Yellowstone National Park,Wy. – Pinedale, Wy ; 255km distance, 2,670m climbing, 14hrs 10mins moving time.
Positives – I have not been eaten by a bear.
Negatives – I smell like I’ve been crapped out by a bear.
I wake up in my bivi mildly gagging at my own smell. A combination of no wind, and personal wind, has left a stench that can possibly only be rivaled by the pit toilet I could have slept in if I’d looked hard enough. On the plus side, it gets me out of bed faster. Out into the freezing cold frigid air. Positives are no mosquitoes yet, negatives are I’m wearing all my clothes and I have a massive descent ahead of me. I pedal on down the JD Rockefeller memorial way and eventually pop out into Flagg Ranch. It’s quiet, way too quiet and I get told that I can’t eat here as they aren’t opening on time. Not the most pleasant start to my morning. I roll down the road shivering uncontrollably until I see a service station. They’ve just opened and are a bunch of cheery elders who are overly interested in the Divide. I sit and drink coffee with them, shivering, while trying to figure out why my credit and debit cards have all been cancelled. Either way, warm coffee is good.
The descent goes on and on with huge motorhomes on both sides. Despite sitting as far right a I can into the hard shoulder I come within a few inches of being taken out by Mr. Magoo driving his house on fucking wheels as he drifts across two lanes while staring at the Tetons utterly ambivalent to my near death experience. It doesn’t get better for the next hour. But the view is spectacular. The road is just plain busy. I roll along and see a pickup take out an elk at full speed – neither the elk or car come off too well. Good thing it was in go faster red. The road goes on and on until finally I jump off back into some woods and solitude and fast gravel roads to Togwatee Pass.
I get to the ranch and look for food. It’s outside my budget and looks too early anyway. I head into the gas station and chat with the lady at the till while picking up food and fluid and more food and an ice-cream. I ask about riders who’ve passed and am quite surprised to hear Bailey hasn’t been through – but a guy with a funny accent has been. I later figure this was Dean the Canadian singlespeeder. I’m chilling outside when I see a bike approaching from the trail, well speak of the Boston Devil it’s Bailey.
We chat. I pack. He shops. I hobo wash. I ride off expecting to be caught on the next climb – I don’t get caught, I am confused. The ride over Togwatee pass is on road, and then off the road to another pass for the descent before going back to the road and on to Union Pass.
I’m happy we don’t take the ACA road route for this part, it is pointless and frankly an overly busy road. Not that the Union Pass climb is nice – it’s probably my least favourite part of the route, it just is not nice, feels steeper than it looks and it’s warm – really exposed and on the lee side of a mountain. An oven.
By the time I get to the river in the middle of Union Pass I’m screwed.I’ve been riding hard all day and I’m cooked, it’s so hot. I am sore all over. Knees, ankles, achilles (left ones been strapped now for two days) and now my brain is sore. I’m not sure if I can keep riding this hard the whole way to New Mexico – I’m starting to lose sight of why I’m here – a reccy for a faster ride, but also to think about things and enjoy this country. I stop, take off my shoes and walk into the river and sit down. I rest my ankles, knees and legs under the water and soak in the cold glacial river. I sit for 30 minutes washing my body and eating a Poptart. I stare at my sweary pink socks and think about Jenn for a while. She’d tell me to slow down and enjoy myself, so I decide to. I pack up and I’m still surprised Bailey hasn’t caught me as I start the push up the CDT alternate. I wouldn’t mind having someone to talk to for a while.
The CDT alternate is …well it’s shit. I get why it’s there when I get to the top. Beautiful open plains, amazing views and a fast fast fast trail. Matt – sorry I doubted you, even if that push is shit. On and on it goes, the trail is so open it’s surprising. It goes on until it reluctantly joins back to gravel and I start to think about lights and more food. I pause to eat and look at the maps. Another 10km to the end of the road, then 65km to the next town. Doable i suppose. I start to pack away and SWOOSH, Bailey zooms past with a shout out. Game on sir.
As I hit the tarmac I can see his light and I cruise on up – my gears are going to be an advantage here. We chat and agree that we’re going to Pinedale. Secretly I’m still thinking about going further, but I’ve not voiced that yet. We roll along in our own heads and catch up to Jose. I ride with him for a bit but decide to ride alone, various reasons, none interesting. Hours pass and I start to think more and more about stopping. I push on the pedals lighter and coast waiting for Bailey to catch up. I’m done with riding more today. I wait in a field of crickets and mating frogs and we roll the last 15km together. By the time we hit the gas station it’s 1:30am – I am done. Motel and food. Time to clean the stink off.