Saturday, August 16, 2008

Yellowstone

Thursday, June 26th. I awoke in a carbohydrate daze from the gluttonous pasta experience the day before. The three of us got up and decided it'd be best to bathe even though no showers were present at the campgrounds. There was on the other hand a lake right next to us and seemed like a reasonable alternative. It was mid summer yet the lake was frigid. I would estimate 55 degrees. I loved every moment of it! You all should know by now how much I love the cold and I must have spent at least 15 minutes just floating and swimming... feeling my appendages go numb and my nervous system shut down from hypothermic shock. Glorious. Katie managed to man up and wash herself (being brief, yet thorough). Josh, eh... not so much. He dipped into the lake. barely getting a thin film of water on himself. He rushed out of the cool water to soap up and barely rinsed it off. I can't blame him terribly though. We were at about 7500 feet in elevation and the air was a crisp 70-75. I think his thin, hairless body might not had been made for these arctic temperatures.

On the walk back to the campsite I noticed this lovely sign. What a confidence booster, eh? Lets be serious though, someone at the campsite had to be more foolish then ourselves when it came to food storage, right? I figured the bears will get them first and their screams will be like a warning system to the rest of us.

We got everything in order and piled into Katie's car. I must admit, it was heavenly to be wearing casual clothes. We went into town and grabbed a late breakfast and were ready to get moving. Sadly though, when we stepped out of a local diner we discovered my bad luck was spreading! When we returned to Katie's car we found it's rear tire flattened limp. Her poor little Honda Civic was out for the count. Luckily, there was a tire center right across the street (literally across the street. What are the chances?). Turns out we had been impaled on a nail in such a way that the tire was unpatchable. So, we were forced to get a whole new tire. It really kinda sucks because it was a new car and everything is covered under warranty save the tires really. El shitty.



Katie's car getting gutted.

By the early afternoon we were mobile again and were Yellowstone bound. We got to the gates and start discussing our pricing options with one of the park rangers. Apparently it's 25 bucks a day to drive through the park. 7 dollars per cyclist to go through. Considering we knew we'd be driving through the park 2 days and 1 day of cycling, (totaling 64 dollars) we decided to get an Annual National Park Pass. Admittance to every National Park for one year for 80 bucks. Theoretically we'd practically break even on Yellowstone alone.

I was quite excited! I just didn't know what to expect.. I mean I knew it'd be cool and all that. I just had an odd sensation coming toward the park, very... other-worldly. I don't know, It's hard to explain.

Let me put it this way- Remember watching Jurassic Park for the first time? And when they go through those big gates and you kinda wonder "Hmm, I wonder what EXACTLY it'll be like in there?" That's how I felt entering Yellowstone. I mean stop and think for a moment. Imagine you're about to enter Yellowstone. What would you expect?

The initial experience of the park was definitely not what I expected. Everything seemed somewhat smaller. The trees just weren't as big. They seemed somewhat more... natural. Almost sacred. Not to sound terribly gay, it was just a bit moving. It also did not take us long to notice that there were dead trees everywhere. Not what I would had expected, but apparently back in 1988 there was a wildfire in respect of the normal cycle of nature forest rangers allowed the fire to burn and it wiped out most of Yellowstone. But, that fire also reseeded the entire forest and all the trees we were seeing were the adolescent saplings from that event.

A bit further down the road the valley widened and that's when we got our first true Yellowstone experience. You look off into the field and just see Bison. Small little groups of Bison.. grazing. Almost completely oblivious to us. It was amazing! You wouldn't believe how huge these things are. I'd dare say a large one stood 6 feet tall? Maybe even more. Just absolutely huge animals. As you follow the river meandering through the valley you'd look and see people just out in the valley wading through the river fly fishing. It was a bit confusing at first. I wouldn't had thought you'd be allowed to fish in an animal sanctuary like that. I wasn't even sure you were allowed off the beaten path like that. No one else seemed to be wandering off into the habitat. We cautiously stayed far away.


We went a bit further down the road and stopped to look at some more buffalo, this time closer up. It was a bit more challenging this time in that a small group of people, 10-15 had gathered to get up close, photograph, and gawk at the beasts. Right before we left though I turned around and was stunned. About 20 feet away were three buffalo off in the woods on the other side of the road! Somehow everyone had missed the 6000 lbs of giant cow to our left. Josh decided we weren't close enough and whipped out his camera phone for a close up.


Josh biding his time before he's impaled by a bison.

After a bit of a animal-induced high we jumped back into the car and started heading toward some of the main attractions. Well, before I go into the attractions maybe I should explain a bit about Yellowstone. Yellowstone is a park composed of two main loops. There's the larger southern loop and a smaller northern loops. There's probably a good 250ish (Maybe more?) miles of road to traverse in the park and the average speed limit I'd say is about 30mph (max 45). In other words- it's a pretty damn big park and you gotta go pretty damn slow through it. Kinda a big pain in the ass. To get a better idea here's a link to the official map.


So we started heading down the western side of the big loop toward the Lower Geyser Basin. You park and follow this wooden path raised over a sandy-muddy foundation. You walk along and can smell a faint sulfur scent and it's surprisingly warm. As you walk along there are these pools, gorgeous pristine blue pools, that have clouds of steam billowing off them. You'd never guess it by looking at them, but the pools are steaming hot. Like 190 degrees hot. Like people fall in/jump in and are scalded to death hot. It turns out the coloration of the water is due to certain bacteria growing in all these odd sulfery pools. Kinda interesting. Kinda smelly.

There was just all sorts of cool stuff! And this was just our first stop. Look at all this cool stuff...



video

video


Next stop was the "Grand Prismatic Spring." I think I like this one solely based upon it's kickass name. I wonder who's the guy who went so over the top with the naming? Anyway I really liked this spot. It just had some really cool scenery. Check it out.







This one might be my favorite. It's a photo of the warning signs they had all over... "Don't fall into the scalding water little Jimmy!"

Continuing we headed south to Old Faithful. As pretty much the largest attraction at Yellowstone old faithful has it's own lodge nearby and a large parking area etc. Issue is our faithful companion isn't quite as regular as you'd think. Right as we got there he was about go to off and frankly I wasn't about to go running to see some water shoot into the sky. Josh on the other hand went running like a school boy to the playground. He caught the last couple moments of the eruption. There would be no old faithful for me. And no pictures for you.

Directly south of Yellowstone National Park are the Grand Teton Mountains. Josh was interested in seeing them (I was a bit more partial to Yellowstone) but we all agreed to have a look. Josh tried to inform me that Grand Teton was french for "large breast." I couldn't believe that any pioneer could had been so horny that these jagged peaks reminded him of some tatas. But lone behold, Josh wasn't lying. Unbelievable.


The Grand Tetons were nice. Josh seemed to enjoy them more than Yellowstone. They were similar in many ways, but they just had a different feel to them. Probably the most noteworthy part was a large gathering of people. We pulled over to see what it was for ourselves when we saw it. Off in the distance, a Grizzly Bear. About 100 people all gawking at a Grizzly. What protection did they have? None. There was a ranger there with a large can of bear mace but honestly, I don't think it would have stopped them. We all took some photos and decided not to stick around and tempt fate. I think we've seen enough bears for one cross country trip.



Tad tough to see, but that's a grizzly.

Afterwards we decided to head back, we were all pretty exhausted. Sightseeing is shockingly taxing physically. And frankly it was going to take quite some time to make it to camp going 25 mph. On the way out we did catch a beautiful sunset though!



Trip Summary
Day's mileage- 0.0 (Day off, 3rd day of rest)
Total mileage- 901.58

Katie's Arrival

Wednesday, June 25th. Josh woke up significantly earlier than me. I dare say an hour or so earlier and I found him working on his journal (if i haven't mentioned, he writes a hand journal). We chomped some food and took another quick dip in the river to wake my ass up, and started back on the road. It was a good day- the wind was no longer at our heads and if so long as everything went smoothly we were scheduled to arrive at the western entrance of Yellowstone! Sadly though, before we get there we had to cross a couple decent sized hills. Give and take, that's how it goes.

So we're coming up on the first hill and Josh is in the lead. I see some man walking out into the road, across the street from his parked SUV. He walks right up to Josh, talk a minute, and then Josh moves over to his car. I figured the guy was having car issues or something, but as I approached he held out a bag of treats. Before I even got off my bike I had the bag of trail mix in my hands. The guys name was Bud, and apparently he was a support vehicle for his friend who I believe was named Roger. See, Roger was an old time Iron Man athlete and was riding cross country, coming from East to West. Now, Roger wasn't exactly young, but still doing his best to complete his trip. I mean, give him a break, he was a freaking Iron Man for God's sake! Roger had been breaking up the trip into a couple hundred mile segments and completing it year by year. Good for him. We waited a while for Roger to meet us at Bud's location and we all discussed the road ahead and his experiences. Very cool guys. I personally enjoyed Bud's departing words to us... "Someday you'll be a rich old man too and you can help people too!"

Stocked up on granola bars and trail mix we trekked on. It was very odd biking for a while. It only happens once in a while but sometimes you'll bike up the oddest roads. You'll be cycling.. pedal pedal pedal and all the sudden you'll be thinking "Why is it so hard to keep going?" The road looks flat. There's no wind. But it's just hard. Sometimes the road even looks downhill. I'm not really sure how the perspective gets skewed but it happened to both Josh and myself so it definitely wasn't me. It turns out you're actually biking up a hill and would never know it less you turn around. Steep hills at that. I'd often find myself checking my tires to see if they were flat because it just seems too difficult for something to not be wrong with my bike. I suppose I should had been happy though, it was one of the rare occasions something wasn't wrong with it.

We made it over the hills and kept pushing closer and closer to Yellowstone. The area there was simply beautiful...



... and Josh makes me look so fat.. but still not a bad picture.




And later I spotted two mountain goats going up a cliff. You ever seen a mountain goat climb? It's friggin' crazy! Now I'm no geologist, but it had to of been at least a 60% grade or more. Or I could be completely wrong. But regardless, it was steep. And they were walking up it like it was nothing. I can hardly look up a 8% grade, let alone what they were doing.

About ten miles outside of West Yellowstone (the town on the West entrance of Yellowstone- our destination) we had a pleasant meeting. A friend of mine, Katie, had decided to drive out to Yellowstone to meet us. I mean, who wouldn't want to see Yellowstone? And us of course. It was going to rock. Yellowstone's a big place and I wasn't particularly looking forward to having to bike through the whole damn thing. With Katie here now we'd have the pleasantry of having two full days to rest and get chauffeured around the national park. Katie- you're the freaking best. We sent her ahead to see if she could find a campsite for us to stay at for the following days. She did, and it seems like a decent place. The only problem was that it was six miles off the beaten path. I wasn't thrilled about the detour, but I was thrilled to be done biking for a while.


But hey! On the way up to the campsite we hit our 900th mile!



Milestone 9 of 35ish.

We set up camp and got organized, discussed and chatted and decided to head into town for some grub. I can not begin to tell you how excited I was. We found an all you can eat pasta place! Josh you sure ate a lot of food on this trip.. but I definitely manned up and took you down on this one. Three? Four plates? I forget. But a damn lot of pasta. I was in heaven.

Trip Summary
Day's mileage- 47.26
Total mileage- 901.58

Prince of Garbage

Tuesday, June 24th. Really, not a horrible night for sleep considering we were in a garbage dump. Alright, so it wasn't like "a garbage dump" more like the local area where to 300 people who lived in a 50 mile radius brought there garbage to dump it. The only bothersome part about the place was the wind was the wind. It was so strong it was pushing the tent over on me during the night, and that was a bit annoying. Certainly more annoying was what we had to look forward to that morning.

Typically I like the idea of waking up to a moderately easy morning. A bit of a warm up period before we get the real sweat on, ya know? No such luck. We woke up facing a pretty damn big hill. I don't have exact measurements, but it was a good couple mile hike with a slight head wind and let me tell you- it kinda blew. I freaking hate hills.

So after being awake an hour or so I'm already drenched in sweat and moderately winded. We get to the top where Josh demanded I take a video of him but wouldn't explain why...

video

I suppose Josh enjoys some of the simpler things in life... I suppose you can't blame the man. Who wouldn't want to run over a bunch of potato chips? It's a memory we'll cherish for life. Thank god I taped it.

So we fly down the hill. Always fun. We stopped at the post office and shipped some more stuff home.. nothing too exciting. The views were nice. One thing Montana is always good for- seeing beautiful valleys surrounded by snow capped mountains. Very nice.

We pushed on through the day, eventually coming to a long stretch of nothing. Just a long vast road with a moderate head wind. It's just so draining. Not so much physically, more mentally. See, typically with direction of wind save head you get gains for your work. You're going 12mph and start to work harder and go 14mph. Then you can cruise comfortable there. But with the head wind you're going 12 and push harder just to maintain speed. But mostly you lose and soon you're going 11... then 10... then 8... and before you know it you're just thinking "How am I still pedaling and going so slow? This blows." Then the math kicks in. I start calculating how long it'll take me to big certain mileages at certain speeds and before you know it I'm depressed knowing I have four hours of biking left with a headwind just to make 30ish miles. This is the point where I'm ready to give up for the day. Luckily, this was also the point Josh was ready to give up as well.

We found a nice little campsite next to a river and a sheer rock wall. We pitched our tent and I went for a little dip in the river. Honestly the water was moving really fast and I was a little concerned. But, in the interest of cleanliness and stupidity I took my time wading waist deep in the freezing stream and felt quite refreshed afterwards. I was amazed, even Josh got in. For all of about 35 seconds... but he still got in. Good work Joshyboy.

Trip Summary
Day's mileage- 41.46
Total mileage- 854.32

Friday, August 8, 2008

Good News

Ok, so it's been forever. Sue me. No, I haven't given up on this, I've just been making good time home. The whole story will make it's way here in time. For now I'm in Rochester and giving everyone an eta of 6PM Monday the 11th. If you're interested in celebrating let me know. Nothing crazy, just seeing friends and family. So bear with me, I guess I'm not the best blogger on Earth, eh?