Under construction –
Another Bicycle Adventures (BA) point-to-point tour made the Bucket List. Recommended by the lead guide of the previous, and only other BA point-to-point tour, Empire Builder, this version roughly parallels the Wyoming-Montana border from the starting city of Cody, Wyoming to the final destination city Rapid City, SD. WYOMODAK, acronym for Wyoming, Montana, and Dakota (only the southern variant), is a 10-day odyssey covering nearly 750 miles with 49k feet of elevation. Highlights include several scenic byways, an All-American Highway, three National Forests, Devils Tower, Chief Crazy Horse and Mount Rushmore monuments, and the Badlands just to name a few. Unfortunately, there weren’t many positive culinary experiences although several amusing anecdotes with a common, disappointing theme. From my experience, this section of the country isn’t an ideal destination for gastronomical excellence.
There were five other paying members in the tour (a nice couple from ID and men from NY, MA and a transplanted OH-an who now calls NC home and two guides. Interestingly, to me anyways, besides one of the guides, yours truly was the youngest of the group. Most of the others were in their early 60s while the senior member was 75 and completing his 18thBA tour.
Landed in Cody, WY, population around 10K and sitting at 5,000 feet above sea level, on July 4, two days before the start of the tour. Arrived a day earlier than normal as didn’t want to spend my birthday in airports. Contacted The Cody Inn for a shuttle ride from the airport upon landing and retrieving bags, to the hotel and checked-in. Took the same shuttle downtown and walked around a bit, even rode the Cody Trolley to gain a little history of the town’s origin and founder. Stopped at The Meatery for a bison burger on the walk back to the hotel. Coordinated with the lead guide who was flexible and accommodating in delivering, riding, the bike assigned to me to the hotel. Nothing fancy but serviceable: a Giant Defy Advanced 3, Disk, 10-speed mechanical Shimano Tiagra drivetrain, and 28 mm TL tires. Adjusted the saddle height and screwed on the Garmin V3 power meter peddles and ready to start the adventure. Added a handlebar mount for the GoPro to take video of each day’s ride to share the scenery with the Missus at the end of each day.
Day 0: Spent a little time on RideWithGPS (RWGPS) app looking for a suitable route to begin acclimatization to the higher altitude. A fair bit of climbing on tap for the next 10 days but nothing overly steep. Expected altitude to be the biggest obstacle. Home is all of 250’ above sea level with peaks on Skyline Drive ranging from 3300’ to the highest point, Skyland, at 3680’. Selected and downloaded the nearly 51-mile Cody Gravel Loop with 2263’ of elevation and 10 miles of hardpacked gravel on the StageCoach Trail. Inaugural bike ride in WY started well with gently rolling terrain and stunning scenery. However, early on the gravel trail around the Buffalo Bill Reservoir, the seat post started sliding down into the seat tube. Pretty soon, felt like riding a BMX-sized bike with quads nearly touching the chest on the upstroke. Not the most comfortable way to ride and certainly not recommended for 30+ mile rides. Survived the gravel, made it back on the hardball, passed the Buffalo Bill Dam, through 3 short tunnels, and back to the guides hangout to adjust the seat height. After swapping out the saddle and seat post, stopped at the local bike shop, Joyvagen Cycles, to replace the chamois cream the ever-diligent TSA agent confiscated from my carry-on and see if they had any kits available. Accomplished the former but not the latter. That would be a recurring theme. Returned to The Cody Hotel after a little longer ride but less than the advertised elevation of the RWGPS file. The second recurring theme and opposite of most data files but the elevation gains in RWGPS files for the next 10 days were generally more than actually recorded on the Wahoo Roam. Walked across the street to The Cody Cattle Company for a family-style meal of beef brisket, chicken and many sides and entertainment provided by Ryan Martin and the Triple C Cowboys. Ryan can play more than country and western music – his guitar skills are impressive. Misplaced helmet.
Daily Totals: 54.1 miles, 3:21:21, 1913’ El gain, 5737’ peak El
Day 1: Cody, WY (10K population, 5000’ El – Cooke City, MT (<100 pop, 7580’ El)
RWGPS file: 79.4 miles, 8356’ El gain
Distance avg Gr max Gr ft El gain category
13.1 4.8% 9.8% 3202 HC
3.7 4.8% 14% 911 3
4 5.4% 8.2% 1069 2
First day of the WYMODAK BA tour started with a self-induced panic attack and mad search for a missing helmet. Recalling the events of the previous day; sliding seat post, taking a picture of bike in the lobby, setting the helmet down next to a chair, forgetting to pick it up and take it back to the room. Checked at the front desk but no one turned it in and wasn’t in the lost and found bin. A rather inauspicious start but gave the front desk my contact information just in case. Selected a new helmet from the pool available for knuckleheads who lose, forget, or don’t have their own helmets (Really? People in the last category sign up for bike tours? Apparently, so).
Standard breakfast fare at the hotel, a quick introduction to the rest of the group at 0745, ride overview and pedaling by 0800.The day’s route was generally NW crossing into MT with several climbs along the way, three of them longer than 3 miles. Appearances are deceiving as the RWGPS profile, actual ride profile, physical observation and perception seem to have a 5+-mile uphill effort within the first 13 miles that isn’t identified as a single climb according to RWGPS. It identifies 2 different segments of 1.2 and 2 miles but not a single climb. Disagree.
The road out of town has a few rollers, a longer climb (ok, with a few false flats and very small descents) with a legitimate descent to the first stop at mile 21. Wasn’t long before everyone rolled to the support vehicle, topped off water bottles, ate a quick snack and prepped for the long climb. The route was nearly an immediate left turn from the stop onto Chief Joseph Highway. However, one of the members took off and didn’t make the turn. Calling out to him was ineffective so another rider took off after him (my bike was in the middle of a wheel replacement which eliminated me from the chase). Several minutes later they returned to the van and we all made the correct turn to begin the 13.1-mile climb (+3202’ EL, 4.8% avg grade, 9.8% max grade, HC designation by RWPGS) up Chief Joseph Hwy (part of Nez Perce Trail – another sad event in our history). More rain than normal during the spring created a lush green landscape with multiple-hued rock outcroppings along the route. Numerous pullouts to stop for pictures and/or just admire the view. Speaking of views, the one from Dead Indian Summit (8040’ EL) is truly breathtaking. Several informational placards describe the story of the harrowing ride and relentless pursuit in an effort to escape a forced assignment to a reservation. Additionally, the non-technical, switch-back filled descent is laid out before you. A couple of long rollers and a 3.7-mile climb (4.8% avg, 14% max) followed the nearly brake-free 8-mile descent. Weather conditions deteriorated rapidly and rode through a hailstorm, which hurt, followed by a 10-15 minute shower that was hard enough to force a stop to don a rain jacket. Able to dry out just before the final rest stop but fortuitously decided to keep the rain jacket on. Turned on to Beartooth Hwy (one of 5 All American Highways) for a bit more climbing and another brief shower. The final climb was 4 miles (5.4% avg, 8.2% max). A couple of miles of rollers and a nearly 1.5-mile descent ended in the great metropolis of Cooke City, MT. CR was ok throughout the ride but legs were feeling the effect of altitude as most of the day was spent pedaling more than a mile above sea level. Second day in a row that Roam elevation (7,732) was less the RWGPS file (8,356). Weird. Lodging for the evening was at the rustic Alpine Motel. Had a post-ride beer and a few snacks before showering and making the short walk to the Beartooth Café. Dinner was fine but not particularly noteworthy. However, a disappointing and recurring theme started – initial beer selection unavailable. The porch outside and main dining room in the café had numerous signs proclaiming over 100 types of beers. Not sure how many they actually had on hand but the server eventually brought out 4 cans they did have in stock. First world problem!
Daily Totals: 79.7 miles, 5:11:22 moving time, 7:44:14 total time 7732’ El gain, 8080’ peak El
Day 2: Cooke City, MT (<100 pop, 7580’ El) – Red Lodge, MT (2000 pop, 5568’ El)
RWGPS file: 64.1 miles, 5331’ El gain
Distance avg Gr max Gr ft El gain category
1.6 5.7% 8.4% 461 4 Colter Pass
20.8 3.7% 9.7% 4279 HC Beartooth Pass (West)
Day 2: Morning began with a short van ride at 0625 to Log Cabin Cafe in Silver Lake for breakfast. The area has suffered tremendously over the past 2+ years: first Covid and then the recent flooding. Dependent upon tourism to survive, the situation was beginning to improve when the flooding closed Yellowstone National Park. The north entrance, only 5 miles away, was the last entrance to open and that was only a few days ago. The proprietor was flexible and opened early just for our group – granted there was payback as there were 8 hungry cyclists waiting to order. Breakfast was good although not all items were warm. Seemed a greater emphasis on serving everyone’s order at the same time as opposed to bringing them out separately or in smaller groups. Regardless, appreciated to gesture and certainly did not leave hungry.
The day’s course was a misshapen “U” with a longer right side, dipping back into Wyoming at the bottom, and returning to Montana. The key word of the day was ‘flexibility.’ Road construction/flood damage was known and we weren’t going to be able to ride into Red Lodge but that wasn’t to be the only road hazard encountered. Instead of a “U,” the new route was an easterly out and back on Beartooth Hwy then south on Chief Joseph Hwy. A point of clarification: the out and back was dominated by the climb to Beartooth Pass – nearly 21 miles long and gaining over 4200 feet to its summit at 10,946.’ The ride started with the climb back through Colter Pass, just a warm-up for the bigger climb to come, a measly 1.6 miles of 5.7% avg grade. The real climb started just past the 12-mile mark. Support van was stopped before a turn and the start of a known construction zone with mobile traffic signal that permitted cyclists to ride through the previous week. Stopped for a short respite at the van as just completed 8 miles of climbing at 4.4% and gained 1931’. After waiting 20 minutes for the return of the escort vehicle, the driver asked if I was with the vehicle in front of me. After responding negatively, was informed the road was not open to bicycles. Disappointed and frustrated, turned around and headed back to the van and the rest of the group as they were just departing. Loaded all the bikes and shuttled across the work zone to Top of the World store/campground. While initially irked at having the climb reduced from 21 to 18 miles, driving through the work zone reinforced the prudence of the decision. That was definitely no place for a road bike. Dislodged and finished the final 8.8 miles of 3.7% avg grade to Beartooth Pass. More stunning scenery, replete with large swaths of snow-covered grass. Walked to a prominent rocky outcrop, home to several marmots, and watched the rest of the group finish their climb. One particular pesky marmot was enamored with my green and white cleats and kept returning to nibble at the heel. A quick search on google didn’t answer the question of color-blindness but this one was certainly curious. Spoke with a mountain biker who was driving his family through the pass who commented on the great trails in the area. Took turns being photographer for the other and headed back to our respective groups. Noticed the approaching dark clouds back towards the store and hoped it would hold off long enough for a dry descent. Hope was a lost cause and returned through the end of another afternoon, mountain hailstorm followed by a brief, but hard downpour. Top of the World looked like a completely different place as the ground surrounding the store and the roof were covered in a thick layer of large hail. Looked like a snowstorm passed through and temperatures seemed to match. Abandoned the bike next to the van and climbed into the heated interior while the guides loaded all the bikes on top.
Vanned back across work zone (new bridge/road) to the curve just before the mobile signal and continued the descent for another 8 miles. Made a left onto Chief Joseph Hwy and turned onto a dirt road and campground for lunch. A great location, near restroom facilities to change, picnic tables and firepit, and bubbling streak a couple hundred meters away: except for the Mosquitos! They were voracious and apparently immune to Deep Woods Off. Serious distraction from the peaceful setting which forced a quick lunch and back into the van and off to Red Lodge, MT. Never did make it back into MT on bike and covered less distance and elevation due to road construction. We were flexible.
Lodging and dinner were at The Pollard Hotel in downtown Red Lodge. Ordered the salmon (over cooked) and asparagus (undercooked). The apple pie was unavailable but they did have my first beer selection. Although the lead guide spoke to our waiter before dinner and during the drink order, indicated that my first choice was out of stock. Not very amusing.
Daily Totals: 50.4 miles, 3:14:22 moving time, 6:29:27 total time 4409’ El gain, 10,946’ peak El