Sur La Plaque!

Bicycles, beer and other self-indulgent ruminations.

Fifty-Five: Counter-Clockwise (Grant Village to Madison)

Miles: 69
Total: 3,423

Bison jam sounds delicious. Maybe as a crostini with goat cheese and a little arugula. In reality, these jams (of the bison, bear, elk or moose variety) occur when an animal wanders out in the road and debates whether the grass is truly greener on the other side. This can take some time. They’re tasty only in the fact that as a cyclist you can blast past the backup on the shoulder.

It rained overnight and John and I packed up damp. We went to Grant Village’s restaurant for the buffet (thanks for breakfast, John). The sun stayed behind clouds for most of the day and we road counter-clockwise around the bottom loop of Yellowstone’s figure eight. Riding this way around puts the lake on the right side and makes it much easier to see. Early morning highlights included West Thumb’s geyser basin and a visit to Gull Point, via a side road that used to be the main park road before repaving in the ’60s and ’70s brought the roads in a bit and widened them for the bloated RVs that soon followed. Turn off onto Gull Point Road and you leave 95 percent of traffic behind — almost a time machine.

We separated at Lake’s lodge where I crossed elk off the animals I needed to see. John had a pair of slow leaks he wanted to fix and said I should go ahead.

Next up were Mud Volcano and Sulphur Cauldron and other, more minor, geothermal features. Bison are thick in this area, and they go where they please. Road, parking lots, boardwalks — it’s all fair game. One overzealous tourist was briefly chased for getting too close.

The afternoon took me along the Yellowstone River to Canyon and through Hayden Valley. Beautiful riding and even more wildlife.

It had been sprinkling most of the day, but a storm came down just as I reached Canyon. I ducked inside the visitor center and learned about the super volcano while the storm passed.

Back on the bike to find my second big jam of the day: A grizzly was eating something dead and he had a major audience. Rangers were out to manage traffic but cars backed up at least a mile in either direction.

The rain returned for my final 30 miles to Madison (it’s a big park!). I pulled in soggy and snagged a hiker/biker spot, put my tent up and called it an early night after a quick dinner. Bob and Juan spent the day working from Grant Village clockwise up to Madison, taking in more famous geysers and hot pools. I’ll make that out-and-back trek tomorrow.


Fifty-Four: Ridin’ Pine (Jenny Lake to Grant Village)

Miles: 64
Total: 3,354

I said goodbye to everyone Jackson bound, then retraced my steps back to the route. The detour to Jackson’s offered as a spur, not loop, so I had to backtrack a bit. This is the first time I’ve thrown the bike in reverse not for a mistake, beer or grocery run. Still, the Tetons are the place to backtrack if you’ve gotta.

I must have have started a little early, because by the time I made it ten miles to the Signal Mountain lodge and grocery, I stopped for a chocolate milk and took a nap on the bench while my electronics recharged. With all of us suitably electrified, I came through the rest of Grand Teton Park (stopping to drop a postcard at Jackson Lake Lodge — what a place!) and exited through the Rockefeller, Jr. Parkway.

Showing my Tetons entrance ticket granted me admission to Yellowstone, too ($12, both parks, 7 days). The south entrance road was an uphill climb, with no shoulder. In comparison to the Tetons, this was like eastern Kentucky. Luckily, most drivers were kind, even those piloting rental RVs. There’s lots of evidence of 1988’s wildfires. Scorched trees, open fields and young accession.

It looked like rain so I hustled to the Grant Village campground, where hiker/biker sites are $7.96, tax and bear spiel included and — more importantly — site guaranteed. Tent errected, I took my first Hollywood shower since Lander — $3.76, but you get all the time in the world. Nice facilities. The clouds spit a little, but didn’t let loose. I saw Fairplay Bob outside registration. We caught up and Kelly, his traveling companion, told me something attacked her tent (at my site) last night. She says bear, but Bob says a bear wouldn’t be stymied by a little nylon. The rangers agree — if anything a deer or other ungulate pawed at it a bit. Since Kelly — fearing for her life — moved down to Bob and Juan’s site, I had room for John E., a Wyomingite who’s done a tremendous amount of bicycle touring and been to the park more than 35 times. I picked his brain about the area and we talk bicycles in general. We may ride together tomorrow a bit. I’d love to have his experience and wisdom through the park.

We attended a ranger presentation at 9 p.m. called “Expect the Unexpected,” delivered by Ranger Nancy. She talked all about various animal adaptions in the park, including a frog whose whole body freezes solid — and emerges unharmed after the thaw. Wild. I had a great day.