A very early start with a big cold subway chicken flatbread and iced coffee from a can, ready and prepared for a very cold day. The rain had stopped leaving wet roads, and thankfully less wind, this time it’s JP first to move at 2:45 PDT being Saturday I wanted to clear Yellowstone before the manic RV drivers packed the roads. Amy had the same idea and we rode together out of town and quickly crossed into Wyoming, State No 4. Loud conversation scares off the bears, well that was a loose plan.
After two low mileage days I was raring to go, and some effort was needed just to keep warm. Either Amy sensed this or she just got fed up with the sight of me and she stopped at Madison Junction campground to rest a sore leg. Alone ploughing through the dark in Yellowstone park on full alert for any movement in the shadows, well chance would be nice. The lack of wildlife on this trip so far was staggering, apart from the snakes, nada.
Dawn came without sun, the steaming vents in the morning light were amazing. Such a peaceful ride through the warm steaming springs all around, the smell of sulphur and the eary feeling of being in a crater that’s long overdue a planet changing event. The once healthy scorched trees and steam rising from damaged roads evidence of a constantly changing environment. I stop and think about grabbing a lone tourist for a picture on the bike across the slippery boardwalks in the steam. Maybe not, not an ideal way to get warm falling in that.
A turning for Old faithful appears (Tip ignore this and carry on until you get to the footpath crossing the main road and turn down that instead) It has not long gone off, I wait a while in the warm Post Office having a snack for breakfast Number two. This would have been a fine late night bivy as planned, only 3 hours from West Yellowstone. Shudder to think what a room here for the night would be. Snow on the ground in many places show it would have been a very tough night out here last night.
Carrying on the lakes look great and I long for a hot drink. Finally through the Yellowstone South entrance, job done looking at the queue to get in, and no payment either for this dawn raid. The cold was creeping into my core, six hours on the move, and I needed to stop. Flagg Ranch appeared just in time. There was a breakfast buffet but I settled for a big coffee in a comfy sofa on top of a roaring fire and sneaking down my own nut mix, bliss.
Jackson lake after 7 hrs shows me just how far I’m behind Jon, there’s not going to be any catching him this trip, he is flying. The Coulter Bay village has a convenience store gas station right on the turn. Watching people struggle with the bear proof waste bins provides some entertainment. A volunteer ranger lady warns there are bears with cubs in the area, yea right! and says I should have been here last week it was so warm. It’s 3 degs C, I’m hugging a coffee trying to feel my fingers she’s just rubbing it in.
Setting off it’s slow going there are cars all over the road, I immediately think accident but then I spot the cameras and tripods. Wildlife spotting, when one car stops the herd all crawl around on the hope of a glimpse of nature. I slowly thread through but again nothing, Yogi and Boo Boo don’t like me.
Through the Teton national park with the stunning 3 Teton peaks over the right shoulder, had to stop and admire the view back to the West. Checking the profile it’s time to face the next big challenge, the Togowotee pass at 9500ft. A 15 mile climb at 7%, I decided to break out the music for the first time, a distraction while cruising up there steadily. More illuminated signs warning of wildlife on the road ahead had me laughing. Animal count still zero; I had worked it out, all the extras that normally run around here dressed in animal suits for the tourists were tucked up in a warm bar somewhere.
Some cracking tunes had me singing out loud, life was good. Really strangely and unexpected I got quite emotional to one favourite song, why the hell was I crying, emotions flooding out. Was it the relief that I could still climb having almost blown it on day 2.
The rain/sleet came at the top, more snow was on the ground it was still freezing and after quick photo it was time for the 30 mile downhill. Like most roads in this part of the country you didn’t need any brakes to navigate the wet corners, just as well as very quickly I couldn’t feel my fingers. With speed comes more cold, an hour later I roll in Dubois a shivering wreck who can barely steer straight due to the violent shakes. I will be forever grateful to the Exxon service station and deli, they translated my blubbering speech and did there best to feed me hot food.
Sitting still warmth wasn’t coming easy, Rocky mountain lodge was just over the road but it was too early for that, the sun was out I figured some furious pedaling would bring back the glow. Two things then brought home the craziness of this whole venture; A motorcyclist smoking outside could barely hold his cigarette, dressed in leathers he had passed me on the descent earlier in the snow, pointing at me shivering in my thin Lycra he splurted out “how are you still alive man, how?” Rolling off another dude jumps out and stops me, hands me a Snickers bar from a carrier bag and shouts “go TransAm racer you can make Lander tonight”
Looking at the profile it was a gradual drop down to 5500 ft with a few lumps, but then a miracle happened. The landscape instantly changes to red rock cliffs, there’s a warming tail wind that makes 20 mph plus seem easy and I have to stop several times to take some kit off. Wind River reservation, this is Indian country, like a high level desert what a day of contrasts. Drivers pouring into isolated Indian casinos, with plenty of places to stay on the route it seemed a good gamble to plough on.
A new distraction was the smell, hundreds of roadside beef cattle being corn fattened up in tidy packed pens. An overpowering almost ammonia like attack on the nostrils, and a thick haze caught in the low sun that drifted for miles.
Finally Lander appeared out the haze of a particular large ranch, an arrival by dark for 227 miles, what a day I was buzzing. What a roller coaster of emotions and probably the fact I spent almost the whole day without racer distractions was part of the reason. The fun continued in the Frontier Lodge, a wild west themed motel with a band on in the Maverick restaurant to boot. It would be rude not to, see what fun you miss with the restriction of a lack of spare clothes, I was celebrating being warm again. Loaded up with breakfast food to microwave tomorrow, lets do it again, all I have to do is get up then.
From the bar I connect with John on whatsap for the first time, he is in Jeffery City drinking with the locals, good to hear we are both mixing it with the natives and taking this racing seriously ;-). He’s convinced I’ll catch him tomorrow, I know that’s not going to happen unless he cocks up, sounds like he’s having a very lonely ride though compared to me. He did catch Hippy briefly though which was a surprise to hear.
Racewatch: 12:00am PDT Jun 11 ’17
Jon Lester had pulled out a lead and was in Cannon City with ED-BC and SS chasing together. Michael Wacker in 5th, Janie Hayes coming into her own in Colorado in 6th with a few of the top ten showing signs of cracking. Johnny is now 19th and top Brit, and my great day moved me up to 22nd. Brian, Amy and Anton have stopped at Dubois I have gapped them by 50 miles in one day! Beer well and truly earned.