And the Rest and Return (Days 8 - 11)

The solitary tree on the shoal under which I spent a few hours reading and chatting with passer-bys. Had to walk across a log to reach the shoal. Like the Bridge to Terebithia, it seemed to transport people to a special place, not only physically.
Seemingly not a care in the world, probably completely aware of the blocked traffic. Love it
Perhaps even more of a spectacle than the geyser were the masses of people gathered to share in the experience of watching the Earth blow its nose
Oh, the smell of rotten-egg sulphur at some of these spots...potent
Two adorable little kids amongst them
Looking rather western
All packed up and confined; in such striking contrast to the former freedom of the open road.

August 21, 2014

Stats split across two days (9 and 10) from the Grant Village campground in Yellowstone to Cody, WY:

Day 9:
Distance: 42.82 miles
Time: 2:58:00
Average: 14.4 mph
Top: 35.7 mph

Day 10:
Distance: 66.84 miles
Time: 4:47:21
Average: 13.9 mph
Top: 38.0 mph

Arriving in Grant Village, I spread out my tent and felt satisfactorily sedentary. I looked forward to not dealing with the painful feelings of awakening and feeling the need to promptly pack up and work so hard for the cycling momentum. I had arrived at my temporary destination and was going to enjoy it without hurry. I initially thought of camping in the wilderness of Yellowstone (despite the signs strongly encouraging remaining on designated campgrounds), but wanted to be around people. This trek has had a bit too much solitude where it's become slightly lonely. Camping in the wilderness makes me feel like an outcast, a label which for me carries opposing connotations. I like doing things considered atypical and potentially dangerous, but having to conceal my location to keep from facing any difficulty with others is distressing. Having spent the former 6 nights in such locations, I would experience something a bit more aligned with expected behavior and enjoy the rewards which accompany such actions (showers, more direct contact with others, etc).

The problem with designated campgrounds, to me, is that they are tamed to the point where they seem like a collection of small patches of dirt upon which to set up tents where there happen to be trees interspersed. Cars are driving all about, areas of concrete (roads and parking lots) seem to be competing with the controlled zones of camping, the emphasis on comfort is a bit too much for me, and the surrounding tourist traps (highly priced food and souvenirs) detract from the beauty. I suppose I mean to highlight the stark difference between the type of camping I had been experiencing in comparison to conditions of Grant Village. I did, however, like being in the campgrounds, especially since the prices seemed quite fair for the "hiker/biker" category of camper.

After indulging in the luxury of a hot shower and meeting some neat people at the campground bar, I was dazzled by the brightness of the stars during the blackness of the night. I'd previously been limited in the purity of my view by the brightness of the moon and by cloudy nights. The view from Grant Village, however, seemed to be immune to these disturbances. The swath of our Milky Way was clearly visible across the sky, with bright stars interspersed throughout the entirety of the sky, the horizons only slightly trimmed by trees seeming to reach for the spectacles to which my vision was exposed in wonder.

Waking up luxuriously late (10ish), the morning of day 8 was spent trying to figure out how I was going to view the spectacles of the park. I was at first thinking of simply riding around the park, but wished not to have to pack up my comfortably sedentary position and change my campsite. The loop around the park in which I was interested was around 100 miles in circumference and I would spend most the entire day riding (even without the heavy packs loading me down) and concerned with time rather than being able to devote the respectful amount of time required to see the park well. I wanted the typical tourist experience of seeing the strange phenomena of the park; the geysers, the hot springs, the beautiful views, I wanted it all!

I had woken up too late to experience the tour bus package which would seem to satisfy all these desires, so instead signed up for the one running the following day. Satisfied that my fix would be realized, I spent most the rest of the day on the beach of Yellowstone Lake (needless to say, beauty abounded...) while reading and chatting with the diverse body of tourists (see what was written at acressity.com/narratives/467 for more details on my thoughts).

I had earlier met a coast-to-coast cyclist (woman in her 40-50s) and invited her to crash at my camp site. I returned near dinnertime and shared a delicious meal of quinoa while chatting. She seemed rather eccentric, bouncing often between 3 or 4 different conversation topics. I felt I understood the gist of our conversation, having experienced so much of what she spoke about. It was nice speaking with someone who could relate to the difficulty, the beauty, and the sublime aspects of the experience of long-haul cycling. Many mirthful laughs were had.

The following day was spend mostly on board the Circle of Fire tour bus which turned out to be just what I had hoped it to be. Excellent for my conditions, about 30 others were along for the common ride. Enjoying the company and relationships with my fellow tourists, our awkward and enthusiastic tour guide led the way and gave us a deeper scoop of the park than would've otherwise been experienced.

One of the first Yellowstone spectacles of the tour was the great bison trekking with absolutely no perceptible haste in front of oncoming traffic. Its massive body following the slightly bobbing gigantic head and eyes turned downward was such a wonderful sight to behold, especially with the RVs backed up by its lumbering gait.

Before long, fields of grazing/lazing bison, spectacular waterfalls, hot springs, geysers (especially Old Faithful) had been seen from a safe distance. I rather liked the people in my tour group, having many interesting conversations with them after word got around of my means of arrival--this having made conversation rather easy. Pictures uploaded document the sights as captured by my phone's camera.

Following the tour, I had made up my mind to leave directly for the eastern entrance towards Cody. Already nearly 6pm, my decision was made even more difficult by a note left by my new 4 Swiss friends upon my bike, asking to hang out that night. Waffling at first, I decided to keep to my original plan in order to return home via bus sooner rather than later. Leaving a regretful note attached to the bike rack, I pushed on. Making good time, I was delighted to see the 4 pull up alongside me as I was riding away from Grant Village, about 10 miles out. We chatted through their car windows at 20 mph since not turn-offs were present. Glad I got a chance to say goodbye more formally, I continued along the road.

It was soon dark and the stars again came out in force. I camped near the last mountain pass out of Yellowstone along the way to Cody, WY. A particularly daring deer, not seeming to care about my presence, remained munching on some of the beautifully lush vegetation around my sleeping bag. Awakened in the middle of the night by rain against my cheek, I hustled to set up the rain fly in a slight daze, raising it just in time to ward off the potentially misery-inducing rain.

The following day was almost entirely downhill, but a persistent headwind--somehow seeming to match opposite my direction almost perfectly, even around bends--kept me from attaining the speeds I otherwise would've reached. Coupled with the pain in my heel (having possibly bruised the bone before leaving on the trek) and that in my kneecaps (feeling like they were about to explode), frustration returned. Luckily, the mesmerizing beauty of the surrounding area--a valley carved by a river I was tracking downhill--kept me from becoming too intimately involved with the negative emotions. Beautiful shades of red within the rough and refined rock tracked through veins within the enormous slices of earth's outer crust jutting into the majestic blue skies above.

Approaching Cody, signs began referring to the town's namesake, Buffalo Bill Cody. An interesting character of a former era, a western cowboy theme outlined parts of my road as I entered my final destination, from where I would be riding the bus back home. Having rented a spot within a campground internal to Cody and pitched my tent, I toured around Cody. First tracking down a box for my bike (required for the bus), I bought my ticket and enjoyed the calm feeling of little pressure as I walked and rode around town. Quite touristy in its nature, western shows were being performed at a hotel named after Bill Cody's daughter Irma amongst scenes of motorcyclists parking and dismounting their engined steeds, colorful polo-clad families walking about, and shoppers shopping. A long-time fan of belt buckles, I stopped within a store advertizing them and found one which called to me. Sporting a picture of a Native American atop an atrophied horse and the words "End of the Trail" written underneath, I identified a bit with the scene. I was feeling a bit melancholy and nostalgic for the trek, knowing that tomorrow would mark the end of the jaunt. I spent some time in the Irma Hotel, having a couple drinks and chatting with the fascinating couple Mark and Mary Ellen. Having sold their house a number of years ago, they bought an RV and have been traveling the country since, settling in Florida during the winter and making the road their home during the rest of the years. Spirited folk, our conversation remained enthusiastic for a couple hours before I split out to head to bed in preparation of the early morning.

Considering the trek in its entirety, I like using the analogy of a life's journey being a climb up a mountain. My 'typical' life is one with some sort of general direction which I try directing towards the mountain top, or the peak of existence. This little trek was like wandering off my main path in pursuit of a temporary alternate perspective on the mountain. I trekked outwards, away from any paths well-traveled, and stumbled upon various questions and mysteries. Thoughts of life in general, relationships, living in the moment, and the duality between happiness and misery were considered from a position distinct from the typical. Yet here I was, at the end of the temporary trail outward. Tomorrow I would be taking a quick shortcut back to my point of origin (moreso physically than mentally/spiritually). I wanted to keep going, but the pain in my foot and knees coupled with the time constraint of a fresh session of school soon resuming was pushing me back to the more comfortable path of my former travel.

Waking up at 6:10 despite having my alarm set for 5:00, I rushed the packing of my tent on the morning my bus would be shipping me back to my former established home. Muttering curses under my breath, I rode quickly into town and to the point from which my bus would be leaving just as the driver was about to hop on board. Disassembling my bike with such haste that I split open the skin of my knuckle, I finally clambered aboard, having made the bus leave a bit late. Yet I was happy. Everything was together and I was forming a positive conclusion to this small trek of my life. Reading Tolstoy along the ~12 hour bus ride, a sense of peace settled within that I wished to apply to the rest of my life.

I experience something mysteriously profound at times while on these treks. Mere moments after experiencing feelings of trying difficulty brought about my worries of water, wind, time, and bike troubles, I am able to experience feelings of intense sublime joy and rejoicing in the state of things. Established relationships are considered from another vantage point, people I meet along the road so greatly and easily supplement my journey, and I grow tremendously as a person. It isn't always easy or fun nor always difficult or monotonous, yet it is always worthwhile.

from experience Bike to Yellowstone


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