Brianís Cross-USA Bicycle Tour
Day 24 - Wednesday, July 11, 2001
(speedometer has dried out and is working again)
After packing a wet tent once again, John and Nancy and I went for breakfast at the same place we had dinner last night. Nancy didn't finish her toast - after staring at it for about a minute I asked her if I could eat it - my appetite has increased exponentially since the beginning of the trip!
After breakfast we went our separate ways - John and Nancy leaving the park through the South Entrance, while I split off the Adventure Cycling route and headed for the East Entrance.
The route to the east goes around Lake Yellowstone on the way out of the park. I got caught in an early morning downpour - with no place to find shelter it was better to ride and get wet instead of being stopped and getting wet - the rain jacket, pants, and booties were put to good use.
Even though there was a pass to climb - Sylvan Pass at 8530 feet - I thought it was going to be an easy day, since the elevation of the lake is about 7700 feet. What I didn't expect is that most of the way to the pass is rolling hills around the lake before the climb to the summit.
An annoying squeaking of the chain reminded me that it hadn't been lubricated since Sandpoint, Idaho, so I stopped to attend to that and make some minor adjustments to the shifting.
Getting near the top I was wondering if there would be a sign to tell me that I've reached the summit. There was no sign, but the pass was unmistakable - once I crested it, the road became a 7% downgrade carved into the hillside, switchbacks and all, similar to Highway 1 near Big Sur on the Central California Coast. It must have been at least a 500 foot drop off the side of the road to the valley below.
The road finally straightens out (but continues downhill) near the park exit. A sign says to show your admission receipt on the way out (to make sure you didn't exceed the time limit), but the attendant told me not to stop and lose momentum on her account.
My AAA map shows a dot called "Pahaska Tepee" on US14/16/20 (I'll just call it US14 from now on) near the park exit. I wasn't expecting anything there - recalling that the "Perma, Montana" dot on the map was just a guy's house that said "Perma" on it. What a pleasant surprise it was to find that there was a restaurant! It was only 5 PM, but when you're on a bike and there's food - well, it's dinner time! The spaghetti and meat sauce for $13 wasn't cheap - Big Sur prices!
After dinner it was time to find a campground - my AAA book showed that there were at least five not too far east from here. A few hundred yards from the restaurant I met a cyclist riding westbound (in the uphill direction). He had done a cross-USA ride 10 years ago, and this trip was from Denver to Jackson Hole. He said there were lots of campgrounds to the east - he was skipping most of them because he wanted to get as close to the park entrance as possible. But he found out that as he got higher in elevation, the campgrounds did not allow soft-sided tents, due to the danger of bears. So he would have had to backtrack to the lower elevations to get a campsite - he instead decided to get a room at the lodge at Pahaska Tepee.
Lucky for me I could just keep going downhill until I found a campsite. The first two wouldn't work, but the third one - Newton Creek, 10 miles from Pahaska Tepee worked out OK. I was able to find a sunny spot and there was enough daylight for my tent to dry out.