June 26, 2010 – 47 miles
I woke up and cooked breakfast on the porch of our grizzly cabin. We thought the restaurant from last night served breakfast, but it did not.
Just before leaving, rain moved in. No one wanted to start the day wet so we waited for it to pass. I grabbed a cup of coffee and by the time I finished it, the sun was out again.
We rolled onto the busy US 285 heading for Teton National Park. Quickly (but not unexpectedly) Mathieu and Auke rode ahead out of sight. I’m in no hurry today. It’s 45 paved miles to Colter Bay. Plus, my mom and sister are coming to visit in Colter Bay. They’ll be passing me sometime today.
At first, there was a large shoulder to ride on, but an hour into the day it ended. I literally stopped riding and said “oh no.” But no one was there to hear my dread – except maybe the grizzlies that we’ve been constantly warned are in the area.
Without a shoulder, the miles up Togwotee Pass would certainly not be the most relaxing of our journey. Not with the constant flow of construction vehicles and oversized RVs passing fast and close.
No use dwelling, though, so I continued. The few un-shouldered miles were not as bad as I expected. Most traffic passed at a reasonably safe distance or waited behind me until being able to do so. The road condition was the issue. The pavement was cracked and crumbling along the sides, which made for bumpy sections when traffic didn’t allow me to swerve into the center of the lane.
It seems odd to be complaining about cracked pavement after riding so many miles of rock, gravel, and washboard, but the fundamentals of Buddhism explain it. Attachment (or desire) is the cause of all suffering, according to Buddhist philosophy. I have become attached to the idea of pavement being equivalent to smooth/easy riding. That is what I desire (really, who doesn’t?), but since it is not what reality gave me, I suffered. To overcome this suffering, I have to detach from wanting a smooth ride. That way, I can accept the bumps instead of despise them.
As I climbed up Togwotee pass I often looked behind me to see if my mom/sister were coming. I was also excited to see them and the food/goodies they brought. Togwotee pass is a continental divide crossing, but there was no sign at the top. I knew I was at the top (as opposed to a false summit) by a glorious sign that read: “6% Grade Next 17 Miles.”
It was cold and windy at the top. I readied myself for a cold descent. On came the rain jacket, pants, and gloves. I started the fast and cold descent. I kept my legs turning, not to increase speed, but to keep the blood circulating. Doing an easy 30 mph, I took the center of the lane, not letting cars pass until I thought it was safe. I wasn’t going to risk being run off the road at that speed.
A few miles down the road, I hit a traffic jam. There was construction ahead and only one lane of traffic could pass at a time. I was transported through a few miles of construction in a pilot car. Why couldn’t this have happened on the way up the pass?
I asked my driver about bear in the area – people seem to like talking about them. He’s been charged multiple times and carries spray and a .44 (when off of work).
After the construction section, I unloaded my bike and rode onwards. The first thing I noticed was that the grade of the road wasn’t nearly as downhill as before.At times I thought I was going back uphill. Surely, I wasn’t 17 miles from Togwotee, so this was an unpleasant surprise.
After a few miles I was soaked with sweat for not removing my wind layers. Of course, the road started descending again!
I heard quick taps of a familiar car horn. My mom and sister had finally caught me. They drove past and pulled off the road. I hugged my teary mom while my sister, though silent representation behind her back, informed me that my mom freaked out when they first saw me.
After the hellos, we got down to business – what goodies did they have in the trunk? I enjoyed a turkey sandwich, MMs, and Coke.
As we ate and talked, Mathieu and Auke arrived. I really thought they were ahead of me. They followed the main route where it bypassed sections of US 285. They missed the traffic, but got stuck in mud and snow by Brooks Lake. The mud clogged their forks and fenders making forward movement nearly impossible. I’m glad I braved the traffic.
We chatted over food for a while before riding onward – less than 30 miles to Colter Bay. Over the next 8 miles, I enjoyed very fast descents until bottoming.
After so much descending, my legs no longer wanted to pedal. But I was on flats now and had a headwind, so laziness wasn’t an option. Instead, I munched on handfuls of peanut MMs from Pinedale. It helped, but only slightly.
After paying and entering Grand Teton National Park, the shoulder which had re-appeared, re-disappeared. The rest of the day, the roads were narrow and lacked a shoulder. Still, traffic was generally slow and passed safely.
When I made it to Colter Bay, I found four familiar faces waiting on me. After a lot of “it doesn’t matter to me” and “whatever you want,” we decided to rent a wall tent for the four of us. We emptied our belongings into our temporary home and went for an overpriced meal at the restaurant.
Afterwards, it was near sunset so Mom, Jenn, and I drove to a scenic lookout point. They wanted to take pictures of the mountains and any wildlife they could spot.
It was a nice sunset, but I didn’t like the idea of going somewhere to see it. I observed others at the pull-out. Drive up, take a few pictures, drive off. What good are those pictures? I doubt they are worth the proverbial 1,000 words. There is no story or experience to tell about it.
Instead of snapping photos, I enjoyed the sunset in a different sense. When the bottom of the sun touched the top of the mountains, I closed my eyes and felt the warmth on my face. Slowly, it faded and the day was done.