Day 23 Monday, August 1 Bridge Bay, Yellowstone to Cody, WY 81 miles
The Desert Fathers and religious mystics of the past would go out into the wilderness to face their deepest selves, discover their limits and strengths, and open themselves up to the terrifying and awesome presence of God. I am humbled today as I know that there can be a fine line between gritty determination and foolhardiness.
I don’t think I would have made any other decision than what I did knowing what I knew then. It rained lightly during the night after the windy thunderstorm that caught Tim and me by surprise late in the afternoon yesterday. I got a good start on the morning and was rolling out of camp by 7:30 a.m. There isn’t much between Yellowstone and Cody, WY and so I was hoping to grind my way over Sylan Pass at 8530 feet and then make the sixty mile gradual descent into Cody. It is a long stretch, but my options were a shorter 35 mile stretch to another campground or the longer Cody leg with showers and food on the other end!
The clouds looked a little ominous over the pass, but no precipitation was falling as I got started. I went to ask what the weather report was, but just as I rolled into the visitor center the sky lightened up some and I decided not to waste any more time. Not five miles in it began to sprinkle. I quickly stopped and put on my rain gear and figured that at the worst I would have to ride in the rain, but at least I would be dry and warm. I had no idea what I was getting myself into.
As I made my way up the steep grade the rain went from steady to hard. It was not fun, but I was able to grit my teeth through it. Not far from the top the sky simply opened up and let loose a torrential downpour. You might ask, why didn’t you stop? I had a choice. Keep riding in it until I reached the East Entrance at 31 miles or stop and stand in it! There was no tree or rock that was going to protect me from this.
After reaching the top of the pass I had to use all of my old racing skills to negotiate a very steep decline. The downpour had loosened a few rocks, there were literally streams running across the road where I just had to remember to ride a straight line, my brakes were minimally functional with the amount of water drenching my bike, and I had to choose between wearing my glasses which I could not see through or not wearing my glasses and shutting my eyes from the stinging rain.
I reached the bottom of the pass and discovered seven other cyclists who were holed up in the Pahaska Tepee Dining Room drinking coffee and trying to wait out the storm. They were coming from the east. By then, however, the storm had done its damage. My cell phone was floating in a shallow pool of water in my handlebar bag and is ruined. My bicycle computer shorted out. Even my two new panniers (water resistant!) both had pools of water in the bottom. I was able to save my computer before any damage was done to it by putting it in my completely waterproof rear panniers.
Three weeks ago I hit that stretch over the Cascades where it rained consistently for four hours and I didn’t have any of these problems. The difference was this. Imagine putting your luggage under the shower nozzle and then see if it is as water proof as it is advertised to be. After the torrential downpour I simply had no choice but to push my way into Cody. My sleeping bag acted like a sponge and added a few pounds to my load. And I was drenched through and through.
Tonight I am in Cody, Wyoming with maps, clothes, paper money, and bags all strewnabout in a motel room drying off. I haven’t even made any decisions about tomorrow yet. I had wanted to get to the town of Thermopolis 84 miles away, but I will just need to leave when I am ready. This is still the hardest part of the trip for me (See “A little fork in the road”” blog). I still feel caught between trying to keep up with my pre-determined schedule and allowing the rhythm of the days to determine how far and how fast I can go. I could have never predicted the Noah-like flood today and now I need to allow myself some grace. My history has been to push through things like this not allowing my circumstances to change my focus and agenda. Why are some lessons so hard to learn?
I am safe tonight. I am also humbled. And I have a strange sense of euphoria–not from having survived this punishing day, but because this is exactly what I asked for and God has not disappointed me. I needed to go into the wilderness to be tested and to open myself up. Today was everything I asked for.
Last note. The best picture of the day is the one that I didn’t take. A bison decided to meander onto the road just as I was coming by. I stopped and waited and he just kept slowly moving toward me. I really didn’t want to turn around as I had my sights set on climbing that pass. I also didn’t like the feeling that his meandering was heading straight for me. Eventually, three cars also pulled up. I was scared the cars were going to leave and I would be there all alone with the beast. The driver in the first car said, “Be careful!” Duh! That’s not kind of help I was needing. I got my break when the first car got between me and the bison and I quickly made my move up the road. I would have loved a picture, but honestly I didn’t want that to be last picture I ever snapped.