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.