Seattle to Chicago On A Bicycle
by Denis R. Kertz
Copyright 1994 Denis R. Kertz. All rights reserved. No part of this document may be reproduced, transmitted, transcribed, stored in a retrieval system, or translated into any language in any form by any means without the written permission of the author.
Part 3 of 6Day 15: 9/18/94, Sunday - Kalispell, Mt [13.1 miles]
I woke up about 6:15 and packed up and ate two cups of granola. At the St. Mary's Lodge I had the sourdough pancakes which were not filling and expensive - over $6 including coffee. I decided I might have to eat another breakfast somewhere along the way.
Today marked the end of my Bikecentennial route as I looped back on US 2 south of Glacier to make a beeline to Hamilton. The ranger yesterday said it was 90 miles to West Glacier from St. Mary's with initially climbing and descending with the last 40 miles after the Continental Divide all downhill. Then it was 195 miles from West Glacier to Hamilton so I figured I had at least three good days of riding to make Hamilton by Tuesday evening and perhaps not until Wednesday morning.
The ride started climbing out of St. Mary's for over 5 miles. My legs were tired but they seemed to warm up quickly. There was a great view of the St. Mary's Lake and surrounding mountains on the climb. I was dressed out in my standard tights and windbreaker. I started to heat up and debated removing my windbreaker but decided not to and was shortly glad that I hadn't. Then began an exhilarating descent and I was quickly over 30 mph as the road started gentle S turns. Up ahead were 2 cows, one on each side of the road. I watched them carefully hoping I wouldn't have to slow down after having worked for over an hour to enjoy this descent. Then just as I was almost even with the cows and started to relax now that I was sure it was too late for either of them to make a move, the cow on the right spooked and bolted across the road. Since I didn't know exactly which direction she would go, I figured I had to hold my line. Then at the last moment when I thought she would continue across the road and I would just miss her on the right, she stopped in the middle of the road as if to challenge my right of way. At this moment when I was maybe 20 feet away and moving at about 30 mph, I realized with a sinking feeling that a crash was unavoidable. I think if I had been on an unloaded bike I could have swerved and missed the cow but on my loaded projectile I slammed into the cow's hindquarters.
My bike stopped instantly and I, without a seatbelt or airbag, went flying forward. I think I flew over the cow and landed on my right side, sliding, and then ended up on my back. I was stunned for a few moments and then tried to get up but I could barely raise my head. I tried again to get up and managed to get part of my back off the road but was still unable to get up. I vaguely recall seeing the cow join her companion and they headed off in to the woods. I couldn't tell whether she was hurt but I certainly hoped so. I was almost certain that I was injured in some way, mostly likely a broken bone of some sort, and that my tour was over. After another try or two I finally managed to struggle to my feet. My bike laid in the middle of the road and I actually seemed to be OK except for a pain in my right side which I assumed was either a cracked rib or something pulled/torn in my ribcage. I was wearing a helmet and I checked it for damage although I had no recollection of hitting my head. At first I could find no evidence of a crash but then I noticed a crack in the left rear part of the thin shell that covered the Styrofoam. Later I noticed a small dent in the right rear as if my helmet had hit a small rock.
After I steadied myself on my feet, I retrieved my bike and noticed the front wheel looked hopelessly pretzled. My sunglasses were on the road broken with the lens popped out of the frame and scratched from the asphalt. Fortunately, during this time no other traffic had come through on this Sunday morning. After getting my bike off the road, I took off the front wheel and jumped on it, hoping that a miracle would unpretzel it. I got it in a little better shape and put it back on to see if it was possible to ride with the front brake open but no way. Not only was the front wheel trashed but it looked like, not surprising, that my front fork or something was bent sideways. In any event my bike was not rideable.
It took about 20 minutes of thumbing before I was able to get a ride. I think I would have been more successful but I'm sure my bike and I looked in good shape to a casual driver. In any event, a guy on his way to Browning came along in a pickup (fortunately, a large percentage of the Montana vehicles were pickups which made hitching a ride with a loaded bike easier) and he guessed something was wrong (why else would a cyclist be hitchhiking on a downhill). He had three kids up front so I rode in the back with my wounded bike. Browning was a town of about 1,000 people and I hoped either for a bike shop or a bus depot to take me to a larger town but it had neither. So I pushed my bike from the center of town where I was dropped off until I reached the junction of US 2 heading to East Glacier and thumbed some more. After a short wait a Blackfoot Indian in a pickup gave me a ride to East Glacier, going partly the back way through the reservation. He pointed out some of the local landscape, talking about fishing and his golf game. He told me there was no bus depot in East Glacier but someone would be able to fix my bike and dropped me at a hostel.
At the hostel a woman confirmed there was no bus depot and said there also was no bike shop but gave me the phone number of a bike repair outfit. She said I could catch either an evening or morning Amtrak train to Whitefish. I also asked her about reporting my accident to someone. She noted that where I was riding at the time of the accident was open range and anyone who hit a cow on open range was liable for any damages. So her advice was to lay low. Since it was early afternoon, I figured I might as well try my luck hitchhiking again. I also wasn't sure I could just load my bike on the train without packing it up. So I pushed my bike from the hostel to the main road (US 2). Just after I positioned myself along the road, a man came out of a store to his pickup which was parked right next to me. So I approached him for a ride. He thought I was just a tired cyclist so I showed him my front wheel. I was in luck and he agreed to give me a ride all the way to Kalispell where he was headed which was more than I could have hoped for.
So off we went. I enjoyed some of the scenery but noted with disappointment the downhill descent I was missing. My driver was from near Great Falls but worked for an asphalt contractor and was on his way to a job near Kalispell. We talked about various topics along the way including his pickup with over 400,000 miles and two new engines that he had replaced himself along with myriad other parts.
Just outside Kalispell, he dropped me off by his A-1 asphalt plant. I started pushing my bike again towards Kalispell, hoping to get to a phone to find out if there was a Hamilton bus yet today. However, what I thought would be a mile push turned into 2-3 miles and I was getting real tired of pushing a bike with a damaged front wheel that didn't really want to be pushed. While I was pushing and wondering if I would ever get to Kalispell, a couple approached on a tandem bicycle. The guy made some remark about my being tired until I pointed out my predicament (and front wheel) and asked about a bus depot in town. It turned out that Rick and Lori, the couple, were just finishing a ride for the day. Rick graciously offered to pick me up in his pickup as soon as they made it back to his place in town a few miles away. I gratefully accepted his offer and it wasn't too long before Rick was back and carted me off to his RV repair shop (Rick's RV). We phoned the bus depot but got no answer and they both warned me that there was some question about the dependability of the bus company. Since they didn't answer the phone, we rode across town to the bus depot and learned they were closed on Sunday afternoon but open at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
Rick and Lori were leaving that same evening for a vacation in Hawaii so I had to decide where to stay for the night. There were motels nearby but I opted for a nearby park where I hoped to camp for the night and Rick dropped me off there. By this time my side was really hurting and I wondered if it would be better or worse tomorrow. Even riding in the pickup was painful as I felt every little bump. I just hoped that I wouldn't sneeze because I knew that would cause excruciating pain. Once I was on my own in the park, I chose to wait until dark to set up camp in order to not call attention to myself and possibly get booted. There was a foodmart within a short distance and I managed to scrape together a reasonable meal.
After lunch, I stopped at a motel to call my friend Dave who was keeping an eye on my house. I had been gone for two weeks and I thought it would be wise to make sure my house was still standing which it was. I also passed on my misadventures consisting of my lost wallet/money and today's cow bashing incident. Dave let me know that my friend Howie was interested in contacting me so I gave him my pay phone number to pass on to Howie and I promised to wait around for about 15 minutes in the event that Howie was around and could call me back. Within 5-10 minutes I got my return call.
Interestingly, I had recently worked on a software package to manage a golf tournament, keeping track of players and teams and golf bets on the same. This had started as a means to learn Microsoft Access and now a local country club was interested in using this package to run a tournament in a couple of weeks. Since this software was a prototype and I was the only one familiar with it, the question was whether we could possibly support this tournament while I was still on the road. After a fair amount of discussion, we finally came to the conclusion that we might be able to manage if I was near a phone and available on call during the tournament. We agreed to give this some more thought and check back with each other later in the week. This unexpected development will eventually have some impact on my planned riding schedule.
After my phone conversations, I returned to the park and set up my tent. Then I stopped in a nearby casino for a beer and talked to a couple of women (who were employees of the casino) at the bar. One of the women told me how she and her friends got a ride to the top of Logan Pass and rode their bikes down in the moonlight. After I mentioned where I was staying for the night, the other woman told me about some camping folks getting ripped off in town. This made me somewhat nervous so I had only one beer and retired to defend my campsite.
Day 16: 9/19/94, Monday - Hamilton, Mt
I got up around 6:00 and packed in darkness, partially to keep a low profile in the park. I pushed my bike to the bus depot and found a bus schedule inside the casino that the bus depot was part of and learned the Missoula bus left at 10:30 a.m. Since I had plenty of time until then, I headed across the street for breakfast.
After breakfast, I headed back to the bus depot that opened at 8:30. I quickly learned that I had to box my bike to get it on the bus. In addition, the bus only went to Missoula where I would have to catch another bus to get to Hamilton. The ticket agent gave me the address of a bike shop that she said was 6 blocks away. I figured I could walk there and drag a box back (assuming they had one) and have time to pack. However, I quickly learned the current address was 1100 S and the bike shop was at 100 N which translated into 12 blocks, not 6. I walked a little ways to verify that there were no address gaps and decided to bag the bus and hitchhike since I didn't know if there was a bike box available, if I could drag it 12 blocks, not to mention that I wasn't at all thrilled with the idea of having to unload my bike and pack it up.
So I fashioned a hitchhiking sign from a card board box from the bus depot. Learning from my experience yesterday that it wasn't obvious to the casual observer that there was a good reason for my needing a ride, I put “Bike Broke” on my sign along with my destination of Hamilton. My initial attempt at a sign was less than perfect so I redid the sign again on the other side of the cardboard.
After about 20 minutes of thumbing along the road outside the bus depot that fortunately was Highway 93, I got a ride from a guy named Ted in another pickup. Ted was a construction architect and on his way halfway down along the shore of Flathead Lake. He dropped me off at a service station/restaurant along 93 in Rollins. I didn't expect much trouble getting a ride from there to at least Missoula but it was almost two hours until I got my next ride. A couple of folks did stop but one wasn't headed my way and the other had a van that didn't have enough room for my bike. Finally, Mitchell, a kind soul from Bozeman, took pity on me and gave me a ride in his van. I had to unload my panniers to make room and Mitchell had to move some of his things around but we managed to get packed.
Mitchell was returning to Bozeman from a square dance call assignment over the weekend. He was an independent software contractor working out of Bozeman who was originally from New York, went to Colorado State majoring in forestry with a minor in Computer Science. He had been in Bozeman for about 12 years but was finding the software business increasingly competitive and wasn't sure how much longer he would be able to stay in Bozeman. Mitchell's route to Bozeman took him right by Missoula on I-90 but he went well out of his way to drop me off in south Missoula to make it easy for me to catch my next ride.
After about 15 minutes, I caught a short ride from a guy heading to Lolo. I had expected my next ride would take me all the way to Hamilton so I was surprised this guy even bothered to take me the few miles to Lolo. After getting dropped off by a side road near the Lolo fire station, I once again flashed my ride sign. While I was facing the southbound traffic, two guys, Craig and Matt, in a pickup (what else) got my attention from the side road behind me. They apparently saw the backside of my ride sign and were on their way towards Hamilton. I had to unload my panniers again to fit in the back of the pickup but I was getting pretty good at that and we were loaded in short order.
Craig and Matt were building a barn near Hamiton but had decided to play hooky for the day and were just bumming around on this beautiful fall day with sun shining and temperature in the 70s. They lived in Missoula but had grown up in Hamilton. Matt knew where Trautman Taxidermy, my brother-in-law's shop, was just south of Hamilton and remembered that my sister used to work for General Surplus, a sporting goods store, in Hamilton. Craig used to work in the only real bike shop in Hamilton (the other 2 bike shops were part of sporting goods stores) but warned these shops were mountain bike oriented and I might have to go to Missoula to get my bike fixed.
Since they were headed south of Hamilton, they dropped me off at the taxidermy shop right along the highway. Mike, my brother-in- law, was in the shop and saw me get dropped off. He thought I had gotten a ride because I was tired of cycling so I had to show him my front wheel. Since it was late afternoon and the bike shops would close shortly, he finished salting an elk carcass and we headed into Hamilton to see what we could learn before the shops closed. The “real” bike shop was closed until October 4 so we went to General Surplus. The bike guy there looked at my bike and confirmed that the front wheel was trashed and the front fork bent. He didn't have the equipment to fix the bike and suggested a bike shop in Missoula.
Around 6:00, Judy, my sister, returned home from her 4th grade teaching job along with my nephew and niece, Danny (15) and Krissy (13). I filled everyone in on my adventures including the wallet and cow incidents. After dinner, we took a drive south to Darby where they own 30 acres of land and had hoped to sell their home and build a new house this summer. We saw deer all over the place and a porcupine. They showed me their great view of the mountains looking southwest out of what would have been their living room.
My side continued to hurt today. It was much better in the morning but had gotten progressively worse through the day. Tomorrow, I planned to call the bike shops in Missoula to see if and when they can repair my bike. It was good to be in Hamilton and have a place to stay while my bike and I recuperated. Missoula was about 45 miles away and probably one of the best places for repairing a touring bike. In retrospect, I will decide that my cow incident was good timing. I had planned to rest a couple of days once I reached Hamilton but now I was already rested since I had just spent the last two days hitchhiking. Tomorrow would be another day of rest for my legs and then I could be on my way again by Wednesday. This may sound like I was not interested in spending much time with my sister and family but the reality was that it was nearing the end of September which increased the chance of snow at the higher elevations and I still had to pass through Yellowstone and the Big Horns. Consequently, I was anxious to get on the road again as soon as possible and, strange as it may seem, my cow accident actually got me ahead of my previous schedule by a couple of days. While I'm thankful for that, I still hope that cow is hurting somewhere near St. Mary's.
Day 17: 9/20/94, Tuesday - Hamilton, Mt
I had a restful night sleeping in my sleeping bag but on a mattress. My sister and kids headed off to school and I read the paper and ate a couple of bagels. I called Adventure Cycling (formerly Bikecentennial) in Missoula to see if they would recommend a bike shop in Missoula and they mentioned Braxton's and On The Road. I asked about New Era and got a noncommittal response. I called New Era first and explained the problem. The guy figured they had a fork to replace mine but wasn't sure they could rebuild the front wheel today but said they could do it at least by tomorrow. I tried calling Braxton's but got no answer so I figured they must not be open yet.
So I borrowed the pickup and headed to Missoula with the plan of stopping at Braxton's first since it was on the way and see what they say. After a couple of false starts, I located Braxton's. The guy looked at my bike, checked his rims and forks, and said he could do the job using an MA2 rim to replace my MA3D rim along with a new fork. He said he could be done by 3-4 p.m. so I left the bike and headed downtown to kill some time.
I enjoyed a late breakfast of whole wheat pancakes at the Old Tom Cafe after stopping by the Adventure Cycling office. These were the best pancakes I'd had so far. After breakfast I stopped by 1st Interstate Bank to get my remaining $600 in traveler's cheques but discovered at the last minute they only handled American Express. So I was directed to another nearby bank that handled VISA and got my $600. The only hassle was I had to fill out another claim form which was identical to the one I filled out in Port Townsend.
Next I checked on polypro at a camping store and bought a Thermax top for $10 at an Army Surplus store. Then I called Braxton's around 2:00 and learned my bike was ready. After a quick stop at a bakery to pick up some wheat bagels, I picked up my bike that looked good in its new chrome fork in place of the old blue fork. Taking a test ride I noticed my mirror was lopsided and discovered the mirror strap was torn in several places. Braxton's didn't have a replacement strap so I paid for my bike and headed back downtown to New Era where a guy found an Avenir pump strap that filled the bill. Overall, I was happy with my repaired bike which cost $90 but I had thought it might cost twice as much.
After filling the truck's gas tank, I headed back to Hamilton and re-installed my front rack on my new fork. One thing I didn't bother repairing on my bike was my Scott clipon aero bars which were broken at the bridge which joins the two bars. I don't use the aero bars for touring since the bike requires more control but I found the bars were useful as a map holder. However, after Mike commented about my broken aero bar, it got me thinking that it would be nice to have a solid support for the map. So Mike fashioned a Plexiglas rectangle that I could lay across the aero bars. With this in place, a map laid on top of the Plexiglas remained nice and flat.
After supper, I packed my panniers and left some unneeded clothes behind in my duffel bag to be shipped back to me in mid-October after I returned home. Now I just hoped my ribcage would hold up tomorrow since it was still causing me considerable discomfort. I would have liked to rest my ribcage another day or two but I every day just increased the chance of hitting snow in the mountains so I feel the need to press on.
Day 18: 9/21/94, Wednesday - Wisdom, Mt [75 miles]
After another good night's sleep, I completed the remainder of my packing and ate a bowl of granola and a wheat bagel. I said good- bye to Judy and Danny and Krissy when they left for school. I completed my packing and said good-bye to Mike and was on the road again. I expected to make the next few days easy as I expect that my ribcage would not miraculously recover in a couple of days.
After 14 miles of easy peddling South on 93, I stopped at the Montana Cafe in Darby for more breakfast - 2 pancakes and coffee. I continued on until Sula Store and bought a muffin and Pepsi and some Oat Thins that I left for later. A few miles farther, I stopped at the Sula Ranger Station where they had a nice relief map of southwestern Montana and I could see the terrain I would be covering the next few days. Basically, I had to climb Chief Joseph Pass and then it was downhill to Wisdom. From Wisdom to Dillon there were two modest passes and then the section from Ennis to Yellowstone was a gradual climb. So it looked like today was going to be the hardest since I wasn't ready to quit after 50 miles and that meant climbing Chief Joseph Pass.
So I first climbed Lost Trail Pass and then turned East on to 43 and climb another mile to Chief Joseph Pass at 7,264'. These passes were nothing special after my 5 previous passes but I had been somewhat concerned about how well my side would hold up. However, the difficulty with my side turned out to be getting on and off the bike when I had to lift my leg over the bike which pulled on my side. Otherwise cycling was no problem. The descent from the Pass was steep for only about 4 miles where I maxed out at 40 mph. Then it was a gradual downhill to Wisdom at 6,000'.
On my descent I saw several Range Cattle signs and kept a close look out for any cattle. Later I saw two mule deer in a meadow along side the road. I stopped and we stared at each other for about 5 minutes. One of the deer finally lost interest and went back to eating but the other continued to watch and then bounded away and was followed by her companion shortly.
Ten miles from Wisdom, I stopped at the Big Hole National Battlefield National that was a monument to a key battle of the 1877 Nez Perce Indian War. I managed to see a video and get a picture of the battlefield but I made my visit short since it was after 5:00. As I headed into Wisdom, I noted an American Legion Park on the outskirts. In town I had a cup of beef barley soup and a burrito plate for $6 and a yogurt cone dessert afterwards. I confirmed that the American Legion Park was OK for camping and learned I could expect the temperature to drop to about 20 overnight. I headed back to the Park and set up residence for the night with my side feeling pretty good. I just hoped it felt as well in the morning.
Day 19: 9/22/94, Thursday - Dillon, Mt [71.2 miles]
In the morning it was very cold so I gathered a few things including my contacts and hustled into town on my bike, a half mile away for breakfast. Later I was told the temperature hit 14 and that this wasn't uncommon even in July. I also learned that Wisdom often made the national news for having the lowest temperature in the continental US. After a breakfast of pancakes/eggs/bacon, I stopped at the grocery/general store where I bought a birthday card for my youngest brother, fig newtons, and some mini-donuts.
Across the street at the post office, I filled out the birthday card with some information abut my trip and mailed it. Back at camp, I packed and ate my mini-donuts. It was almost 10:00 when I left and the temperature felt like high 40s with the sun doing a good job of warming the frigid air. Just outside town I headed South on 278 and a sign said 18 miles to Jackson and 61 to Dillon, my destination for the day. 278 ran South through the Big Hole Valley, the land of 10,000 haystacks, with the Bitteroot Mountains to the West. There were haystacks everywhere surrounded by a fence (to keep the cattle out) and the landscape was dotted with ranches. It was easy to see where the name Big Hole came from - the mountains surrounded the valley.
When I got to Jackson, I bought a couple of maple bran muffins and a Pepsi for a late morning snack. As I left Jackson a sign now said Dillon was 48 miles. This was inconsistent with the first sign that said Dillon should have been 43 miles. Somehow 5 more miles snuck into the road. I noticed a similar discrepancy in the distance between Big Hole Battlefield and Wisdom yesterday and I would notice other discrepancies over the next few days.
From Jackson the route changed from flat to rolling with gradual climbing as it headed East after having skirted the mountains East of Wisdom. From 6700' I began the climb to Big Hole Pass at 7360'. Normally this would have been a major climb but starting at 6700' meant it only climbed 600' over a couple of miles. The descent was steeper than I though and I broke 40 mph quickly and maxed out at 46. I couldn't help but think how much it would hurt to crash at this speed.
The vista was beautiful with a mountain range rising out of the valley to the East. In the valley were golden fields dotted with cattle. The route headed East then swung southeast around the southern tip of the mountain range and descended to 6200' for a runout of a little over 1100'. Then began the climb to Badger Pass at 6760'.
From the top of the Pass, the descent was steep only for a couple of miles then leveled off to a long gradual descent into the valley. There were more mountains to the East and I-15 ran through the valley. Near the turnoff to Dillon, there were 7 deer in the wheat field along the road about 200 yards away. I stopped to observe and retrieve my zoom lens but by the time I was ready with the camera they had scurried farther away, almost out of camera range.
The side road to Dillon was closed so I had to take I-15 for a couple of miles to the next exit. Just before the exit, I picked up my fifth flat and I was decidedly unhappy with my bad luck as I wondered if I'm going to set some kind of record for flat tires. I found a small wire stuck in my tire so it was easy to find the hole in the tube. After 15-20 minutes, I was on my way again. I was definitely getting better at fixing flats.
Pulling into Dillon, I quickly spotted 3 RV camping signs and I hoped to avoid those places. I decided I should replace my chain sometime so I stopped to ask about a bike shop and was directed to a Coast-to-Coast which didn't have the chain for which I was looking. However, I got directions to a Kiwanis campground along the river outside town and the Western Wok where I ate Kung Pao chicken (so-so). After an ice cream treat, I headed to the campground where I dipped in the river for a shower and camped for the night.
Day 20: 9/23/94, Friday - Ennis, Mt [78.2 miles]
The weather prediction was for a low of 36 and that's about what it felt like when I got up at 6:30. It was warm enough that I packed and headed into town. I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some lip balm, a postcard, and saline solution for my contacts. I asked about breakfast and was directed to a place a couple of blocks away on a side street which I couldn't find. Around the corner I saw the Longhorn Saloon that advertised breakfast so I somewhat reluctantly entered and sat at the bar, not believing this was a real breakfast place.
I ordered the short stack of 2 pancakes which was all you could get. The pancakes were large and fluffy and very good but not quite filling so I ordered 2 more. Meanwhile the TV was on CMTV showing country music videos. This was definitely my kind of place - great pancakes and country music. The bartender must have been impressed with my downing two short stacks since he didn't charge me for coffee even though I pointed that out. All in all, I had to rate the Longhorn Saloon as one of my top 5 breakfast places for the trip.
Heading down the street I eventually merged into 41 that took me North to Twin Bridges, 28 miles away. The road looked flat but I was pedaling easy and maintaining 18 mph with no tailwind. At first I thought it was the pancakes but I later checked my altimeter in Twin Bridges and learned there was a gradual decline of 300-400'. Along the road through the valley I saw every type of haying - haystacks, large rectangular bales, round bales, and the small rectangular bales that I was used to from my farming youth.
There wasn't much in Twin Bridges so I turned southeast towards Alder. All of a sudden the way was much slower and I began to gradually regain altitude. I stopped at a grocery store in Sheridan for a turkey sandwich, chips, and pop. I continued another 10 miles to Alder and turned left to Virginia City and Ennis. Now the terrain changed from a valley of farmland to rolling desert-like hills, similar to what you might expect to see in Nevada. It looked like I was going to have to climb a pass but there was nothing on the map and the road snaked its way through the hills with only gradual climbing.
This was now the gold rush territory of Montana lore. I skipped Nevada City but stopped in Virginia City. I browsed a little bit, bought a diet 7UP, and found the ice cream store was closed for the season. The grocery store hostess told me that the route climbed for 3 miles then downhill all the way to Ennis and she was right. It was a good 3 mile climb to the top in my low gear, as I climbed from 4800' to 7080'. Interestingly, this wasn't considered a pass but it was probably the hardest climb on my way to Yellowstone. Then it was another great view at the top of yet another valley flanked by mountains to the East. I wanted to sail all the way to Ennis but I had to stop several times to savor the view. I had no difficulty breaking 40 mph and my average hovered near 40 much of the way.
Pulling into Ennis, I stopped at the ranger station and asked about camping and the terrain to West Yellowstone. I got the same story I got a few days earlier that it was a gradual climb to West Yellowstone. Then I made the mistake of drinking from one of the two side-by-side water fountains. One had a sign that I ignored (because I couldn't quite make out the sign without my reading glasses) and I drank from the other. Unfortunately, I should have read the sign because there was something awfully wrong with the water and my throat was scarred by the water. They should have covered the fountains or at least put a sign on both.
I headed into town and stopped at a Dairy Queen for a large Blizzard that was good and helped salve my throat. Next I stopped at a pay phone to phone my friend Howie to discuss support for the upcoming golf tournament. At first I couldn't use my credit card and I eventually learned that they had changed my PIN. Fortunately, I was able to get my new PIN from the VISA 800 number and reached Howie at work. We discussed the tournament software package for about 45 minutes while I almost fried in the afternoon sun outside by the pay phone.
After the phone call, I stopped at a pizza/sub place and ordered a 12” pepperoni pizza with thick crust and diet Coke. I wasn't sure I could eat the whole thing but once again my stomach was up to the task. I talked with another guy from Michigan in the small place who was hoping for bad weather to improve the elk hunting. Then I cycled just outside of town past the river to a campground along the river. I saw a deer as I turned off to the campground, paid $3.50 instead of the $5 charge because of lack of change, and camped at a spot near the river. I showered in the river with a wash cloth since the river was too shallow for a dunk.
Day 21: 9/24/94, Saturday - West Yellowstone, Mt [78.1 miles]
Overnight must have been right at freezing since my clothes that I hung out to dry were semi-frozen. After packing, I headed into town and saw 6 deer in the field across the road from the campground. I ate oatmeal and pancakes at Kathy's that was not filling and pronounced the oatmeal and pancakes below par. After breakfast, I picked up a few items at the grocery store and headed out.
The route headed South through the valley flanked by rounded mountains in the West and more jagged ones in the East. The route climbed gradually from 5000' to 6666' at West Yellowstone. Just outside town, I saw 3 more deer where I saw the deer earlier. After 28 miles I met an enthusiastic couple from St. Louis headed to Ennis. They came up through Wind River and were on their way to Oregon. Both looked to be in their 60s and looked like they were moteling.
At the junction of 287 and 87 the terrain changed and the valley disappeared. 287 swung East between two mountains and shortly I stopped at a small store for a ham sandwich and Gatorade. A little later I came to a 1959 avalanche area that had dammed the Madison River and created Earthquake Lake. I stopped at the visitor center and talked to the ranger about camping. Unfortunately, the campground closest to West Yellowstone was closed and the next closest was an RV park that was closed to tenters due to bear concerns. So my options were to go just another 5 miles or all the way to West Yellowstone or possibly into Yellowstone and camp at Madison Junction. I wasn't interested in stopping early so it was on to West Yellowstone.
Now the route was rolling along the northern shores of Earthquake and Hebgen Lakes and then flattened out and stopped climbing. Just as I turned South on 191 for the last 8 miles into West Yellowstone, I had my 6th flat, virtually killing any thoughts I had of possibly continuing on to Madison Junction. I found some small gravel in the tire that looked like must have caused the flat. Apparently, the gravel got in when I fixed the last flat. I fixed the flat and continued in to West Yellowstone to look for a place to eat. West Yellowstone was a tourist trap with many motels and restaurant. After checking several places, I found a restaurant with a salad bar and spaghetti that was good. When I paid for my meal, I asked the cashier about camping and he directed me to the Pioneer Motel a few blocks away. At first I couldn't find the place but checked out the Rustic RV park nearby which wanted $16. The woman gave me a song and dance story but wouldn't take credit cards so I asked her how to get to the Pioneer Motel.
The Pioneer had a small grassy area next to the office for throwing up tents for $12 but they had just winterized their shower facility. So I talked them down to $9 and took a sponge shower in the restroom. Then I walked downtown for a yogurt and a bar where I wrote these notes.
After finishing my notes, the guy next to me at the bar asked if I was a writer. He was impressed that I could sit and write despite all the noise in the bar so I told him about my notes and my trip. He was a local who drove a Yellowstone tour bus during the summer and managed snowmobiles during the winter and had been a professional snowmobile racer at one time (and once had his 6 year old son driving his snowmobile at over 100 mph). He was impressed that I was traveling through the mountains at this time of the year. He also warned me that the east entrance to Yellowstone was under construction with a gravel road and only opened during certain hours during the day and would close completely for the season starting October 1. Since it looked like I wouldn't be able to cycle out on this road as I had planned, we discussed other alternative routes. Heading either North through Bozeman or South through the Tetons was considerably out-of-the-way. There was also a northeast entrance but it went through Beartooth Pass at 10,947' and he didn't recommend that even for a car at this time of the year. He finally suggested checking with the Chamber of Commerce in the morning for more information.