We left the church this morning (late as usual) and headed into Yellowstone National Park. But not before eating a delicious breakfast of bacon, eggs, and biscuits! Yum!
At the entrance, we stopped by the sign to get our picture. As we positioned our bikes in front of the sign, someone else pulled up. We asked them to take our picture and they said sure, but first they were going to take our picture with their camera. Ok. After they had taken our picture with their camera and our camera, we asked if they wanted their picture in front of the sign.
Ok, that was a little odd. But, no worries, we continued in to the park. It was $12 per person for a 7 day pass that was good at both Yellowstone and Grand Teton. Not too bad, but a little expensive since it didn't include any camping!
We were a little bit nervous about meeting animals on the road. Particularly the bison and bull elk we'd seen a few days before. First, we weren't sure how they would react to bicycles, second, we would be pretty much unprotected since there was no way we could out run them, and third, they are HUGE!
As we came up to the turn where you either go north or south (Madison Junction), we met another cyclist. He was just out for a day ride to Old Faithful and back, about 60 miles. His name was Gordon and he was 73, had done several bike tours over his life, and had an artificial knee and hip. Now he travels around in his camper van to get where he's going and rides both mountain bike trails and roads to see and experience the places he drives to!
After talking for a bit more about bicycling, and the Grizzly Discovery Center in W. Yellowstone (we didn't go, but after talking to Gordon, we wish we had!), we headed on our way. We were both going south, to Old Faithful, but Gordon was a bit faster on his unloaded, ultra-light road bike. As we turned the corner to head south, we came face to face with a nasty head wind. It was probably 15-20 mph with gusts into the 30s! Yuck!! It was pretty miserable.
Shortly after that we met our first animal up close. We'd seen some elk and bison in the distance, but this particular bison was getting ready to cross the road... we thought. We stopped plenty far back, with a several cars between us and him. Sure enough, he came up on the road. But instead of just crossing, he decided he wanted to go south too!
Well, clearly we couldn't pass him, even though he was meandering along at a few miles per hour. And we couldn't really join the line of cars because it was too slow for us to ride without swerving all over (and probably falling). So, we made a video!
Eventually, the line of cars cleared, so we knew the bison had left the road, so we started off again. About a mile up the road, we found him again, a little ways out in the field. April watched him as we passed and he started galloping towards us! Yikes!! But he quickly stopped and turned away. Whew!
Finally, after 30 miles, we arrived at Old Faithful. April was grumpy from the wind and I was feeling pretty tired. Amazingly, we had arrived about 20 minutes before Old Faithful was supposed to go off! Just enough time to go to the bathroom and find a spot in the viewing area. It was packed, in spite of being well after Labor Day. We were really surprised!
True to it's name, Old Faithful went off right on schedule. It was an amazing sight. A lot of people had said it was over rated, but we didn't think so! Water and steam shot high into the air for 3 or 4 minutes! It was totally beautiful.
After the geyser was done, we went to have some food before hiking the geyser loop. We had our old stand-by, peanut butter and honey on a hot-dog bun. Feeling full and refreshed, we started the loop. While we were walking, we saw another geyser, Castle Geyser, going off in the distance, but none of the geysers on our loop went off. We saw Old Faithful go off again too!
Then we found out the last bit of the loop was closed due to repair work, so we had to backtrack all the way to the start. By now it was after 5:45 and we still had 20 miles to go before reaching the campground. And the road was going to take us over the Continental Divide. Twice.
It was dark by the time we reached our second divide crossing. That meant still had about seven miles to ride in the dark! To make things worse, our riding glasses only have one shade: dark. And as if that weren't enough, the temperature started to plummet and I had to pee!
As we started down the other side of the divide, I could pretty much only see some vague outlines and the white line on the road. We both have headlights and taillights, but they're designed more so that we're seen than so that we can see at night. It helped that it was a full moon and clear sky, but I still couldn't tell if there were potholes or if the shoulder was paved or gravel. Thankfully, the downhill wasn't very steep!
It wasn't long before our fingers were numb and our noses little ice cubes. I was really concentrating on the white line when suddenly there was a huge crashing noise in the brush right beside us and the sound of galloping hooves filled the night!
I yelled and swerved and looked over my shoulder to see a HUGE elk not more than a few feet away angling up the embankment away from us. I nearly didn't have to pee any more!
We soon saw two more elk on the side of the road and began to wonder if we were in the middle of a herd. We could hear bull elk bugling in the distance, so we weren't sure. But we didn't see any more after that.
Finally, after what seemed like forever, we arrived at the campground. Our nerves were shot, our noses were cold, and our hands were frozen in the shape of our brake levers, but we made it! At the registration window, the ranger informed us that we had just ridden through an area where they had chased off a bear a little while ago. Yikes! Glad we didn't meet him in the dark!
In yet another show of God's provision, we had added the reflective strips to our vests just the day before, even though we'd had all the materials for a few weeks! It's been pretty cool to see all the little things He does day to day.
We pitched our tent in the dark, brushed our teeth, and put our food in the bear box. We're right next to a girl from Australia who is riding our trail, but from east to west. Cool!