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Grandpa Lost His Mind
A Journal - Crossing America by Bicycle

May 22, 2007      Miles 70      Total miles 1310


I started my day by going by and talking with Leslie, at one of the two local bike shops in West Yellowstone. I needed a warmer pair of gloves because the temperature was below freezing and I was going to climb to over 8,000' this day. The weather was bleak but I had already taken a day off to rest. Leslie also rides a recumbent but it is much different than mine. It is a short wheel base with under seat steering. Leslie told me where the problem areas would be going through Yellowstone National Park.
I thought this sign was interesting because it warns you not to molest the animals. Huh?
One of the reasons I thought going through Yellowstone National Park would be fun is because in the summer of 1961, after my sister, Jacqueline, graduated from high school she worked there for the summer. It just seemed neat to me to be in the same place she was over 45 years ago.

In 1988 thousands of acres of Yellowstone were burned to the ground. Even though there is dense new growth, it is sad to see how much damage was done. There is timber still lying all over the ground.
I entered the park from the west and the first three miles of the park are in Montana. When I entered the park the ranger who took my $12 entrance fee told me the temperature was 29 degrees and there was a snow storm coming over Craigs Pass. Since I was on a bike, he advised that I find a lodge or camp site as soon as possible and hunker down. When will I ever learn to listen to good advise?
Now here is something that will rattle your nerves. I heard a very loud clop, clop, clop on the road when I saw at least 25 buffalo coming directly towards me. I decided to do nothing but be still. If you will notice there is a motor home behind them. He was in a hurry and honked his horn. The buffalo moved off the roadway and crossed the river. I talked to a ranger later, named Shane and he said I was very lucky because buffalo spook very easily and normally one or two will charge a car that irritates them or they will stampede straight ahead. He was upset that a driver would do that and he told me that buffalo are famous for letting you know YOU are in THEIR territory. They are huge beasts and I loved being so close I could smell them. Shane told me there are about 3,000 buffalo in the park.

This is Albino from Italy. He was behind me in his car when he saw the buffalo coming towards me. He asked me if I was scared. He thought I was fixin' to meet my doom.
This rock is probably the size of a large living room. I just don't understand how a tree can grow and survive on that rock.
Fifteen miles into the park, I met Mrs. Gorp and Stumpknocker. They are riding the same route I am except they started in the east and will end up in Oregon at the Pacific Ocean. They told me they had seen eight other cyclists ahead of me but none of them started on the coast like I did. They had started in different states. They forewarned me about the weather I was going to hit. She said it had been quite a trip. They had to bypass a road because a mudslide had pushed a house into the road in Kentucky. They went into a storm shelter in Kansas the night of the terrible tornado there and now they were racing ahead of a snow storm. Stumpknocker is a big time walker and you should check out his web site at trailjournals.com/stumpknocker
Yellowstone National Park is a treasure and it can't help but inspire awe in anyone who travels there. The weather was moving in on me and it was getting colder and spitting snow. I kept thinking about what that ranger told me about hunkering down for the storm. I HAD to see Old Faithful. I just had to see it. When I pulled into the parking lot I asked a ranger when it was going to erupt again and he said, "Any minute now." I took Ol' Blue all the way up the boardwalk, got my camera out and she started blowing. Unfortunately because it was already very hazy and snowy, it wasn't as dramatic as it might have been on a clear day. It sounded like a quiet release of steam which probably went 100' or more into the sky. Here is a picture taken before the eruption and one during the eruption.

It was great seeing something my sister had seen almost half a century earlier. There was a sense of urgency for me now. The snow was coming harder and the nearest camp site was 20 miles up and over two Continental Divides. It was going to be some very hard riding to beat the storm. Unfortunately for me, once I got about five miles out, I knew I wasn't going to beat the snow. I was seeing the most beautiful scenery you can imagine and I couldn't take the time to take pictures.
I finally cleared both divides and it was a down hill run to Grants Village where my map showed a campground. I finally pulled into Grants Village and it was closed until May 25! Dang! I thought about throwing up my tent in the woods but I remembered the ranger telling me about the bears coming out of hibernation and they have dropped cubs or have yearlings with them and to stay in designated areas. I had already ridden hard for forty miles and I was very cold. I had no choice but to try for another campsite on my map which was thirty miles away and mostly downhill with several steep climbs.
It kept snowing harder and I started having trouble with my bike. It wouldn't shift gears. For a bike with 36 speeds that is a serious problem when I can't shift up or down. My back brake quit working. There never was any snow on the roadway but the water was splashing up on my rear brake cable and froze it and the ice had gotten all over my derrailer and it would not shift. I couldn't climb the hills without just giving it everything I had. I finally thought to pour some of my water over the derrailer but that didn't thaw it out. I knocked off all the ice I could but it would only help for a few minutes. I finally just moved my chain by hand to a lower gear so I could go up the hills.
I wasn't to the point of panicing because it doesn't get dark here until after 9:00 but with the cloud cover it would darken earlier and I have no lights since I wasn't planning any night riding. I started to have some pretty severe pain behind my left knee. I think it was from cranking as hard as I could to get up the hills. On top of that, my glasses kept fogging up and freezing. I would take them off for a while but the snow hitting my eyeballs was quite an irritation. As I neared the next campsite the snow let up almost completely.
Good fortune has followed me on this trip. Even with the problems I had, the snow never built up on the road which would have forced me to set up camp in the forest if I couldn't get traction. The last part of my ride was mainly downhill. I had the strength to get to the next campground. I was very lucky but very tired and it was dark. I decided instead of camping I would stay in a cabin which was available. I asked the clerk how much it was and about fainted when he said it was $193 for a cabin which I would share with three others and share a bathroom. There was no TV, no phone, and no wireless internet. I asked how much for a campsite and it was $20. I took it even though the temperature was well below freezing. I set up Big Agnes in the dark and slept like a baby.