Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Days 61, 62, 63 & 64: Yellowstone and Montana!

Rest day in Grant Village, Yellowstone to Norris, Yellowstone to West Yellowstone, MT to Ennis, MT

3 Day Mileage: 53.5 + 64.8 + 68.9  = 187.2
Total Mileage: 3,743
3 Day Average Speed (MPH): 13.4 / 13.1 / 15.2
3 Day Elevation Gain (ft): 1,982 / 1,274 / 1,454

If you really missed my Snapchats while I was in Yellowstone, have no fear, I kept taking them and you can watch them all like always on Youtube!
MSquared Velo Snapchat Day 61
MSquared Velo Snapchat Day 62
MSquared Velo Snapchat Day 63 
MSquared Velo Snapchat Day 64 

Day 60 - Rest Day

Ahhhhhh.... After getting my blog written before noon, I visited the grocery store and picked up half dozen eggs, a package of ham and two sticks of string cheese. Grand total: about $8.

No service or WIFI sucked, but I accepted it and decided to make the best of my day off.

I headed back for camp to make lunch. I contemplated poaching eggs, but having never attempted the task, I chose to hard boil.

Marion, David and Colin were out doing their own thing and Joel and his family had already left, so I had the camp to myself. I threw on my headphones and rocked out to music while I sipped coffee and let the eggs harden.

Finally, the eggs were done and I made myself a ham, hard boiled egg and cheese wrap. Pretty substantial lunch... and I had enough egg and ham to make two more meals. Take that Yellowstone Grill!

Feeling good and groovin' to the music, I took off to gather wood for tonight's campfire. For which I had already decided I was going to have some beers. I know, my stomach is finally feeling better, but when you need a drink, you need a drink.

After collecting wood I checked the map and wanted to see if I could take a casual hike to West Thumb Geyser. Unless you are a park ranger, you know nothing. Nobody else who works here could tell me if there was a hiking trail to the geyser so I took matters into my own hand and went exploring toward the water.

Here I found myself with the entire lakeside to myself!

It was gorgeous and beyond peaceful. The headphones were off at this point as I did not want to be attacked by a bear from behind. Ya never know! There are signs everywhere to remind you to bring your bear spray when you go hiking. I had David's in my bag.

I even got my Clark Little on.

What do you know, a bear paw print in the sand!

It's hard to make out. The top part that looks like the toes are actually the back splash of the bear's step. The whole print is just below that, there you can make out the toes and paw which is the dark shadow.

I am really enjoying the peace of no internet connection... for now.

After my walk, we all reconvened at the campsite, collected more wood, grabbed beer and burgers and lit the fire.

Wally once again caught up on our rest day and joined the festivities. It was a blast again, drinking and telling stories. Except when David gave his pessimistic view on the world in 200 years. If humans are still around, I had to disagree.

After about 8 beers (6, 16 ozs) in the course of 5 hours, I was feeling nice and buzzed, but I am not used to drinking like this so exhaustion ensued and it was bed time.

A great day of rest.

Day 62

Oh god it's cold. Oh man I'm exhausted. Oh no... I think I'm hungover.

A slight hangover, but it's there. I feel like throwing up, but at least my stomach isn't in knots. I won't lie, I regret the beers. My body needed more time to rest, but like I said, when you need a drink, you need a drink.

So I mentioned on Facebook I would be taking my time to go all around Yellowstone. David, Marion and Colin were going to head west right to West Yellowstone on the Transam and make their way out, while I would head east around the figure eight that is Yellowstone. Wally was down to join me.

Wally and I stayed in the grill to charge our phones and enjoy free refills on coffee while the weather warmed up. We did not head out until around 11. That was okay with me, I was slowly recuperating.

When we did finally make our way out, I felt good. Not 100% but my legs felt ready to go.

It only took 10 miles for me to realize the rest of my body was not ready for this. Like I said, the knotted stomach was not an issue, but my whole body felt worn out and fatigued.

Wally is a great guy to ride with. Not only does he have less weight than me by far, but as a triathlon athlete, he is a beast. Regardless, he stuck with me the whole way.

Wally is a crazy dude. I mean that in a good way and I know he would agree. He was/still is in the military as special intelligence and you totally get that vibe from him. I love hearing, "Roger that!" when I tell him I need to pull over to piss.

Another thing about Wally, at least coming from him, he always catches the headwinds. He is Headwinds Wally. So sticking true to this, we faced headwinds all 65 miles of today's ride. This was not helping my fatigue, but I battled through enjoying the views.

As we rolled through the evergreens I was on the lookout for wildlife. I have seen none thus far besides the little squirrels at our campsite and a few ducks and crows by the lake.

Then an orange construction sign about 30 yards off the road caught my vision. I whipped my head to the right to see it, then did a double take when I saw a brown leg or maybe a tail through the trees. I slammed on the brakes and Wally and I doubled back.

I peered through the trees and there was the tail of a buffalo. As I pointed this to Wally, multiple cars slowed to catch of a glimpse of what we were seeing, but with little patients, they drove on.

Wally and I made our way through the woods making sure to adhere to the 25 yard rule. The woods opened to a clearing and there they were, two big beautiful buffalo! Awesome! Check.

The rest of the ride was on and off for me. Mostly off, but the sites kept me going. If I felt 20% on Day 60, then I am feeling 50-60% today.

At one of our rest stops we found a topographic map of Yellowstone. It looked like the point just after the middle of the figure-eight (where I planned to go) was a giant hill climb. I could not stomach the idea. I think I would stick with Wally and cut through the figure eight to Norris.

To provide more insight into how great Wally is, he was willing to go North with me to Tower Falls if I really wanted to see all of Yellowstone. He was indifferent and would be happy to stick with me. We decided on making a final decision when we had to at Canyon Village.

On we went to enjoy Mud Springs, Lower Falls and herds of buffalo causing traffic jams. People in cars don't mind buffalo in their way, but love to get pissed of at a cyclist. No love for the fellow human...

We reached Canyon Village and I could have fallen asleep on the sidewalk in the sun. It was no question Wally and I were going to Norris. Only 12 more miles... into the wind of course.

At the moment, I didn't care about seeing more falls or more buffalo or bears or coyotes or petrified wood. I just wanted to sleep.

Wally took the lead and I drafted him the 12 miles to Norris. The campgrounds said full, but Yellowstone makes a point to always find or make room for hiker/bikers. It was only $5 per site, a miracle, and happened to be gorgeous.

I told Wally I wanted to hit Old Faithful which was 30 miles south, then ride 16 miles back north and exit out of Madison to ride a final 14 miles to West Yellowstone. Currently, my thoughts would be to skip that and go straight to West Yellowstone for an easy 28 mile day where I can rest and use WIFI at McDonald's.

He reminded me, make no decisions at this time. Wait until the morning and see how you feel.

I forced my final ham, hard boiled egg and cheese down my throat so my body would have some nutrient to heal me with and headed for bed at 8 hoping for 12 hours of solid sleep.

I ended up getting up FOUR times to pee before finally falling asleep. At least I knew it was hydrated.

Day 63

I was up at 8 as the sun started to heat up my tent. 11 hours of sleep and I feel great. FINALLY! I was ready to take on the ride to Old Faithful.

Naturally, we had headwinds toward Madison, but at least it was downhill. That was 14 miles. We were told to check with a park ranger there to be sure the fire near West Yellowstone would not cause us any issues on exiting the park. There would be no issues. Off we went to Old Faithful.

The ride, albeit uphill and in headwinds, was stunning and diverse. Also, we didn't mind the uphill headwinds because we knew we'd get them on our way back. However, riding with Headwinds Wally, maybe we wouldn't.

On our way to Old Faithful we made half a dozen stops and here they are:

Not Old Faithful... only about 20-25 foot geyser, but it was constant

140 something inches deep

Once we finally got to Old Faithful, we stopped first for lunch. Feeling well for the first time in many days, I naturally avoided "The Bomb," but for $3.25 I wasn't going to stray away from a mega sized pepperoni Hot Pocket. In fact I got two!

After lunch we rolled over to Old Faithful. Lucky us, it was going off just as we approached. I did not get any pictures, but I saw it and was not waiting 90-ish minutes for the next explosion. Wally and I were satisfied so we left.

The truth is, a lot of the things I have seen on this trip cannot be recreated on pictures or videos. The open skies of Kansas, the rides through The Rockies, the top of the passes and Mount Evans, the Tetons, etc. In Yellowstone I was never so blown away by the various mud pools, hot springs, big and small geysers alike. Don't get me wrong, it is cool to be inside a supervolcano and to see and, what nobody talks about, smell it all. Also, seeing wildlife up close is fantastic, but I was just never blown away.

Maybe it was dodging all the tourist that made it seem so... manufactured? Maybe that's not the right word, because it is very real, but this is an instance where I think pictures and videos do Yellowstone all the justice it needs.

Eh, I sound like a jerk. Oh well. This trip has been amazing and the Teton's just stomped on Yellowstone. Next time I'll have to ride through Yellowstone first....

So Wally and I did catch the tailwinds (he's not totally cursed!) and flew down to Madison following the smoke signals. Not real smoke signals, there were a few fires just northwest of Madison billowing in the sky.

Of course, once we turned west, we caught headwinds heading out of Yellowstone, but with 12 miles to McDonald's and staring at Madison River the whole way, it wasn't so bad. Also, that west wind was pushing the smoke away from us. That was good.


Then, I knew it was coming, but almost missed the sign. My 13th state, Montana! Only 2 more to go!

We spent at least 2 hours in McDonald's catching up on a few days of emails and texts while drinking 6 cups of Powerade/Root Beer/Dr. Pepper and getting multiple McDoubles and cookies.

I am happy to be truly feeling better again. Maybe not 100% but at least I don't feel like shit! Also nothing beats being in touch with loved ones when you have been away from them for 63 days now.

Cheers to that!

Day 64

Wally and I were happy that the temperature would be staying in the low 40s this morning. When I woke up around 7 I was waiting for the sun to heat up my tent. It wasn't even lighting up the tent, let alone heating it.

It was not the low 40s. I rolled out of my tent to find the camp grounds surrounded in smoke. The headwinds that slowed our final 12 miles down yesterday stopped completely. Now that the wind died, the smoke has settled all around us.

The sun's heat could not penetrate through the smoke to raise night's cold. In fact, as it became 8, then 9, I think it was only getting colder. Wally and I froze as we ate breakfast standing to keep the blood flowing.

We rode out slowly, trying not take deep breathes of this haze in our lungs.

It did not take as long as I thought to get out of the thick of it. The smoke lingered for miles and miles, but slowly Montana's scenery unveiled itself.

Once I was warmed up, excuse my English, I felt Fucking Amazing. That's a capital 'F' and a capital 'A.'

110% today!

Montana is gorgeous and we are flowing through tailwinds all day. See that 15.2 average speed. I haven't ridden like this since Kansas!

Not too much happened except crushing the 69 mile ride. We rode by Earthquake Lake which was just formed due to an earthquake in the 50s. Very cool to see some new geography that has happened so recently (and only took a week to form) rather than something formed millions of years ago.

I caught up on a few hours of my favorite Fall/Winter podcast, ESPN's Fantasy Focus to get prepped for 3 upcoming fantasy football drafts. Matthew Berry, Field Yates and Stephania Bell give out some truly mediocre advise and hearing their voices reminds me of home and the football season. Then I switched to music and every song brought on the endorphin's. It was a fantastic day.

Hate to say it, but happy to have cell service again!

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