Day 29 to 37 of Mitch's Trans America
West Yellowstone, MT
Lone Start Geyser, WY
Headwaters RV Park, WY
Colter Bay Village, WY
Jeffrey City, WY
It was in Dillon, MT, on Day 29, that I ran into a lady on the side of the road. She stopped me and asked me if I have a place to stay? She said a new "Bike Camp" is being pioneered just a little bit out side of town, so I followed her to the place and stayed there.
The Bike Camp in Dillon had warm showers, plenty of tent space and a nice interior for sitting and typing or talking with others. I met a former Navy guy here. He happened to have worked on the same plane that I worked on in the Marines. He was also traveling across the country with his girlfriend.
Of course, before arriving at Dillon, on Day 29, was the 108 km ride to get there from Wisdom, MT. I must of seen over 100+ gophers, and even one badger, which is a rare sighting! I saw hawks, herds of horses, cows, bulls, and hundreds of round hay bails.
When I arrive in Jackson, MT, there was a wonderful old Hotel that doubles as a Post Office and a Bicycle Hostel. I did not stay there but it could be a great housing option for those who do not want to make the long trip direct from Wisdom to Dillon. Two guys from Minnesota actually did that. One of the guys was new on the trip so his "butt" would only allow him to do shorter distances at first so they stopped in Jackson.
I watched snow capped mountains all day on the right side bordering the highway on Day 29. You could even see the old wagon route still embedded into the ground from the 1800's at some points along this highway.
Day 30, was a unique day, because my sister asked me if I could do 71 miles on her 71st birthday? The distance from Dillon, MT "Bike Camp" to Ennis, MT was basically 71 miles so it was perfect!
Before departing Dillon, MT, on Day 30, I went to the post office and shipped 13.7 lbs of extra items ahead to Virginia. It was my first step in decreasing my weight from 134 lbs to 120 lbs. It was mostly extra clothes, a camera, and other items I can't remember. I also got my haircut in Dillon for $18 and gave the lady a tip of $2. It was a late start but I still was able to get my 71 miles in by the end of the day.
I saw many antelope, a ground hog (marmot), bulls, sheep, cattle, hay, and trucks. I also crossed a 7,000+ Pass today.
After arriving in Ennis, MT, on Day 30, I found a simple RV park and rented a tent space for $18. The gas station, which was walking distance had nearly unlimited choices of food, snacks, hot and cold drinks. I ate dinner there and came back for breakfast on the morning of the 31st Day. It was great. The campsite had a laundry room so I did my laundry late at night. I didn't have any laundry soap so I used two small, hotel sized bars of my bath soap in the machine. It did not work very well.
Day 31, would be my trip from Ennis, MT to West Yellowstone, MT. This would be a long day arriving after dark at 10:00PM and staying in a Smoke Jumper's training garage walking distance from McDonalds.
I counted over 73 antelope, bison, ducks, and 18 wheeler trucks. Many people complain of trucks and traffic but I have had no problem with trucks in 31 days. I stay to the right. I use the shoulder, if there is one, and I seldom ride on the left side of the white line.
It was today, I passed through Earthquake Lake and had some mosquitoes for the first time on my trip as I got closer to West Yellowstone. I was a little nervous about the "Grizzly Bear" signs at the campsite out side of West Yellowstone so I took my chances to go into the city to look for housing.
The problem with arriving late into West Yellowstone is that all the motels were full. No Vacancy signs! As I approached a RV park, in the city, across from McDonalds, I went to a door that I "thought" might be the office for the RV park. I was wrong. It was simply a building near the Smoke Jumpers training facility. I asked, "Is this the office?" The guy said, "No, but is it just you? Just you and your bike?" I replied, "Yes. Just me. One night. I leave in the morning."
The guy said, "Follow me. I don't usually do this but you can stay here if you want." He opened the door to a garage where they conduct classes for junior smoke jumpers (fire fighters), and they do other summer activities for groups. The garage looked great. I said, "This is beautiful. I will leave in the morning. Thank you so so much!"
I ate at McDonalds across the street at 10:30PM and brought my food back to the garage since there was no room to sit in McDonalds. It was busy at 10:30PM. Lots of tourists in town and it was only June something.
Day 32 was when I entered Yellowstone National Park, but not after discovering a broken spoke while having my morning coffee at the gas station. As I did a Google Map search for Bike Shops in West Yellowstone, there was a bike shop only 1 minute away walking distance.
The bike shop was owned and managed by "ladies." It was a type of "Girl's Shop." The lady that fixed my spoke was named Marissa (?) She did a professional job and obviously was a biker herself. She had a command of the whole shop while entertaining my "spoke problem."
I bought an extra spoke and tucked it away in case I have another problem.
Of course, when I entered Yellowstone National Park, the entrance fee was $20 for bikers.
The traffic was long but on a bike you can pass everyone on the right side. The traffic is long because people keep stopping to take photos of the animals.
I saw nine geese, 29+ bison buffalo, and some good closeups of bison.
I passed the geysers and stopped at most of them. I went all the way to Old Faithful geyser. There were hundreds and hundreds of tourists watching the famous geyser explode. Many were from tourist buses. It was after the last geyser blow, my challenges began as I found myself without a place to stay. All the tourists had cars and they could disappear and drive out but for me it was different.
Yellowstone is a major tourist trap, I'm sorry. The housing, cabins, rooms there are in the $300 and $400 range. Can you imagine? No way.
The only help the Front Desk cold help me with is to refer me to the Park Ranger's Office to get a Permit to stay overnight in the interior - like the back packers have to do. There was only one problem: permits are not issued after 4:00PM and it was already 4:30PM and now getting closer to 5:00PM.
I finally found some "off duty" Rangers to help plead my case to find a place for me to stay. They re-opened the Office and gave me a Permit. I had to watch a 20 minute safety video, mostly about bears, and sign some papers and give emergency info.
They were gracious, but it was stressful. Especially since the location they were giving my camping access to was two miles down the highway, two more miles on a gravel road and about 800 years walking to a place called, "Lone Star Geyser."
This was the worst night of my trip, this far. It was a scary, interior, isolated location. I had to tie all my food up into the tree after purchasing rope from the General Store, before my journey, and a bottle of Bear Repellent - spray for bears in case of a confrontation.
On the way down the highway, approaching maybe 7:00PM, it started raining and hailing. It was cold and miserable. Watch for the video of this experienced to be released in the coming months on my YouTube site: gomitch2
I remember the poster in the Park Ranger's Office that said, "Yellowstone Park is a Dangerous Place." It's because the park is really in the wilderness. No fences. No cages. The wildlife are really wild in their natural habitat. Untamed.
I slept terrible that night. I heard every sound. All my dreams were about animals, ambushes, sneek-ups, and attack. I slept with my "bear spray" nearly in hand and knife at readiness. it rained most the night, thundered, and I was all alone two miles from the nearest highway or human being. It was confirmed that I, and the untamed wilderness, are not friends.
When morning finally arrived, on Day 33, I packed up and walked out, loaded up, and biked back to the highway. The only thing I liked about that location is that the geyser named "Lone Star" is much nicer, coned shaped, and erupts systematically, in a more majestic way than the nationally famous, "Old Faithful." Lone Star is hidden where nearly none will go. Thousands a day come to see Old Faithful and millions annually, but I, and very few others, get to see and sleep near Lone Star. It's like a jewel hidden in the wilderness that is reserved only for the "right people" to experience. Yes, I'm thankful and honored that God set that up for me but the rest of the experience was bordering on scary, and terrifying - not enjoyable.
Advice #1: Visit Lone Star geyser during the day and leave afterwards.
Advice #2: Control your sight seeing time so that you can be out of Yellowstone earlier.
Advice #3: Try to hit Yellowstone in later June, July or August during summer season.
As I continued into Day 33, leaving Lone Star behind, I had to climb over three Passes: Craig Pass @ 8,261 feet; Continental Divide @ 8,391; and Continental Divide, again, @ 7,988 feet. I found a RV/tent campsite, Headwaters Campsite, approx 20 miles after the last pass within the JD Rockefeller Jr Memorial Parkway area. The campsite was $40, with hot showers, laundry area in which I tried to charge all my gadgets. It was a raining and snowy night.
Day 34 would turn out to be a very difficult day for me. I ran into the 2nd Place racer, the night before, named Keith. He probably left at 0700 and when I was getting ready to leave at 0800, it started to snow.
The gates to Yellowstone National Park were closed this morning but you could still exit. This was good for me because I was already done with Yellowstone. I wanted to get out of here. I heard many of the Trans Am Racers were stuck behind the barricade of the closer. The lady at the front desk of Headwaters told me to "Go!" get out of here. So I did.
I started down the highway in the snow hoping that maybe it would clear up or I could get away from the incoming storm. I got only 16 miles down the road and could not continue.
My feet were too cold. My hands were too cold, and I could not see through my glasses. It was too much. I decided I needed to get out of this "exposure" of the elements and get to the nearest safe situation. I decided to hitch hike.
It's the first time in my life that I hitch hiked in the purest sense of the word. I pulled my bike over and stuck my thumb out. Within 5 seconds or less, the very first truck to see me, pulled over and I said, "It's too hard. I need to get out of here now. Can I get a ride to the next safe location?"
The family took me less than five miles to Colter Bay Village, which is part of Teton National Park. We are officially out of Yellowstone National Park.
After being dropped off at Colter Bay Village, I went immediately to the laundry building to sit down, warm up, and think through my plan of action.
After a few hours sitting and "thawing out" my body and feet - especially, I decided that I could not continue anymore today but find a place to stay and hope for the best for Day 35.
I decided to rent a tent/cabin, which is half tent and half wood cabin with a wood burning stove on the inside. The cost was terrible at $80 but I did not have much of a choice. I did not want to go to the tent area and sleep in the snow.
After checking into my tent/cabin, I unloaded my bike and went back to the shower/laundry building for over five hours. I showered, did my laundry and updated all my internet communication and journals. I ate and bought all my grocery items and returned to the tent/cabin later.
My fire wasn't too good and died out at about midnight 00:00. I slept through the night in my sleeping bag which was fine despite the freezing temperatures. I used the bear box for all my food items, and cooked both at night and in the morning before departing into Day 35.
On Day 35, I pleaded with the LORD to give me a good day. I need to get out of this place. The weather is crippling and all resources are expensive. It's a tourist trap. Please get me out of here into lower elevation where the weather is more regular. Never did I know that not only did I have a good day, but was able to double my mileage arriving in Lander, WY 140 miles later!
It's as if I departed that frigid, cursed place with a vengeance. I broke my old personal mileage record of 114 miles that I traveled on my bike in high school even crushed it with a big 140 miles. Amazing!
I was originally planning to go to Dubois, WY only but when I arrived, it was only 3:00PM in the afternoon. We had a lot of downhills and the wind was to my back, and there was sun! I would be a fool to not go farther. So I pushed on, gladly, to Lander, WY
On Day 36, I departed Lander, WY after eating nearly all the groceries I just just ran across the street to buy for the day! I was so depleted from my 140 miles the day before it seemed I had a unlimited appetite.
Got a slow start today at 11:00AM. Started riding out of town and stopped to eat lunch again! By the time I really started it was after 12 noon. Saw guy come into grocery store with his gun. I realized Wyoming has "open carry" weapons law. This means you can bring your gun anywhere you want to go, basically. Nice. I love Wyoming!
I met three bikers today: Ed, a nurse going from Washington DC to Oregon and Fidor, a guy from Russia, working in Boston, now biking from Boston to Seattle. Another older guy planning to bike to Norfolk, VA this summer. The Russian biker learned that if you buy a green 🍌 banana and tie it to back of bike, it will turn yellow from the sun.
I had to keep checking bike today. Seemed like my brakes were rubbing but the reality is that the highway was a little bit uphill and the surface of the highway was sticky which created extra 5% "drag."
I saw two dead skunks today, and dead rattlesnake, and hundreds of cattle and bulls. I counted only 19 antelope and only a few deer. I was tempted to cut off the "rattle" from the rattlesnake for souvenir but was not 100% confident the snake was perfectly dead - never mind. Keep going.
My first 40 miles were slow, but my last 20 were stronger finally. I am staying in a church with hospitality for bikers tonight in old uranium mining town named Jeffrey City, WY. Less than 65 population. Uranium is used for nuclear, you know. Tomorrow, I will target Rawlins, WY - 68 miles
On Day 37, before departing the "Biker Church" in Jeffrey City, WY, I met Will, the fireman again! I caught him!! He was in one of the church rooms. He was taking his day off here.
Another guy, staying in the church, was a biologist doing some research. You can sign your name on the wall of the church as a form of graffiti. There are only 35 people in the city so they have church once a month only.
I traveled nearly 70 miles today to Rawlins, WY. A big city of 9,000 pop. I met three people at intersection. Two of them were hiking across the Continental Divide across the USA!! It's 4,000 miles and takes 6 months. The Continental Divide is a hiker route following the top of the mountains. For cars and bikers, we go up to the top and down the other side all the time but these guys follow the top ridge. They were from France.
The other guy, named Mike, has a motorcycle and backpack combining motor and hiking.
I met another guy who travels in his bus from State to state working with oil refineries. I counted 19 antelope today. Nothing else.
The highway was always long, and never ending with hardly one tree in sight. I saw hundreds of ant hills and a highway patrol pulled over a lady for speeding in the middle of nowhere! What was he doing so far in the desert giving speeding tickets??
I ate chips and salsa on the roadside shoulder but dropped my energy drink spilling 3/4 of it before getting to drink. I am eating a lot and drinking so many drinks a day because I burn so many calories.
My biggest expenses are food and housing, food and housing, repeat. I was going to stay as grassy area beside WALMART tonight, as advertised, for bike tenters, and use their 24 hr bathroom, but they changed policy. No more tenters. Only campers with vehicles.
I found a different campsite for $14 with tent spot, nice showers, laundry room which I use to charge my gadgets and do internet.
I am at 6,000+ feet right now in Rawlins, WY. I had tail winds all day today for 68 miles. If I did not have winds at my back today, I would never reach here in one day. This ends Day 37.
Watch for Day 38 to 43 soon...
Crossing into Colorado
Heeney, CO crossing Hossier Pass
Canon City, CO