West Yellowstone, MT
Hostel (Madison Hotel & Hostel)
Sunny & Warm
Today is the 17th - and that means it's Nathan's and my monthly anniversary! It's our 51st monthly anniversary, to be exact. How cool!
We were a little concerned about the weather this morning, because Pastor David said the wind usually blows North, and we were heading South. We didn't want a head wind, and we especially didn't want it because our elevation map showed that today we had 70 miles of gradual and steady uphill biking to get to our destination, West Yellowstone, just outside of Yellowstone National Park.
When we walked outside, we were surprised to find that there was no wind at all - not even a breeze. We were pretty happy about that. Without the head wind, we were making great time - going over 10mph even though we were going uphill!
Around mile 30, we got a terrific surprise: a tail wind started!
Then, around mile 33, we got a bad surprise: my right leg got really sore right behind my knee. I didn't know quite what was going on, but I figured I probably pulled another muscle. I had pulled my left hamstring back in Idaho, and that turned out to be pretty manageable, so I thought maybe I had done the same thing on my right side, so I wasn't concerned. But I dinged my bike bell twice - the signal to stop our bikes - to let Nathan know something was going on. When we stopped he asked me to rate the pain on a scale of 1 to 10. I said 3, and so we rode on.
But as we kept going, the pain got worse and worse very quickly. It felt like ever rotation of my pedal made it hurt more. Just a half mile later, I dinged my bike bell twice again. I told Nathan the pain felt like a 7 now.
We were right by a sign that said there was a rest stop 1 mile away, but I knew I couldn't ride another mile. As I stood by my bike, I discovered my knee only hurt when I bent it quite a bit, like 45% or so. But when I just bent it a little, I didn't feel any pain. So I decided to walk my bike to the rest area.
It was frustrating. Here we were, in the middle of a rare tailwind, only half a day away from West Yellowstone where we were going to take a break for a few days, and I had to walk. Arg! I hadn't walked my bike over any of the mountain passes or the big hill, but now I was walking. Boo.
We made it to the rest area, and we had lunch, and I took 4 Ibuprofen - my new drug of choice - and caught up on recording the events of the day.
We talked a little about my leg and determined that it was not a pulled muscle. We thought it was probably an inflamed tendon. I've had those before, and they're no fun.
We decided to go slowly the last 35 miles, so I wouldn't strain my leg too much.
I dealt with the pain (the Ibuprofen helped a lot), but going slowly really stressed Nathan out. It increases the difficulty many times over to go uphill when you're going slow, and Nathan was mentally wearing down because of it. We stopped for a rest break, and he said he thought this was his most challenging mental day yet. I felt like it was my most challenging day physically.
We decided that our bodies had had enough and they were telling us we needed to take a break. We decided to push on for West Yellowstone, but we knew that we were definitely due for a multi-day, long, relaxing break from biking.
As if all this weren't enough, we started hearing a strange, rhythmic, clicking sound as we were riding. We weren't sure where it was from...and then we realized, it was coming from Nathan's back tire. Turns out there was a big piece of metal stuck in it, nearly as big as a nail!! Fortunately, the tire didn't pop. Check this sucker out!
One interesting thing we saw today was Earthquake Lake. Apparently back in the 1950's, there was a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Yellowstone, and it caused part of a mountain about 20 miles away to crumble apart! Half of the mountain crumbled and slide down into the valley, and then up the side of a neighboring mountain before falling back down into the valley and settling there. It crushed the town in the valley and dammed up the river causing a huge flood and ruining the mountain road that ran through the area. The lighter, off-color area behind Nathan is the part of the mountainside that crumbled.
The Army Corps of Engineers quickly arrived on the scene and cut a space between the rocks in the valley for the river water to flow through so it would stop the flooding. The damage was tremendous. Now, 60 years later, the road has been moved and rebuilt, the town has partially rebuilt, and the river flows freely, but partially crumbed mountain still dam up the river enough that a lake has formed, and it is called Earthquake Lake. It is a few miles long and over 100 feet deep. It is beautiful, actually, but the story is very sad. Here is a picture of the lake today.
By the time Nathan and I got to West Yellowstone, we felt so tired and like our bodies were ready to fall apart. We were both actually a little nervous to get off our bikes, because off all the new creaks and cracks our bodies had started making. We thought that when we got back on, some muscle would cramp up, or some joint would pop, or something bad would happen. we knew that we had pushed our bodies past their comfort zones for many days in a row.
We stopped outside of a bookstore and fell into the chairs sitting on the sidewalk. I checked my phone for messages from people I had contacted this morning asking for a place to stay. I had contacted 1 Couch Surfing home and 3 churches. I heard back from 2 of them that they could not house us, but I had not heard back from the other two. So I called them back and left new messages.
I was hoping someone would house us who had a hot tub, or a jacuzzi, or something I could just sit in and soak in for hours.
We didn't hear back from anyone, so we decided to have dinner and then start calling hotels. We ventured over to the Subway and planned to get a $5 footlong, but this subway had a sign that said they didn't participate in the $5 footlong program. So we trekked to McDonalds to use their dollar menu, but this McDonalds didn't have a dollar menu. It hit us that we were in a total tourist town, and we'd just have to spend the money. Bummer.
So after our expensive McDonalds dinner, we started calling hotels because we still hadn't heard back from the local churches. But it was a Friday night in a tourist town, and hotel after hotel said they were completely full. We were beginning to get a little concerned when we finally found 2 places that had openings. One was a campground that said they had a "Camp Cabin" that had no water or electricity or bathrooms, but there was a place to put our sleeping bags, and they charged $70 per night. (Outrageous!) The other was a Youth Hostel that had a bedroom, but the bathroom and shower were down the hall and shared by all the other rooms. This was $65 per night. (Unbelievable!)
At 8pm, we decided to spend the night in the hostel because at least we would have access to a shower. It had been 4 days since our last shower, and we were in pretty desperate need of one. The room we got was upstairs, and the hostel didn't have an elevator. Not wanting to drag our bikes up the stairs again, we asked if we could leave them downstairs. The lady at the front desk told us we could leave them under the stairs behind a curtain, but when I looked, the space behind the curtain was full of old paint buckets and other supplies. So we ended up leaving them out in plain sight. Not our first choice, but after looking in our room, we realized that even if we took them up the stairs, there was not enough space for them there. So we unloaded our valuables (pretty much just our wallets and computer), and took a change of clothes and our toiletries upstairs, leaving our bikes down by the back door and praying they wouldn't get stolen.
A small bright spot is that the hostel had wi-fi. As soon as we got up to our room, we got online and checked our email. To our surprise, we had received an email from one of the local churches telling us we could stay with them if we wanted. The email came in right after we had decided to check into the hostel! Arg!
We're pretty frustrated and bummed at the overall expensive nature of West Yellowstone and our poor luck at finding lodging for ourselves and our bikes tonight, but Nathan said that we just have to believe that this is where we're supposed to be and this is God's plan for us right now. That's tough, but remembering how faithful He's been to us helps me trust that things would be OK and know that Nathan is right.
However, we also decided to get some ice cream to soothe our weary emotions. We opted for a new flavor: Ben & Jerry's Oatmeal Cookie Chunk. It was yummy.
Then we took our showers and brushed our teeth without too much more complaining. At least we're clean and sleeping on a mattress.