Yellowstone looked welcoming & inviting until people started telling me stories of people getting mauled by bears. The fact that I was carrying a pound of ham didn't help to settle my concerns, and I ended up buying a 60$ bottle of bear spray. Whenever I told someone (in west yellowstone) "yeah ill camp out somewhere in Yellowstone tonight" they seemed appalled and told me several times that I'm not allowed to do that. I'm not sure if they were concerned with my safety, protecting the park or just following the law, but they seemed pretty narrow minded.
The roads were clear with some snow on the sides, only a few maintenance vehicles were roaming around. Trees, mountains, streams, snow, animals... I was happy and content, as I was in a place where I truly felt I belonged.
I got to the closed Madison campground and decided to stay there as I could throw all my food in the bear box and not have to worry about using up my 60$ bottle of bear spray. It snowed during the night and I woke up to a picturesque scene of snow covered pine trees.
It snowed most of the next day and it felt like Christmas. I got to Mammoth Hot springs and went into the general store to relax for a bit. At this point my goal was to turn east and head to Cooke City, then traverse my way through 15' of snow as one of the highway passes was closed, and make it down to Cooke City followed by South Dakota. Several people have already mentioned that this would be close to impossible, and being told that I might sink into 15' of snow and possibly encounter avalanches by the rangers made me re think my decision. I figured I could buy snow shoes and get a ski or two for my bike but it wasn't a given whether or not I could find those items in Cooke city. Renting a snow mobile for the day was too expensive and would have been a hassle to transport my bike and trailer on it.
It snowed the rest of the day and night accumulating about 6". The closed pass that I was planning on traversing (11200') got some 5' of snow. Since Linda and Jerry were headed up to Livingston (and my plans looked less and less achievable) I agreed for them to take me up to I-90 which I could take east for 200 miles with little snow problems. I started biking around 11 and by 6 had done around 100 miles with the westerly wind on the interstate.
I camped across some folks home at which point sometime during the night the wind changed to the east and would remain this way for the next several days. I considered getting in 60 miles to be an accomplishment as the wind had it's way with me.
The land was flat and I was missing the Rocky Mountains. There is something so appealing about those mountains... I experienced the same thing in New Mexico when crossing them. It was then that the actual decision of doing the Great Divide mountain bike trail (and possibly The Continental divide hiking trail, both follow the Rockies from Canada to Mexico)sometime in the future came about.
I had a package mailed to a post office in South Dakota that was 500 miles away, it was Monday. I had to pick it up on Friday or Saturday morning as I did not want to get stuck somewhere for a whole day waiting til The following Monday to pick it up. This put me on a fast track across the rest of Montana and SD as I had to do about 120 miles daily to achieve this goal.
On Wednesday I got to Broadus, MT and started asking around for good places to camp out at. The supermarket ladies told me that there is a picnic area 40 miles east (it was 7 o'clock). The gas attendant told me I could try the highway weight station as it has a "grassy area". I wanted to ask her if shed like to try and sleep while trucks pulled in and out all night feet from where you were but didn't. Other people weren't helpful at all, some told me to go to the 70$ a night motel. I'm pulling out of town when I see a fishing area by a river. It's had picnic tables and bathrooms, no signs prohibiting camping. I was amazed that these people could live in the same town all their life yet know so little about it. I camped out but was woken up a few times by sheep... Meeeeh, and so I did what I did back in Florida with the boars, tried scarring them away by running out of my tent.
I told this to a rancher in the morning (after I stopped at a post office in the middle of nowhere) and he commented that I should have taken one of the sheep into the tent with me for warmth (as it got down to below freezing) just not to let anyone catch me with it in my tent as it might give me a bad name around town...
That same rancher gave me a ride 50 miles south to South Dakota as I couldn't deal with going 2 miles an hour due to the headwind anymore. I went through Spearfish and then camped out in Black Hills Nat Forest by some forest road.
Going through the forest was really spectacular. I got to the base of the road that goes up to Mt. Rushmore, hid my trailer in the woods and rode up to the monument in style.
The next day I started entering the lovely Indian Reservations of the US. I was praying that they would be different from the ones I went through in the south but was let down with the first sighting of massive garbage piles on the road side. Atop that I had dogs run out at me constantly itching to start gnawing at my feet if I let them; the 20 dead dogs I saw roadside wasn't all too appealing either.
The road through the Badlands, Red Shirt & Pine Ridge Reservation was incredibly scenic as long as you could block out all the garbage that not only littered the road ways but peoples homes. I couldn't, and when I got to the town of Pine Ridge I went their city hall and started complaining from department to department. I talked to several Native Americans, the director of housing, two road directors, the person in charge of pet control (there are only two of them for the whole reservation) and several other board members.
The common answer I got was simple and straight forward: "native americans are lazy." I'm sorry for generalizing here, for these are the words of the non-lazy Native Americans hoping to change things. It turns out when you give people everything for free they stop appreciating it.. Huh, who knew right? I was told how laws (like the 2-pets per household limit) weren't being enforced as everyone knew each other and was somehow related, so no one wanted to fine their great great uncles cousin for it wouldn't be right. I was told of how gang violence is ripping communities apart and how on a regular basis people enter the reservation without ever coming out or being heard from again.
I was taken around from department to department by "lone eagle", a guy who just got out of federal prison. He told me to make it out of the Rez by that night, and was truly concerned about my safety. Several times he mentioned that he could get me food as he had an unlimited EBT card. I thought he was kidding but after the 10th time he insisted I relented and we went to get some groceries. 63$ worth of food, his card covered 61$ of it and the rest went into oblivion. Just like that I got sixty dollars worth of groceries for nothing, just as he does everyday, just as every native American gets for, well, being native American? (some people have limits, others get around 200$ a month in EBT on top of the 800$ monthly check). I think it's great that the government provides them with hundreds of thousands of dollars every month... After all we killed their buffalo and now the poor natives have nothing to eat right?
I continued east ward after that, camped out at another reservation and then got to Winner, SD. I had to get a motel room for the night as the rain was incredibly bad, my tent broke apart and my bike needed some maintenance. I managed to borrow a welder that evening and fixed my tent poles.
In the morning it was pouring out but the wind was from the NW at 20-30 with gusts to 50 so I decided to take advantage of it. To say I was getting blown all over the road would be an understatement. I ended up in the ditch twice and had to stop, hunker down with my brakes on and wait out a few northerly spells from Aeolus as it was just impossible to ride straight.
I was headed down the road when I saw a change of scenery up ahead. It looked wet. The trucks going the other direction from me were drenched, yet I was happy-go-lucky as it wasn't raining where I was. Well the hail started soon after, pelleting me with 1/4" size pebbles. It was hard to see and I decided to take shelter at the next place I could find. I came to what looked like some sort of lodge and pulled into the driveway in hopes of possibly hiding under the porch overhang until the cell passed. Before I even get off my bike the front door swung open and...