July 20, 2001 - Mike and Marilyn's 2001 TranAmerican Bike Tour

Mike and Marilyn's
2001 TransAm Bike Trip
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July 20, 2001

TRANSAM 2001 > Wyoming

Colter Bay, Grand Teton National Park, to Grant Village, Yellowstone National Park. (42 mi.) Mile 3007

National Park Syndrome

"Yosemite National Park. At present, a dusty, milling confusion of motor vehicles and ponderous camping machinery, it could be returned to relative beauty and order by the simple expedient of requiring all visitors, at the park entrance, to lock up the automobiles and continue their tour on the seats of good workable bicycles supplied free of charge by the United State Government. Let our people travel light and free on their bicycles. "
Ed Abbey, in Desert Solitaire, (1968).

Over 30 years ago, I had thought it would be fun to bicycle through Yellowstone National Park, but a college professor of mine, who worked in the Park every summer, dissuaded me by saying the roads were bad and the traffic was dangerous. Many cyclists regard RVs as more hazardous than all the other large vehicles with which we have shared the road because the drivers are often inexperienced and inattentive. We had experienced this with numerous RVs that wouldn't give us an inch of space in the middle of nowhere, even though there wasn't an oncoming vehicle for miles. The commercial truck drivers usually gave us a whole lane when passing whenever they could. Now, here we were, getting ready to bicycle through Grand Teton and into Yellowstone National Park.

We tried to get an early start to beat the traffic, but it was hard to get out of our warm sleeping bags in the morning. Someone later told us it had been 33 degrees. When we finally got on our bikes, instead of rolling out to the highway, we rolled into the Park cafe again and wrapped our freezing fingers around coffee mugs and ate hot bowls of oatmeal to warm up. This put us on the road later than we wanted, after 8:00 am.

Fireweed adds color to a recovering burn

Along the Lewis River

At first, the riding was very pleasant, through thick lodge pole pine forests and areas recovering from the extensive forest fires of 1988, though the road had little to no shoulder. The traffic picked up the farther we got into Yellowstone. Most drivers were courteous and gave us some room, but one jerk pulling a camp trailer with 3 foot rear view mirror extensions actually swung toward us, laid on his horn, and barely missed me with his mirrors. We were on the shoulder, outside the white fog line, and there was no oncoming traffic to prevent him from swinging around us. It was just a case of unexplainable road rage that left us angry and shaken, wondering what poisonous venom can overtake people when they are on vacation. At another point, I pulled off to let some vehicles pass more easily, and couldn't find an opening to get back on the road. It reminded me of rush hour back in Seattle, with people driving as if they were late for work.

Mike and I had to fight off what we call National Park Syndrome, a grumpy attitude that sometimes creeps up on us when we visit very crowded National Parks. One could easily make the case that on average, Americans spend more time sitting in their vehicles on vacation than any other activity (the term activity being used loosely). 95% of the visitors to Yellowstone never go beyond the developed areas, which make up less than 2% of the whole Park. The majority of their activity involves getting in and out of the vehicle, and strolling through the Interpretive Center and Gift Shop. We talked to a couple who had arrived in Yellowstone earlier that morning, were planning on "seeing the sights" that afternoon, then driving home that evening....12 hours to North Dakota.

Yes, I had worked myself up into quite a rant about all of this by the time we had an opportunity to vent to a Park Ranger about the intentional "near-mirroring". Mike had to give me a signal to end my rant. I am glad to say, though, that we conquered our case of National Park Syndrome, took a deep sigh, and thoroughly enjoyed arriving early to a very nice hiker/biker campsite at Grant Village. By this time, it had warmed up to shorts and sandal weather. We cleaned up, relaxed, and enjoyed the setting. I even gave Mike a haircut, and had two chocolate milkshakes over the course of the day, so things were great.

Our camp at Grant Village

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