Interactive Route Map

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Yellowstone & Aeolus

(As you might tell from the above map and pictures I have made it to Chicago and am now going across Ohio! I've been lagging on posts as after biking all day all I want to do is sleep all night. I haven't taken as many rest days as previously in the trip, hence my apoligies. My goal is to reach the GWB on May 6th, which leaves me with about 10 days to do some 600 miles.)
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.

This was a ton of fun
Yellowstone Roads
I met Jerry and his wife, Linda, at the general store and they invited me over to spend a night at their place. I got to take a shower, do some laundry and have some really good conversations with these folks. They do a lot of bike touring and traveling as well and were great to talk to.

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...

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

"Let's talk about a shitty product!"


On Saturday after leaving Lolo headed south I saw a gentleman around Stewartsville pulling into his driveway; I stopped and said Hi (he looked rather friendly).

I told him where I was going and he invited me into his house for a rest as he had done a couple months prior with a cyclist who was headed up to Alaska.

Hal turned out to be a very interesting person. He is a 78 year old widower who bakes bread for a hobby. If you ever see him on the street he will make a corny joke about how beautiful you are (if you're a girl) or how lucky you are to have that girl (if you're a guy), then ask you if you'd like to take some of his bread home with you. Pumpkin for 4$ or Banana for 6$, with or without nuts. Or you can have it for free. If this is the business practice all Montanans practice no wonder the state is in such a financial deficit.

Anyway, Hal is a retired door to door salesmen. He never liked to sell thing though, instead he would tell you about his product and you'd have to convince him that you want to buy it and will actually have a use for it. He never worked for money, simply for the joy of doing what he loved.

We talked a lot about God; not the God most people believe in (the same people who go to church, pretend to be spiritual for an hour and then go on screwing one another just as they've been doing an hour ago) but a spirit that exists in everything. Hal believes that spirit also has a path it guides you along, though never forcefully.

Ask a 78 year old about happiness and they will tell you that it's a decision you make; the secret to being happy is to simply: Be happy. Shrug off the negative influences of other people and stay true to who you are. You think you can't, you can you can't. It's all relative.

Hal seems to have a lot of trust and faith in people. He says that he loves everyone. I think that's something that people who live in cities loose very quickly on, innocence and faith. Again, I guess once you know this it depends on you whether you want to keep looking at people in a positive way or not. It's a conscious decision that is made just as doing this trip was for me.

A quote that I will remember Hal by is:

"When you love, Gods light shines on you."

That morning I was going to join Hal at church but had to get going back on the road since the skies cleared up. He let me go with one of his Pumpkin breads and the invitation to come and visit him any time I'd like. I truly hope that I do one day. For the one night that I stayed with Hal I got more insight into what life is truly about then I did in my 12 years of public education. Hal did make me realize a very important thing about myself though; how much anger I still hold inside.

In Natures Realm

Mike and myself hit the road on Wednesday after getting our shit together in Colton, Washington. It didn't look too promising that morning with 1/4" size hail falling and clouds moving in; Mike was even considering screwing the whole "let's bike together!" thing and just driving me as far east as he could but I stood my ground and before long we were crossing into Idaho (on bicycles). After a fast start and a 15 minute descent we headed east along the river with the weather starting to look up.

It was great to have some company along for the ride. Although Mike couldn't keep up with my high stamina and built up leg muscles I had no problem with waiting for him every few miles. We chatted about why I haven't been enjoying the ride recently and about how everything is ultimately up to you to decide. I realized once again how thankful I should be that I'm out here doing what I truly love. I also realized that if I do another extended bike tour I need to find someone to drag out with me.
Snake River, Idaho

Our goal was to get to Orofino, ID and camp out somewhere. Well we got to Orofino, but as soon as Mike saw the billboard "Best Western Hotel- Hot tub & full breakfast" camping was out of the question. We headed out for dinner around 9 only to have every restaurant door close right in front of us. The only place open had the shittiest pizza I have ever had in my life. The long (1/4 mile) walk back to the hotel proved to be too much for Mike so he tried paying one of the waiters to drive us back. It didn't work but we managed to make it back just fine.

It was a rather sad goodbye in the morning (Mike quoted some song from probably the 40's on his blog, ), but as we parted ways I just hoped that we will get a chance to meet up again in the future someday. Everyday is a good day.

Riding along the river that day was really spectacular. I got into Clearwater Nat. Forest and camped out right on the bank. A classical "In Natures Realm" played on the radio and I started to feel at peace once again.

I woke up that night to see about 10 cricket-looking bugs stuck on my tent with their bellies eaten/ emptied out. A huge yellow & black bug was deemed to be the culprit. Not wanting to have my belly eaten out I stayed in my tent.

It rained most of the next day yet I managed to get over Lolo Pass (5,200') and camped in a closed Nat. Forest campground after crossing into Montana. I tried making a fire to dry out my clothes but all the wood was soaked (by "making" I mean I put a whole bunch of twigs, logs & leaves into the fire pit, doused it with gasoline from my fuel bottle and lit it on fire) and after a few bursts of flame I gave up. Falling asleep I found myself amused by the whole situation.
It warmed up the next day and after hitting Lolo I went south in the valley. After biking for 50 miles I started to get really tired. I stopped at an outdoor "resort" that had a store, cabins, tent sites and a hot tub. When I walked into the store the lady behind the counter smirked "aren't you a little too early?". Her attitude made me think she was going to kick me out and tell me to come back in 2 months. I refilled by water bottles and bought some hot coco. I was going to ask her the price of a tent site but other customers came in. I sat outside drinking my chocolate and upon closing she passed me and said "next time do this in the summer." It was almost as if she was appalled that I would event try to bike there in late march. "Hey bitch, I said, I was going to rent a cabin here and spend a shit load of money at your diner but with that attitude of yours fughettaboutit." I didn't actually say that, but the whole scene made me think back to a postsecret card I read once, it went something along the lines of: " today I was going to kill myself so I called the suicide hotline. The operator was so rude that I filed a complaint instead".

With that I threw out my half- full cup of hot chocolate and a new sense of independence emerged. I felt really confident until I realized I left my water bottles back at the store.

Chief Joseph pass (7400') followed the next day and then into yet another valley (Big Hole) I descended. I camped at 7300' atop Big Hole pass, made pasta with salt for dinner and rice with sugar for breakfast. It got down to around -5° F that night.

On Tuesday I made my way to Dillon where Joe (the bike shop owner) came by just for me (as the shop was closed) and regressed my front hub as it was scaring all the cows away.

I went to Safeway and bought good bread, ham, lettuce, butter, candy, peanut butter and chocolate. It was sandwich time. That night I had the best meal in the long time. I even considered sending my stove back home and living off of ham- lettuce sandwiches for the next month.

Going through Nevada and Virginia city was pretty cool as they both had buildings that dated back to the Montana gold rush. Unfortunately everything was still closed "for the season". It's April silly people!

I descended into yet another valley in which I had to do 10 miles north and 60 miles south as that's how the *only* road went. I knew I was in for a ride when I didn't have to pedal to get to Ennis, instead the southern wind pushed me with quite some force. Well when I turned at Ennis and headed South (into a 30 mph headwind) it ended up taking me 6 hours to do 28 miles. Make no bones about it though, it wasn't raining, I was in shorts, and my lunch ham- lettuce sandwich tasted incredible once again!

It snowed that night as I camped at a BLM campground (for free! and legally as they don't start collecting fees until Mayday) though in the morning the wind shifted and I sailed south into West Yellowstone. My nose is so sunburnt I cant sneeze in fear of it falling of, my face is beet red from all the windburn and constant temperature change, my hands itch with sweat bubbles, and my ear is sunburnt to the point of not being able to sleep on my left side.
I'm off to Yellowstone! It's supposed to snow a foot but all is alright (: