A cunning plan

September 13, 2012 at 12:04 am

This post describes my hardest day so far. The recurring theme is wind. Wind, wind, wind. Murderous, furious headwinds. Still, I’m writing this up in cosy Steamboat Springs, so we evidently made it. But I sure had a hard time…

Waking up in the hotel room in Rawlins, I was really hungry. Where did all the food go? I looked into the mirror. Barely any fat left on my body. Where did it all go? We shopped and I ate an entire foot-long sandwich at the Subway’s for breakfast. I finished it with ease. Where does it all go??
Riding out of town, we faced the wind. A headwind. I knew it was going to last, because I had checked out the weather predictions. Ah well. Lots of uphills, facing a headwind. What’s a guy to do but climb, eh?

We met Cam, an Australian who was hiking the Continental Divide Trail as part of a gargantuan, 15.000-mile-trek (that’s 24.000 kilometers) in 18 months across the Northern America’s. Having done already about 11.500 miles, he was planning to finish the CDT in October and then fly up to Maine to start his last hike: the Appalachian trail, southbound. How he is going to survive that, I do not know — it gets COLD up there in October! What an amazing feat though. He was doing 40 miles (64 km) a day. Had been doing so for a year, with a pack on his back. It blows my mind. The Nijmeegse Vierdaagse is like a sneeze for this guy!
Meanwhile, Mat and I were suffering. This was no fun at all. We did about 7 km riding about town and we knew that 24 km downroute, there was going to be a campsite at Teton Reservoir. We decided to just call it a day. It was a pathetic attempt at making any sort of mileage, but the next campsite was about 60 kilometers ahead of Teton Reservoir and after four days of desert, we just didn’t feel like it. In fact, we still were in the desert.

At the campsite, which looked more like a scene from Mad Max than anything else, the wind kept whipping around us. Our stoves even got blown out once while cooking a meal! I was in a bit of a morbid mood, recalling that Alice in Chains song, “Would?“, adding my own twist to the lyrics:

Am I wrong
Have I rode too far to get home
Am I wrong
Left you here alone?

It wouldn’t leave my head for the coming few days, and therefore it’s the theme song to this post.

The campsite. Completely exposed, buffeted by the unceasing winds.

Trespassing

September 12, 2012 at 10:28 pm

The next two days would comprise of the big haul towards Rawlins. I really went overboard with the water, taking about 7 liters extra for a grand total of 10 liters of water. I felt like a camel! Doing 100+ kilometers was draining a lot of my energy. The emptiness of the landscape was getting to me as well. It all felt very hostile, as if I was an intruder. I can think of only one tune that adequately evokes this feeling. It might be a tad heavy and abrasive for most of you folks, but this is how it felt to me: hostile, tough, and very lengthy. Yob – Burning the Altar

My feeble attempt at picturing the sunrise at Sweetwater River Crossing.

Towards the Basin

September 12, 2012 at 9:45 pm

Between Pinedale and Rawlins is 220 miles (about 350 kilometers) of sagebrush desert. I couldn’t really think of  a reason why Rawlins would actually be there. Everybody warned me about how rough of a place it is. The state prison is in Rawlins and apparently it isn’t as hospitable as the rest of the West. At least, that’s what people told me. I was eager to find out. Just the little problem of 350 kilometers to cover.

The guidebook says: “start thinking like a serious backpacker”. I don’t consider myself a “serious backpacker” at all (more a buffoon who happens to ride a bike) but I did take the desert, and especially the Great Divide Basin, very seriously. It is a flat area where nothing grows. And with “flat” I mean it in that weird Great Divide way of course, i.e. going up and down all the time. Any water from precipitation flows neither east nor west, it just evaporates. It is miles and miles of sagebrush desert with water sources few and far between. A surprising amount of animals live there though: wild horses, pronghorn, chipmunks, birds, snakes…

Well, there was nothing to do but stock up and start pedaling, while playing some appropriate tunes: Alice In Chains – Them BonesI feel so alone, gonna end up a big ol’ pile o’ them bones…

This would be my view for the coming hundreds of kilometers.

A shortcut to deserts

September 12, 2012 at 8:56 pm

After my stay at Dawn’s place it was time to move on. I was off-route and, despite my improving mood, still a bit bummed about the fact that I would have to ride 40 miles back up north and then have three additional riding days before hitting Pinedale. It made me feel pressed for time so I decided to do a shortcut instead: ride along Highway 191 straight towards Pinedale. I fancied having a rest day there at Tara’s place, someone I met at Dawn’s place who offered me yet another guest bed and roof over my head! I was going to get so chilled out, so I decided to listen to some more Brant Bjork (waiting for the coconut to drop).

Actually, the ride along Highway 191 turned out to be a really nice one, with canyons, streaming water, tailwinds (I felt like I was entitled to tailwinds!) and I zipped towards Pinedale in what felt like was no time.

Another nice bike lane in Wyoming.

Daybreak in Wyoming

September 5, 2012 at 2:22 am

After a bad day, usually a great day follows. It was no different this time.

Listen to this song while watching the sun rise: Russian Circles – Mladek

 

After the Yellowstone experience and being picked up by Elaine, I woke up in a very bright mood. I was going to ride along the base of the Tetons towards the house of Dawn, a friend of Lisa’s (remember, back in Helena?). The Grand Tetons are like the rowdy teenagers of the Rockies: relatively young mountains, with craggy peaks and no foothills, so they rise to a spectacular prominence. At least, that’s what the world wide web told me.

The morning was very chilly and very foggy. I wonder if I would be able to see anything of the purported spectacular views. Still, I was still alive, and my rear tire was still full of air. Time to ride!

A preview of the Tetons: this Mount Moran, viewed while still on the ride towards Colter Bay Village.

On top of the volcano

September 5, 2012 at 1:44 am

So, I was in Yellowstone National Park, one of the supposed highlights of the United States. Bad weather rolling in, and a bad mood rolling in, too. Here’s some mood music: “Dam That River” by Alice in Chains.

Yellowstone is nice enough but I guess I wasn’t really in the right frame of mind to appreciate it all. Also, I was really tired of the long day before, feeling it in my legs. I had an appointment in Jackson, Wyoming, in two days, where I would stay with Dawn and family. But between Macks Inn and Jackson were about 190 kilometers to cover in two days. And with these legs, I didn’t know if I was up for it.
In Yellowstone you ride on pavement, which is nice, but there is more traffic too. And from the road, the scenery really isn’t all that much — just trees. You have to get out on trails to really appreciate the wild scenery, and that was something I didn’t really have the time for. I was hoping to reach Grant Village, a ride of 90 km. But it quickly turned into a struggle, with more headwinds, rainshowers, and endless up- and downhills. This was turning into a slog, and right in the middle of one of the wonders of the world too. Not good! Still, I managed to take some pictures of the sights around.

Bison.