Day 16: Canon City, CO to Pueblo, CO

One of the things I love about bike tours is the speed at which I travel. It is fast enough that we can cover some distances, but slow enough that there is time to really see the changes. This leg felt, to me, like the beginning of the end of the tour and it was a leg that took us through a big change in landscape. It was also a leg that brought us to the first real city on this trip.

We had started the long ride down from the Rockies, and that continued. The results of lower elevation became much more clear on this leg. It was easy to feel the change in our lungs. It was also easy to see it in the land we traveled through.

The mountains recede into the distance and the colors change ti yellows and browns.

The mountains recede into the distance and the colors change ti yellows and browns.

It felt strange to see a city in the distance, and even more so to be re-integrated into more urban issues when we arrived there. There were a very large number of people who appear to be homeless in Pueblo.

Much of this trip I have ridden with others. That differs from last year when I rode primarily alone. Four of us have often ridden together and this leg was one of those days.

Most of of us use the Ride with GPS app to navigate our daily rides. I use mine for audio cues so it speaks to me from the back pocket of my jersey all day, more often when there are lots of turns. When we go for miles on a single road, the app is silent in my pocket. Others have the cues appear on their Garmin devices on their handlebars.

One of the most challenging navigation situations for us are the relatively rare times when we ride on bike paths. Often bike path turns are not as clear as on roads. Often bike paths run parallel to roads, which can confuse the app (presumably the GPS itself).

The route took us on a bike path near Pueblo and several of us wanted to have lunch in the city before riding the 7 or so miles out of town.

The group of us arriving together and searching for a lunch venue were immediately the subject of interest and engagement. It was easy to think that we were being made fun of. But the questions could have been real too. Perhaps a combination of both. The same seemed to be true of the staff at the restaurant we chose for lunch. We could see several empty tables outside, bur we were told it would be a 30-min wait.

Fortunately, it wasn't and within 5 min we were seated with much needed ice water on the way. The food seemed to be good, though my only vegan option was french fries and a small side salad. I have eaten a lot of french fries over the last few weeks.

We left downtown Pueblo to head to our hotel. We were supposed to take a bike path, but we got lost. We were lost for quite some time and in some places that did not seem well-suited to bicycles. Google finally got us there but we had all run out of water in our bottles and we were really hot! A simple hotel never looked so good!

What we will do for lunch in the big city! Carrying our bikes up multiple flights of stairs from the bike path to the city level.

What we will do for lunch in the big city! Carrying our bikes up multiple flights of stairs from the bike path to the city level.

Day 15: Fairplay, CO to Canon City, CO

I have fallen behind in my posting for a couple different reasons, so my catch-up will be a bit different.

I had a surprise visit on this day 15, when my wife, Margaret, surprised me with a visit on the road. It was an absolutely beautiful ride with sweeping climbs and descents. The mountains were amazing and the ride just about perfect. And then it got better.

On a typical day, there is a SAG stop approximately every 20 miles. Since this was an 81 mile day, there would be a SAG stop at 20, 40 and 60 miles. At these stops there is generally a wide variety of food to sustain us on our ride. These stops also give us a chance to get off the bike for a few minutes and socialize along the way. We share animal sightings, observations about the terrain, wind and road conditions and we support and receive support from others in the tour. They are a very important part of the tour. Not only do the SAG drivers put out a wonderful in-ride spread for us, they also are available for assistance with minor roadside issues, like flat tires. They also can give cyclists “bumps” if we are too tired, ill, or otherwise unable to ride the full day. They are significant in making the ride “fully supported.”

Margaret herself is an expert SAG driver and she often offers (and I always accept!) to be my personal SAG on the one- or two-day rides I do.

Another thing that typically happens is that one guide rides sweep in the morning and the other moves the van and trailer to a point roughly halfway along the route. The second guide then gets on her bike and rides to the back of the group and the first finishes her ride at the place where the van is parked and then drives to the destination. On longer or hot days we can unlock the trailer to fill our water bottles, so it is not uncommon to see cyclists around the parked van/trailer.

Margaret had communicated with one of the guides, Cy, to ask permission to come for dinner on one of the days during a conference that brought Margaret to Denver thus week. Cy had shared the cue sheet with Margaret so she could try to surprise me along the route. It worked!

I was climbing up towards the biggest peak that day and saw the van and trailer parked in a big pull-off. I also saw a single cyclist and an SUV parked there, but I did not see the driver. As I pulled in, I saw it was Margaret! I was truly surprised. And really happy to see her!

Margaret followed the cue sheet and met me and others at the 40 and 60 mile SAG stops. When we arrived at the hotel, I quickly showered and changed into street clothes and we went to a local Starbucks before dinner sadly, she had to return to Denver and the conference right after dinner, but we spent a nice amount of time together. It is also nice that she has now met the women on this tour so it is easier for me to share stories about this trip.

Donkeys seen by the side of the road on the way to Canon City. I love donkeys!

Donkeys seen by the side of the road on the way to Canon City. I love donkeys!

Day 14: Dillon, CO to Fairplay, CO

After a day off in Dillon yesterday, which was spent relaxing and doing some shopping at a Pearl Izumi outlet, we took on Hoosier Pass today. The whole day was about this effort as the following profile.

public.jpeg

Many of us were worried about the elevation (11,593’) after struggling in a much lower location in Dillon. I could not carry on a conversation while walking up hill there yesterday, so the idea of pedaling for miles even higher seemed challenging at best and impossible at worst. We talked about altitude sickness and what to watch for before we started out this morning. Many of us talked about not sleeping well last night with anxiety over this climb.

But before we got to the climb, we rode on a beautiful bike path around Dillon Reservoir, past Frisco and to Breckenridge. The town of Breckenridge was hopping on an early Sunday morning! The film festival was quite evident and there were long lines at many store fronts along Main St.

Beautiful Dillon Reservoir

Beautiful Dillon Reservoir

The climb to Hoosier Pass itself started out easy. A percent here, another there. There was a surprising amount of traffic on an early Sunday morning, and with narrow shoulders the focus was on staying safe as we headed up. However, drivers were, for the most part, courteous and gave us space.

After a few short 5-6% stretches something appeared ahead of us. At first I thought it was a driveway, but as we got closer, it became clear it was a challenging switchback, the first of many! My strategy was to go slowly and take breaks as needed. A few miles later, the pass appeared!

Taken during a break along the climb

Taken during a break along the climb

Here you can see the 11,539’ in elevation

Here you can see the 11,539’ in elevation

And here is the celebration!

And here is the celebration!

Of course, on the other side of the summit is the descent. I have done a lot of work on my technique for descents and also my mental ability to descend, but I was still more anxious about going down than climbing up. The stakes are much higher going down (at least they are in my head): when climbing perhaps I could tip over from lack of momentum, but on the descent there is speed, there are drop-offs without guardrails, there is wind and cold temps. There seem to be an essentially unlimited number of bad things that can happen coming down from a pass. Conquering the fear of all those things remains a goal. I make progress, yet still fear persists!

When we reached the flatter portion of the end of the ride, a group of us stopped for some food in Alta. Both Alta and Fairplay, CO, our destination today, lay claim to the South Park TV series, and the place we stopped clearly played that up.

The rest of the trip will involve substantially less climbing and often longer distances. With this behind us, the end of the tour comes into vision, but hopefully we still have lots of great riding ahead! Onward!

Riding to the summit. Photo credit Marilyn Hutchinson.

Riding to the summit. Photo credit Marilyn Hutchinson.

Day 12: Kremmling, CO to Dillon, CO

This was a day where many things changed. The physical environment did and it feels as though we have come back to civilization. Kremmling did not have a lot to offer, but Dillon is quite a busy and thriving place! There will be no shortage of things to do on our day off tomorrow, though shopping is not really an option since most of us have full bags that are close to the maximum weight allowed. However, there is a Pearl Izumi outlet as well as REI. Restraint may be a challenge!

Today’s ride split fairly neatly into 4 sections. When we left Kremmling, we were on a busy road, but the shoulders were good and the scenery was beautiful, of the type we have seen since entering Colorado. A bull moose was spotted, but not by me.

About 13 miles in we turned and began to follow the shore of Green Mountain Reservoir, which was my favorite part of any ride this year. The water was such a beautiful blue color - one we don’t see in Eastern US lakes. The terrain was rolling, which I love to ride.

Green Mountain Reservoir

Green Mountain Reservoir

The next, 3rd, part was tough riding. Initially, there were no shoulders and lots of traffic. Shoulders did appear later, but the traffic was very heavy. In addition, the wind made a repeat appearance and we faced heavy head winds. The terrain was still rolling, and the mountains spectacular though so it was still a beautiful ride. Sadly, it was not easy to stop and take pictures along this part of the ride. We were in a paceline of 5 much of the time because of the head wind and it isn’t appreciated to stop for photos when the line is moving. You will have to take my word on that!

The final phase of this ride was when we got close to Dillon and we moved to a bike path. At first it was really a glorified sidewalk, but eventually it became more of what we think of when we think of a bike path. And there were the usual inhabitants: people waking dogs, joggers, bikes going in both directions and then us: a rag tag group of women looking for their hotel. Well as it turns out, this bike path has quite a unique “feature.” Switchbacks for the last half mile or so, with a mac grade over 8%!

You can't really get a sense of how high we climbed on this bike path. I had a feeling this picture wouldn't come out great, but taking it gave me a reason so stop and catch my breath!

You can't really get a sense of how high we climbed on this bike path. I had a feeling this picture wouldn't come out great, but taking it gave me a reason so stop and catch my breath!

Here is what some of it looks like as a Strava segment.

Here is what some of it looks like as a Strava segment.

Upon arrival, we were all clear we are not riding our bikes way down there on our day off tomorrow! Walk maybe. Lyft maybe. But ride our bikes? No way!

Day 11: Granby, CO to Kremmling, CO

Today was a much needed easy day. 29 miles to Kremmling from Granby. Winds were not a factor and the grade trended down, though there were some small climbs.

11 miles from where we stayed in Granby, there was a Hot Springs and Sulphur Resort. For $20 we had full access to the pools and and additional $2 got us a towel! We knew about this in advance, so a few of us brought our bathing suits and planned a stop there. Why rush ahead to a hotel that would not be ready for us for hours?

The pools were essentially cool to hot as you progressed up the stairs. Each one was quite small and so our threesome filled a couple. There was evident moss and a strong sulfur smell. That said, it was fabulous. Our muscles were so happy to absorb the potassium and magnesium!

We got back on our bikes, but we were decidedly not feeling like we were in any hurry. We had been in hot tubs and we had only 18 miles to go, so we meandered towards Kremmling. It was a pretty ride, though not as beautiful as yesterday.

As we approached our destination a private jet came in to land right above us. It felt like it was about 6 in over our heads. It landed at the very small Kremmling airport, which seemed to bolster a rumor that there was great shopping here in this “gateway” community. Hmmm

We had a leisurely lunch at a local brewery with others in our group who had skipped the baths. Then we headed out to find the quaint shops we had been told were here. The server at the brewery had no idea what information we had gotten. In her educated opinion, there was nothing here. We wandered and concluded that the “Mercantile” was the only locally-owned consumer shop and Dollar General was the alternative. I happily bought a kombucha at the mercantile, but there really wasn’t much else that was appealing.

Tomorrow will be a more difficult day, not a lot of miles, but more climbing. Nothing that training in Washington County doesn't prepare me for, but sadly, I barely took advantage of those training opportunities this year. I feel that lack of training every day, though I think I am getting stronger as we go. I hope I remember how much I wish I trained harder this year come next. We’ll see… onward! (Pictures to follow, this hotel wifi will not permit uploading anything at this time!)

Martina in the hottest tub: they got hotter the higher they got! This one was 112-115 degrees!

Martina in the hottest tub: they got hotter the higher they got! This one was 112-115 degrees!

public.jpeg
View from the hotel parking lot where we ate dinner.

View from the hotel parking lot where we ate dinner.

Another rock formation visible from out dinner chairs! The local owners of the hotel came around to thank us for choosing their hotel while we were eating and told us they do a fireworks show for guests up on the ledge. That would be pretty amazing!

Another rock formation visible from out dinner chairs! The local owners of the hotel came around to thank us for choosing their hotel while we were eating and told us they do a fireworks show for guests up on the ledge. That would be pretty amazing!

Day 10: Walden, CO to Granby, CO (and a very special field trip)

My legs were tired at the beginning of the day and we had a 57 mile day that included a big climb.

This is the profile from ride with gps

This is the profile from ride with gps

I have learned that it takes me at least 10 miles to feel warmed up, but that did not do it today. In addition, I had on leg warmers and my legs were so tight that the elastic holding them up seemed to dig into my feeble muscles with each turn of the pedals. I was anxious for the day to warm up enough to take them off!

The wind was a factor today, but nothing like yesterday. It made things a little harder, but that was all. We had to pedal on the downhills and the bike was moved by the wind, but it was not terrifying like it was yesterday. Most importantly, I could enjoy my surroundings again. And what beautiful surroundings!

Gone was the high desert. Now the landscape is green and beautiful in a totally different way from where we have been!

A few miles into our ride.

A few miles into our ride.

At the top of the climb. The jacket will go on for the descent. However, it took a lot of work to get down!

At the top of the climb. The jacket will go on for the descent. However, it took a lot of work to get down!

We are not in the desert anymore

We are not in the desert anymore

The aspen are beginning to show their fall colors.

The aspen are beginning to show their fall colors.

And the field trip? Patrica, who was on last years ride, but isn't doing this year's, came all the way from Denver to take a group of us to Rocky Mountain National Park to (hopefully) see an elk rut.

public.jpeg
He was very actively controlling his harem. Another young bull did not make any progress in getting into this group of cows.

He was very actively controlling his harem. Another young bull did not make any progress in getting into this group of cows.

This was not an easy day, but it is the kind of day you hope for when coming on one of these trips. Challenging cycling, beautiful scenery and something special thrown into the mix!

Day 9: Saratoga, WY to Walden, CO

This 67 mile ride felt like 200. The wind knocked us back right from the start, especially after the day before, which was also very hard due to wind. On this leg however, we not only had grueling winds, we had approaching storms for most of the day.

They caught up with us at the Colorado line and the storms made a hard ride harder and more dangerous. The roads had virtually no shoulder so it was hard to avoid the painted line and for the last 25-30 miles the pavement went from wet to dry and back to wet, making it challenging to ride consistently and predictably.

After the last SAG stop at mile 40, a rag tag paceline that had provided emotional support, if not much help with crosswinds, fell apart and we all did the best we could to get in to the hotel. We all did, but it was totally exhausting. There was over 4,000 ft of climbing and the hills, both big and little seemed to come one after another. The crosswinds were so strong that I looked at a friend just ahead of me and her bike - with her on it - was at pretty darn close to 45 degrees. She was getting blown from the side of the road to the center line. For a while there was rain that felt an awful lot like hail. It just was not a fun ride. It was work, hard work. But the people I rode with and I persevered and we made it. We fought for every mile, every .10 mile at the end.

We celebrate every state line with a margarita party, which we did last night, along with delicious Mexican food prepared by the fabulous chef, Sue Lincoln. But even that was tempered because it was so cold and windy. I was very happy to put Day 9 behind me. Onward!

The storm is coming, but these ranchers were just finishing herding the cattle.

The storm is coming, but these ranchers were just finishing herding the cattle.

Colorado cowboys

Colorado cowboys

We are still a long way from Walden, CO, but this is a fantastic milestone along the way.

We are still a long way from Walden, CO, but this is a fantastic milestone along the way.

Day 8: Rawlins, WY to Saratoga, WY

Today I did three things I have never done on a bike: 1) ride on a limited access highway (I-80), 2) ride on a limited access highway on the wrong side because that side has been closed to car/truck traffic due to construction and the right side is not safe for bicycles, and 3) ride against the traffic for a short distance after it was re-opened to cars/trucks and then exit down the “wrong way” ramp. Maybe that counts as four things?

I was nervous about riding the “normal” way on the highway, but I assumed, correctly, that the shoulders would be quite wide, making avoiding debris the only real issue for the 5 or so miles we rode as planned.

However, the ride took a twist when we saw that traffic would no longer be permitted on the other side of the meridian and traffic both ways was sharing “our” side. It was not too bad until we came to an overpass and there was virtually no shoulder! We saw some of our friends had gotten off at the exit right before this overpass, but we had gone past that option. We were able to get down to them though and learned that the SAG driver said no one was to go further on I-80.

There was all the usual type of chatter about what we should do and the amount of time it might take for the van to get to us and shuttle us through the construction zone, when a truck pulled up and told us that we could ride on the “dead” side where the roads had been paved, but there was zero traffic. It was pretty cool to have the pristine road all to ourselves. It was the best ride of the day!

Exiting was, however a bit more of a challenge. Some chose to cross the meridian and two lanes of traffic to exit the highway where we were scheduled to. I did not! I went with the group that walked around a barricade and then rode on the fairly wide shoulder as oncoming traffic came towards us. That left exiting and since we were already going the wrong way, it didn’t seem like too big a leap to exit down the “wrong way.” That brought us to the other group and together we resumed our planned ride!

The rest of the ride was nice, but continued to have the same challenging cross-winds/headwinds that we have had for some time now. The views were nice but not spectacular. Getting close to our final destination was fun for me because it was in Saratoga, WY and there were lots of Saratoga signs: “Saratoga 4-H” “Saratoga Lake”, etc. even the hotel was Saratoga Hot Springs and Resort, which seemed curiously like something we might have in “our” Saratoga! It would have made a lovely location for a rest day, but that was not to be.

public.jpeg
Saratoga Lake sign

Saratoga Lake sign

And the lake. That is no lake- it is nothing but a pond!

And the lake. That is no lake- it is nothing but a pond!

public.jpeg
This pool is reportedly naturally 102-108 degrees

This pool is reportedly naturally 102-108 degrees

The hot tub under this teepee is a lot hotter!

The hot tub under this teepee is a lot hotter!

Days 5, 6 and 7: Getting to, relaxing and two departures from Lander, WY

On this trip, the elements have been a major factor. We had rain, then thunderstorms, then sleet/snow and more rain. Then we had an amazing ride to Lander and everything changed. Now wind is the main factor, but the sun and heat are quite evident as well!

As a yoga teacher, I dabble in Ayurveda. I don’t know a lot about it, but it interests me as it is an ancient system of medicine that focuses on diet and balance within the body. There are three doshas in ayurveda and knowing which is your dominant one and the influence of the other two is important. I am a very strong pitta. Totally imbalanced and essentially pitta and pitta alone. Who cares and what does this have to do with riding in WY?

Pitta is all about heat. The fire element, sweat. Type A, driven types are often pitta-dominent. It generally means that spicy food should be avoided because they build heat. My two favorite cuisines? Mexican and Indian. Hot. I am drawn to my own excesses. I am not drawn to hot weather. I get really hot. I sweat… a lot!

And that brings me back to wind. I love wind. I grew up sailing and I love to be out on the water and feel the wind.

Wind is often associated with the vatta dosha. People who are vatta-dominant often are artists and tend to be a little flighty. That is not me. But wind does often cool down something hot. Of course, wind spreads fire, but it feels so good when one is hot to have a breeze- even a warm breeze can feel so much better than hot, still air.

My love of wind has been challenged in the last two days. Yesterday was a beautiful ride from Lander to Jeffrey City, but the crosswinds made it challenging. Challenging isn’t bad, it is perfect for a Type A pitta. Today however was a different story! We had crosswinds and headwinds and they were unrelenting over our 67-mile route. Many times I felt I could not go on. Many times I felt like I was on a stationary bike and that I was not moving. It is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much, to say we could not coast at all today. Even the downhill stretches, infrequent and short as they were, required pedaling to avoid being blown into traffic by the crosswinds.

I found myself calculating over and over when I would get to the hotel: mostly because I was afraid I wouldn't make it for dinner. My speed would pick up a little and I would recalculate, it would slow down, so again I would have to figure out my new ETA. It was a hard day, a really hard day. But I made it. And in time for dinner! I am too exhausted to fully appreciate the accomplishment tonight. I’ll think about it on the bike tomorrow!

Day 5: Rest day spent shopping at bike shops ans exploring this very cool local geological attraction.

Day 5: Rest day spent shopping at bike shops ans exploring this very cool local geological attraction.

At the gorgeous top of a long climb on Day 6: Lander to Jeffrey City.

At the gorgeous top of a long climb on Day 6: Lander to Jeffrey City.

One of the two businesses in Jeffrey City.

One of the two businesses in Jeffrey City.

The second of two businesses in Jeffrey City. I only ate potato chips out of the bag.

The second of two businesses in Jeffrey City. I only ate potato chips out of the bag.

We didn't yet know how hard Day 7 would be!

We didn't yet know how hard Day 7 would be!

This picture was probably an excuse to stop and get off the saddle on Day 7, the hardest day sobfar

This picture was probably an excuse to stop and get off the saddle on Day 7, the hardest day sobfar

Day 4: DuBois, WY to Lander, WY (74 miles)

Wow, what a difference a day makes and what an amazing ride we had today! Oh yeah, tail winds are fabulous too!

It was cool when we left Moran, but the sun was out so it didn't feel too bad. I had layers though I wasn't sure I would shed them. There was not a big difference between the predicted high and low temperatures. But there was a big difference, at least it felt so on the bike. My arms were exposed for the first time since arriving in West Yellowstone. I can feel the effect of sun on my face. That may not seem like a lot but after rain or snow every day, so far, it was very welcome!

One of the amazing things about today's ride was that we left the mountains of Yellowstone and the Tetons for the wide open expanses of Wyoming. However, every view was framed by snow capped mountains. Unfortunately, my phone’s camera did not do the views justice. They were simply too big and my camera (and me) too small.

We now are in Lander for a rest day tomorrow and then some shuttling for two days due to lack of accomodations at our next ride’s end point. That led to some thinking about roommates- this rotation would be for three nights, not just one. There was also the possibility of hitting the jackpot and getting a single for this extended stay.

Because we have an odd number of women in the rotation, each stay means one of us gets a room to ourself and since we don't rotate at a single hotel, the lucky woman drawing that room here would have a single for 3 nights! My roommate was hopeful she might be the lucky woman, but I knew I would not be as I had a single the first night. There are advantages to sharing a room on a rest day though. It does provide a ready woman to explore the town with or clean bikes with. It might feel a bit lonely without that connection. Maybe…

Apparently, it isn’t just a Jackson, WY thing.

Apparently, it isn’t just a Jackson, WY thing.

public.jpeg
public.jpeg
Much of our ride was on the Shoshone Reservation.

Much of our ride was on the Shoshone Reservation.

public.jpeg

Day 3: Moran, WY to DuBois, WY … by van

When we woke up this morning, it looked as though the predictions for snow may have been grossly exaggerated. It was cold, but dry. Then it changed to cold and rainy. Then cold and snowy, really snowy! I was on the fence when it was cold and dry knowing that rain and snow were predicted. By the time we had finished breakfast, the rain had started. We regrouped to learn that the Togwotee Pass we were to go over was getting snow. Shortly thereafter it started to snow at our hotel and that sealed the deal for me. It was a day for me to pass on cycling.

The logistics of getting 30 of us up and over a very snowy pass are not easy, but our guides made it look like it was. Some women chose to ride all the way (2 succeeded) and others took a bump to the 19.5 mile marker where the snow had turned to rain (temps were up to the low 40s) and then ride the final miles into DuBois.

The rest of us chose to ride all the way to DuBois and I don't think any of us have regrets.

Last night, my assigned rotation roommate was Mike (female). I was already in our cabin when Mike got to the door and there was another woman with her. Miriam is doing a cross-country ride in stages as we are, but she is doing it unsupported and going in the other direction. She had come over the pass during the thunderstorms we had yesterday. She was dripping wet and Mike had invited her to stay inside with us. Her plan had been to camp because the hotel was too expensive to justify. Having her with us was really nice and she was totally impressive to us on our fully-supported journey. This AM she put on “all the layers” and rode off down the hill we climbed yesterday. I messaged her and learned she decided to stop when she got to the bottom of the hill as she was soaking wet and cold. There was a male cyclist on an unsupported trip who decided to stay put at the hotel and not risk the ride over the pass today.

All in all it was a day, in my opinion, best spent off the bike! I am looking forward to tomorrow's ride to Landers, WY. Temps are supposed to be in the 40s and 50s. There is no rain - or snow- predicted! Onward!

Cabins at Togwotee Mountain Lodge

Cabins at Togwotee Mountain Lodge

The snow begins to fall

The snow begins to fall

Brave women head out

Brave women head out

Frozen chains and icy conditions force a change in plans for some

Frozen chains and icy conditions force a change in plans for some

No snow in DuBois, but lots of churning, red water outside our room’s window!

No snow in DuBois, but lots of churning, red water outside our room’s window!

Day 2: Jackson, WY to Moran, WY (Sept 10, 2019)

Today's ride provided a wide variety of weather, which I find provides me with a wide variety of emotions. When we left Jackson, it was surprisingly nice. We had expected overcast and cool, with showers a possibility, but that was not what we had. The sun was shining, it was a little warm and pretty much a perfect day to ride a bike. Heading out was filled with happiness and gratitude for being able to do this amazing journey.

As I was leaving the Grand Teton National Park, it started getting colder and less pleasant. I found myself thinking about the Buddhist idea that our suffering comes from grasping. Most often, I find that to be true, but rarely in the very literal sense that I did today. I realized that as it got colder, I got more tense and gripped my handlebars more tightly. In addition, my feet pushed more forward into my shoes’ toe box leading to my feet having pins and needles. When I was able to relax my hands and feet, I was much more comfortable: I suffered less!

But despite my awareness of at least one source of my suffering, the 8-mile climb at the end of today's ride was not easy. The grade was not extreme, it topped out at 8-9%. The length was significant but doable. Altitude made it more challenging. The possibility of bears in the road caused concern. But the approaching storm was what made me the most anxious.

When I used to sail with my Dad, I was well-known for wanting to quit racing when thunderstorms were approaching. He often resisted, but acknowledged that I never “made” him quit a race that wasn't ultimately cancelled. My early warning system meant we got to shore sooner than the “tougher” competitors who waited for it to be cancelled.

On a bike, it feel the same fear but there are fewer options. Today, the best one was to keep going up the hill. My Dad (who died 2 years ago) would have enjoyed that I made it to the final destination just as the storm was getting big. I sent a little thanks to him. There might have been a tear or two as well. I miss him terribly.

So excitement for tomorrow? Snow! Stay tuned…

Elk antler arch in Jackson, WY

Elk antler arch in Jackson, WY

public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
public.jpeg
What????

What????

If only…

If only…

Day 1: West Yellowstone to Grants Village, WY (Sept 9, 2019)

Yesterday's kick-off ride was damp and chilly. I was glad that Margaret and I had explored the park in the preceding days because it was not the kind of day that made me want to go off the main road and explore. However, it was fun seeing parts of the park at a “bike pace” rather than that of a car. Early on we saw an elk cow on an island in a creek. I likely would have missed it in a car. Several other tour members and I found ourselves likely sharing the same shoulder with a bison. We opted to “take the road” and mix in with the cars rather than asking the bison to share the shoulder with us!

In a stroke of luck and good timing, we arrived at Old Faithful right as it was erupted.

There were two continental divides to provide us with markers on the way to Grant’s Village. Our ultimate destination on Day 1 was Jackson, WY. However, commercial cycling is not permitted on the southern road out of the park because there is no shoulder. So we all met at the Visitor Center in Grants Village, loaded up the van, SAG and a contracted company to help with the rest of the bikes and riders.

We passed Jackson Hole on the way to Jackson proper. It seemed like an interesting little town, but we weren’t there early enough to really explore it and we left before much was open on Day 2.

Geysers in Yellowstone

Geysers in Yellowstone

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Continental Divide #1

Continental Divide #1

And #2

And #2

The final post on TA 1 - finally!

A number of people commented that it did not feel like there was a last post about the first leg of our Transamerica ride last year. There is a reason for that: it didn't feel like the leg actually finished. The final day's ride was cancelled due to cold and snow. Some amazing women chose to ride anyway, but most of us did not. We got out of the snow and into the van and we drove to West Yellowstone, the final destination of the first leg. And we all said goodbye and we went home. It was all kind of anti-climactic and it didn't feel like I had much to say about it.

Today a group of us rode that final leg. We rode our bikes from Ennis to W. Yellowstone as we had planned to do 11 months ago. That ride is now complete.

I am not one to feel like I need to ride every mile. Last year there were a couple of legs that had portions that did not feel safe for me personally. The route was safe and the support fabulous, but it was not for me on those days. So I chose to ride short distances in the van. I am fine with those choices and I would make those decisions again.

But this was different. It was the final leg. The entire final leg. We didn't finish on our bikes. It just felt incomplete in a big way for me. Not everyone felt that way. Not all of us rode it today, but for me, and perhaps the others who rode, it finished something that felt undone.

I am very grateful to WomanTours for letting us ride those last 71 miles today. I am looking forward to our first leg of TA2, which takes us into Yellowstone National Park. I have spent a week exploring it with Margaret, but doing so mostly by car is very different than by bike. When we ride the pace it allows me to see and hear things I never would from a car.

I really wanted to see a grizzly this week and yesterday I did. I do NOT want to see a grizzly while on my bike. I do not want to see many bison blocking the road as we did in the car. I really do not want to meet any wild animals while on my bike, but I am excited to see and hear the Park in a new way. Onward!

Osprey! Seen on a more typical September day in 2019.

Osprey! Seen on a more typical September day in 2019.

Sue makes a snowman on what was to be the day of our final ride into West Yellowstone in 2018.

Sue makes a snowman on what was to be the day of our final ride into West Yellowstone in 2018.

Pre-ride fun!

Margaret came with me to spend a few days in and around Yellowstone before this year's ride begins. So far we have spent two packed days on the Grand Loop through the park. Tomorrow we are going to move beyond the loop itself to add some “out and back” excursions.

Once the ride begins, we are only in the park for one day and part of another, so it is fun to explore the park together. Here are some of the highlights:

Elk bull relaxing in the grass near the West Entrance.

Elk bull relaxing in the grass near the West Entrance.

A beautiful spot to dip one’s feet.

A beautiful spot to dip one’s feet.

Hexagonal cliffs

Hexagonal cliffs

public.jpeg
And of course… Bison!

And of course… Bison!

Two major steps along the way to ride

One: Today I received notification that the bike shop in Bozeman, MT has completed the assembly of my bike!

There was a communication issue with my bike shop and that made it touch and go for a couple of days, but it was resolved and my beloved Georgena Terry is ready for me to oick up at noon tomorrow!

Two: I have determined that I am done with the packing/repacking/questioning choices/ repacking/pulling things out of bags/putting things in bags and, of course, weighing/compulsively weighing my bags. When the alarm goes off at 3:00 am tomorrow morning, what is in my bags now will be what goes with me to Bozeman and beyond.

Onward!

All packed!

All packed!

It Gets Real

Before every bike trip there is a point at which it all gets very real. This is that point for the TransAm leg 2.

Last night I received and downloaded all the Ride with GPS routes. There were so many! Each representing a day of cycling to come. Then today I will take my bike to my bike shop for it to be disassembled, packed and shipped to Montana. I will see it next when I arrive.

I can’t get much fitter before we ride. I can't really lose any extra pounds before we ride. I have to accept that I am as ready as I am going to be this year! I can't wait, but I am scared and anxious too. I can. I will. End of story.

public.jpeg

Training for TransAm 2

A year ago at this time I was much more anxious than I am today. I am not sure that is a good thing, because that anxiety fueled my training. Less anxiety seems to be manifesting as less training.

Training to do something “again” is different from training to do something for the first time. Obviously, it isn't really the same, but the general arc is the same: Biking across approximately one-quarter of the country in approximately one month with a group of about 30 fabulous women. But the terrain will be different, the weather will be different, some of the women will be different, and I will be different. The biggest difference is that I am much more confident in my cycling and in myself. So it really isn't the “same.”

But about that training…Last year the gym I went to regularly and loved was falling apart. There was drama and there was gossip. Their was stress. I decided to leave, effective July 1, 2018. My plan was to train in a space I created for myself. I had an online coach, who was fantastic. I had a cycling training plan. I just had to execute. That was harder than I expected. I thought I could do it (mostly) all by myself. I couldn’t. Well, I struggled to do it consistently (mostly) all by myself. I trained enough, but there were days on the trip that would have been better if I had trained more

When I got back from the ride last year, my gym was in free fall. What had been a clear, but gentle, downhill trajectory was now careening towards a bottom and it was not a pleasant place to be. It closed its doors shortly after I left in November 2018.

I had found, through the positive side of social media, a very different gym. Though it was still CrossFit, it had from what I could tell, a very different energy. I fell in love online and knew it was the place for me. Some of my friends from the old gym went there too, which eased the transition, but it wasn’t really hard at all. The online impression I had formed did not disappoint. Until Friday.

I got an eblast to members from the owner telling us she had sold the gym to a couple who seemed quite nice. But I drove an hour to go there for the owner and coaches and they would all be gone. I am sure I could stay and get good workouts. But what made me drive the hour was something else, and that will be gone one week from Friday, when the transfer is finalized. I gave my notice, effective 7/1/19-exactly a year after I did the same at my previous gym

Of course, I couldn’t help but think of when Zaidee handed over the reins of the yoga studio to me just over a year ago. Some people did leave here too, but many more stayed. And many more have joined. The transition was a bit bumpy, but it got better.

And, I soon realized, that is the answer to my current training challenge. For about 30 seconds I felt like I didn’t have a community to train with now. But that is just stupid. Of course I do, and it isn’t online or an hour away. It is right here in Greenwich. It is the people I train and those who are members of the studio. It is in my little “Baltic Ave” gym that is a part of the Move to Live business that I use with my personal training clients. In the coming days, I will invite more of you into that space, because that will make it a great place to be and workout. It will never compete with the three (!) big gyms in Greenwich, but I never wanted that and It doesn’t have to. It is a perfect space for a few fabulous (mostly) women to train together to get stronger.

I have learned a million times by now that even though I am an introvert and I am super-independent, and even though it is hard for me to reach out to people for help and community, things get much - SO MUCH- better when I do! I am not going to do this alone. I am asking all of you who are local to come train with me! Together we will accomplish all of our goals! I will ride the remaining 3 legs of the TransAm bike ride! I cannot wait to hear what you will do! #icaniwillendofstory and to steal a hashtag from a place I will miss: #strongertogether

IMG_2545.jpeg
IMG_1785.jpeg

Day 24: Dillon to Ennis, MT (70.5 miles)

It was a cold morning when we left Dillon heading to Ennis. We knew it was a long day with the toughest climb at mile 60, so many of us were anxious to get started even though it was close to freezing. What was a little different about this ride was that there were a few towns along the way, which offered us the possibility of getting off our bikes and warming up.

At mile 37 or so most of us stopped at the Town of Sheridan to get some coffee. As I got off my bike, Cy came over and showed me a text from Margaret saying that she needed to reach me. With one bar on my phone, I tried to call her and after many failed calls, I learned that my beloved dog, Sasha was sick and in the hospital with an unclear prognosis. I was devastated. But there was nothing I could do. I had a quick cup of coffee and had to get out of the shop. I didn’t want to talk with anyone. I just wanted to get back on my bike. I felt better when I was riding.

It was a nice ride, but I couldn’t really enjoy it thinking about Sasha. I tried, but I couldn’t really get there. What I did know was that there was a 5 mile climb starting at mile 55. After mile 60 it was essentially down hill to the cabins in Ennis. As I got close to mile 55, I realized I was tired and not really feeling strong for a climb. I knew it wasn’t the hardest climb we had done - it probably wasn’t in the top five, but I was tired from the day before. I didn’t feel strong, physically or mentally. And as it had been, it was really cold and windy.

I made it to the top, but was not feeling well when I got there. I couldn’t really understand the question Carolyn, the SAG driver, was asking me. I didn’t think I could go on, but I couldn’t quite figure out how to answer the question. Between the cold, exertion and altitude, I was really not feeling well. Carolyn was anxious because the two women who had reached the summit before me were similarly impacted by the cold. Probably the strongest cyclist arrived first and rode her bike in a circle for a few minutes saying she didn’t feel well at all. She concluded that she felt so bad that she was going to head down. Carolyn did not think that was a good idea at all and it made her worry about the rest of the women coming up the hill. I decided to help her out for a while and we drove down the hill and accounted for all but one of the riders. They all said they were fine. I had warmed up and was ready to ride again. We picked up another woman and found a place where we could get out and safely ride down. How many ways can I describe how cold I was?

Ennis was a very cute town. And the cabins in Ennis were quite nice and the staff could not have been more accommodating. They had the heat turned way up for us when we arrived, and when even that wasn’t enough for us, arranged to address “the heat emergency” with additional space heaters. We had a "Thanksgiving” dinner which hit the spot fo many, if not me, so much. The conversation over dinner was focused on the next day, our final riding day. Snow was likely. Who thought they would ride in the snow?

Day 23: Jackson to Dillon, MT (48 miles)

What a difference a day makes. Most of our group from the close to 100 miles from Sula to Dillon in one day. I decided to split it up into to two days: Sula to Jackson and Jackson to Dillon. There were several reasons why I made the decision: I knew both parts of the ride were among the most beautiful of the trip and I wanted to truly appreciate both. I felt the best way to appreciate both parts of the ride was to ride it as two, not one. What I did not know was there was a dramatic change in weather in store.

On the first day, the riders had sunshine and a tailwind for the second 50 miles. On the second day, the day I did this ride it was cold and there was a beast of a head wind. There was a climb starting at about mile 12. I had to fight my way just to get there. I was working hard to go forward on a slight decline. When I started to go up, it was near impossible. I felt many times as though I was actually losing ground against the freezing wind even as I pedaled with as much strength as I had. And I was really cold. I got sweaty climbing the hill and then the cold got to my wet self. I do not generally ride in low 30s temperatures and I did not have enough experience with layers on a cold climb. By the time I got to the top of the hill I was really cold. I was so happy to see Cy there at the peak. I climbed into the van to warm up. Deb was next to the summit and she joined me in the warm comfort. A couple of riders just went on without stopping at the summit, and that convinced Deb that she was going to go too. I decided to take a bump down the road a bit and hope for better weather when we dropped down into the valley a bit. I simply cannot tolerate that cold. I was in a lot of pain.

A couple of miles made a big difference. The temperature rose to 45 and the wind was not nearly as cold. I was able to enjoy the rest of the ride, which included another pass and then a 20 mile downhill into town. On the previous day, some of the other women clocked speeds that were unbelievable to me. The fastest was over 51 MPH. I would never go that fast, but I had to work to get into the high 20s. The wind was still a factor! It was a beautiful ride, but I chose not to stop to take pictures.

I was really happy to reach Dillon. I was tired and cold. I also had a Patagonia coupon burning a hole in my virtual pocket thanks to my friend Kitty and some Camp Little Notch connections. Dillon offered a variety of options for us and we had a great time there. But that day was a sign of a weather system change that would impact the rest of the trip.