Mileage: 79.1 miles
Today was by far the most beautiful ride of this cross country trip so far. Although it would be easier to ride west to east because of the tailwind, today I realized that going east to west is more rewarding. Now that we are really getting into the Wild West, it's been getting more beautiful by the day. It's incredible to see what Mother Nature has in store for us.
Our ride today was a bit intimidating: about 80 miles with 4700 feet of climbing. We were going over a mountain pass in Medicine Bow National Forest, which we were told was going to be an amazing ride. And it was.
The day started out pretty chilly as we left Laramie and headed towards the mountains. At about mile 30, we started the climb. It was about 14 miles of straight climbing, so it would take us quite some time. Lunch was originally at the summit, but it had to be moved earlier otherwise we would have eaten much later.
I wasn't feeling too great in the beginning of the climb. Maybe due to the lack of sleep or lack of oxygen, I was feeling pretty exhausted. I usually have a lot of energy and am a strong climber, but today I was barely hanging on. As we ascended the mountain, however, I felt my energy coming back. With each turn of a switchback, we were treated to yet another breathtaking scene. We stopped by a mountain stream in the forest, which looked like a scene out of a nature documentary. My adrenaline got pumping, and by the time I reached the summit, I felt like my usual self.
One of the highlights, other than summiting a 11,000 foot mountain, was spotting a moose! I threw down my bike and grabbed my GoPro and phone to take pictures on top of a snow bank. I wanted to get closer, but was a bit afraid to.
Shortly after spotting the moose, we summited and were treated to the cheers and screams of my teammates. I feel so lucky to have such a supportive and cohesive team. Seriously, Team Portland 2014 is the best.
We spent a lot of time exploring the summit and taking a lot of photos. I wanted to get closer to the snow capped mountains in the distance, so I took off running towards them through a meadow full of wildflowers. It was beautiful.
What's awesome about summiting a mountain is the descent! I was really looking forward to flying down the mountain after climbing for so long. It was a really rewarding descent
The cherry on top of this perfect day was arriving at a great host in Saratoga. Most of the team had home stays, and Ashley, Caitlyn, and I got to stay with Diane and Randy in their beautiful home. We were first fed a delicious dinner at their church, and then Diane drove us around the small town to give us a tour. Saratoga has mineral hot springs, so we checked that out and decided to go there the next morning.
Home stays are always much appreciated, especially after so many days on the road. It's nice to have the comforts of a home away from home, and we felt very welcomed. We settled in, showered, did laundry, and just relaxed.
It's been a long time since I've slept on a real bed, and the bed I slept in that night was pillow-soft and so comfortable. I had a much-needed good night of rest, and woke up "late", around 7am. There was coffee waiting for me in the kitchen, and I poured myself a mug and enjoyed it on the large front porch with a great view of the mountains.
Diane joined Caitlyn and I on the porch and told us her story. She was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer about a year ago and had a very tough battle. When the doctors thought they got most of it out, the cancer spread to her breast. Although Diane is a lot better, she is not completely cancer-free and her doctors are managing it with chemo treatments every two weeks. She told us about all the support she had from her family and the small community of Saratoga. Although Diane was very sick, I had no idea about her battle with cancer until she shared her story. Diane is an incredibly strong and inspirational woman, and refused to let cancer define her. I felt so grateful to have had met Diane and heard her story.