My brother Nate and our friend from college, Cat, came out to do the Yellowstone with us! After seeing the park roads and the conduct of the motorists within the park I was happy to see them, but also happy to have a car to get safely between natural wonders
The first day we did the essentials. We went to the big hot springs, saw the prismatic pool, the paint pots and waited patiently for old faithful to erupt. Nate and I had never been to Yellowstone so we wanted to see the quintessential sights first. Dogs are not allowed at any of the geothermal sites or in more popular paths so Ru had to stay in the car for most of the day, poor guy. He barked and Lamented until he couldn’t see us anymore and then resigned himself to the ever new fate of being a car dog forever for sure because we’re never coming back, not ever, oh god, just kidding we came back 30 minutes later. But I think he likes it better than the trailer in a head wind.
While at Old Faithful we observed a curious phenomenon. The signs near the geyser said it was expected to go off at 11:30, give or take 10 minutes. So at 11:15 we found a log with a view, this time far enough back that Ru was allowed to tag along. 11:30 came and 11:30 went but no geyser. The crowd in front of us was swelling and the several hundred people there to watch it were getting restless. Kids started running back and forth, while families dressed in camo scattered and re grouped and everyone was generally annoyed at the wait. From our log we watched this all with amusement. A couple people asked us when it was “supposed” to happen. This is a natural phenomenon. It is incredible that it operates on any kind of schedule and we have found it and figured it out but it will happen when it happens and not before. There is not a park employee down there waiting to flip a switch. We finally saw the stream cascading high above the mouth of the geyser around 11:50. After the initial ooo’s and ahh’s people turned their backs to the still spewing geyser and walked away. You’d think people so concerned with the schedule of the geyser would actually watch it but ehh i guess they have the burst saved as a video on their iPad so they can watch it later. Gross.
The second day we took care of some errands and went to Mammoth. Doing laundry was a welcome change and Cat lent me some shampoo to wash my hair for real. So worth it. After town we drove the 1.5 hours to Mammoth. I think this was my favorite part of the park. Not only did we see a big ass snake in the picnic area (it was just slithering through like it was no big deal, I put ru on a picnic table out of panic) but it also had some of the most interesting features. I am not one for technical terms but I can tell you that my favorite part was the big calcified tables that spilled into pillows at times, billowing down the hillside. We made time to visit Kelly and Gerben, two of our Dartmouth classmates (who went on the iconic geology field term “The Stretch” with Joey and Cat) who are working at the Park. It is crazy to think that people who were so close to us in experience and life choices two years ago now can carry a government issued weapon and arrest you for stealing petrified wood.
What we did in Yellowstone doesn’t matter so much as how it made me feel. I have always thrived on a sense of being a known entity. I like to be part of a community where people know my context, understand my motivation and just straight up know I’m harmless. That is not something you get from traveling. Being on the road makes you feel like a constant outsider. You are only passing through and while this can be novel and exciting and fun, there comes a point where the interested locals stop validating your adventurous spirit and start alienating you with their inquiries. The more questions someone needs to ask you, the more I feel like your choices fall out of their realm of the possible. You become an exhibit to otherness in these small towns, vulnerable and threatening at the same time.
It was nice to lay that burden aside for a few days and be welcomed into the knowledge of the people around us. I needed to have a conversation deeper than my 5 minute life story.
Cat and I are both early risers (or at least earlier than joey and Nate) and we got to have some long conversations about our worlds while the rest of the campsite slept. Ru would wake up around 6 and by extension so would I. Cat had the best intentions in bringing her hammock but the near constant rain ensured she would also be awake as the dawn broke. We walked the Ru around the campsite and talked about our lives. We talked about work, and why we work, and how we work and who we work for and who we want to work for and what we want our lives to ultimately mean. We talked about our friends and their paths, people we miss, people we don’t and people we wish we did. We talked about responsibilities and lack thereof, next steps and striking out on our own. I have always found it easy to pass the bechdel test in my conversations with my compatriots. That is something I am pretty proud of. We discussed our relationships not in terms of definition of self but in terms of how they fit and shape our lives. Cat and I were friends before we found partners and we will always be those independent, if fool hardy women at heart.
I also felt so thoroughly unburdened by the ability to be honest. As you have noticed, I don’t put the bad bits in the blog (LOL) and I think for the health of the trip it is important to focus primarily on the good. We are in a beautiful place, we love each other, we are seeing the world, we are bettering ourselves physically, we are promoting bicycling as a form of transport for sport and leisure. All things true, all things honorable. But we are also cold and hungry and alone a lot of the time. Only a person who knows you can understand that the commiseration needs to happen but doesn’t undo the good. I couldn’t tell a stranger I was sad and in the same breath have them believe how truly moving and important this trip is. It wouldn’t make sense with the surface narrative. But having this time with people who have known me my whole life (in Nate’s case, and my whole adult life in Cat’s) made it easier to talk about all the aspects of a trip that changes your life.
There was some definite heaviness watching that station wagon pull away. It took away our ability to blend and made us vulnerable once more. It was a little selfish to think this way about the trip but honestly I needed the break from people staring.
As the sun sank in the sky another tour biker pulled up and asked if we knew how far to Beaver Creek. We saw on his face a little of what we were feeling when we arrived and offered to share our campsite. We swapped stories, lamented rumble strips and head winds, and talked about all the stuff we eat just to keep our bodies going. It was the lift we needed to keep on keeping on in the morning. It would have been easier to sleep but we don’t really do easy these days.
In the next week I didn’t devote all that much energy to writing. We all need breaks and I needed to be a little more present, not thinking constantly of what I’ll write about this view instead of seeing it. Here are my notes, I hope they amuse 😁
Buffalo fur on a sign post, buff’s need back scratches too
Let ru smell it, he ate the whole thing
Skydivers and paragliders overhead, bet they have a great view of the caldera
Up the pass to 7200
Down the Gallatin River to big sky
Bike path through big sky, sweet
Visitor center got a map 👍❤️🙌
191 with very rude people for another 8 miles, oh to be flicked off from a pickup truck at 50 mph
forest service campsite near the river
More 191, not so rude in the morning
Side road through some beautiful farm land
Gallatin valley–one of the most picturesque and agriculturally productive in MT
Rolled over some big hills
Should’ve taken lunch earlier got hungry had a fight
Left phone in lunch spot ugh, I went back for it
Crazy tail wind
Great campsite, music and nice people, ru met a new corgi girlfriend, ranger also named Alice (we bonded)
Rolled out early
Three forks was cool, beautiful bike path
Went along for a while
Afternoon was rough
Huuuuuuge rolling hills and a head wind
Barely made it to hell alive
Not kidding, literally camped somewhere called hell’s gate
Sheriff rolled through a couple times, quieting down the rowdy lake goers, paid us no mind.
Had a pretty long pretty loud “discussion” about what we’ll do after the trip
Future freak outs everyone take a deep breath
Don’t want to spoil the trip with a destination
More crazy rolling
Down by the lake was nice
Over the dam
Into Helena, seems like a cool town, it is now on the list
Decided to get a hotel room and eat at the Chinese buffet instead of riding more
Woke up and busted out
Wind was gonna begin at 1 so we needed to get the climb done
Bomb ass breakfast from the hotel, pancakes so so fine
Rolled past a military base
Helena seems cool but pretty conservative
Up up up the pass
Stopped at a cool shop where someone stole the box for tp $ in the outhouse and everyone berated them in graffiti on the bathroom wall
Met a sexist triathlete who told joey he was pulling the trailer to even the odds (why say “no offense” if you insist on being knowingly offensive)
Up up up again
Road work at the top was nice because the pilot car got used to us and took all the cars in a wiiiiiiide arc around us through the steepest parts.
Got to the top of the goddamn United States
Crossed the continental divide and descended into a crazy head wind (gusting to 50 oh lord). Could barely go 10 mph downhill
Found a sick wilderness campsite about 1000 ft below the divide
Set up shop, made a fire, had a time
Ru are all the cheese and was kind of a jerk about it
Woke up late
Headed out into the wind
Less than 100 miles to Missoula so we want to try to make around 50 today.
Scurried along to Lincoln and ate a dank veggie sammich as per usual
As we came into town we stopped at a farm stand and bought two zucchini a for dinner and a pound of the best Ranier cherries I have ever had. The fruit was big and firm and rich and crisp and sweet but what made them perfect was how proud the farmer was of them. He told us all about how his trees had produced about half the fruit as last year but that they were bigger, better and the best cherries he had ever grown. Good for you dude you made some nice fruit I appreciate ya
Kept on keepin on for 20-30 more miles of rolling
The rolling in Montana is just bigger
Camped in elk hunting land, watched out for da burrs
Day 44, ended mile 1867
Woke up late and made moves, only 45 miles to Missoula
We didn’t have much with us, rolled pretty light.
Rolled and rolled and rolled some more, up and down and alllll around
Saw a couple pulling their five year old kid in a trailer, thank the lord Ru doesn’t talk or need us to carry his clothes
Rolled into Missoula
Ate a bunch of 5 Guys (oh gawd Cajun fries)
Visited the headquarters of the Adventure Cycling Association
Learned that the ACA was started by two couples riding from Alaska to Patagonia, one didn’t even finish, and the only person to make it the whole way on the same bike was a woman. Lady touring power
Decided to SKIP BANFF AND DO THE NORTHERN TIER ROUTE TO VANCOUVER (all caps important route change)
Ru peed in their office during the tour
Saw a guy wearing a Dartmouth tshirt and introduced myself…..he got the shirt at a thrift shop and didn’t know what I was talking about
Met our warm showers hosts (like couch surfing for bikes). they fell in love on the TransAm last summer and moved to Missoula last winter #goals
Went to a community festival, chatted with some lady bikers we met at the ACA, one of whom was a tiny French Canadian woman pulling her 65 lb dog in a trailer.
Good times all around
Day 45 (today! 6/24)–Missoula rest day
Woke up in Max and Julia’s backyard
Took ru to the vet
He is vaccinated for rabies and ready to go to Canada at a moments notice
ALSO HE WEIGHS 48.8 lbs
Went to the friendliest laundromat, free soap, coffee and wifi. #blessed
Got a new trailer tire, the right side one keeps going flat
Called my mom
Cooking our famous tomato white wine lemon pasta thing for our hosts for dinner to say thanks
Gotta go buy salad…….
See you in long form soon gentle readers,
love and kisses,