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Day 57 - 64 Coast To Coast 1999 by Eric K. Andersen (click on images to see larger pictures)

Day 57  Hatchet, WY  This morning I said good-bye to The Tandem Teachers.  I had traveled with Hob and Deb on and off for the last 30 days all the way from eastern Missouri.  We stopped for some last pictures with the majestic Grand Tetons lit by the morning sun as the backdrop.  We had a lot of laughs together and I'll miss their company. They were great riding companions. Maybe we'll see each other later. They were going the other way around the Teton's and to avoid Yellowstone which they had cycled before. The Grand Tetons are amazing. I stopped at the first view point to take pictures. There was a couple looking at the mountains through binoculars from the comfort of their minivan. "Windshield Tourists". The scenery was so beautiful it was hard to keep my eyes on the road as I headed north. I stopped by the museum at Colter Bay and had lunch. I wanted to stay at the campground but this area was loaded with tourists. I continued on and stopped at the much quieter campground at Lizard Creek.  I spent the afternoon looking at Jackson Lake and watched the sun set behind the range.  Another camper offered me a can of soup and I cooked it over a campfire. Total Miles: 29

Day 58 Grand Teton National Park, WY   It was cold last night.  It must have been below freezing. I headed out early towards Yellowstone to beat the traffic I was warned about and froze for the first several miles.  I met an eastbounder at the Flagg Ranch and split a pack of prepackaged and overpriced cinnamon rolls with him. He would be the first of nine coast to coast riders I would stop and chat with today. After entering the park, the road climbed for 22 miles until Grant Village where I stopped for lunch. I crossed the Continental Divide three times before I got to Old Faithful.  I took pictures of it erupting between my handlebars. I stopped at a few more of the amazing thermal sites before heading out of the park. On a road paralleling the main road I came upon a bison that was being photographed by another Windshield Tourist.  On my left was an embankment and on the right was a thin strip of land between the road and the river. The bison got spooked by my presence and began to run along the side of the road not 10 yards away from me.  I kept pedaling along next to it, catching glances of its hoof's stirring up dust and spittle flinging from his mouth.  It stopped and it's eyes met mine as I pedaled faster to get away from it.  They give you a leaflet warning of being gored by Bison as you enter the park.  I didn't want this to happen to me.  Overall the traffic in the park was not that bad.  There was the occasional spot where cars were parked along the road to take pictures of wildlife causing what's known as "Critter Jams".  I made good time with the wind on my back and got to Montana and the tourist town of West Yellowstone by sundown.  I checked into the historic Madison Hotel built in 1912.  Total Miles: 72
Day 59 West Yellowstone, MT I saw a small group of riders on a tour of The Rockies while riding past Hebgen and Earthquake lakes. Earthquake Lake was formed in 1959 when an earthquake caused the side of the mountain to collapse into the river below. It started to hail and then turned to rain and I ducked under a porch at a store and talked to one of the riders.  Their gear was being carried by a bus.  Later I had an excellent lunch at the Grizzly Cafe topped off with a gourmet dessert.  I was on vacation once again. I sat beside an old firewood stove and warmed up before heading back out into the rain. The rain became intermittent and eventually cleared.  The wind let up to so it was clear sailing to Ennis Total Miles: 72
Day 60 Ennis, MT I hung around and waited for the library to open so I could send out an e-mail. Then I climbed 10 miles up to the old mining town of Virginia City. The town was overrun by a motor home club whose massive vehicles blocked the views of the restored store fronts.  About 25 of these gas guzzling menaces passed me on my way up the mountain.  It seemed that each one carried two people although they could accommodate a large family or two.  What a waste. I sent some unneeded gear home at the post office and had lunch.  Then I met a man who had started bicycling in Texas, came up the west coast and was going east. I chatted with him while he ate lunch. I stopped in Sheridan for some ice cream and purchased a book.  I noticed that the cable on my trailer hitch was slowly tearing. I called the trailer company and asked them to send the part ahead to Jackson where I planned on staying the next night. I got into Sheridan where I was earlier warned about the mosquitoes and they were quick to find me so I got a room and went into town for pizza.  
Total Miles: 44

Day 61 Sheridan, MT I was considering a short day since I would have to wait for my trailer part in Jackson which was 76 miles away.  When I got to Dillon, a busy town on the interstate, I considered staying but the town wasn't particularly pretty and the movie theater in town wasn't showing anything interesting so after a lunch of decent Mexican food I moved on.  There would be two mountain passes and 4500 ft. to be climbed before Jackson. I out ran and dodged a few storm clouds as I climbed the first pass. Then it was all downhill into the next valley before the next climb.  Clouds moved in blocking the sun and the temps were cool.  I started to get tired as I approached the top of the last pass.  It would be all downhill to town once I reached the top.  Too tired to pedal up the steep grade, I walked the last couple of miles. I reached the top and coasted most of the way into the Big Hole Valley.  I arrived at the Hot Springs Lodge around 8 o'clock. This was one of my longest riding days. I got a 10' x 10' cabin and had an excellent meal in the restaurant. The chef was from Chicago and had won awards for his ribs. Naturally I gave them a try and they were delicious. Later that night while trying to get to sleep, I could hear the couple in the neighboring room having sex. The walls were thin. I felt like I was in the room with them. I could hear their dog panting the whole time. At least I think it was their dog. Total Miles: 76

Day 62 Jackson, MT  Jackson: population 38, dogs 53. The mail isn't delivered until one o'clock so I spent the morning reading and calling home.  I wanted to take a dip in the hot springs pool but it was closed for cleaning.  I had lunch and waited for the mail.  The mail came but there was no package for me.  I spent the rest of the day reading, talking to the locals and watching some farm equipment get unloaded from a flatbed truck. That was the excitement for the day in one of the last true cowboy regions left in Montana. It was a great place to be holed up and I was in no hurry since I planned to spend the 4th of July in Missoula. There was even a place to send an e-mail at the Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) hall - my second one of the trip. The sign out front said "e-mail to anywhere free!" After sending out a free e-mail I went for a soak in the pool when it opened and had another great meal in the restaurant. I finished my book in front of the fireplace in the lodge .Total Miles: 0

Day 63 Jackson, MT At 1:30 pm the mail came with the part for my bicycle trailer hitch. I needed to drill a hole in it so I took it to the garage. I borrowed some tools, fixed the trailer and bought the guys at the garage a six pack. Then I began the 18 mile ride to Wisdom into a strong headwind. The valley was beautiful. The mountains still had snow on them and the valley stretched on as far as the eye could see. Herds of cows munched on the tall grass and jumped to their feet as I surprised them when I passed. The mosquitoes were quick to find me when I got to Wisdom so I went into a cafe to have an early dinner and decide what to do. I could stay in town for the night or start the 26 mile 1000 ft. climb up to the Continental Divide. I could hear my mother saying "stay here, I'll pay for a motel room," but I was on the Lewis & Clark Trail and they wouldn't stop at 4:30.

The grassland was flooded (the source of the mosquitoes) and the wind continued to blow as I crossed the valley towards the mountains. The gusts had me going as slow as 5 mph. At this slow pace I would never make it to the pass before sundown. I might have to find a place to camp along the way. After a short climb, sage brush appeared which later gave way to meadows of wildflowers. I passed the Big Hole National Battlefield, site of a bloody battle. The wind continued to be strong as I made my way towards the trees ahead. I hoped once I reached trees the winds would be diminished by the tall pines. After 10 miles I reached the trees and the start of the climb. I rewarded myself with a short rest and a candy bar. The road ascended gradually through the thick lodgepole forest that made the mountains appear as if they were covered with thick, green, velvet. There were few cars and trucks on the road and the wind had disappeared.

After another 8 miles I had to make another decision. I could stay on the main road that climbed to over 7200 ft. before dropping sharply into the next valley or take a dirt road to Gibbons Pass that was 3 miles closer and only climbed to 6900 ft. I could hear my Mom saying "stay on the main road, I'll buy you dinner," so naturally I chose the dirt road. The chances of finding wildlife (or it finding me) would be greater and there would be no traffic. Besides, I was on an adventure. The road twisted and turned along the edge of the valley. Thick, dark, seemingly impenetrable woods were on my right. A beautiful, wide, flower covered meadow was on my left. Later the road met a swift flowing stream. It's waters beginning the long journey east to the Atlantic watershed. I passed through a large, bleak, fire damaged area. There was a stark beauty in the devastation with new green growth taking hold in the charred, dark ground.

It was 8:30 and the sun was still out as I reached the divide. It would be all downhill from here to the town of Sula, my resting place for the night. This would be the ninth and last time I crossed the divide on my journey to the Pacific Ocean. From now on, rivers would be moving towards the Pacific Ocean just as I was. I started carefully down the steep road never going more than 10 mph on the rocky grade. The road clung to the side of the mountain and at times was cut out of the side of the steep slope. The trees gave way to grass and suddenly there were cows on the road. I whooped and hollered at them as I pedaled towards them. As I approached, their "moos" broke the quiet and mother cows scrambled to round up their stray calves, herding them out of the way up the steep mountain side. Now I had to dodge cow pies as well as rocks with my bicycle. I rounded another bend only to find another wall of beef on the road. They too scattered as I noisily approached.

I could see the main highway far below as the road rounded another bend. I heard a howl come from the valley and suddenly the air filled with the sound of coyotes yipping as the sun hid behind a mountain. Just as I reached the end of the dirt road I saw the white rump of a deer as it crossed the road and leapt up the mountain. I reached pavement and after a mile or so of riding in the dark I found a campground in Sula and got a cabin for the night. It was 10pm. Total Miles: 76

Day 64 Sula, MT It was a nice ride down to Missoula. I stayed off the Trans-Am route for most of the way since it added miles to the trip. I got into Missoula and checked into the hostel which was started during the initial bikecentennial ride. (It has sadly since closed). There were other riders heading east staying there but no one else heading west.  I discovered that The Tandem Teachers had a reservation for the next night so I anticipated a holiday reunion. Total Miles: 80


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