More updates for you all! This past 1,000 miles has challenged me even more than the first 1,000. I have often found myself completely drained mentally and physically, but I have always been able to find the strength to keep moving. Thank you again to everyone who messages me… I see your encouragement when I am able to get service, and I appreciate it very much!
Day 12: 105 miles
Another big test day. The morning started with a 2,000 foot, 2 hour climb which put me above 7,000 feet of elevation. It didn’t feel the effects of the elevation until I was on the flat section after crossing the pass. I got a bite to eat after 38 miles, but the mosquitos have been horrible in this part of Montana. I’ve been bit all over my legs and arms. The locals say they have so many because they flood irrigate their fields. Other than the annoyance of the mosquitos, today was by far the most beautiful ride. The views of the massive snow capped mountains are endless, and wildlife is everywhere. A deer ran along side of me for about 30 seconds. He was going the same pace as me, but I don’t think he realized he wasn’t really moving faster than me. I want to see a moose in the worst way. I’ll have to keep looking! After 58 miles I was thinking about calling it quits for the day because of the elevation making me feel slow. I called my parents and decided to press on. After about an hour of riding, I got caught in a pop up thunderstorm that quickly threw down small hail at me. It hurt really bad, it the hail only lasted about 5 minutes. I kept climbing and made it the highest point I’ve been so far, 7,400 feet. I enjoyed an awesome, long descent where I kept turning around to watch the sunset over the mountains. The sky itself was pretty, but the best part of the sunsets out here are when it changes the colors of the snow on the mountain.
Sleeping location: softball field dugout
Day 13: 110 miles
So I like sleeping in the dugout because I don’t have to take the time to set up the full tent, yet I’m blocked from the eyes on three sides, and no one plays baseball at night. Unfortunately, one thing I now have to consider is sprinkler systems that pop up out of the ground overnight. I was up from about 1-2am listening to the sprinkler beat on the side of the dugout right by my head. I ate breakfast in the same cafe I had dinner last night before setting out. I wanted to do a big ride. My goal was 142 miles. After a long, steep, and hot mountain climb, I had reached mile 71 at 4pm. I realized it would be a long ride in the dark, but I was planning on stopping at a hotel since it was going to get pretty cold at night. Around mile 95, I hit the wall. I found a rest stop at mile 105 where I made a phone call to a nearby campground that had space available. I rode 5 more miles to the campground and found they had a large rec hall with beds in it where most cyclists stay. The cost was super cheap and I had the entire place to myself! I enjoyed a cheesesteak at the restaurant on site and was amazed by the sunset. To the east of the campground were large snow capped mountains that were lit up by the sunset. I think this was probably one of my favorite views of the entire trip so far. Although I didn’t reach my large goal, it turned out to be an awesome day with a great ending.
Sleeping location: Driftwaters Resort
Day 14: 88 miles
I hate cats. And the campground has a cat. Somehow he got into the rec hall and knocked a huge potted plant over that shattered sometime around 1am and then continued to cry until 3am. Now I hate cats more. Regardless, I felt super slow riding in the morning. I rode through and awesome area with some cool earthquake history (Quake Lake, Montana) before heading into Yellowstone and Wyoming. Since I was feeling slow, I decided to enjoy my ride through Yellowstone. Pretty early in the park, I saw a couple elk on the hillside before seeing a huge crowd of bison that were grazing. They were reallllyyyy cool to see. I continued up towards Old Faithful and saw the painted pots area which was awesome. It was super stinky from all of the sulfur that was in the air. Even still, the colors that the made up of the ground of some of these sites were so cool to see. One of my favorite parts was taking a selfie with a bison that was walking on the side of the road!I made it to the old faithful visitor center where I grabbed a bite to eat. As I was eating, some dark clouds rolled over the mountain, and I took off pedaling. I’ve been caught in hailstorms twice so far, and I didn’t want another. I was sad I didn’t get to see Old Faithful, but I will have to come back again! I made to the Grant Village in Yellowstone where I was way overcharged for a room. I had no choice since it was going to drop down to 36 degrees with a chance of thunderstorms. I bit the bullet and made the most of where I was!
Sleeping location: grant village resort
Day 15: 103 miles
I finally slept well! I got up early and starting eating some snacks I had got for breakfast. I drank some coffee and water, and was about to leave. When I suddenly threw up. Not sure what caused it. Maybe something in the water I’m not used to? Not sure, but I knew I had to be very careful with hydration in the morning with an upset stomach and lost water. I once again felt slow in the morning. I think the first 2 hours of riding in the day are the hardest ones. After my first hour of easy pedaling, my stomach felt good. I made an electrolyte drink that immediately lifted me up from the mornings unfortunate events. I left Yellowstone and found myself immediately in the Grand Teton National Park. This area has probably been my favorite part so far. The weather was great and the views of the mountain range were absolutely incredible. The space wasn’t as congested with people as Yellowstone, and it was truly an incredible sight. Later in the day I was tested with my biggest climb so far. I rode up to 9,658 feet over the Togwotee Pass. The climb started super hot and sweaty, but I was wearing two jackets once I got to the top. The snow is no where close to melted in the fields, and all of the snow made the air chilly. It was beautiful at the top, and I was happy to not feel bothered by the elevation. I can’t ride fast this high up. I can’t push the bike faster than a casual pace or I get very winded, and it takes a minute to catch my breath. This climb is my third highest point of the trip, which means I only have two more that are higher up than this one! It amazes me that I started at sea level, and I’ve ridden my bike this high. The descent jnto the next town was long and fast. Finally, I got the benefit a little bit from all of the hard climbing the past few days. With thunderstorms and cold temps in the forecast, I had to settle into another hotel.
Sleeping location: Wind River Motel
Day 16: 134 miles
Today’s goal: outrun the rain. It was supposed to start raining at 7am and start thunder storming at 9am, and it didn’t matter what town I was looking at. The weather was supposed to be pretty bad in every town I was going thru. So I got up and set out on the bike at 5:57am. The rocks in the town of Dubois, WY were awesome. The one section was called the painted hills, and the layers of sediment all produced different colors. My goal was to make it 75 miles before 1pm so I wouldn’t be riding in much rain. Around mile 30, it drizzled rain for about 20 minutes. The clouds prevented another epic sunrise, but I counted 32 pronghorns in the fields before 11:30am. They kept popping out everywhere, and they were awesome to observe despite the weather. I made it to my goal of 75 miles without getting drenched! I sat down at a subway for lunch and waited for the rain to start. But it never came. I quickly ate and decided to ride as far as I could and as fast as I could before getting poured on. I have had horrible cell service in this state, so I wasn’t able to update my weather report. I pressed on at a pretty good pace. Just as my GPS clocked 100 miles, I heard the thunder roll in the distance. I kept moving with short breaks hoping they wouldn’t catch up to me. At the top of the mountain, I could see the storms coming from the west. I stopped for a quick break at mile 115 that allowed the clouds to catch up to me. I set out on a race pace hoping they wouldn’t find me. But at mile 119, they found me! By mile 121, it had quickly stopped. I knew there was a hostel at mile 133, so I rode as fast as I could without overworking myself. By the time I got into the town, the clouds were right over my head. The lighting behind me would light up the reflectors on the road in front of me. I quickly found the hostel, and it started to rain heavy just 5 minutes after my arrival. Inside the hostel, I met 5 other riders. The one is in the Trans Am race with me, and 3 of the others are doing the Trans Am route together. We all enjoyed talking to each other and I was very appreciative of all the food they gave me since I was very hungry from a hard day of riding.
Sleeping location: church/hostel
Day 17: 68 miles
Today was not a good day. I slept decent at the hostel, but my body was still extremely tired from the fast, long riding the day before. I started later in the morning than usual, and I got a flat tire only 10 miles into the ride. I changed it and pressed on to a gas station at mile 22 where I met some people who were traveling with bikes on their truck, so I was able to borrow a floor pump from them to fill it back up to pressure. My legs felt dead from the day before. I took about 45 minutes to rest, mix an electrolyte drink, and eat before heading out. I knew thunderstorms were possible in the day, but the guy at the gas station wouldn’t give me to guest password to check the weather. I set back out, and ran into my first storm after 45 minutes. This storm was the worst I’ve been in, with the hail smacking against my legs and face. It got so bad that I’m pretty sure I was close to crying. I got off the bike and faced the other way to try to flag down a car. I wanted to ask someone to drive me out of the storm, but I guess it’s pretty hard to see someone wearing neon yellow and waving their arms. After a couple minutes, the hail slowed down, and I figured I should start moving before my body got cold. Even with moving, I was felt freezing. I rode in the rain for another hour before it finally slowed down. At this point I was soaked and cold. I stopped for 5 minutes to stretch before climbing my last hill before the next town. I decided to call it quits early since I was miserable and exhausted, and the next town with a motel was another 40 miles away. Hopefully taking some time to rest will help me get back onto a more consistent riding schedule.
Sleeping location: motel
Day 18: 110 miles
Another really tough day. I felt good in the morning with a slight tailwind getting me started. I passed an incredibly long train in the morning that had to have at least 150 cars on it. I waved to the train and they blew the horn back at me. The route then put me on a two lane highway that was pretty busy. It got worse since they closed the other side which forced all of the traffic on one side of the highway. Fortunately, once I got past the construction, I carried my bike through the grass and rode for several miles with a full two lane road to myself. I unfortunately had to turn off of it and was on a southbound road with a 20-30mph wind headed west. I had to fight with it for 40 miles which was incredible exhausting. I took long breaks in between towns since it was slowing me down and costing a lot of energy. Finally, I headed back out to the east where the wind helped me for a little. Going downhill with the wind on my back, I was able to reach a new top speed of 52.7mph. Shh, don’t tell mom. It was incredible, I felt like I was floating. I continued to fight the wind as I entered Colorado which immediately welcomed me with some awesome, new terrain and an unreal sunset over the mountains. I was exhausted after another long, very difficult day of pedaling, but I was super excited for the next two days of riding through Colorado.
Sleeping location: motel
Day 19: 119 miles
Today was probably the toughest day mentally so far. I started early after an awesome sleep and slowly climbed for 30 miles up to the top of the second highest peak on my route. On my way down, headwinds tortured me. I found myself yelling out loud on certain parts as the wind prevented me from making progress at a normal pace. I went another 30 miles like this until I got into my first town. I thought I may be done for the day. After some encouragement from my parents and girlfriend, I decided to shoot for the next town which was 18 miles away. I rode straight into the wind the entire way there. Oh, and these were 20-30 mph winds… not just a slight breeze. Once I got to this next town, I was feeling pretty tired. I knew I had 40 miles to the next town, but this was the first part of the climb to the largest point on the route. I checked the weather, and I had two option. 1) ride into the wind for another agonizing 40 miles uphill or 2) wait until tomorrow and ride in rain and 50 degree temperatures. Already exhausted, I decided to continue. 12 miles into this segment, a small, yet punishing thunderstorm came over me. As it finished, I was riding along a lake where a double rainbow appeared which helped me feel better. I stopped for a quick soda and water and continued uphill. The wind was much lighter after the storm, but it still tried to push me back. I ended up getting another hotel room since the temperatures are still low and my body is exhausted after an almost 11 hour ride today.
Sleeping location: motel
Day 20: 114 miles
This morning started off great. I slept awesome in the motel, and I woke up ready to tackle the biggest climb of the route. I rode for an hour and a half in perfect riding weather where I met up with my boss from the University of Pennsylvania. She had posted something on Instagram of the area I was going to ride through, and it worked out great that we got to have coffee in the middle of Colorado. As much as I love talking to strangers and meeting new people, it was incredibly refreshing to sit and talk with someone I care about from home/school. After coffee, I tackled the biggest climb of the trip at 11,539 feet. It took two hours to get to the top. After the first hour, I stopped for a short break around 10,000 feet, and I felt a little dizzy. I figured I should probably slow down and take breaks every 250 feet so I would not get overwhelmed by the thin air. I made it to the top, and I asked someone to take my picture next to the sign. I was pretty proud of making it to this point.. I’ve been telling myself that if I could get up to that point, I could ride the rest of the route. The rest of the day was tough after the downhill into the next town. The headwinds were roaring again. Just as bad, if not worse than the day before. I ended up fighting them for about 75 miles. I was really disappointed because I went downhill a lot today, but the winds really kept me from enjoying them. I often found myself pedaling down 3-4% grades just to keep the bike moving at a decent speed. It was honestly discouraging, but I was rewarded with my favorite sunset yet. Since I hadn’t been moving as fast, I was able to see the sunset over the mountains. The colors popped up over the hills and made the air above the mountains glow. I stopped for about 5 minutes since it was such an incredible sight. Right before it got dark, I saw a bunch of animals in the fields. Mainly deer, but I think I saw a few elk. When I was going downhill, I saw a massive mule deer on the white line on the other side of the road. He was growing his antlers, and there was felt on them. He wasn’t scared of me until I stopped to try to take a picture. He took off before I could get one.
Sleeping location: baseball field
Day 21: 100 miles
I think my biggest mistake so far has been expecting some of these days to be easy days of riding. Today marked 4 days of brutal headwinds. I didn’t sleep the greatest last night, and some dog walkers had me up early. Tired, I went 9 miles where I stopped at a cafe for an hour enjoying some coffee and a bagel, trying to jumpstart my body. I had a cool conversation with some awesome cyclists in the local area, and they encouraged me to get riding again. Somewhere between towns, I hit the 2,000 mile marker! I didn’t really realize it until my phone had service and I saw the congrats text from my family. I rode 41 miles until I hit Pueblo, CO where I grabbed some food and stopped at a bike shop. I’ve had 9 flat tires so far, and I needed to stock up on more tubes for the next few days of riding. We also put in an extra liner on the inside to try to prevent future flats. Hoping it works! I took off again as my goal was to get to the next town 50 miles away before the thunderstorms caught up to me. I rode for 3 straight hours with a total of 5 minutes of rest in that time for some snacks and using the bathroom. I made it into town just as the dark clouds were coming over me, and I was very happy to not get caught in another storm. However, very tired from running from storms the past few days and riding 100+ miles each day, I decided to get a hotel room and take it easy for the night and the upcoming morning. Also, the thunderstorms were supposed to continue throughout the night and into the early morning.
Sleeping location: local hotel