Dude Ranches, Rodeos, and the Wild Wild West

It’s been nearly a week since I last wrote from Lima, and I made the brilliant move of mailing my full journal home yesterday before typing this, so I’ll be mostly writing off the cuff! Since I last wrote I’ve passed out of Montana, through Idaho, skirted Yellowstone, crossed the Tetons, and entered Wyoming. What a week!

In Lima I picked up a package graciously put together by my mom, Becky, and Josie. I got my new comfy bike seat which I’ve been VERY happy to have this week. I also got a very cute purple koala bear from none other than our very own Georgia Bean. It instantly became a “pass the bear” game and has led to incredible hilarity. Unbeknownst to John, It began its journey deep in John’s sleeping bag. From there it made its way into the toe of my shoe while I slept. Its rounds wound to a stop the other day as John doesn’t seem to be able to find it – or else he did and he passed it along to one of us and we haven’t found it! Only time will tell.

Also in Lima we reunited with the three folks we’ve been bouncing along with for a couple weeks now. One from the US, one from UK and one from New Zealand. One of them did the race two years ago and is now doing it at a touring pace, another one was planning on racing this year but got delayed in preparations so he decided to tour it this year and will race next year. It’s been really fun getting to know them and hearing about their racing experience.

From Lima we rode 57 miles to Lakeview. Roger wasn’t feeling well so he took a less hilly paved alternate route and got to camp more than an hour before us. We rode the regular route which was all on bumpy gravel roads with lots of short steep up and downs. The route wound its way down through a long valley and we were being chased by a thunderstorm all afternoon. We kept considering hunkering down and waiting it out, but it always looked to be half an hour behind us so we pushed on. I rode like I don’t usually ride – fast! We got into camp just as the rain started so we were able to wait it out in our tents and it cleared up in time for dinner!

The Campground at Lakeview was gorgeous and had a super cold clear spring that was some of the best water we’ve had. We watched the sun go down over the mountains as the whole lake turned red and orange.

From Lakeview we rode a brisk 36 miles to the tiny hamlet of Macks Inn. This ride included crossing Redrock Pass, by far the easiest continental divide crossing to date! This divide crossing was also our crossing into Idaho. I have to say Montana was beautiful but some of the most challenging riding we’ve done, and I wasn’t sorry to see it go (not that it gets easier as we go south!)

The last half of the day’s ride was on a rough but very neat snowmobile trail, not much different than the trails around Calais. It was bumpy and rough but was in the trees and out of the sun for the first time in several days so that was very nice. Being summer there were several cattle fences along the way that we had to open/close gates to pass through. In Macks Inn we stopped at a little Saloon and had burgers and margaritas before setting up camp.

From Macks Inn we jumped on a network of 4 wheeler trails on which we most assuredly would have gotten lost if we hadn’t had John’s GPS to guide our way. The 4 wheeler trail led us to a Rail Trail mostly used by horses and 4 wheelers. It was 30 miles of deep sand and wash boards. Slow going and lots of rattling of teeth! It was quite fun with beautiful views down to the river below, but required an intense amount of concentration and a tight grip on the handlebars. The trail had cattle guards at regularly intervals, but they were funky ones that humped up a foot or two above the trail. John and Roger rode over a few, but Leslie and I decided to play it safe and walk! We added miles to this day in order to get to Pinedale on a Friday instead of a Saturday, so we made it 61 miles before setting up camp on the banks of South Boone Creek.

The next day was another beast, 63 miles to Turpin Meadow Campground. The ride started with a grueling climb on a rough logging road. Near the top we saw a couple picking huckleberries who showed us how to ID the bush and let us try a few they’d picked. I’m not sure I’d ever had just the berries, and they were quite tasty.

Many miles later we were dumped out at Flag Ranch which I distinctly remembered stopping at when I rode the TransAm in 2010. The next 30 miles or so overlapped with the Transam and it was amazing how clear my memories were. The views of the Tetons over Jackson Lake brought me instantly back to my last Teton Visit. I simply love the Tetons and could easily spend more time out here. It was a little sad to cross all the way through Teton National Park in just a day! The Turpin Campground was temporarily closed to tents and soft-sided campers due to recent bear activity, but we were totally exhausted and Roger was pretty sick and it was 8 miles up Togwotee Pass to the next potential place to stay so we simply couldn’t go on! The campground host said she’s pretend she didn’t see us and we could stay there anyway. We’ve been camping in bear country every night and a very very cautious to lock away anything with a scent, so we weren’t actually too worried about the bears – it all worked out and none of us were eaten:-)

From Turpin Meadow we rode over Togwotee Pass which is paved and long but fairly gradual in the climbing department. Amazing how some mountain passes are now classified as “easy”…. wonder if they would have been easy a month ago! It was very fun riding over the pass as I’d crossed the same pass on the Transam and remember each lookout and view of the Tetons. Such a fun day!

We were hoping to stay at someone’s house listed on our maps as a cyclist only lodging place but nobody was home and they hadn’t answered their phones so I think they may have been away. It was locked up tight and had no water source so we had to keep pedaling. This meant a 5 mile very steep climb up towards Union Pass on a rough gravel road with sharp sharp switchbacks but stunning views. We’d ridden 45 miles and a storm was on our heels by the time we panted our way into the Crooked Creek Dude Ranch. The women working the bar hooked us up with delicious meals, cold beer, and a cheap cabin. Life on a Dude Ranch is Grand. We talked quite a bit to the women working there and I could totally see myself working on a ranch for a year. They work some, ride horses, do chores, and get to ride 4 wheelers all over the place. Sounds good to me! During dinner a fuse popped and the beer cooler went off – disaster! None of the staff really seemed to be able to fix it or know what to do so Leslie went to save the day. We were thanked with a round of amazing ice cream sundaes for her trouble!

For breakfast the chef at the ranch told us that the breakfast menu was pathetic but that she was a trained breakfast chef and we could order anything we wanted. Delicious omelets later we didn’t get on the road until 11 AM, our latest start time yet! That was fine though, the first 5 miles was all continuing up to Union Pass and was an awfully long tiring climb.

The descent from Union Pass wasn’t even a particularly good one and the road quality for the entire 41 mile day was jarring and painful. It was one of the bumpiest worst maintained roads/trails we’ve been on yet. Leslie put it best when she told me she was afraid her eyeballs were going to bounce out!

It is truly amazing how our bikes are holding up. Whether I’m crawling my way up a seemingly vertical trail made of large rocks, loose gravel, and sand; bouncing down a dirt road at 20 mph literally not being able to keep both wheels on the ground, or I’m flying down a paved pass closing in on 50 mph, my bike holds up to the grit and grind of this ride. It’s truly remarkable nothing serious has broken!

Yesterday made up for the previous days 30 miles of treachery. With only a handful of miles of washboard and loose gravel we were on flat paved roads most of the 36 miles to Pinedale. It couldn’t have come sooner. My rear tire is on its last legs and both Roger and John have been nearly too sick to ride. Pinedale brought a really nice new rear tire, and a antibiotics to go around! John and Roger went to a clinic and confirmed our suspicions that some water somewhere along the way had something in it not killed by our filters. They start their antibiotics today, and Leslie and I each got a prescription filled in case we come down with the same symptoms before we get to our next town.

Our main reason for rushing to Pinedale to get here by Friday was because we knew there was a Friday night rodeo and we simply couldn’t miss it. It was a tiny tiny small town rodeo but was SO much fun. We sat on the high-school style bleachers while at least half the crowd sat in or on their trucks parked around the arena. The 2 plus hour event featured local folks ranging in age from 2 or 3 up! The littlest folks rode lambs, and the riders and animals got bigger from there. We were especially entertained when they invited all kids under the age of 12 into the arena to chase these two poor little calves and try to get the ribbon off their tails! We saw some incredible riding and some scary falls – but basically it was just a small Western town having some good clean fun. Well worth the long days to get here for the Rodeo!

Today we took a rest day to relax, work on our bikes, and let John and Roger recoup. We spent most of the day puttering on our bikes, cleaning and lubing them thoroughly. We are soon to enter the Great Basin, one of the bleakest most remote section of the ride so we want to make sure we are well supplied and all in good working order.

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The next several were taken on a gorgeous but challenging ride on the narrow and sandy rail trail.

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Top of Togwotee Pass just shy of 10,000 feet!

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Loving the miles and miles of washboard after a long climb!

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Camping at Whiskey Creek Campground. An Amazing lightning storm lit up the sky later that night.

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At the rodeo in Pinedale, Wyoming

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Leslie rides through a hardware store after getting her tires topped off in the back room bike shop.

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