Day 4, Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

We broke camp and got underway fairly early. The road west from Madison campground was mostly a gentle downhill. Note in the following profile that our direction of travel was right to left. Notice too, that there is only a vertical difference of about 200 feet in the entire distance.

This was another day of beautiful scenery from the very beginning. Again, the pictures don't do it justice, as we were constantly seeing scenery such as this. I do hope the pictures at least give you a hint of what it was like.

Along the Madison River, looking back (east) upstream

Another scene looking back upstream on the Madison River

About 7 miles from West Yellowstone, we saw a ranger trying to keep a bison from wandering out onto the road. Backed up behind him (on the opposite side of the road, used by traffic coming into the park) was a traffic jam at least 4 miles long.

As we pedaled the opposite direction of this traffic jam, people often asked us what was the holdup ahead. “Bison”, we answered again and again. I felt sorry for the people in the traffic jam, thinking it a very discouraging way to start out a vacation.

As we got nearer to West Yellowstone, Malcolm noticed he had a low tire, and re-inflated it a couple of times before we made it into West Yellowstone and a bicycle shop. Not wanting to take the time, Malcolm paid for them to fix the flat, putting in a new tube, and I patched the old tube so we had a spare.

In fixing it, we noticed that Malcolm's rear tire was worn almost to the end of its useful life (not by this trip, but by years of other use). Worrying about this, I purchased a spare tire so that if it failed, we wouldn't be forced to end the trip.

Interesting bicycle shop in West Yellowstone, with kites and model airplanes

Interesting recumbent bicycle – note handlebars below the seat where your hands hang

We shopped for groceries, and ate at a Dairy Queen (where I again had a caramel malt). We talked to he shop owner about the kites and airplanes there. He had some that had been out of production for many years. Malcolm remembered playing with these at age 10 or so.

We asked the bicycle shop owner where we might find mosquito netting, and headed there. It turned out the shop recommended didn't have any. But on coming out of the store, we met the bicycle shop owner bringing our VISA card to us which we had carelessly left at the bicycle shop. We thanked him, being very impressed he would help us out that way.

Finally, after much delay, we cycled north on highway 191 out of West Yellowstone. The going was easy, but it was beginning to get hot. We stopped near the highway 287 junction (the highway going west to Hebgen Lake) to soak my neck-band cooling system in Duck Creek, and to take a break in the shade.

I need the neck-band (which has crystals that absorb lots of water) for cooling, because I have few sweat-glands that work. With the neck-band, I have at least one area (around my neck) cooled by evaporation, and it cools the blood going into my head as well.

At the highway 191 junction, resting in the shade

When we resumed cycling, very soon I began to wonder if there was something wrong with me. I was geared-down in my next-to-lowest gear, and just didn't seem to be moving. Yet the landscape seemed level. I checked my tires, but found no low tire. It turned out (as you can see in the profile below) that there was a significant uphill climb at this point, though the landscape seemed not to be a hill. In fact, it was almost the steepest section, at about mile 8.

After that initial climb, we had a downhill glide, and had to re-climb it. But I really didn't mind, because the climb wasn't too steep. I could keep cycling all the time. In fact, there was only one half-mile walk-up hill in the whole climb. It's climbs like this that make me think I can actually climb hills on a bicycle!

Cycling uphill along the Grayling River – notice my neck-band, used for cooling

At about mile 15 we had a half-mile or so of walk-up hill, followed by a downhill glide, then we resumed the relatively easy climb. We kept watching for a sign telling us we were at the pass, but there never was one. But when we started to see streams flowing north instead of south, we knew we had passed it. This was good news, since it meant we were beginning a 55-mile downhill section!

A little beyond the pass on highway 191

In this section, we were actually in Yellowstone Park again, and we passed a number of trailheads. At one of them, we talked to a park ranger. She was concerned that we were getting low on water. I explained that we were heading for a campground 15 miles down the road, and we would get water there. I was surprised when she informed me that the campgrounds didn't have water.

I had just assumed that campgrounds had water, and we had no purification tablets or filter pump. She gave us some of her water, and told us that we could get water at the 320 Ranch at milepost 35, and could camp behind there at the Buffalo Horn trailhead. We thanked her profusely, and continued on our way.

Downhill along the Gallatin River, in the late afternoon sun

As you can see in the picture above, this was one of the most beautiful sections of the trip. It was downhill, but we had a moderate headwind. The downhill made it easy, though.

It was quite a long way to the 320 Ranch, so she was right to be concerned about our water supply, though we would have made it.

In my research for the trip using Mapquest and Google Earth, I was unable to find any eating places before Big Sky, Montana (considerably farther down the road). However, when we finally made it to the 320 Ranch, we were elated to discover they had a restaurant! It was quite a fine restaurant, but hey – we were on vacation! And of course, we were able to refill our water bottles (including the 2-liter extra container).

The meal was really good, but by the time we finished eating, it was almost dark, and we still had to cycle about a half mile up a gravel road to the trailhead.

So we pushed our bicycles up the road because it was too dark to see the bumps, and we didn't want to break a spoke. Occasionally we would use our flashlights when we needed to read a sign or look at something to the side of the road.

We set up camp in the dark. There was nobody else there. So here we were, in the dark, out in the sticks, setting up camp out with the bears (I worry about bears, and practice stringent bear-discipline, because clean camp rules are enforced by bears).

In the dark, it was hard to throw a line over a tree limb to suspend our food. However, where the restroom was sturdy cinder-block construction, with a steel door, we put our food (cans of chunky soup, and packages of trail mix) in a plastic bag and put it in the restroom. Not exactly what a camping book would suggest, but it worked. Then we went to sleep, dreaming of bears...

On this day, we traveled 52 miles in 11 hours, 20 minutes. We were pedaling for 6 hours, 19 minutes. The total duration includes our gourmet meal. Our average speed was 8.2 MPH.

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