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9.3.3 PAC tours across the country 93 Part 3


This article is from the Misc Bicycles FAQs, by various authors.

9.3.3 PAC tours across the country 93 Part 3

Day 7 - West Yellowstone, MT to Cody, WY. 139 miles, 4100' climbing.

I was pretty tired when I got up, and unfortunately this was supposed
to be one of our most fun days as we were going through Yellowstone
Park. There were two options, the north or south loop. The south loop
included Old Faithful, and an extra 20 miles. Only two people opted
for the longer ride. I didn't want to do an extra inch, and knew I'd
miss Old Faithful by 5 minutes if I went! Everyone else, including me,
went north. We reached the Wyoming border and my first frustration of
the day. I had gotten in so late the night before that I didn't have
time to do my usual nightly things, like checking to see if I needed a
new roll of film. Well I took my last picture. All my film was in my
gear bag. I looked at the cue sheet and noticed a West Side Visitor
Center. But there was no visitor center that we passed, and in fact I
didn't see a place to buy film until we were on the other side of the
park! It was so frustrating. I was really wiped out from the day
before and just didn't seem to have fun. This is my one real regret of
the trip. I'd really like to go back someday and enjoy the park.

I did get to see a lot. I just didn't stop. I did buy a box of slides
at the store on the East side of the park, so my slide show this
winter will have a few minutes with really great looking shots! I also
wasn't the only one in the park in a bad mood. The roads through the
park just go through the park, not to other places. So people on them
are there on purpose. They are on vacation. It amazed me that the
drivers were in such a hurry and were so cranky. They didn't seem to
even want to slow down to see a bison or elk. Although they had no
choice on the east side where there were hundreds of buffalo crossing
the road. It was a little scary trying to get through on a bike, but I
made it! The other warning for cyclists is that the roads are really
rough. Bring a suspension bike!

The last climb of the day was over Sylvan Pass. It wasn't until later
that I realized this was where we crossed the Rockies. Most of the
climbs out west are graded and not terribly long by New England
standards. Or maybe it was the direction we were going, since after
descending many of the climbs I decided I preferred riding west to
east. We rode downhill for about 60 miles after cresting Sylvan Pass.
On top we saw a little snow on the ground in some of the shady spots.
Last year there was still enough for Muffy Ritz to go sledding (I saw
this in the video). Fortunately, we had much more pleasant weather
this year. In fact, last year they got snow, sleet and hail on top of
Big Horn too.

The 60 miles of downhill that followed were well deserved after the
day before. It was only steep for 10 miles, but the gradual decline,
combined with a tailwind made for a fast, pleasant afternoon. It was
along this section that we started to notice a trend that all the
pickups came with big dogs in the back. We tried to decide if you had
to show proof of dog ownership to buy a pickup in Wyoming, or if the
trucks just came complete with a dog.

We began noticing a pattern about hotel selection and Lon's sense of
humor. We always seemed to be on top of a big hill, and today was no
exception. Despite the being 10's of hotels along the route, we took a
right off of the course and up a steep hill to find our lodging! I got
in to the hotel in time to do laundry, buy a new camera and write some
postcards. I also had a lot of time to think about the next day over
the Big Horn Mountains, a climb that Susan has called the toughest in
America. A few riders took a shuttle into town to have dinner, and
while going in their driver started talking about the Big Horns. He
knew we wouldn't be taking Route 14A, since a bike couldn't go that
way. A quick look at the cue sheet showed him to be wrong.

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

This was the day most riders had looked forward to and 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, after killing myself
overtraining for a week. And that's exactly what it was! Except we
really did have an ever-so-gradual-downhill for the first 60 miles,
that was spoiled 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 most of the riders, I had
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 triples. )
Although after a while I started to wonder. I was already in my lowest
gear (26-25) and it looked even worse up ahead.

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 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. I mumbled something about having
to do a climb that even the sag vehicles couldn't. A few riders got
shuttled up from the caravan, the one vehicle that could handle the
climbing. A few others walked, but most of us 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 major
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 switch backs, but it went on and on and on,
and I had a blast. I didn't reach 50 mph, but I had a blast
maneuvering around the turns at 35.

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 the types
of food we were getting at snacks. Lunches were really great, but
snacks were usually cookies, soft drinks, bananas and granola bars. I
wanted 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 during the day. Marty suggested talking to
Lon, but also suggested doubling dinner. Stop for something on your
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

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 think 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.

Day 9 - Sheridan, WY - Moorcroft, WY, 146 miles 4000' (advertised as

The next day was a hard one. It was advertised as 3000', but it turned
out to have another 1000 feet of climbing. Robert and I started out
the morning together. He had taken a sag over Big Horn, and was still
worried about his Achilles. He was starting to think about quitting
the trip, but we all encouraged him to tough it out. At some point
while descending, we were joined by Fred and Ed Pavelka (the other
rider from Bicycling). The two had gotten quite a reputation as
hammers, riding together each day, and usually reaching the hotel
first. If I were covering the ride for a magazine, I would try to ride
with some of the other participants and get their perspective, but I
don't work for a magazine! Fred did a good job of talking to a lot of
the riders in the evening though. And Robert and Fred did get into a
good discussion of mountain bikes for the 10 miles that we stayed

At some point in the afternoon, my Camelbak sprung a leak, and I began
the fruitless search for a new bladder in the wilds of Wyoming. Other
than that, the day was pretty uneventful. The saddle sore I had been
nursing along for a week was really starting to flare up and become
seriously painful. I started to get cranky and I really wanted to ride
alone. But the chivalrous men I was with insisted on staying with me.
We later came to an understanding that when I say "go on", they would.
I knew I was bringing them down, and I really, really didn't want to.
It was kind of hard to get them to understand, but eventually they


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