Some thoughts on solo travel: When you get home you will realize 95% of your pictures are of just your bike next to something cool. You will begin to wish you had another person along so you could take photos of each other…until you remember how sweaty and dirty you probably looked at the time and then figure it’s just as well. But being solo you will end up pulling over for photographs at every whim, because no one is there to get annoyed at your snap-happy-ness. Thus you will end up with several thousand pictures more than you would have…and all of just your bike next to something cool.
I rode briefly through Dinosaur National Park before looking for a place to camp. The local KOA wanted some heinous fee to put a tent up on a patch of their grass, but they had a laundry room and I was out of clean underwear, so I reluctantly gave in. They also had a pool and jacuzzi, so I set up camp quickly and then showered, threw my clothes in the wash and went for a swim and soak. I sprawled out on the picnic table to dry off, get some sun and catch up on my reading, when all the sudden it started pouring rain. I quickly threw all my belongings into the tent and crawled it. It didn’t stop until the next morning. The weather up there is so radical, you can’t prepare for it. It starts pouring before you even see a rain cloud and stops whenever you put your gear on…
Crossing into Utah
I stopped in a little town called Vernal to check my map. Just as I got the map completely unfolded I heard a man’s voice “You lost?”. I felt a little nervous as two men with bad teeth and farmer’s tans approached me. There wasn’t another soul in sight and my mind started reeling with fight or flight options…but the men merely gave me directions and went back to the fields. I would be less nervous about talking to strangers in the future as again and again people proved to be nothing but friendly and helpful.
I headed north on the 191 to the Flaming Gorge Resevoir.
The road headed down into the gorge was large and sweeping like a track.
I went North but somehow got off my intented route and ended up in a tiny town called Greenriver. I was also getting incredibly hungry and set about locating a little diner to fill up for the haul to Grand Teton. As I rolled into town, I spied a tiny diner on the right…and the only vehicles in the parking lot were two 1200 BMW GS’s! I wandered in to find two older men at a table talking to the waitress. “I assume you guys are the owners of those bikes back there?” They smiled and invited me to their table. Their names were John and Dennis and they were from New Zealand. We were all heading the same direction and they encouraged me to come with them on the next stretch.
We had to take on a stretch of freeway to get back on course heading North. It had been warm and sunny, so I was wearing just my armor and mesh pressure suit, but as soon as we took off, the weather went berserk.
I got hit by a gust of wind so strong, I thought for sure I was going to wreck. Then it began to rain, then hail. The hail stung through my jacket like needles as I held my bike at full throttle trying to keep up with their big bikes, all the while being whipped around by the wind.
Luckily the weather returned to normal as quickly as it went ugly and it was sunny by the time we reached the next little town. I took a picture of a decrepit building and then we went across the street for a beer.
I was exhausted trying to keep pace with these fellows and already getting the itch to ride solo again. Dennis and I hit it off and were laughing, joking and telling stories like old friends, but John wanted little to do with me and kept shooting me distrustful glances between swigs from his beer. I got the feeling he wasn’t thrilled about the sudden estrogen invasion on their manly bike trip. He had a couple beers in the bar and then started nursing a flask from his boot as soon as we got outside. We ventured up to Jackson, just south of Grand Teton. My cell phone had died and so when I wandered off in search of a Verizon store and they went off looking for a hotel, I knew it was probably the last I’d see of them. I was partly relieved, since our pace and travel styles were incompatible, but you get lonely on the road solo and I briefly felt overwhelmed with loss and circled the town frantically searching for their bikes down every street before accepting that I was on my own again and heading into Grand Teton National Park to set up camp.
In my mind I would quickly pass through this park on my way to Yellowstone, but it ended up being rich with wildlife and flanked by stunning mountains unlike anything I have ever seen.
The stunning Tetons
I checked in at the front office and the woman only charged me $8 to camp (it’s $20 for cars). There were many warnings about bears and locking up your food, since I lacked a car and all my food was on my bike in a duffel bag, I requested a spot near a bear box and then rode over to my assigned place.
The entire ground of my campsite was crawling with tiny black ants. I couldn’t find a spot to erect my tent that wouldn’t have it directly atop one or more anthills. The thought of camping here was making my skin crawl, so I hunted around for a better site and then road back over to the office to ask for an exchange.
Just as I pulled up, two young guys on sport bikes rolled in. I made a note of their site number, set up my tent and ran out for some beer before stopping by to make friends.
Bikes stand in for people quite often in my reports…
Turns out they were from Vermont and going cross country for the summer. I learned my lesson already about trying to travel with others on very different bikes and didn’t even suggest riding together, but we did have a nice fireside chat and they kindly shared their dinner with me in exchange for some beer before I retired to my camp. I ended up running into them multiple times through Teton and Yellowstone. I’m glad I rode solo though, I suspect they were going at a bit faster pace, since I couldn’t stop photographing all the wildlife everywere and they were complaining about seeing only buffalo (which you couldn’t really miss, since they were standing in the road).
Photos cannot do justice to these mountains…
Look I found someone to take a picture of me! Told you I was there!
I got a little closer to a moose.
and then headed up to Yellowstone…