I35 south to I90 west to the Rocky Mountains. The long flat straights of South Dakota. Gas station stops for fuel, beef jerky, and water. Passing the Corn Palace in Mitchell. Lake Francis Case on the Missouri River. So many Wall Drug signs. Cheap Subway somewhere on the road, made by a sandwich artist who had recently been beat up. Finally, Wall, but not Wall Drug – just a dinosaur statue and a gas station. The dim Badlands at dusk. Wyoming warnings to chain up. The hellish-looking coal plant outside Gillette. A good night of sleep in the industrial-park Super8 in Billings.
The mountains mounting in the distance. Flatlander freakouts start. A morning gas stop in Bozeman, where we saw no bozes. Lumberyards full of timbers for "log cabin homes" after the Four Corners south of Bozeman. The amazing morning drive south on US 191 through the Gallatin River valley. Overpriced Subway and snowed-in shops in West Yellowstone. Up and over the Continental Divide outside West. Dicey driving on US 20 down to Island Park, Idaho. "The longest main street in America." Pond’s Lodge and Cabin 17.
Admiring the Mad Max snowmachines in the parking lot. (These aren’t Midwestern sleds.)
Riding bikes along the edge of Harriman State Park).
Coyotes watching us from the banks of Henry Fork, snowmachiners watching us from the back of the Last Chance. Driving off the mountain through all the winter weather for dinner. Rexburg, home of the biggest Mormon temple in Idaho. All you can eat pizza at Pizza Pie Cafe. Sharing the dining room with a Mormon youth group discussing the best thing in your life right now. (Nobody said "racing bikes.") Getting groceries at Albertson’s, a Super Valu in different colors. Home again. One last night of good sleep before before the race, except for the nightmare about ferrets.
A lazy morning. Meeting Kid Riemer, the voice of "The Push." Coffee and breakfast and a morning drive to Fitzgeralds Bicycles in Victor. Every kind of weather coming off the mountain. A snowmachine trail next to the road, wider than the road. The big potato at the Spuds Drive-in in Driggs. The invisible Tetons in the distance. Taking advantage of the sales at Fitzgeralds and having an excellent americano. Newpaper stories about wolverines in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Relaxing all afternoon, but not really. Meeting the other roomies. Setting up the bikes. Meeting other racers at Pond’s. A bowl of beef stew and a hard cider for pre-dinner. The pre-race meeting. JayP turning the stoke to 11.
A huge pre-race dinner. More bike and kit prep. A surprise visit from JayP. Trying to go to bed, but actually staying up too late, jittered.
ANOTHER RACE DAY.
The six telephone poles leading to the US 20 crossing. JayP pulling me from the race. Disappointment shading into a shattered kind of satisfaction. Race talk with Ben, the fourth-place finisher. A horrible, wonderful shower. Dinner at Pond’s with other racers. The happy chatter of race stories. Swag from JayP. A hard sleep full of nightmares and visits to the bathroom.
Up early-ish. Saying goodbye to Kid. A gas stop in West for double-caffeinated coffee. Wondering where Checkpoint Two had been. The morning drive up US 191 along the Gallatin to Bozeman – even more amazing than it had been on the way in. Surprised to be missing a place that I hadn’t even known, or left yet.
One annoyed big horn sheep.
Bozeman through the car windows. The big mountains turning to lower mountains turning to hills turning to almost plains. Wyoming again, "Forever West" (unless you’re in Idaho). A lone pronghorn in a field along the road. Devil’s Tower in the northerly distance. Loaded coal trains heading east, empty ones coming west. A superb burger and beer in Spearfish with a mountain bike on the wall. The Super8 in Chamberlain.
A carb-y breakfast and then the rest of the road trip.
A partial list of amusingly named gas stations on the trip: Pump & Munch. Kum & Go. Loaf & Jug. The long straight flats of eastern South Dakota. A stop for Caribou Coffee and amazing donuts. The mysterious barn-y building in Worthington, Minnesota. Turning north again. F’real milkshakes at one last stop outside Owatonna. The backroads into Northfield. Home again. Sad to see Ben off. Unpacking forever. Getting my laundry done before the family gets home from school. Satisfaction, happiness, tiredness.