Introduction - Yellowstone and Grand Tetons 2004 - CycleBlaze

Introduction

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I'm a veteran bike tourist, having done more than 23,000 miles of self-contained tours. So on this journal you won't read about how I prepared for the physical and mental rigors of a big new adventure. You won't read about any life-changing events. And you won't read about how I gathered and tested the equipment.

This journal is mainly just a travelogue with details about where I went and what I did, and some comments about how I felt. I hope this journal will give you information, ideas, and inspiration for your own bike tour.

Since 1998 I have been touring on a "Speed Ross" recumbent bike. This is my 9th tour on the bike. Over the years I've visited many U.S. national parks on bike tours, but before this trip I had never seen the world's oldest and most famous national park - Yellowstone. This tour took me to the states of Wyoming and Montana. I had toured in Montana before but Wyoming is a "new" state for me - the 39th U.S. state I have visited during self-contained bike tours.

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I am 43 years old and 6 months before this tour I had a herniated lumbar disc which caused significant lower back pain and sciatica in my right leg. 3 months before the tour I wasn't sure that my back would be recovered enough to do a bike tour this year. Consequently I didn't book a flight far in advance. I was hoping to use United Airlines frequent flier miles to get a free flight from Chicago to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. But free "frequent flier" seats were no longer available by the time I was confident that I could do this trip. So instead I had to buy a plane ticket for $450. Such is life. On this tour I carried a large supply of prescription anti-inflammatories and pain killers just in case the back pain or sciatica flared up. Fortunately I had no back problems during the tour, a wonderful contrast to the chronic mild back pain I experienced on last year's Nova Scotia tour.

This was my first bike tour to spend a significant amount of time in bear country. I'm accustomed to eating in my tent and storing food in my tent, which you can't safely do in bear country. So I had to learn new habits. At campgrounds all food, cooking gear, and toiletries must be stored in heavy steel bear lockers when I wasn't using it. And it wasn't safe to leave the loaded bike unattended at a trailhead and go for a long hike. Fortunately every campground in this area has bear lockers. So I never needed to hang my stuff from a tree. The bear precautions were a nuisance but not really very difficult. I never had trouble with bears. In fact I never saw a bear.

I planned a detailed route many months in advance to take me to the major places of interest in Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. I also decided to do a big loop east of Yellowstone. East to Cody, Wyoming on the Wapiti highway, which president Theodore Roosevelt described as "the most scenic 52 miles in the United States". Then back to Yellowstone on the Beartooth Highway, which journalist Charles Kuralt described as the "most beautiful drive in America". Beartooth Highway is also one of the most challenging bike routes in America, climbing 7000 feet in 35 miles (2120m in 56 km).

My trip started and ended at Jackson Hole airport which is actually in Grand Teton National Park. My chosen route required about 100 miles (160 km) of backtracking. So I got to see some of the scenic areas (and construction areas) twice. With the exception of Beartooth highway the biggest challenge on this tour turned out to be road construction. I had to alter my route plan because the road from Canyon Village to Dunraven Pass is closed this year for reconstruction. In addition my route passed through five major road construction zones (twice through two of the zones). Bicycles are prohibited from riding in those zones whenever grading or paving equipment is being used. Five times I was forced to ride a "pilot car" (actually a pickup truck) through construction zones that would have been easy to bike through. It didn't help to explain that it's much easier for me to avoid slow-moving graders and paving machines than it is to avoid trucks on the open highway. And it didn't help to explain that my bike could get through tight spots much more easily than a motor home. In 23,000 miles of bike tours this was the first time I was ever prevented from biking through construction zones. Altogether I rode 8.5 miles in the back of a pickup truck through construction zones.

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