“Has Terry got a problem?” I yelled to Mike riding behind me on his recumbent as Terry suddenly ground to a halt on the shoulder.
“No, he’s fine, just putting a bag on his head,” my American companion replied.
In any other walk of life this would have seemed a most bizarre conversation, but cycling the TransAmerican it’s perfectly normal.
Today it’s particularly pertinent – we are cycling across Yellowstone National Park being lashed by torrential rain, frozen by the wind and cut up by a constant stream of traffic thundering past on narrow roads with hardly any shoulder. Besides which there’s no chance of seeing any wildlife as we are surrounded by dense coniferous forest even the biggest beast could hide away in.
It’s so miserable we are not quite sure whether Terry needs the bag to keep dry, or he really has had enough. Yellowstone is not working out the way we hoped. We hardly heard our alarms when they went off at 6am this morning for all the noise of the rain hitting the tents. It was pouring so hard there was little point getting up, so we stayed in our sleeping bags and waited for a break in the weather.
Once we did get going it saw us climbing the Continental Divide twice in one morning and coming across the extraordinary Isa Lake which sits astride the divide and drains in two different directions – one side to the Gulf of Mexico, the other to the Pacific (great pub quiz question). A little down the road we met Chris and Honour – just like the lake they were heading East while we were pushing on west.
But Yellowstone did it’s best to stop us, bombarding us with rain again as we attempted to make it to Old Faithful. I was so cold I was wearing four layers and had my buff pulled right up over my ears and nose, leaving only my rain-streaked glasses exposed. Inevitably I became separated from Terry and Mike and ploughed onto the Geyser alone with the hope of meeting them there.
Except when I got there the car park and viewing area I expected was actually a mini-city of restaurants, shops and a vast visitor centre. My glasses were so covered in water and I was shivering so much I had no idea where the famous geyser was, although I can see plumes of water vapour rising in the distance.
Eventually we all found each other, so soaked to the core and cold to the bone we joined the massed throngs to see the old man spout. Coincidentally as he burst into life the sun came out and turned the day on its head. The crowd seemed pleased and we headed inside for warm drinks and food.
From there on in everything got better. The traffic, though still heavy, eased a little. We visited other smaller, but rather more interesting geysers and the dense forest gave way to open plains, rivers being fished for trout and stunning waterfalls.
Yellowstone, finally was captivating us. The wildlife was still elusive (you really have to go off route and hike into the park to avoid the madness of the highway) but just as we were about to leave we saw a little woodchuck down by the river and after such a tough day it cheered us as much as seeing a 900lb Grizzly.
A couple of miles before leaving the park we crossed the border into Montana, our eighth state. After all the rain, Mike’s wife Christine had taken pity on us and treated us to a room at to Great Western in West Yellowstone, so warm, showered and dry we ended a day which started so badly, drinking and eating at The Slippery Otter and chatting to the owner, David, who had taken part in the inaugural TransAm ride in 1976. Perfect.
Today’s miles: 55
Miles since First Landing: 3112