Week Two: Montana - Wyoming June 22 - 29
Click here to read Matt's newsletter from this week!
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America's oldest national park, Yellowstone, and the Grand Teton Mountains, with their fantastic natural wonders, are the highlights of this week. I will be riding through the breathtaking terrain of Western Montana and following the famous Bitterroot Valley in to Dillon. Then moving on to the restored old Western mining town of Ennis where I start the climb to Teton Pass at 8,429 feet. I then get to enjoy a thrilling descent into Wyoming and the world-famous resort destination, Jackson.
Matt's newsletter from this week:
WEEK OF JUNE 23
Hello again from Jackson Hole, Wyoming! As many of you know, this summer I am riding my bicycle 4,200 miles across America in honor and memory of my father. He passed away last April about 2 months before he was to set off on his own transcontinental journey. This summer I'll be completing his dream for him, on his bicycle, while raising money for a scholarship in his honor.
This week I cycled from Missoula, MT to Jackson Hole Wyoming. I passed through Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons, smelled a real live cattle drive, listened to old school country music, crossed the continental divide (many times) and have continued to have an amazing time. Check below for photos and descriptions (and don't forget to click on the photos to see larger images)
THIS WEEK'S FUN FACTS
Miles ridden this week: 504
Miles ridden to date: 1,126
Continental Divide Crossings: 6
Flat Tires: 6
States: Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming
June 23rd - Hangin' with REX
Missoula, MT - Darby, MT
71 miles with 1,800 ft of climbing
I can't believe the second week is already upon us. Six hundred miles down, 3,600 more to go and I feel great. Again, I'm using relative terms here, I'm feeling great considering I've ridden more miles in 1 week than I have put on all year, slept in a tent every night and never gotten more than 6 hours of sleep... but, I'm cycling across America, meeting great people, conquering beautiful mountain passes and having an amazing time. I feel great.
We left a little late today, but 70 miles is turning into a short day. We pulled into a Mocha stop at mile 10 and the woman leaned out of the window and yelled "Officer Steve!!" It turns out that my riding buddy Steve from San Diego is a DARE officer and this woman's daughters were in his class many years ago and many miles away, it's a small world.
Just before we pulled into Darby, there was a great Ice Cream parlor named Memories Café. I really wanted the huckleberry shake and a root beer float, so I got both. I love burning all these calories; it just means I can eat that much more!
At night we went to the local bar in Darby, where Rex was singing country hits of the 10th century. His wife, Mary, sat next to him and sang along to every song - I have the feeling she's heard his repertoire of 7 songs before. Rex's great piece of advice to me was "Ride slowly and drink a lot of water, but if you don't like water, then whisky works just as well." Thanks Rex.
June 24th - I'm Cold, I Mean Really Cold
Darby, MT to Jackson Hot Springs
81 miles with 2860 feet of climbing
We had a big climb in the morning, about 15 miles after we started. I was all geared up and ready to attack the mountain, psyched up for the big climb when I hear this awful clicking coming from my rear wheel. I stop and see a 10 inch piece of wire sticking out of my tube. Great. I patch it, but am so anxious to attack the hill, that I don't wait long enough and the patch doesn't hold, second flat of the morning and I haven't even gotten 15 miles yet. Rookie mistake.
The climb was beautiful though, it started to rain about halfway up the 10 mile climb, but I was so warm that I was shedding layers the whole way up. When we reached the top of Chief Joseph pass, we passed the continental divide for the first time - yeehaawww!! It started to hail on the downhill and I got really cold - I mean fingers and toes gone, face burned. I know there is no such thing as bad weather, only improper clothing, so rookie mistake # 2 of the day. When we got to lunch, I had 3 huge bowls of soup and warmed my fingers over the pot of boiling soup - it felt great, thanks Mary for making it! And the cutest sight of the day was when Laura and Theresa (from Chicago) were huddled in the trailer, wrapped in layers and blankets, eating their soup - awwww.
When we got to Jackson Hot Springs, I jumped in the 103 degree pool and sat there forever, slowly warming my aching body. I was pretty miserable today, but at lunch someone asked me if I would rather be wearing a suit staring at a computer screen, so I shut up and stopped complaining - this summer is all about perspective. (note to potential future employers - I have nothing against wearing a suit, just not right now)
June June 25th - The Cattle Drive
Jackson, MT to Dillon, MT
48 miles and 1880 feet of climbing
Today was a super short day, we usually ride 50 miles to lunch, but today, 50 miles was going to be our whole day. I slept in (sleeping in had absolutely nothing to do with my previous evening activities, I assure you) and left around 10:00 AM.
During the ride we came across a real life cattle drive. This may be unspectacular for many people, but for a city boy from back east, this was down right amazing. Real cowboys, with cattle prods, riding their horses (real ones that you don't have to put a quarter into for them to ride), guiding cows down the street from the ranch to the slaughterhouse. Now on a postcard this would seem like a beautiful and quaint process, and it was in some respect, but it also smelled awful and I got cow pies all over my tires and bike. Time for a bike cleaning.
June June 26th - The Best Day So Far
Dillon, MT to Ennis, MT
77 miles with 1,700 feet of climbing
This was the absolute best day of the trip so far. We had tailwinds all day, spectacular scenery, great stops, interesting company, and a long winding downhill to the campsite. This was a perfect cycling day.
We left early and had a tailwind all the way to lunch. Julie and I averaged 21 MPH this morning and barely broke a sweat, just cruising along with a little natural assistance. We stopped for mochas in Twin Bridges, where the coffee guy had been settled for most of his life. He was driving cross country 22 years ago, when his car broke down and he never left.
We rolled through old gold mining country where we saw an abandoned ghost town (Nevada City) and a rebuilt tourist trap of a mining community (Virginia City). The terrain was great for cycling, rolling hills with mountains all around. We stopped for a nice freezing cold ice cream at Bob's place in Virginia City. I had a double waffle cone with cookies and cream and moose track... mmmmm.
There was a solid 3 mile climb out of the town, but the views were breathtaking all the way up and my body has gotten used to this punishment, I felt great all the way. I actually reached the top in such a rhythm that I kinds wished it had kept going for a while (note: this is written some hours after I completed the hill, be skeptical of anything I write about enjoying riding uphill). The downhill though - amazing. I hit 49.5 MPH. My gearing lost resistance around 40 MPH, I was doing everything I could to break 50, but it was not meant to be. Oh well. I rolled into town with a smile ear to ear.
June June 27th - The Cracked Frame
Ennis, MT to West Yellowstone, MT
92 68 Miles with 3250 feet of climbing
I got back from the bar last night and got some demoralizing news from the mechanic. I had a loud clicking coming from my bottom bracket all day, so Uri (our amazing resident bike guru) cleaned and re-greased my entire drive system. It should have gotten rid of the clicking, but alas, it continued. By process of elimination, Uri told me I had a crack in my titanium frame! This could have been a journey ender - I was really upset.
I decided to ride the day anyway, I could not see any crack and decided to keep it under 15 MPH all day, just in case my frame did go catastrophic. I had been emailing with Jamie, the president of Airborne (I am riding an Airborne Carpe Diem) and called him at 6:00 AM in the morning to plead my case - I needed a new frame pronto.
I was out of cell range all day, but when I got to Yellowstone, Mike, the VP of Operations from Airborne had called me back to figure out where to send me a new frame. Airborne gets amazing kudos for customer service!! I took one more look at my bike and basically took the entire thing apart. I finally figured out the problem. The seat tube was clicking against the water bottle holder, that's it - no cracked frame!! I was so excited I could not stop jumping up and down, I can't even explain how excited I was that my frame was okay.
I called Mike from Airborne back and sheepishly explained that I had raised the red flag and everything was okay, I felt like the boy who cried wolf. He was great and we ended up talking for half an hour about the ride and Airborne. I am so happy to be riding this bike, they were great - thanks Jamie, Mike and Airborne!!
June June 28th - Yellowstone Day!
West Yellowstone to South Yellowstone
91 miles and 3000 feet of climbing
I took the advice of a rider from last year, Erika, and left the group today. CycleAmerica goes south of Yellowstone to avoid the traffic and dangerous roads - fair enough, but I have never seen Yellowstone and am used to traffic and crappy roads from Boston, so Julie, my buddy from NC that helped with my flat last week, and I set off self contained to ride through Yellowstone.
After a great breakfast at Alice's restaurant (where you can have almost anything you want... ), we left the group and headed into the park from the west entrance. We rolled through 30 miles of beautiful newly paved roads, following a river full of fly fishermen and wildlife. We saw elk, moose, bison, deer, antelope and 2 bears, we were totally lucky. Best of all, we weren't charged by anything - cars can withstand an attack, but I had visions of staring on FOX's "When good bicycle rides go bad - the Yellowstone experience."
We pulled into Old Faithful about 10 minutes before it erupted, go to witness the geyser with 500 of my closest friends. Actually it's pretty funny to hear the hundreds of cameras at the ready for the moment that it erupts, then click, click, click for a few minutes, then a dash to the parking lot, just like a baseball game. Ah, an American wilderness experience.
I got another flat this afternoon about 100 yards away from a gas station. We pulled under the canopy to avoid the blaring sunshine, when the sky opened and hail the size of walnuts (have you ever heard hail described in terms of walnuts??? I'm breaking new literary ground here) started to come down. I was cursing my tube 10 minutes earlier and rejoicing it when the hail started denting car hoods - my skin isn't quite as tough as car hoods.
We rolled into Flagg ranch about 7:00 at night and had a great steak dinner; my first steak in 2 weeks!
June 29th - The Tetons
South Yellowstone to Teton Village
68 miles and 2,500 feet of climbing
We slept in this morning and didn't get out until 10:00 AM. It was great to sleep inside again after 2 weeks of my tent. The day started with a decent climb up the foothills of the Tetons, but it was totally worth it when we crested the summit and I got to see them for the first time - the Tetons are amazing.
I actually had no idea that America had scenery such as this - this has always been flyover country for me, but the Tetons are mountains that are just begging to be admired. The east face rises up almost 14 thousand of feet from sea level and the lakes below, the last thousand feet reaching straight up to the heavens, capped in snow with exposed ridgelines shooting down to the foothills below. It is breathtaking.
We stopped for morning mocha at Jackson Lake Lodge and sat at the base looking directly up into the magnificence of the mountains. The rest of the day saw us cycling closer and close to the Grand, until we arrived at Teton Village, just below the mountains. What an amazing day of riding.
So my second week has come to an end. I am sitting in Jackson Hole Wyoming, sipping an espresso at the DOG (Down On Glen - great breakfasts if you're ever in JH) and writing this travelogue.
I want to thank everyone that has responded to my previous emails, I love getting feedback and hearing how everyone is doing. I would also like to express my sincerest thanks for those that have donated in support of my ride. If you have not yet made a donation and would like to, please visit www.rideacross.com/donations.html/
Nice Mountains, huh?
Rex Singing Country Hits
Over the Continental Divide
Warming by the fire
The Madison River
Elk in Yellowstone
Julie and I conquering the Divide
Old Faithful being faithful
Ah, the Tetons
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