Day 15 - Idaho Falls ID to Jackson WY
Mileage: 90 miles
Weather: Low 60s to start. Low 60s to end. Sunny for part of it. Strong thunderstorm cells came through our route twice.
Highlights of the day:
It was a relatively calm day to start with moderate temperatures and moderate (mostly tail) winds. That changed when a majority of our riders made it into Victor WY. Victor is at the base of the Teton Pass on the Idaho side. We watched dark clouds move into our area and then ducked for cover as the rain and winds swept through with lots of lightning (and a bit of hail) for added excitement. The staff calmly scrambled (yes, that is possible) to collect up any riders we could on the road. Many of the riders found shelter of some sort on their own. One rider was even picked up by another cycling tour group in the area. It’s a small community and I know we would do the same should we find a rider need help. From the safety of the vans or a building, we all watched storm progress. After about 45 minutes, the sun came out and we were back on the road. We had about a 2-hour window before another thunderstorm blew up while we were up on top of Teton Pass. The staff went from suggesting that the riders get in the van to requiring them to do so immediately as they watched nearly every peak around them get struck by lightning. Oddly enough, no one argued. 😉 The excitement passed and riders continued down to Jackson. There was lots more to today than just the weather…
Our first SAG stop was at a rest area that overlooked the Snake River. Hills, water, sunshine – stunning. We climbed a bit and then descended quickly to ride along the Snake River. Stunning! It’s repetitive but accurate. A left turn onto Rte 31 brought us to the first big climb of the day – Pine Creek Summit @ 6764’. I would describe this as a relatively gradual 14-mile climb – mostly 4-6 percent except for the last mile or so when it bumps right up to 8. And then there was the descent into Victor. Non-technical. Good roads. FAST!
Victor provided a brief pause to refuel before the signature climb of the tour. Teton Pass @ 8431’. It starts off innocently enough out of Victor. At 1-2 percent, it’s almost as if you’re not climbing except that your head is wondering why your legs aren’t making you move a little faster. The Wyoming state line (our second state line of the tour), complete with a big sign and many pictures, marks the start of the “real” climb just over 5 miles outside of Victor. The next 6.6 miles definitely challenged the riders. The grade gradually increased each mile with the last two miles topping out with an average of just over 10 percent. There were many fist bumps and cheers as each rider made his or her way to the top.
Then there was the descent into Wilson. It is a technical and steep descent that we discussed at length at last night’s route rap. It is not a descent for the riders to try push the envelope in terms of speed or their comfort. We even recommended that they take a couple of breaks on the way down to enjoy the scenery behind them and to give their hands, that have been working the brakes, a rest. All riders listened and heeded the advice. All riders made it in to Jackson safely. All staff members broke into a happy dance in celebration. For now, the riders are under strict orders to hydrate, refuel, and rest. They will need all three for tomorrow we climb again.