Wow! So, today was our thirty-sixth wedding anniversary (and my youngest sister’s 50th birthday! Happy Birthday, Linda!). What did we do to celebrate? We got up BEFORE the crack of dawn to try to beat the snow predicted for Beartooth Pass. We left camp about 6:15 AM. Steve rides so much faster than I do, that we decided today we would ride separately, at our own pace. On most days, he would either ride at my pace or ride ahead and circle back. The great thing about rides like CGY is that everyone looks out for each other, so you are never really alone. Our CGY friends are the best! Plus, CGY has the best SAG (Support and Gear) ever and I am not kidding.
From Red Lodge, the Beartooth Highway constantly climbs to its highest point at Beartooth Pass, thirty-one miles from where we began. (Check out the elevation profile by clicking here.) When I reached the base of the climb up to Beartooth Pass, I realized that I was almost out of water; I was cold and super-intimidated. I literally felt like sitting on the side of the road to cry, and up comes a SAG driver to ask if I needed anything. She was transporting water to the top. I told her that I was pretty certain that I was never going to make it to the top and asked for a ride to the top. She stopped, filled both of my bottles with water, gave me two gels (I think of gels as hummingbird food for cyclists–sugar and caffeine! It’s gross, but is pure energy.), and gave me the strong pep-talk that I needed. She convinced me I could do it. (I’ve only included our pictures on this blog, but had to include the one below from a CGY photographer.) That’s me talking with my SAG-hero!
As I approached the twenty-one mile mark, it began to rain, then sleet. I was cold, cold, cold, even when working to cycle uphill. At the Vista Point Overlook rest-stop, I called it quits. I enjoy a challenge, but also believe that cycling should be fun. This day was challenging for sure, but there was no fun left. Never, ever would I look outside on a rainy, sleety day when it’s in the low-30’s and say to Steve, “Hey, let’s go for a bike ride!” Nope, that’s never going to happen. I was done! I was also worried about getting to the top, then trying to make it down the steep descent on wet and possibly icy roads. Thankfully, CGY had made arrangements for those of us struggling due to weather and/or elevation. I SAGged ten miles to the lunch-stop at the top, then I also SAGged to the end.
Steve, on the other hand, was not going to let the mountain beat him. When I got to the top, he was there, shivering and debating about whether to continue. CGY had warm soup, warm water, and running vehicles so that riders could warm up. Steve attempted to get warm, but decided to make the descent, so off he went. He said that as he rode across the top, the clouds moved in and snow was so heavy that he could only see about 30-yards ahead. He commented that mentally, and physically, this day’s ride was hard! Pictures taken by others, later in the day, show this area covered in snow.
I rode to Cooke City, MT in the back-back of a van with my new friend, Stephanie. We sat on top of one of the HAM-radio guy’s camping gear! Thanks to hitching the ride, I got into camp quite a bit before Steve. When I arrived, it was raining and cold! I found our baggage under the tarps put up to protect our bags from the rain. I helped a new friend, Douglas, put up his tent, then he helped me put up ours. Not long after I got the tent up, the rain stopped and the sun came out. Thank goodness! It was still quite chilly, but the sun made it seem so much better.
We were camping at the Cooke City softball field. We were required to pitch tents within the chain-link enclosure due to recent, frequent, bear activity in the area. Additionally, the National Park Service required CGY to have an all-night bear patrol; SAG workers took turns patrolling the perimeter of the field to ensure that we were not disturbed. We also had to lock up ALL scented belongings in one of the baggage trucks overnight; anything smelly, including toothpaste, lip balm, deodorant, food, etc. All the trash was removed from camp before nightfall.
Steve finally arrived at camp and took a shower to warm up. He made it the whole way, up over the mountains in the snow, then down through the rain, back up more elevation into Cooke City! I was proud that I had climbed 21 miles; I do not know how he did 65 in the cold, snow, and rain. He’s a strong and determined cyclist!
After dinner, we went to bed early in an attempt to get warm and some much-needed rest. We hoped for no bears and clear skies!