Leading up to the launch of my memoir Hangry: A Startup Journey, each month I’m releasing a state-by-state recap.
For the original post, click on any Day number heading.
Day 54: Grant Village Yellowstone NP, WY to West Yellowstone, MT
Today was the best of parks and the worst of parks. The land of clement weather and the torrential downpour. Expanse of solitude and expanse of congestion.
Everything in Yellowstone up to and including Old Faithful was wet, congested, cold, monoculture, and underwhelming. Compared to the grand beauty and variety of the Tetons, the first half of the park was extremely disappointing.
There were some bright spots: we met a wonderful couple on the way up to our 7th crossing of the Continental Divide. We then met another couple who were touring on our 8th crossing of the divide at Craig Pass.
North of Old Faithful, Yellowstone took on the epic qualities for which it is known. The Fumaroles happily guttered, gushed, and gassed, sending steaming water down the sides of the prismatic rock and sediment. All these hot springs fed into the Madison River.
Then, we took a 2-mile detour on our way to the park entrance to see the waterfalls just next to the Firehole Cascades. The rushing river was carved out a steep and stunning canyon.
In my final mile for the day, I crossed into Montana, my ninth state of the trip. Christine, my wonderful wife, had reserved myself and the Brits a hotel to get us out of the rain from the last few days. After we freshened up, we headed out to Slippery Otter, the local watering hole. Three hours later, full of good food and good beer, we headed back to the hotel to hit the hay.
Day 55: West Yellowstone to Ennis
I set off solo today to spend much of the day in solitude, reflection and prayer. Here are some of the many beautiful landscapes I saw today.
Day 56: Ennis to Dillon
The town of Ennis treated us right. We enjoyed everything a cyclist could want. Willie’s Distillery set us up with space for tents behind their tasting room. After some of the best American whiskey I’ve had, we set up our tents on their very well-manicured patch of ground.
After a good night’s sleep, I went to a little coffee shop that served fresh food and…wait for it…espresso! I haven’t had an espresso since Virginia. Of course, I ordered a 4-shot Americano.
Utterly over-caffeinated, I set out of town with my trusty sidekicks to ascend the pass towards Virginia City. We chatted, grabbed, and blabbed our way up the mountain. After a little over an hour, we crested the top – 2,100 feet of climbing with no stops and were not even particularly tired. It feels so good to be a strong cyclist at this point in the trip.
Down the hill into Virginia City, I screamed along at just under 40MPH. After making my way through the former gold rush, ghosted town, we realized it was 2:30, and we had only logged 25 of our 74 miles. We reluctantly pulled ourselves to start piling on some miles.
It was perfect weather and scenery until some jerk in a double tractor trailer blew past us so close it nearly knocked me off my bike with a blast of his horn. Then he called the Madison County Sheriff to complain about cyclists on the road. Some time after an infuriating chastising by the sheriff, we hit the town of Twin Bridges, where a bike lane felt like a reaffirmation of our right to use the roads here.
The final 30 miles of today were pleasant. Our scenery included fertile river valleys and snow-capped mountains, and we got a full shoulder back, relieving the tension in my shoulders. Along the way, we stopped and took a moment to honor Lewis and Clark by cooking our quesadillas over my jet boil, although I burnt nearly most of the hair off my fingers.
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Day 57: Dillon to Wisdom
Along my ride, I’ve ridden through many small towns, all of which have an “old town” or “main street” or “downtown.” In Missouri and Kansas, I’ve noticed when a “new town” comes in, boasting Walmart and a variety of fast food joints, it sucks all the energy and vibrancy out of the “old town.” The further west I go though, I notice these towns from Colorado on boast some unique feature the people of that area rally around. In Ennis, it’s fly fishing. In Dillon, it’s a cute art area. In Wisdom, it’s the surrounding valley and forests.
After my amazing breakfast of baked oatmeal and a large espresso-based drink, I head out of Dillon. Clear blue skies and beautiful landscapes make this one of my favorite days so far. I started my ride with flats slowly rising towards the mountains along some lazy rivers. There was an abundant array of birds and wildlife in the rivers and marshes.
Torrey Mountain dominated my attention for the lion’s share of today’s ride. Right from the start, I could see it in the distance, but it wasn’t overwhelming. This single mountain stayed in view for hour upon hour, which allowed me to focus in a way that I couldn’t in the over-the-top showy ranges of Colorado.
I ascended the 2,000-foot Badger Pass and continued into a typical mountain value, but with no real towns or development. Just me and my thoughts and my bike… oh and Torrey Mountain off to the east. Cresting Big Hole Pass, another 2,000-foot climb, I was greeted by amazing views of the Big Hole Valley, which is bordered by the Bitterroot Mountains.
I happily pedaled away the last few miles in this idyllic setting, arriving at the town of Wisdom in the early evening. The relaxed pace and pleasant weather left me with enough energy to read for a couple of hours, which has been pretty rare on this trip.
Day 58: Wisdom to Hamilton
The sober beginning of our trip today was a visit to Big Hole Battlefield. The battlefield is a memorial to the forced migration of several tribes to the Nez Perce reservation. Here five tribes banded together to escape the US Army where a battle ensured. The monument celebrates heroism on both sides and mourns the terrible and needless loss of life.
In a somber mood, each of us made our way up the Chief Joseph Pass alone. The other side of the mountain was the biggest downhill yet. I covered 12 miles in just under 22 minutes, which is an average speed in the mid-30s. Woohoo!
We pulled off for a pitstop at a restaurant/gift shop/tacky disaster/grumpy employee depot. As I sat there, several cyclists on day rides showed up, and we chatted about our respective adventures for the day.
For some reason known only to God above, I really really like seeing mountain goats. I found a whole pack of them! They didn’t like me too much. The males were pawing at the ground while the females took the young up the mountain. I was relatively safe behind a guardrail as I snapped a few photos.
Going further into the Bitterroot Valley, we saw several signs of Native American protest about the white man’s intrusion into their ancestral lands. Having ridden through a couple of these reservations and reading the local newspapers, I’m stunned at the continued discrimination these nations face in the modern age. I am hopeful these signs will contribute in changing the discourse between Native American nations and the rest of the US.
Day 59: Hamilton to Missoula
Last night’s dinner was curtailed by an impending storm that never broke. As dawn broke, the shifty wind had made up its mind: Tailwind. Paul, Terry, and I broke camp at 5:30 to shoot into Missoula, hoping to get a tour of the Adventure Cycling Association’s headquarters before everybody left for the weekend.
The scenery was beautiful on the ride to Missoula. I was able to enjoy it all the more since I was seeing it from a bike path. I haven’t had a completely stress-free ride in some time. Turning on some Bach concerto’s performed unaccompanied by Yo Yo Ma, I lost myself in the beauty of the mountains and music.
We arrived at the ACA just after lunchtime and were given ice cream sandwiches, stickers, and a wonderfully informative and interesting tour by Jennifer. Jennifer is a cartographer for the ACA, which means she and her coworkers are responsible for maintaining the accuracy of the maps with an eye towards cyclability.
The final part of the afternoon was the weighing of the bikes. I was disappointed not to have the lightest one, but it was understandable since I’m on a recumbent. Here’s the tale of the tape: Whifferdill at 75 lbs., Persephone at 80 lbs., Lord Montague at 85 lbs., Burly Chassis at 87 lbs., Pokey at 90 lbs.