Our first day out of Dubois, we were headed 66 miles to the Colter Bay Campground in the Grand Teton National Park.
The first 30 miles of the ride were all climbing up to the Togwotee Pass. As we were making the climb, the scenery became more and more mountainous. As we were climbing, we knew there was a fire nearby, because the smoke kept getting thicker and thicker…until we could see the fire on the mountain to the south of us.
A few miles later, we came upon an electronic sign that said “Bears on Road. Stay in your vehicle.” Ummm…not much of a choice for us. How about “Stay on Your Vehicle?” We continued our climb until we finally reached the top of the pass and began our descent toward the Tetons.
We’d been told that the views from the pass weren’t that great because they were obscured. But as we sped down the other side, the Tetons came into view…just barely. We learned there was a fire in Jackson, WY, and the smoke severely obscured anything in the distance.
A little further down the road, we saw what Kristi calls the “Wildlife Paparazzi”…a number of vehicles pulled off on both sides of the road for no apparent reason. As we pulled up, I couldn’t see anything in particular, so I asked someone and they said there was a mama grizzly and her two cubs just up the hill about 30 yards. So Kristi and I spent the next 45 minutes watching and photographing them.
Colter Bay, where we camped, is situated right on Jackson Lake with a stunning view of the Tetons.
It was really something else to be able to just sit on the rocky beach of the lake and watch the sunset behind the mountains! This is why we are riding our bikes cross-country.
The following morning, I was up bright and early to try to catch the golden sunlight from the sunrise on the Tetons to the west. I was on the shores of the lake for an hour and a half taking pictures as the light slowly crept from the top to the bottom of the mountains as the sun rose in the east.
Afterward, I headed back to our campsite and woke Kristi up with one of her favorite morning smells, fresh coffee. We didn’t get started until about 9:00 in the morning, but we had a short day of 40 miles to Grant Village, just inside Yellowstone National Park.
The roads in the Tetons had decent-sized shoulders, so we spent the day riding through alpine forests as we climbed over 1,000 feet to go up and over what I believe to be the edge of the caldera that Yellowstone sits upon.
There was lots of small wildlife along the way, but we didn’t seen any bison, moose, or bear. Most of all, we would love to see wolves, but they are in the northeast section of Yellowstone in Lamar Valley. We would not be anywhere near that area unfortunately.
Once we made it to Grant Village, we rented a campsite and got settled in. We saw Vin, whom we’d been seeing off and on for over a month now. We told him he was more than welcome to camp in our campsite. Kristi and I set up camp and then went to get cleaned up and grab a bite to eat. When we returned to our campsite a few hours later, we were surprised to discover that there were no less than 8 people including us on it. It was packed. But what was upsetting to us was that the park charged all the cyclists the same price for a campsite and then packed us all in on top of each other. To make matters worse, there were hardly any bear bins in the camping area. Kristi and I saw two bear bins for 20 campsites. When we went to the office where we checked in to ask what to do, they told us if we couldn’t find a bear bin, just put the food in our car! Really? “Um, we don’t have a car. We’re on bikes.” Fortunately, since we were the first ones there, we had packed all of our food into one of the bins at one of the campsites across the road.
The next day, we were up and going early as we had a 54-mile ride to West Yellowstone, just outside Yellowstone National Park. We’d heard that finding a place to stay there was difficult and expensive. We looked up the campsites and found out that there was a minimum 2-night stay required to rent a campsite. As we were leaving Grant Village, we ran into the two people we were certain we would not catch up with, Peter and Merjika! I could tell as soon as I saw the reflectors on the back of their bikes it was them! After a warm greeting, we all continued on with the ride.
It was actually quite beautiful in Yellowstone. Unfortunately, it was difficult to enjoy because of all the traffic and the fact that unlike the Tetons, there was hardly any shoulder to ride on. We found out that they were expecting 1.14 million cars to visit Yellowstone just in the month of July! So during the entire ride that day, the sounds of cars and trucks were just about all we heard. Forget the sounds of nature.
About half way through the ride, we stopped at Old Faithful to watch her blow. Then once we worked our way back onto the trail, we found out there was road construction from Old Faithful to Madison, for about 15 miles. Although we weren’t looking forward to dealing with the construction, since that section followed the Madison River downstream the entire way, we were able to make good time in the construction area. It was one time I was really glad to be on a bike because it looked like the cars were having to wait at least an hour before they could drive through the that zone.
The remainder of the ride from Madison out to West Yellowstone was a little more enjoyable as there was less traffic and a lot more wildlife. At one point, we came upon a number of elk feeding along the river’s edge to our north, so we stopped and took pictures. It was around this point that we also passed the 3,000-mile mark!
Once we got to West Yellowstone, we ended up getting a room at a local lodge with two queen beds. Although it was expensive, Kristi and I split the cost with Peter and Merjika. We spent a nice evening chatting with them as we ate and prepared for the next day’s ride.
The next section of the ride from West Yellowstone to Ennis, MT was 72 miles and proved to be the most difficult ride of the week due to the winds. The alpine forest gave way to mostly open tundra with rolling hills. The winds picked up with a vengeance early in the afternoon. But what made it much more difficult for me was the rumble strips on the side of the road. Normally, there is plenty of room for me to fit on the shoulder with the trailer, but they had placed the rumble strips right in the middle of the shoulder. I couldn’t fit on the outside of them with the trailer, so I had no choice but to ride to the left of the rumble strip on the road…in traffic. The speed limit was 70 mph, and there were a lot of 18-wheelers flying down the highway by us! So, for the last 15 miles or so, I was forced to ride as fast as I could and move off the road whenever there were vehicles coming from both directions. It was one of the few times that the ride was not pleasant. But Kristi and I made it without any incidents, and for the most part, all of the drivers were patient and considerate.
About half way through the day, Kristi and I got to a town with a nice restaurant, so we decided to eat lunch there. After eating and drinking three or four sodas each, we headed out to finish the day’s ride. About a mile and a half outside of town, Kristi pulled up and asked me, “Did you pay for lunch?” “Um, no. I thought you did.” So, needless to say, we stopped and quickly discussed our options. I decided to drop the trailer, which is much easier than removing the panniers off of Kristi’s bike, and ride back to pay. As I was speeding back toward town, I was imagining a police car, lights on and sirens blaring, heading in the opposite direction to catch us! I think I made it back to the town in about 3 minutes. I went in and told the waitress I didn’t think we paid. “I could swear you paid.” I asked her to check the register just to make sure, and she did. Nope, we didn’t pay. “I can’t believe you rode all the way back here to pay!” But what choice did we have? No way were we going to dine and dash…at least not intentionally.
The next day was a short ride of 40 miles to Sheridan where we were staying at a B&B. We had to climb over yet another pass which took a few hours, but once we were at the top and started down the other side, I managed to get my speed up close to 50 mph. I absolutely refuse to use my brakes on a downhill unless absolutely necessary! We passed through the town of Virginia City. It was a beautiful place that made us feel like you were back in the old west. From there, the remainder of the ride was relatively flat with a decent headwind, but we still managed to make good time.
The last ride for this section of trail was a 40-mile ride into Dillon. Right after we started, we went through Twin Bridges. We stopped at a local gas station to grab some more grub and drinks and talked to a few of the locals. They told us about the biker-friendly park that the town had put together with showers and water, etc. It was actually one of the nicest towns we’d been through and wished we’d stayed there the previous night.
The rest of the ride into Dillon was in a large, flat valley surrounded mostly by mountain ranges. We were excited to get to Dillon because our good friend and former neighbor, Ben, was flying there to meet us in his private plane. But I’ll save that for the next blog entry. (Week 10 mileage: 301.94; total trip miles to date: 3,113.13)