Campground space in Yellowstone was at a premium. I could not book more than one night at a time and never in the same place. This meant packing and unpacking each day. Not horrible, but not what I wanted to do. I was caught up in the space between desire and reality. Add to the reality, rain. It was intermittent, sometimes sparse, sometimes thunderous. Other times the sun would be out baking everything. It all seemed unsettled to me, inside and out.
After spending time at Old Faithful (no photos, it did not go off while I was there) I headed back to my campsite with the intention of packing the next morning and going to a different campsite across the Park. My campsite, in a lodge pole pine wood, the last one available, was surrounded by trailers and families. One side bounded the restroom. Not bucolic, but the families and children were full of positive energy.
It rained all night then stopped at dawn. I pulled everything out of the tent and loaded the picnic table. That's step one before packing everything and then loading it onto the bike. Sleepy people passed and nodded 'good morning.'
Methodically I packed. I was constantly observed by the family directly across the road. Finally, I had the bike packed and was ready to drive off. As I put on my helmet the family's mom came over and said, "You're carrying all that on that?!" I was amused as I always am by this type of statement. She went on to say, "We were sure you had a pickup truck somewhere and were going to load the bike and everything in it. I'm impressed."
With that I left the campground with the intention to drive about 15 miles to a restaurant in the park, then from there south to my next site. The morning light was a dull gray. I rolled on slowly taking in the day. Eventually I approached what I thought would be an intersection and then a turn into the restaurant. What appeared was a large gateway across the road. It was a major entrance into the Park, not what I was expecting.
I rolled up to a window and had to ask an embarrassing question, "Where am I?" I was at the Western Entrance. Exactly opposite from where I intended. I was going to get gas at my stop. Now I was at least 30 miles away. The Ranger said the town of West Yellowstone was just around the corner out of site through the pine trees. There was plenty of gas there and restaurants too.
Indeed there was. I sat having breakfast with my maps in front of me, the iPad too. Should I go back into Yellowstone, fight the crowds, and keep moving from campsite to campsite or should I forge a route north to Butte and my new tire? The gray weather told me to move on. I would head for Butte, Montana.
The downside of this decision was arriving early and having to spend 3 days in Butte. But how bad could that be?
As I began the ride north the rain picked up. I put on my rain suit. I skirted some large lakes with tall rugged mountains behind them. The last lake is called Earthquake Lake. In 1959 an earthquake changed the landscape and ended a number of lives. There is a good information stop here. One photograph shows a picnic table with a cloth, cups, plates and food. Next to the table is a large boulder on top of where the tent was. They did not survive. It's humbling.
I drove up into the stormy mountains. Suited up, I enjoy this kind of driving experience. I crested the top and came down into a very broad ranching valley. The sky was brighter and it took me a few minutes to realize I had a strong tail wind. The wind blew me all the way to the town of Ennis.
If you are ever on Route 287 in Montana you will stop in Ennis. What else is there? This is a pleasant, successful town. It survives by ranching, agriculture, and tourism. I pulled up in front of the Ennis Café. As I prepared to go in a bicycle tourist pulled up and leaned his bike against the building. We started talking. His name is Clive, he's from England, he flew into Calgary, Canada and is cycling down to Denver, where he will fly home. We shared a booth.
Clive and I shared the frustration of being older and applying for jobs. We also shared a pragmatic delight in technology. We ate and talked. Clive would spend the night in an Ennis motel. I would push north. We exchanged addresses.
In Ennis I turned west toward Twin Bridges in a different valley over another mountain. Along the way I discovered Virginia City, a true "Old West" town. Part ghost town, part farming community, and part tourist center, it had a good vide. Many of the citizens dressed in 'old west' garb. Holly, the stage coach driver, had a natural western lankiness and open demeanor. She didn't need a hired gun to protect her.
Good winds continued and I rolled into Butte in the late afternoon. I found my way to the only campground in town, a KOA. They were full. The Montana Folk Music Festival was in progress. I was directed to Stodden Park where I set up my tent. That was Saturday, the 14th. I am writing this on Thursday, the 19th. I'm still here.