Friday, June 26, 2015

GRAND Tetons National Park!

Wednesday, June 24   Day 18  Dubois to Jackson Lake, WY   93 miles  
  (In my riding 17 days, I pedaled 1447 miles with 61,600 feet of climbing)
My final day of this tour was arguably the most scenic due almost completely to the grandeur of the Tetons. For the photo above, I was at Jenny Lake, south of Jackson Lake where we stayed the night. After cresting a pass at mile 39 and seeing the Tetons for the first time, we continued for the next couple hours to view them in awe around every bend until I reached the south end of Jenny Lake right at the base. Each view was so stunningly beautiful, I couldn't help but take about 50 photos along the way.
As the day began (after a breakfast at Cowboy Cafe that included elk sausage), we continued northwest along the Wind River.
You can see that the scenery was still wonderful during the early parts of the ride. If you look closely, that's Paul up ahead. We rode hard up the hill just before this descent, and then Paul continued to ride strongly while I was resting and taking photos. At this point, we had a strong headwind. My speed down this hill was only about 18 mph.

After about 23 miles, we came to my final ascent to a Continental Divide, up to Three Waters Pass. The rocky mountains were always scenic as you can see above.
This photo is courtesy of Neil Rowland as I reached our Three Waters Summit rest stop at Mile 30. Just a couple hundreds yards farther was: 10th and final pass over the Continental Divide. It's called Three Waters Pass because rain falling here can go to the Colorado, Columbia, or Mississippi Rivers. Within a mile in different directions are the headwaters for the Snake River (into the Columbia), The Wind River (into the Bighorn River, into the Yellowstone, into the Missouri, into the Mississippi), and the Green River (into the Colorado).
On my descent from Three Waters Pass, I saw about 7 cars all parked on the side of the road. I knew an animal was there. A moose? An elk? No, this big black bear!
And then!! We reached Togwotee Pass at mile 39, and saw the Grand Tetons for the first spectacular time. After that, we would round a bend on our remaining miles toward those mountains and be awed every time.
Bob Long took this on one of many dozens of stops I made to take a photo of the Tetons during our run-up to their base.
Yet another photo, but you can see we are getting closer.
At mile 54, we entered the National Park! About a mile later, we had a rest stop so that we could all gather together to enter the park at once to pay a single (big) fee. While waiting, I called FedEx to schedule my bike-box pick up the next day from our Jackson Lake Lodge.
After we entered the park we had only a few miles to reach our day's destination. However, I elected to ride south on Teton Park Road to view Jackson Lake (photo above) and on to Jenny Lake at the very base of Grand Teton Peak. The views continued to get sharper and more impressive as I got closer during my 15-mile ride.
After I stopped to view the scenery midway along Jenny Lake (see top photo in this posting), I continued to the far southern end of the lake where boat excursions departed and the river flowed out under this bridge. The perspective of the Tetons was quite different from here. I was SO glad I decided to ride down here to see so much more of the park and from a different viewpoint. Lots of tourists were there, and many from California welcomed me as a Californian based on my jersey. Fun! (I didn't let on that I now lived in Ohio. haha)
On my way back to the Jackson Lake Lodge, there were many cars parked on the side of the road at a certain spot and sure enough, there was something special to see. In this case, the elk was lying down so all I could see was his head and antlers. Still, very cool! Another cool effect during my ride back was that every time I looked in my large rear-view mirror (which I glance down at ALL the time when I ride), I saw the reflection of the Tetons profile I'd been admiring most of the day. 
When it was time for our dinner (my farewell), we all walked from our cabins to the lodge. Those huge windows face the Tetons, and it was a remarkable setting.
Some of our group were outside enjoying a cocktail when I arrived. I took this photo through one of those huge windows facing the mountains. 
An unannounced candid shot at our dinner just to illustrate how vast and beautiful our dining room was. It was bittersweet to know I would no longer be on the tour, but I loved my 18 days with them. My prime rib dinner was an excellent finish to fine dining along the way. I haven't checked yet, but I usually GAIN weight on Black Bear Adventure tours because the food Rod prepares for us along the way is so yummy, and the dinners are supreme.

That evening I packed my bike back into the shipping box we had stored away since El Paso, and then I hit the sack. My wake-up call came awfully early, but the taxi got me on time and the driver told me to make sure I had my camera. He knew! Sure enough we saw lots of wildlife on the 33-mile trip to the Jackson Hole Airport.
LOTS of bison all over the place, even crossing our road.

Not only bison, but we saw a big herd of elk, and several antelope. 

Now I have 8 days at home before my next tour begins. We will depart Cincinnati on Independence Day and drive our two vans to Front Royal, VA to ride 610 miles south to Cherokee, NC over the following 7 days. I will continue the blog at that time, although as usual, I won't know whether I will be able to post every single night due to varying Internet access out there in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina. In the meantime, I am so glad to be back home with Janet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Wind River Canyon Beauty

Tuesday, June 23   Day 17   Lander to Dubois, WY   81 miles (1354 mi total with one day to go)

Although I could upload photos earlier today when I wrote my posting for yesterday's ride, the photos are not uploading now. Therefore, I will write a brief summary of today's ride and try posting photos either tomorrow morning, or when I return home. I will be so busy tomorrow night packing my bike and getting ready to depart at about 5:30 am on Thursday, that I will not have time tomorrow night.

Today's ride was extremely scenic. During our ride along the Wind River Canyon, it was as if we were in a mini-Grand Canyon. The geology was diverse and spectacular. You just need to see the photos. Early in the day, I took a side trip to see Sacajawea's cemetery and burial site in Fort Washakie.

We had a fabulous dinner at the Nostalgia Restaurant, with a "bull moose" waitress who was attractive and bounding endlessly in and out, to serve us 17 guests quickly. She was a side story herself, kicking the doors open and almost running constantly. You did NOT want to get in her way! Then I enjoyed some huckleberry ice cream from the old drug store to top off the meal.

Tomorrow is my final day, riding toward the majestic Grand Tetons. Some friends from the Cincinnati Cycling Club who rode across the country (east to west) took the same route we will tomorrow, and they said it was their favorite day of the entire trip because the scenery was so incredible.

The planned ride is 61 miles, but I will add a 41-mile loop at the end so that I can see more of Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake in the National Park. It will be sad to say goodbye to my cycling friends, but I am anxious to see Janet again. I have missed her terribly.

Wednesday morning note: I am able to upload, so I will just add photos for right now:  (in order through the day)

Sacajawea grave site. She is looking at a sea shell in her hand, representing when she arrived at the Pacific Ocean with Lewis and Clark in Nov, 1805.
That's me!

Thanks to Neil Cohen for this picture!

That's Ken Whiteside. Look at the vast view ahead of us.

This is the Wind River, which we followed a long ways. This is where we had lunch!
Still the Wind River, after lunch and many more miles up the road. I did not realize then that we would be following this river upstream to its headwaters, the following day.

Here come Bob and Susan, Craig and Corey, and Dennis.
I had no idea the scenery was this beautiful out here in central Wyoming. Looked like the Grand Canyon. Of course, this is still the Wind River.
Finally we reached DEW-Boys. Janet was here in 2009 for a two-week geology course, and she remembered Dubois as having only two streets! Pretty close.

Note: My bike is still not fixed, so I continued to need to use a higher gear than I wanted, which tired me out more than had I pedaled in a proper gear.

Tomorrow's route and profile:

127 miles from "vast" to "spectacular"

Monday, June 22   Day 16   Rawlins to Lander, WY   127 miles

I'm at our 9th crossing of the Continental Divide, early in the long ride to Lander. I was pedaling for almost 7 hours (8½ hours total for the ride including the stops), but we had many scenic spots along the way to keep it interesting. It was fairly wide-open horizon during the beginning, but the geological features became more dramatic and interesting as the day went on. I got far more fatigued today that I normally would have due to the lack of the middle gears on my bike; for much of the day, I had to use a higher gear than I should have been using, which pooped me out.
Here's one of the vast views ahead that we had during the first 40 miles. "Vast" is an understatement in Wyoming.
This was CD crossing #8, which I somehow missed early in the ride. I left later than everyone else, and I must have been focused on catching up. When we arrived later at crossing #9, I said it was #8 but Corey corrected me. He said he would send me this photo he took of #8.
Once I caught up to the others, I rode with them. Here, Paul and the five guys from Maryland are in a paceline (love the shadows). After my neck surgery, I no longer ride in pacelines due to an increased risk of a fall, but if I ride behind I can get nice photographs of them!
This is at our 42-mile rest stop, at Three Forks, or Muddy Gap, a crossroads for the Oregon/Mormon Trail. Between 1812 and 1869, 500,000 emigrants took this trail to head west. We followed it ourselves for the next many miles northwestward.
I like this picture because you can see many of our group climbing the hill away from Three Forks. And, notice the barrier they can put down in case of too much snow or winds. We have seen those barriers at almost every exit or entrance to a populated area, or at a crossroads as this was. They were even on the onramps to Interstate 80.
My roommate, Ken Whiteside of Toronto. I believe he is our oldest rider at 71. I hope I can ride as well as he does when I am his age. You can see from his shadow that it was still early in the day. I departed Rawlins at 7:30 and this is at the 52-mile point, probably 11 am or so.
The Oregon/Mormon Trail passed through this valley, known as Split Rock. Later, there was a Pony Express station here too.
The story of our lunch stop was: Mosquitoes! They were THICK! I looked down at my leg upon arriving and smashed at least 10 of them immediately. My leg was a mosquito morgue. I quickly sprayed on mosquito repellent, and it worked! I was able to sit in that chair you can see off in the sun, and eat in peace. Where was everyone else? In the vans to escape the little pests. They thought I was crazy for staying out there, but the repellent really was working just fine.

This lunch stop was in Jeffery City, which was barely a town anymore at all. Just a few residents. However, in the late 40s and 50s, it was a bustling town of 30,000! Why? Uranium mining. As the cold war ended in the late 80s, so did the town of Jeffery City.
After lunch, our horizon ahead was still vast as in the lunch photo above, but then we climbed a long hill and this was our view from the summit. Very beautiful. You can see our road on the left, and also across the distant horizon from left to right through the center of the photograph. This was where the scenery got really interesting.
 Another view of our road ahead (way down in the center of the photo), and it was stunning. We had a long, long descent at this point, ending at Mile 103. Only 24 miles to go!
Yet another view during that long descent. I was at about Mile 98 for this picture. When my odometer read exactly 100 miles, I had been riding for 5:17. The previous day when I reached 100 miles, my time was 5:06. These times are very fast for me, but it's due to tailwinds and more downhill than up.
One of our talked-about portions of the day was this many-mile construction area at about Mile 103. The sign says a 7-minute wait, but mine was 12 minutes - standing there in the sun. Then when the light turned green, it was quite a long section of rough road and bad smell from the tar and stuff. The road was rough and our whole bodies were getting jumbled, but finally it ended and I let out a huge sigh of relief when it was smooth again. We were so spread out, I went through this by myself, not with any other riders.
 As I continued on during the final 20 miles, I caught this view of a snow-covered peak off in the distance. The views over the final 35 miles were stunning.
Another view of the cliffs on the right and our descent ahead.
With just about 8 miles to go, I saw something I hadn't seen all day -- WATER! It was a small lake, but there's a ski boat on it. Wyoming-ans make use of whatever water they can get!
After 126 miles, a welcomed sight! Just a mile to go to our motel. Lander is a fairly large city, and had all the amenities, such as a brew pub and great restaurants.
 Bob and Susan walking down to the Cowfish Brew Pub and Restaurant.
 Ken Whiteside and Susan Long memorializing that elk statue as we walked to the brew pub.
The new Lander Brewing Company was very upscale and crowded with locals. This photo of the old Lander Brewing Co was on their wall. Ken Whiteside treated everyone (I had their Jack Mormon Pale Ale.) We then had a marvelous dinner in our own room at their restaurant. I was starving after our long ride, and loved my pork shank prepared spicy southwestern style.
As a final touch to the day, Robert Massey treated everyone to ice cream! I had the featured Chokecherry ice cream and it was fabulous.

Tomorrow will be 75 miles to Dubois (pronounced DEW' boys). It gives us inspiration to think our distance is 52 miles less than today! Here is the map and profile: