Dubois, WY to Colter Bay Village in Grand Teton National Park to Jackson, WY and back to Colter Bay to Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park
3 Day Mileage: 68.0 + 44.8 + 41.4 = 154.2
Total Mileage: 3,555.8
3 Day Average Speed: 11.9 / 12.4 / 11.0
3 Day Elevation Gain: 3,800 / 639 / 2,617
If you are unfamiliar with the story of Michael Jordan's performance in Game 5 of the 1997 NBA finals... Don't worry I'll get there.
First I bring you to the morning of Day 58 in Dubois, WY.
I removed the couch cushions from one of the three church couches and lined them up on the floor as my bed for the night. It was quite comfortable once I snagged a pillow from the other couch across the room.
Any step I can take to minimize the morning routine is a positive step. So not having to unroll and blow up my air pad was a plus. I also felt warm enough upon laying down to leave the sleeping bag in its sack as well. I hate rolling that thing up, but worse, I hate trying to stuff it in it's sack that, once full, doesn't leave room for an ant to crawl in.
So, of course, I wake up at 5 AM shivering. I grabbed the blanket from couch #2 which turned out to be 2 feet by 4 feet. I opted for covering my upper half and leaving my legs vulnerable. I have made it this far and I am sure as hell not opening that sleeping bag.
Long story short (too late it's already too long) I had a bad nights sleep.
I tried to salvage my lack of rest for a good breakfast. A good breakfast includes two wraps of banana, jelly, Nutella, peanut butter and two packets of oatmeal.
Colin and Marion rolled out separately, so David and I clipped in our pedals and headed out together.
We were excited about the ride today because we knew we had one big climb over our final pass of the trip today (i.e. no more mountains). Pedal by pedal Wyoming began to show why people love Wyoming so much.
David and I turned a corner and we saw the tips of a mountain face. Coupled with the pine trees, it looked like the lead up to a Wyoming postcard.
We have done worse hill climbing but this one is taking us by surprise. David and I took about 5 breaks on the way to the pass. Including one FRitz stop. FRitz is a snack of Ritz and Fluff, the feeling of enjoyment is the FRitz.
Once at the pass, we spotted a lake not too far down a dirt road. We road to it and found that postcard view we were looking for. We posed for selfies and the like when we met Ann who came right up to us and asked if we needed snacks or water. We said we were ok, but she insisted this is "what she does."
She came back with two Cliff Bars and a fresh peach for each of us. All hail trail angel Ann!
Not soon after, Marion and Colin rode up the final stretch of the pass and we called them over. I made a joke about wanting to jump in but not wanting to change or dry off, but Colin was all in. He was going to jump in nude, but there was a family fishing only 50 feet away so he jumped in in his chamois. It was a glorious leap!
Now time for the downhill chubby! 6% grade for the next 17 miles according to the sign.
Side note: We met Wally last night back at the church in Dubois. David and Marion had met him way back in Virginia when he was still riding with a military back pack on. Wally is a triathlon athlete who did this cross country trip on a whim. Today he is riding up the pass and back down (almost 40 miles) without his gear to retrieve a supply package for a Great Divide hiker (trail name: Dawg). As he says, and you know he means it, he is more than happy to give back the generosity he has received on this trip. He's a great guy. We passed him at the top of the pass and wished each other a safe ride down.
We flew down 8 miles until we turned down the mountain towards a restaurant for lunch called the Red Fox Saloon. Upon taking this turn was our first sight of the Tetons way out in the distance. They were already breathtaking.
|Teton's in the distance bringing us smiles
A hot meal gives me a second wind 10 times out of 10. I took the lead for the remainder of the way to Colter Bay Village. However, these final 20 miles or so were not all downhill.
I took lead of the peloton into heavy headwinds while David drafted behind me and Colin drafted behind him. I thought David deserved it after riding 90+ miles yesterday in some rain and wind because of having to turn around to get his broken spoke fixed. Either way, when you're feeling it, you're feeling it... And I was feeling it.
To give you an idea of what it is like to draft, I was pushing against the pedals very hard, nonstop and keeping my head low in the headwinds whereas David and Colin sat upright and relaxed, looking all around at the views and even stopping their pedaling at times as to not hit the man in front. Basically a 90% effort to a 50% effort.
The closer we got to the Teton's the more awe inspiring they became.
We entered the Grand Teton National Forest as a gang. Marion got us all in for free (otherwise $20 each!) with his senior pass and we rode the final 8 miles to camp.
While Marion, David and Colin paid for a $4.25 shower, I grabbed a $2.60 burrito called "The Bomb" from the grocery store. This thing has like 1100 calories, 40g of protein, 120g of carbs... I figured it was the best bang for my buck. It obviously wasn't very good.
Then David and I made our way to Jackson Lake to watch the sun set behind the Grand Teton's.
We sat there listening to the quiet scratch of the lake ripple against the perfectly oval shaped rocks as the sun slowly made its way behind the sharp stones. Nothing could have been more peaceful.
|Smoke from a fire
Once back at camp, David, as he is wont to do, bought a six pack of beer and I an ice cream cone. I decided to build a little fire until it was time for bed. I was really starting to feel the exhaustion from the bad nights sleep and also giving my all on those last 20 miles.
Fire making was frighteningly easy. I pulled some dead branches off a few dead trees only 15 feet away and WHAM, the branches lit up like Agustus Gloop walking into the Candy Forest in Willy Wonka.
I can see why the fire warning is at extreme, but can't understand why they trust anybody to light one, or put one out for that matter.
We all shared a beer around the fire until I called it quits first. Just beat.
It was really tough waking up this morning. We had no set agenda so I just laid there with heavy eyes and frankly, a heavy body. I yawned and stretched roughly 4 times loving each time, but I had to get out of the tent sooner or later...
We made the decision yesterday, Marion would take a rest day while David and I rode the "Jackson Spur" down to Jackson, WY. We would be able to leave all of our stuff at camp and the ride would be nice and easy with no luggage strapped on. Then hitch hike back north to the campsite. Colin was still undecided, until we found him at the Jackson Lake Lodge with his shoes off enjoying the view of the Teton's. He wasn't moving, and I was slightly jealous.
David and I have heard this is the best ride of the trip and those people were not wrong. For one thing as you can see above, the elevation gain was 639 feet, basically nothing. Second, the views. Third, the views. Forth, the views and fifth, the views!
As opomistic as we both were heading out, the ride ended up catching us from behind.
|Hunched over in pain
For me, my stomach started to turn to knots. I tried to enjoy the views, and was, but the further along we rode and the further away the Teton's became, the harder it became to ignore my stomach.
I tried ginger ale and I tried the bathroom. I tried snacking hoping it was hunger pains since all I had was The Bomb at 7 PM last night. Nothing worked.
We stopped 10 miles before Jackson to eat around 1. I needed the break and David was starting to bonk. Albeit gorgeous, this leisurely ride was killing us!
We ate and I think coke temporarily alleviated my pain, but David figured we should try to hitch to Jackson. I think my sickness and lack of enthusiasm, plus his previous 90 something mile day was getting to him too.
Hitching didn't work. We rode the bike trail to Jackson but struggled despite it being a shallow decline the whole way. I distracted both of us the final 5 miles by asking David what can go through the Green Glass Door. It worked. This game has been a hit on this trip. Thanks Livi.
We did it! Our goal accomplished! We are in Jackson and it is pretty awesome. Very touristy. Very very touristy, but awesome. We looked for a bar to jump in and what is more appealing than the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar?
I knew a Budweiser wouldn't help my stomach, but I couldn't help myself. The bar stools are saddles, there is a ram fighting a wildcat, there are horns everywhere and murals of the Wild West. I could even enter a raffle to win what basically looked like an M16. I had to order an American.
David and I wandered the streets until we knew we had to find our way home. This time we were hitching a ride and we would try until sunset if we had to. We could not ride the 40 miles back... in headwinds.
We left the downtown area and stuck our thumbs out mainly targeting pickups. David suggested it might be easier if it was just one of us was hitch hiking, plus he was eyeing Dairy Queen. I told him sure, go get your Flurry. It took about 7 cars to pass, two of them being pickups, until that second pickup stopped.
I DID IT! THANK GOD!
This guy said he was going to Dubois which was perfect, he could drop us off just outside of Grand Teton National Park leaving us with 9 miles to ride.
I told him I had a friend that needed a ride too and he said ok. David ran over with Flurry in hand and a smile underneath his just-starting-to-curl-at-the-ends-mustache. We loaded our bikes and piled in. Complete with coke bottles, a spew of multivitamins, papers, torn upholstery and 4 cracks covering the windshield from top to bottom, the car was an absolute mess.
I don't remember this guys name. He said close to nothing. I told him about our cross country trip, but he didn't have one question for us. That was a first. Not even where did you start from. Instead he decided to text, or play poker or something the entire 30 mile drive.
I was sitting shotgun at the end get of my seat and David behind me leaning toward the middle of the car. We needed all eyes on the road if this guy wasn't going to bother. This anxiety was not helping my stomach. But how can you tell the guy who is saving your day to, "uh excuse me could you stop texting and watch the road."
David and I preferred to be the eyes and take our chances.
This brings to question, why did he pick us up in the first place? Or is it, why did he pick me up and get stuck with David? Did he like my Wolverine beard? Was I going to be forced to do something I would not enjoy? I don't know, he didn't seem like he cared about anything except playing poker. He was headed toward the casino in the Indian reservation to play poker after all.
I'd like to chalk it up to another nice person, but this was a situation unlike any we have experienced this far.
We made it... Obviously. We re-entered the park and rode half a mile before we decided to start hitching a ride again. My stomach pain still persisted and David was in a pain of his own.
It has been 10 days since our last rest day. Mine in Denver, his in Breckenridge. It is suggested to take a rest day every 6-7 days. It is all catching up to us quickly.
After a few people stopped willing to help, but going the wrong way, we finally met a great couple from the Netherlands, just outside of Amsterdam.
David just finished telling me in the Million Dollar Cowboy bar how the nicest people in the world are from the Netherlands and he may move to Amsterdam.
Well he's right. This couple had no room in their van and when we asked if the bikes will fit they said, "we'll make them fit."
This van was their home. There was a small sink or kitchen against the back doors, behind that was all their food and groceries and beer, behind that was their bed folded up, then about two feet to fit our bikes in behind the front seats. Somehow we got them in and they told us to jump up and squeeze in on the bed.
They actually let us put our dirty, sweaty asses on their bed. I didn't know where to put my feet down and she could see that and said, "Relax, just put your feet down."
We rode the final 9 miles crunched up in this van, but it was actually a pleasure. I wish I could remember their names; this couple was amazing and I wish them all the best as they finish their travels in America.
Finally we made it back to camp exhausted. I still felt terrible. I have to guess this is some sort of bug in my stomach just tying knots... Captain tyin' knots (NSFW).
Colin collected wood while we were out and suggested my idea from last night to grill burgers. David and I were too tired, but since the work was half done, we agreed.
We spent that night grilling and telling stories and jokes around the campfire. David enjoyed some beers, Wally caught back up to us and bought a box of wine to share with Colin, Marion relaxed in his clutch REI chair, while I simply moved closer to the fire. I was starting to freeze. Not good.
I went to bed shortly thereafter with my giant Gatorade in hand. I was paranoid the sink water caused this and would have died of thirst rather than continue drinking it, so I was happy to have Cool Blue by my side.
Wake up call #1
I rolled out of my sleeping bag all sweaty with my stomach in knots. Unsure if I should even get up to pee or ignore it and go back to bed which is usually the case, I chose to get up and pee.
Leaning against a tree, I started to freeze... And sweat. Then I became weak. I stopped mid pee to sit down on the picnic table. I took deep breaths and enjoyed the 45 degree breeze blowing through the sleeves of my shirt. Once I felt okay, I sprinted the two steps back to my tent to crawl into my sleeping bag for warmth.
Not. Good. My final thoughts before falling asleep again.
Wake up call #2
I got up to pee again... This time I thought it might be even more than pee, so I made my way to the bathroom. I'm convinced now that the bug has its feet up making those stupid sailor knot brackets... but at least the chills were gone. I felt awful and no bowel movements budged. I almost fell asleep on the toilet until I jolted up and walked slowly back to my tent.
Wake up call #3
I still felt knots, but not as bad as before. I think I have to let Marion, David and Colin go to Yellowstone without me and take a rest day here. The ride is only 35-40 miles, but I really don't think I can do it. The rest day is calling me.
Wake up call #4
"Fucking communist! You can't get into heaven and you ain't gettin' into the White House!"
Oh my god... There is a crazy man in our camp grounds. I felt the cold metal in my right palm as I gripped my knife engraved with my name on it.
"You don't say shit, then they come into your campsite what do you say?"
Ohhhh man he's crazy. I can hear footsteps gaining on my tent, but can't see anything with the rain fly on. Please keep walking, please keeping walking.
The footsteps faded, as did his crazy banter and he was gone. Good morning so far.
My final wake up call was the last. I had no appetite but began cooking breakfast steadfast on making the trip to Yellowstone with the group today. We have heard too many times how bad riding through Yellowstone is due to the lack of shoulders and giant RVs so I wanted to be in a group.
Colin approached and asked if I wanted anything from the store. He came back with Peptobismal and I took a shot. I think this helped.
We all agreed on a slow pace to Yellowstone. David was howling for our day off tomorrow, I was aching for it.
So we took off in wolf pack style following Marion. Have I mentioned Marion is 65 and recently retired. He has done an incredible job on this trip and did a great job leading the pack today.
The pace was perfect. Any time I made a small effort to climb a hill at my usual pace, my stomach said otherwise. The pains were more sporadic, but sharper today.
At our first rest stop I grabbed a V8. David has been praising them for their vegi intake (even though we just told him last night tomato is a fruit). I don't think it helped. I took another shot of pepto.
|Last shot of the Teets
Finally were inside Yellowstone. David threw on his neon construction safety vest (ugh don't remind me of work!) and we were off for the finally 20ish miles.
We stopped shortly after entering to check out a waterfall. Not bad, but oh my god. Here come the chills. I briefly sat down for a snapchat, but really I just needed to sit.
After a little hill climb we were now over looking Lewis River. Through the pain, I cracked a smile. I wanted so badly to enjoy this view.
The guys made their way to the top of this hill and we began a beautiful downhill. I couldn't make it any further. The chills were too much and my teeth were chattering. I grabbed my neon rain jacket, zipped it to the chin, swigged more pepto and continued.
I knew I was going to make it, but how bad was this going to get before I was done?
Sometimes on a cold winter day I think to myself, how could I ever wear a t-shirt outside, it will never be warm again. Then I yearn for those hot summer days dearly. I had that same thought about this stomach pain. How badly did I want to feel well again. I'll accept the hills and rain and wind if I could just pass this pain.
Up ahead David was waiting to ask if I would make it. I told him I think so. 12 more miles. About an hour.
This was my Michael Jordan moment and our groups Chicago Bull moment. In the 1997 Championship finals, Michael Jordan played game 5 with the flu. He did not just play, he dominated scoring 38 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assist and 3 steals leading the team to a 90-88 victory. Later beating the Jazz for Michael's 5th championship ring.
Yes, Michael played incredible that game and he is the best ever, no question. But he could not have done what he did without the support of his team and coach. I am not going so far as to say I am any sort of Michale Jordan and you can simply go to Strava and see that I did not destroy this segment of my trip.
What I am saying is that through the support of David, Colin and Marion, and my determination to pedal each mile across this country, I was able to finish day 60 strong.
|Scotty Pippen holding up MJ
As we rolled deep in neon yellow for the final 5 miles, we all awed at Lewis Lake. Through the thick brown trunks of the pine trees we could see the baby blue sky ripple off the lake's surface.
That last schwig of pepto helped to settle my stomach. I sucked in the fresh smell of pine and prayed the pain would begin to abate now that we have reached Grant Village and I can take an entire day to finally rest.
I can fast forward now and tell you that the pain was never as bad as it was on that hill again. After a deep nights sleep and sitting here on day 61 I think it has passed.
At Grant Village we were told there was a very nice family that would love to meet cyclist. We agreed to join their campsite and we were not disappointed.
Mom rode up on her bicycle with dad, Joel, trailing behind in this recumbent-bicycle-trailer.
|Joel with his Recumbent/Bike/Trailer
They are from DC and traveling down from Glacier National Park to Jackson. Such wonderful family. The kids, 5 and 9 are as cute as buttons. I don't know why buttons are cute, but that's the expression and I'm sticking to it. It is no wonder they were still smiling after 40 days on a bike and living in tents with mom and dad.
After meeting Joel's family and setting up my tent, I got a shower for the first time since Monday (it's Thursday). Joel gave us 6 free shower passes and I stayed in that shower good enough for all 6. A shower has never felt so good. I'm confident that is what began the revival of my stomach.
I got dinner and ice cream with David as we explored for wifi to no avail. Yellowstone keeps it old school with no wifi or tv or bar or somewhere to bring me back to the world. Makes sense for people traveling through Yellowstone... But not for people who have been on bikes for 2 months.
We hung out at the campgrounds with threatening thunder until close to 8 when the rain began to trickle down. This was the signal for us all to get into our tents and call it a night. Just what I needed, an early night and a good rest, and I got it.