Day 7: HWY 14A to Big Horn National Forest

2 rides in 2 days? That’s crazy talk!

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.

Remember how I said more switchbacks mean more gradual grades? This climb only has a couple, so lonnng 10% sections

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.

Looking back down in the valley
Out over Wyoming

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.

Getting up there

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.

Full of bugs!

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.

Here’s the mayor of Greybull, who also owns the Greybull Hotel (built in 1914) checking me in while sitting in the bank vault from the original building owner.

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!

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