I awake early. Back to sleep until the generator fires up. Today will be a tough ride; I've removed extraneous weight from my bike, keeping only my handlebar bag with food, a spare tire (in case a famous Yellowstone Park pothole gets me), my red survival ditty bag, and rain/cold weather gear strapped on behind Rufus. Rufus, of course, remains as rear road watcher. I've been asked whether he will have to ride sag today. "Rufus never sags."
The day is cool and cloudy. It is a gritty narrow winding hill up into Mammoth Hot Springs, headquarters of Yellowstone Park. This is the first I've seriously used my granny gear. Cars have difficulty passing, and I am pedaling slowly up this steep grade. Even with our early start, the road is trafficky. Behind me, about half way up, BJ falls off her bike while pulling off the road to avoid a bus and long string of cars. Fortunately she falls to the outside, and sustains no injury. Just the thought of falling here is sobering.
Our route today is through the Lamar Valley, a truly beautiful valley along the Lamar River. It's too late in the season for wild flowers, and the valley carpet is brown. The river winds off in the distance. An occasional bison feasts, massive head lowered.
Late afternoon finds me pedaling into Cooke City, glad to be "camped out" again in a local motel. Snow is predicted over Beartooth Pass tomorrow, and today's sky looks as if that could happen. Bill's (Yellowstone Kelly) family cabin sits along our route into Cooke City, and he offers camping on his property. About half do. Parked beside the road is his catering semi, ready for dinner. He and Cheri cook up an incredible final meal, a culmination of treats to appeal to everyone. After dessert, he gives us a tour of the house, and explains the efforts made to save it during that 1988 fire. Success was counted in dollars and cubic yards of sprayable foam.