I packed up my gear in the morning and started back over beartooth. I did stop once, and it was the last time on this go over beartooth: I couldn’t get the bike to start. I got lucky this time, as I was on a mountain, and all I had to do was point the bike downhill and let gravity help me push start it.
The rest of the go was exhilerating. I feel like I’m beginning to grasp the notion of good throttle control during turns. I scraped my heels several times leaning into those snakey twisties. It was great fun flirting with the constant threat of death over the bottomless cliffs.
Once over the pass, but before reentering Yellowstone, I stopped at a gas station with a service shop, pulled my battery and had them charge it for me over two hours. It got to about 13.7 V over that time and I simply did not want to wait any longer. I slapped it on, turned the bike over, and went on my way into Yellowstone. I visited Mammoth Springs and Old Faithful before making my way out of the park. I hit a tremendous amount of rain on my way out, and was thoroughly soaked. I also had not really considered where I would go after I exited Yellowstone all that much.
Wet, cold, hungry, needing a shower, loaded with all dirty clothes, unsure in direction, and low in spirits I decided phone Skinny to see if he could help me find a more direct route to Portland or tell me to suck it up and soldier on as planned.
His reply, at least as I interpreted it, was the latter.
It was what I needed.
I gathered my helpless composure and decided to start addressing my dilemmas one by one. I accepted the reality that I’d have to pay an ATM fee (something I haven’t done in 5 years) and withdrew some cash so I could see about doing laundry and the like. (It’s why I hadn’t done it in the parks: the entrance fee cleaned me out of cash.)
I stumbled upon a laundromat/showers place. Score!
I spent a couple hours there getting the laundry done. I took the fastest shower ever (pay-by-time) and charged my phone while I waited. I was quite happy to have clean clothes and feel (sort of) clean.
All the while I’d pitch my story to the locals in an attempt to find a place to pitch a tent. Prior to going to the laundromat I inquired a couple local campsites, with them wanting about $40 to pitch a tent. Outrageous.
Eventually a drunken man stumbled into the laundromat and had me follow him to a bar so he could buy me a drink. There, he chatted up the bartenders as to a place to camp.
One of the bartenders took me out back and away from the blaring music so she could explain to me how to get to a free campsite. I took it down on my phone, thanked everybody, finished my drink, and went on my way. It was already about 10pm at that point.
I rode about 10 miles northbound and found the dirt road I’d been told about. I’d certainly have missed it if not for GPS. The dirt road was very smooth, and at first it was also quite firm. The whole place was pitch black, however. It was way out in the middle of nowhere in a farmland area.
Well, that’s when I both nearly dumped my bike and realized I have great potential to be a dirtbiker: I was doing about 35-40mph when all of the sudden the dry solid dirt turned into mushy mud (that looked the same under headlights). Words cannot adequately convey the size of the bricks I excreted when all of the sudden I’m nearly 90 degrees sideways going down this one laner mud road on the loaded down monstrosity that is my bike. I overcorrected and found myself nearly 90 the other way. Eventually I managed to slow down and not die. Somehow I didn’t dump the bike during all of this. A stubborn will to stay on, perhaps.
I decided to try to keep going in hopes the road would improve, and made it all of 30 seconds further before barely saving the bike from its decision to point itself towards the ditch once more. It was very difficult to get it turned around, but being where I was I knew I’d have no help and needed to soldier on.
Once I turned it around I made my way back to a fork in the dirt road I’d passed earlier. There was a grass patch. I’d be pitching a tent closer to a farmer’s property than I’d like but decided to chance it anyway. I scribbled a note to put on the bike in case the farmer stumbled upon me in the morning before I left.
I laughed heartily while I assembled my tent in the darkness reflecting on my most recent muddy experience.
If nothing else I’m glad I was solo on the bike for that. I’d certainly have dumped it if I was two up.
That train of thought eventually led me to another small breakthrough in my path to healing.
I packed up early in the morning, my tent still covered in dew and dripping from the side of its spot in the backpack.
The shadow decided not to start again.
I pushed the bike all the way down the dirt road and onto the gravel. My attempts to push start it by running and throwing it in gear were futile: the bike was simply too cold for that.
Eventually some good samaritans stopped and gave me a jump. She turned right on.
After they left I realized I was in a bit of a situation: I could not reattach the battery cover to the bike without removing the key.
I decided I’d let it run for a little while in hopes of the battery saving up some juice before turning it off and reassembling it.
Well, sure enough, it didn’t charge enough.
Fortunately this time the bike was warm, so after a good bit of heaving and pushing I managed to push start her.
I looked back once she was on and realized I’d pushed the bike at least half a mile already.
I was happy, though. Because though this adventure has been fraught with poor weather and mechanical gremlins, all my little breakthroughs are starting to add up.
Emotionally, the morning was rough, particularly while packing up. It felt like I’d taken two steps back after having taken a step forward. But sometimes you have to take a step back to wind up for a leap forward.
I’m currently sitting at a library several miles north of where I woke up this morning. It’s 1:23PM. Once I’m all done getting the journal caught up I’m going to go eat something.