Day Seventeen – Ennis to West Yellowstone, MT

Day: 17
Day Mileage: 72.3
Total Miles: 972.5

I woke up from behind the distillery early. Throughout the trip, I’ve woken up early but haven’t been on the bike early. It’s terribly hard to talk yourself into getting moving again knowing you have many miles and several hours of that thing the the remainder of the day. I packed up everything as I now have my system in more of an order than before. I then see my way down to the Picanic Basket for breakfast, coffee, and to prepare for the day. I stayed a good while listening to anglers in town telling fish stories from the river. It was enjoyable as was the was the coffee. 

It was nearing 8:30 and I needed to get going. I had a full day ahead with 70 miles and climbing 2500ft over those 70 miles so nothing terribly strenuous or steep but still, it was going to be a long day.  As I got out of town just one mile, I realized I set my chapstick on the table at camp and it fell through the crack and I didn’t pick it up. I was only one mile but couldn’t turn around. I just couldn’t. I was on Highway 287 heading south for a good portion of the day before the for the 61 miles before turning  a bit east and then the final 8 mile stretch south. 

Two things worked against me today: the wind and the traffic. It was Labor Day weekend and I was ons one of the main thoroughfares to Yellowstone National Park from the west. The south wind wasn’t bad to start but picked up throughout the day. I was going a slow 9-10 mph during this long, gradual uphill and into the wind stretch. In addition, this stretch of 287 was terrible. The shoulder was wide enough, however there were rumble strips well into the shoulder by 2ft so any deviation or if I just wasn’t paying close enough attention, I would ride over the rumble strips. With 16 days of riding under my belt, I didn’t need any addition bumps for my downstairs…I just trudged along, cursing on occasion and yelling at trucks and the Montana Department of Transportation. 

Finally, I made it to where most of the traffic turn for a different route to Yellowstone and it was a much more enjoyable ride. I came upon Earthquake Lake and Hegpen Lake as well as a few Continental Divide Trail hikers who started in Mexico 4 months ago and were taking an alternate route to shave off 20 miles because they’re sneaking into the winter season by the time they reach Glacier National. I turned south heading into West Yellowstone. I stopped where a crown had gathered and saw two moose(s?) in the creek and snapped some grainy photos. I kept on where I stopped at a campsite a few miles from West Yellowstone. They were full but did say I could pay $20 to throw a tent behind a trailer in some grass. I knew there might be something in town so I went the final 2 miles where I had cell service. Made calls around to the RV parks and zero of them have permits for tent campers which I was unaware of. There was a hostel in town that had availability, though it was more than $20. It was a twin bed in a private room with showers and bathrooms down the hall. I jumped at the chance and was even given a discount for being a cyclists. 

I showered, had dinner and brought in all my stuff from the bike before winding down and the day hit me hard. I was tired and struggled to watch the Mizzou-Wyoming game knowing Anthony Robb was there just across the way from where I was I didn’t last long and was in my way to bed… in a bed! 

Day Sixteen – Dillon to Ennis, MT

Day: 16
Day Mileage: 70.0
Total Miles: 900.2

I woke up early, as I do regrettably. I took my time getting ready. Making coffee of my own with the help of the Bike Walk Southwest Montana’s electric kettle. I sat on the porch for a bit as the temperature was nice with a jacket but it also helped knowing I could go inside when I needed to. I showered once more because I’m taking advantage of all that knowing it may be a day(s) or two before I’m able again. As I was cleaning, packing and loading the bike, Larry, the operator of the lodge drove up. We chatted for a bit and talked what I need to do once getting to Yellowstone. He was super friendly and helpful and it was such a great place to stay and even better place to get ready in the morning.

The first 25 miles ticked off easily with the cloud cover and cooler temperatures. I passed Beaverhead Rock for its resemblance of a beaver swimming in the water. As I pulled into Twin Bridges, I stopped at a bicycle camp that’s set up in a park. It’s known on the maps and I had to see it for myself. After, I pulled into the market in townfor a coffee, sandwich, cookie and root beer (all needed) before heading off to Alder, Nevada City and Virginia City before reaching my big climb for the day. 

Nevada City and Virginia City are old gold rush towns. Larry said once the area panned out (of gold), it was cheaper for the residents to just take what they had on their backs and leave town rather than try to sell or pack up what was in the home. Everything is left as it was and it was pretty incredible. Many tourists were checking out the old towns and shops along the new Main Street were pretty packed. 

After these two cities, I began my short but steep climb up to my one and only pass for the day. It took 50 minutes to climb 3.8 miles but that’s pretty typical at this point. Once I reached the pass, it was literally all downhill to Ennis. My next 5 miles was complete in 9 minutes and 2 seconds with an average speed of 32mph. I reached my highest speed on the trip at 44.5 and it was a “Jesus, take the wheel” moment where if one thing goes wrong…. I did have a great time with it as I dropped into the valley where Ennis sits with clouds that looked fake. What a welcome.It being Labor Day weekend, a fly fishing competition is taking place and there are outdoor vendors along the street with gear and flies available. I’m staying behind a distillery where cyclists are allowed to pitch a tent. Restrooms aren’t available after hours but there is a park nearby plus other bars are open late. I set up camp, went and did a load of laundry as it needed to happen and stopped off for dinner before hoping to stay up late enough to see the Oklahoma State game against Oregon State. It began an hour earlier here then at home and I struggled. I saw two scores and called it a night. 

Day Fifteen – Wisdom to Dillon, MT

Day: 15
Day Mileage: 65.8
Total Miles: 830.2

I woke up to my first frost this morning. Sleeping at higher than 6000ft! It was to be expected. The tent was warm-ish but I was mummied up and with layers on. I knew the cafe would be open at 7am so as I awoke at 6:30, I began to pack. I didn’t do a great job. I shoved a wet tent into its bag, my dirty clothes into a pannier and the rest whenever it could fit before riding the 1/2 mile into town. When I arrived, the cafe had. Sticky not saying hours had changed to 8am. That was there the night before I’m sure, I just read the menu hour saying they opened at 7am. No worries as the sun was beginning to poke out from behind the mountains, I’m not rue what the temperature was overnight but when I got into town with WiFi, it said 41 degrees. I waited outside the bar in town but heard some chatting and walked in where they were serving hot coffee for 50 cents for a tall to-go cup. I welcomed the warmness as I took my coffee and waited outside for the cafe to open. At 7:43 it did.

I never get pancakes at home nor do I make them, but I crave them on this trip. With pancakes,Vegas and bacon I was ready for the day… only after using the restroom to prepare myself for the ride: brushing my teeth, changing, quick sink rinse. I was meandering along trying to convince myself to get in the bike. I put on pants, a jacket, a buff and gloves and I was making my way to Dillon, Montana.

The first 18 miles to Jackson, I kept my warmer riding clothes on. I couldn’t quite figure out the temperature and it was relatively flat with a few climbs and a few descents with temp fluctuating. I stopped in Jackson for a coffee before riding on to the two big passes of the day. The climbing wasn’t to be terrible because I started at higher elevation to begin with but a climb is a climb and I had two of them. I passed a transam’er going west, John, and spoke to him briefly. He started in Massachusetts and is going to Astoria. Day 71 for him. As I approached my first climb out of the Big Hole Valley and over Big Hole pass at 7400 ft, it was a long gradual climb that I handled quite well. The descent for the next 10 miles was terrific. I had 30 more miles  with one more pass.

….and then the weather changed.

As I began the next 10 miles, the wind began to kick up. I was staring off in the distance at some dark clouds and could see rain that direction too. Problem was, I didn’t know the direction it was heading nor the direction I was heading. I just knew that I had wind and I was going directly into it. It made for slow going for the next however many miles. Lots of cursing. Lots of eating on the bike and lots of drinking. As I crossed a Badger Pass at what I’m sure was 4mph, I was ready for the descent into Dillon. 

The downhill was terrific, but was still battling somewhat of a wind, still had storms off in the distance but at least I knew I wouldn’t hit them. I crossed under I-15 and was in my final stretch of what turned out to be a long day. As I pulled into Dillon, I was wind blown and tired. The wind makes rides exponentially tougher and when you’re carrying panniers on both front and back, they act as parachutes and I’m not into track speed training. I made my way to both food and drink before heading to the Bike Walk Southwest Montana Bike Camp.

Once I arrived at the shower house, it was unreal. Just one building in a park, with views of the mountains surrounding Dillon, a bathroom, a shower and a rug where I ended up putting my sleeping pad knowing I was the only one using it tonight. I showered and sat on the porch before settling in and falling asleep just after 9pm.

Day Fourteen – Hamilton to Wisdom, MT

Day: 14
Day Mileage: 74.6
Total Miles: 764.4

I didn’t sleep all that well st the fair last night waking up a time or two throughout the evening but managed to sleep until my alarm.v I’ve set my alarm for who knows why because I have pressed snooze like I do at home only this time, it’s so that I don’t have to get out of the sleeping bag. 

As I rolled out of the tent I began to pack up. It’s easier this way so that I don’t get out of the tent until the tent is needing to be broken down. My sleeping pad, sleeping bag and pillow are all packed and ready before I unzip the tent. You would think this save time.. it doesn’t when bike packing as everything still needs to be reorganized almost daily so that weight is distributed equally. Once I made my way out, the fair ports potties were a short walk away.  This is twice now where I’ve hit “day zero poets potties” and I tell you, it’s not too bad. As I made my way back to the tent, the family in the trailer I was camping next to was eating breakfast. The daughter walked over and handed me a cup of coffee saying that they thought I’d need it and to just set the cup on the trailer when I was done. It was terrific, thoughtful and got the day going on the right foot.

I made my way to McDonalds to get ready for the ride, charge my electronics, brush my teeth and have a meal before heading out. As I got back to the bike, I realized my glasses and the rear view mirror I had just bought were not on me nor in my panniers. I backtracked to the camp and found them in the grass. That’s now two items I lost and then found in Hamilton, montana. Once those items were found, I was off for the day.

The first 15 miles to Darby were easy going but I decided to stop and refuel once again because I was going to need it with the climb ahead. I had another 20 Miles to Sula which was my destination yesterday and my destination today per my schedule but I wanted to make it to Wisdom and get the climb out of the way. In Sula, I got Gatorade and a few snacks for the remainder of the ride. Just out of Sula, it was time. I began what ended up being 2 1/2 hours of uphill to 7,200 ft and my first passing of the Continental Divide. From there, I had 26 miles of downhill with the help of a tailwind to get into Wisdom. Though I could see the town from several miles out, it took seeming,y forever to get to the final destination where I headed straight for food. 

After dinner, I went to set up camp at the American Legion Park that allows cyclists, hikers and campers pull in for the evening and is all donation based. I realized I didn’t have service so I made the 1/4 ride into town where I talked to some locals who gave me some advice for Yellowstone. On my ride back to camp, I saw an rv in town playing some music so I rode over and introduced myself. They also had cornhole boards set up, and they asked if I wanted to play. I did. After a beer with this group and a few games it was time to go to camp and take a hand pumped well water shower and head to bed.