We quickly traveled back to GA, but did a little cross-country, non-interstate travel, which is always a better way to go. We drove past Chimney Rock, Nebraska an early landmark that helped travelers navigate during settlement of the West. Chimney Rock is visible from miles and miles away.
Imagine if you put a cat in a paper bag, placed it close to your head, then tried to go to sleep. Rustling, flapping, beating…. That is what our night was like! The winds whipped the tent ALL….NIGHT…..LONG! And, we woke up to more cold temperatures. The CGY folks told us that the wind was predicted to remain fierce all day, with gusts to 50 mph. As I have said before, riding in the wind is no good. Cycle Greater Yellowstone knew that many riders were exhausted and would not want to attempt the last day in the high winds, so they arranged for transportation to Red Lodge for those wishing to forgo the day. We signed up!
We arrived in Red Lodge before our luggage, which allowed us time to walk around town and sight-see. After our luggage arrived, we loaded up our things and headed back toward Georgia. We took a cross-country route via US-14 Alternate through the Big Horn National Forest. It was a beautiful road and we recommend it if you happen to travel in that area.
After quite a bit of deliberation, we decided to ride out to the Buffalo Bill Dam. The route allowed us to ride on the old section of road below the dam that is no longer open to the public. Even though we really, really wanted to rest, we also hated to miss the opportunity to see the historic road. Long ago, this was the only route to the Yellowstone East Entrance.
The road below the dam is very steep (14% grade), but cool! The canyon walls are close together and the road hangs on the side of the canyon. The Buffalo Bill Dam, completed in 1910, provides electricity, along with water for irrigation, to the surrounding area. It was a remarkable engineering feat, particularly considering the methods used in 1910!
We woke to clear skies! No bears, but we spent a COLD night in the tent. We have good sleeping bags, but they were not enough. I ended up wrapping my feet in my down jacket, sleeping in all of my warm clothes including my beautiful orange neck gaiter/ear cover! The tent was coated in ice; the door-flap operated like a solid door. It would have been funny if we hadn’t been so darn cold.
Wow! So, today was our thirty-sixth wedding anniversary (and my youngest sister’s 50th birthday! Happy Birthday, Linda!). What did we do to celebrate? We got up BEFORE the crack of dawn to try to beat the snow predicted for Beartooth Pass. We left camp about 6:15 AM. Steve rides so much faster than I do, that we decided today we would ride separately, at our own pace. On most days, he would either ride at my pace or ride ahead and circle back. The great thing about rides like CGY is that everyone looks out for each other, so you are never really alone. Our CGY friends are the best! Plus, CGY has the best SAG (Support and Gear) ever and I am not kidding.
Cyclists were asked not to leave camp until 7:30 AM due in an effort to avoid congestion as vans carried workers to the Stillwater Mine. I LOVE a later start-time! Riders could take a longer route today, all the way to Nye, then back to Absarokee and on to Red Lodge. The ride to Nye was an out-and-back. We had heard that it was a beautiful ride and decided to do the full ride.
We stopped for a quick rest-stop in Fishtail, then headed to Nye; all uphill. There was a headwind for most of the morning which is never terribly fun. Headwinds make me have to pedal harder and I have more trouble relaxing to enjoy to surrounding beauty. We also had to contend with big, big trucks going to the mine. Thankfully, the trucks were informed of our presence and were courteous and usually gave us room on the road.
In Nye, our rest-stop was at their one-room school-house. We had the best cookies and lemonade from a sweet girl raising money for her 4-H club! The school has less than ten students and the teacher lives in a little house behind school. I cannot imagine what it would be like to teach in a school like this; it is still the frontier in this area of the country! (Notice the old merry-go-round in the school-yard.)
We arrived in Red Lodge late in the afternoon of the 15th, parked our car in long-term parking at the Red Lodge High School, and walked back to the park in the center of town where we were camping. On the way, we saw these two bucks sparing.
We arrived at Yellowstone National Park on the afternoon of August 13. Yellowstone is amazing on so many levels. There is such a variety of landscapes; every vista creates a new definition for beauty. Though we wished to be different from every other visitor-tourist, we were compelled to take multiple pictures of the abundant wildlife. The bison and elk, in particular, were fun to watch and are magnificent creatures. Our visit was the perfect prelude to our ride through the greater ecosystem; Yellowstone is a treasure worth protecting.
I am sure that you’ve wondered what happened to us! I have neglected this blog, partly trying to figure out how to write about our most recent adventure. In August, we cycled in Wyoming and Montana with Cycle Greater Yellowstone. The Greater Yellowstone Coalition organizes the tour as a fundraiser. Their mission is to protect the ecosystem surrounding Yellowstone National park to ensure its wildness for us and for future generations. They advertise the trip as “a wonderful and economical way to spend a rewarding week experiencing one of the most extraordinary landscapes on earth.” There is no question about the extraordinary landscapes, but the “rewarding”-part is what I have struggled to think about and explain.
We participated in Cycle Greater Yellowstone tour last year when it began on the western side of Yellowstone in Jackson Hole, WY. It was a hard ride, with a couple of days of really, really cold and nasty weather. The scenery was spectacular and we loved meeting the interesting people from all over the country. The ride was extremely well-organized, with great support, wonderful food, and nice overnight stops.