Daily miles – 54. Total miles – 1832.
Today was a short ride through the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone National Park. We got a little bit of sun in the morning after a soaking night of rain. We met the owners of the Santana Tandem – it turns out they are a German couple trying to ride from Billings to San Francisco! Health and equipment problems may cut their riding short, but they were friendly and enthusiastic nonetheless…
We started out climbing from the campground up through the village of Mammoth Hot Springs. We gained about 700 or 1000 feet over the first 20 miles, and then lost it all as we descended into the Lamar Valley. We decided to have lunch outside the lodge at Tower Junction – partly because it was a good time for lunch, and partly because it was the last shelter we would find in case the predicted thunderstorms started up. After eating at a picnic table in the sun, I went to use the bathroom and returned to find Chandra scurrying around packing up the lunch stuff and insisting that we put the bike under an awning. The wind had changed and at least rain was imminent. She went into the lodge as I moved the bike into position amid very close thunderbolts. I heard a strange hissing sound from the west which turned out to be huge hailstones falling and leaving a while veneer on the ground. I saw lightning strike the ground in the Lamar Valley only a couple miles from the lodge and directly in our path of travel. It was not a difficult decision to wait it out in the lodge, sitting next to the fire.
We waited until the sky sort of cleared, although there was still some rain and we departed in full rain gear. This, as often is the case, seemed to cause the sun to come out. We had clear skies all the way through the broad Lamar Valley and were able to see some of the wildlife this valley was famous for including Pronghorns and lots of Bison – some very close! We also started noting license plates from many different states which reminded me of being a kid and trying to find one from every state.
Taking in the grandeur of the valley was an awesome way to spend a short day. We got to Cooke City pretty early, checked into the cabins where we will stay and meet Matt and Lori tonight, and now its off to dinner. Tomorrow, the Beartooth Pass! Cannot wait!