We dropped Reed and Amanda off at the Casper, WY airport yesterday afternoon, ending a mind-boggling two weeks of cycling and vacationing with those two young adventurers.
Picking up where the last post ended, on June 21, after a recovery day in Victor, ID, Reed and I took on the epic climb of Teton Pass, with its breathtaking (and car-free) descent into Jackson Hole – a cycling day to remember.
Meanwhile, Wendy and Amanda left early and were successful in getting a wonderful campsite at Signal Mountain Campground in Grand Tetons National Park. The ride up the valley from Wilson to Jenny Lake in the park was stunning beyond words. If there’s a more dramatic range of mountains than the Tetons, we have yet to see them.
Unfortunately, we missed a hoped-for rendezvous with our dear friend Philip Brooks by one day. We did meet up with our friends Jackie and Steve Herzog, who coincidentally were vacationing in the region, for some morning coffee at our campsite.
We had envisioned a Teton/Yellowstone stay as a vacation-within-the-vacation, and it was all that and more. We hiked, saw an array of wildlife we never thought we would see, took a late-afternoon boat ride on Jackson Lake, and in general reveled in the glory of this special area of the country.
We coined the term “Bearanoia” to describe the over-hyped way the parks promote carrying bear spray, and take every opportunity to instill a fear of the grizzly bears in the parks. These bears are present, but common sense makes the chances of a problem very remote. Still, surprising a grizzly and her cubs can be a truly dangerous situation, and the parks do have a duty to warn visitors.
We will let the photos take the place of what could be volumes of written descriptions of what we experienced in our stay in the parks.
Finally continuing our eastward motion after 4 glorious days in the parks, we rode 71 miles through the Wind River Range across the Continental Divide from Signal Mountain to Dubois, Wyoming.
The route included a 14-mile stretch of cycling nirvana – Buffalo Valley Road. I feel like a broken record to say that day was one of the premier days of my cycling life, but it was.
In Dubois, we got a chance to see the Idaho Potato Commission’s traveling road show – a non-event really, but very campy nonetheless.
Dubois is an authentic cowboy town, situated along the Wind River in a beautiful canyon.
One man we talked with told us that the town lost population 20 years ago, when a Louisiana-Pacific Lumber mill closed down. He explained with no malice in his voice that it was the “environmentalists” that shut down the mill. He felt the environmentalists would rather see the forest burn than be cut for timber. This short conversation suggests the enormity of the task of redefining the ‘jobs vs. environment’ aspect of the divide in the country. The concept of ecosystem management is probably just an abstraction to someone whose family had worked in a particular mill for several generations and has seen the mill and the jobs evaporate. I believe the creation of enduring jobs in the sectors of renewable energy and other sustainable industries needs to happen, and soon.
The next day, from Dubois to Shoshoni, 94 miles away, was full of high cycling drama. The weather forecasts called for late afternoon thunderstorms.
Around 1:00 PM, just after Wendy had turned around to head back to move our van and trailer to our next camp, Reed and I were caught in the leading edge of a storm coming from the northwest. The swirling winds included gusts that must have been 40+ mph, and at one point we found ourselves being blown down a long hill at speeds close to 45 mph. Because the winds were changing direction our bikes were shaking and shuddering, but we were both reluctant to hit our brakes for fear that we would lose control and crash. After 5 miles of this, we took shelter in a gas station to wait out the storm front. Wendy, heading the other direction, also was caught up in the storm.
When the storm front passed, Reed and I ventured back onto the road, and were pushed along by a tailwind for the next 65 miles at average speeds over 20 mph. In total, we rode 93 miles at an average speed of 19.7 mph, by far the fastest average either of us had ever ridden. The experience taught me a lesson about these thunderstorms: I need to get off the bike as soon as the front hits, or risk getting blown off the road …or worse. I think I will need to apply this lesson the rest of the way across the plains and prairies of the heartland.
Arriving in Boysen State Park, near Shoshoni, we found a very remote campsite, which we had all to ourselves. The sunset and peaceful night was a fitting end to a memorable day – and to a lovely time with Reed and Amanda.
Yesterday, we packed up Reed’s bike, and drove to Thermopolis, WY, for a soak in the mineral hot springs there.
Then we drove the 120 miles south to Casper for our sendoff with Reed and Amanda – sad to see them go. We had dinner with Wendy’s cousin, Arlene and her husband Ed – a great visit with two great people. This morning, we took care of some repairs on our trailer in Casper, and had new air shocks installed in the Sienna. By late afternoon, we resumed the bike ride in Shoshoni and cycled the beautiful Wind River Canyon back up to Thermopolis, where we are currently camped.
Where to begin about our time in Tetons/Yellowstone?! It was a great vacation with Reed and Amanda with a 4 night base camp at Signal Mountain Campground in Tetons. The weather was picture perfect; cycling fantastic in Tetons National Park with unbelievable views of the mountains and wildflowers; otherworldly hot pools and geysers in Yellowstone; thrilling wildlife (between the two parks, we saw 2 moose, 4 grizzly bears, pronghorn antelope, countless bison – including rambunctious young calves – and a wolf running across the range and swimming across a river); hikes in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River to the brink of two jaw dropping waterfalls. Other than the mosquitoes, it could not have been a better time.
(White dot in foreground is a wolf)
It’s feeling good to be back on the road again. Weather has been very exciting – where blue skies suddenly change to high winds, rain, thunder and lightning. On our departure day from Dubois, we experienced this weather phenomenon for the first time. When I turned back to return to the van, trailer, and Amanda, the crosswinds were so strong that the winds were pushing my bike a foot or so toward the driving lane – (yikes!). Just as Jaden (another cross country cyclist on a recumbent bike, who we’ve been leapfrogging since Mitchell, OR) approached from the opposite direction, we both stopped riding to put on our rain gear. Winds were so strong that we struggled to stand in one place, my bike was blown forward off of the road, lightning bolts were close by – it was clear that we needed to seek shelter. Fortunately, there was a home virtually across the road and our guardian angel, Pamela, took us in until the storm passed.
Jaden and I really enjoyed meeting Pamela, getting another glimpse into life in Wyoming where there are mountain lions, grizzly bears, and wolves “in the neighborhood” and guns are the norm for hunting and protection. Once back on the road, there were two more waves of storms – definitely more weather than we experience in San Francisco!
I had thought that grizzlies were no longer in the lower 48 / present only in Alaska, so was very excited to find out that there are now about 700 grizzlies in this area. That’s enough that they were just taken off of the threatened species list (which we were saddened to hear then opens them up to hunting if they are outside of the national parks – NPS estimates that about 100 are in the parks).
Talking with Pamela, we found out that the locals are not happy with the reintroduction of the grizzly bear – we are definitely getting to hear “both sides” of many issues on this trip with no clear outcomes that will suit everyone.
When I was driving our van and trailer from Tetons to Dubois, Amanda spotted a grizzly in a pond that was quite close to the road. We circled back and with caution, immensely enjoyed watching the grizzly bathe/eat/play in the pond before it swam away from us and headed off into the woods.
It was fantastic to see my cousin, Arlene, and her husband, Ed. We really appreciated their extra efforts to drive from Laramie to Casper for an overnight stay to connect with us – and enjoyed dinner and brunch together. Ed is a libertarian, which led to interesting political conversation about the role of government vs. each individual.
I am aware of bittersweet feelings as we adjust to “letting go” of Amanda, Reed, Arlene, and Ed. The change is unsettling. We’re back to just the two of us traveling again for about a week – which will also be lovely; then our friend, Doug Donaldson, will join us for a couple of weeks cycling across South Dakota and Minnesota.
We suddenly realized today that we’re heading into the holiday weekend so have been piecing together campground reservations at the last minute – wish us luck! Happy 4th of July to all!