Day Fourteen: May 13, 2007

Madison Camp, Yellowstone to Jackson Hole

Today breaks a record for me. As a kid I had two 17 day vacations. The first was when I was around 11 years old: our family took a vacation back to South Carolina where we had lived the year before. The second was when I was 15 and went to the World Jamboree in Canada. I’ll talk more about that below.

Somewhere along the line I “got my wires crossed” and I didn’t take another vacation that lasted more than four days until the first 10-day trip to Marble in the late 90’s. The longest I’ve ever been away was a 14-day trip to Maui in 2004. In Maui, I was coming off one of the most difficult projects for which I’d ever had responsibility — and it took me four days just to unwind.

I don’t know what it says about the last 18 months, but I’m just now winding down enough to start thinking about the future, especially career-wise.

I’m running out of adjectives to describe this trip, so I’ll mostly let the pictures do the talking. Having toured with and without a wingman, I have to say that it’s much like life. Touring alone means you don’t have to worry about the other person. You get up when you want, eat where you want, stop when you want, gas up when you start feeling uncomfortable with where the needle is, don’t have to worry about how consistent your pace is, etc… In short, you’re the boss — with no-one else to answer to.

The other side of the coin is that there is no-one to talk with over coffee about the previous day’s ride, no one to crack jokes and laugh with on stops, no one to introduce you to their dearest friends, no one to point out things you missed, no one to second-guess your “seat-of-the-pants” planning, no one to talk you into “gearing up” for rain you didn’t see coming, no one to turn to and say “wow, will you look at that?”

So my friends, in the spirit of sharing the ride, “Wow, will you look at…”

My camp buddy the ground squirrel. He hung around all afternoon and morning looking for scraps.

Camp buddy

The Breakfast Club

I got so used to bison, moose, and elk wandering around in the road I quit documenting the encounters. I simply stopped the bike, relaxed, and soaked in the experience.

On the road again

Other shots from the day (culled from almost 100)

Golden Gate Pass




Mammoth Hot Springs



And this is a vista overlooking the new wolf habit created when the park reintroduced wolves in 1995. The rangers had telescopes set up so you could see a couple of the wolves near their den, but it was too far away for a camera.

Wolf Habitiat

Continental Divide at about 8000 feet — and yes that lake still has ice on it.

Frozen Lake

And the first view of the Grand Tetons heading south… I have a similar shot from the same turnout taken in 1983. Which gets me back to Mother’s Day and my first trip to Canada. I’ve thought a lot about mom today. In large part she’s responsible for this trip, at least for sowing the seed that put me here in the first place.

Grand Tetons

Sometime in 1981, she sat me down at the kitchen table and said (albeit in kinder language) “put up or shut up.” The first payment was due in a few months and she said “I’ve heard you talk for months now about wanting to go to the next World Jamboree, what have you done about it?’ I, at 13, of course had to admit that I had pretty much done nothing but talk. The deal was that if I earned the money to go ($1650.00), that she and dad would buy my uniforms. She asked me if I wanted to go and as I remember; I started into a litany of excuses of how I couldn’t earn enough for the first payment in time. I didn’t get very far.

Her next words summed up a serious life lesson for me: “I didn’t ask you how you were going to earn it — I asked you if you wanted to go. You have to make the decision first — then we’ll figure out the how. Now, do you want to go?” I did make the decision, and she and dad helped me figure out how to earn enough for the first payment. After the decision was made, it was easy. Oh the work was hard, but there wasn’t any internal waffling, no internal conflict when it was hot outside, or when my friends wanted to go play. I had made the decision.

I went to Canada, but more importantly, I learned how to set goals, overcome obstacles, and work hard. Thanks Mom (and dad). Happy Mother’s Day!

And now, I’m back here again: retracing much of that route from Denver to Banff, making new decisions, setting new directions — and flat out enjoying the hell out of every moment of the experience! Even the bears: I saw 7 grizzlies (3 were cubs) and a black bear today.


Black bear

Another shot of the Tetons, look closely for the eagle…

Another shot of the Tetons...

The sign where I took this particular shot of Willow Flats said that this habitat could sustain over 40 moose per acre.

Willow Flat

As the following were all true,

  • It was getting dark
  • I could see more moose and elk feeding on the side of the road than the number of bugs hitting my windshield
  • The only campground open was another 30 minutes away

so I promptly stopped as soon as I reached Jackson Hole, found a clean room, warm food, and cold beer — and then crashed.

Pete is right, everyone (and I mean everyone) should do this or something like it. Something that completely unplugs you from the system and allows you to count your blessings, contemplate your future, and recalibrate your trajectory.

Today’s Route:

Day 14 route

Monday’s goal is somewhere near Casper, WY.