Friday, 21 September 2007

Winter's chewing my ass!

Wow, what a few days I've had. As I left the library from writing the last blog is was pouring with rain, and I mean pouring. Not one to shy away from a bit of water I just donned the waterproofs and got on with the ride.

Carried on travelling south on route 93, taking the 28 from Salmon down to Leodore. Route 29 (Idaho) and 324 (Montana) took me over the Bannock pass 7,672ft, a missed turn meant I had to take a quick blast up Interstate 15 to Dillon. Dirt riding became the order of the day, a sand/mud track provided the way to get to Alder, where route 287 went all the way into Yellowstone park.

I'm so glad that on waking yesterday morning the sun was out and the scenery was bright, breezy and oh, so clear. What a delight after the last two days, from Darby to Salmon I had to go over Chief Joseph's Pass 7,264ft; NIGHTMARE!! It had been raining hard, when I ascended the pass it turned to heavy sleet. It was bitterly cold, my visor kept misting up, so I could hardly see with it open or closed, warmer with it closed though! I could almost feel the mountain scenery just out of reach, but could see bugger all, I was deep into the clouds. Hein Gericke's waterproof gloves aren't, with sodden hands I could hardly feel them. Bloody luxury lad, zilch vision, no feeling and potentially a very slippy road. Holy moly, not my idea of fun! For once I actually cheered at the sight of a truck in front of me. His nice heavy, wide wheels cleared some of the crap off the road giving a better track to follow in; if I stayed far enough back I avoided his road spray as well. Ain't life good? At least when its that bad you know you're alive, and boy was I alive A fairly nice Motel was gladly taken that night, I deserved a bit a luxury.

I'd hoped for better weather the following morning, it wasn't raining to start with, that was an A1 improvement. But not for long, less than an hour before I had to stop and don the waterproofs. Even worse was the looming clouds over the range of mountains I had to pass over for the morning's ride (as you can see in the second picture). I decided to take a lower pass, but missed the turn, so went with the original plan. By the time I'd gone two miles along the gravel track I was in two minds; a newly layed layer of gravel was found a bit daunting, then I hit the cloud bank. At this point I lost any semblance of sanity and carried on, don't ask me why, I couldn't say. I knew when I got to the state line, in the middle of the cloud, alone, freezing weather; I felt great! So glad I hadn't turned back, a small but excellent sense of achievement. And armed with renewed confidence in my abilities to tackle the world, off I set again, just a wee bit faster.

Now its becoming more a point of finding as many tracks to follow as I can. Which is what I'd planned on doing together with Cai, just didn't think I'd be up to it alone. Well stuff it, we'll see what I can and can't do alone. There's only one way to find out! On this new high I was determined to find the next trail, going from Dillon to Alder, taking in the ghost towns of Nevada City and Virginia City on the way to Yellowstone.

What a delight, for the first time a track I took was not mainly gravel or stone, it was real dirt, yeeha! It isn't second nature for me riding dirt, I learnt to ride in heavy town traffic and my skills have all been learnt on road. I've only ever had short little goes on soft and loose surfaces. I'm getting there though, this sandy dirt was great, (3rd picture form top)I loved it. Although the bike hit the dirt again, though not with me on it. As I stopped to take the damned picture it went over, despite having checked the ground was hard enough to take the weight. No problem, pick the heap of junk up and set off, just a bit sweatier, and with a bent hand guard. It'd been such a good couple of days I took a night in a warm, cosy log cabin and got absolutely plastered with a local couple. Following morning, day lit up and Off to Yellowstone I went.

The scenery in Yellowstone can't be faulted, it was stunning. Gorgeous mountain ranges, excellent vistas from very high elevations and hot springs aplenty. The roads are all 45 mph maximum, which is a good idea, to protect the wildlife; bloody frustrating though! After spending so much time with open, empty roads, hardly anyone in sight for most the day, it was hard to sit behind a long line of traffic and not feel frustration. I couldn't sit at a reasonable speed (45-50 mph) because I had to constantly watch the other vehicles, who were likely to stop suddenly at any moment and block the whole road. I had to stop and think though, I came here now because its the end of the season and there are few people here. Oh yes Les, imagine what it would be like in mid season and count your blessings boy. So I did, and felt better. I even got to stalk a deer, well three but only really got pictures of this one, ain't it cute?

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