Day 54 – A park of yellow stones?

(44 miles)

Well, you can’t just cycle through Yellowstone National Park and not check out the sights! So today we hung out in the Park, being tourists. Smelly tourists.

Having seen no wildlife at all yesterday, I almost rode into a massive elk that had stopped in the middle of the road inside the campground. We saw plenty more elk during the day.

After a couple of climbs to cross the Continental Divide two more times we cruised down to Old Faithful. A mini metropolis has built up around this geyser. Shops, restaurants, cafes, an inn and a visitor centre (with museum) are sprawled out around the grounds.

Thar she blows!

Right on time

Although it’s obviously massively touristy, there is something pretty special about Old Faithful. The fountain of boiling water is impressive enough, but the fact that it is so incredibly reliable is astounding – and certainly appeals to the engineer in me. In fact it’s hard no to conclude that there must be an engineer somewhere underground whose job it is to turn a valve at just the right time, every hour or so…

There’s loads of other geysers, pools, springs etc to explore just nearby Old Faithful. There’s also a ludicrously expensive grocery store there ($5 loaf of bread, anyone?) that we had to make use of as there was nowhere else serving/selling food later on today’s ride.

Yellowstone is full of beautiful rivers, in between the more crazy volcanic stuff

Wandering around the geysers

Yellow stone?

The foyer of the Old Faithful Inn

The stone fireplace/chimney

After resting a bit to let our food settle (we could hardly move after lunch!) we pottered slowly down the road, helped by a tailwind, stopping at the various geysers along the way. Although they’re all stunning, we were pretty much geysered-out by the end of the day. Probably the best thing about these sulphurous geysers is that if you fart no-one notices. If only the whole world smelt of sulphur…

Contemplating a hot bath

It looks so inviting...

Grand Prismatic Lake

The last stretch of the ride involved a truly memorable moment. Picture the scene: you’re riding along and the road is busy with traffic. The cars going your direction begin to slow and then stop. You carry on riding past them on the shoulder (complete with obligatory smug grin). You notice there are no longer any cars coming the other way. Some folk are getting out of their cars to try and see what the hold-up is (in fact one idiot woman almost decapitates you when she opens her car door without looking and misses your bike by centimetres as you whizz by). Suddenly up ahead you see people running. They’re running back towards you. And yelling. “They’re coming down the road! Both sides!”. People are scrambling back into their cars, apparently for safety. The smug grin vanishes from your face – you have no car for safety, just a few welded tubes of metal. Fortunately there is a side road nearby so you manoeuvre yourself into the entrance of the sideroad and, like a true adventurer does, you reach for your camera. Then we see them. Bison. The same animal that appears on countless posters throughout the Park warning you that dozens of visitors are gored by bison every year and that they are not tame! Big ones and little calves. Hundreds of them, all walking right down the main road on both sides of the cars which now contain a mixture of horrified mothers, dads worried about damage to their shiny car, and excited kids with their nosed pressed up to the glass and mouths open in delighted wonder. You stay very still and nervously film them as they trundle by just yards from you. It is truly breath-taking. Nature has come to us. Very close to us! Presently the last of the herd pass, followed by a park ranger in his car. You look ahead and it’s like stepping back out of the wardrobe in Narnia. It’s just a normal road with cars on it. You roll on, smiling to yourself and shaking your head in disbelief.

No sudden movements...

We camped at Madison campground which is pretty basic but friendly. There were a bunch of other cyclists there too. It’s funny – towards the start of the trip we were really excited to meet any other cycle tourers and would enjoy exchanging tips and stories whenever we met them, usually as they were coming the other way on the road. But now we feel like we’ve met so many and we’re so comfortable with what lies ahead of us that we’re no longer fussed about stopping on the road to chat to each and every cycle tourer coming the other way. Usually we just wave and holler a big hello and keep pedalling. Oh dear – have we become jaded cyclists already!?

We stayed up to hear a ranger’s talk about wolves which started at 9:30pm (after our bedtime, but we gave ourselves special permission ‘just this once’). I say a ‘ranger’s talk’ – at times it felt more like we’d stumbled upon a secret meeting of a little-known cult of wolf-worshippers. I thought at any moment the ranger was going to get us chanting and howling and kissing the pelt of the wolf. Fortunately we escaped at the end and have remained largely free from wolf-related eccentricities since (although occasionally I catch Matt looking longingly at a small deer as he licks his lips…)

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