Day 63 (July 30th 2016) Powell – Kooskia ID; 90 miles

Usually when the elevation map says that a ride is “all downhill”, it hardly ever is. However, today’s ride proved to be an exception. Besides the very rare gradual uphill, it was all down. The scenery was once again beautiful, however, it was also quite redundant. After a while, you start to get bored of constant dense forest without any towns in between. Crazy as it may sound, it’s true. A rider we’ve ran into a number of times said it best when he described it as being “saturated”. We’ve seen beautiful parts of the country, and now we’re on sensory overload. Things we’d consider absolutely stunning in our routine day to day lives is now just “eh”. A good long break from the bike (in only 11 days, but who’s counting) I’m sure will cure us of these feelings.

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11 miles into today’s ride we stopped at Jerry Johnson’s warm springs for a dip. It was a mile walk to and from the springs, which was worth it because they were pretty cool. We stayed only a little bit because the thought of having another 80 miles to ride was daunting.

Tomorrow we have a shorter day, however, there are a few climbs that look challenging.

 

Day 62 (July 29th 2016) Missoula MT – Powell ID 60 miles

2 months in and less than 2 weeks until this journey is complete. Today was an easy day, and a beautiful one as well. We had to back track 13 miles from Missoula to get back onto route (Missoula is an optional stop on the TransAm), which at first was frustrating, but it flew by. We had a gradual climb with a steep few last miles that ended in Idaho. We spent another good chunk of time in the visitor center, where we met two older gentlemen from Portland. They gave us recommendations on places to go/things to see in the city as well as how beautiful the rest of our ride will be. They said that the huge trees that surround us now are “toothpicks compared to the trees you’ll see in OR. I can brush my teeth with these trees!”.

The last 13 miles flew by, mainly because they were all downhill. The last bit of the ride was gorgeous, we were following a river and surrounded by brilliantly green trees. The smell was overwhelmingly fresh. We stopped for a little to take a refreshing dunk in the river to cool off. The cold temperatures we experienced in CO and WY are over now that we’re back in lower elevation. So now it’s just the scenery that gives me chills.

The town of Powell is a small one and we’re staying on the lawn of a lodge. We got dinner and drinks there and we were able to relax cell phone free when we got in. The huckleberry sangria was delicious.

We have a long mileage day tomorrow, but from what I’ve been told, it’s “all downhill”. I’ll believe it when I see it! As long as the scenery stays as beautiful as it has been, I know I’ll be distracted even if it’s not all downhill.

Days 60+61 (July 27th and 28th 2016) Darby – Missoula MT; 62 miles

Yesterday was an easy day, but any one of us could argue it was a boring one. We spent the majority of the day on a bike path at the base of the Bitter Root Mountains. Though the scenery was beautiful, the bike path was long and tedious, as well as poorly signed and at times confusing. We had to cross the highway numerous times to stay on track as well as attempt to figure out where the next turn was. Even though frustrating, the bike path was a safer choice than the road, as there were white crosses littered along the way signifying highway deaths. Not the most reassuring symbol.

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It is now becoming a trend that the last pit stop of the day (usually 20 or less miles left of the ride) is the longest. We spend up to 2 hours at a gas station or convenience store putting off the inevitable. It’s not that we’re physically tired, we just are sick of getting back on the bike at this point. We want to get to the destination, but find it hard to find the motivation to hop back on the bike. But with only 2 weeks left of the journey, the excitement of getting to OR I’m sure will energize us to get it done.

I have noticed that I spend the most money to support my chocolate milk and gummy bear addiction. I get thrilled when I see a gas station convenience store, as I usually have a strong craving for chocolate milk. I will consume at least a bottle daily, sometimes more including what the dinner crew gets for dinner. It is proven to be a top notch recovery drink, plus it’s delicious! Gummy bears are great for just bored snacking when riding.

Today we had a rest day in Missoula, MT. It is home of the Adventure Cycling Association, the organization who set this trip up. They welcomed us with drinks and ice cream, and even weighed our bikes. Old Bessie came in a little over group average at 84 lbs, she’s a hefty girl. But I’ve come all this way with the weight, so no use making cuts now! We even got to see Whitney again, it was great to see her friendly and smiling face. We enjoyed exploring the town at night with Catherine.

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Today the ACA threw a delicious BBQ for us and gave us a tour of the headquarters. It was very interesting to learn the history and roots of the organization, and how we ourselves are advancing their legacy. At the end of the tour they gifted us with free jerseys, we all were very appreciative.

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Sheena and I ran various errands, including getting our bikes checked out at one of the many bike shops. Old Bess’ handlebar tape ripped a few days ago, so she got a makeover with purple tape. She looks so fierce now!

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Tomorrow we will be saying goodbye to MT and head into ID. We have been told that ID is surprisingly beautiful, so I’m excited to see if it lives up to the hype.

Sheena and I sprung for a hotel last night and tonight, so we should be well rested to handle the intimidating ride ahead of us!

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Day 59 (July 26 2016) Jackson – Darby MT; 74 miles

Another fun day in Montana! Seriously. We did have to climb another pass and the continental divide again (maybe for the last time? I lost count). The downhill was pretty steep for a good 7 miles that we shot down pretty quickly. Good adrenaline rush! At the bottom we ran into a whole herd of big horn sheep, the first I’ve seen yet. We’ve been keeping our eyes out for moose, but the only ones we’ve seen are of the stuffed variety.

We entered Idaho again, but only for half a mile. We quickly returned to good old Montana. Idaho just can’t wait for our triumphant return for the third and final time.The last 18 miles were mostly downhill and we did them in an impressive hour. Sheena would argue that it was due to my competitive nature. Alec was in the not so far off distance, igniting my natural instinct to chase (thanks track!) and catch up with him. Mission accomplished! Alec then saw Erica in the distance, invoking his chase instinct, dragging us all along. It was a rush of a ride and we needed to come down from it in a cafe.

Montana is a beautiful state and the pictures I have taken fail to do it justice. Unfortunately the section we rode today was affected by a wildfire from 2001, but we could see the new saplings growing from the wreckage.

We have yet to encounter the rumored rude RV drivers of MT, but as Catherine truthfully put it, they have no right to harass us. They are the most annoying moving vehicle on the road, taking up so much space and going slow, practically moving a whole country inside!

 

The town of Darby is another cute western town. Lots of stores and restaurants to wander through. Tomorrow we are going to Missoula, where the ACA headquarters is located. Then we have one of our final rest days!

Day 58 (July 25th 2016) Dillon – Jackson MT; 46 miles

Today we had 2 climbs, both relatively long, but like yesterday they were manageable. And dare I say enjoyable. The only bad part of them is I hit a patch of gravel going uphill and fell right in front of a truck. Luckily his eyes were on the road and the incompetent cyclist ahead of him and he avoided a collision with me.

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Because it was such a short day, we got into Jackson early. We are camping behind a lodge. They were nice enough to let us hang out in their lobby and watch movies on their big screen tv. Some of us even took naps on their comfy couches. It was nice and enjoyable to have an afternoon off the bike to relax! Montana has surely been treating us well.

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Day 57 (July 24th 2016) Ennis – Dillon MT; 73 miles

Today was another relatively uneventful day in Montana. It starting with a long, yet enjoyable, 10 mile climb. I found it relaxing. Funny that I now enjoy climbing, my former Appalachian self would find that impossible to believe.

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In the town of Virginia City, we ran into a couple groups of motorcyclists. We talk with them briefly about our trip, they found it crazy but also incredible. It’s funny how the further from Yorktown VA we get, the more exaggerated people’s reactions to our trip become. Further east, people didn’t find it a big deal, probably because we were so close to the start. But now people’s eyes get really wide and mouths have to be picked up from the floor. “You started where?! Oh you guys are crazy!” is usually people’s first reaction, followed by a list of questions about the trip. One motorcyclist told us he was truly proud of us and the progress we made, which in turn made my day.

Ever since CO, the nights and mornings have been freezing. Waking up to 37 degrees (or colder) forces us to bundle up. Which leads to a confusing first few hours on the bike until it gets ungodly hot. Strip down or keep on the layers is always running through my mind. Today was no different. Going uphill I was sweating, but the steep downhill with wind (and sweaty clothes) proved to be a freezing experience. The temperature just can’t make up its mind out here!

Tomorrow is a shorter day, but we were warned of unruly RV drivers who like to run cyclists off the road. Oh boy!

Day 56 (July 23rd 2016) West Yellowstone – Ennis MT; 73 miles

Today was the easiest day we’ve had in a while. The terrain was mostly flat and we had a good dose of tail winds towards the end of the ride. The ride itself was beautiful, we spent half of the miles riding alongside Hebgen Lake. It is an interesting lake because on Sheena’s birthday in 1959, an earthquake caused the Madison River to dam, creating the lake and taking out everything in its path, including campgrounds. It was interesting to witness such a new geological creation.

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We got into Ennis early and explored some of the town, including Willie’s distillery, in which we sampled a flight of their home distilled moonshine and bourbon. Sheena had more of a taste for it than I did.

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With only 17 days left of this journey, it is palpable the sense of homesickness within the group. Although we’re all excited to see what the next few days have in store, we are all also excited to get back to home and our normal routines, which involve friends, family, and (arguably the top of everyone’s list) sleep. I know I miss my apartment complete with little Addie!

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Days 54+55 (July 21 and 22nd 2016) Ashton ID – West Yellowstone MT; 60 miles

Yesterday we said a brief farewell to Idaho and made it into Montana. It was a rather uneventful ride, though we did see our fair share of police activity, including an airlift rescue after a bad accident. We also hit some construction, forcing us to get stuck in some traffic. Other than that, it was quiet and relatively easy.

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Today was an off day and an opportunity to check out Yellowstone. Because we heard horror stories about riding bicycles in the park, we chose to rent a car to see the nearby attractions. We saw plenty of bison, including one who strolled right next to the car. We visited a couple different geysers and hot springs, most noticeable of which was The Grand Prismatic Spring and Old Faithful. We waited for quite some time for Old Faithful to go off, and it was rather short lived. Dad caught a picture of us on the webcam, see above pictures. We were going to check out the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, but unfortunately due to a fatal accident and potentially waiting hours in jammed traffic, we decided to go back to camp early. It was fun to revisit the park, only wish we could stay longer to check out the rest of the huge venue. But the road is calling, and alas, we must depart tomorrow.

Day 52+ 53 (July 19th/20th 2016) Jackson Hole WY – Ashton ID; 70 miles

We said our final farewells to the beautiful, but windy, WY and said our first hellos to Idaho, but only for today. We are deviating from the established TransAm route due to the fact that organized tour groups cannot ride through Yellowstone, so adjustments had to be made. We are in ID tonight, only to leave and return to it down the road. It was a warm welcome at first, with tailwinds, however, ID didn’t want us to get too comfortable, as the winds changed quickly to head winds. As we rode through the farmlands, we were able to see the Grand Tetons from the back. They’re much more grand from the front, but still beautiful nonetheless.

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We left WY via Teton Pass, a 5.5 mile 10% grade mountain in which we gained 2500’. It is by far the longest and steepest pass we have encountered this entire trip. Even though it sounds harsh and exhausting, it was actually my favorite climb of the trip. We were on a paved bike trail the whole way up, completely segregated from the busy road. We had amazing views of the valley that provided an excellent distraction. Plus having fresh legs from yesterday’s off day was a welcome bonus. The descent from the pass was unfortunately not on a bike path and we had to brave the steep curving roads with the traffic. Luckily we all made it in one piece.

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Yesterday’s off day was much needed. We slept in till late (10 am!) and explored the city. Some of the crew went white water rafting, and at night Ten’s aunt invited us for dinner. I declined the offer, and instantly regretted it when those who went told us about it. The house they went to was in between Judge Judy and Harrison Ford’s vacation homes! The pictures of the house were unbelievable. There was also a valley wide power outage due to a substation going out, so the whole city was without power during peak dinner time. Locals said power never goes out, so no businesses had backup generators. Almost all the businesses were closed, and I was on a ravenous quest for dinner. We finally found the one place in Jackson Hole that had a backup generator and gas stoves. We devoured dinner and as soon as we paid the bill the power was restored. There was a town wide deafening cheer from hungry folks thrilled by the turn of events.

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Tomorrow we head into Montana where we’ll have another rest day!

Day 51 (July 18th 2016) Colter Bay Village – Jackson Hole WY; 40 miles

Today we took advantage of a low mileage day and went hiking in the Grand Tetons! Meg’s dad suggested that we hike at Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point. It’s a relatively easy low mile hike. Inspiration Point itself was beautiful, with a great overlook on Jenny Lake and surrounding mountains. There is a pretty substantial wildfire in the area, so unfortunately the view was slightly obscured by smoke. From Inspiration Point, we continued to hike into the canyon. I wasn’t aware that we could hike into the actual mountain, so it was a pretty cool experience for me.

The ride to Jenny Lake was awe inspiring, as we rode right to the base of the infamous mountains. It was really cool to experience it from the saddle of a bicycle, able to take it in fully. The ride from Jenny Lake, however, was a little rough. The wind picked up and of course was right in our faces. We rode on a bike path free from traffic.

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We are staying in Jackson Hole, a very touristy town but a really neat one. It has everything and we’ll have a fun time exploring it tonight and tomorrow, an off day!

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