Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Day 54

Tuesday, August 30

Miles today: 58
Jackson Hole WY to Rest area on US 26 (about 25 miles from Idaho Falls)

This morning we had a continental breakfast at the hotel, which was pretty filling and tasty. We got on our bikes and rode 7 miles, all downhill down route 26. It was a really beautiful ride and we were happy because we had chosen to go the longer way to Swan Valley but it was going to be mostly downhill. The other way was over Teton Pass, about 20 miles shorter overall but the pass had a 10% grade and was described by other bikers as "relentless". So we were riding along, I was in front and all of a sudden I felt Ben hit my bike and then heard a crash behind me. I looked back and Ben was down (I wobbled but stayed upright). He was so engrossed by the beautiful scenery that he wasn't paying attention and ran into me! It was a pretty hard fall at about 14 mph and a bunch of people stopped to make sure he was ok. He got some good road rash but nothing was broken and he walked it off. A guy that lived across the street came over when he heard he crash and after he made sure Ben was ok, he asked if the bike was ok- he was a bike mechanic. The front derailleur was a bit messed up and couldn't go into the smallest gear. So we went over to LeGrand's house (that is his first name. We suspect he may have named himself.) for Ben to wash up his wounds and work on the bike. After about an hour of trying all sorts of adjustments, we just couldn't get it to work so LeGrand offered to drive us back to Jackson to the bike shop. Luckily, the bike shop took the bike in right away. LeGrand was a little peeved that he couldn't fix the bike so he stuck around to see what the problem was. It turns out that the issue is actually in the shifter, and it requires a replacement. But they figured it a little trick to make it work by holding the up shifter in place while downshifting. Somehow, it all worked out and they didn't even charge Ben anything. LeGrand offered to drive us back to where Ben fell so we didn't have to bike it again, and then he offered to drive us to the top of Teton pass instead so we could ride down the shortcut way. Since it was 1:00 by now and we were still at our starting point, we took him up on the offer. The drive up the pass was awesome! There were really great views from the top too. We are so grateful that LeGrand devoted so much time of his day to helping us out. He said he has been helped by strangers in the past a lot so he was happy to help us.

We had an awesome descent from the pass and entered into Idaho!! Our 8th state

We went into the town of Victor and planned out our day, since we were taking a different and shorter route. a few miles later we climbed Pine Creek pass which was long but not too steep. We had a great 17 mile descent into Swan Valley, which was absolutely breathtaking. We both agreed that it was the most beautiful landscape we had seen on our bikes in a long time, if not the most beautiful. The grass was lush and green on the left, wheat was blowing in the breeze on our right and all around were huge mountains and we were going down into the valley. It was awesome. We got into town and saw that the gas station had famous square ice cream cones so we had to try it

 It was really just a square scooper so it tasted the same, but stil pretty cool. They sold over 18,000 cones on 4th of July weekend (in a town of 250 people) and were getting ready for another big weekend this Labor Day.

After leaving town we met up again with the Snake River, which we will be following for a while. It's a beautiful blue/green very wide and swiftly moving river. We climbed yet another mountain, Conant Pass which was 8% grade and seemed to go on forever, but probably only 3 or 4 miles.

By 7pm we were tired out and we reached what we decided would be our destination for the night, a rest area/overlook. It has an awesome view of the river and mountains in the distance

It is much better in person, I promise. We are both very impressed with how beautiful Idaho is! And look forward to seeing more for the next week or so!

Day 53

Monday, August 29

Miles today: car again, driving around Yellowstone

We woke up around 7:00, 20 minutes after sunrise and right away went for a drive to look for animals. We went about 50 feet out of the campsite and found our first bison!

As we kept driving, we saw a lot more bison just hanging out on the side of the roads. These guys are huge!

As we kept driving we saw a bunch of cars parked along an overlook and people with telescopes and binoculars. Since it was just after 7 am, we knew something good had to be going on. We found out there was a female grizzly bear and her two cubs feasting on a bison carcass! Apparently, people had seen the sick bison yesterday so they watched to see what would happen. A pack of wolves stalked the sick animal for a while, but 6 bison were guarding it as it died. Eventually the wolves attacked and killed the bison- he couldn't fight back at all. They killed him and ate it for a while until the bears showed up and took over the show. We could see the pack of wolves off in the distance waiting for their turn again, and through the telescope (others brought telescopes and allowed us to look) we had an awesome view of the grizzlys! They were really going to town on the fresh meat. It was an awesome sight to see this happening in real life, way better than on TV! A scene like this is like the Holy Grail for wildlife watching enthusiasts. We really couldn't take pictures of the grizzlies or wolves because they were too far away, but I thought that was kind of cool that everybody was just watching and enjoying the moment instead of taking a bunch of pictures. I'm sure if we had a camera with a super zoom lens we would have some awesome shots though!

Now Ben and I were really satisfied with wildlife sightings and went to see some other awesome views in the park

This is the Yellowstone River Lower Falls- a 108 ft waterfall

The view from Mt Washburn. These dead trees were everywhere throughout the park- not sure why. Maybe from previous forest fires?

We drove around for a while longer before we returned to pack up the tent. On the way out of the park we passed by the giant Yellowstone Lake. It is 14 by 20 miles, and the largest mountain lake in North America. It is a gorgeous blue green color that I think cannot be captured by camera. The mountains in the background created such a scenic drive out of the park.

We drove back to Jackson, where we got a hotel for the night- there is no camping in town. It feels great to be in a hotel for the first time in a few weeks! We will be headed into Idaho tomorrow, can't wait! I think we have about 850 miles left until the Pacific Coast can you believe it? Only about 2 weeks left- wow. We are feeling good after a restful 2 days and ready to take on Idaho!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Day 52

Sunday, August 28

Miles today: who cares, they were all by car!
Jackson Hole to Yellowstone National Park, WY

We went to a bagel cafe in Jackson for bagels and coffee before we hit the road to Yellowstone. I thought the logo of the shop looked just like Bagelz at home.

The drive took us through Grand Teton National Park first, which was included in the price to get into Yellowstone- $25 for access to both parks for 7 days, which I thought was a deal. We drove almost right next to the mountains

 We stopped to take a picture at my lake- Jenny Lake!

That's my new sweatshirt, which I got on sale for $10 because it's actually a child's large. If I roll the sleeves up you can't even tell!

About an hour later we got to the main attraction

We drove around most of the park for the day. Here are some cool pictures

People flocking to Old Faithful

This was the scene around Old Faithful- pretty much a zoo! So many people

A mule deer off in a river

This is what is known as a "bear jam"- traffic jam due to a cool animal sighting

After we were satisfied with our animal sightings, we headed to Canyon Campground in the center of the park. We set up camp, collected firewood in the woods and took showers. While dinner was cooking, we started up our fire. We got it going on the first try, which was awesome and just in time because it started to sprinkle just as we lit it.

Ben cooking, as usual. Our car in the background!!
 Pile of wood awaiting the fire
The fire kept us warm and kind of dry as we ate in the rain. It was our first fire of the whole trip so we wanted to enjoy it! It was pretty awesome

Look at it go!

As the rain got heavier, we decided to put the fire out and take shelter in the dry tent. Ben set the alarm so we could get up at sunrise to try to go see some bears or wolves- both come out at dusk and dawn mostly.

Day 51

Saturday, August 27

Miles today: 68
Dubois to Jackson Hole, WY

We woke up and went back to the Cowboy Cafe for breakfast, and yes, another piece of pie. We hit the road and immediately started climbing. The incline lasted for a full 29 miles, which took 4 hours and 20 minutes of pedaling. There was construction going on so we didn't know exactly how far away the top of Togwotee (pronounced Toe-ga-tee) was, so we just had to keep on pedaling for what seemed like forever. The good thing about the construction was that there was very little traffic, I think because the cars wanted to avoid delays. It was by far our hardest and longest climb yet on this trip. Once we got to the top, we had to get in a truck to go over the torn up part of the road- this is a Wyoming state law. There were no signs but we know that the top of the pass was at elevation 9658 ft. We also crossed the continental divide for the the fifth time, back into the Pacific zone. I was sad that there were no signs to take pictures with like we have at every other pass.

We rode in the pilot car for about 2 miles, rode our bikes about 10 miles down a 8% grade, and came upon a gorgeous view of the Grand Tetons!

It looked better in person I think. The Tetons are so weird because they are often blocked from view by the surrounding mountains, but they are very impressive looking. And they still have some snow on them.

We got back into another pilot car for about 7 more miles, which was pretty much to the bottom of the mountain. We starting riding again and then it began to downpour. There was no place to stop or hide under so we just kept going. It rained for about 45 minutes, which was not fun at all. We entered the Grand Teton National Park, which has gorgeous views of the mountains, but a US highway goes right through it so we did not see any wildlife on that road. We did see a ton of RVs and cars, which sprayed dirty water at us.

We were hungry, cold and wet and there was just no where to stop. We quickly ate granola bars on the side if the road and kept going. We saw planes flying into Jackson Hole airport, which must have been an awesome view to fly into. We finally arrived in Jackson Hole and right away picked up our rental car- a Jeep Liberty! It felt so weird at first to be driving, like we were doing something wrong.

They are letting me drive!?

We drove all around town and Ben had to get used to driving again- it felt so fast just to go 30 mph! We went to the grocery store to get food for dinner and they happened to have a frozen yogurt place inside the supermarket! Of course, we couldn't pass that up. We went to the city park to cook dinner, and then called it a night. The climb up Togwotee really wiped us out and I was very thankful to be taking two days off to see Yellowstone!

A few pics of downtown Jackson:

Location:Jackson, WY