Day 50 (July 17th 2016) Dubois – Colter Bay Village WY; 66 miles

We were told yesterday that the ACA had ranked today’s ride in the top 5 rides of the TransAm. And for good reason too. Sure we had to do a pretty substantial climb over Togwotee Pass (also crossed the continental divide again) but the 17 miles of downhill (mostly) with grand views of the Grand Tetons made up for it. Even the climb had beautiful views of surrounding buttes.

We rode into Grand Teton National Park and continued to ride closely to the behemoth mountains. We were able to pull off onto observation points to take them in. It was stunning. We are camping at Colter Bay under them. With an approaching storm coming in, it set an ominous atmosphere watching the grey clouds overtake the grand mountains. The water was freezing, yet refreshing. We got to hang out more with Monica, likely the last time we’ll ride with her because she’s lucky enough to spend a few days in the park.

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We are officially in bear country and everywhere we look are flyers on keeping food away and preventing bear attacks. We stored everything in bear boxes, so hopefully we won’t have any furry friends knocking on our tent doors asking for a cup of honey.

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Tomorrow is a short day to Jackson Hole, then a much needed rest day. After 11 days of riding, I think we deserve one!

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Day 49 (July 16th, 2016) Lander – Dubois WY; 78 miles

To quote Sheena, “if Kentucky was hell, then Wyoming is at least purgatory”. And she’s right. Don’t get me wrong, I love the state, but it’s had its share of rough patches. Early in the morning (2am), we were once again assaulted by sprinklers. This went on for an hour, but since I already had experience dealing with these foes and knew it was too warm for it to freeze everything (again) I let the comforting repetition of the sprinklers lull me to sleep, much like the soothing sound of the ocean. I woke up to find that all my clothes for the morning were soaked, along with my sleeping bag, pillow, and air mattress (no wonder I was cold). What a way to start out the morning! I tied all the clothes to the outside of my bike to dry as I rode. I looked like a gypsy with all of it flying around me (see picture below).

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We left early to avoid wind (story of our lives now) but were held up when Sheena got a flat. But since she’s had practice, it didn’t take long for her to change it. We passed through Windy River Indian Reservation (appropriately named). It is allegedly one of two suspected burial sites for Sacagawea. Unfortunately, it was 2 miles off route and due to weather reports, we didn’t want to ride 4 miles round trip.

With 20 miles left in the trip, we hit some of the worst head and side winds yet, coming at us from all angles but the back. Of course, just our luck! These miles were also mainly uphill, so we definitely got our resistive training done, enough to last us a year. The downhill patches we hit were also difficult to ride down, mainly because the side winds were so violent they tried to throw us off our bikes. Both Molly and Murph were victims of the wind, but they triumphed unscathed.

The scenery today was beautiful, but hard to take in due to the winds. We saw gorgeous red rocks and towards the end we saw scenery similar to the Grand Canyon. The views were also difficult to take in due to a persistent nose bleed, likely due to altitude and dry air. The one tissue I had was not efficient for the job. I probably gave a few motorists a minor heart attack as they passed.

The town of Dubois is another tourist fueled small town. It’s really interesting and quaint. Sheena and I decided to rent a hotel room due to insufficient sleep from being attacked by sprinklers all night.


Sheena’s corner: Emilie’s version of The Hail Mary “Hail Mary, who art in heaven…” Bloody noses, flat tires, and 30mph head/ sidewinds won’t keep us from completing each day. I’m continuously impressed with Emilie, myself, and the team for getting up and biking every day despite the knowing obstacles that lie ahead.

Day 48 (July 15th 2016) Jeffrey City – Landers WY ; 60 miles

We beat the winds! And got in before 12pm. Granted, the winds never got to be anything too rough, but it was really nice getting into camp so early, particularly because there is so much going on in the city. This weekend is a climber convention so a whole bunch of rock climbers from around the country came to convene. Definitely an interesting group of people, and maybe one day I’ll pick up the habit.

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The town itself is pretty cool, and with a population of 7500+ people, it seems like a bustling metropolis compared to the rest of Wyoming. We went to the bike shop and bar to kill some time. It would’ve been really nice to have an off day in the town, but since we got In so early, it was the next best thing.

The ride into town was enjoyable, because most of it was downhill. We rode through beautiful red rock and landscapes. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to make up the elevation the next couple of days.

For the last few days we have been riding with some other transammers, mostly young guys who just up and quit their jobs (sound familiar?). A few of the others are freshly retired men just yearning after wanderlust. One of the guys, Mike, has done this and other tours before and has tidbits of advice to offer. Ironically, a lot of us have been following his journey via Instagram before even starting. I was surprised we caught up, must’ve been that 100 miler day in Colorado (ha). He also writes a blog, http://coast2coastbikeride.com/2016-bike-ride/ Check it out if you have time!

Day 47 (July 15th 2016) Rawlins – Jeffrey City, WY; 70 miles

We mostly succeeded in getting out early in attempts to beat the winds. We only hit winds for the last 10 miles, which weren’t nearly as bad as the last couple of days. Scenery is more of the same, looks kind of out of this world, like another planet.

And now a little tidbit into the glamorous world of cycling: for some reason, when the winds hit, it causes your nose to run like you wouldn’t believe. Because you’re holding onto the bike so hard in attempt to counteract the wind, you can’t take your hands off the handlebars to wipe it. So you just let the wind splatter it across your face, or let it hit the unlucky soul behind you. It’s a sight to behold, I’m sure.

We got in pretty early today, so we stopped by the local watering hole for wifi. Hoping for another early start tomorrow in preparation for what I’m sure will be another day of headwinds.

Sheena’s corner, resurrected:
I’m alive, just exhausted.

Today Emilie heard a cow moo and proceeded to ask me, “was that you or the cow?” …. “What? The cow, Emilie.” “Oh, I wasn’t sure if you farted.” 😑😂 Yea, it was probably her trying to blame the cow. Poor cow…

Day 46 (July 13th 2016) Saratoga – Rawlins WY; 41 miles

Just because today was a short days does not, by any means, mean today was an easy day. We all enjoyed the hotel stay and slept in late, getting a late start on the road. Which of course meant less miles in before the winds hit. And boy did they hit.

We had to ride on an interstate highway for a little over 10 miles right into the wind. Sheena was a champ and led a group of us through. The cars were pretty respectful, though I’m sure they thought, “wow what a buncha idiots”.

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We caught up with Monica, a solo rider who we met in the Appalachians. She was smart and spent a lot of time in Colorado, taking it all in. We also met a couple from close to home, West Chester, PA who were driving across the country and wished us luck with our journey.

 

I said goodbye to my parents and Addie today, but I’ll see them soon enough. I also booked my flight home seeing as we’ll be done in no time flat.

The winds are still kicking and setting up camp was difficult. Here’s to hoping they bestow mercy upon us tomorrow and lessen up.

Day 45 (July 12th, 2016) Walden CO – Saratoga WY; 68 miles

Colorado didn’t want us to leave, seeing as how it froze us all in our tents this morning. We stayed in the city park overnight and from 11pm on, we (I was at least) were harassed by sprinklers. Apparently I set up my tent right next to one, unbeknownst to me, and it was doing its thing all night long. I couldn’t move my tent at that point, so I just slept through it. In the morning I could barely open my tent fly because my whole tent was encased in ice (yes, it was that cold). After I broke through, I noticed that my bike was also frozen. I had to time moving everything with the sprinkler so I wouldn’t get doused, and in doing so, was too distracted to snap a picture of the nonsense. As the morning wore on, those who weren’t hit by the sprinklers at night were hit as they were packing up. It was like a mine field and if it wasn’t so darn cold, it would be comical.

But eventually we thawed out and said our goodbye to CO and ventured our way into Wyoming. We passed by the wild fire and could smell it pretty strongly. As soon as we passed into WY we hit those head and cross winds again. As usual, it was demoralizing but I have at least come to terms with it. As we rode into the afternoon we noticed that the wildfire smoke was billowing even more due to the winds. I was so distracted by it that I almost rode right over antelope roadkill, but Sheena came to my rescue just in the knick of time.

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WY is pretty desolate so we have to be very mindful of our water and not to get too low. My parents met us at the end of the ride and provided dinner for us all. Everyone was very appreciative. We are staying in a motel for the night and I get to sleep cuddled up next to Addie! Perfect way to end a tough day.

Day 44 (July 11th 2016) Kremmling – Walden, CO; 80 miles

I lost my phone charger yesterday (Murph to the rescue!) so today and yesterday’s posts were uploaded late

Colorado continues to give me chills, not only because of the scenery, but because of the wind and the actual cold. At night and in the mornings it gets pretty chilly, more than I was prepared for. Even during riding, I stayed pretty bundled up. Mainly cause the wind chilled things down a few degrees.

Everyone started out pretty late due to last night’s late entrance. Sheena noticed that her shifter was too loose and about to fall off. She tightened it but it was still not working properly. After about 20 miles, we stopped at a restaurant to refill water. We ran into the owner of a bike shop (the owner of the very one we were going to stop at, but it was closed). What’re the chances?! He looked at her bike and fixed it, but was in a hurry. He left before we realized the problem wasn’t truly fixed. We went the rest of the ride with it broken, but Mary came to the rescue and fixed it when we got in!

For the later part of the ride we were battling 30 MPH wind gusts from all directions. It was over 30 miles and truly demoralizing. It made an 80 mile day feel like a 100 mile one. It was not the most fun, and that’s all I have to say about that. Oh, and we crossed another continental divide. That’s 2 in 2 days, not too shabby.

We were welcomed into a kind man’s home for water. Because towns were very spread out and amenities were few and far between, we resorted to knocking on doors to find water. This gentleman told us that he frequently allows bikers to stay at his house and he wonders why no one blogs about him. Well here’s his big shot! He is the last house on the left (going west) in the town of Rand. He told us about the wildfire that we could see and soon would be riding right towards. He also explained that a lot of the dead trees we have seen are because of pine beetles, an invasive species. They are letting the wildfire burn in a controlled manner to regenerate the forest.

We got in again a little late, but tomorrow is a shorter and hopefully less windy day.

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Day 43 (July 10th 2016) Hartsel – Kremmling CO; 108 miles

100 miles in the Rockies should be illegal. Not only because it’s tough, but there’s no time to enjoy the sights and views the great mountains have to offer! Colorado continues to be breathtaking, not only for its beauty, but for the altitude as well. We made it over our highest point (Hoosier Pass) of the trip, 11,500 feet to be exact. Waiting at the top were my parents and Addie, a great way to end the climb! The towns at the base of the ascent were really cool, but unfortunately, due to the time constraint, we were unable to explore them.

After crossing the continental divide, we were led onto a beautiful bike path with spectacular views. The path was very well used and we had to practice caution during riding to avoid a head on collision. After the bike path, however, riding got tough. Because we spent some time in Breckenridge (it looked straight out of Disneyland), we were all pretty far behind. At 5pm we still had 37 miles to go. We thought they would be all downhill, but boy were we wrong.

We took a road whose terrain was very similar to that of the Appalachians. Ups and downs that were not very kind. Once we were halfway done with the road did we realize that we missed a shortcut that would’ve shaved 4 miles from the trip. But we were committed! We were warned about construction on an upcoming road, and ever the optimist, Murph thought maybe taking the long way bypassed the construction. But boy was she wrong.

Once we got off the Appalachian road, we got on the construction road at the very start of said construction. It was 6 miles of pure nightmare. Everything that could’ve gone wrong did. The sun was in our eyes, wind in our faces, the road was unpaved and felt like we were riding on a rumble strip the whole time. In addition, every time a car passed it would throw dust in our faces, forcing us to hold our breath for 15 seconds to let it clear. In that high of altitude, that is near impossible! One semi passed me and kicked up a rock right into my neck. It was the cherry on top. But alas we survived and more importantly, my bike survived. Some were not so lucky. Racks and brakes broke for some from the vibrations and others suffered from flats. It was definitely a rough stretch.

Once we were through with that road, we hit swarms and swarms of mosquitos. I was so busy swatting them away that I nearly fell off my bike, not for the first time on the ride. Earlier I laughed so hard I almost fell off my bike. Sheena accidentally blew a snot rocket in a stealthy road cyclist’s face who snuck up on us. Sheena felt horrible, but didn’t get a chance to apologize.

We ended up getting in at 8:30, with just enough light left to set up camp. Others didn’t get in till after 10. Ten’s mom and cousin were kind enough to provide dinner, breakfast, and lunch. After the day we had, it was much appreciated.

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Day 42 (July 9th 2016) Royal Gorge – Hartsel, CO;

Colorado is living up to all my expectations, and then some. You know the views and sights are amazing when you’re climbing up a hill full of anticipation about what you’ll see as you come over the top that you don’t even realize you just climbed over a mountain. There is so much to see and take in that it makes me wish I invested in a GoPro.

A highlight of the day was coming over a pass at 9,400 ft to see snow capped mountains in the distance. It was breathtaking and words (nor picture) could capture the moment. The only thing that made it better was the fact that my parents and Addie were just a hundred feet away waiting with snacks. It was a great place to stop and stock up on goodies.

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All in all, we climbed close to 5,000 feet in elevation. Everyone seems to be noticing the change in elevation. You know it’s bad when a bunch of under 30’s are huffing and puffing climbing a gradual hill after biking for well over a month. Rest breaks are necessary and taking it easy is a must. Tomorrow we will be reaching the highest elevation of the trip, then it’s all downhill from there!

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Day 41 (July 8th 2016) Lake Pueblo State Park – Royal Gorge CO;

Today started not so great but ended on a high note. From 3am – 6am, we were pounded by back to back severe thunderstorms that gave the one in Benedict a run for its money. They say that lightning strikes 30 times a second around the globe. For those 3 hours, it felt like all those average strikes were concentrated directly over us. It was never ending and the wind was relentless. Then there was the hail. Golf ball sized hail pelted us and our tents, I thought it was gonna tear right through, but the old girl held up like a champ. After the worst of it was gone, we packed up camp quicker than ever and scadaddled out to avoid any more storms.

Today’s ride is what I’ve been waiting for this whole trip. The mountains are insanely beautiful and we had a good 20 mile stretch of downhill, taking in the sights and beauty. Towards the end of the ride, we did encounter some long climbs, but compared to the Appalachians, it was a cake walk.

We were originally supposed to stay in Guffey tonight, however, after talking with several east bounders, we decided that was not going to happen. There is only one available place to stay there, in a gentleman’s yard. All the cyclists we talked with told us horror stories. We decided to jump ship and stay at a wonderful campsite in Royal Gorge. Though it means we have to make up for lost mileage, avoiding another Benedict night is worth it.

And for the happiest of news – I have been reunited with Addie! My parents drove from Jersey to CO in record time, and I was lucky enough to see both them and Addie tonight. I was nervous Addie would have forgotten all about me after being spoiled by my parents all summer, but she gave me a wonderful year provoking greeting that made my day. She looks wonderful, and has not gained any weight from all the excessive treats I’m sure she’s getting (and deserves). I get to see them for the next couple of days, which will only enhance the beautiful rides to come.

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