Ride The Divide 3
Miles — 58 Total Chapter Miles — 58 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 1,066
TFTD: Going backward to go forward
After flying to Denver on 8/31, picking-up our rental car, and being in a 45 minute traffic jam on I-70, we arrived late to Steamboat Springs. We had planned to start pedaling on 8/31, at least for 13 miles, but that wasn’t possible. We checked with every hotel in town, and none had rooms available. Fortunately, we were able to stay with the sister of a Grass Valley friend. She and her husband have a lovely spot right on a creek, were super friendly, and gave us yummy recommendations for dinner.
We had a relaxing sleep, after needing to be awake at 3:00AM to make it to our Denver flight, woke-up about 6:30 (Mountain time…) had showers and got ready to go to breakfast. We arrived at Creekside Café and Grill, had great service, a good breakfast, and then headed over to Wheels bike shop, which opened at 8:30. We dropped our gear at Wheels bike shop, then drove to the Enterprise car-rental location and dropped off the car – keys in a drop-box, no people there. Then we walked back to Wheels, on a nice walk/bike paved path which we would soon use to head North.
About 9:30 we started our first pedal day of this chapter. We weren’t sure where we were going to stop, and a fair amount of the day would be on dirt roads. There was plenty of climbing, lots of beautiful views, Aspen everywhere, friendly drivers, and good progress made. Our first “sit down” stop was at the Clark Store where we had lunch. Busy place: general store, restaurant, ice cream stand, and even a post office. After some difficult climbing in the heat of the day we stopped at Hahn Peak Café for more sugar water, climbed some more and then finally topped out in Columbine, CO.
In Columbine we stopped at their general store and chatted with the owner, who is a retired US Navy submariner, and bought the place, with his wife, 4 years ago. Great stop, and again, we loaded up on more sugar and salt in various forms. From Columbine we started a long downhill to the Little Snake River. Miles and miles of gorgeous Aspen groves and mountain views. We even pedaled by 3 Forks (Confluence of the North, Middle, and South forks of the Little Snake) Ranch, which is over 200,000 acres, with “luxurious accommodations”, and yes, the views from the dirt road were amazing.
Ultimately, we arrived at Ladder Ranch, in Savery, Wyoming (which is an unincorporated community in Carbon County Wyoming). While their cabins were full, we were allowed to setup our pad and sleeping bag in the living area downstairs, take showers, and cook dinner. A great way to wrap-up a long first day. More tomorrow!
Miles — 74 Total Chapter Miles — 132 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 1,140
TFTD: Climb, climb, and cattle-guards
After sleeping overnight in our sleeping bag, in the living room, we woke-up, packed the gear, and went to the Ladder Ranch for breakfast. It was an interesting dine. Most of the people at the table were family members (with a few young kids) and two Elk hunters from CA. The person cooking the breakfast took a bit longer than expected. Ultimately, we got scrambled eggs and homemade pancakes, which were pretty delicious.
After dining, we headed out, going back over a couple of miles we pedaled yesterday, due to the confusion on the Adventure Cycling map, which has since been corrected, but told us yesterday to stop at The Lazy Two Bar ranch, instead of Ladder Ranch. We were very glad that we decided to return to Ladder Ranch when the owners weren’t at Lazy Two Bar. We had considered setting up our tent on their porch, and seeing them in the morning.
Our goal for the day, which we, ultimately, achieved, was to make it to Rawlins, WY, rather than camp in the total wilderness – no trees and lots of wind. We’ve left Aspen land, and arrived in boonie-ville. There were zero towns, no mini-marts, and very few buildings. There were, however, super nice people. We had two different people provide us with water bottles – one gave us four and one gave us two. This turned out to be VERY needed, since we were pedaling on a hot day, with temperatures close to 90, and in lots of wind. We drank 11 liters between us over the course of the day.
It was a very long, hot day but we finished downhill with a tailwind, thank goodness, into Rawlins. The food choices were minimal but McDonald’s never tasted so good. We’ll take a well-deserved rest day tomorrow and enjoy the Hampton Inn and maybe even the Wal Mart across the street.
Miles — 68 Total Chapter Miles — 200 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 1,340
TFTD: what a difference a day makes
After taking yesterday (9/3) off, we were back on the bike today. We got up early, refueled ourselves, generously, at the Hampton breakfast buffet. We were on the road at 7:30, covered by a mottled, cloudy sky, zero wind, and about 50 degrees. Perfect!
The landscape around Rawlins was quite Martian in appearance, but after about ten miles we crossed the Divide and entered the Great Divide Basin, which was very cool. The Basin is, basically, a circle, with the Great Divide going all around it. So, none of the water flows to either the Pacific or the Atlantic. It’s just stuck. There were a few ponds, where the water will either evaporate or just sink into the ground.
The scenery was much better, with more rock formations, Pronghorn Antelope, and maybe a deer or two. The Wyoming drivers are exceedingly generous, often times pulling all the way into the oncoming lane to give us more room. How wobbly do we look??? The shoulder on highway 287 is huge, smooth, and devoid of any junk or trash, so this morning’s ride couldn’t have been much better. Soft pedaling this morning!
We made the short climb out of the Basin and made a six-mile gentle descent to Muddy Gap Junction, arriving about noon…. and, there was a mini-mart! An oasis in the middle of a now dry, windy desert. We dragged a picnic table into the shade of the building (still no trees!), and Andy had a great mini-mart microwaved burrito. He declared it to be the best one he’s ever had.
By now the clouds were gone, the wind picked-up (the wrong way – aka “headwind”) and we knew it would be a long twenty-two miles to Jeffrey City, our destination for today. We did stop at the Split Rock Historical Marker. It’s a giant rock with, yes, a giant split in it, such that it looks like a gun sight. Apparently, it was a major landmark for those on the Mormon Trail, and, later, the Pony Express, which we learned only lasted about a year. Pony Express was rendered obsolete by the telegraph, and cost the investors over a million dollars in 1861, but the legend lives on.
After lots and lots and lots of headwind, we got to our motel, and were greeted by Lisa, one of the owners, and Tuffy, the dog. The room has AC and a great shower. The local café was a short walk away, and we had late lunch there, and will go back for breakfast on our way out of town tomorrow. We managed to patronize two of the three commercial establishments in Jeffrey City – the motel and the café – leaving only the pottery store across the highway unvisited.
Miles — 60 Total Chapter Miles — 260 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 1,400
TFTD: snow fence land
We woke up early, and had a nice (very) long breakfast at the Split Rock Café, which opened at 7:00. Our server, and the cook, was Lisa who was our host yesterday at the Green Mountain Motel (about a quarter mile away). We finally started pedaling at about 8:15.
We decided to call the area we were pedaling in “Wy-vada”, since it really, really looked like Nevada, where we pedaled on Sea to Shining Sea. It was miles, and miles, of nothing but sagebrush and basin. After about 15 miles, we looked back and saw the Split Rock, which was easy to see how the immigrants used it as a landmark/guide, since it was visible from miles and miles away. We were, essentially, riding along the Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the Poly Express Trail. We even passed by the Mormon Handcart Museum. It was amazing to think about people traveling across this territory with handcarts and mules. Talk about the middle of nowhere!
We were “treated” to the Sweetwater rest-stop, which was built by the state of Wyoming, has great covered picnic areas, green grass, and well cared (aka clean) bathrooms. After a comfortable, if not too long, break, we were back on the road. Not too long after we saw a herd of Pronghorn Antelope and a herd of Mustangs, wandering in fields across the road from each other.
Then, the highlight of the day, we got to coast down a 6% grade hill for five miles. Yahoo!! As we arrived at the lowest section, we noticed two bikers heading the opposite way, so we pulled over to talk with them. It was a mother and son who were riding the Trans-Am trail together and camping. It’s always so fun to talk with other bikers, learn about them and their adventures.
Then our topography changed. We saw some greenery, and even one tree, along with some amazing red-rock cliffs and mountains on the horizon. When we made our final turn towards Lander, our stop for today, we took a break at an RV park. We had the usual: sodas and Gatorades, while we sat inside in fluffy, enormously round chairs. After about seven more miles of pedaling we arrived in Lander and checked-in to our home for the night. We walked to dinner at Maverick, which was like The Willo, but without the quick service. And, that was today!
Miles — 74 Total Chapter Miles — 334 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 1,474
TFTD: rain, rain, didn’t go away
We woke up early, started breakfast at 6:00, and were on the bike at 6:45. It was a beautiful sunrise, lovely conditions, a good day to ride a long way… or so we thought!
We cruised along, and then saw a sign that said “road construction for next 8 miles”. Ugh! The woman flagging the traffic told us to pedal on the opposite shoulder which is always strange but we did as instructed. Turns out the construction was on the road perpendicular to ours so we sped on. Phew, another bullet dodged. Some miles later, we stopped to look at some Pronghorns. As we started pedaling, at about 14 mph, the Prong Horns ran along with us, at the same speed, even though they were on dirt and hills, and we were on paved road!
Shortly after that, we rode through Fort Washakie, and past Sacajawea’s gravesite. And then… it started to sprinkle, so we put on rain jackets, and then, of course, it stopped. After about 15 miles, we stopped at another lovely Wyoming rest stop for a break. While there, we met Scott, a cross-country biker from Chicago, who was helping Miriam, another bike rider headed East on the TransAmerica trail, fix a flat tire on her bike. Andy and Scott found the small piece of wire, which was stuck through her tire, helped patch the tube, pump the tire back up, and all was solved. As a “reward” Miriam gave Scott and Andy a piece of cheese which she’d received the previous day, after staying on a cow farm, where she met the cow that provided the milk for the cheese. Gotta love the road.
After about 47 miles of pedaling, and seeing the Crowheart Butte, around noon, we arrived in the Crowheart General Store. It's across from the local fire department, which we’d considered camping under their overhang (which was allowed) if we were going to do a shorter day. The General Store was a very pleasant stop, with picnic tables outside and a good selection of snacks and drinks; good thing because it’s the only mini-mart between Lander and Dubois. We met a couple from Ohio who are driving their RV to see Colorado, the Tetons, and Yellowstone. They’ll spend about 10 days in between the two parks, and then drive back to Ohio.
Well rested, and well fed, we were back on the road. After about five miles we stopped for a break, and to share a banana. Directly across the road from us, about 100 feet, were three Pronghorns, eating their grass-lunch also. They looked at us, let us take pictures, and kept noshing. As we were watching, we saw a bolt of lightning, heard the thunder, and then… the rain started pouring. We tried to quickly retrieve our rain jackets, and started pedaling in the puddles. It rained for about 30 minutes, and we got totally soaked. Yep, totally…
It finally did stop, and we started drying out with the headwind that was also starting. Finally, we returned to scenery land – beautiful red-rock cliffs, Bryce Canyon-like ridge lines, and the Wind River. We followed the river for about 30 more miles, and crossed it at least three times. As the headwinds continued to increase, the rain started again, yes, again. We were close to Dubois, our stop for today, so we kept pedaling. Ultimately, we decided to stop at the Jackalope Travel Center. Inside there were lots and lots of Jackalopes (aka bunnies with antlers attached), and some coffee and snacks.
As we continued to wait for the rain to stop so we could pedal to our stop for the day, we got to talk with five ladies who were also staying in town, and have been doing some mountain bike trail riding. They just finished cycling around Jackson, and had recommendations for us, and are headed to Nebraska to ride the Valentine Rails to Trails. Then the sun came out, we said good-bye, and arrived at our sleep-and-shower home for today.
Miles — 39 Total Chapter Miles — 373 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 1,513
TFTD: climbing in the headwind, again
After having some leftover pizza for “breakfast”, we got a bit of a late start, into a 12-mph headwind, was just like heading upstream without a paddle. We met five other riders, all South Bound. After about 20 miles we stopped at the Lava Mountain Lodge, which is for sale, for some real food.
All day was climbing with headwind – again. Togwotee Pass is stunning. Huge rock formations, framed by trees, blue sky and white, white clouds. Our friend, Gary, who is spending the summer in Jackson, says that Togwotee Pass is a “grind”. He is totally correct. We grinded away for about 2 ½ hours, and finally reached the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass (elevation 9,584). Hooray!!
It was a gorgeous descent though a huge meadow with giant, granite mountains to the South and East. We came around a left turn, and, BAM, there they were – the whole Teton Range, across the valley. We pulled over at a trailhead (where a wedding was taking place) and took in the view. We're a long way from Mexico. We coasted another half a mile to our huge hotel room at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge. We got the “family” room, basically a small, one-bedroom apartment, because it was the last room they had when we booked it last night. We decided that, if other cyclists needed a place to stay, we’d “sublet” part of our room.
Sure enough, when Kim went to the front desk to ask for a hairdryer, she met a couple from Anchorage, AK that are Southbound on the Divide Trail. They weathered the storms from yesterday, just completed a very tough uphill to get to the lodge, and needed a place to stay and dry out. So, we have suite-mates for tonight.
Tomorrow, we coast to the Snake River Valley, and meet Gary for lunch.
Miles — 53 Total Chapter Miles — 426 Total Ride-the-Divide Miles — 1,566
TFTD: wrapping-up Chapter 3, with more rain
After sharing our room at the Togwotee Mountain Lodge with Southbound spouses, Diane and John, which worked out well, we were up pretty early. We thought they’d set their phone alarm for 5:00, since that’s what our phones said the time was. However, it turned out to be 6:00, since our phones were, somehow, not correct. So, it was great they were our roomies! We completed the packing, and John helped Andy get the bike out of the room and down the narrow stairs. When Kim did the final walk-through of the room, she found some food in the fridge, which, at first, she thought had been left there by previous guests. She took it downstairs to see if Andy wanted to take it along, and he was talking with John, who realized that it had been left there by Diane. So, success! A great way to start the day.
After final good-byes and putting on nearly all our clothing, we started a brisk 10-mile descent to Hatchet Resort where we grabbed some hot chocolate, and shed a few layers, now that we were in the valley. It was a very gray day. High clouds, and no sun. And, fortunately, no wind.
We started pedaling again, towards Teton National Park, when it started raining, again. Yes, again. We put on the rain gear, and kept going. We had to get in line to enter the park, and pay our $20 fee. As we were at the Park entrance booth, the person inside talked a lot about various options and passes, while we were outside in the now heavy rain. Eventually, we were handed our pass, and she tried to hand us a newspaper about Park events, which we declined. Then we were back on the bike, pedaling through beautiful areas.
We reached our northern goal of Colter Bay on Jackson Lake, giving us a head-start for Chapter 4. Then we turned around, becoming SOBO (Southbound) riders, and headed back towards Jenny Lake. The rain stopped, the sun tried to come out, and some of the clouds lifted. We had great views of Mount Moran and the Tetons. Then we stopped for real breakfast at Signal Mountain Lodge, on the shore of Jackson Lake, since we’d only had a couple power bars before starting.
After a delicious breakfast, we had about 20 miles of pedaling (back in the rain, yep, really) to meet Gary at Dornan’s for lunch. When we arrived, the place was packed because of the rain, but we met Gary, ordered our lunch, and were able to find a table. Outside, it kept raining and raining, so we were really glad for the indoor break. Luckily it stopped raining just about the time we were done with lunch. Perfect timing!
After saying good-bye, we quickly jumped on the bike and tried to beat the rain to the airport. We got to pedal along a newly created bike path along Highway 191. We rode about 7 miles to the Jackson Hole Airport, where we picked up an SUV so we could load the bike inside and drive it to the bike shop downtown. We arrived at Fitzgerald’s Bicycles, had a detailed conversation with Bart. He created a list of maintenance to do on the tandem, AND, best of all, he agreed it could fit in their storage unit until we start Chapter 4 – late next Spring or early next Summer.
We made our way through town, looking for a hotel or motel with space for a few nights, and ended-up finding a kinda-ok room at Super 8, which cost even more than the Hampton Inn we stayed at in Rawlins. Jackson is clearly a very popular tourist spot even in the “off season”! After we checked-in it started raining even harder than before – like a downpour – so we decided to drive to dinner instead of walk. We dined at Rendezvous Bistro, which was good, much better than McDonalds or Maverik.
And… Chapter 3 is complete!