The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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Yellowstone – Chief Joseph and Beartooth Highways

Above: Ed Hine crests the summit of the Beartooth Highway at 11,000 feet.

These last two days were what we trained for:  The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and Beartooth Pass.   The Chief Joseph represented a spectacular climb, coming out of Cody.  Ed, Tom and I made a strategic decision to ride in the van to the top of the climb, with hopes of finishing the day from there.  The climb was so challenging that we were apprehensive that we might use all our energy for the climb.

Friends from Texas begin the climb, straight out of Cody.

Friends from Texas begin the climb, straight out of Cody.

As it turned out the day was difficult enough that we didn’t finish anyway.  The descent from the top of the main climb was full of hairpins and the surface was bad “chip seal,” demanding extra care on the way down.  Almost as soon as we bottomed out, we hit more ascents, one with a 10% grade for close to half-mile.  The altitude and the headwind made me resort to weaving my way up the hill.  After lunch, what should have been downhill still required much effort as the wind kicked up even more.  We finally gave up the effort and rode the van at the end of the day as we had at the beginning.  We were slightly mollified as only two riders finished the day on bikes.  Altitude, wind, and grade are tough opponents.

The final few miles into Cooke City gave us a preview of the last day, as we would backtrack the final miles of Thursday to begin Friday’s attack on the Beartooth.  As a result, all but two riders decided to take bump in the van Friday morning in order to start at a point that included some downhill in order to get warmed up before the remaining 24 miles of climbing.

Ed, Tom, and I took different bumps in the van, resulting in me riding for almost two hours by myself without a rider in sight.  A few cars passed and one camper rode beside me so that a woman could lean out the window and take my picture, but the two hours were grueling.

Eventually I made the aid station and bumped past most of the group to where Ed had progressed with a combination of riding and bumps in the van.  The last 4-5 miles was nothing but progressive switchbacks as we climbed toward 10,900+ feet.  I actual found this stretch easier than many we had ridden.  We ate lunch at the top and I decided to begin my recovery there, declining to ride the remaining miles of the day.

I’ve not added exact miles, but I rode more than 250, many at higher elevations than I’d ever ridden before. I was pleased with the accomplishment.

It was a great week with friends – those from Rome – Ed Hine, Tom Watters, and Dan Greason; and friends made on previous Lizardhead trips – the Texans, the Pratt’s, and Tony.  As always there were new friends as well.  Cycling includes great people.  I wish Floyd County’s elected officials could catch that vision.

Thanks to the Lizardhead guides, DeAnne and Emily.  They are truly amazing young women with tremendous abilities that could be used in many professions.  They provide great food, great support, and loads of encouragement and fun.  And thanks to owner John Humphries.  Though you weren’t with us on this trip, we felt your presence on every challenging  climb.  You make us old guys stretch the limits.  There’s still life in these legs.

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I enjoyed reading your blogs about your recent cycling experiences. Except for the cycles and SUV’s, etc., I felt as if I were reading something from Capt. John’s Smith’s explorations, or maybe Candice Millard’s RIVER OF DOUBT! Thanks for sharing.


September 16, 2015

Merrill: I’m sorry I missed your comment. Thanks for reading. We had a great time and felt a wonderful sense of accomplishment.

Best to you.


September 18, 2015