July 28, 2006
I experienced a few more mild muscle cramps overnight. Finally getting up around 8:30 or nine, I made use of the nice, hot campground shower. I took it slow packing up my things, and was sure to drink two quarts of water before going anywhere.
Ugh, I don’t want to go through last night’s experience again. That’ll teach me to ride 70 miles through the desert on mostly coffee, Coke, Vault, and double cheeseburgers. I was probably just dehydrated and never realized it, because I was so preoccupied by the scenery. Plus with the dry heat you don’t sweat. The moisture just gets sucked right out of you and evaporates before you notice what’s happening.
Mel and Troy cooked breakfast at camp, but I rode the 3 miles into Dubois to have breakfast at the Cowboy Cafe – at least three people in Lander had recommended it to me. I went for three buttermilk pancakes, and thought I’d better go with a large orange juice, rather than my usual coffee. This sucks – it’ll probably take me 48 hours or more to fully recover from yesterday… at a time when I should be well-rested after all those days off in Lander.
Dubois is a cool little touristy town, set up to retain an Old West style. Rather than a sidewalk, there was a boardwalk… and places like the aforementioned Cowboy Cafe and Outlaw Saloon and such… chock full of Yosemite Sam-esque swinging doors and what not. A man in front of a store played the kind of upbeat piano music you hear when guys are playing poker in the western movies. Another store had solo flute music piped out front. A horse drawn carriage trotted down the street, like you see in the larger historic districts of major cities.
A gas station interestingly had the world’s largest Jackalope! Stuffed. Authentic! Hmm. Then there was the irony of a cyber cafe in the middle of all this, with discreet signs and all the blinds drawn shut. I stopped there to update my journal after breakfast.
Finally riding out of town in the early afternoon, I was blasted by a ridiculous headwind. Nothing like a little hot, dry air in my face to make me love life, pedaling hard to maintain 7mph. Remember the industrial strength hair dryer from Spaceballs? Yeah. Throw in the gradual rise in elevation as I made my way up to Togwotee Pass, and it was a real party. “Water…oil…room service!”
Well I got through it for some miles, and came to the construction zone that’s been all the talk of the touring cyclists through the area. There’s a seven-year project going on here where the road is all torn up. The construction workers leave you with no choice but to take a ride through the section in one of their pilot trucks… you know, like the “Pilot Car – Follow Me” vehicle. I heard second-hand that an English TransAm cyclist’s experience went something like this:
“I can’t ride my bicycle through?”
“Get in the truck.”
“But I love America so much… I want to ride over every inch of it!”
“Get in the truck.”
If it worked out, I was going to try and get here before the crack of dawn and ride through, but as you can see, it didn’t work out, and I took the 3 or 4 mile ride. I haven’t met a single cyclist who did not take the ride and managed to bike through, so it’s ethically okay by me, as far as continuously bicycling across the country. The guy that gave me the ride had his cute little dog along with him, with its own reflective vest and all. “If the little guy’s on the job, he’s gotta wear one too!”
I was dropped near the only gas station on this side of the pass, so I stopped to re-hydrate and get a snack. They had these tasty frozen/microwaveable jumbo size Hot Pockets at 600 calories each. I had just finished waxing off a Ham&Cheese, as well as a Beef&Cheddar Hot Pocket. When I was licking the cheesy goop off of my hands, a backpacker turned the corner out of nowhere. We simultaneously saw each other, and both say “Hi!”
“Doing some backpacking?” I ask.
“Yeah… I’m doing the CDT? The Continental Divide Trail?”
“Oh… really? I’ve done the AT.”
“Oh yeah? I run the hostel in Glencliff, New Hampshire.”
“Yeah… hey you’re Packrat! I’m Duct Tape, I stayed with you in 2002!”
Then this pickup truck with a bunch of Appalachian Trail stickers pulled up, and I met Blister Sister and Mala – they’ve been around the AT circles for years, at various gatherings and such. So I’d heard of them, but we’d never met.
A little backpacking background for you – in addition to the Appalachian Trail, the next two most famous distance hiking trails in the US are the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). They both run from Mexico to Canada – PCT: CA-OR-Washington, CDT: NM-CO-WY-MT.
When Packrat finishes the CDT, he’ll be one of the few who has hiked all three trails. One or two guys have even done all three trails within a single calendar year… and some of you may think my little bicycle ride is hard core!
So Mala asked me “Where are you staying tonight? We’ve got a trailer at the campground down the road… hamburgers… hot dogs…”
I missed the turn for the campground and rode halfway up to the pass. Realizing my mistake, I turned back down the mountain. After some excellent Christmas-tree-smelling-clean-air-altitude hour-before-sunset riding, I arrived at the campground to join Packrat, Mala, and Blister.
One of the first things they said was, “One thing I’ve got to warn you about us… we’re beer snobs!” as I’m handed a local microbrew wheat ale. Life is good.
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Google Map Route may not be 100% accurate.