Thursday, June 14, 2007

A Bike Ride Down Lamar Valley

I am not a cyclist. The total mileage I've biked in the last ten years is likely still in the double-digits, and my previous bike is rusting in the storage shed.

But I knew that if I were to get any exercise, it had to be something I liked. With Africa approaching, I knew I needed to get in better shape, so on a whim, I went by Buck's Bikes in Round Rock and declared my needs. The salesman pointed me to a bike with fat tires, a cushiony seat, and shock absorbers, with the idea that the more appealing it was to bike, the more I'd do it.

And I did get out a couple of times before this latest trip began. I was undecided whether to bring it along on this trip, but Mary Ann seemed to approve, so the bike rides the carrier on the back of the Jeep, which then rides behind the RV. Getting used to one more thing back there was easy, and since the carrier had spaces for three bikes, we began using it to carry her heavy tripod as well. Not long later, she strapped on a lawn chair as well.

While at Tanglewood, I rode a couple of times, but not as much as I had intended. Then came the relocation to Rocky Mountain National Park, and I had the sudden urge to ride from the top of Glacier Lake down to the campground at Moraine. It wasn't the brightest move. It was cold, and I didn't have gloves. My hands were painfully cold as I whipped down the road, using the brakes almost exclusively. And then I fell, and bloodied up my knee. I made it back to the campground, but that put an end to my bike rides for about three weeks.

Today, I was feeling the urge again. My knee hadn't bothered me in a few days and again I had a nice road to ride, from the campground at Pebble Creek downhill (mostly) for about 9 miles to where ever Mary Ann set up to watch for wolves.

But this wasn't a ride-the-brakes downhill. It was more of a put it in the top gear range and keep pedaling. I didn't take gloves, because it wasn't that cold, but I did take my jacket because of the light sprinkles. It was overkill and I rode hot most of the time.

The road down Lamar Valley was perfect for riding. The traffic was a lot lighter than city streets, and everyone is already expecting to slow down for animals. A lone biker is just one more specimen to drive around. (I even had one guy take my picture.) You have to be aware that shoulders are non-existent and hazardous, but given that, the pavement is smooth and the scenery can't be beat.

My first stop was at Soda Butte. As many times as I had driven this road, I kept wanting to stop for a closer look at the nearly dead travertine formation and if I did it was many years ago. I took off the jacket to cool down and tracked down the trickle of the spring that remains. It was interesting to see so many shod horse prints in the trail. I'd never seen horse and riders at that location, but certainly there are horse trails in the area.

Next point of interest was near the beaver lodge in a branch of Soda Creek, just before it joins with Lamar River. We had seen the beaver on an earlier pass through, but most times, just the lodge was visible. This time, I was looking at the nearly stagnant water and willows on the opposite side of the road, checking to see if there were any fish in the dark waters. Suddenly, and to my surprise, there was Mr. Beaver himself with a willow branch in his teeth. I stopped and backed up the ten feet, but he was shy and retreated into the willows until I left.

Not long after, I saw cars stopping for buffalo. Uh-oh. Three buffalo hardly constitute a huge traffic problem in a car, but those mountains of muscle and horn look a LOT more dangerous when it's just myself alone on the bicycle. I can hardly outrace a mouse, not likely these. The cars passed, finally, leaving me alone, waiting until they were clear of the road. Finally, I wove over onto the wrong side of the road for maximum clearance and eased by, making no false moves. The closest one watched me pass, but probably sensed I was hardly a threat on a good day.

Then, I began seeing clusters of vehicles parked beside the road, with people and scopes out for wolf-watching. Is Mary Ann with that group? No. Oh, well. Pedal on another mile. More watchers. Is she there? No. Repeat.

Finally, there was a lone Jeep at the top of a hill, and after working my way to the top in low gears, I saw it was her. Whew. Nine miles and not a single injury. I strapped the bike on the rack and settled down to slowly cool off. For me, it was wonderful. I wonder if I'll have a chance to try it again.

1 comment:

Scott Cupp said...

Looks like a fun day was had. Keep up the cycling aqnd have fun in Africa.