Search This Blog

Thursday, November 19, 2020

Cloud Peak 500 (Paul Writes His Final Day) - The Road Less Traveled

And it all might come together
And it all might come unraveled
On the road less traveled. 
The Road Less Traveled, Buddy Brock & Dean Dillon (2001)

After five days of riding the Cloud Peak 500, Paul Brasby and I face the facts. We're running out of time. We need to dramatically increase our daily mileage over the next three days or we will finish short. Decision time. Early on Day 6, we discuss options and leave Ten Sleep with a plan. I wrote about my Day 6 in Decision Day and my Day 7 in High On A Desert Plain. Paul wrote about his Day 6 in Ghost Rider In The Sky , wrote about his Day 7 in the post Wonder Where I'm Bound , and writes about his final day here.

After 7 days, 5 hours and 30 minutes, Paul Brasby is the first and only official finisher of the Cloud Peak 500. From one who was out there with him for 5+ days working those climbs in that August heat, I will paraphrase the legendary Steve Prefontaine to say that somebody may beat that time, but they're going to have to bleed to do it.

I checked the weather for tomorrow before I called it a night. It showed for a hot day in the high desert plains with temperatures in the 90's. I set my alarm for 6:30 am, so I can get an early start before the Mercury starts to rise.

I'm up before the alarm goes off and before long I'm packed and ready to go. It's time to close the book on the Cloud Peak 500.

The route follows river valleys for most of the day to Sheridan, with minimal elevation gain. Climbing to cooler temperatures is not possible.

A quick stop at a convenience store for coffee, hot sandwich, a bag of trail mix, and a quick text message to Craig. I'm back on the road by 7:15 am. The air is cool, as the magical hour for photography is in full swing. I quickly get back on the route and hit gravel soon after. The roads are fast and relatively flat. Once again, I enjoy a slight tailwind.

I was expecting today's route to be a boring, dry desert-like ride, with very little to perk my interest. But was I wrong! Just the opposite happened. I find myself riding in lush valleys with native grasses and alfalfa fields growing strong, ready for another cutting.

Grassy hills, void of trees, covered in green grass jetting upward from the valley floor in all shapes and sizes. Ridge lines form on both sides of the valleys for most of the day. I find myself rubber-necking, as I enjoyed the scenery, like watching a tennis match from the front row at center court. With the early morning light, it made for stunning shadows across the valleys. The roads were flowing through the prairie grass like a freshly laid red ribbon of satin. It was beautiful!!!

I found myself following bicycle tire tracks early on and they appeared to be a set of skinny gravel tires. In the distance, I can see the gravel road abruptly changing from a grey to red color. As I approach the new color of gravel, I noticed the tire tracks made a U-turn in the road and headed back for Buffalo. A local, I figured, doing an out and back. 

Well, I quickly discovered why they did. The new color of red gravel was 6 inches of freshly laid pea gravel. Holy Cow!!! Thank God I had 2.2 inch tires on the Cutty. They were just enough to give me the float I needed to stay on top of the loose stuff! This went on for several miles and I was happy to see it end! 

I left Buffalo with 3.8 liters of water and I used every bit of it during this leg. The towns dotting the map really aren't towns for the most part. Don't plan on using any of them for refueling purposes!!!

As the day pushes into late morning, the temperature rises with the short hand of the clock. My spirits are increasing with every pedal stroke, as it means I'm getting closer to the end of my journey. The miles are flying by, in epic proportion to the rest of the trip!

I text Crag and fill him in on my location. Craig is as much a part of this finish as it is for me! He may not be riding it with me, but he is with me in spirit. We started this epic adventure together and we're going to finish it together! Because of him, I am here, just miles away from the end of the Cloud Peak 500!

I'm in another valley heading west on WildCat Road following the BNSF railroad tracks. The route makes a change of direction with a series of right and left turns, as it works its way southwest toward Sheridan.

Because of the rolling hills, I can't see the city at all. My computer that started with 486 miles now shows only two! I ride over the last couple of hills and the city of Sheridan now comes into full view. It is literally all down hill from here.

What an amazing, hard fought ride that was. WOW!!!

My computer chirps at me to let me know I crossed the virtual finish line, as I swing into a pay only gas station and motel across the parking lot to take a few pictures. I hop back on my bike and roll to where Craig and I started our adventure . . . 7 days 5 hours and 30 minutes ago!


I would like to give a big shout out to Aaron Denberg and his wife Sarah Wallick of Big Horn, Wyoming for putting this route together for all of us to enjoy! In my 42 years of riding, this was the toughest multi-day I've done to date!!! Thank You for an Epic Adventure and for giving us the opportunity to play in your back yard!!!

I happened to come across Craig's blog post about the Cloud Peak 500 and the thought of riding with a friend intrigued me. Thank you Craig for inviting me to tag along and for your friendship on this Epic Journey. I look forward to riding with you again in the back country. Just say when and where!!!

The Road Less Traveled, George Strait (2001)

No comments:

Post a Comment