Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Update #6


Lincoln, MT

This posting is the audience participation part of our program.

The Danny Express is headin' to Canada. And it's moving like one of them new fangled high-speed bullet trains they got in Paris and Tokyo and other cities and stuff.

Beautiful Lincoln, Montana. Famous for being the home of Ted Kaczynski and, well, not much else.

My voyage here from the fine metropolis of Rawlins has been wild (2 snaps and a circle).

Oh where to begin.

Ah, yes. After Macgyvering my lower back together with ibuproferin, short lengths of wire fencing and blue electrical tape, I proceded through the Great Divide Basin of Wyoming. A parched and barren landscape, this desert provided me encounters with roaming wild horses, thousands of antelope, and vast amounts of nothingness. Oh, and 30 mile/hr headwinds. Let me tell you, my back really appreciated it. The second afternoon of this madness, as I was crawling downhill at 7 miles/hr, I finally did what I should have done 4 weeks ago. I cried.

Yes the wind in Wyoming is the stuff of legend. Like in New Mexico it comes blasting out of the West every afternoon like a Greek god on Viagra. Unlike in New Mexico, I was not heading East.

Shit.

After 2 days of riding through the desert winds, I reached the small town of Boulder, WY. Spread on the open range, a gas station pretty much sums up the place. It was late and I needed a place to camp, and it looked like it might be a tricky affair, as it all seemed like private land with no forests to sneak into. As I come to the edge of town, I spot a sign pointing up a small hill to the town cemetary. Now, regardless of what you may think of cemetaries, they make great places to camp. Flat, quiet, grassy; over the years I have camped in cemetaries more than once. Perfect, I thought. So I roll on up the hill 1/4 mile to the gates of the town folks' final resting place. As I approach, I think....great, this place is classic. Green and shady in an otherwise brown and exposed part of the universe, good camping indeed.
But hmmmmm, something seems familiar. I've been here before, I think to myself. Could it be? Is it possible? Past life? Past death? Gotta know!! So I roll down the hill to the road and continue on to see if other spots come back to me. Well, I don't get another 1/4 mile down the road when, sure as the nose on my face (no comments from anyone), I spot it. The campground.


Eleven years ago, I rode a bike from Oregon to New Jersey. Turns out I passed through this very town and popped into this campground to see about camping for the night. They didn't allow tents (?), so I continued up the road until I saw the cemetary sign....and....well.... you know the rest of the story. So I have not once, but twice, camped in the Boulder, Wyoming cemetary. 1998 and 2009.

Apparently the campground still does not allow tents. Recreational vehicles only. Seriously!? Now allow me to explain something to you. Tooling around the pavement at 60 miles/hr in a wheeled land yacht is driving, not camping. Likewise, pulling one of those traveling, temperature-controlled b&b's into one of these many roadside stables for the night is parking, not camping. To camp, one needs, at most, a tent (and maybe a cemetary). Just wanted to clarify that for everyone.

So here is your 1st oportunity for audience participation. Post a comment with a bad joke about camping in a cemetary. Worst joke wins my bike shorts when I'm finished (ewwwww!). I'll start it off (see comments). C'mon, this is gonna be fun.

So, now that that's over with, I can tell you about Pinedale, Wyoming. Down the road from Boulder and at the foot of Wyoming's incredible Wind River Range, Pinedale is an old western cow-town that is slowly transforming into an eco-tourist destination. Like others along the divide, this town is engaged in an identity crisis with itself, but seems to be searching it's soul and, with lots of therapy, pulling through. After doing my shopping, mailing, emailing, etc, I stumbled into a brewpub (I rest my case!) to get some lunch before riding off that afternoon. A strapping cowboy comes in and sets down next to me at the bar. Turns out he's a horse shoer. That's right folks, he puts shoes on horses for a living. We chatted about shoeing horses, long distance mountain bike touring, cows and deraileurs...you know, everything we had in common. As I got up to leave I had this strange feeling I was Jake Gyllenhaal for a moment. hmmmm.

After I composed myself, I peddled 50 miles up into the Wind River Range. Now, I've mentioned that this was a wet year in the Rockies, right? Help me out here, what likes rain? Trees and plants? Yes. Umbrella manufacturers? Yes, yes....good. TV meteorologists? Perhaps. Let's see...what else? Ah, of course......mosquitoes. You see, unfortunately, unlike my ex-lovers in Portland, rain makes mosquitos want to get all romantic with each other. Those tender moments produce vast millions of baby mosquitoes with one mission: to drive Daniel to total and complete insanity.

I had been utterly harrassed by mosquitos every day since northern New Mexico. But let me tell you, nothing prepared me for the onslaught I faced in the Wyoming forests. I have been humbled by the little blood-suckers.

Which brings me to a completely different subject. What does Daniel do while peddling for 12 hours/day to entertain himself (don't get smart). Besides attempting not to get lost, pondering lunch, keeping an eye out for predators and thinking too much about too little, I tend to bide my time with a song or 2 in my head. The voices in my head and I have become fabulous with the three part harmonies. Our favorite tunes you ask? Well, most popular has been "In The Navy" by the Villiage People (exclusively for easy downhills), "Take This Job and Shove It" (ascents), and the theme song from "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (for pavement). But, alas, I'm bored.


Here is your 2nd oportunity for audience participation. Think Elton John Concert here, swaying and clapping over your heads. Seriously. I need new ideas for songs to get stuck in my head for days on end. Post a comment with your suggestions. Sound fun? Yeah. OK, some exclusions. Absolutely no Fleetwood Mac. Please no TV theme songs. Nothing French or Slavic. Oh, and no Peter Frampton. Definately no Frampton. God, I hate Frampton. Forget about it.

Alright, I love Frampton. But just post one or 2 and don't tell anyone how I feel. Cool.

From the Winds, I peddled through the cold and wet area of Togwotee in central Wyoming and somehow managed to severely dehydrate myself. How is it that I get through the most arid desert stretches of the entire country and keep myself adequately, if not well hydrated, and totally lose it in the cold/wet area? By the time I got to the Tetons, I was in pretty bad shape. I won't go into the details, but suffice it to say, I'll be drinking lots of agua from here on.

Which brings me to Montana (after a brief ride of mixed enjoyment through Idaho, which involved my 1st, and hopefully last, crash). I camped on the border of Idaho and Montana last Thursday night, and to celebrate my arrival, decided to do a 100 mile day in Montana. So the stats of Friday's ride: distance: 103.3 miles, average speed: 11.3 mph, 2 passes, 65 miles of light headwinds (this is not good, for those confused), 8700 calories eaten (no confusion there). Boom!
A couple days later I came upon a section of the trail known as the hardest of the entire route. It drops (or rises depending on which direction you're headed) straight down (or up) the West ridge of Mt Fleecer in Southern Montana. I was coming from the South, so was expected to ascend this thing.

As I approach, I swing around the forested corner humming "I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..." Then I saw the climb on the open slope and started singing "No f-ing way, no f-ing way....". Now I've climbed and decended lots of steep trails in the last month, but this one is totally absurd, and therefore worth special mention. Only the most skilled (and fearless) mountain bikers even try to ride down this slope. Not only have I never heard of a cyclist riding up it, I have not heard of one pushing their bike up without first taking off all their gear, thereby going up twice.

After walking about a third of the way up with the gear on my bike, I realized it's futility and shed my panniers. Two trips and three liters of water later, me, the bike and my gear were finally, if not safely at the top of the 1/2 mile climb.

Now hauling a bicycle up a steep hill is what East-coast Jews call schlepping. Let me tell you a little about schlepping. Jews don't schlep. We hire non-Jews to schlep for us. This is a fact. So somewhere under the earth in Northern New Jersey, my grandparents spent several hours rolling around wondering what the hell I was doing up here. I swear I heard them thinking "...we survived pogrums in Eastern Europe, 2 world wars, the Great Depression, mortgaged the kosher butcher business to send your parents to grad school, and you schlep bicycles up mountains in Montana?" Then they say "oy" and go back to what they were doing.

Sorry Grandma and Grandpa. I love you.

So the good news is that the few hundred miles I've ridden in Montana has featured better trails, more incredible scenery and tons more fun than the 1st 2o00 miles combined. Yes, Montana has been a gem. I cruised through the town of Butte, and yesterday hauled butt (not butte) 80 miles over 4 alpine passes and killer trail into Lincoln. As I approached Lincoln, I was following a super steep and technical trail downhill for a few miles. It featured tons of rocks and roots and creek crossings. And big puddles spanning the width of the trail. I managed to avoid all the puddles (I am paranoid about the mud).

Except the last one. Yes, friends, I decided, to blow right through the middle of the last puddle. Can you see where this one's going yet? It was really big (8ft wide by 15ft long), and would have been tricky to get around. I gathered speed and.....splash.....oh shit. Of all the puddles I could have gone through, I decided to take on Lake Erie. The thing was like a foot deep. With another 6 inches of mud underneath that. My bike made it to exactly the middle, where it completely stopped. It then began to sink. I hop off, sink up to my shins in muck, and wrestle my poor vehicle out of the goo. Like I said, between the water and mud, it must have been 1.5 feet deep. For those of you who haven't seen a bicycle lately, that would make the muck line over my wheel hubs, bottom bracket, brakes, deraileurs, chain and cassette. In other words, I submerged both myself and pretty much every sensitive part of my bike in a muddy broth.

Let me tell you, I looked really good when I walked into the grocery store here in Lincoln 12 miles later. "Hi, my name is Daniel Kaczynski. Do you carry envelopes and zip locks?"

Anyway, Lincoln is also home to my friends Jerry and Jane, who put me up 9 years ago while hiking the Divide Trail. And again, just like old times, I was able to stay at their home. Much better than a cemetary.

And now this little engine is movin' on North.

Oh, and don't call me Danny.

12 comments:

  1. Bet you scared up a pretty good dinner that night.

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  2. Song: Folsom Prison Blues - Ha!

    camping: Camping in a cemetery would make you feel tents .... Ha-Ha!

    Serious - You are doinga great thing and i added $100 more to the Windermere Foundation.

    Go froth and face the headwind!

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  3. i'm SOOO glad you're blogging! it has been fantastic to share the ride with you. especially since my back doesn't hurt and i'm not running into campgrounds that don't allow tents (?!) when i'm ready to rest my weary bones at night. can't think of a song for you off the top of my head, but i'll check back in as soon as i do. it's a dangerous invitation, though, isn't it? you could end up with a couple of miserable days if somebody plants a barry manilow seed or something. love you and sending soothing thoughts to your back...
    jojo

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  4. Blister in the Sun -- Violent Femmes
    Born to Run -- Bruce Springsteen & E-Street Band
    oh yeah, by special request....
    Doobie Wah -- Frampton

    Was the campground a dead end?

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  5. It has been so fun enjoying your trip with you, Daniel!
    About that graveyard...
    I have heard of rest stops, but isn't that one a bit permanent?
    :)
    Karin and Greg

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  6. Hey buddy. Things are really crazy here, sorry I can't write more, tell you about it when you get back. Just wanted to let you know that I'm still reading though, and thinking good thoughts for your travels. Oh, and what about "Hell bent for leather"? Take care, and come back safe.

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  7. Daniel. I have close connection with cemeteries since I was a famous funeral director, no joke. I'll borrow a story here from my famous dad who owned a country bar, maybe you stopped on your adventure. So, this miner guys takes a rest in a cememtery on his way home from a late shift. Cops arrest hime. Dude, you're under arrest. Hey, I'm a miner. Cops say you have grave diggin' tools there. You're under arrest. Miner says OK arrest me for rape, I have the tools for that too. Roger Mosser

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  8. Hi Daniel,

    Haven't heard back from you. I hope you got our Sat FedEx delivery of parts and spares to keep your Back-Roller Classic panniers running smoothly through mile 3500!
    Best of luck,
    Chris Cameron
    Ortlieb USA

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  9. Another great blog! - and I love audience participation. As for your campsite - I bet your conversations with the neighbors seemed pretty one sided.... Or... I hope you were a quiet sleeper - my Grandfather snored so loud he could wake the dead.... which ahhh wouldn't be good in your case.
    As for songs - the best I can think of is Queen - Bicycle Race. But Back in the (or on the) Saddle again would be appropriate... and there is always John Jacob Jingle Himer Schmidt for that annoyance factor. Safe peddling and keep posting - it is quite enjoyable to read!

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  10. oops I meant "pedaling" - one should proof before one posts - especially at 2:30 am. sorry about that.

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  11. broker my finger so now its hunt 'n peck typing + typos . . . FYI camping is whenever you are not home in bed -- like, i was camping with my squeeze last night. The true happy camper. izza attitude . . .

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    ReplyDelete