The day started with the sound of light drizzle on the rain fly but little did I know that packing a wet tent was not going to be my main concern this day. After packing up and walking my bike out of the shelter of the cabins, I felt what I had been dreading ever since I started planning for this trip. The wind was blowing straight at me at a constant speed that was way too high to ignore, and I thought to myself that today was going to be all about persistence.
A group of cyclists traveling with van support had passed the campground as I was packing up my tent and after a while I caught up with two of them who were trying to fix a flat. I stopped to ask if everything was ok. I continued ahead and passed another guy who was really struggling with the wind as well.
The first 50 km consisted of wide open grasslands on the valley floor with the road stretching as far as I could see in a straight line with only minor ups, downs and turns. With nowhere to hide from the unrelenting wind, I kept pounding the pedals hard on my lowest gear and still it was a brutal struggle just to keep moving. I tried to keep my mind off the cycling by hiding my maps and listening to music and playing a game of "Dead Snake or Piece of Rope?" with myself, every time I saw a coiled up item on the road shoulder. I also tried to pace myself by doing 45 minute moderate to high intensity intervals with 15 minutes rest and bite to eat.
The riding continued like this for several hours and after a while I saw a van pass me with bicycles on the roof and the three cyclists I had passed inside. First I thought it extremely funny, then I found strength in the fact that these cyclists - riding on their full carbon lightweight bikes, with all their gear being carried by a van - were struggling so much they had to be picked up. I was completely in the zone for about an hour and a half after this, before I stopped at a rest area unsuccessfully trying to find water. Here I met Casey who was bike touring with the winds from where he lives in Boulder,CO to Seattle,WA where he was to meet his wife. We traded information about the road each of us had ahead and pressed on. I really wanted to make it to West Yellowstone today so I tried to spend as little time out of the saddle as I could.
Although the winds calmed from brutal to strong, I could still feel the hours of work in my legs but I soon forgot about it when I was headed into a gap in the spectacular mountains surrounding Yellowstone. From a humble cyclist's perspective, it was completely hypnotizing to gaze at the mighty mountains straight ahead from the road.
All struggle seem to be gone when the route took a turn from south to northeast, when the wind was suddenly at my back. After taking a rest at Quake Lake Visitor's Center, I met another cyclist heading the opposite direction. I stopped to talk for a bit with an awesome Dutch man called Henk, who was riding from San Diego,CA to Calgary I Canada, hitting a lot of national parks on the way. We talked about bikes and shared stories from the road. He told me about numerous wildlife encounters in Yellowstone such as seeing bears on several occasions and how he had to be shielded by cars from threatening bisons, aiming at the fragile cyclist.
I rolled into the town of West Yellowstone on the border to Wyoming and Yellowstone National Park and checked in at a cabin for the night. I wanted to get a roof over my head to dry my tent and do some laundry.