Holy Cow, Where are We Now???

There are road blocks and there are cow blocks. After leaving Wise River, we headed toward the old ghost town of Bannack. We battled a headwind for a little while, and made it up a massive switchback hill, but after a quick rest our block was the biggest herd of cows to date. Typically, we’ve had to dodge them slowly, but this was a standoff for sure. Even the cars couldn’t get through. So we waited a good 20 minutes or so and finally enough of them went off the side of the road that we felt safe enough to pedal through (carefully as the steers started pawing “hoofing” at the ground a bit).

After an out-of-the-way Ma’s grocery stop for some potato chips, chocolate milk, and gingerale stop (which did not sit well later…), we actually were blessed with a TAILWIND!!!!! What is that?!?! It was amazing! For the first time this trip, we did 20 miles in little over an hour! Woohooooooo!!!! It felt amazing! We arrived at Bannack, where there were a host of people setting up for some Bannack Day festivities for the next day (bummer, we were a day early), but still really neat to go through the old Town next to our campsite.

The following morning, we rode out, while everyone else, including a group of walking Amish people, were heading in. Our next destination was Lima, Montana. Marty and I were very excited about this part of the ride since it was supposed to be relatively flat (LIES!) and particularly beautiful (MORE LIES!). Well actually…. comparatively it was less hilly, but it was remote sagebrush for miles… and miles… and more miles… and more cows. And we had yet another cattle standoff. This time we used our little foghorns, but they just started at us and us at them. Now normally we are not afraid of cows, but when you’ve got a group of 40-50 free range cattle blocking the road just looking at you.. it’s a little intimidating. But, by this point we have become professional cow-bikers-wranglers (minus the chaps). And Marty speaks cow. So we waited only 10 minutes before being able to move through :)! Progress!

Meanwhile, we were still wondering what abnormally gorgeous area we were supposed to be seeing since we’d been on the road about 60-65 miles already. And then literally all of the sudden, we were in a narrow gorge. Amazing rock formations with caves up high and down low, clear streams, we could smell the small roses along the path. It was worth all the climbing (kinda). It was at that point that I realized how much water does for the mood!

We arrived in Lima after an 80 mile days (my furthest ever!), had dinner and camped out at the motel 6 on the side of the highway. We met up with our new buddies, British Steve and Billy-the-Kid (Marty’s nickname for the youngest guy we’ve met who doesn’t talk a whole bunch). Our most memorable experience in Lima had to be the shower. We were given a key to one of the motel rooms. We walked in and it was dark, dank, skanky, sauna-hot and just felt like a crime scene. We totally left our socks on in the shower and didn’t touch the walls and only put clothes on hard surfaces. Just ick. There’s a difference between rustic and primitive and just gross. The floor was coming up and the curtains were made from towels, but not in a charming way. On the other hand… the reststop out of town was really nice! Sad when the rest stop is the best place in town :).

We left Lima, MT and headed for the Promise Land of Idaho. We stopped for lunch at a wildlife preserve, but as it was Sunday, no one was about. We met another cyclist from England, Josh who quit is software engineering job and has been cycling around for months, years… waiting for his money to run out. He was on a much slower path than us, so that was the last we saw of Josh.

20 miles after lunch we crossed into Idaho!! It felt amazing and like progress to get into another State. It felt different from Montana as well, I think the roads just felt like “hiking” more than the wider gravel, logging roads we’d spent so much time on in Montana. We also entered into more forest like areas, but still with some free range cows. It may seem weird, but the Idaho cows and Montana cows are different personality wise. Idaho cows are clearly used to people and just don’t care that you’re there, so the cow dodging was significantly easier.

After 87 miles… we were done for the day and treated ourself to a night in a hotel and Chinese for dinner. We slept in, showered about 3 times each and started on the road around 11:00, knowing we were doing a short and easy day.

Ha! except it wasn’t easy :(! The map said flat, which it was mostly, but the roads were like sand and pea gravel ?!? Ugh. It’s like riding slowly through sludge. We took some wrong turns… it’s kind of like Adventure Cycle maps didn’t really care too much about the Idaho leg of the trip and didn’t do as much to explain what to expect. However, I would say, we both really enjoyed it regardless of the hardship. AND, most exciting was that I got to see my first bears, mom and a cub! They were far enough down the path that it wasn’t scary and they clearly were avoiding us. I took the time to take a water and bathroom break. Fortunately they were black bears, otherwise my bathroom break might have been different…heehee.

After the bear sighting, the trail became a rails-to-trails ride. The rail was apparently started in 1905 or something and then ended in the 1930’s. This was another highlight in our ride. The trail overlooked Warm River below which appeared to be about 100 + feet below. At a narrow part in the trail, I got off to walk. We passed by an old rail tunnel which was built to avoid all the landslides. Very happy not to be in a train there, how scary!.

We camped in Warm River that night. Not as far as we would have liked, but a great decision. It was a wonderful campsite, and we were right next to the River. It lived up to it’s name and we were able to stand and sit around in it. I washed my shirt. It was a mini Paradise. We were actually tempted to stay another day, it was that pleasant.

Instead we began our next day pedaling uphill for a few miles and got into Wyoming. We stopped at the Squirrel Lodge after about 10 miles to use the bathroom. We were greeted by an excited German Shepherd. Dogs have been so great on our trip, maybe because we’re so salty. Anyway, the maintenance guy came to greet us and ended up making us a cheeseburger and fries and cups of coffee. Really nice guy who also gave us some insect spray for the pass we were about to do. Shortly after we left, we got our first glimpses of the Tetons!! WOW!!!

The next 35 miles we’re particularly difficult. It was a laborious uphill, dusty, bumpy road which just made it feel soooo slow. It was hot. The flies were out. I was bored. So bored. My thoughts didn’t extend past an empty hum of nothing. I focused on breathing, then on how to avoid some of the bumps. I think Marty was singing to himself. So Blah.

But part way through our dusty ride, a truck from Utah stopped in the road, guy got out and handed us cold bottles of water!! It was so pleasant and a nice little boost to keep on going. After another few miles we came upon a covered wagon ride. I tried to hitchhike but they were unamused…. oh well, can’t win them all :). We kept going uphill until I just gave out a bit and the sight of the next uphill was demoralizing. Marty saw and heard my anguish and had us stop. He filtered cold water from a stream where he accidently slipped a bit and soaked his foot. My hero :). We kept going. and still had to stop in the shade (luckily there was some), had some water, crackers, etc… And continued up.

We finally got a break when we entered the Rockefeller Memorial Highway area. Lots of downhill greeted us and a slight sprinkle of rain. We ended up at the Flagg Ranch Lodge where we had a nice dinner and saw another couple road cycling. They were definitely retired with an enormous load and pool noodles sticking out the side :). I immediately thought of the article my co-worker, David, had sent me previously :). I was amazed by them as they also didn’t seem the most in shape either. But goes to show all types do this sort of thing.

We ended up bandit camping in Sheffield campground about a mile down the road. Due to Marty’s Creek slip and wet socks… the smell that night in the tent was… pungent? We got up early and Marty noticed some fresh bear scat. Pretty sure his smelly feet kept the bears away :). We scadaddled early for the 17 miles to Colter Bay a.k.a. Mecca!!

Oh My Gosh, this place is amazing! We went to have breakfast and ran into Billy-the-Kid who was on a 2-day layover with some pedal issue. We did laundry, showered, had ice cream from the little grocery store. Marty bought some socks. We went for a short walk. So relaxing. We debated on whether to do the Yellowstone tour and decided…YOLO!… and we did it!

Yellowstone was awesome! Even though it was an 11 hour bus tour (ahhhhh!!!!), we saw buffalo, elk, geysers, mudpots, painted valley, waterfalls, Old Faithful Inn, and enjoyed a plastic cup of white wine on the balcony while watching Old Faithful do it’s spouting thing. It was a great day even if it was tiring :). We got back to camp, had dinner, and went to camp where I promptly went to sleep and Marty ran into Scottie Jim :).

The next morning, Scottie Jim, Marty and I went via the FREE shuttle into Jackson. Nice little town. Marty got his wheel fixed and Scottie Jim got a bike box since Jackson will be the end of his trip. I sat at the Cowboy Coffee Co. and started writing this blog. Nice day. At the moment we are back at our new home in Colter Bay having pizza and beers at the bar and planning to bike down (without gear!!) to Jenny Lake and do some hiking. We do plan to actually leave our new home probably on Sunday to begin the serious ascent of Towgotee pass which reaches near 10,000 feet. I’m a little concerned given we’ve taken so many days off from cycling and the altitude will be no joke. But looking forward to what’s next!!