mandag 30. juni 2014

Day 18: Beautiful Wyoming

200.5 km

Pleased to see all my stuff had dried, I packed up and was on the road by 7:30. The hostel was located just by the foot of a big hill and after about 400 m of cycling I started a climb that was going to last 28 km. There was not a single cloud to be seen and the cool morning air made me enjoy every bit of the climb to Togwotee Pass towering at 2920 m. The climb offered some incredible last views of the Teton mountains and since it was a Sunday morning, there were very few cars on the road. As I gained altitude the air felt so fresh and clean that I wanted to take some home with me in a jar. I'm not sure if it was just imagination but I got the feeling that the air was thinner and made me panting more than I would have in the lowland.

The descent - spectacular as always - was dragged out over a long stretch and taking me below where I had started the climb. I was about to get out on the more worn down remnants in the outskirts of the Rockies before I get into it again in Colorado. The wind picked up as I got to the warmer flatter terrain in a direction to my favor. 

I coasted on the really strong tailwind into the town of Dubois (locally pronounced "Dew-Boys") where I pounded down a small pizza, a yoghurt and some fruits. I was really in a rush today because I wanted to get as much use as I could out of this fierce tailwind and there wasn't really much to come by in a distnace I would normally go, so i had some cycling to do. I met a couple of cyclists going the opposite direction, struggling with the wind and I could only imagine the agony. 

The scenery on this side of the mountains was so beautiful. Personally, I find desert scenery very fascinating and this combination of wide open ranges with these painted canyons where you could see the different colors of the segments (much like in the southwest), was right up my alley. I rolled fast through some amazing Wyoming landscape on this ridiculously nice tailwind. It was like all forces of nature was looking after that I would have an enjoyable ride. The temperature was considerably higher than that of the last week, so I had to increase my water intake and I ate a lot of sweet and sugary fruits while on the bike. Although the scenery was beautiful, it was a drag to come to a stop to take pictures, while going 55 km/h across the arrid grasslands.

Except from the climb to Togwotee pass, only the last 50 km I experienced some more challenging cycling. My legs felt strong but I was tired from the heat and I started to get some unpleasant crosswinds, but fueled by the thought of rounding 200 km and getting to Lander I pushed out the last kilometers.

I got into the lovely town of Lander at 5:30 pm and sat down at a restaurant and ate a nice pasta meal, served by a very nice waitress who was also into bike touring and gave me directions to the city park where you could camp for free. I had 199.6 km on my speedometer so i took a lap around the park to round it up. Feeling exhausted from the long day on the bike, I started walking my bike onto the lawn to find a place to put my tent, when out of nowhere a guy comes over offering me a beer telling me in a British accent "you look like you need it". This was just too good to be true! I joyfully accepted and after putting up my tent, I went over to hang out with Keran and his brother Callum from England who had bought a car and were traveling around the US and Canada to climb rocks. 

lørdag 28. juni 2014

Day 17: Bear Aware

91.5 km

The sound on the rain fly this morning indicated that the God of Weather had not yet smiled upon me. Surprised I had not been mauled by a grizzly during the night, I packed up and got going to combat the cold and before long I could feel my toes again. 

The weather was incredibly unstable all day. Alternating between heavy rain, hail and short intervals of sun, I did not know where it was going to end up. I thought that this was going to be a day spent in wet clothes and bad weather but while bike touring, nothing is predictable. 

I cruised out of Yellowstone and took a rest stop at a lodge just outside the park. Here I took something to eat and sat down by a fireplace among a group of other cyclists that were heading west. After chatting a bit, I pressed on again. Just as I got on the bike, it started to poor down so much I didn't think it could possibly get much worse! The temperature dropped so much I honestly stopped to check if my tire was flat, turns out the sudden temerature drop had just decreased the tire pressure, making it feel like something was holding me back. I kept thinking about those other cyclists sitting by the fireplace and I started to think that I should have done the same. What the hell have I gotten myself into?

All of a sudden I could feel the sun shining through the clouds, wondering if my mind started to play tricks on me and as I headed down a descent, I got a spectacular view of the the mighty Tetons. As I try to write this 17th entry for this blog since the start of the trip, I for the first time encounter a standstill when it comes to finding the right words to do this scenery justice. The view of the mountains from across the lake after the struggle I had this morning gave such a strong impression in me, it felt surreal. I sat down by the lake watching how the sharp mountain tops tore the passing clouds apart in awe. I was now in the complete opposite end of the mood-spectrum than just 10 minutes ago. This is a phenomenon that has occurred on all my previous tours. When bike touring you often get to visit the whole mood and emotional spectrum in just one day with often sudden transitions, which I suspect is due to the fact that you experience everything so close.

I still had a spectacular view of the Tetons as I pedaled on in the on-and-off rain/hail/sunshine. After a while I got a break from the traffic as I entered the woods. Ahead of me I saw something I had a dying wish to see before I left the park. On the left side of the road, mere meters into the bushes, I saw a bear stretching up along a tree. Incjected by adrenalin, I opened the bear spray holster I had so handily mounted on the handlebar and ripped off the safety before stopping to take up the camera. I was trembling with excitement (which may explain the horrible pictures) as I turned around to get a better shot. For a little while it was just me, the bike and the bear on a quiet road, and I fired away with my camera in burst mode. This was the second time I had gotten to witness wildlife up close on the road, and I owe it all to the quiet manner of bicycle travel. The passing cars saw me aiming my camera into the woods and quickly piled up making a traffic jam. There were now maybe twenty cars lined up  on both sides. Some screamed "what are we looking at?!" and some actually rolled down their windows without turning down the loud music. I mean, come on! The bear was long gone but I was still elated by the experience. What a day!

I wanted to stay inside tonight to dry my clothes, shoes and tent so I got a hostel room at Hatchet Resort, with a view of the Tetons in the distant. I spent the evening talking to home and recapping on what an incredible day this had been.

Day 16: Wyoming!

90.6 km

I woke up to the sound of heavy rain on the cabin roof and tried to justify to myself the possibility of staying inside all day. After calling home and relaxing some more, I pulled myself together and got moving.  I went to a supermarket in town to stock up on some more food. I have actually come to prefer having some food with me at all times rather than rely on the somewhat unpredictable selection in stores along the way. It makes me much more mobile and self-sufficient, being able to stop anywhere and take a rest instead of worrying about making it to the next town, even though it weighs me down. 

I entered Yellowstone National Park at about 10:30, feeling like a kid opening his Christmas presents. I had finally arrived to the place I had read so much about and seen documentaries about at home. Yellowstone was made a national park in 1872, the first national park in the entire world. Luckily, the president at the time; Ulysses S. Grant saw the importance of protecting such a place early on and the fact that this part of the country wasn't very settled yet, made that easier.Yellowstone is so special because it is located on top of a supervolcano in the heart of the Rocky Mountains, with a huge magma pool (relatively) close to the surface. The geothermal activity caused by this makes Yellowstone capable of producing an environment unlike anywhere on earth with unique wildlife. 

I joyfully biked deeper into the park with my eyes open in pure wonderment, and soon I came across the geyser fields with the characteristic white smoke rising all around. I took a rest by a creek just as the weather cleared up a bit and got talking with the driver of a van in support of an all female bicycle tour group, just as she was about to set up lunch for the incoming group. She offered to fill my water bottles and give me food, but I told her I already had enough with me. 

I took several more stops for pictures along the way and really enjoyed what the park had to offer. After about 50 km of cycling, I reached the famous Old Faithful Geyser. It is the world's best known geyser with eruption intervals of about an hour and a half, give or take 10 minutes. I got there about 40 minutes before its scheduled eruption and managed to get a good spot among the masses that Henk from yesterday had warned me about. With the rain pouring down and the eruption being 10 min past schedule, I finally got to witness the water shooting 30 m up in the air. Just wow!

Cold from the rain, I continued on into several climbs I had underestimated. The traffic in this park was just awful, exactly as people had warned me prior to entering. With narrow roads and little to no shoulder with RVs rushing past, you had to keep an eye on the road at all times. Just as I got a little peace and quiet from the traffic, I stopped at a pullout to look at my maps. Suddenly, out of the woods  came a four legged creature which I identified to be a coyote, about 10 m from me. Quickly I got out my camera and snapped a couple of pictures before 3-4 cars pulled up to do the same, scaring the poor rascal off. 

The whole episode lifted my spirits and I got going over some more long and slow climbs. The road was following the continental divide, which is a where the continent is divided in terms of which ocean the rainfall eventually will end  up in. On one side, all the water will end up in the Atlantic and on the other, the Pacific. 

Feeling tired and ready to bunk up for the night, I got a hiker/biker site for 8 dollars at Grant Village. Being in Yellowstone, known for its potentially dangerous wildlife, it was a ritual getting set up with a tent site. The lady at the reception gave me the so-called Bear Speech about how you should not have any food, cosmetics and other items with a strong scent outside or inside a tent. I had been through similar situations before, but here the seriousness of it got to a whole other level. 

I spent the evening showering, sorting out all my stuff to put in the bear box, sneaking up on a herd of elk passing by my tent and preparing for a cold Yellowstone night.

torsdag 26. juni 2014

Day 15: Wrath of the Winds

97.5 km

The day started with the sound of light drizzle on the rain fly but little did I know that packing a wet tent was not going to be my main concern this day. After packing up and walking my bike out of the shelter of the cabins, I felt what I had been dreading ever since I started planning for this trip. The wind was blowing straight at me at a constant speed that was way too high to ignore, and I thought to myself that today was going to be all about persistence.

A group of cyclists traveling with van support had passed the campground as I was packing up my tent and after a while I caught up with two of them who were trying to fix a flat. I stopped to ask if everything was ok. I continued ahead and passed another guy who was really struggling with the wind as well.

The first 50 km consisted of wide open grasslands on the valley floor with the road stretching as far as I could see in a straight line with only minor ups, downs and turns. With nowhere to hide from the unrelenting wind, I kept pounding the pedals hard on my lowest gear and still it was a brutal struggle just to keep moving. I tried to keep my mind off the cycling by hiding my maps and listening to music and playing a game of "Dead Snake or Piece of Rope?" with myself, every time I saw a coiled up item on the road shoulder. I also tried to pace myself by doing 45 minute moderate to high intensity intervals with 15 minutes rest and bite to eat.

The riding continued like this for several hours and after a while I saw a van pass me with bicycles on the roof and the three cyclists I had passed inside. First I thought it extremely funny, then I found strength in the fact that these cyclists - riding on their full carbon lightweight bikes, with all their gear being carried by a van - were struggling so much they had to be picked up. I was completely in the zone for about an hour and a half after this, before I stopped at a rest area unsuccessfully trying to find water. Here I met Casey who was bike touring with the winds from where he lives in Boulder,CO to Seattle,WA where he was to meet his wife. We traded information about the road each of us had ahead and pressed on. I really wanted to make it to West Yellowstone today so I tried to spend as little time out of the saddle as I could. 

Although the winds calmed from brutal to strong, I could still feel the hours of work in my legs but I soon forgot about it when I was headed into a gap in the spectacular mountains surrounding Yellowstone. From a humble cyclist's perspective, it was completely hypnotizing to gaze at the mighty mountains straight ahead from the road.

All struggle seem to be gone when the route took a turn from south to northeast, when the wind was suddenly at my back. After taking a rest at Quake Lake Visitor's Center, I met another cyclist heading the opposite direction. I stopped to talk for a bit with an awesome Dutch man called Henk, who was riding from San Diego,CA to Calgary I Canada, hitting a lot of national parks on the way. We talked about bikes and shared stories from the road. He told me about numerous wildlife encounters in Yellowstone such as seeing bears on several occasions and how he had to be shielded by cars from threatening bisons, aiming at the fragile cyclist. 

I rolled into the town of West Yellowstone on the border to Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park and checked in at a cabin for the night. I wanted to get a roof over my head to dry my tent and do some laundry.