Hank – We woke up at 6:00 am to get a good start on the day and have plenty of time to see everything and get through the construction. The morning dew was frozen. A thin layer of ice covered everything. I boiled water to make tea. The rising sun lit up the meadow. Water vapor rose from the stream and clouded my view of the sun peaking over the horizon’s edge. We had a light breakfast and packed everything up. We couldn’t get the rain fly dried out but I didn’t think it would matter. We’d get to Gardiner, MT in plenty of time to dry it out when we set up camp there. As we left the campground there was a line formed outside the registration office. People had arrived early hoping to get a campsite. Eric and Sahn went through this yesterday morning. Apparently, people who have a camp site have priority. So if they want to extend their stay, they can. If they leave then the first one waiting in line gets the spot. Eric and Shan got the last available spot yesterday. They showed up at 6:30 am to get in a line that had already formed ahead of them. Hopefully, the people in line didn’t get their hopes up as they saw us leave because you can’t have the site we had if you’re in a car. Not even if you take the bikes off and ride up on them.
We rolled north and caught a good view of the Norris Geyser Basin. There were several more geothermal wonders along the way. Traffic was light, probably because it was still early and the construction ahead guaranteed a 30-minute delay. Kathy was riding along futzing with her helmet mirror when I noticed several bison in the roadway ahead. We stopped to talk about how to get by without being gored or stomped. There was a bull and three cows, each with a calf. It was not an ideal situation. A truck came from the opposite direction and the small herd moved towards the side of the road. We moved to the other side and three cars spaced about 100 feet apart came by. We used them as shields and hustled by the beasts without incident.
We soon arrived at the stop for the construction. We skipped to the front of the line. Heather, the flagger, told us we would have to load our bikes and gear in the pilot vehicle and ride to the end of the construction. We said that would be awesome. Heather explained they’re on a timed schedule so we offloaded the panniers and had everything ready to load once the pilot vehicle showed up. Caroline showed up and we loaded up. Both Heather and Caroline have done this seasonal construction work for a couple of years now. They were a hoot. Carolina told us Heather’s boyfriend was working on something when the wrench slipped. He was pulling towards himself and split his eyebrow open. For a laugh Heather said she told everyone she did it to him. She said her boyfriend never needs help hurting himself when he’s using tools. I’m like that, too.
Caroline dropped us off at the end and readied to lead the next line of vehicles. We pressed northward and soon hit Mammoth Springs. It was like we had never seen geothermal wonders before. It’s huge. Unfortunately, it was also a madhouse packed with tourists. Kathy and I saw what we could, got a bite to eat. and found a camp site at the Yellowstone RV Campground just west of Gardiner. The Yellowstone River runs right next to it. Rafters float by and whoop it up over the rapids. Plus we have some creature comforts again: showers, laundry, and wifi. Life is good.
Kathy – Yep, it was cold this morning. Happy to have wool with me to keep me warm in the mornings and happy Hank is such an awesome guy to bring me hot tea as I snuggle in my sleeping bag until the sun warms things up a bit. We were on the road again by 8:00 am. We did a total of 29 miles today with what Google Maps said was 700 feet of elevation (not believing them anymore). It was a good relaxing ride as we stopped to see the many beautiful areas in north Yellowstone. The bison don’t seem to bother me as we get near them (this morning at camp and then again on the road as Hank mentioned above) but they really are BIG animals! Other than the bison, today’s ride allowed us to see some deer, elk, marmots, squirrels, and blue birds to name a few. It was a good ride.
Really enjoyed meeting Heather (flagger) and Caroline (pilot car) at the construction site. They were a hoot! It is good to see people enjoying their work so much. During our 5-mile ride though the construction as we asked questions to get to know her better, Caroline who is from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told us about her family of three girls. She misses her grandchildren as she is on site for specific periods of time. She also told us about her husband of 30 years committing suicide last year. She said she had no idea it was coming. I hope anyone reading this that is considering this same option to please talk to others and get some professional help. Too many people love you and will help if you open up to them. It was so sad to see this strong woman in tears for a brief moment. She is really struggling with it. I offered what I could as far as words of comfort, I rubbed her shoulder as we talked and she drove. When we arrived at the end of the construction site to unload our bikes I offered Caroline a huge hug told her I would be thinking of her and wished her the best. There was much more of this conversation, but just know this lady was remarkable. I can only hope my little offerings of comfort at least helped her today.
We traveled on to Gardiner, Montana and enjoyed some downhill travel time (about time!). Had a nice dinner and a good evening at this sweet campsite tonight.