11 Aug 2010, 10:30am
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we’re, like, so high

hello from estes park! yes, we made it over trail ridge road! actually, we totally rocked it. the mountains were freakin’ beautiful, the people we awesome, and we didn’t have to walk at all! (except on lovely little trails off of the road, of course.) we are so strong and fit, we’ve decided we’ve graduated from “team slow and unsteady” to “team slow and steady.” we’re okay with being slow–it gives us more time to look at the scenery! and when you’re still biking into the evening light, oh my gosh, it is exquisite.

our highest point, on one of the little foot trails across the tundra off the road, was over 12,300 feet above sea level. on the downhill bits, when we could spare the breath, we sang “we are the champions.”

best day of the trip?


(our ninth crossing of the continental divide)


(they sold these t-shirts to tourists who DROVE trail ridge road… what?? congratulations, you didn’t drive off the road. i bought one–my purple t-shirt is getting some holes anyway–and wore it all the way down to make ‘em all feel lazy)


(as it got colder and windier, we got pretty ridiculous with our layering. this is bike tourist style!)

bonus pika–

approximately 36,000 gorgeous photos (if i may say so myself) of mountains coming soon (and all those wildflowers and stuff that i promised you).

lots o’ love,
stacia

9 Aug 2010, 12:19pm
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windy wyoming to colorful colorado

yesterday we made up a team chant:

me:
i am slow and he’s unsteady!

a.:
she’s unsteady, and i’m slow!

tutti:
together we’re team slow and unsteady
for mountain passes, we’re sure not ready
most of the time, we’d rather go to beddy
but look out! ’cause team slow and unsteady
will make it someday…

and eventually we did make it over willow creek pass, which actually was not too bad at all and took us through our first forest since grand teton national park… very nice to be back in the trees!

but i’m getting ahead of myself. we’re in colorado! which has a great big satisfying welcome sign at the border:

before all that, though, we rode south from lander. TWO storms our first day out–we sat out the first one at a little rv park with a nice inside area with a couch they let us hang out on, and the second one didn’t hit until we’d made it to our campsite. we fought the wind all day. anyway, you wouldn’t know it from these photos:

we spent the night in sweetwater station, which is not much of anything, but is home to a historic mormon handcart site, complete with camping and a little missionary establishment. definitely takes the cake for most bizarre place we’ve camped so far. they get mormon kids to come out in the summer and camp and actually pull handcarts on, i guess, part of the historic mormon trail. plus, all the kids wear pioneer clothes, sort of. it was great; i shared the women’s restroom with teenage girls with braces wearing flannel pj pants underneath their long skirts and aprons. everyone was very nice and they mostly left us to ourselves.


(home sweet tent)

the next day was a long one (85+ miles) to rawlins.

jeffrey city is about 20 miles past sweetwater station. we’d been hearing for weeks about jeffrey city… mostly, “avoid it.” it used to be a booming uranium mining town, but when that boom went bust in the early 80’s, it went from being a town of 4000 people to a town of not very many at all. everyone told us the owner of the cafe (the only game in town) was pretty hostile. we mostly just rode on through, but it was interesting to see a different kind of ghost town.

then…


(split rock)

somewhere in here when we stopped for a snack near muddy gap, we met westbound cyclists stephen and erica, who, like (i swear) at least half the young westbounders we’ve met, are moving to portland (from virginia in this case).

another continental divide crossing–

in lamont, home of not much other than “grandma’s cafe” (we got a milkshake), we met rita, badass solo female cyclist who left yorktown, virginia, on july freakin’ 7th. impressive! and check out her homemade rear panniers…

yet another continental divide crossing–

in rawlins, we met a few other bike tourists, including a guy who is biking to palo alto with, apparently, all his earthly possessions (he had four panniers and a huge trailer). also aidan and amanda. aidan is from ireland and is on an epic around-the-world journey; he’s been all kinds of amazing places. his blog is at acousticmotorbike.com (i love it)… check out his photo of the storm that hovered near our campground at sunset (scroll down on that page).

the next day we went to saratoga. we had to ride on the interstate for about thirteen miles from a little outside of rawlins, but it wasn’t too bad–big, wide shoulders with rumble strips between us and the huge trucks that rushed past at 80 mph. a lot of getting over fears seems to be desensitization. a couple more thunderstorms and i’ll be totally over ‘em.


(instead of “next 5 miles,” it should say “throughout wyoming”)

saratoga was wonderful, as mentioned. sorry no photos of the hot springs. you’ll have to take my word for it that they are WONDERFUL. did i mention that they are totally free and open 24 hours a day?

ahem. wyoming, where even the grocery stores are full of taxidermy:

it really was a perfectly ordinary grocery store otherwise.

in the morning we pedaled off towards the border. in riverside, wyoming, we met another eastbounder(!) who seemed to have very little interest in chatting with us. our first unfriendly transam-er! oh well. he passed us not too far out of town and we haven’t seen him since.

unfortunately the wind did not cease abruptly at the state line, but the scenery did change pretty quickly…

and the mountains!!

met another epic bike adventurer, ben, not too far from walden, where we camped in the city park for the night. his blog: ben voyage… like bon voyage, get it? i love puns. actually, there have been some pretty great puns on this trip. they don’t shy away from them in small towns. one of my favorites: wildflour bakery, in lander.

walden has seen better days but manages to support not one but two thriving liquor stores. and, of course, a cafe with an antler chandelier:

i’m gonna leave it at that for now ’cause we ought to head on to grand lake pretty soon. here’s what you have to look forward to in the next installment of our big bike adventure: wildflowers galore, our eighth crossing of the continental divide, hot sulphur springs (oh la la), a cafe called the glory hole, and a chain of convenience stores called kum-and-go (you can’t make this stuff up).

we’re off route today and for the rest of a.’s trip–we’re riding up to grand lake today and then tomorrow we’re taking trail ridge road through rocky mountain national park, over a pass that’s over 12,000 feet (highest paved pass in north america, or so we hear). we have been psyching ourselves up for it for weeks, since we got the idea to bike to boulder (rather than put a. on a bus to denver in some tiny town somewhere). we’ll stop either in estes park or lyons tomorrow night and go to boulder the next day. we’ll hang out there until a. goes home, and then i’m going to bike up to loveland to visit my friend k. on the farm where she lives and works. from there, i’m not sure how i’m getting back to the transamerica trail… i’ll figure it out. seems like forever from now! but we’re almost to boulder, really. dang.

7 Aug 2010, 4:56am
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springs

we weren’t going to stop here in saratoga, wyoming–we were going to go all the way to riverside today–but once we turned south the wind was just awful and my knees have been bothering me besides. so we stopped in saratoga and treated ourselves to a motel room (the campground is way on the edge of town), watched pulp fiction on tv, and walked the couple blocks to the saratoga hot springs. it’s got two concrete pools: one warm, one hot hot HOT with an even hotter little pool at one end, defined by rocks around it, that’s theoretically 120 degrees or so… we didn’t even dip our toes in that bit. and then there’s hot water running right into the river that runs right by the pools, and they’ve got rocks and sandbags creating little pools right there in the river that are Perfect, and the sun set while we soaked and chatted with a contingent of kids and adults from a taekwondo camp down the road, milo from laramie, and rosemary and joe from boulder (who offered us a place to stay when we get there). so glad we stopped!

more later (it’s always “more later”)… ’cause we took a short day yesterday, we’ve got a long-ish day today, to walden, colorado, and we’re trying to leave early to beat the wind.

oh, wanted to say thanks to liz, mom, grampa and bami, and alice for the general delivery goodies and postcards in lander. much appreciated! if by chance you sent something and you’re not on that list, let me know; someone told me i can get things forwarded to another post office for free.

also, i remembered this:

I returned to stalking the wild universe.

Final question, if you please. How do I stop being afraid?

‘Know that there is no safety anywhere. There never was and there never will be. Stop looking for it. Live with a fierce intent to waste nothing of yourself or life.’

There was one final message.

‘Turn fear around. Its other face is excitement.’

(from PiHKAL)

repeat as needed.

yup, i am pretty excited, too.

4 Aug 2010, 7:15am
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lander, wyoming (and Fear)

dubois to lander–


(crowheart butte)


(mean ol’ thundercloud)

we met two solo cyclists this day. the first had taken his sweet time–he left from virginia in early may and was having the time of his life. the second had managed to get here in 40-some days but was not having so much fun and was actually trying to figure out a shortcut to the coast (skipping montana). “i’m not really much of a cyclist,” he said. i guess he was lonely.

there were also hundreds of grasshoppers on the road. when we cycled down the shoulder it was like parting the red sea as they jumped to escape our wheels. some of them seemed pretty determined to jump into our spokes, though, and i’d say that at least 70% of the ones we saw were dead.

and, of course, the storms… you guys, thunderstorms are really scary! especially when there’s nothing but distant hills and you’re the tallest thing around, rolling along on a piece of metal. according to the folks we met in grand teton, someone on the transam trail was killed by a lightening strike earlier this summer. um, not sure how to corroborate that, but it sure gives me the shivers. seems like there’s been a thunderstorm daily since we’ve been in wyoming, though at least they’ve often been in the evening when we’re in or near shelter. i fear(!) that my fears will be downright paralyzing when i’m on my own. aren’t there, like, tornadoes in kansas? this is my biggest struggle right now. ALL the fears. what is rational and what is not?

i get my horoscope from rob brezsny in my email every week; regardless of what you may think about astrology, he’s an entertaining writer and he always gives good advice. yesterday i got this from him:

CANCER (June 21-July 22): August is Banish Your Superstitions Month,
Cancerian. To celebrate this auspicious festival, purge yourself of every
irrational belief and unfounded fear you can stand to live without. But also
keep in mind that you may have to keep a crazy delusion or two, at least
for a while. You’ve become so used to your chronic anxiety that it might
be risky to get rid of it all at once. So proceed deliberately, casting off
one false belief today and another quaint fallacy tomorrow and a third
rotten figment of your imagination next week. By September 1, you may
be surprised to see how high you’ve ratcheted up your level of
fearlessness.

yes, this is an obvious and immediately applicable thing for me to work on. but really guys, these thunderstorms are nuts. i don’t wanna be electrified. except in a metaphorical sense. and bears, oh wow. and so on and so forth…

when i get done with this trip, i want to take a wilderness first responder (wilderness medicine) course. i had a dream a week or so ago about it–well, i dreamt i was acting as a medic with only my expired lifeguard certification to help me–and that plus the fact that i was actually sort of wanting to take one this spring but decided against spending the money it costs suggests to me that i should. plus i feel like it might help me get a handle on my fears, and since i have all kinds of travel ideas and dreams and wilderness-y ventures swimming around in my head at the moment… well i don’t want to be afraid, and i think it would help to learn some worst-case scenario coping mechanisms, so instead of thinking “i’m going to die,” i can think, “i’m going to elevate this limb and apply pressure…” or whatever. right?

in the meantime, though, i sleep with my bear spray and my cell phone.

friends and readers, how do YOU deal with fears of the rational and irrational varieties that threaten to keep you from doing something you really want to do?

anyway. we’ve been in lander since sunday evening, staying with a couchsurfing host, juan, at his “junkyard museum and home for retired bums.” we spent monday hanging around lander at the city park and at a coffeeshop that serves stumptown coffee and plays indie rock music… a little bit of home in the middle of wyoming!

lander is also the home of nols (national outdoor leadership school). we visited their headquarters and picked up a copy of their trip catalog and now my daydreams are full of patagonian backpacking expeditions and rocky mountain horsepacking(!) and so on… (see what i mean? i just wanna get past my fears and into the life of my dreams.)

turns out there’s no tourist-y horseback riding or river rafting to be found (it’s not enough of a tourist town. maybe we can find something in colorado), but everyone kept telling us we should go visit sinks canyon, eight miles outside of town, so yesterday we did.

on the way out of town–

the canyon–

sinks canyon is so called because the popo agie river at one point in it disappears into underground fissures (the “sinks”) and reappears a quarter-mile downstream several hours later (the “rise”). the pool of water at the rise is full of very happy trout–fishing is not allowed, and tourists like to throw food to them off the observation deck (there’s even a little fish food vending machine).

the sinks–


(uh, dang. check out my calves)

heading back into town–