Up and out, we head to camp breakfast by 7 a.m. The large outdoor thermometer on the bank across the street flashes 34 deg. while light snow flurries. I retreat with my breakfast tray to Larry's camper cabin -- "Larry's Cafe" -- to eat in warmth. Soon others crowd in.
At the evening route meeting, Steve suggested staying on US 89 from Livingston to Gardiner although the map shows an alternate "white road" paralleling the main highway. As I stop to do some clothing adjustment at the that junction, a local in a 4-wheel-drive pulls over yells, "Hey," getting my attention, "are you with those other riders? If so, you should take route 540 and stay off 89. 540 is beautiful."
We veer left and cross the Yellowstone River. This is pastoral and easy riding. Mountains dusted with snow and dotted with evergreens are on our left, a lush green valley is along our right. Frank, Chuck, and I ride together in a long single file. Ten miles down the road we pass the log cabin style Pine Creek Lodge and Store. "You want to stop for coffee?"
We retrace our path. A beagle yaps in a back room while we chat at a table nestled next to the front door. Shelves are stocked with "provisions" -- everything from drug and sundry items to basic foodstuffs, soft drinks, postcards, magazines -- a pot-bellied stove sits in the corner, and a microwave is available for heating water. Randy pedals up and joins us inside. We linger as long as possible in this cozy room.
Along the road we spot Swainson's hawks circling and diving, hunting for lunch. Red tail hawks perch here and there on poles and wires. Atop one telephone pole is an enormous abandoned nest, possibly that of an osprey.
Left, up the hill in Gardiner, is the Rocky Mountain Campground. I pitch close to Carla and Angel's "hotel." Classical music emanates from their tent. Now that's class! The shower in this facility is nearly the best we have had on the trip. Hot water, and lots of it. The word spreads quickly. Fortunately there are four showers per bathroom.
Before heading down the hill for a post-dinner exploration of town, someone brings out a large dark chocolate sheet cake with gobs of fudge icing and 34 candles. It's Steve's birthday and Bill and Cheri don't let it pass. A group sing-along wishes Steve "happy birthday."