Sunday, June 24, 2012

PICABO, IDAHO TO GLENROCK, WYOMING

This trip has been going on long enough that I have to look at the map to see where I've been, where I camped, and what is coming next.  Surely, that's a good sign.

After Picabo, there was a memorable 16-mile climb up to the Crater's of the Moon Nat'l Park.   Huge effort, most of it a blur now.  I remember on the way up I pulled off the road onto a driveway that didn't go anywhere, laid down on the gravel, covered my face with my helmet, and took a nap.  It wasn't long, just a few minutes (really, how long can you sleep on gravel?) but when I woke, a swarm of butterflies had landed on me.  Maybe they sought the minerals and salts left on my skin after the sweat evaporated.  Whatever,  I tried to harness their power for the rest of the climb but couldn't get the bastards to stay in the little harnesses. 

Crater's of the Moon;There was a scenic drive at the visitor's center, but I declined.  I'd spent over 2 hours getting there, all the while riding past the enormous lava fields. What was I going to see that I hadn't already?  

From there I descended to the town of Arco for a much needed day off.  It's a neat little desert town with the sail off a nuclear submarine plopped in the city park.  Turns out the town banked heavily on the uranium mining and nuclear power development that was set in the hills nearby. 

I checked that out too, visiting the ERB-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor).  In 1951, it became the first nuclear reactor to generate electric power. The technology was over my head, but it used a process that created fuel (breeder) instead of creating waste.  Additionally, a failsafe built into the system shut it down automatically in the event of a loss of control.  ERB-2 improved on the process, and they created a very efficient, inherently safe nuclear power plant that recycled it's own fuel. One of the question the tour and brochure left unanswered was why the Clinton administration shut it down.  Ah well, gas was cheap in 1994.  

From there I went to Idaho Falls, where the great guys at Dave's Bike Shop (including Dave himself) hooked me up with some parts I needed to keep the trip rolling forward, and a great restaurant recommendation. 

I did make a rookie mistake that day though.  I left town on a main road (no option there), heading for the Swan Valley (popular place), on a Friday afternoon.  Bad idea. Everyone on the road was apparently late for vacation and not interested in wasting time making a safe pass of a bicycle.  That's when I came up with the phrase "full-throttle-tourism."  What do you do if you want to see the Grand Tetons, Yellowstone, and the Crater's of the Moon, but you only have 3 days off?  Floor it!   I should have stayed in Idaho Falls until Saturday morn.

Miles and miles I rode on, stopping, among other places, in Pinedale, Wyoming.  Passing through there at the same time were the riders in the Continental Divide Bicycle Race. You think I'm doing a long ride?  Bend, Oregon, to Sioux Center, Iowa, is about 1500 miles. The people doing the Tour Divide are riding from Alberta, Canada, to Antelope Wells, New Mexico; around 2500 miles!  

After taking a day off in Pinedale, I got on the road and met up with one of the racers; John Phillips.  We rode together most of the day.  He would drop me on the climbs, I would drop him on the descents.  On the flat sections, we rode together.  I've been averaging about 60 miles per day, he was averaging 120 mile per day, every day, from the start to the finish.  First mountain bike he'd ever had.  He'd seen 3 grizzlys, but wasn't practicing bear safe food storage techniques because, well, he hadn't been mauled yet.  We rode together till about 6 PM, when I'd done about 75 miles.  I stopped to camp, he kept going.  I slept on the ground for half an hour before I had enough energy to put up my tent, where I slept for another hour before I had enough energy to eat, so I'd have enough energy to go to sleep for the night.  

Recap: I had a day off.  He rode 25 miles to get to where I started from.  He kept going when I stopped and at that point I would have slept on my bike if it hadn't fallen over.  And did I mention he's 10 years older than me?  I think I know why the grizzlies left him alone!

I went through South Pass City, which is both the smallest town and the largest historical mark in Wyoming.  Check out if you get a chance.  I would have but once there realized I'd seen it before:  it was part of the route I did with my very good friend Robert back in 2005 or 6.  We had a great two-week adventure on the motorcycles which I would gladly rerun if he hadn't un-retired right about the time I retired.  Robert, if your reading this, when is your boss going to give you time off?

I left South Pass City and the highway follows the Platte River after passing some very historical markers.  So much more than I can relate in these few paragraphs.  By all means, check out Independence Rock, Devil's Gate, and Martin's Cove.  Places I'd never even heard of but their significance in American history is huge. 

As I was saying, I left there following the Platte River, which makes for an easy, level road.  But too many trucks.  I took a detour which looked to be less used.  The map indicated some sort of ski area, but didn't mention much else.  If only I had known. So much up-hill, and no shade.  It was by far the toughest section of the trip so far.  Hwy 251 on the map, 505 on the signs. I felt like Frodo climbing Mt Doom.  Once I got over the top, I found a picnic table and had to work up the energy to make and eat lunch.   Peanut butter and jelly on a tortilla: how much energy can that take?  I barely had it.  

Casper was less than memorable, so I rode to Glenrock intending to do some light maintenance. Alas, my persistent small problem with the shifting turned out to be a broken part. A new one is on the way but I will be living here for a couple days. Just more proof that the adventure is the journey, not the destination.

Having a great time, wish you were here.  More to follow.

Monday, June 18, 2012

PRAIRE TO PICABO

Several days behind, here is the latest.

         I left prairie by way of the road.  Surprisingly, there were several options for leaving Prairie.  I headed for the town of Pine.  Everyone who heard that was my route of choice expressed concern over "that hill." I'd already found out the hill was after the town, and the pavement began in Pine.  So I wasn't too worried.  Maybe I should have been.

         To get to Pine I took a lightly traveled but well maintained 26 mile dirt road. Spectacular scenery along the way.  In Pine I stopped at the only cafe, fortunately it promised to be biker friendly. In my case, that only requires large portions.  

          You have to be careful, though. All those cafes are bars, sometimes when the sign says "biker friendly" you can be surprised to find them full of burly men in tight leather pants with the butt and crotch cut out.  I may be wearing lycra shorts, but that is too friendly for me!

            The road out of Pine did live up to the dire warnings.  It wasn't too steep to ride, but it was enough to require my lowest gear and I think I pedaled up it for over an hour.

            Back on the main road, I made my way to the town of Hill City. There was one store, which was also a bar, and promised live music. After noticing a mule tied up next to the bar, I went inside. Instead of a bell to announce someone entering the store, I heard the one of the members of the band yell out that "there's a biker in the store and he probably wants carbs."  He was close. What I really wanted to know was if there was anywhere to camp.  

           It was determined that the back yard of the bar was both my best and only option.  After changing into regular clothes, I sat at the bar talking to the locals.  The band, by the way, was two guys with guitars, one of which was Lyle Evens (sp?).  Check him out if you can.  And the Hill City Bar, too. Odds are they will adopt you as one of their own as quickly as they did me.  How nice were they?  Once the bar closed, and the after-hours party wound down, they decided it was too cold to sleep outside and told me I should sleep in the bar.  On the pool table would have been a good choice.  On the stage might have been a good choice. On the floor was probably not the best choice.  But by the time the party wound down, I was not putting lots of thoughts into my sleeping spot.  I wanted to stay and say goodbyes, but I also wanted to get some miles in.  So if you're reading this, Hill City Bar cast and crew, thank you again for all the hospitality.  

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

First update.

This is already 3 days old but this is the first wifi I've had access to. Enjoy. It's been a great trip so far.  The first few days of riding where all tail-winds and downhill.  I've been stopping at every place that was open for food and general diversion, though in western Oregon that was still meant 60 miles of bicycling between options. Before I knew it I was in Idaho.  Then, outside of Boise, there was a vague sign promising showers, camping, and breakfast in the town of Prairie.  It didn't take much to convince me to turn towards it.  Before long, the pavement ended.  No idea how far it was to Prairie, I decided it press on.  The town didn't appear on my maps and there was no mileage on the only sign I'd seen.       The first mountain pass had me questioning my decision.  The second and third... well, once your committed, why turn back?  The fourth found me walking up a 14% grade dragging the 80+lbs of bicycle and gear.   By the time i made it to town, I'd ridden almost forty miles and climbed 3000 vertical feet.  Later I would sit in the cafe drinking coffee and listening to other tourists as they exclaimed to the locals how difficult it was driving in on that Black Creek Road...  the same road I had traveled on a bicycle.      I got to the town of Prairie, sunburned and exhausted.  I was definitely ready for a rest-day.  I planned to camp but got a pretty good deal on a room at the cozy little Prairie Store.   The room would turn out to be a great decision.  And it was a nice room, although there was no wifi, or cable.  No tv either, but that was okay, since there was no electricity.  That would have made it tough to see to take a  shower, but that was okay since there was no hot water.  No cold water either.  I stayed three nights and they never even gave me a key.  God help me, I love places and days like these.      I was going to take a day off the bike, stay in Prairie for two nights.  The power and water came on before the second night, along with heat and hot water.  Just in time, since rain was in the forecast for the third day.  But if you'd been reading this blog all spring, then you can already guess what came instead.  Snow.  Naturally, I stayed.  Why ride a bicycle on a dirt road in the snow if you don't have to?  Add to that being in a place where you feel at home ten minutes after showing up... If they'd had an ATM I might never have left.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

“I saw that my life was a vast glowing empty page and I could do anything I wanted.” ― Jack Kerouac Except load pictures from my iPad to my blog. That, apparently, I cannot do. I will continue to take pictures and load them when I can.