Yellowstone pt. 2

The next morning we saw a wolf. We had packed up and headed to Tower early to claim a spot in the camp ground. On the way up there was a bit of a traffic jam. Oh great, some bozo in a giant RV thinks that’s the last bison on earth. That’s what these things usually are. But this one was different. Loping casually down the road ahead of us was a black grey wolf. That is, a grey wolf that has black fur; a very rare sight. The ranger last night pretty much guaranteed that we wouldn’t be likely to ever see one. And this was just the start of our day!

We got to the Tower campground just before it started to fill up. Got a nice snack and headed out for a day of adventure. On the agenda today was a hike up to the standing trees on Specimen Ridge. We were heading down the road towards the trailhead when traffic stopped again. (No wonder Karen didn’t get to Fishing Bridge until 8.) Oh great, some doodah in a giant thinks that’s the last bison on earth. Wrong again! This time, in the ditch on the side of the road, nibbling peacefully, seemingly without a care in the world, stood a little black bear. That is, a black bear that isn’t very large. Well, two animals I’ve always wanted to see in person when I wasn’t even looking for them. How could this day get any better?

There was a ranger keeping traffic moving past the bear, so we got on the road before too long and made for the trailhead. On the way there were some cars parked on the aide of the road and people were looking off in the distance. Oh great, some doofus in a pickup thinks that’s the last bison in the world. Well, this one was bison, but it was worth stopping for. Off in the distance was a huge herd of bison. We got out and snapped a couple pictures not realizing that in an hour or two we’d have a bird’s eye view of the entire herd plus some others.

Finally we set out to hike straight up the steepest trail in Yellowstone. On the way up Zack kept reaching down and picking up rocks. Here’s an opal, there’s a fossilized imprint of a leaf. This one is really valuable. That one’s worthless but still really cool. He was an amazing source of information about just about any rock you could show him.

The Smell of Water

The desert.

The desert is dry.

The desert is dry and brown.

The desert is dry and brown and dusty.

The desert is dry and brown and dusty and hot.

The desert is dry and brown and dusty and hot and windy.

The desert smells like dust and sage and wind and heat and tar.

Water in the desert smells like fertilizer and pesticide and cow piss.

 

The desert is not a place to live.  The desert is a place to survive and get the hell out of.  But you never can because the desert lasts forever.

Yellowstone

A great part of my trip got off to a rocky start. We all paid a bit more than expected for our shuttle up to the park. The first bus took us up to Pahaska where we were to get on a second that would go into the park. When we bought our tickets for the second bus, we were told that the price of the bus would also pay our entrance to the park. This was the reason I decided to take the bus, and not bike in.

Well, we got to Pahaska and the second driver let us know that, in fact, we were still expected to pay our entrance into the park. After a bit of yelling and screaming on my part the driver of the first bus made a call and we got our entrance fees paid.

So far so good. I got to Fishing Bridge at about 2 o’clock, so I called Karen, left a message and went for a ride. I got back to the general store at around 4 and hung out for a while, eating my peanut butter and crackers and reading my book. About every hour or so, I’d go to the pay phone and call Karen. The phone rang, so I knew she had service. I did this more out of boredom and curiosity to see if she had made it into the park and out of cell range than anything. I had met some people earlier who offered to let me stow my stuff in their car and sleep under their trailer if she didn’t show up by 10. At about 7:30 I took a walk over to the ranger station to stretch my legs. It was closed. Luckily I left my bike on the side of the road because as I was walking away I heard someone calling my name. It was Karen and Zach!

We squeezed my bike and gear into the car and drove off to our campsite at Bridge Bay. While we were setting up I used bug spray for the first time that I can remember.

That evening we went to a fantastic talk about wolves In Yellowstone. We all left there dreaming about seeing a wolf in the distance while in the park. We all knew we wouldn’t.

Cody, WY

Buffalo Bill Cody would be proud of this town. It is completely full of tourists. And there’s a great big statue of him outside of his museum. And in true Buffalo Bill fashion, it costs $18 to get in. Maybe all of the towns close to Yellowstone are like this.
I was super tired after my 3 hours of sleep in the bus station, so after I got my bike put together I found the closest coffee shop and hung out there for most of the day. Finally I picked myself up and headed up to Robbin’s house, my second, and more comfortable couchsurfing experience. I took a nice and much needed nap, then we had a great dinner, and I got to sleep in an exceptionally comfortable bed.

Went back to the Beta coffee shop and waited until 11:30 to meet with Jeremie and Matthieu and catch our shuttle to Yellowstone.

Jerome Bettis

In Rapid City I bought a bus ticket to Cody, WY. There are two reasons for this. One was because there are no people in Wyoming. (something like 400000 in the whole state) The other, more important one, was to meet my sister, Karen, in Yellowstone the next day. So I went to the LBS the day before and talked to Jeff about getting my bike into a box to take it on the bus. It was the end of the day and he was a bit cranky, but the longer I talked to him, the more accommodating he became. Eventually he agreed to let me use one of his stands and box it up myself while he gave me advice.
Boxing a bike, especially a big bike gets kind of tricky. You need to take off the seat, fenders, wheels, and handlebars. And then stuff it all in a cardboard box. It’s not so bad in a shop with a stand and good tools, but reassembling it on a sidewalk gets a little tricky. Even more difficult is carrying two panniers, a handlebar bag and a huge box to the bus station.

I made it and caught the 6 o’clock bus to Billings where I got 3 hours of restless sleep on the floor in the station waiting for the 5:30 bus to Lovell where I expected to reassemble my bike and ride the rest of the way to Cody instead of waiting 11 hours for the bus. But the driver called ahead and there was a shuttle waiting to take the three of us (Geramie, Matthieu, and myself) to Cody.
On the way, the driver told us that there’s a shuttle to the entrance of Yellowstone, and that it’s cheaper if we all split the cost, so we did, but didn’t really save that much money.

Rapid City, SD

Hills and trees! There are hills and trees here!! It’s amazing!

Leaving Wall the only road going west is I-90. I was assured by a blurb on the state highway map that biking is legal on interstates in South Dakota, but I was still nervous getting on, but for nothing. It was the easiest riding I’ve had in a long time. For most of the way there was a nice shoulder, people still moved into the left lane to pass me, the hills are so much easier, and there are overpasses that gave me shade that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. In Wasta I even stopped at the rest stop and talked to the ladies at the information desk about my ride so far and they told me about the terrain coming up and even the condition of the shoulder. They didn’t warn me that the drivers would get meaner and meaner as I approached Rapid City. It wasn’t terrible, but people were coming too close and honking. It didn’t help that it’s a really confusing city to bike into.

Many thanks go to Sherry and Fred who took me in despite already having two cyclist already scheduled to stay with them. They fed me some great Mexican food and they have a beautiful house with a stunning view.

Good luck to the other folks who were spending the night! I never did write down your names or contact info, so if you read this, please comment and tell me! I wish you tailwinds and no more flats.

Also thanks to Jeff and Robbie at Cranky Jeff’s who helped me box up my bike for the bus. Next stop Lovell, WY! I can’t wait to get on my brand new saddle.