Today was gonna be a long one – I planned to ride up Mount Shasta (#60 in the US, ~4000 ascent) early, and then motorcycle the 300+ miles home in one shot. “Dangerous heat” advisory starting Monday, and the idea of slogging down California during the week day commute period made doing a double seem more appealing.
Rolled out at first light and headed up, got a mile out and realized I forgot my cell phone – oops. Coasted back to the hotel and started again.
The climb up Mount Shasta was very pleasant and relaxing – no traffic, a pretty consistent 5 to 6% grade. The lower half doesn’t have much scenery, just trees and quiet.
3/4 up things open up a bit and you can see a bit more, and the final 3 miles are entirely closed to traffic (I don’t know if I count as traffic, I didn’t ask) – at the top, the landscape is scoured pretty clean from heavy avalanche/snow I assume.
The closed section was a bit dirty and bumpy, but nothing too bad, and after that the descent is pretty much no brakes to get back to the valley floor.
This was a great final climb for my trip, peaceful and nothing too extreme. Plus it put me in a good frame of mind to tackle 300 miles of mind numbing interstate, which I did in a one stopper because it was already 97 degrees at 10 AM in Redding. So that’s all I’ll say about that part of the trip.
I’ll put together a trip summary post in a day or two, but I’d say it was successful! Epic and awesome and great bicycling!
After the awful slog yesterday, I chose to take the secondary highway (26 to 97) down from Portland to Mt Shasta. So far this is my favorite route through Oregon, despite the state’s love of 55 mph speed limits.
Light traffic, some elevation and scenery changes, nice and cool weather since 90% of it is at higher elevation, and most importantly, NO CRAZY WIND.
So despite spending 6 hours on the road, it was the sort of motorcycle day that makes you think you can ride forever.
Tomorrow morning is another 4K ascent up Mt Shasta, which is significantly steeper and more consistent than Mt Hood & Mt Spokane.
Assuming I feel good after that, I may head straight on home via the interstate (punishingly dull, but at least I’ll be home at the end!)
Some days ya eat the bear, and some days the bear eats you.
Plan was to motorcycle 400 miles to the foot of Mount Hood, bicycle up, then motorcycle 30 minutes to a cheap(er) motel than those in the area.
First 2 hours were not bad, boring but no traffic and making good time.. until you turn west to head toward Portland.
Relentless, awful wind.. 100s.. if not 1000s of wind mills, so apparently it is awful all the time. My left arm went numb from counter steering to the left for 1.5 hours of this, and then you drop down into the Columbia river gorge.. and this is even worse, by a lot.
Relentless, random buffeting, and heavy tractor trailer traffic. Exhausting and awful – I would never do this route again on a motorcycle.
Thankfully after another hour of this abuse, the Garmin beeped and said hang a left! yay!
Except it took me down some no where backroad.. and then told me to turn into a NF-xxx road. NF means “National Forest” which means.. no pavement.
Optimistically I went for it.. and it was okay for a couple miles.. then it hooked a sharp left straight up the mountain, up STEEP loose switchbacks. Running near slicks, I was roosting up dirt just to get up and around the turns.. I really wanted to turn around after 2 or 3 of them.. but it was so steep and loose I had to keep going for another half a mile before I could turn around. Going down as about as much fun, although at least I remembered to turn off my ABS before I hit the dirt at the start.
So after arguing with Garmin (GRAGE!) I got back on track, for another hour of the horrible gorge, which, if anything, got even worse while I was lost in the hills.
Finally, I was back on the correct road and another hour took me to the start of the climb.
The climb basically goes up a highway, an EXTREMELY busy highway, with tons of tractor trailer and logging trucks. As far as I can tell, Oregon does not believe in a 3 foot rule.. I am pretty sure they think it is 3 inches.
And the wind was here too, relentless buffeting – a few times I thought I had a flat tire. Going up was bad, going down was really awful.
Luckily it was “only” a 2 hour climb and I was happy to get it done. I’d say this was the least fun climb (even ignoring the 450 miles of motorcycle tri
bulations) of the trip. Combined together, I am beat!
Tomorrow off to Mount Shasta, the final climb of my trip!
Running out of mountains to climb! Today I headed up Mt Spokane, which is probably just out of the top 100, but still pretty notable for the area, with a 4000+ foot ascent. [Strava activity here]
Since I knew this was pretty easy, I decided to just ride to the 15 miles to the start of the climb instead of starting at the base. Especially with all the delicious oxygen at 2000 feet above sea level.
The first 15 miles were through the rolling hills off Spokane wheat country, one thing that I found interesting is there are housing developments scattered within the fields – either these are the richest farmers I’ve ever seen, or these are separate houses that just happen to be within the fields – interesting locale to live in.
Once the sun came up, I turned onto the highway that leads into Mt Spokane park, and eventually the climb starts. I say “eventually” because it is pretty gradual for the first 10 miles or so.. and back in the tree tunnels.
When you turn off into the actual park, the grade kicks up to a more reasonable 6 to 8% and it feels like a real climb. Unfortunately the last few miles turn into mega-huge switchbacks and it eases off again, which is the reverse of most climbs – usually they’re steeper at the end.
You really only get vistas starting in the last 2 miles, and unfortunately things were pretty hazy – either due to the fires or just high clouds.
Due to the gradual grades, the descent was pretty non-technical and I just cruised back down for some pancakes!
2 more climbs to go – tomorrow I’m going to do the motorcycle-bicycle double on Mt. Hood, since it is also a gradual climb.
…back to Idaho.. the weather scene today was just not working out, when I checked the forecast last night it was going to be raining in Park City and 96 in Salmon. At some point you just go for it and plow on through.
I got up early to make sure my tire still had air in it (it did) and yeah, it was raining.. I sorta assumed it would only be raining on the mountain, and then it would dry out… nope.
340 miles of nope.. it rained and rained.. and rained some more. Through Utah and into the Boring Valley Of Doom Idaho (aka Interstate 15) all the way up Highway 20 and across Craters of the Moon and the Nuclear Waste Dump. I was also riding ride along the edge of the storm system, so it was super blustery and windy too, yuck.
Finally once I hit Challis (60 miles from Salmon) things dried out and I got to ride the best part in the dry – this stretch of road is twisty and fun and has great scenery as it meanders along the Salmon river. I almost went and rode it again after unloading my luggage and bicycle, but then the storm caught up and it started dumping here too.. so.. nope.
Late posting today due to aforementioned motorcycle excitement.
But to start with the bicycling – Big Cottonwood is another one of the top 50 climbs in the US, combined with Guardsman from Park City, it’s a pretty stiff climb – I had dreams of adding Little Cottonwood, but after the descent took what felt like forever, and pretty gusty tail (ie, headwind the way up) – I declined.
Once more up Guardsman, combining parts of 2 of the climbs I did last time, and then the long descent down the canyon.. it goes on and on!
Finally, after reaching the bottom, the long drag back up – this is a pretty heavily trafficed route, and seems very popular with cyclists too.
So after roughly 4+ hours, I returned back to the hotel and got breakfast. On my way back, I decided to check on the motorcycle annnnd… flat rear tire. Totally flat.
Now normally that’s just annoying. Given I was in a nice, flat, cool enclosed garage.. spending 2 hours to change a tube is not a huge deal.
But in this case, I couldn’t find what made it flat! If there was a nail or screw or something, fine. But.. no.. nothing. I even doused the whole thing with soapy water, and the only bubbles were coming up around the valve stem.
I don’t like mysterious mechanical things several thousand miles from home, so I phoned around and found a shop about 30 minutes away (on a Monday no less, which is a miracle in itself since most motorcycle shops are closed Mondays.)
So, I pumped the tire back up and determined it was losing about 3 PSI per 30 minutes, enough time to get over there.
They took it apart and….. they were stumped too!
Nothing in the tire, the puncture is on the tread side (not the rim strip.) and nothing.
The only odd thing is the tube does feel a bit squishy where the puncture was. Maybe manufacturing defect? Or something speared the tire and then left without leaving a trace?
Oh well. They put in my spare tube, put it back together, and I headed back.
Guardsman Pass from Midway is in the top 20, and Empire is in the top 50 or so, but I’ve a hard time taking any climb seriously after doing Pike’s Peak! Combined it was around 6000 feet of ascent. [Strava activity here]
Both of these have sustained sections of 10% or greater – the granny gear finally got serious usage (excepting that top part of Pike’s, which was more oxygen related than grade related.) The lower part of Guardsman is relentless 10-15% for the first several miles, I saw 22% on one switchback. The average grade was deceptive as there were a few VERY short downhill sections.
I didn’t take many photographs, the mosquitos were out again and I have barely recovered from the last round of Colorado mosquitos – at least Colorado mosquitos didn’t seem to have whatever flesh eating bacteria lives in Wyoming mosquitos, they were more normal level of annoying instead of terrifying red welts the size of quarters.
I’ll be doing parts of this route again on Monday – Empire and the top 2 miles of Guardsman, before descending Big Cottonwood and then climbing back up.
The question is if I will also attempt Little Cottonwood – this is another 4K in-n-out climb at the bottom of Big Cottonwood. That’ll make for a 10.5K day – I’ve purposefully been keeping the bike legs relatively short to ensure enough recovery time between bicycling & motorcycling – but I have no climb (or even destination yet) planned after Monday, so I might just go empty the tank if I’m feeling good.
Tomorrow is a maintenance day (bike, moto, laundry, etc) so I’ll have time to figure out what I’m doing next!
300 miles of motorcycling today through an area I have never been, so I broke out the trusty AAA paper map and looked for secondary highways marked “scenic.”
Conclusion: There weren’t any. Luckily it wasn’t too terrible – the first hour or so leaving Grand Junction was pretty dull, but then you get some big mountains in the distance. Another hour takes you further into Utah mountains, and the terrain gets more alpine-ish instead of craggy desert plateaus and rock formations.
Past Provo, you pretty much ride straight up the mountainside to get into Park City.
Park City’s weather forecast is looking good, so I am going to hang out a few days and bicycle Empire pass, Guardsman pass, and Big Cottonwood.
I had hoped to take the motorcycle-bicycle rig down into the valley and ride Little Cottonwood, but since I have chosen the logistically worst hotel in the world, I think it’s gonna stay parked:
It’s a condo hotel, so everything is enclosed. I’m on the 2nd floor (3rd from the garage.) The elevator is on the opposite end of both the garage and my room. So the 4 or 5 trips to unload/reload takes a good half an hour and a lot of walking! The final issue: The garage has a maximum height of 6 foot, 10 inches. When I measured my moto-bicycle rig, it was a “comfortable” 7 foot. So I have to dismantle it outside! And there’s no easy street parking, either. So yeah, I don’t think I’m doing any day trips with the motorcycle-bicycle rig while I’m at this hotel.
For the same reason, I’ll be riding up 2K and then down to the valley for the climbs, so that’ll make each day a 6-7K ascent, but I figure after Pike’s Peak, that should be easy!
This wasn’t on the big climb list, but on the “scenic optional route” list I had put together if the timing/weather/geography worked out.
It was definitely worth it – really epic scenery and a great route that winds up and over the terrain.
This time the sun was finally in my favor instead of riding directly into the sunrise.
The ride itself was very enjoyable, and I saw more cyclists than cars (at least early morning on a week day.)
After the quasi-summit, the descent is fast and technical – I did not take photos since I felt myself spending too much time staring at the scenery and not paying attention to the switchbacks, so I settled on safely getting back to the valley.
Tomorrow is a long motorcycle day to Park City, UT. Starting in Park City means I’ll be doing some double climbs (front and backsides) but I decided I’d rather be cooler in Park City than roasting in the valleys.
Grand Mesa takes you up to one of the largest mesa’s in the US, to nearly 11,000 feet of elevation. [Strava Activity Here]
I wanted to make sure I got back before check-out so I could shower before heading to Grand Junction, so I left before dawn and rolled 2 miles down hill to the official start of the climb.
After the two 14ers (Pike’s & Evans) I was happy that I could just ride my own pace and not worry about going easy for the first half.
The climb is pretty consistent – never too steep and not too boring, and the scenery changes from desert, to alpine, to tundra meadows pretty quickly. The early lighting didn’t lend itself to great pictures, but the views with the desert plateaus and mountains were pretty cool.
The worst part was the continued road construction – miles and miles of fresh chip seal turned this into a gravel ride. Luckily the descent is not particularly technical, so I didn’t worry much about it.
3/4 down I got caught up in one way traffic control again, waiting for an escort vehicle. When they finally arrived, they asked if I’d like my bike carried down instead of riding and I was totally fine with that – not due to the risk, but due to all the dirt I’d have to eat following a bunch of cars on gravel!
Made it back to the hotel with plenty of time to shower and pack up, and headed to Grand Junction.. and promptly got stuck in another one-way traffic control.. for 30+ minutes, in 95 degree heat. This was not pleasant, I felt like my motorcycle gear was filling up with sweat from the bottom up.
Once finally released, I made my way to Grand Junction and stopped at a cafe for a gallon of iced coffee to recover from that huge, 1 hour motorcycle ride!
Tomorrow is a non-climbing day, I’ll be getting up early again to do the Colorado National Monument loop (44 miles, 3400 ascent.)
Starting to trim off climbs that were on my list, Ouray was looking rained out, so I headed to the desert – Mesa, CO.
Since today was forecast to be a hot one, I wanted to make it into town before noon, which meant 300+ miles of all backroads wouldn’t work, but I sure didn’t want to superslab it either. I split the difference – the first half I took Highway 24, which was empty and very few cars and great views of Mount Elbert. It was also really cold! I had to pull over and put on my heated jacket after an hour or two of 42 degrees.
24 joins up with the main east west highway, Highway 70. Unfortunately within 5 miles of the junction, CODOT was out setting up for chip seal work, which resulted in a FORTY FIVE MINUTE delay, luckily it was not hot yet or that would have super sucked.
Once hopping on Highway 70, you drop straight down into the desert, but it’s actually pretty scenic – Glenwood Canyon in particular is a marvel of traffic engineering – it sort of feels like you’re riding through a mini-grand canyon via overpasses, tunnels and bridges.
Once I reached the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway turn-off.. more construction. I hope this doesn’t screw up my bike ride tomorrow.
The weather looks reasonable to climb Grand Mesa, this is the 24th most difficult climb in the US, with roughly 5700 feet of ascent, judging by the views coming into town, it should be pretty epic.
Right after the climb I plan to head to Grand Junction and do the Colorado National Monument loop – not really a climb, but supposed to be amazing scenery.
Wow, this was hard.. really really hard, steep and relentless, possibly the most difficult (subjectively) climb I’ve ever done. [Strava Activity Here]
I got out early and headed up the highway, and it pretty much goes straight to 6-8% grade right after leaving town. Zero shoulder and cars blowing by at freeway speeds, not fun.
After a bit of this you make a left and head up on the Pike’s peak road, and things get even more serious with 10% grade that just goes straight up. Just getting to the top of this section took about an hour.
I had left early figuring to beat the tourist traffic.. except in typical “zero research fashion” it turns out the road is only open at 7:30.. and they are quite serious about it, it’s a whole production: van loads of rangers and volunteers blanketing the mountain, 2 mobile EMT trucks(!), massive gates and toll structure.
So I had to sit around for an hour until the road opened, it was not particularly cold or windy, so it was ok.
From about 8K to about 10K, things were ok, the typical alpine tree tunnels.. at 10K I started feeling not so great, which is odd since for both Trail Ridge and Mt Evans I didn’t really feel poorly until 12K.
I can only assume the combination of the much steeper grades and it being significantly warmer (and no wind) were making things more difficult.
From 13K on up.. it was a death march.. just put it in the granny gear (helllo!) and tried to keep the pedals turning. The quantity of pictures declined significantly from here on out.
After what felt like forever, I made it to the summit and received many high-fives and fist bumps!
Whew, well, after Pike’s, nothing is quite as difficult on the list (I hope!)
My current plan was to head to Ouray, CO and ride Red Mountain Pass, but it looks like they are gonna be blasted out by thunderstorms over the next few days.
I had thought some of the valley rides I had on the list were not going to happen due to heat, but maybe they’re back on if the mountains are too washed out!
We’ll see what tomorrow brings – either way, it is time to start heading west, so probably a 400+ mile motorcycle day.
Left pretty late this morning, since this is only 90 miles away. Manitou Springs sits right at the foot of Pike’s Peak.
First 20 miles or so are all superslab 4 lane freeway with angry cagers, reminding me why I stay away from cities when I’m out on motorcycle trips! After that, it turned into “mountain traffic” which is the Colorado version of California beach traffic, so that was nearly an hour of 20 mph. The urge to lane split was almost impossible to resist, but I refrained. I don’t know how non-lane splitting state residing motorcyclists do it. It was torture seeing all that open space!
So, despite being only 90 miles, it was more unpleasant than a lot of the desert runs.
The weather right now is looking pretty good, so hopefully it holds, because that mountain looks really really tall. Unlike Mount Evans where you can’t really see the peak from the start, Pike’s you can see it right there.
I’ve acquired breakfast and pop tarts, so the plan is to roll out around 6 AM before the tourist traffic really gets going.
Short jog by motorcycle over to Westminster to visit an Internet buddy, amusingly he has been in the SF bay area several times, but always in San Francisco, and during the week, that 40 miles might as well be 100.. so it was just easier to ride my motorcycle 2000 miles than to go into SF from the South Bay.
Thanks Mike and his gracious wife for allowing a slightly scraggly motorcycle/bicyclist to hang out and take a break from hotels and bars.
Plus, Mike cooks a mean brisket and ribs and has 2 cute cats!
Tomorrow I head over to Manitou Springs and, weather holding, tackle Pike’s Peak on Monday.
After working my way up in altitude (10K a couple times, 12K on Trail Ridge Rd) – time for one of the 14ers, Mt Evans, the highest paved road in the US at around 14,200 feet.
This is also a pretty tough climb, even without the altitude – it is long (27 miles) and a solid 6700 feet of ascent, at my “easy” pace of roughly 2000 feet per hour, that’s 3.5 hours of continuous climbing. Definitely the most difficult climb of this trip.
The weather report the night before was a bit dodgy – calling for 40% chance of rain and up to a quarter inch of precipitation. I had already decided I was going for it and if it got ugly, turn around. Mountain weather is very unpredictable.
I “slept in” until 5, checked the forecast, and things had improved – now calling for mostly clear conditions until the afternoon. The downside of the clearing conditions was the summit was forecast to be 35 degrees.
Headed out – the first half of the climb is on a highway, big shoulders and sweeping turns (and more “MOTORCYLCES USE EXTREME CAUTION” signs.. since I wasn’t on my motorcycle, I guess I didn’t need to use caution.)
After turning right at Echo Lake, you take a much narrower and bumpier road for another 14 miles that gets narrower and bumpier as you go along – there tend to be large expansion cracks every 30 or 40 feet.. ker-thunk ker-thunk ker-thunk the whole way up. I saw a single lone deer along this stretch, and lots of the arctic tundra marmots, that sort of look like fat prairie dogs with bushy tails.
Around 13K, the weather started getting a bit more ominous, but never actually rained.. but those wet clouds are colllllld.
The last 1000 feet of ascent was.. pretty rough. Having roughly 40% less oxygen is definitely something you notice, but luckily I didn’t seem to have any other altitude sickness issues, not even the vague nausea I had felt a few times before. But you definitely feel.. odd. Even just grabbing a water bottle would leave me breathing extra hard.
Last set of stacked switchbacks that take you to the summit
By now the wind and clouds had picked up, so I knew the descent was going to be chilly. I didn’t bring any legitimate winter thermal clothes – just some toe covers, wind jacket and my buff (neck/face gaitor) to keep my face from getting frozen.
I settled for riding until I couldn’t feel my fingers, then I would stop for a bit and let them thaw out. That was okay since the expansion gaps were even more punishing on the way down – KERTHUNK KERTHUNK KERTHUNK!
The wind had also picked up a bit, and I sure wasn’t going to ride right on the edge of the road. Once down to the highway, things were easier, it’s just a long long way down!
This was the first climb on this trip I’d say was challenging for climb difficulty reasons vs. cows or wind or whatever. The cold also seemed to really suck the life outta me.
Pike’s Peak is even more difficult – it is another 1300 feet of ascent, and 4 miles shorter (so steeper average grade.) That’s definitely the “queen stage” of this trip, so I’m going to take the weekend off and plan to ride it on Monday.
Nothing real exciting to report – you can get to Idaho Falls from Estes Park by dropping back into the flat lands and taking the superslab, or you can take some of the back roads.
The weather was pretty much perfect (finally, the first day of good weather!) which was good because it is also the season of road construction, so I sat in several lines of cars waiting for 1 way traffic control.
Amusingly, the entire byway has signs posted every so often that say “MOTORCYCLES USE EXTREME CAUTION”
Even after using extreme caution for 90 miles, I still can’t figure out what the signs are cautioning about. It’s good pavement, well signed, etc. The only thing I can figure is that it is open range and heavily populated by moose and mountain goat?
In any case, the ride was fine and beat the freeway for sure. It was a short leg so as usual, I didn’t take any pictures. Here’s one of the bike in the hotel parking lot.
Tomorrow is Mt Evans, first trip up near 14,000 feet. Weather calls for some sprinkles off and on, but nothing too bad and no crazy wind or major thunderstorms.
Juggling my schedule around the weather, I decided to spend another day in Estes Park. I had dreams of tackling the old dirt road that was replaced by Trail Ridge, but I woke up late, it was raining, and was probably even harder than doing the paved road, much less doing it in the mud.
Plus then I’d probably have to wash my bike, and I hate washing bikes.
The light, but steady rain meant I wasn’t tackling any high passes, so I decided to go down Hwy 34 aka Big Thompson canyon, a relatively sedate 44 miles and 2600 feet of ascent.
Traffic was moderate but generally the shoulder was sufficient to leave room for cars, and nothing very technical or challenging even with the wet roads.
Since I was Just Riding Along, I headed to a shopping center and a sign told me I needed pie, so I stopped for breakfast.
Headed back to the hotel and hit up a local bicycle/coffee place, they have TWO Slayer espresso machines, and I hadn’t had a good coffee in 2 weeks.
Rolled back to the hotel, still pretty wet and rainy.
Will spend the rest of the day doing laundry and getting organized for the next two big climbs.
Current plan is Idaho Falls tomorrow and ride Mt Evans on Friday (Saturday is the official Mt Evans Hill Climb race, so I expect Idaho Falls will be filled with cyclists.)
I chose this climb because it would put me at a new altitude record for bicycling – approximately 12,400 feet above sea level. It also crosses over the continental divide, which is pretty neat.
Mt Evans and Pikes’ Peak are both around 14,000. So if things went poorly on Trail Ridge, I knew I should not attempt those (or attempting my white whale – the full Mauna Kea in Hawaii.)
Technically you can start this climb down in the actual valley, and turn it into a 7500+ foot ascent, but since this was supposed to be a warm up ride for Evans/Pikes, I opted to leave from Estes Park, which has the added bonus of a breakfast place I can park at, so I can eat pancakes when I’m done riding.
I was obviously not on my game this morning, since it took me until 6 AM to get kitted up in the parking lot. Then I forgot to start my bike computer. Then I got .8 miles in and realized I left my camelbak hanging on my motorcycle.
So on my 3rd attempt of starting the climb, I headed up.
The first 2000+ feet are pretty much.. tree tunnels. Not much to be seen except the epic huge mountains in the background, and increasingly dire warnings about changing conditions. I was pretty much surrounded by dark clouds, and you could see lots of puddles from the previous day’s precipitation. I REALLY didn’t want to do the descent in the rain.
Around 11,000 feet.. you hit some gaps in the mountain, turns out, this is the divide. Apparently the west and the east weather systems are fighting it out, because the wind turned REAL gusty.
WIFE: STOP READING HERE
Alright, if you’re not my wife who worries about me – it was probably 40+ mph gusts for about 10 minutes. One picked me up and moved me a good 8 feet to the left – luckily to the side where there was mountain and not cliff.
I definitely was having second thoughts and considered turning around (since there was still another 30 or 40 minutes of climbing.)
Luckily by the time I was done waffling, some trees sprang up again to block the wind, and it wasn’t bad the rest of the way up. I suspect it’s just that continental divide thing.
Once you get up past 11,000 or so, it turns into the now familiar arctic tundra.
There was actually another deer RIGHT on the shoulder, giving me the eyeball.. once again, no picture as I tried to figure out how to get past an animal larger than my motorcycle. Then I noticed it was chewing on a candy bar wrapper, so I figured it was distracted by whatever delicious treat an idiot tourist gave it. TOURISTS: WILD ANIMALS WILL KILL YOU, DO NOT FEED THEM. So dumb.
I continued over the summit (no sign?!?!) and down a bit of descent to a turnout area, there’s a paved trail that leads up a bit from here, so I decided to go up it – here I finally got to use my granny gear, as it was 15%+ in spots. Also a good test at 12,000 feet if I could power through something like that.
Generally I felt ok, slightly nauseated again – but hard to tell if that is altitude or just too many Pop Tarts and Lifesaver gummies. No dizziness or vertigo or anything like that.
My heart rate behaved much better – barely creeping up around 80% once I got over 10,000 feet, lowering my cadence seems to help significantly.
Alright, now the descent.. if my wife is still reading this she should stop again.
While I was dawdling at the summit, the weather degraded, it was now 25+mph pretty continuously, and the divide section was.. not good.
The only good part was that traffic going down was still quite light, while going up there was a steady stream of cars throwing off turbulance. But at least I could claim the whole lane – which was good, because I needed it – between the wind changing directions as I rounded switchbacks, and then the extra 40+ mph gusts coming through the divide, I was all over the road.
Thankfully it had not started to rain yet. After that andrenaline and white knuckle first 2000 feet, I pulled over and took a breather before tackling the rest.
The rest of the descent was also no fun, but not as scary, just very unpleasant. I meant to stop a few places and take more pictures – then another gust would pick me up and I’d change my mind.
I coasted into the breakfast place and got my victory pancakes, relatively confident I can attempt Evans and Pike’s Peak without immediate altitude sickness, assuming I can find an acceptable weather window.
500 miles, all motorcycling today, with the added excitement of random thunderstorm warnings.
The mosquitos would just not quit, even at 5:30 in the morning and at the Wyoming gas stations, I hope Colorado mosquitos are not as vicious.
Leaving Greybull is a bunch of secondary highway, which isn’t bad, then you connect through Windriver Canyon, which is very impressive and worth the trip – I was being chased by thunderstorms, so no pictures. The heat was cranking up again too, so unfortunately I could not stop at Thermopolis (“largest hot spring in the world” scrawled on a mountain with a big arrow) – it did look pretty big from the highway!
Unfortunately after that bit of excitement, my GPS beeped and said “Continue 238 miles on Highway 20”
I won’t say it is as bad as the high desert droning, since the scenery does change a bit and there are a few small towns descending into Ghost Town status.. but it was still pretty rough.
After a long, long time, I got into Loveland and it was 96 and humid. Even worse weather than where I was! Ugh.
The road to Estes Park goes through Big Thompson Canyon, which snakes along a river – it would be a very entertaining motorcycle road (ie, roller coaster) but it is also a heavy tourist corridor, so I settled for enjoying the scenery – steep rocky gorges and other interesting formations.
Lots of thunderstorming going on, but at least that is cooling things off.
Tomorrow my first trip above 12,000 feet before tackling Mt Evans & Pike’s Peak (14,000 each)
3rd climb in 3 days, pretty tired. Also, mosquito bites.. a lot of mosquito bites. Wyoming mosquitos are hungry hungry hungry. I stopped counting after 30 red bite marks, I am not looking forward to the next few days of itching.
Granite Pass is the other side of Hwy 14A, creatively named Hwy 14, it is not particularly steep, but makes up for it in scenery.
I got out around 5ish, motorcycled 15 miles to the tiny town of Shell, I decided to park “in town” in a pitiful attempt to avoid the voracious roadside mosquitos I encountered on the other side of the park, but it meant an extra 10 miles of valley road.
Once you make the turn into the canyon, the views get very impressive. Definitely the highlight of the trip so far, scenery-wise.
The canyon section is all 5-8% grades, nothing too crazy but reasonably challenging with my tired legs.
The next phase of the climb takes you up through the woods, along Shell creek.
Unfortunately, after this it is another 8 miles of 3-4% grade, that goes on forever. With the added bonus that the wind died, which meant, more mosquitos.
After grinding away and being gnawed on for another 45 minutes, you reach the summit after another annoying false flat.
Because of the gradual grades, the descent takes a long, long time. Probably over 45 minutes. The plateau section was so boring I felt myself zoning out, which is never a good idea when traveling a 35 mph in spandex.
The way up had very little traffic, but the way down started getting a few tourists and tour buses, so I pulled over a few times to get a gap – riding your brakes down a steep mountain is a good way to not have brakes.
I reached the valley floor, and it was already 90 degrees at 10:30 AM. This weather is ridiculous. Quickly loaded up and headed back to the hotel.
Tomorrow is a long motorcycle leg – nearly 500 miles to Estes Park Colorado, where the weather is calling for measurable rain and thunderstorms pretty much every day except Tuesday. So I may be tackling Trail Ridge sooner than I planned, hopefully my legs recover enough to tackle its 12,000 foot summit.
Hwy 14A (“Alternate”) is a challenging and remote climb that is inconveniently located, you can’t really ride to it easily, there’s no nearby hotel, etc.
Due to the weather situation, it was on the list to be cut unless I was feeling good after climbing the Beartooth, as noted, the Beartooth was a pretty gradual climb, so when I woke up this morning I decided to go for it:
Load up, motorcycle 1.5 hours to the base of the climb, ride up mountain, motorcycle another 45 minutes to Greybull, WY.
I woke up at 4 AM (ouch), loaded everything up and headed to the base of the climb in the valley.
First surprise: It takes me 30 minutes to swap from motorcycle to bicycle. Which is apparently roughly the amount of time for the entire state of Wyoming’s mosquito population to find me. I was frantically swatting, assembling, and wiping on insect repellent. I’ll know tomorrow how badly I was mauled.
Here’s my standard “where I abandoned my motorcycle” picture, which I suppose might also be useful for insurance purposes.
Once again the climb starts with a few miles of 2-4% grades, and then kicks up to 5 or 6%.
Then you go around a corner and see what you’re facing.
From here on out, it’s pretty much 10% with a few false flats thrown in.
Interestingly, I STILL haven’t needed to use my granny gear.. although admittedly 30-36 is my next lowest gear and I used that the whole time.
I went around another switchback, and encountered a bunch of cowboys on horses.. and.. cows. I assumed they were moving them across the road to another field or something.
Once they moved out of the way, I resumed my ascent.
This another summit where there’s a slight downhill and then the final 2 mile up hill, which is very annoying.
The top part pretty much meanders through the Big Horn National Forest, and is very green, cooler, and full of mosquitos that would find me every time the wind died.
After getting to the REAL summit, I enjoyed the warning sign about the descent – I guess Wyoming wants you to take it seriously!
This is definitely a bit sketchy – it is easy to hit 50+ mph on roads this steep, even sitting up and trying to catch as much wind as possible.
And, unfortunately a few minutes into the descent, I encountered this scene.
Turns out, those cowboys were actually moving their herd of cattle from the valley, to the upper pastures. Up the crazy road I just pedaled up!
There was, literally, no where to go.. so me and a few cars just sat on the side of the road waiting for the cowboys to figure out how to herd the cows past us.
Mostly I just hoped none of the cows would hit me.
After 100s of cows mooed their way past, I resumed the descent, now with the added excitement of 100s of piles of cow excrement and cow pee (and when a cow pees, it’s a lot of pee!)
Hitting a fresh cow pie at 50 mph is a recipe for something really really bad, so it was a bit like an unpleasant video game: try not to melt your brakes and try not to hit cow pies.
I made it down to mosquito land and gave up on the idea of changing out of my bike clothes before heading to the hotel – taking off any garments seemed exceedingly unwise given the swarming bugs.
I loaded up in a frenzy of swatting and stopped in Lovell for a gatorade and a snack and headed to Greybull, WY another 45 minutes away.
Assuming I continue to feel good, it’s another short motorcycle jaunt to the base of Granite Pass on the other side of the Big Horn National Forest. 3 climbs in 3 days is ambitious, but the weather down in Colorado is looking kind of dodgy, so I’m expecting a few rest days scattered in there.
Hopefully the mosquitos are not as fierce tomorrow!
After idling around Red Lodge, I was feeling antsy to do something, I am not great at doing nothing.
Since this climb starts pretty much from the hotel I am staying at, there was no real reason to roll out super early, so originally I was going to ride at 7:30, but after my experience on the motorcycle with the tourists, I went ahead and stuck to my early riding schedule and got out around 6.
Technically the road is “closed” until 8 AM according to the signage, for road work.. but I felt like it was a reasonable gamble. Nothing on this side of the pass looked like it needed eminent repair.
This a long climb – 30 miles, I haven’t done a sustained climb that long since Haleakala in Hawaii, but it is also not very steep. It also ends about 900 feet higher than Haleakala.
The first hour takes you along the valley floor, at a very gradual 3-5% grade before turning up. What’s sort of weird is right out the door my heart rate was elevated, I don’t know what your body needs to do to get acclimated to elevation, but I hope it gets onto it quickly.
There was very little wind, and pretty much zero traffic (!) – I took most of my photos on the way up, which usually I don’t do – figuring there would be more traffic later and I wouldn’t want to mix it up with cars descending at 35+ mph over and over while taking photos. That added about 20 minutes to my climb time, but hey, I’m a tourist here anyways.
After nearly an hour of 3-5%, you can start seeing where you’re headed, and things get more serious.. but not a lot more serious. The big switchbacks mean the grade never gets too fierce. This is the 2nd climb I didn’t touch my granny gear!
Shortly after leaving Montana, you reach false summit with a ski left. Unfortunately, you get to do a 1.5 mile descent before the final, REAL summit of the pass. The whole plateau section is pretty rough, since you’re well over 10,000 feet, and it goes on and on.
Finally, you get a view of the final set of swithbacks that take you to the true summit.
I hiked out to a small overlook that lets you peek over the other side (after attempting to ride through some snow and mud, which is apparently tricky)
Obligatory hero shots below – there were tourists who could take my picture so I get to be in these ones.
After returning the favor and taking a few other people’s pictures (and being told I am a lunatic several times, but I’m used to that part) – I put on my windbreaker and started the descent, including wallowing up that annoying 1.5 mile descent to the false summit.
On the way down, there was a herd of mountain goats right near the road, so I stopped briefly to take their picture.
The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful – since the grades on the descent are pretty mild, you can pretty much just air brake the whole way down, I barely touched my brakes after the goats! And, amusingly, despite my car concerns, not a single car passed me until the valley floor.
Tomorrow I end up in Greybull, Wyoming. Undecided yet on when (or which) climb I will be doing.
After I updated yesterday, the thunderstorms rolled through in earnest, with legitimate rain and thunder, lightning and wind. Today’s forecast looked similarly bad, and I had no interest in tackling the ‘tooth in rainy, blustery conditions. Tomorrow is looking reasonable, so I decided to take a rest day – do some minor bicycle maintenance, adjust the chain on the motorcycle, check the oil, etc.
I spent the day puttering around Redlodge on my bicycle, acquiring breakfast for tomorrow, snacks, coffee, etc. As usual, finding food that wasn’t grilled or deep fried was a bit tricky. But it was a pleasure to be outside in reasonable temperatures instead of hiding from 95+ after noon time.
Assuming the weather holds, I’ll be headed to Greybull to tackle Granite Pass and Hwy 14 alt back-to-back. That would be 3 of the top 100 climbs in 4 days. I’m hoping the shorter motorcycle legs will mean I’m less beat down!
The weather remains the wild card, yesterday Shell, WY had flash flood warnings and 50 mph wind warnings – that’s the start of the Granite Pass climb, so we’ll see which way the weather whims go.
Another scorcher on deck.. 102+ forecast, time to get out of town. My destination being Redlodge Montana, pretty much the only place under 90 degrees in a 500 mile radius.
My route called for going through Yellowstone, since I had never been.. but to get to Red Lodge, you must go over Bear Tooth Pass (11,000 feet) – the weather, to say the least, can be “uncertain.”
Checking the night before, called for rain, lightning, and gusty 40 mph wind, so Plan B was more likely: Droning to Bozeman and going in the back way. 500 miles of mostly boring highway.
Woke up at 4 AM and checked the forecast.. now calling for only 20% chance and no thunderstorms.
Decided to get to the Yellowstone turn off and decide then.
Fueled up on waffles and a biscuit (Super8 – breakfast at 4 AM!) and headed out.
Do you want to hear more about how boring southern Idaho freeways are? I can see why everyone rides Harleys. At least on pavement, there is really no reason to have a motorcycle.
US 20 coming right into Yellowstone city was, of course, under construction, so the last 10 miles took 45 minutes.
I checked the weather forecast and it got a bit worse.. now calling for thunderstorms by 2 PM, along with the gusty wind.
However after hours of soul killing freeway, I was feeling optimistic.
I headed into Yellowstone and it was… pretty nice.
Mostly the roads wind through “tree tunnels” – you can’t really see much, and the obvious tourist pull outs are SWAMPED. In those areas you gotta be in full fighter pilot mode to not be murdered.
Getting through the park was slow going, lots of tourists being tourists, and lots of flat landers not knowing how to accelerate when they encounter a hill.
It got extra slow when a couple of lazy buffalo decided to walk on the road instead of in a pasture some where. Everybody was just stopped.. waiting for buffalo to walk by their cars.
Or in my case, waiting to goose the throttle if they decided they didn’t like me, which is why there is no picture of the buffalo (the craziest stuff never gets a picture.)
After several hours of battling the tourists, I reached the turn off that takes you up to the pass, met some locals and asked about the weather. Conclusion: could be anything, but thunderstorms are pretty much an every day thing this time of year.
I shrugged and headed off through the valley floor – which had hundreds of buffalo, but thankfully, far away from the road.
Once the road started turning up, things cooled down, which was nice. But then I noticed some rather ominous clouds up above, which was not.
Things continued to degrade. Above 9000 feet, you’re basically riding a ribbon of asphalt up the mountain, with many many 20 mph switchbacks. Now add gusty wind coming at random angles, and no shoulder, and tourists going over the double yellow line.
For an hour or two. It was exhausting and precarious. Toward the top, the wind gusts were pretty bad, to the point I was getting angry with the slow tourists since spinning wheels help keep your motorcycle up. 5 mph means “blown over” – which sounded distinctly unfun.
The scenery, however, was epic. Alaska-scale epic. You’ll just have to Google Image search “Bear Tooth Pass” because I was too busy trying not to crash, die, or get struck by lightning (did I mention my bicycle sticks 7 feet up in the air?) to take any pictures.
RIGHT after I started the descent, a flash of lightning went off behind me, so yeah, no pictures.
Instead, here’s a picture of a golden retriever in a wagon I met at the gas station. He had 3 legs, so when he gets tired, they carry him in a wagon.
Finally, time to bicycle! I chose Mount Harrison in Idaho has my first climb because of the remoteness from other climbs, since I am unlikely to be bicycling through again. The downside is they don’t plow this road, they just wait for it to thaw out, and as of 2 days ago, no one had managed to make it past all the snow.
I set the alarm for 4:30 (there is a “dangerous heat warning” through Friday for this area) and woke up still feeling very beat up from the 1000 miles of motorcycling and my squished/cut up toe. I decided to be optimistic that bicycling up a 9000 foot tall mountain would be a “recovery” ride. I got my stuff together, rode to Albion, ID and unloaded at a gas station/convenience mart (side note: I wish I had stayed in Albion, it’s a nice little town and not as busy as the highway corridor.)
After spending a few miles along the valley floor, you reach the ski area turn off.
The ascent is gradual and mostly pastural and then becomes a bit more alpine-ish.
I saw my first snow around 7400 feet, and this was also where I started noticing that I like air. I spent the past two nights around 4500 feet, but I watched my maximum HR percentage (MHR) drift upward as the air got thinner.
Closing in on 8200 foot altitude, there was a 10 foot patch of snow I had to shuffle through – this is the first bike ride I had to kick snow out of my pedal cleats.
A bit further, you can see where you’re headed, then you ’round a bit switchback and.. a bit more snow.. but still passable.
Once more around a couple of switchbacks, and victory!
More motorcycling tomorrow, but definitely feel better with a bike ride and a major climb completed!
You’ll note the lack of a title picture. Today was boring to ride, probably boring to relate, and probably boring to read about. But I’m trying to stay in the habit, so here goes.
I knew today was going to be pretty punishing, even before the heat, even from looking at the route on the map – it looked flat, boring, and straight. Typical high desert high speed droning. Definitely a “getting some where” not a “going some where” situation.
However, I come equipped for this sort of day – My Garmin Zumo has an XM radio, which is usually sufficient entertainment. This is a typical Garmin product, in that it works about 98% of the time, and then that 2% of the time, you scream in rage at it. I have dubbed this “graging.” Anyone with a garmin cyclocomputer that ate their ride data knows what I’m talking about.
In this case, the XM antenna was acting up saying “low” or “no” signal. Usually I bring spares of anything I’d be super sad about losing or breaking – so, books on tape, MP3 player, or something.. but for this trip, I pretty much shed all the extras to fit my bicycle stuff (I do have a spare bike GPS & HR strap – priorities!)
So I was about to face 500 miles of boring horror and started dismantling my electronics to see if it was a bad connection when I remembered: Garmin is incredibly stupid when it comes to Bluetooth.
Previously I had my GPS paired to my phone, but was putting it in Airplane mode to conserve battery life. Could Garmin be so stupid as to screw up their own XM antenna when a Bluetooth pairing is stuck in discovery?
YES GARMIN IS THAT STUPID. I disabled it and had XM radio again.
So, the ride:
The first 100 miles were pretty nice, winding around a couple of lakes out of Lakeview.. then.. it was a 400 mile death march through the high desert.
The only excitement was a couple of cows trying to kill me, leaping randomly like deer, as almost all the open desert is free range, you have to be alert for critters like that.
That’s it, tomorrow I take “the rig” a short ~24 mile jaunt to the start of Mt Harrison for the first bicycling. My toe is still pretty sad, but in typical fashion, I will ignore it.
Around 500 miles on the motorcycle today. Definitely was feeling it around the 400ish mark, going to take a few days to ride into shape.
But the big deal is THE HEAT. It is going to be a big factor for my trip, forecasts are running 10 to 15 degrees above normal.
That makes a slightly unpleasant 85 degree ride into a very unpleasant 95 degree ride or a dangerous 100+ degree ride.
So today’s main goal was: Get past Redding before it hit 105(!)
I got up at 4:30, snuggled all the girls (wife and 2 cats) and headed out.
Since the goal was to make time, I headed for the mind numbing horror of the interstates – 680 to 505 to I5. I5 was the typical soul destroying drudge, but success – it had just hit 88 degrees (around 10 AM) when I turned off on Hwy 299.
299 takes you immediately up into the mountains and things cooled off, generally staying in the mid to upper 80s. Since I was past the risk of Redding, I stopped for lunch and then headed on into Lakeview, Oregon.
Motorcycle seems to be doing fine, but I have managed to slice open my pinky toe bashing it on my SPD pedals after pulling the bicycle off the motorcycle and perching it in my hotel room. Hopefully it will heal up before I start the bicycling.
Due to the heat, it’ll probably be another early early day tomorrow, and probably longer layovers than I originally planned. It pretty much cuts the day in half – no bicycling in the morning and then riding to the next city.
500 more miles to the first climb!
PS, while I was picking up Pop Tarts for the morning, I ran into someone doing the American Trail Race(!) – he was around mile 4,650, making my adventure look a bit shabby! Dylan was currently in the lead and full of energy.
Well, this goes back a bit. I’ve been motorcycling for a while. I’ve been bicycling for a while. ~5 years ago, I spent 4 weeks riding my motorcycle around Canada and Alaska.
As my next 5 year sabbatical approached, I began planning what I thought would be a motorcycle trip down the Continental Divide (from the Canadian border down to Mexico.)
I also started recovering from my latest injury and began bicycling more, culminating in participating in a local hill climb series (shout out to Low Key Hill Climbs!) as well as dropping the latest 30 pounds I gain every time I get injured.
I figured I should use my current cycling form for something, and decided I should at least ride all the top climbs in California this summer. Which lead to John Summerson’s “Complete Guide to Climbing by Bike” book.
Unfortunately for me, I loathe long car road trips.. but I can ride my motorcycle day after day forever, no problem.
A quick Google for “bike racks for motorcycles” turned up the most excellently engineered 2×2 Cycles Rack and a vague sketch of a plan formed in my mind: I would travel around the western US with my motorcycle AND bicycle. Motorcycle to the foot of a remote climb, switch to bicycle, ride it, then switch back! CRAZY!
Crazy enough people said I should blog about my experiences, including my lovely wife. I don’t do Facebook, my Instagramming is inconsistent, and Strava only covers a small aspect of it. Plus, I’m capturing my own learnings and actions as I go along.
So, here it is… count-down to (probably) June. Please leave a comment if you’re interested in any particular aspect of this craziness!
This is, so far, my deeply thought out plan (each balloon or diamond represents a notable climb.)