Day 8 - Cody, Wyoming to Sheridan, Wyoming
was the day many riders had looked forward to and also dreaded
from the beginning of the trip. An article in our training literature
talked about this incredible hail storm that blew up from nowhere
to make this day the most memorable of the trip last year. Instructions
on the white board that morning said to bring a jacket for variable
weather conditions on the top, and to enjoy the first 60 miles
of gradual downhill, because the 30 mile 6000+ foot climb to the
top would take most riders about 4 hours.
I was a bit intimidated by the whole thing. It sounded like the
Assault on Mt. Mitchell, plus 60 miles, all after wearing myself
out overtraining for a week prior. And that's exactly what it
was! We really did have an ever-so-gradual-downhill for the first
60 miles, that unfortunately was tempered by a headwind for the
last 20. That and this view of the darn thing we were about to
climb. It was enormous. It took up the entire horizon. Well, almost.
It became clear that we could have ridden around it. We were definitely
going out of our way to climb this thing, and it was big.
What we at first thought was the top, was not. What we later thought
was the top, was not. What we had thought were clouds was really
the mountain. I stopped to take a few pictures. Looking at my
altimeter, I discovered that we had already been doing quite a
bit of climbing, but now it was going to get steep. It was just
before we hit the steep stuff that we reached the second snack
I peeled most
of my clothing here, and asked Ed Haldeman, Lon's dad, to put
some sunscreen on my shoulders. Ed almost put Phil, the masseur,
out of business as he gave me a great shoulder massage in addition
to putting on the sunscreen. I didn't want to leave the snack
stop, but I would never make it up the mountain if I didn't start.
I decided to stop for a photo every 500 vertical feet. I would
make sure that the victims of my slide show this winter knew how
much and how long I suffered climbing this beast. Unlike many
of the riders, I brought seriously low gears, so I knew that ever
so slowly, I would make it. (Out of 52 riders, 9 singles and the
two tandems had triple cranks - on this day, many more wished
for them. )
I reached my first cattle guard, a trough in the road with a
metal grate covering it. I decided I was riding too slow to safely
ride across, so I dismounted and walked the bike over. Walking
felt good, but just then Marty rounded the bend and told me lunch
was just a few hundred feet ahead. Great, I thought. Lunch
is at the top. So I hopped back on the bike and road around
the corner to find lunch, but not the top. The van and
trailer had overheated and stopped about 1/3 of the way up. Lunch
was definitely here, but the top was still quite some distance
The U-Haul was
stuck even further down the mountain, and Lon headed back down
to drive it around the mountain. Lon and Rebecca, his 6 year old
daughter had already climbed to the top on her tandem. Rumor had
it that they humiliated the singles trying to stay with them!
I rolled out of lunch with Jane and Seth. With my triple I was
spinning happily away as they stood and slowly turned their legs
around making the bikes move a few inches a minute. It felt good
to stay with such strong riders, although I should say that Jane
had just recovered from the flu, and Seth had been in a bad crash
two days before. The top seemed to get farther and farther away,
and several false summits had resulted in squeals of joy from
me, only to prove to be not the top. Even the top was not
the top. We reached a parking lot with an enormous sign warning
of steep descents ahead (which was behind) and showing three long
sections of 10% grades. I got a picture with me holding my bike
at the slop indicated on the sign! A few minutes later the lunch
van rolled up. They had finally gotten it to start. The U-Haul
was going around the mountain. I mumbled something about having
to do a climb that even the sag vehicles couldn't. A few riders
got shuttled up in the caravan, the one vehicle that could handle
the climbing. A few others walked, but most slogged along on our
We continued climbing at a more gradual rate until we finally
reached an elevation sign of 9500 feet. The downhill that followed
was a disappointment. It was fun, but not 6000 feet. Then we began
climbing again to the final snack stop, where we were told
that the best descent of the entire trip was lying just ahead.
And they were right. It was twisty with lots of switchbacks, and
it went on and on and on, and I had a blast.
Ray and I rode
most of the day together or within sight of each other. At the
last rest stop we both talked to Marty and Lisa about snack stop
food. Lunches were really great, but snacks were usually only
cookies, soft drinks, bananas and granola bars. I needed more.
I had started taking extra Pop Tarts (if Ed Kross can do RAAM
on them, why not?) in the morning for snacks, but I really wanted
something more substantial like bagels or peanut butter sandwiches.
I didn't start the ride with any weight to lose and I was having
trouble getting enough calories in during the day. Marty suggested
talking to Lon, but also suggested doubling dinner. He said to
stop for something on my way in and then have another full dinner
later. So Ray and I took his advice and stopped at McDonald's
for milkshakes, chicken fajitas and french fries. I also later
talked to Lon and more food did appear at the snack stops. The
double meal idea really did help, and I soon got in the habit
of having at least a milkshake or a Dairy Queen Blizzard near
the end of the ride, and eating constantly throughout the evening.
According to the scales, I only lost two pounds during the month,
but I did drop a full dress size. I know I could get lynched for
this, but I had just bought new clothes thanks to the weight loss
from training for the ride, and I returned home to these clothes
being baggy. Of course my new eating habits will take care of
that very soon.
After getting my massage that evening, Fred Matheny, one of the
Bicycling editors on the ride asked me lots of questions and took
notes on my answers. It wasn't until he said, "Thanks for
the interview." that I realized I was being interviewed.
I said the ride was doable with enough determination. I definitely
said women should come, and at the time, I might have even said
it was fun.