I’ve now sauntered over the Montana border, through Yellowstone and am jotting my thoughts down in the friendly, small town of Twin Bridges. They offer free camping here for cyclists, so it was an easy choice for me to stay. I’ve been tapering my miles for the past week to savor these more exotic locales and be a bit of a tourist proper.
I turned off the turbo back on July 4th in Dubois, Wyoming. They had a parade with tanks, a church that offered cyclists a free stay and I was there with some good fellow transients. So why not take the day off and enjoy it all? It was a mentally tough few days prior, as I navigated some of the emptiest places in America as the path skirted the bleak Great Divide Basin and later, weaved through the Wind River Indian Reservation.
On the way to Dubois, I met up with Gary of San Francisco and Billy, an expat in Myanmar and fellow AT thru-hiker. In the town proper, there was Joe, an expat living in Bangkok. All of them are on different routes than I, but through Wyoming our paths converged. It’s a powerful thing when wayward travelers meet.
I’m no longer riding with Amanda. Ultimately, traveling with her became a burden on me. I have gained a new appreciation of how difficult it can be to consciously end a relationship, even when things aren’t working. Since we parted, I have felt like I’ve been blessed with a fresh start as this journey approaches its sunset. I do these trips because I’m very comfortable alone, and I’m happy to reset back to that default, more carefree existence.
Our parting was in Jackson, a scenic detour from the trail taken to gaze upon the Tetons. It definitely was worth going a day out of the way to see another profile of these mountains, and the visit to town was sweetened by getting to see my friend from Appalachian times, Sweets, who put us up for a night.
I rejoined TransAm at Jackson Lake, and was fortunate to spend the night there, and in Yellowstone’s Grant Village, with Frankie and his friends in the employee areas, which were pretty happening seasonal communities. This area is amazing, but also very tough on a tight budget. I’m glad I didn’t have to stealth camp in the national park boundaries.
The Yellowstone ecosystem, which ranges from Dubois into Gallatin County, Montana, was invigorating for the dense forest it provided me. Taking in a deep pine or sage smell in the air with each breath is the olfactory version of paradise. If I am to ever leave NYC, it must be for a place with a powerful rustic smell like these lands.
Yellowstone was a bit of an odyssey. I loved learning about the volcanism of the area, including visiting all the hot springs and geysers; here, they are one of nature’s venues of abstract art. Cycling through what is a super-preserved area was spiritual as well, but the traffic density is unreal. Wyoming’s previously spacious shoulders fled in the park’s confines, which was a stress. Still, being on a bicycle was an advantageous way to experience it all. I was able to duck into the scenic spots on my traversal with ease and see every natural detail in super slow motion.
Alas, any hopes for a safer ride have been utterly dashed in Montana. I’ve actually felt a bit rattled in this state as it’s worse than Kansas at points in terms of bike safety. I hope they can soon improve these especially dangerous roads in this part of the state.
I had an epiphany just recently as I ducked off that shitty shoulder for the Xth time, and that is that I’m retiring from this sport once I finish this trip. Cycling through America has been eye opening, both in terms of witnessing natural splendor and fostering human connection, but the risk to my being is too real. Maybe when autonomous cars (+ the subsequent legislation restricting human driving) become a thing, I’ll bust back out on the road. Otherwise, my bike is staying in NYC.
I am deeply focused on savoring each day out here with this intention set. I won’t be doing anything audacious like biking home. I will likely be finished in less than a month, and am not sure of my plans yet past experiencing the solar eclipse.