Started out early again today with another emergency shit. Took it easy today; hung out at the Three Forks gas station for a half-hour morning coffee break. Then slowly rode along a road adjacent to the Interstate and got to observe the surreal, rush-rush culture of this six lane ribbon of road stretching across the country, with it’s fast food mega-chains and gas stations spaced evenly along it. Each junction, looking just like the last, with its Starbucks, McDonalds and Petron side by side.
I’ve loved riding through Montana, with it’s big open skies and wide paddocks. I’ve been barked at by more dogs in Montana than the total of the whole trip so far. A dog earlier in the day almost met its end as it ran across the road to get me – the squeal of brakes from an observant car driver stopped the stunned dog dead in its tracks, but luckily not literally. I’d hate to be blamed for the death of some untrained owner’s dog.
After passing through the outskirts of Bozeman (which someone told me has the highest number of Mount Everest climbers outside of Nepal) I hopped onto the Interstate. There didn’t seem to be any other option. I planned to take a shortcut road to bypass Bozeman Pass and the town of Livingston. My nerves were shattered by the time I got to the exit eight miles down the road. There’s only so much I can handle; having vehicles pass by within a few feet of me, going at about ninety miles per hour left me sweating with fear.
I thought I’d taken the wrong exit, so I stood with map in hand and the best “I’m lost” look on my face. Within a minute, a young bloke pulls up beside me in his car asking if I need help. Straight away he asks if I’m an Aussie and then if I’m from Perth or Margaret River. Turns out Gary’s wife is an Aussie. Gary is a scientist and director of Y2Y (“the Yellowstone to Yukon Program which promotes science and conservation to maintain ecological connectivity between parks and protected areas in the U.S. and Canadian Rocky Mountains”). He offers me directions; (“Yep… unfortunately you have to get back on the Interstate for a couple more miles”), energy food, and even a place to stay if the roads into Yellowstone were closed.
What a champ.
So a few more nerve wracking miles and I exit onto a very muddy, potholed, dirt road. It had been raining and it was very slow going, the road for the first ten miles was terrible. While bouncing along the road I could tell that something was wrong with the weighting of my bike. Eventually I stopped to do a thorough check and was lucky to find that one side of my rear rack had come completely unscrewed – luckily the bolt was still sitting precariously inside the eyelet. Must add Loctite to my toolkit.
From then on I started enjoying myself. It wasn’t potholed anymore, but it was muddy as a baby’s dirty diaper and I was sliding all over the place. I haven’t had so much fun on a Sunday afternoon for a long time. Definitely one of my favourite rides. The empty road wound it’s way through farms and stables, there was a lot of snow on the ground at the higher points. By the time I got back to the main road at Emigrant I was carrying several extra pounds of mud and my chain kept slipping over the cogs. I had to spray several bottles of water over my muddy bike to dislodge it.
It was a mostly downhill thirty mile road to Gardiner, which sits at the north entrance of Yellowstone. While I was eating my dinner, an old man wearing a big cowboy hat wandered over. Said he would have liked me to join him and his wife for supper and to sit for a few hours in their caravan. I thanked him but we just ended up chatting a while at my table. There’s a lot of fresh snow lying about, a warm caravan might have been nice.
I’ve been suffering from a painful left shin for most of the day. I must have bumped it a day or two ago. I can barely walk on it. I don’t think the cold is helping too much. It hurts while riding as well, feels like there’s air bubbling out of my tendon each time I lift up on the pedal. I can barely twist my foot out of the pedal cleat, which is a problem as the left foot is the foot I lean on when I stop the bike. In spite of it, it was a good day of riding.
The road between Interstate 90 and Pine Creek (Day 147)