Sunday, August 9, 2009

layin' the hammer down

greetings from: Jackson, Wyoming
housed by: the amazing, incredible, ever-hospitable Resor family
miles ridden: ~1,040!
most miles ridden in a day: 70
# of continental divide crossings: 7
# of books I've read (mostly while riding): 2
% of riding days that I've cried: ~20%
# of elk herd sightings: 3
# of bear sightings: 2
# of moose sightings: 3
# of snake sightings: 2
# of badger sightings: 1
# of animal intestine segments isolated from any creature, found on the trail: 1
# of Wal-Mart sightings: 0

Wow. What a couple of weeks. we have encountered all sorts of extremes in regard to terrain, weather, sleeping conditions, and more. First of all, we would like to extend heartfelt thanks to Matt and Mary Cohn of Helena, MT, for their hospitality during our stay in Helena. At a post office, Matt C. stopped us to ask if we were "the unicyclists" riding the Great Divide. As it turns out, he had heard of us when he rode the Canada section of the route just after we had passed through. Later, we had (a freshest of fresh) dinner with them and their friends who also had seen us earlier in our journey, in Big Fork, MT.

As the world continues to shrink, our perspectives expand as we encounter extreme experiences. We have finished riding through Montana: a milestone that gave us the confidence in our ability to complete the entire journey, as the state boasts some of the most difficult terrain of the trip (so we've heard...).

[Lava Mountain Trail between Helena and Butte, MT.
"Intense" is the word.]

[rigorous climbs reward us with stunning scenery, even if we're fogged in.]

We have made a point of stopping at informative signs along the route, some of which are interesting. Just after this (fifth) continental divide crossing, we rolled into Butte, MT, "the richest hill on earth." A sign at an overlook informed us that "booze, women, and gambling were common activities" back in the day. Thankfully, I was not treated like an "activity" during my stay (women, I think we're mostly safe, but they've still got a hand in booze and gambling!)

["5" (roman). unfortunately, riding on an interstate for this one.]

Our stay in Butte was a pleasant one, and we are grateful to The Outdoorsman bike shop for their services, friendliness, and donation of a well needed water bottle. The Outdoorsman is owned by the Leipheimer family. For those of you who follow the Tour De France, Levi Leipheimer is a famous bicyclist who competes in those big-time bike races. His brother, Rob, helped us during our stay in Butte, and my world shrank once more as I discovered that he used to work at the same bike & ski shop in Davis, CA that I have worked at: Ken's Bike & Ski.

[Matt and I hang out with some kids at the park in Butte who wanted to try out our unicycles.]

["6." From Butte, the route began to open up into wider, more vast landscapes.]

The cows are everywhere. Even as we slept, they tricked us into thinking they were bears seeking our food.
[ it happens.]

[a non-unicycling sort of balance.]

[Matt, rolling into a vast valley.]

[the downhill gets steeper....]

[on the really steep stuff that leaves room for shenanigans, I save my knees from some impact by riding in quick switchbacks.]

[ascending Mt. Fleecer, approaching a notoriously steep downhill section. The guide book recommends ignoring trail etiquette by departing the actual trail, and walking in a switchback pattern down through the sagebrush. Matt and I were slipping just walking downhill, and had no chance ofriding the last quarter-mile of the descent.]

[yes, fellow Great Divide riders, the answer you've all been waiting for: we were able to descend most of Mt. Fleecer. (honestly, he's grabbing his brake)]

[another non-unicycling sort of balance. the fly swatter has been our greatest sort of entertainment.]

[cows in the morning light of a Montana meadow.]

[a short stretch of highway leading toward the Medicine Lodge-Sheep Creek Divide.]

[got salt?]

A 70-mile day brought me to Lima, MT. That's right, a whopping 70 miles, followed by only 5 hours of sleep, warranting a rest day. The Mountain View Motel is a haven for long-distance cyclists and hikers; another cyclist and several Continental Divide Trail thru-hikers made the stay jovial and entertaining. Here's a shout out to our new friends: Neil (Bubbles), Numbskull, Dirty Bird, Panda and Valley Girl! And, a cook-your-own-steak joint in town ain't so bad either. A vicious storm rolling through inspired us to take teh entire day off, leaving us with incredible company and a double rainbow to boot.

[after Lima, the surroundings quickly morphed into an empty expanse.]

[post-storm sunset.]

[We have been early birds lately, often starting our riding at first available light. I always make sure to pack myself some breakfast pastries, or other morning delights, to motivate myself to get up that early.]

[We watched a band of cowboys round up the bulls from a pasture in the Red Rock National Wildlife Refuge, a home to the recovering trumpeter swan population.]

[Aspens are my favorites.
Nearby, we saw trumpeter swan mates and their young cygnet.]

["7" - and into Idaho!
Red Rock Pass 7,120 ft.]

[What would a state line be without climbing the sign?
Thanks, Mark, for chatting and taking our picture!]

["it takes balls this big to live here" - Sawtelle, Idaho]

The last bit of riding in Montana, and most of the non-paved portions of Idaho and Wyoming thus far, have been jarring. Let's just say that there have been multiple days of wearing double-layer chamois shorts, wishing for smooth terrain. Unpredictably, some of the more maintained roads are the worst, due to the grading process; smoothing the road for cars often means making the gravel impossible to avoid. Then add washboard. It makes me wince just thinking about it. Thankfully, we had a fun crowd to hang out with in Sawtelle, Idaho (near Island Park and Mack's Inn): Slow Joe, Randy, Delmont, et al. Yeti, thanks for letting us sleep on the floor of your hotel room; and Daniel, keep on truckin' - can't wait to see you down the road!

A notorious section of trail is along a rail-trail through Idaho. Rail trails are old railroad beds that have been turned into recreation trails; this particular one is used by everything from hikers to ATVers. The latter tear up the trails quite badly.

[crossing the Big Springs River at dawn.]

[About 10 miles of the rail trail is deep, sandy volcanic soil. It is difficult on a bike and nearly treacherous on a unicycle, though we were able to ride the whole thing (but not without casualty).]

This particular day was simply not my day. For me, it was the worst day of the trip thus far. I woke up very sleep-deprived. I fell down early in the morning and busted my knee, complete with blood dripping down my leg. A mosquito bit me in the only spot I had not applied bug repellent - on the top of my foot - when I took off my shoe to empty it of invasive volcanic soil. I lost my only other pair of socks. My seat pain heightened. I spent several moments curled up on the ground bawling due to severe pain in my abdomen. At the end of it all, I could not eat the dinner I had so eagerly anticipated because it was way too spicy. And so I was reminded of the differences between adventures and vacations. But the day was not all bad: we were offered a ride into an off-route town shortly after the storm reached its worst (thanks, Paul!), the rail trail ended in amazing scenery, and we were not bothered by the black bear Matt saw dash across the road in front of us.

[my poor knee after taking a good fall into the volcanic soil.]

[later on during the section of rail trail, we got to chase cows - oh, the entertainment we come up with on our long, monotonous days....]

[riding along the Warm River.]

Riding up out of the Warm River canyon, a storm hit hard. It was raining buckets, and as we reached an open expanse at the top of the climb, lightning and thunder were simultaneous directly ahead of us. the lightning was hitting repeatedly only a few hundred yards away, but directly in our path. I didn't want to do CPR, nor have it done to me, so we turned around to find shelter, and hitchhiked off-route to nearby Ashton, ID.

[the Grand Tetons! just about to be smothered by the storm.]

[help! sideways rain, gusty wind, lightning, thunder, and having to turn back from the ridge.]

[Reusing our labels & box, and reapplying our packing tape that we most clearly bought up in Canada.
This is our "bounce box," a box of various supplies, town clothes, and battery chargers we send ahead to ourselves to post offices in towns along the way.]

[gummi bears: a staple in my diet.]

[Wyoming. yesssssss!]

[Indian Lake, just inside the Wyoming border. Except for the small portion of water we could see, the entire lake was covered thickly with vibrant, green lily pads. I have never seen such an amazing lily pad invasion.]

[same lake, with a camera flash.]

[Waking up to a foggy Grassy Lake Reservoir wasn't the worst thing in the world, even though I hardly slept all night because of numb feet.]

[a Wyoming unicycle.]

Nearing Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks meant two things: frequent photography and witty comments. A sincere "thanks" goes out to those passers-by who treated us like people, and not like bull moose. But, to the guy who drove past saying, "You're missing a wheel!" we have one thing to say: you're driving a mini-van. The only way to cope with the copious amounts of people taking pictures of us was to take pictures of them taking pictures. If it didn't stop their photographical antics, it sure made them chuckle in embarrassment. I will spare you all the 15 or so pictures I managed to capture of tourists with cameras pointed at yours truly.

In contrast, there were some awesome people we met who actually took the time to treat us like people, instead of moose. Meeting The Watts family was a highlight of the day; they were really encouraging and supportive of the cause. They also play the bagpipes, which makes them that much cooler.

[Jose, Makayla, Luis, Matt, me, and A'Lisa, with the Tetons in the background.]

[the Grand Tetons across Jackson Lake in Grand Teton National Park. however, we couldn't see them because of the storm clouds - good thing we got good pictures from the Idaho side!]

As we finish up a day of recuperation in Jackson, Wyoming, at the welcoming abode of Bill, Story, Avery, and Felicia Resor (went to Duke with Avery), we feel so spoiled and cared for by their hospitality. There's something to be said for food that can't be found at convenience stores (a rarity for us).

Spare time lately has been stuffed full of tasks, including sewing projects, attaching pieces of flare, finding ways to carry less gear, washing clothes in streams, and eating very frequently: The Appetite has arrived. While we ride, we often think get creative with how we will next fill our water bottles or find a place to sleep. During the nights, I have battled overheating and overcooling, each leading to restlessness and sleep deprivation.

And such is the nature of adventures: journeys with unknown stepping stones and outcomes.

Rock n Roll!

Yours truly,
Team Blazing Saddle Sores

p.s. Sorry if the satellite tracker link on the main website has not been working; we don't know what is wrong with the transmittance, and are sending out messages that should post at least once daily. We hope the problem fixes itself - it's a SPOT thing, and out of our control.... thanks for your patience!


Suzanne @ LLS said...

We got your postcard today and passed it around the office - we are so proud of you!

We continue to follow your progress and I give updates at our staff meetings.

If you still have questions about fundraising, give me a call during your next rest day!

templarbond said...

Why do you cry so often Gracie?

HayOpe said...

You guys are awesome! Thanks for sharing all the words and photos. I just finished an obsessive following of the Tour Divide, trying to imagine doing it on a uni. I still can't imagine it, but now I don't have to because you two are doing it...and bringing it to life.

Keep pedaling!

Shiloh and Samantha Sorbello said...

Keep it up, chiquita (and Matt)!

Anonymous said...

I love the pictures! Beautiful! What books did you read? Your both an inspiration to keep on truckin. Uncle Richard

Anonymous said...

I'm in the wrestling office wishing I was back out on the road... you guys are amazing. The pictures are spectacular and the videos are awesome (and difficult... to create... esp the ones where you're riding...). Keep rolling along - I'm proud of you guys!

Aunt Robin and Uncle Richard said...

Happy birthday, Gracie!!! We hope saddle sores subside on your special day, and that your ride is smooth and special.

Loved all the recent pictures. The U.S. has some amazing sites. Congrats on all your travelling, both of you!

Love, Robin and Richard

Mere said...

Happy Birthday, Gracie!! Hope you had an amazing day. I'm loving the blog - so many great pictures, stories and video! :D

FYI, the SPOT signal looks like it's working OK on my end, so I'm assuming it works for everyone else.

Got your postcard last week - it was so awesome to see mail from you!! It's hanging up on my refrigerator along with the postcard you sent from the Caribbean back in May. Snail mail is the best! It totally makes my week :D

Daddy and Mommy said...

Baby, as usual, great and graphic pictures and lively narrative. Well done. But for the people and beautiful scenery, I think most people would find such a trip excruciating. Hopefully, the blog readers and those who hear about the trip will be motivated to contribute to the cause. Full steam ahead. We love you.