Archive for July 2009


Red Lodge, MT to Missoula, MT

The days are bleeding together. As are the locations. I am loosing track. Too much has been packed into too little time for me to retain a grip on the flow. It runs through my fingers, some caught, much lost.

Grasslands, power lines, barbed wire fences, wrought iron gates, rail road tracks, horse or cattle, various farming contraptions both usable and wrecked, auto rolling water lines, trees and no trees, dirt and rocks, streams and clouds.

My mind is getting foggy. I am a little more than a little worn out.

The main change seems to be the shapes of the hills. The seem more pointed rather than domed. Like they prepoured with one of those conveyor belts used to sort sand and gravel prior to being transported.

I lay on the back bench seat and try to nap. Partially successful.

Plans have changed. We will have a driver for the photo and film vehicles tomorrow. I will be able to ride the Drummonod, MT (80mile/?ft) AND the Boise, ID death march (150miles/15000ft/100+degrees)

Time to catch up on the final stages of the Tour which were missed while we were out of pocket. Then sleep. Then a real ride. My legs have less than three hours of ride time clocked in two weeks. These will be an interesting and challenging two days. Then a day or two of travel back to Portland followed by 4 days of bike riding vacation before I return to the ATX.

Yellowstone National Park, WY

6am out of bed.
Buffet breakfast.
Elk road block.

The light is young.  Slowly growing. In no rush to reach maturity. A steep climb leads us out of town.

A short stop at Mammoth Springs. A hike along a raised wooden foot bridge over run off and past sink holed outlets. The over look provides visual access to turquoise pools and columns of rising steam.

The road slowly ascends, the riders with it. Cool air sinks, filling the lowlands as the day begins to gather warmth.

The breeze is ripe with the smell of copious amounts of fresh animal dung, for miles on end. Are the herds of elk and buffalo really that prolific? My nose says yes.

Shadows of skeletal trees criss-cross the road. We enter an open valley. Reed bordered ponds dot the landscape. The meadows look soft and forgiving. Perfect for an elf lunch or a Christopher nap. 5-6hrs of sleep and a  3hr drive day yesterday makes me wish for a hammock in the warm summer shade.

Thirty four buffalo slowly march through a grassy flood plane. Their grunts and growls reach us on the ridge over looking them, a third of a mile away. They take turns dust bathing in raw patches of earth; heaving themselves from side to side seeking full coverage while the herd wanders, cropping the ground cover with each sweep of their heads.

A badger pokes its head out of the scrub lining the road. Looking for a clear passage. It sees me speeding its way and reconsiders. A mile later another badger, one with more traffic experience, jogs along the while shoulder line, keeping an eye on approaching cars.

Ominous clouds fill the sky, rippled like think frosting. Thunderstorms seem imminent. The riders are clawing their way up the endless switchbacks in search of the final plateau. Yellow, violet, and blue. Red. Seven  colors distributed between five species of flowers litter the hillsides among the sage and alpine grasses.

The wind is increasing. Birds pinwheel across the road.

We have surmounted the first peak and crossed the saddle connecting the second. We enter the final set of upward switchbacks. Above the tree line. Surrounded by snow packs and boulders. It is raining. The road is  slick, the sky is a flat featureless grey.

Ira and James spin past us looking for the crest. Three levels to go, fifty three degrees. Jackets unzipped and flapping as they reach for the summit.

The steep repetitive climbs coupled with the nearly back to back days of hard rides have taken their toll. The pack has been pulled apart and is strung out. Karl, our host, motors alone, behind the front two, ahead of the final three.

The route tops out at 11500ft on the eastern summit with constant fifty degree wind and drizzle. The top of the world.

The wet 45min descent combines a gravity assist with a tailwind kiss. The riders launch off the mountain into a thirty three mph multimile coast. A final three mile easy pedal and we enter Red Lodge. Our bike ride merges with a leather clad biker rally. Mmmmm chaps.

Avg: 16.8mph
Max: 49.3mph
Time: 7:18
Dist: 124.57
Elev Change: 11,500ft
Peak Elevation: 11,500ft

Park City, UT to Gardner, MT

Travel day.
Hazy, still hot.
Hardly a relief from Austin’s summer.
The mid west is having its own heat wave.
Hello dehydration.

Derelict building, massive incinerator, cavernous interior. Three floors of decay. Amazing lack of contemporary debris. Layers of matted dirt cover the floor. Steel railed staircases with solid plank steps. Ancient barn owl, startled by our appearance, floats to a better perch to monitor the invaders. Ancient machinery and open metal jacketed pits. Shattered glass and crumbling roof. A decades old canvas coverall hangs beside a frozen hinged door. Vacuum tubes lined up on a dusty shelf.

Blue four person paddle boat strapped to the back of a cream and brown seventies era pickup cabbed RV.

Up through Cashe State Park and then back down into the grassy farm lands. Wind gusts across the gold and green, rocking the car. The smell of freshly cut hay.

A sedan from the fifties decomposes in the middle of an unkempt field. Its rust encased exoskeleton is all that remains.

Miles of seemingly abandoned buildings. Some clearly at the end of their lives. Others clutching to the dream that one day their loneliness will end. False hope.

Afton. Home of the world’s largest elk antler arch. It stretches across the three lanes of traffic. It begs the question, does this mean there are others, or is this the largest of one?

A Bald Eagle dive bombing the river. Competing with the fly fishermen, knee deep in the current.

The jagged Grand Tetons rise abruptly from the valley floor. Their sheer rock faces saw into the clear sky. Scattered snow drifts pocket the slopes feeding the encircling groves of pine and ash.

We cross Snake River and enter Yellow Snow National Park. And ocean of bleached branchless tree trunks stand erect for as far as the the eye can see. Saplings crowd the undergrowth, slowly rebuilding the canopy from the ashes of their ancestors.

We cross the Continental Divide for the second time this trip. 7988ft above sea level.

We cross the a third time, 8262ft above sea level.

Old Faithful puffs wistfully, saving its energy for a later time. Sulphur springs run down the slope carving mottled orange steps in the crusty white rock face; trailing steam until they plunge into the cold rapids of the adjacent river.

The sun drifts below the horizon while we continue along the two lanes through the remainder of the park. Colors reach across the sky lancing the clouds. A double sun set develops. Bright rays one side, a rotating pallet of pastels on the other. Gradually darkness envelops the land.

Salt Lake City, UT

You can find additional videos and images on Dave’s site:

Sleepin in a van down by the river. White noise of the rushing water and the cool of the night leak through the plate glass windows. 11 bodies pack into the cabin. I am stretched across the center bench seat in my sleeping bag, feet over the edge, against the wall.

I drift off with a mass of stars filling the heavens. I wake to the first inklings of the sunrise bleeding over the peaks to the east.

Everyone slept pretty well but they still carrying fatigue. I think the pace of the trip and load of riding are taking their tolls. We pile into the van and follow Brock’s (our host on this leg) white Tacoma towards the promise of breakfast and coffee. Low Motion Disco pulses from the speakers.

A short stack of pancakes smothered in pellet sized blueberries.

A 6500ft above sea level start with a peak of 9600ft.

Long paved then graveled then dusty rocky sand. 7% forever. The sparse air saps their legs. Progress is slow. Repetitive washboards. Arms shake and teeth rattle.

Payoff. The most amazing descent I have ever had the pleasure of taking, even if it was in a sloppily swaying van. Like the climb the riders start together. The first 1/3 is super steep, twisty, and potholed. Tight hairpins. Unlike the way up, the remain as a pack, on their brakes as they drop through the jagged switch backs.

The 140 degree T to to the second stage burns off all speed. The road opens up. The asphalt becomes clean and the turns are more sweep, less steep.

The van leans it’s way around each bend as I try to keep the riders within reach of Daniel’s camera. The back doors are open; he is wedged in with his feet locked against the rear bumper. Everything shifts back and forth as I zig zag through the schicains. Each is a physics experiment, a test of friction and a display of center of gravity.

50+ mph is recorded. People really pushed it. That is a lot of faith in 23c tires.

City streets and a bike path. We jam ahead. Route through the university and the begin the final long climb of the day Emigration Canyon. Rolling pavement. A tree covered country road. It begins to ascend. It depaves.

Saratoga, WY to Salt Lake City, UT

Today is a travel day. We have to pick up 3 and drop of 1 at the Salt Lake City airport.

It seems like I am in west Texas. Scrub flows across the arid platoed landscape. This empty bleak territory speaks to some, but I prefer lush.
Patchy clouds are scattered across the sky. They look empty, as though it is all they can do to just maintain their basic structure. They have no energy left to even consider rain. Providing shade is a strain.

A refinery in the distance is burning off natural gas. To the south, a bank of wind turbines spin lazily.

The cliff faces have become rusty. Is there more iron in the soil here or is some other process at work?

Waves flow across the grassy divided   middle as the 18 wheelers stream by. A cargo train thunders down the rails in the opposite direction. Shipping containers double stacked.

A car graveyard is tucked into a ruddy hill in the middle of nowhere. The pallet of colors glinting in contrast.

We grab Cary and Jason from the airport, bikes built. Kansas unloads his gear and disassembles his bike. He is on his way to Portland while we will be heading towards the final 4 rides.

We still have to pick up Ira at 7:45pm. It is time for a late lunch.  We end up at Whole Foods and my first legitimate salad of the tour. Undressed so I can taste each and every fresh raw vegetable on my plate.

I write my daily log email. I finish and send. I never should of connected to that wireless network. All is lost. Noting is sent, nothing is saved. Sigh. I start over but I feel drained creatively from the last effort. For some reason the image I wanted to send is not attached. I have to send it separately. I really hope my phone is not dieing.

Sleep and a burrito are in my future. Please work Mr iPhone.