Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 3 ride to Gardiner

Day 2

Distance and elevation gain (per my mapping software): 58.49 miles, 1,946 feet

Min temp: 64, Max temp: 89, Winds 8-26, gusting to 32, Precipitation: none

We started the morning with a visit to the mechanic tent to get those obviously loose spokes tightened up. Spokes should not wiggle easily back and forth – especially less than a week after having been retensioned!

The mechanic didn’t have a spoke tensiometer on him, so he gave it his best guess, taking care not to overtension the spokes, and at least got the spokes to the point where they didn’t rattle and the wheel to the point where it was nice and true again. I plucked the spokes like harp strings, and they all sounded pretty much the same – plink, plink, plink, plink – except for one spoke on that pesky back wheel that the mechanic could not get to tighten – plunk! We had discovered loose spokes on a 94-mile ride back home just before we got the wheel trued and didn’t seem to have any problems, so we figured the job would be good enough to get us through, and we’d stop back by the mechanic’s tent that evening to have the spokes checked again.

This is the bridge over the Yellowstone River in Paradise Valley – a very beautiful place where we almost clocked a fellow cyclist who, along with many other cyclists, had dismounted on the bridge to take pictures but, unlike the other cyclists, had failed to look for traffic before she walked out into the road. Another advantage of the tandem: I don’t have to watch the road or steer, so I can take all these pictures from the back of the bike without risking getting clocked by traffic.

Paradise Valley was pretty smoky that day from the Emigrant wildfire. The night before at announcements, the ride organizers had checked the forecasts and said that smoke would likely be “moderate” and would not bother most people, but if anyone was concerned, there would be a physician available in the morning to see patients and prescribe inhalers if needed. Have I mentioned that this ride was well organized?? These folks thought of everything!

Bikes on the road in Paradise Valley. I’m sure a lot of locals knew about the ride and were expecting to see cyclists, but I wonder what the uninformed thought when encountering miles of cyclists along the road. Side note: some of the fanciful ranch names in Paradise Valley: Jumping Rainbow, Dancing Wind, Paradise Found, Imagine Ranch.

Another cute little Montana schoolhouse

Lunch stop at River’s Edge Bar & Grill in Emigrant.

After lunch we were far enough south to be upwind of the Emigrant fire – no more breathing smoke.

Rest stop on Montana DOT land.

We crossed onto Gallatin National Forest land (Paradise Valley is a narrow private-property “V” into the national forest) and were met with a “bison on road” caution sign. Didn’t see any bison, but the scenery was beautiful.

We rolled into Gardiner around 3 pm. While everyone else was lining up their bikes to be loaded up for shipment to our next campsite after our rest day and bus tour of Yellowstone the following day, we and headed for the mechanic tent to have our loose spoke checked on.

As a mechanic approached and I bent down to show her the problem, I noticed – OH NO!! – a crack in our rear wheel rim at the loose spoke!

And we’ve got that fancy-schmancy Rohloff hub. No at-hand replacements for us!

Cracked rim! Dun dun duuuuuun….

We talked through our options with the head mechanic. The next day was a rest day, so we had a day to get things done without cutting into the ride. If our future rides were like today’s ride – 56 miles and no serious hills – we could probably ride the cracked rim a bit longer. But the scheduled ride in two days was through from Pilot Creek to Cody via Chief Joseph Pass (6 miles of 5 percent grade followed by a helluva descent that could really get a tandem rolling fast). That would not be safe to ride on a cracked rim. We’d have to get things fixed.

We got our bike in March, so it was less than 6 months old and had less than 700 miles on it by this point, so the bike would still be under warranty.

We tried calling the bike shop in Denver where we purchased the bike. It was Tuesday. They were closed.

Next, we spent several frustrating minutes trying to look up the bike manufacturer’s phone number via a barely-there cellphone Internet connection. We found the number and got through to a live person right away. I explained our dilemma and directed my attention back and forth between the bike mechanic’s suggestions as he thought things through and the bike company guy.

Could we have a rim overnighted to a bike shop in the Silver Gate / Cooke City area, our next stop?

Probably not a good idea. It’s rural Montana, the delivery might not make it even if overnighted, and the mechanics had not been able to contact a bike shop in that area.

How about 2-day shipping to the bike shop in Cody? It would mean we would miss a day’s riding – purportedly the most beautiful day to ride. But 2-day shipping was a more reasonable cost, and we would be responsible for covering the difference in cost between regular and expedited shipping for the warrantied rim replacement. There had been solid contact with the shop in Cody. We could pick up the rim and have the mechanics rebuild the rear wheel in the evening at camp.

Was there still time to make the UPS pickup at the bike manufacturer in Oregon? Yes. We still had 30 minutes.

I gave the bike manufacturer guy my credit card number to cover the cost of the shipping, and that was all we could do for the time being.

We added our bike to the line to be packed up and transported to the next camp and went about our business.

View of wildfire smoke from our tent in Gardiner. It was interesting to note how the smoke “pulsed” over 24 hours – dying back at night and flaring up again with the heat of day.

After we got cleaned up, we left our campsite on the Gardiner school football field, at the corner of Main Street and Main Street (??), to run some errands.

The Gardiner laundromat is probably the cleanest one I have ever been in. Just please don’t wash your horse blankets there.

While we were waiting for the laundry to be done, we decided to go find a beer. We walked into the Two Bit Saloon only to walk out again a few minutes later after the bartender got into a loud argument with a patron. Oookaaaayyyyy…Walked to the Blue Goose Saloon, but there was heavy metal music blasting inside. Not our scene.

We settled for ice cream cones instead. While we were sitting outside the shop eating the ice cream and looking out over the Yellowstone National Park fence, we spotted our first megafauna.

A slightly lost elk on the wrong side of the fence.

I guess I hadn’t realized that the community we were in was literally at the gate of Yellowstone.

Our evening announcements in Gardiner featured the Roosevelt Arch in the background.

Sunset concert in Gardiner – with Little Jane & the Pistol Whips.

A few minutes later, Bugman pointed out the ride’s professional photographer focusing his lens towards the gate. Full moon perfectly framed!

Full moon framed by the Roosevelt Arch, as interpreted by my point-and-shoot camera.

Soon there was a photography scrum at the stage.

The wine tent in Gardiner sure was pretty. I loved how different local wines and beers were featured at our campsite concerts.

Our campsite runway. Every night there were solar-powered yard lights set up to help guide us around camp. (See? The organizers thought of everything!)

Day 4

Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw


Cycle Greater Yellowstone

How do I even begin to describe the experience that was the “first great ride in the last best place”?


This was my and Bugman’s first-ever cycle tour, which we completed on our tandem to celebrate our 15th wedding anniversary on August 22. We’ve got the date for the 2014 Cycle Greater Yellowstone blocked out on our calendar already. How’s that for an endorsement?

The gist: some 700 cyclists and about 100 support crew and volunteers in a week’s time circumnavigated the north borderlands of Yellowstone National Park in this inaugural bike ride (route to change in subsequent years). The point of the ride was not just to provide an unmatched cycling experience but also to introduce a new crowd of people to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem and the issues the Greater Yellowstone Coalition (not to be confused with the Greater Yellowstone Coordinating Committee) is bringing to light, and to make connections with the communities surrounding the park.

The towns we stayed in or near are marked on this map: West Yellowstone, Ennis, Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City, Cody, Red Lodge.

The towns we stayed in or near are marked on this map: West Yellowstone, Ennis, Livingston, Gardiner, Cooke City, Cody, Red Lodge.

I’ve gone deep into an Internet wormhole looking up information about the park and the ecosystem to include in this epic series of blog posts. I won’t come close to scratching the surface on the complexity of this region. I’ll try to touch on a few points here and there, but how’s this for a summary:

Yellowstone was established as the world’s first national park in 1872. The U.S. Army protected the park from poachers and other opportunists until 1917, when the park was transferred to the newly-created National Park Service.

From what I understand, the park boundaries were drawn up a bit arbitrarily, mostly with geologic considerations in mind. That creates some challenges when you start thinking in terms of functioning ecosystems, which, in the case of Yellowstone, has been estimated to encompass 20 million acres – not just the ~2 million acres in the park itself. The park’s iconic megafauna – the bison, elk, bears, and wolves that are the symbols of Yellowstone – rely on ecosystem webs that extend well outside the park boundaries. (And, in the case of climate change, which is affecting the whitebark pine and causing ripple effects throughout the system, the ecosystem webs extend well outside our nation’s boundaries.)

Arbitrary human boundaries create another complexity: jurisdiction. Within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the following governmental entities, at minimum, have authority: Department of the Interior National Park Service, Department of the Interior Bureau of Land Management, Department of the Interior Fish and Wildlife Service, Department of Agriculture Forest Service; administrations at two national parks, six national forests, and two national wildlife refuges; the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho; and a large number of local jurisdictions (counties, towns, conservation districts, irrigation districts, etc.).

Which points to another issue facing the region: what is the highest and best use of this land in the Yellowstone region? You’ll get a different answer depending on which person or governmental agency you ask. Wildlife protection. Tourism development. Economic development. Vacation homes. Mining, Agriculture. Ranching. Energy extraction. Camping, Fishing. Hiking. Boating. Hunting. Snowmobiling. Horseback riding. Bike riding … the list goes on and on.

Thus, the need for a coalition of interested parties to come together, work together, and work through the tangle of competing interests.

Which brings me back to the bike ride designed to bring some more interested parties to the table . . .

I must say – this was a VERY well-organized ride.

Some people booked hotel rooms in communities along the way, but most people camped. Bugman and I used the “tent sherpa” service. It was very nice having our tent put up and taken down for us every day – especially on the days when it rained. This tour provided ALL meals through a catering service that is accustomed to feeding wildland firefighters. Between those hearty meals and the well-stocked rest stops, I think I probably GAINED weight while pedaling 380-plus miles including 10,000-feet-plus of climbing. Another definite plus: the shower trucks! Two semi trucks outfitted with individual shower stalls and on-demand hot water! True luxury!!! Other amenities included SAG vehicle support, on-course bike mechanics, gear transport service, and nightly live entertainment.

I’ll give a truncated day-by-day recounting of each day, with photos. Check it out under the following links:

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 0 West Yellowstone

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 1 ride to Ennis

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 2 ride to Livingston

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 3 ride to Gardiner

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 4 bus tour of Yellowstone National Park

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 5 hitching to Cody

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 6 out-and-back from Cody

Cycle Greater Yellowstone: Day 7 ride to Red Lodge
Copyright 2013 by Katie Bradshaw