Wednesday, 11 August 2010
Another surprise in Lander was to find our old cycling companion Keith, stood on the corner in the towns main street waving frantically at us. He explained that he was waiting for his girlfriend to come and get him, he had given up, the Trans Am had beaten him. He looked like a broken man and although he had hinted way back in Kansas that he may not make it, it was still a surprise to see this forlorn figure at the cross roads. It was a shame, he had suffered many of the hardships that the route hands out and was close to reaching the joys that the west offers. Keith says more about his reasons in his journal here.
Sky Horne the Trans Am unicyclist and Kelly Phipps, Astrologer, Mystical Poet, Cosmic Philosopher, Spiritual Filmmaker, Fantasy Novelist, Game Designer, Teacher, and Travelling Magi…. all squeezed into one spot.
I was one of the first away in the morning, early to bed, early to rise! But after many punctures from an unknown source I had resorted to tyre liners, they were working, but the weight of them made the bike feel like it was running through treacle. Half way up the pass the ACA boys had caught me up and we pulled into a Gas Station for coffee; where I proceeded to have a hissy fit, throw my teddy in the corner, rip my tyres off and remove the liners. I got an Instant speed gain but would the curse of the punctures return?
I queued with the cars and RV’s and paid my $12 for my seven day pass and pedalled on through into the Parks.
There was an instant moment of trepidation as I set off, as I had a flash back to childhood trips to Windsor Safari Park and the warning signs about not opening car windows or feeding the animals as you drove through the wildlife enclosures. Yellowstone was going to be one big wildlife enclosure!
The visions of Windsor's Orangutans ripping off windscreen wipers soon translated in my minds eye to grizzly bears ripping my arms off! I calmed myself with made up statistics of cyclists who ride through the park each summer and survive!
A women was busy showing the other ranger her video footage of the grizzly whilst I looked out at the spooked Elk reforming their herd. Maybe my Windsor Safari Park analogy wasn’t so hypothetical after all and especially after some rough calculations put the grizzly crossing the road I was on a few minutes before I passed through!
The ACA group were cycling down to a nearby restaurant for dinner and having already had some luxurious instant noodles I offered to look after their tents for the evening. This moment of overwhelming generosity left me deep in the woods, on my own, with fading light. I pondered my predicament and decided fire was a good option and quickly gathered arm falls of dead wood and bought them over to the fire pit, flinching at any twig breaking out in the dark dense pine forest.
Something moved behind me, I stupidly hadn’t even kept my pepper spray on me, as I turned fearing the worst I was met by Jack, the ACA leader, brandishing a cigarette lighter, “You probably start it quicker with this Stuart!”. I reluctantly admitted defeat and after a few minutes we were sitting round a roaring fire with the rest of the ACA group drinking beers. I’m sure they must use lighters on those survival programs…….
I awoke alive, having survived a night in Bear country, my fear of Bears did subside somewhat and I sadly never even saw one during the Trans Am!
Although I had only just entered the Grand Teton National Park, I decided to take the spur route down to Jackson WY, following the most amazing cycle paths close to the foot of the mountain range. Jackson is a tourist hot spot and home to many celebrities including Harrison Ford. This is reflected in the prices of everything being rather extortionate, including my Motel at $130 a night, I’d get three nights for that in some of the less salubrious locations I’ve travelled through!
As we boarded the rafts I was put with an American family Terry, Martha and their two young daughters and son; they were regular holidayers in Jackson and had family in the area. We got chatting and I explained about my travels by bicycle, Terry was gobsmacked by my journey and immediately insisted he buy me lunch.
After 3 hours floating down the beautiful Snake river, past Harrison Fords ranch and spotting Bald Eagles and Pelicans, I joined Terry, his family and relations for a fabulous lunch. It was another one of those moments of great generosity and friendliness that have epitomised the American people on this journey.
Annoyingly my puncture fairy had returned and the next course of action was to have the local bike shop in Jackson fill the tubes with a green gunk. I’m sure the cycle mechanic didn’t realise the potential implications of the failure of his green gunk idea and as I headed back into the Grand Tetons National Park the thought of getting a puncture by the side of the road and being trampled by a heard of buffalo as I struggled to fix it, or taken as elevenses by a grizzly, seemed a realistic but somewhat paranoid fear…
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