Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
The nine other guys in the church were all awake by the time I left at 6:30 AM, including Cooper and John. I wonder when they left that day?
Most of the day consisted of a long climb and a long descent, a lot like a few of the days in Colorado. Right at the summit, I met three more Great Divide riders, David, Beth, and Clive, from Australia, Indiana, and Scotland, respectively. Beth was only the second person I've seen pulling a trailer.
Beth mentioned a campground in the Tetons that was more or less directly on the Great Divide route, right next to a lake and with a clear view of the Tetons. This sounded like a better idea than the other one right on a lake and with a clear view of the Tetons, 25 km off-route. All of us went there, but arrived at different times. $15 to enter the park, $11 for hiker/biker camping, each of those per person. It's more if you're in a car. And it doesn't even come with showers, that's extra.
Nice spot though! I'm still confused as to why Yellowstone is more famous than its prettier neighbor. Give me the quiet, smokin' girl next door over the loud, popular homecoming queen.
The mosquitoes were worse that night than ever before, and unlike every other night, they didn't go away after sunset. I cinched my sleeping bag up as tight as I could, leaving a hole just big enough to breathe, and they continued to annihilate my face. After an hour, I got out of my tent and hung out by the latrines until I found someone who would spare me some bug spray. He even let me keep it!
Since I was no longer going to start the next day from 25 km off-route, I decided to get an early start and try to make a big push to get a day ahead.
Crossing from Wyoming into Idaho involved a long, straight road through the woods, in not-so-great condition, but at least it was mostly flat.
Having heard the second half of the day involved a path that was bottomless deep sand, like trying to ride a bike at the beach, I took a detour. Had I not, I'd been told that I'd come to a dead stop every two meters. Instead, I took the Mesa Falls Scenic Byway, and in the process, got to see some cool waterfalls!
The scenic Byway was busy around the waterfalls, but otherwise very quiet. When I got to the main highway, it turned into a zoo. I hadn't realized the small town up ahead was a popular weekend getaway for tubing and fishing. And it was 4th of July weekend. I'd been thinking that maybe this would be a good town to get a $35 motel room, the first of the ride, but quickly dismissed the thought. Luckily, the highway had a shoulder.
Only 120 km of the Great Divide are in Idaho. Today would be my one and only chance for a float in the Gem State. Cream soda this time. I correctly guessed that you don't really notice the flavor of the cream soda against vanilla ice cream, so I got cookies 'n cream, so as not to greatly disturb the traditional soda-and-vanilla combination. It was good, of course, but I think cream soda would do better with chocolate ice cream, or some other flavor with chocolate as its base. Or strawberry ice cream, like a strawberries 'n cream kind of thing. Or why not do both and use neapolitan?
Headed out of town and up the hill, finding myself back in the woods again. After about 10 km, there appeared a ton of RVs and tents. I stopped and asked if you were allowed to tent wherever, and in addition to a response in the affirmative, I received barbecue, beer, s'mores, and an evening of good company. I'm usually in bed by 9:30 PM, but instead stayed up by the campfire until midnight. Evenings like this are the best part of these adventures, and I hardly get to do it often enough. Tyler, Kevin, Todd, Dina, and a few other names that have unfortunately escaped me, thanks for being excellent impromptu hosts.
Despite the late bedtime, I got an early enough start for a big day. Early on, I met four other Great Divide riders, two Swiss going northbound like me, two Coloradans going the other way. One of them was pulling the third trailer I've seen.
Headwind and showers had other ideas when compared to my plans. I got to Lima at 3:00 PM and could've easily kept going, but I was sick of the poor conditions. Also, I'd been needing to send a few messages or at least make a couple calls for a few days now. I hadn't had reliable phone reception since Steamboat Springs, CO, three states ago. For $50 /month, you'd think carriers could manage at least one tower in each town big enough for a grocery store. I quit early and paid $5.35 for camping, both only so I could use the wifi.
Later, the Swiss couple arrived and mostly kept to themselves, though I learned that they'd been on the road together for three years. Two 20-something southbound riders also showed up, one of them a physics teacher. They had started in northern Montana, not quite at the northern terminus, and we're going to see how far south they could make it in the 40 days they had. They had previously hiked the PCT together. I've already been thinking that's the next thing go be crossed off my bucket list, so a lot of questions were asked.
Another early start. Another day without trees. Another afternoon into a devastating west wind. Another day on the high plains.
I spent part of the morning in a canyon, which depending on which way it was pointed at the moment, filtered out some of the wind. Then the landscape opened up and I got it in full force. After cresting a pass, the road turned north, giving me more of a crosswind for the rest of the day, but when it's 40-50 km/h, it's still obnoxious.
Then I got to the next turn. Into the west again. I ducked my head, shifted way down, and prepared for a slow, loud 8 km.
I hate wind. HATE it. It slows you down as much as a hill, there's no downhill on the other side, it makes you cold, it makes it harder to hold a straight line, and it's LOUD. Not to mention it makes doing basic functions, like looking at a map, almost impossible. I've been going into a west wind since entering Wyoming over a week ago. Fortunately, two things are soon to happen:
The route will point north again, and,
I hear there are more trees up ahead.
Once again, I got to my destination mid-afternoon and could've kept going. My arrangements were to camp at someone's house, as they allow Great Divide riders to do so. I called the day before, and they said it would be alright, even though I couldn't get in the house since they'd be gone for the 4th of July. I get the impression that normally you get a shower too, but I made good use of their hose, and there was an outlet on the outside of the house. Glad I stopped there instead of pushing another 50 km to Polaris, where I was unaware of any arrangements. And I'd do the last treeless 50 km in the morning.
I ate a little more than I needed to, read the words of Willie Nelson, and got some rest in a one-horse town in Montana, punctuated by an impressive amateur fireworks display. Happy 4th of July!
from Great Divide