Posted by: Mark Wollemann: On the move | July 2, 2016

Days 18-19: Climb, and admire, every mountain

Day 18
Destination:
Jackson, Wyoming
Today’s mileage: 45 miles. Total: 1,018

Sorry we weren’t able to post Thursday night. For the record, it was an awesome day. I was able to pedal over the Teton Pass. As I told Melody while passing her and her cameras, it was hard. Real hard. But I was super excited to have cleared that peak. The view from up there, looking down toward the valley and Jackson, Wyoming, was a thrill I won’t soon forget. I was damned happy.

Teton pass

Me at the summit of the Teton Pass. Hard, rewarding climb.

According to my little bike computer, some of the climbing was 10-12 percent grade, which might not seem like much, but on a bike it is tough stuff. I had to stand on the pedals just to make some forward progress, and this went on for more than an hour, I just kept pushing and hoping I could make it. Once I could see the crest of the hill, my spirits soared and I cursed the road for good measure. Then, after a few pictures, I raced down the mountain. Sadly, I could only get to 41 mph when I had to slow down for traffic. Damn it!

Because of the slowdown, I had to off to the side a couple of times when I started to smell my breaks beginning to burn. I reached down and felt the rim of my tires and they were HOT to the touch. I followed some tips offered up by my colleague Steve Brandt and applied the brakes evenly from back to front, but even with that, those babies were smoking.

Once I cleared traffic, I sped down hill the last couple of miles. I blocked traffic a little bit because I didn’t want to try and stick to the narrow shoulder. I think I spotted someone from the passenger seat of a car that passed me at the bottom of the hill taking a video of my thrilling decent.

When we arrived in Jackson, I celebrated the Teton Pass crossing with a cup of coffee, but we quickly realized we couldn’t afford to stay in a hotel. Even budget hotels are $300 p/night. So it was off to camp we went. And it was spectacular.

Us and Tetons

Sometimes, camping is a grind. Other times, this kind of bliss.

Curtis Canyon, just outside the city limits, had breathtaking views of the Tetons and a quaint little campground nestled into the woods. We withstood a little rain (we ate our dinner in the car while the squall passed). Enjoyed a few drinks around the campfire. But there wasn’t enough 3G to get us online to write, so I had to put it off until today.

So that’s the report from Thursday.

Day 19
Destination:
On the way to Dubois, Wyoming
Today’s mileage: 52 miles. Total: 1,070

antlers in jackson

Antlers in the center of Jackson, Wyoming. The picture was required at the beginning of Day 19.

I planned an kind of sightseeing day. I rode a bike trail into and through the Teton National Park. Wow! That was a sight that needed to be savored. I biked through the park (at a cost of $15, steep, but worth it to keep that trail well-maintained and to hopefully encourage more trail building).

But the ride from Jackson to Jenny Lake, about 21 miles, was stunning and among the most beautiful rides I’ve ever taken. I mean, it might very well be the most beautiful sight I’ve witnessed from the saddle — or from any other vantage point.

Me and the Tetons

I did a lot of “Wow-ing” on my way through Teton Park. It was spectacular.

Melody and I shared a nice picnic lunch at Jenny Lake and then she went off on a long hike while I pedaled forward. More stunning views followed until I finally exited the park a couple of hours later. By then I was 38 miles into the ride. I had told Melody that I’d just go ahead and ride east until she finished her hike and came to find me.

But I pulled up just outside of Moran, Wyoming because I saw storm clouds closing in on me. I found a little service station, hoping to add an image to my “pie porn” p0tpourrie. I had a cup of coffee (I love mid-ride coffee, in case you didn’t notice), but the place didn’t have pie. What they did have was ice cream. I chose a cone of orange sherbet and vanilla ice cream. What came was a monstrosity (pictured below). Of course, I finished it. But it took some time.

ice cream

My hand looks tiny (Trump joke) in comparison to this ice cream cone. But that’s only because it was about six scoops of ice cream and sherbet. I think the girl scooping the stuff felt sorry for me. I did not reject the gift or bite the hand that fed me.

After partially digesting that treat, I peeked out the window and it appeared that the clouds had passed. I took off thinking Melody would be on the way soon. It turned out, she enjoyed her hike immensely (which is a good thing, seeing as she’s been such a trouper taking care of my needs on the road), so I just kept pedaling. Of course, we’re still in mountain country, so I ended up scaling two 8,500 foot climbs (from around 6,000 feet) and just before Melody arrived, I started to get pelted by the beginnings of a rain storm. Around the same time, I passed a sign heralding “Bears on road” “Stay in vehicle.” I wasn’t sure what that meant for bicyclists, but I traveled onward.

Soon, though, Melody arrived and rescued me before the skies opened up. We passed on camping tonight and instead settled on a cute little “lodge-y” motel along highway 26. Tomorrow, it’s up to the highest peak of my ride, about 9,500 feet at the Continental Divide. And then, well, it’s all downhill from there.

The landscape out here is stunning. Obviously, no surprise to those of you who have traveled this way. But I was in Yellowstone once as a child. I don’t have strong memories of it. But I will remember these days well until I pass from this earth. It’s a good time to be alive.

***
For more on this journey, including a video of my profane (I was cursing the hill and the road, not any human person) arrival at the summit of the Teton Pass, please visit our website at 55andalive.com.

the hardest thing...

 

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Responses

  1. Hey, Mark, I don’t know from grades in climbing. I do remember the Ramsey Hill as impossible to get up. What’s the comparison?

    • Ramsey Hill is between 10-14 percent grade, but it’s relatively short. Think that grade over the course of several miles. My altimeter was clocking grades of 10, 11 and sometimes 12 percent during that climb. Took me about a good hour/hour and a half to complete. It was a tester.

  2. “The landscape out here is stunning. … I will remember these days well until I pass from this earth. It’s a good time to be alive.” This post was poetry, Mark. I feel so privileged to get to follow along.

    • Thanks, Heather. I feel lucky to be able to experience it and it’s a privilege to share it. We live in interesting times.

  3. So great to read about some awesome riding through the Tetons. Keep going!! The guys at Cafe Latte are behind you all the way (though none of us are in any condition to ride..)

  4. OH WOW!! So glad to finally hear from you. You are surely seeing some spectacular sights, and not from a car window as most people do.
    Many people at Somo Lake yesterday asked about where/how you are.
    Ride safely.


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