DAY 51 (7/31/05): Sheridan to Ranger Creek, WY 33.7 mi. This morning I packed up my little campsite and rode the loaded bike into Sheridan to await the arrival of my good friend and fellow ANT-riding, hay-market-shopping, high-altitude-adventure enthusiast Joel Ninesling. He pulled up at around 1pm, having driven to Sheridan that morning from Jackson, where he used to live, about a 7 hour drive. After he got his bike out of the car and loaded up, we headed towards the Bighorn mountains, which loom ominously over the skyline in Sheridan. We ascended gradually at first, on a paved road. Soon, however, we lost both the "paved" and the "gradual." The line taken by Red Grade Road was captured by Joel as "STFU" (S for Straight, U for Up, you fill in the rest). The grade was 17% in some places, and with the loose gravel I had to push Dagny for a few sections. Let me assure you that pushing a 75 lb bike up those grades is anything but easy, and we were both pretty tired when we reached the top of the first section of climbing, which put us nearly 4000 feet above Sheridan. From that point, the road "flattened" out a bit such that it was consistently rideable, and we climbed our way slowly but surely towards the Ranger Creek campground. On the way, we were interrupted briefly by a thunderstorm accompanied by rain so hard that we had to take temporary shelter under a stand of trees until the rain slowed enough for us to move on. We finally made it to Ranger Creek completely soaked and exhausted, and once the rain stopped we basically just set up the tent and went to sleep immediately. DAY 52 (8/1/05): Ranger Creek to Greybull, WY 72.7 mi. We had a slightly delayed start this morning since we wanted to let some of our gear dry out before loading up. As soon as the first rays of the sun began to penetrate the thick pine forest at the campground, we started strategically placing our gear in patches of sunlight, and moved our wet clothes from place to place as the sun came up to maximize drying potential. Once we were underway, we finished climbing up to the top of the Bighorns, and rode a high plateau through some really pristine wilderness, both forest and high alpine meadows. We saw a bunch of mule deer as well as both a bull and cow moose. At last we left the unpaved road behind and came out on US-14 again, and climed just a little bit more to get to the top of Granite pass, at 9033 ft. From there, we had an outstanding 18-mi descent through Shell canyon, with stops at various vista points along the way. The rock formations along the descent were both huge and intricate, with lots of ancient layers visible in cross section along the canyon walls. What was especially cool was that at the bottom of the descent, just outside the canyon, you could look back and the enterance to the canyon was completely obscured by the hills at the base--you would never have known it was there. After a quick refueling stop at Dirty Annie's in the little town of Shell, we rode downhill for another 15 miles or so to Greybull, which is at the exact same elevation as Sheridan (3700 ft). Thus, we effectively undid in about 2 hrs all the climbing that took us about 8 or 9 hours of slavish climbing to accomplish over the past two days. The descent was thrilling, though, and there were good pizzas, rootbeer floats, and showers in Greybull, all of which were much appreciated by team ANT. DAY 53 (8/2/05): Greybull to Dead Indian Pass, WY 92.6 mi. We began today with a gradual 1500 ft climb into Cody, WY. In addition to the elevation gain, we had a huge headwind, so Joel and I took turns pulling 0.75mi shifts. Headwinds are certainly much easier to deal with when you have a buddy with you to share the work, I have found. When we got to Cody, we visited the Sierra Trading Post (aka "Praise the Lord Sports") outlet store where I picked up a very nice new Limar helmet to replace my old Giro, which was falling apart. With the new helmet on, we rode out of Cody, did a nice quick 300 ft climb to remind ourselves what we were getting into, and headed off towards yet another mountain pass. We rode through an amazing basin with steep red hills rising up on either side and came to the turn off for the Chief Joseph Highway, which goes over Dead Indian Pass. A guy that we had talked to in town had told us that there was a campground about 8 miles from the turnoff, so we weren't worried, even though there were some 3000 ft of climbing involved in those 8 miles. We climbed gradually at first, and then did a series of very steep switchbacks up the face of a big hill. Although it was a big climb, it didn't feel hard at all compared to that first day out of Sheridan. When we reached a false summit at the border of the National Forest, we stopped for a map check and Joel realized that the guy we had talked to might have been somewhat off in terms of where the campground actually was. So, we climbed on up the pass, and as we approached the actual summit, the sky darkened rather ominously and then yet another thunderstorm began, this one featuring hail the size of one of my favorite riding snacks, peanut M & M's. Rather than ride through the hail, Joel found a nice dry spot in a tight group of fir trees and we pitched the tent there, about 50 yards off the main road on a little spur that went out to a research facility. We put all of our food in a stuff sack and Joel hung it from a tree to keep it away from bears. As he put it, it was high enough up that only "Kareem Abdul-Ja-Bear" would have been able to reach it. Once we were in the tent and the storm died down, we slept very, very soundly. DAY 54 (8/3/05): Dead Indian Pass, WY to Cooke City, MT 53.4 mi. This morning, after a nutritious and balanced breakfast of string cheese and triscuits, we made our way over the summit of Dead Indian Pass and did a fabulous descent off the other side into a deep valley below (where we found the much anticipated campground a mere 9 mi beyond where the guy predicted it would be). We stopped for a much needed meal at a country store and restaurant beyond the valley and then turned onto the Beartooth Highway and headed northwest torwards the Montana border. Unfortunately, a large portion of that road was under construction and we had to do another fairly significant climb on a less than ideal surface, this time with huge earth-moving machines doing their thing everywhere. We camped just up the hill from Cooke City, MT. There was a little afternoon rain shower that kept us in the tent for an afternoon siesta, and then we walked into town for dinner. We ate an outstanding meal at the Beartooth Cafe, beginning with a truly huge plate of nachos that Joel and I demolished in about 7 minutes.