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Jul 8, 2012


Clicking the week’s summary chart will bring up a detailed route map for the week including elevation gains. After the summary and overview of the week and Sheila’s op-ed piece, you’ll see the posts in order starting with the first post of the week.You can view any week of posts by clicking on the week in the sidebar.
Click to see week-3 overview summaryWe’ve now completed 3 weeks of our 9 week tour. The week was spent riding across the state of Wyoming. You can see the daily summary for this week in the chart at the bottom of the page. I would have to say the scenic highlight thus far is probably Grand Teton National Park and certainly the most physically challenging day of the entire tour was Thursday’s Powder River Pass. This is also the absolute highest elevation point we will reach this summer.

We faced the 90 mile 9000′ gain day with all we had, both physically and mentally and conquered it! Interestingly, when we opened Bill & Sooz’s inspirational message the next day we found we had already applied the message of “gratitude” throughout our most challenging day.

Even after all this time,
The Sun never says to the Earth, “You owe me”.
Look what happens
with a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

During the week there was an abundance of road kill of every kind including the usual suspects: deer, skunks, raccoons, and expanding to include a wide variety of snakes, a porcupine, a fox, and an antelope. As the week progressed we saw less of both living and dead animals. Even the birds seem to be few and far between. Not to say there aren’t any. We’ve seen some raptors, crows and Western Kingbirds. I downloaded a free bird identification app for our Android phone to help a couple of weeks ago when there were a lot more birds including Kingfishers and Osprey.

Photo by Carole Atherton raising money for NAMI.

We’re now settled into Hulett, 9.5 miles past Devils Tower enjoying our weekly motel rest-day, doing laundry and catching up on email, blogging and the Tour de France. We’re situated across the street from a tiny grocery store that stocks soy milk! And right on a river with a bench to do our morning meditation. We’re in such a singularly focused daily schedule that we feel pretty isolated from world news and politics. It’s actually rather a nice change of pace. Monday morning we’ll have breakfast here and continue on the route. Those camping at Devils Tower will ride the extra miles Monday morning instead.

The weekend  rest-day post gets written either Saturday night or early on Sunday before we’ve had our full day. So I wanted to report that on last Sunday’s rest-day in Jackson we went to a matinee showing of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Prior to leaving home at least 4 friends had mentioned it as a must-see. We can now concur. Great cast, well acted, very sweet, romantic and poignant. Plus, it’s relevant to those of us exploring the third act of our lives.

Jul 2, 2012

Riding the range


Teton panorama

  • Jackson to Dubois (Doo-BOYZ)
  • 92.4 miles (1114 total)
  • Togwotee Pass – 9575′
  • Feeling the altitude
  • Sunny to cloudy

After our rest day in Jackson, we were ready to get a closer look at the Tetons. We set off early, about 7 AM. It was bike path for almost the first 30 miles. So nice not to have to worry about people in rented RV Buses. We spotted two more moose, these with full racks on. We talked to lots of folks about our trip, some just at the visitor center to the park, some who were traveling fully loaded on their own excursions.

Entering Grand Teton Park

2 moose at Teton Park

bike on cheese

We saw the cutest sign on the bike path – Bike on Cheese. Of course, when we see a truck on Cheese sign, it means an extended grade at 6% or more. The bike on cheese sign meant we’d go downhill slightly less steep than a ramp in a car park for about the same distance as a ramp in a car park. Pretty silly.

Every time we turned a corner we thought we were seeing a better view of the great peaks. And it was true. We’ve left a dozen of those pictures on the cutting room floor. The view just kept getting better and better. Words fail. Pictures do too, but here are our best attempts.

After a long 47 miles, we made it to the lunch stop. This proved to be a pivotal part of the day. We planned on a short lunch because there was a huge climb in the afternoon. But there was road construction. We were told to wait for a van to be shuttled around. So we waited for most of an hour. Then we were told the construction people had come up with an alternative for us and we should just go. We were a little stiff by then, but we shoved off.

Three miles up the road (and I mean UP), we found our alternative. They literally piled 7 of us and our bikes on a flat bed trailer with no rails and drove us up through the construction. The road was completely gone, all dirt and bumps and gravel. Huge moving machines ground away around us as we went further up the pass. After 3.5 rather hair-raising miles, they let us out on asphalt pavement again. Huzzah!

Of course that just meant we were to continue a 15 mile climb to the summit. It was a slow slog. When we would stop for water, we’d be attacked by mosquitoes. About 5 miles from the top, I left two of our four water bottles at a water station. Ooops. We survived and they showed up at the finish line.

Eventually we got to the top of Togwotee Pass, 9,575′ up. I’m pretty sure that Togwotee is the native word for “Place where mosquitos can suck a man dry in two minutes”. It was intense, even for me who doesn’t react to mosquito bites. Sheila, who swells up for weeks with every nip, was covered. We quickly split. Fotunately they can’t fly at 45 mph, which was a pretty steady speed for us for quite a while.

Lots and lots of down eventually led us to a sagebrush plain that looked like it belonged in Arizona. The last ten miles seemed endless because the wind was in our faces and we were getting tired. It had been a long day. Fortunately, the last 4 miles went back to downhill and tailwinds. Finding the Daily Donut just two blocks before our school was like heaven. then we saw the Jackalope that ushered us to the school doors. We’d made it. We even had time for a shower before dinner. Yay! As I look around the gym I see at least 7 bodies completely crashed out on their beds. It was a tough day, but incredibly beautiful. A ride to remember.


Jul 3, 2012

Wyoming winds

  • Dubois to Riverton, WY
  • 81.9 miles
  • 17.1 average!
  • 102 degrees
  • One flat
  • One antelope

We’re learning about winds on this trip. Powerful agents of change, they can carve rocks into spectacular formations. They are also ever changing. Don’t think they are going to be steady. What they will do is fool you. I can’t imagine how early sailors managed them.

Today was slated to be 80 miles on a generally downhill run. Dry conditions. Hot in the afternoon. We succeeded in getting ourselves out by 7 and were treated to tailwinds and downhills for quite a while. We were cruising along at 21-23 mph much of the early morning. We stopped often to take pictures of the wild Wyoming scenery. Giant red rock formations flanked our speeding bike. There were no farms here, quite a change from Idaho. It’s all rock and sagebrush. It’s a wonder people can exist out here. But they do. They even use their driveways to park their horses. You can see a Wyoming carport, 2-horse garage pictured at the bottom. Through it all we sailed along at quite a clip.

We stopped often, as for this historical notice about Crowheart Butte. We pulled over into the shade of a gas station and visited with our fellow cyclists, and we still arrived at the lunch stop shortly after 10. It was way too early to eat, so we packed food for later, visited more, stretched and finally took off. Oops.

The winds had shifted. Now we were running into headwinds. Our 21 mph average was dropping rapidly. Then I discovered the back tire was losing air. It’s always the back which is harder to change. Last Saturday we escaped getting a flat climbing Teton Pass despite what appeared to be roofing nails intentionally strewn all along the shoulder we ride in. Today there was no place to get any shade, so we continued baking while I changed the tube. Mechanic Andrew came along in the sag wagon and lent us his floor pump to ease the situation. But now we were facing the prospect of a long afternoon fighting the wind. We should’ve taken advantage of it earlier.

The bright spot was that just after we changed the flat, Sheila called out a stop. There was an antelope standing on the hillside across the highway. It sauntered toward us, then, realizing its natural colorings blended perfectly with the dirt and sage covered hill, it moved onto the crest of the ridge. There it stood patiently waiting for us to snap a picture. We did.

We continued fighting the winds which became cross winds which caused us to lean significantly to the right as we rode. We were getting pretty tired when we suddenly realized we were going 21  mph uphill. The winds were behind us again! Woohoo! Trouble was, we quickly arrived at a water stop. We swapped out our bottles quickly and jumped back on the wind train.

About 10 miles out, we turned back into the wind and trudged the last miles in. We seem to have trouble with the last ten every day. They never seem to go quickly enough. True, there had been hard spots today, but it was a mostly fun day. But it was hot. One temperature reading said 102! We had gotten our expectations up about getting in early and now it was dragging into the afternoon. But we persevered and finally arrived at our school for the night, Riverton Middle School. Home of the Spartans. We’ll sleep in the air conditioned gym tonight. It’ll be nice.

Jul 4, 2012

Wyoming afire

Last night in Riverton as we went to bed,
we looked at the sky and saw nothing but red.
The sun was afire as were many trees
Causing evacuation of tiny communities.
Wyoming is burning as is Colorado.
We hope all are safe, but we don’t really know.

Sorry, I couldn’t stop myself. It is a very dry summer here.
Fires are all around, though none dangerously near.

  • Riverton to Worland, WY
  • 93.5 miles/1290 total
  • 14.6 average
  • Hot and smokey
  • Winds of all kinds
  • A marriage of rivers
But the smoke and the haze are quite evident. We could smell the blazes all morning long. You couldn’t even see the horizon most of the day.

It was a challenging day in many ways even though we generally lost elevation for the second day in a row. The winds were swirling, sometimes at our backs, sometimes at our side, sometimes in our faces. We had to just abide. Our New York friend Christian was our model. He said it was all just practice for tomorrow’s 20 mile climb. We can do this. So we didn’t whine.

The scenery changed from dry, dusty desert-like areas to a 10 mile long river canyon with exposed cliffs dating back 250 million years to irrigated croplands to bunchgrass-covered fields. And through it all, wind. Our picnic today was at the end of the Wind River Canyon, the river we’d been following the last day and a half. At that point it changed names to The Big Horn River, this spot is called The Marriage of the Rivers. We kept all our stops short so we could get in before the temperature broke the 90s. I don’t know if we made it, but we were happily in at 3.

Now for a short, whole-cyclist report. We are both in very good spirits and feeling quite confident about our expedition. The sore butts don’t bother us now until we get around 75-80 miles, and it is bearable. Healthwise I’m fine but Sheila has had a few minor problems. We took a slow-motion tumble while turning around on the bike trail in Idaho the first week. She didn’t get any scrapes but has a couple of big bruises in places a reporter wouldn’t name. And of course she’s been plagued by the bug bites. For about the last week or more she’s been fighting off a cold of some sort, mostly a sore throat. It may have peaked last night when she was feverish at bedtime. She “crashed” really early. You can see our gym-floor accommodations. I’d say she isn’t up to snuff, except that’s about all her nose can manage.

Jul 5, 2012

Our biggest climb ever

  • Worland to Buffalo, WY
  • 91.5 miles/1381 total
  • 7,090′ climbing
  • 7 hours, 52 minutes in the saddle
  • A 25 mile climb
  • Screaming downhills

Today we had our biggest challenge of the entire 9-week trip and of our 13 year tandem career… the climb over Powder River Pass 9,666′. It is such a daunting climb that the organizers planned for our day to start 30 minutes early with breakfast at Cow Camp. Mmmmm, mmmm. Given that we are in the heart of “eat beef” country, they actually were very nice. They blended our protein drinks in their milkshake maker and had soymilk for our oatmeal.

We had prepared for the ride by stripping all the excess weight off our bike. We left behind most of my heavy tool kit, any extra supplies we usually carry and dressed so we wouldn’t need either of our panniers. We looked sleek heading out into the sun at 6:30 AM. The day started at 65 degrees and quickly warmed up so we didn’t need tights and striped off our wind jackets within the first hour. We rolled over hilly grasslands for 10 miles, alternating short downhills with long, slow climbs. We arrived at Tensleep before 8 and started a slow climb.

At mile 30 we started a 25 mile long climb to the summit. Twenty five miles. That’s a LONG climb! Most of it was at least a 5% grade. The terrain was lovely, traveling up Tensleep Creek Canyon. The road switched back on itself several times which you may be able to tell in the panorama below, but that was nowhere near the top. Every time we’d turn a corner it was more up. We were truly blessed by the goddess. Instead of baking in a sweltering sun, we had high clouds protecting us most of the day. We didn’t even apply sunscreen until nearly noon.

We had to negotiate a 2.2 mile long stretch of construction where there was no pavement, but still plenty of climbing. Then we felt gratitude again when we were surprised by an early lunch stop. It was 3 miles early and coincided with the time our water bottles ran dry. We ran into the crazy young guys who had  previously done Teton Pass TWICE and today they decided to bypass lunch to the summit and return down for lunch…then ride up to the summit again! We just can’t quite fathom that! We didn’t linger long at lunch because thunderstorms were slated for the afternoon and it was already 12:30.

We slogged our way up to the pass. It was one of those very misleading passes with a high mountain valley. You’d go over a crest, start down, then find yourself looking at another climb. There was a gorgeous lake and beautiful purple flowers (lupine?) along the ridge. We topped out just before 2.

You’d think, after 25 miles of up, we’d have a huge long downhill run. Especially since the elevation difference between Worland and Buffalo is only 500 feet. But no. We had some big downs, but then we would hit a mile long, 9% climb. Or a 12% climb. It was much like riding a roller coaster. There was a long slow climb followed by a screaming downhill. We often broke 50 on the downs. It was great fun.

Eventually, we got to the last downhill. It was a full 10 miles long at top speed. What a lovely way to end the ride. We were shuttled into town for dinner. While sitting in the restaurant the skies split open with thunder, lightning and more rain than we’ve seen in weeks. We were so grateful to be dry, warm, and fed. Some of our fellow cyclists got caught and sure looked bedraggled when they came in.

We thought you might enjoy seeing the elevation profile (below) for this, our most arduous ride EVER!  Since some of the riders either got a lift to the 30 mile point to start or sagged in from the picnic lunch spot, we’re feeling quite proud to have completed this challenging epic ride under our own steam.



Jul 6, 2012

I-90 as a rest day

  • Buffalo to Gillette, WY
  • 73 miles (1455 total)
  • 2093′ climbing
  • Picnic at 9:30 am

After yesterday’s challenging ride we were sorely in need of a rest day (pun intended). While we didn’t technically get one, we did have a much shorter and easier day. Who would’ve thought that 73 miles would ever be considered a rest day?! But with only 2093′ of climbing it did seem relatively easy, even with the afternoon headwinds. Check out that Wyoming flag. We made it to “picnic” by 9:30 am. They intentionally don’t call it “lunch” as it can be at any time. And we were in to the high school by about 2 pm, our earliest day yet. We have our first massages scheduled massages this afternoon.

Given that all but the first 5 miles and the last 10 miles were on I-90 there’s not very much to report. Unless you want to hear about the impact of a semi whizzing by at 75mph when you’re standing still on the shoulder. Since Spencer has picked up my sore throat, he’s taking a nap while I write, for a change.

There was some bad news today. One of the Coast-to-Coasters had a freak accident and is going to fly home for surgery. Such a bummer. It certainly points out the inherent hazards of undertaking a trip like this. A random piece of road trash ended her journey. Kathy was raising money for a different cause every week. We’re going to look into taking on her efforts, if possible, and will keep you posted.


Jul 7, 2012

Devils Tower completes week 3

  • Gillette to Devils Tower, WY
  • 77.5 miles (1532 total)
  • Rode 9.5 miles of Monday’s ride to arrive at rest-day motel in Hulett
  • Cool, cloudy start!

We had a tough night last night. The security lights in the gym would not turn off. Sheila had an eye mask, but I didn’t and I ended up waking 4 times during the night. This, coupled with my continuing cold, made it a miserable night. We had a good breakfast. The people here went way out their way to create good vegan meals for us. They made a vegan jambalaya for dinner and butternut squash/bean breakfast burritos for the morning. We took those to eat for dinner in Hulett.

We left Gillette in a thick fog with temperatures at about 55. We hadn’t been this cold since Skykomish. We rode for 10 miles before it broke open. Then we found ourselves in tandem-friendly terrain. There were fast downs with short ups that we blew by. Then it turned into straight flat lands. We were riding steadily at 20-21. Unbelievably fast for us.

We saw interesting things these last two days in Wyoming. Lots of oil wells pumping crude. We saw lots of natural gas sites. They are hard to describe except to say there are compressor type buildings with pipes sinking into the ground. Today we mostly saw coal trains. Long, long coal trains. Lots of them. Wyoming has a big stake in the energy sweeps. We learned that the largest employer in all of Wyoming though is…drumroll…Walmart!

Once again we were at picnic before 10. This time we successfully got in and out in 30 minutes with our panniers full of food to eat at lunch time. And once again, the ride became more challenging after picnic. There were pretty good sized hills, 3 of them, each 2 miles long. The payback was over the top of the last climb. It was a stunning view of Devils Tower (no apostrophe). It meant our week was nearly over. We made a quick run down to the valley floor, then faced 9.5 miles of headwinds as we fought our way to Hulett to our hotel.

Since then, we’ve done our laundry, done our blogging and are now ensconced in our room watching the Tour de France for the first time. I may not be able to stay awake until the end. This cold has me down. We aren’t even going to the big Margarita Party at Cycle America’s campground at Devils Tower. But I think the rest will do us both good.