Colorado

It has been 6,000km and three months since I dipped the wheels in the frozen Arctic Ocean in far northern Canada. Three months of following the magnificent Rockies day after day. And this day I pack up the bike and head to the airport in Denver finishing this leg of the trip. Sad to be joining the throngs of sheep standing in lines to get processed onto a flight. But this is the sad reality of finishing a bike trip – the surrender in returning to drab wretched reality.

The Colorado leg was a quick blast through some lovely mountain scenery over one or two big passes culminating in the final day’s ride up and over the Vail pass and a plunge down to Silverthorne, the last town on this trip. Stayed at the Ladder Ranch as I crossed into Colorado from Wyoming then down to the Colorado River two days before and blew a front tyre out coming down a track at a rate of knots, the first real bike issue of the whole trip. Had the opportunity to stop over in Steamboat Springs earlier and stay at the charming throw-back motel, The Rabbit Ears Motel.

So it is finished for the next month or so while I attend to some business in Australia etc. I’m a good bit skinnier than when I started out. I’m feeling fit from the 8-10 hour rides each day, eating three times my usual food and drinking litres of water each day. It is always an adjustment going back to a relatively sedentary life.

Hmmm, but I do have this return air-ticket to Denver…….

Wyoming gets all philosophical like along the road just south of Rawlins.

Landscape starts to ramp up a bit out of the Wyoming arid basin into the Rockies again.

The Rabbit Ears Motel had the advantage of a hot-spring just across the road.

The Rabbit sign at night. Hauntingly beautiful.

From the top of the Vail pass, a big rise on the last day of riding came to 135km with 2,000m of climbing. Happily there was a bike track for the ride over this pass.

Not sure why the brilliant SPAM in a packet has not caught on. Gone are the twisty-open cans to access the magic gunk.

Wyoming

The trail now dips southeast into Wyoming. Away from the forests and the tourist fleecing activity of the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks I ride into the badlands of the arid Wyoming basin. The locals say that the rivers and streams that go into the basin don’t come out and water supply becomes a bit of an issue at times as some of the reported watering holes turn out to be dry. Yet the arid landscape is very beautiful if you are into barren voids. There is a photo below of one of the majestic storms that careen across the basin each afternoon. As one of these storms bore down on me one evening I actually had to hang onto the tent (again) against the wind and capture the water off the tent to filter and drink (which I’m glad no one caught on camera).

Grand Teton National Park just south of Yellowstone has some lovely scenery.

In Grand Teton National Park

The best coffee in a long time is in the lovely trekking, coffee and brewery town of Pinedale in Wyoming.

Washboard shakes things up a bit.

Not a lot out here apart from a few ‘tax cows’.

Saw this lovely Co-Motion tandem heading into the basin at Boulder.

Colter Bay to Lava Mountain Lodge 86km

Lava Mountain to Camping 103km

Camping to Pinedale 50km

Pinedale to Atlantic City 160km

Atlantic City to A&M Reservoir 126km

Reservoir to Rawlins 90km

Montana

Into the relatively wide open spaces of Montana.

Missoula is a funky little craft beer lovin’ city with loads of cycling credibility so I perch myself at the bar of a brewery in the centre of town to enjoy some cool and refreshing IPAs. Montana is proving to be a good place to find a nice beer and lashings of lovely huckleberry smoothies. At last out of the column of trees that was Canada I stretch out and surge out across the prairie. Wisdom further south marks a cultural change to something more akin to ‘the West’; well, my image of it anyway. I avoid the gun show that is in town for two days (a sad affair in the community hall charging $5 to get in) and ride on for Jackson (Rosa’s Cafe), then over a small pass and and a roll of 20km down into Dillon, a brewery town boasting a university.

South of Dillon I decide to cut across the north of the Blacktail Mountains on a quiet dirt road towards Yellowstone National Park and after an afternoon’s riding without a lot of water, find a bridge with a pretty rank river that can at least provide some water for boiling. Curtis who is riding towards Denver at a rate of knots arrives with just enough time to set camp before a storm that has been threatening to arrive for most of the afternoon hits with full force. These things are building up during hot summer days and this one soon turns into an electrical storm the likes of which this boy has not seen for some time. The pre-storm winds take on biblical proportions and I’m soon hunkered down in the tent hanging on for grim death, watching the lightning flashes through the flimsy sheeting as they all too gradually flash across the sky. Having Curtis there at least increased the chances of the lightning barbecuing someone who was not your worthy correspondent – thanks Curtis.

Then it is across the border into Idaho momentarily and a lovely little lodge/bar/cabin property called Squirrel Creek along the Ashton road just west of the Teton National Park. Am hoping back onto the ‘great-divide biking route again now so on sighting the bike-friendly sign (refer photo) your correspondent cruises in for an afternoon of gas-bagging and imbibing with the owners and some guy who just seemed to be there to drink beer. Then off into Wyoming and the Yellowstone and Teton National Parks.

Wide open spaces of Montana

Lovely garden decoration with a water feature emanating from the front grill.

Rosa’s Cafe in Jackson, Montana.

Biker heaven, this way?

Squirrel Creek is a great place to sit on the porch with the owners and locals and chew the fat while re-hydrating on a large amount of beer.

Grave Creek Camping to Columbia Falls 95km

Columbia Falls to Polson 99km

Polson to Missoula 112km

Missoula to Hamilton 75km

Hamilton to Wisdom 122km

Wisdom to Dillon 112km

Dillon to Storm Camping 89km

Storm Camping to Island Park 89km

Island Park to Squirrel Creek 81km

Squirrel Creek to Colter Bay 90km