 20 for our day. Ten miles later, after a rolling descent, we found ourselves munching mean burgers in Lima. We also picked up a wicked awesome care package from my mom, which rounded out our food nicely.

Back to the trail, I was just beginning to believe that I was in for another few days of arid basin, akin to the Great Divide Basin. Fortunately big Sky country started to let up on the high desert basin feeling late today. We rode into a deep canyon with a beautiful rocky river flowing next to the trail. We watched swimming hole after swimming hole pass by as we pushed to camp, knowing we would have a swimming hole of our own.

Sure enough, our nice campsite, lush with flat soft grass was situated below towering rock walls which plunged vertically toward Big Sheep Creek. We dropped our bikes and slopped through the mud into the rocky area of the stream, enjoying a refreshing afternoon bath.

Tomorrow, hopefully we push the 64 miles to Bannack State Park. One long steady climb followed by a longer descent. If the wind behaves, and the road stays smoothish, we should be good.

Live life at a slower place.

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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Day 43 addedum

I forgot to mention we saw a badger. It was peeking over a log at us.

Also, the valley with the nature reserve was established for the Trumpeter Swan.

Deja WY

Day 43 - July 19th
48.9 miles
Total: 1705.2 miles
Moving Avg: 8.9 mph
Overall Avg: 6.1 mph

This morning Ville made us pancakes. Since the Waters Man Cave had a griddle and mix, he felt compelled to cook for us. Besides we had pretty much flat miles today, so we were not in any serious rush to get moving, the miles would come easy.

We made the relatively small climb over Red Rocks pass, entering into Montana at the top of the pass. The Cenntenial Mountains towered over the broad flat valley that contained the remainder of the days journey.

Along the way, we met about eight southbound touring cyclists. They all complained about the draining head wind they had been experiencing the last three days. They said that the travels should be easier for us.

We, however, didn't seem to have the experience promised to us. While it wasn't a headwind all day, the wide open valley had an abundance of wind to battle. There was a two mile stretch heading directly into the wind. It also pointed us at the Centennial Mountains which loomed 3000ft above the valley floor. It was hard to look at them, as putting our heads up increased wind drag. So we hunkered down and pushed forward.

Eventually the road turned west and the wind became a side wind. It did swirl frontward at times, but at least now we could look up and admire the rocky peaks to our left with their vertical faces.

Several miles later, we found ourselves having lunch at the visitors center for the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge was created as a means to help the decaying population of a specific type of crane (if I remember correctly) which used to be abundant in the area. Since the creation of the wildlife refuge, population of the bird has been restored.

We  pushed twenty miles further to a location marked as dispersed camping. Unfortunately, it was a dismal site. In fact, I believe it was mislabeled, because there doesn't seem to be any thing resembling a site here. The river was agricultural runoff, dirty beyond comfortable levels to filter. The landscape was deep grass with no suitable tent sites.

We pushed half a mile to the next creek, hoping for cleaner water and better tent sites. The creek was much cleaner, but tent sites were dismal at best. We searched around and finally settled on a flat patch of grass ten feet off the gravel road. Fortunately the road is very quiet. Unfortunately we have solid wind, and no shade.

We were moping and groaning about the quality of the site, and whether we should push 18 miles to the next site with water and camping.

"Guys, guys, guys, guys," Ville interjected. "Don't get sad, we have whiskey."

And suddenly all was well.

Live life at a slower place.

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The Man Cave

Day 42 - June 18th (Happy Birthday Robin)
47.8 miles
Total: 1656.3 miles
Moving Avg: 10.3 mph
Overall Avg: 6.4 mph

Mrs. Maria Eidam continued her excellent hosting this morning. While we showered and packed up, she made breakfast burritos for us. Additionally she left a fruit plate out for us to take as desired, and a giant bucket of licorice, complete with zip lock bags to load up for the road.

Two burritos down, with a banana and OJ, we loaded up on licorice and hit the road. Our first stop was the post office to pick up a package from Apricots' coworker. Unfortunately, the package was not in the post office, and our zero felt like a waste. Then we remembered that the rest day was of great value, and the Eidam family spoiled us good.

We stocked up on water and caffeine and hit the road. Our path was neither the official route, nor the alternate route. We opted for taking highway 47, the Mesa Falls National Scenic Byway. While it was beautiful, it did not compare with the scenery we have been exposed to on the trip. Ville even said, "Do the people who make these scenic routes even understand what the word scenic means?"

Sure, it was just a joke, but most of the route consisted of high desert and ponderosa pines. We did catch one fleeting glimpse of the Tetons as we moved northwest from the range. Additionally we had a short stretch between two rivers where the road had water flowing on both sides. After the climb out of the Warm River Valley, the ridge line was abundant with the aroma of pine and sage, and the miles slid quickly under our tires.

Before long, we intersected Hwy 20, a major Yellowstone artery. Fortunately for us, we had a tail wind, and frequent construction interruptions which provided us with long carless stretches.

Before we knew it, we arrived at our hosts humble abode, known as Waters Man Cave. The place provided us with shelter from the sun and wind, a shower, and a kitchen to enable us to live like humans. The man cave is decorated with elk antlers, a wolf rug, and an enormous bison head.

The TV had the DVD "Ride the Divide" loaded for us to watch, a documentary on the Tour Divide Race. Ville had not seen it, so we watched it with him and made then made dinner.

The next four nights will likely be removed from civilization. We best suck up the civilized comforts while we can.

Live life at a slower place.

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Sunday, July 17, 2016

Zero in Ashton

Day 41 - July 17th
About 3 miles
Total: 1608.5 miles

Zero days are the best. Little to report here folks. Ashton is a sleepy town, especially on sundays. We found a diner to have breakfast at, and planned our next leg over the coffee, eggs, french toast, and cinnamon roll. It is a long leg to Butte, MT. It should take us until Saturday afternoon to get there.

After breakfast we returned to camp to pack up and wash our bikes. And strangely enough, we went to lunch after packing up. In reflection, it seems as though we did nothing but eat until mid day. It was a long lazy breakfast followed by packing and then a long lazy lunch.

After lunch we went to a pseudo park by a gas station and lounged in the shade, taking a nap to the constant murmer of cars speeding toward Yellowstone. Around 4pm we roused ourselves to the grocery store to purchase food for our next leg. It was a rather busy store and a little nerve racking, but all goods were purchased for the next leg, which fortunately is pretty far removed from any convenience stores that are money vacuums to the weary traveler.

After shopping we called our gracious hosts for the night who happily invited us into their home for dinner, showers, and rest. The large family is all moved out of the house, but the mother and father still run a business on property, and a few of the children still live locally. Over the course of the meal, we interacted with four generations of the family line, while enjoying good conversation, tasty lasagna, watermelon, and homemade cookies.
(Thank you for hosting)

Tomorrow it's back to the road for us.

Live life at a slower place.

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Enter Farmland

Day 40 - July 16th
23.1 miles
Total: 1605.5 miles

After waking to the sound of what probably was a skunk sifting through camp, the two of us struggled to sleep through the rest of the night. It was little matter though as we only had about twelve miles to Ashton, our next supply stop.

The road rolled through the farmland in gentle crests and troughs, as the green carpeted the landscape in what can only be described as a lush natural pillow. It is a nice change up from the endless ranchland and cow manure that has graced our presence since we started. Even the irrigation channels and industrial sprinklers added an interesting sight to our travels.

After a quick ninety minute ride, we arrived in Ashton to discover that the post office was closed. We had a package to pickup, and the hours listed Saturday as open, but it was not. As such, we get a forced (but appreciated) rest day.

On to the campsite, an RV park on the edge of town. The RV park is run by the neighboring hotel, so we stopped in the lobby to check on availability. We rang the bell for service, and this 50 year old frat boy strolled down the hall slurping the last of his coffee out of a big gulp, asking how he could help. I thought the guy was joking with us, so I asked if he worked at the hotel.

"Work here? I own the place," he replied swinging his empty coffee in a grand gesture of magnificence.

We asked about lodging options, and he told us he was booked up at the hotel, and the cabins in the RV park go for "one seventy, but the same thing in Yellowstone would go for four twenty five." After asking about tent spaces in the RV park, he said "I'll give you one for ten dollars. They usually go for twenty dollars, but you guys seem chill, so I'll do ten."

When we told him that we wanted a site, he said to his son, "let's get breakfast," and then wandered off. We concluded that he was actually a guest that was screwing with us. But he returned a few minutes later and told us he would take cash if that was fine with us. All too shady, but we have a tent site for the night. In the end, we concluded that the guy was just a super casual business person.

After setting camp and eating lunch, Apricots and I spent far too long hanging out at a laundromat. Ville had scored a shower at the swimming pool, a small service neither of us got around to, but we did a short ride, and had showers the night before.

At five o'clock, we met Apricots' cousin at Five 11 Main, a local pizzaria and ice creamery. Crystal lives south of Ashton in Rigby, and made the short drive to see Apricots. She spoiled us to both pizza and ice cream, and I was a happy camper. She even brought us some gallon zip lock bags, some macadamia nuts, and some marshmallows for Ville.

In the evening the three of us said goodbye at Crystal and went to the local market to buy some wine and tent stakes (or as I said, "beer and stakes"). No luck on the stakes, but Apricots found wine. She also found a host for us for tomorrow night. While sitting outside, a woman drove up to her and asked if the three of us needed a place to stay. The woman knew that the RV park lacked in accomodations, and was offering up her home for showers, laundry, and comfortable shelter. We took her phone number and intend to spend the night sunday evening.

The three of us returned to camp, where Ville asked an RV camper if we could borrow the lawn chairs to sit in (as our site had no picnic table, and the grass was a crude mix of dry crusty yellow grass and over sized thorny weeds). We sat in the newly acquired chairs, sipping wine as the sun turned the sky pink.

Live life at a slower place.

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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Welcome to Idaho

Day 39 - July 15th
52.7 miles
Total: 1582.4 miles
Moving Avg: 9.6 mph
Overall Avg: 6.1 mph

We finished the s'mores for breakfast. How wickedly awesome is that?!?

After breakfast, we rolled the one and a half miles up to the next convenience store, for coffee before our ride. (I promise this is a wilderness experience, we are just in a very popular wilderness area). Then we rolled north along the shore of Jackson Lake. The forest obstructed most of the view, but when it opened up, we saw the immense blue gem seeded beneath the Tetons, welcoming southbound travelers with a stunning entry into the park.

After taking in the Tetons for one last time, we peeled away from the lake and made the climb out of the park toward Flagg Ranch. On the descent, we entered wilderness that had burned in a 1988 wildfire. It was pretty interesting to see a full forest of pine trees which were about ten to fifteen feet tall, interrupted by dead snags that hadn't fallen since the fire 28 years ago. Black spikes sticking out twenty to thirty feet above the treeline gave the forest a snapshot of its history.

At Flagg Ranch, we enjoyed our lunch, and the excitement of returning to a gravel road. We had thirty plus miles before us on a gravel road towards Ashton, Idaho. We didn't have a campsite in mind, so it was still up in the air as to whether we would make it to Idaho today.

The road was winding and rolling on easy gravel for most of the afternoon. The trees crept close to the trail, closing us in the dark pine forest. Near the creeks, the grass grew tall and the shrubs were dense. Every dark shadow, or browned pine, was a bear until we took a second look. Apricots and I rolled through the forest happily ringing our bear bells periodically to help scare any would be attackers.

After climbing up and over Grassy Lake Reservoir, and past a Boy Scout summer camp, we started our long gradual descent out of Wyoming. The land turned arid as we made our way west, passing a few dry creek beds. We took lunch at South Boone Creek, just before the hard packed dirt road opened into a wide gravel road of such dusty wealth, we thought we were in the Great Basin again.

Just prior to entering into Idaho, we passed Indian Lake, a mountain lake of such great size and proximity to civilization, it would be a boaters destination heaven. Fortunately (or unfortunately) the lake is covered in lily pads as far as the eye can see. Seeing a lake with lily pads is commonplace to a hiker/biker, but I have never seen one so large like this.

The final descent into Idaho was such a bumpy gravel road, we opted to plug our ears with music and power through the struggle. In the end, we hit a smooth patch of paving, and I heard Apricots zip past me screaming R2D2-like squeals of delight.

Two miles later we pulled into a campground, where our tent is nestled in an amazing Aspen Grove.

Live life at a slower place.

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Over Togwotee to the Tetons

Day 38 - July 14th
49.8 miles
Total: 1529.7 miles
Moving Avg: 9.6 mph
Overall Avg: 5.6 mph

Last night, as we were falling asleep, there was suddenly a cowbell ringing through camp. It woke Apricots, and Ville had little idea as to what was making the racket. We told him it was a cowbell, likely attached to some cattle grazing in the area.

When we woke in the morning we saw that it was on the neck of a horse, and concluded that it was probably to serve as a warning to bear in the area. It is a little known fact that Bear and Horse have been having a turf war for years past, and they are likely to kill each other on sight. The cowbell protects them both.

It was a cold morning, and our tent was frosted when we woke, so we were slow to start, and had coffee two miles down the road. In fact, the day consisted of moving from convenience store to convenience store (or so it seemed). Since this portion of the trail passes near and through two National Parks, we have the largest stretch of paved area. With that comes modern conveniences, like hot coffee, and soda, and ice cream.

We made our climb up highway 26 over Togwotee pass, resting at the top for lunch. Despite the sign warning us of bears on the road, we did not see any. We were, however, given many amazing views of the Teton Wilderness, hinting at the rocky peaks to come. We sat at the summit lake enjoying lunch with a view of the seeming monolithic rocky tower of a mountain before us.

Then we had seventeen miles of downhill before us, sweet glorious highway paved with a wide shoulder. Ten miles down we stopped for a soda break. It is a peculiar fact that soda isn't nearly as refreshing on the downside of a pass, nonetheless it was a nice break. Still no big wildlife, but a man in a camper did say that we had just missed a moose and two calves.

At the bottom of the hill, we stopped in at another convenience store for ice cream. Ice cream always satisfies, but there was a lingering feeling that paved roads, while easier, definitely help break the budget. With a little under twenty miles to go, we pushed on to Teton National Park.

We had to pay a 15 dollar gate fee for each person, despite being cyclists, but I suppose the park has to get money to maintain the facilities it provides for the millions of visitors. Besides, if fifteen dollars is the only fee that I am required to pay for this trek, it is worth it.

As we edged into the park, traffic became busier, but slower. Everyone was out looking for the elusive moose, bear, and wolf. I suspect the sign warning us of bear and wolf crossings was placed as a tool to make us think the park is more wild than it actually is.

Fun fact: John D. Rockefeller Jr. purchased 35,310 acres of land around Jackson Hole, Wyoming under a fake name to keep prices low. He loved the area so much, he didn't want to see it developed, so he deeded the land to the US Government for inclusion in Grand Teton National Park. Some old timer locals are still angry at him for being secretive in his business dealings.

We settled on a campsite at the edge of Jackson Lake in Colter Bay Village. Fortune favors the bold, and we are bold, so we built a campfire and had s'mores. Ville, being from Finland, had never experienced s'mores. He was a happy Finn, and that man can put down some marshmallows.

Live life at a slower place.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Union Pass and Wind River

Day 37 - July 13th
57 miles
Total: 1479.9 miles
Moving Avg: 6.9 mph
Overall Avg: 4.7 mph

This morning Ville built a campfire for us to warm beside while we packed up. We brewed coffee over the open fire to help power us up the climb to Union Pass.

As we left camp and the Green River Valley, the wide river valley faded behind us as we climbed up into higher elevation. Aspen groves shaded our trail from time to time and the rich red soil blended naturally into the sage covered hillsides.

The first ten miles were steep but came fairly easily for me. However, after ten miles, I started having an energy crash. I believe I was having difficulty with the elevation, as we haven't been up around 9000 ft for some time. I was needing to acclimate. We took second breakfast at Mosquito Lake, which for us, at the time, was free of Mosquitos.

Then we made the climb into the sub alpine and alpine regions preceding union pass. T he trail hugged the edge of the trees, giving us the forest experience while also allowing us to see the sweeping meadows, and the distant snow streaked mountains of the Bridger Wilderness. We are now in grizzly country, so we are being more cautious about our movement, and more alert with out surroundings. Twice today we were startled only to find that the creature/sound was a cow grazing at summer pasteur.

After 25 miles I was feeling completely wiped of energy so we took a pseudo nap under the sun, and ate some jerky. After that, I put in my headphones, and we made the final 12 mile push to the pass. It was at this time the road became easier to ride, the views became more magnificent, and I found me second wind. We cruised through those 12 miles faster than either of our previous 12 mile legs, and before we knew it, the mountain pass was creating, and we were seeing all the beautiful rugged jagged peaks of the Grand Tetons.

We made our descent from the highpoint just north of Union Pass, finding our way to a Mountain Lodge for an early dinner before our final 14 mile push to camp. After dinner, we descended to the Wind River Valley down a steep serpentine road that gave us amazing views of the Tetons, and their sedimentary history, rich colored stripes visible for miles at specific elevations, despite the irregular erosion.

After winding off the mountain and crossing the Wind River, we had eight miles of highway riding to get to camp. You guessed it, eight miles into the wind. It only makes sense that the Wind River Valley would challenge us with some wind.

Quote of the day: "I keep thinking to myself that if I can just get through this challenging portion of the trail, all will be well...but the trail just keeps giving me new challenges." -Apricots

Live life at a slower place.

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Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Out of the Wyoming Basins

Day 36 - July 12th
36.2 miles
Total: 1422.9 miles
Moving Avg: 10.8 mph
Overall Avg: 8.1 mph

Every good zero must come to end. After a semi rough night of sleep (naps ruin night time sleep) we rose and slowly packed our gear up. We enjoyed coffee, yogurt, and oatmeal with our hosts before finalizing our packing and heading out of town.

As we made our climb out of Pinedale, it was a beautiful exploration of change in elevation. The wide valley we slowly climbed out of narrowed as the Bridger Wilderness with the Wind River Mountains creeped closer to the Gros Ventre Mountains. The flat farmland separated by willow covered agricultural drainage ditches gave way to gentle rolling hills of sage. Our road steadily climbed over the rolling hills, as more granite outcroppings pushed through the soil. Small granite boulders salted the landscape before the gap between the ranges narrowed to our minor pass for the day.

A gentle roll down the hill brought us to the Green River, where our paving ended, and a washboarded gravel road met us for the final miles. I was feeling tired from lack of sleep, and was happy to have a short day, as we rolled down into the pine and fir grove on the shore of the river.

Whiskey Grove Campground was greeted by the three of us with welcome arms, as we pitched our tents to take a small nap away from flies and mosquitos. Apricots and I awoke to the afternoon aroma of a campfire that Ville and made for the three of us to enjoy dinner beside. After dinner, we celebrated the end of the Wyoming Basins, the definitive passing of the halfway point, and the name of the campsite. We sat enjoying mini bottles of Whiskey at Whiskey Grove Campground, complements of Adrienne and Barbara. Their care package was well timed.

Tonight as we lay in the tent, we can here the rushing river, a sporadic raindrop, and hopefully no bears.

Live life at a slower place.

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Monday, July 11, 2016

Zero in Pinedale

Day 35 - July 11th
4.8 miles
Total: 1386.7 miles

We opted for a rest day. And in the end, I am glad we did rest. The weather for today was much colder and more windy than it is to be tomorrow.

In the morning our gracious host provided coffee and donuts for breakfast. Then a warm shower. Then a day to rest, relax, and plan for our next leg. Apricots and I went to the Post Office first to pick up two care packages sent to us from friends (current and past coworkers). The boxes prepared had Emergen-C (much needed for electrolytes), nuts (much needed to spruce up our bland oatmeals), jerky (much needed protein to help repair our worked muscles) and a few extra fun treats.

We even received coloring crayons and paper cutouts of mosquitos, to help us build rapport with the blasted beast before us. Finally, there was some mini whiskey bottles, arriving just on time for tomorrow's intended campsite at Whiskey Grove Campground on the green river. If we don't camp there, we will camp at mosquito lake where the paper cutouts will help teach all type three vampires that we are friendly and need not be bitten.

(Thank you Cassie, Adrienne, and Barbara for your awesome care packages.)

After care packages, we hit the store to round out the food for the next leg, then to the library for Internet business, then to Pizza and Ice Cream for caloric restorative properties, then to host for R&R.

It was a good relaxing day.

Live life at a slower place.

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Sunday, July 10, 2016

Short ride to Pinedale

Day 34 - July 10th
18.3 miles
Total: 1381.9 miles
Moving Avg: 10.7 mph
Overall Avg: 3.7 mph

This morning we treated Ville (not Phil) to breakfast. The day we met him at Diagnus Well was his birthday. He only remembered this fact the following day. It was our birthday gift to him, a hearty meal before a not-so-difficult 12 mile ride to Pinedale, Wyoming.

Even though our ride was along the highway between Boulder and Pinedale, it was not lacking in views. The road lay between the calm rolling hills of sage and grassland familiar to us from the basin, and the creeping foothills of the Bridger Wilderness. To our right lay pointed mountains carving at the sky with their sharp sawtooth peaks, gray and barren of trees. The peaks felt more like the Rocky Mountains I expected to see, than the Rocky Mountains I have seen. A few dark creases were highlighted with unmelted snow, hints of the strong winter which hasn't fully disappeared, despite the wind and heat that we are familiar with.

We sailed along the highway toward Pinedale, stopping only once at a roadside food cart serving burgers and ice cream. I am a sucker for ice cream, and Ville had already pulled in for a sweet treat. While we sat there enjoying our homemade ice cream on the side of the road, we watched a small Conestoga Wagon roll past, drawn by two horses. It was as if the history of the area we were passing through came to life. In reality, Pinedale was having its annual Rendezvous, a rodeo type celebration commemorating the days when the Mountain Ranchers would descend from the mountains to trade, drink, share stories, and hit on women.

Ville had arranged to stay with a WarmShowers host tonight. After taking a look at the camping accomodations, Apricots and I decided to go with Ville to his host and see if there was additional tent space. The hosts were extremely accomodating, inviting us in before we had time to ask.

The host showed us around the house. We have our own spare room in the garage with beds for the three of us. Then we went to the Laundromat and did laundry. The place was an exciting building full of hunting trophies mounted on the wall. See the attached pictures.

After laundry, we had lunch and returned to the hosts home for afternoon relaxation before dinner. Jay and Samantha, our kind hosts are out of town, so instead of Jay managing us, his mother and father are watching over the house and spoiling the grandchildren for their birthdays. As such, we had the joy of eating the dinner of choice for the birthday girl, a sphaghetti lasagna made with elk meat.

After dinner, we retired to the family room for evening social hour with sherbet  ice cream. Now bed time, with the pressing question... should we take a zero mile rest day tomorrow. Feel free to comment with your suggestions.

Live life at a slower place.

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Saturday, July 9, 2016

Out of the Basin

Day 33 - July 9th
61.6 miles
Total: 1363.6 miles
Moving Avg: 8.9 mph
Overall Avg: 5.4 mph

We slept in.
It was glorious.

You would think that after the shorter day yesterday, we would be rested and rearing to go, but it seems that we wanted to rest. Besides, we had decided that 34 miles was all we were going to do today.

After breakfast, we packed up and had the late departure of 8:30. I was not in any rush, with an intended 34 miles, I wasn't looking to push hard. It was going to be our last day in the Great Basin, and I wanted to absorb some joy out of it. It's been beautiful, but hard.

Today had a perfect start. We rolled gently over hills of easy grade, slowly climbing to the continental divide (which we crossed twice). The hills were sprinkled with aromatic lavender. And our trail edged closer to the mountains of the Bridger Wilderness. Granite outcroppings sprinkled the hillside with the rotund boulders which felt out of place in the basin.

As the roller coaster terrain took us closer to the mountains, the presence of wind seemed to be non existent for us for the day. A gentle breeze felt periodically cooled our sun kissed skin. The best rest came from Little Sandy Creek, 22 miles into our day. I was a little low energy, and knew we had many hours to kill in our short day, so I convinced Apricots and Phil that it was time for a soak.

We laid our bikes down, kicked off our shoes and sat in the water. The initial shock was strong, but our bodies adjusted to the cool stream. We absorbed the relaxing flow for close to an hour before we rolling down the road. Twelve miles to camp.

When we arrived at our intended campsite (the spooky Buckskin Crossing of the Big Sandy River, with emigrant Graves nearby) we found the river was fenced off with No Tresspassing signs, and there wasn't a suitable place to tent. This was somewhat expected, as it was not marked as a campsite on the map.

So we went with our contingency plan. Push on to Boulder, Wyoming. Twenty-six gentle miles to a hot meal. While it was supposed to be gentle, it turned out to be harder than expected. The trail pushed up into the trees briefly, as if to hint of the mountains to come, before plunging back into the arid, shadeless basin we have grown strangely fond of. With that came the wind.

But, a burger awaited us in Boulder, so the three of us pushed hard against the wind for 26 miles (or 27 if you ask Apricots). Once here, I drank four large lemonades and two equally large glasses of ice water. We passed on the Rocky Mountain Oysters, and settled on tasty burgers.

A half mile full belly ride down the road to the RV park, and we got a flat tent site and a shower. Tomorrow we only need to bike 13 miles to Pinedale, where we intend to take a rest day.

Live life at a slower place.

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Mine (town) Oming

Day 32 - July 8th
37.5 miles
Total: 1302 miles
Moving Avg: 6.8 mph

After yesterday's hard battle, we opted for a no alarm morning. We slept hard, and woke at 6:45. As we packed up, Phil woke up, and we ate breakfast together before making a dash for Atlantic City, 21 miles away.

The three of us rode at roughly the same pace, though it is apparent that Phil is a stronger cyclists. He has biked in Bolivia, Chile, and Peru (and probably some other places). The ride was a fairly standard fare great basin ride, through low laying shrub, and a sandy gravel road. The difference this day brought was that there was a mountain range in the distance to look upon.

And, just when I thought Wyoming had a ban on trees, I beheld a magnificent shade giving, wind blocking, shrubbery of such great girth it must be a tree. Sure enough, we had reached an elevation where trees could exist in nestled valleys of burger bearing buildings.

Yes, we arrived in Atlantic City, and the three of us plunged down a steep ravine straight into the only restaurant in town and ordered big juicy succulent burgers and soda. By meals end, we each had consumed four sodas with our big burgers, and we bought one for the road.

Since we have a care package to pick up in Pinedale, our pacing is being adjusted for a Sunday arrival, and a Monday pickup. This means we get to enjoy a couple low mileage days. As such, we only needed to knockout 15 miles after Atlantic City.

We rode out of the deep ravine of Atlantic City, back into the wind, and down into the next deep ravine of South Pass City. South Pass was a boom bust town of the gold mining era. It rose to a population of around 3000, and was the biggest city in Wyoming at the time. Now it has a population of four people and two dogs.

The state has worked to restore several buildings to their Gold Rush days, and now the town functions as a walking museum. We stopped in the general store, where all goods are packaged with their antique labels, and the shopkeeper is dressed in antique garb.

We bought a fat boy ice cream sandwich.

Then we pulled away from town, and cycled the remaining miles to camp, passing by historic landmarks on the Oregon Trail and Pony Express.

We are camped up river from a rest stop on the highway. It is out of the wind, there is a tree, and aside from the large volume of mosquitos, it is a rather pleasant site. All three of us even wandered over the Sweetwater River and took a pseudo swim, pseudo bath in the water. We even found some gold nuggets in the water, but we didn't want the extra weight, so we threw them back in.

Live life at a slower place.

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Windy Whine Oming

Day 31 - July 7th
71.7 miles
Total: 1264.5 miles
Moving Avg: 7.3 mph

Here is a fun math problem. Assuming we averaged 9.9 miles per hour for the first 46 miles. What was our moving average for the remaining 25.7 miles if our moving average was 7.3 over the whole day?

Crazy folk that we are, we opted for a 3:45 wake up. It was our goal to make it to Atlantic City, 92 miles away. We crawled out of our sleepy state, and geared up for the 0.3 mile ride to Love's Travel Stop, where we bought coffee, electrolytes, and treats for the big day ahead.

Then we set off down county road 23 into the Great wide open basin. It was still dark, so we traveled by headlamp. Fortunately, the road was fairly smooth and easy going. In fact, we cruised along at eleven plus miles per hour. It was a joy to have such rapid miles disappear behind us. With that joy, we were able to see the Great Basin for its beauty. The gentle rolling hills covered in very low laying shrubs allow for expansive views. Nearly every view includes a Pronghorn (not to be confused with antelope), racing at speeds of up to 30-40mph after being frightened by our rolling tires, sometimes even bursting to 60mph. I wonder how their ankles handle the irregular terrain.

As the miles slid past, we encountered a number of tail end racers, and a couple tour cyclists. We exchanged tips on water and road conditions ahead, and continued on our way.

For me, the day was stressful. My GPS has the official Great Divide Route on it, and my phone has the official Tour Divide Route on it. We are in an area where the two paths deviate, and I lack a narrative description of the path we were taking. I was relying on Google maps for the narrative description. After 60 percent of the days ride was done, I discovered that the Google narrative no longer matched either route. We were essentially traveling without a map, as our map doesn't show the area we were traveling. This was very nerve racking to me... and perhaps a little foolish in the very open, very dry, very hot, and very solitary great basin.

Nevertheless, we trudged on. I had looked deeply at the Google Earth Images and saved what I could to my phone. I opted to continue with a shoddy map, because it was better than the alternative. Other cyclists described the official Tour Divide Route as having an eight mile stretch where the road disappears out of disuse.

We traveled down a lonely BLM road into the windy depths of the Basin. We were likely the only people in several hundred square miles, and the wind introduced itself as a 25 mph headwind. The road introduced itself as a ridge road. This meant that we were massively exposed. On the bright side, the route was stunning. We struggled against the wind, beating our willpower to a pulp, but the ripples of ridges reaching into the Basin in their multicolored tendrils of sand and stone replenished our energy.

It was an amazing dichotomy of struggle and inspiration. I felt beat down through the whole afternoon, every view forward was a straight long shot of the same boring windy struggle before us. On the other hand, all the views back were stunning shots of accomplishment and perseverance.

After an hour nap in the wind and sun, we made the final push of the afternoon. I wanted to make sure we made it back to the official route, as I wasn't completely sure where we would reconnect, so my knowledge of water sources before us were a little unclear. Sixteen miles later, we hit the official route, exactly where I expected and hoped.

One and a half miles later, we were at Diagnus Well. As we rolled in, exhausted from an uphill climb in the washboarded sand, against the wind, facing the sun, I startled another cyclist who was set up to camp at the well.

His first words were: "THAT WAS A ROUGH DAY, YES?"

I knew he was also a northbound cyclists, as he also rode into the wind.

Phil, from Finland, made for very enjoyable conversation while we made dinner. He is out for three months, and we have been tailing him by a half day for most of our ride. We sat in the shadow of our tent, watching the sun set on what the three of us agreed was the most difficult day of our tour this far, mostly because of the mental exhaustion.

We have about two more days before we get out of the windy basin.

Live life at a slower place.

Sent From:
http://maps.google.com/maps?z=12&t=k&q=loc:42.30928+-108.47741

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Why? Oming

Day 30 - July 6th
61.4 miles
Total: 1192.8 miles
Moving Avg: 7.5 mph

The day started out with a solid climb out of a very beautiful river valley. As we gained elevation, we saw a dog eyeing us on the road. After about two miles of watching us, she came and introduced herself to us. No collar, save for some green spray paint on her neck, we didn't know where her home was. She definitely has a large roaming area.

She followed us for the next six to seven miles. She even chased two Pronghorn through the shrubbery for a very fast half mile run. Eventually she came back to us. We tried to get her to go home, but she kept following us into the Great Basin. Since we were gaining elevation, it was easy for her to keep up with us.

Once we hit the downhill she had to run to keep up. Then we passed a cattleguard. She struggled to get through it, and we made our distance. A mile further down the road I looked back, and in the distance I saw her running down the road after us. Fortunately we were too far and too fast, so we lost our tail. (Unfortunately too. She was super beautiful, very calm, and would have made for the most amazing "she followed me home" story)

A couple miles later, we ran into a rancher. He spoke no english, but that didn't stop him from telling us his life story. From what we understood, he moved from Steamboat to Wyoming as the prices were unreasonable in Steamboat. He has five kids, four in Mexico, and one in California. He was out repairing the fences of his ranch.

After that conversation, we made the final descent into the Great Basin, including a four mile stretch along a road that was perhaps the least roadlike experience we have had on the trail. Apricots kept teasing me every time I referred to the path as a road. Surely it was too beat up and overgrown to be considered a path for ATVs.

Then thirty miles of nothing but unbearably bumpy straight road of nothingness. With a solid side wind.

Thirty straight miles.

The view never changed.

Thirty straight miles.

The washboard gravel was consistently bumpy.

Thirty straight miles.

Every passing truck kicked sand in the air as we closed our eyes and held our breath for a second or two.

Thirty straight unchanging miles.

Nearing wamsutter the wind was stronger, and a light rain fell for a brief moment on us. We settled into the idea of getting a hotel for the night. Tomorrow we have 92 similar miles to Atlantic City. We are waking super early to try and beat the wind.

I don't know if we will make it all 92, but we are going to try. For kicks, you should take a look at the link below to see the vast barreness of the Great Basin that we are crossing.

Time to sleep. Super Early morning tomorrow.

Live life at a slower place.

Sent From:
http://maps.google.com/maps?z=12&t=k&q=loc:41.67236+-107.98012

Into Wyoming

Day 29 - July 5th
57.6 miles
Total: 1131.4 miles
Moving Avg: 8.1 mph
Overall Avg: 6.1 mph

The good thing about sleeping behind a country store is that you can wake up to some killer breakfast sandwiches and good coffee.

The breakfast powered us up the hill to Steamboat Lake. It was too early to bother thumbing a ride over the nine miles we had already covered. Besides, we opted to take the Columbine Alternate, so the nine miles to Steamboat Lake worked better by approaching the alternate from the other side of the lake.

At the lake we opted out of getting a snack at the local store, as we knew Columbine a few miles further along had cabins, and coffee, and donuts, and yummy pleasantries. So, we cycled the rest of the way to the pass to Columbine.

Sadly, the store in Columbine was closed as it was the Monday after a holiday. No worries, we were still fueled for the downhill ride. We rolled past Colbie into the freckled sunlight of a million Aspen. It was a beautiful stretch of countless Aspen Grove, and classic Colorado mountain roads.

As we lost elevation, we entered into Three Forks Ranch, an enormous complex of lodges, cabins, and fishing and hunting grounds. I don't think the ranch had any cattle or horse to speak of, but they did have a lawn so large that the grounds keeper probably is continually mowing it to even keep up with the growth from end to end. The Ranch is one of those billionaire vacation spots, where nightly costs for cabins can run around five thousand dollars.

Ten miles later we exited the ranch, and hit the highway a few miles after that. In the last stretch we wiggled between Colorado and Wyoming, crossing the border five times before settling into Wyoming.

In the very small town of Savery (population 24), we stopped in at the local museum and met Lela. We had prearranged with Lela to stay at her house seven miles north of Savery.

Two chocolate milks downed in Savery, and we were on the final stretch to her home. The house was beautiful inside and out. She puts the home up on Airbnb.com if you are interested in planning a trip down to the great basin.

Tomorrow we begin the long dry stretch across the Basin. Hopefully it will be beautiful.... and not too much of the same view for miles on end.

Live life at a slower place.

Sent From:
http://maps.google.com/maps?z=12&t=k&q=loc:41.10899+-107.36697