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Day 8 - Cody, Wyoming to Sheridan, Wyoming
160 miles
7300' climbing

This 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 stop.

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 beyond.

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 bikes.

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.