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Words and Photos by Adrian Schmith and Christian Beck
Travelling by bike is different from anything else. There is a satisfaction in pushing your body and soul over miles for hours, setting out at A and arriving at B, physically absorbing every point in-between. You are stripped of the convenience of automated travel. You feel the continuity of fresh air. You take in all the features that unfold in front of you. You experience much more than the renowned landmarks of the area.
Living in a flat country, the size of the state of New York, I think you are naturally drawn to mountains and intrigued by open spaces and long distances. Fascinated by the grandness of the American Rockies and the sense of no-man's land in the West, our yearning for Yellowstone was long overdue. We were dreaming of Yellowstone but ended up finding so much more.
Our route would take in Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, covering paved and dirt roads, small tracks, and sand – all the while surrounded by stunning scenery. So, in late September, we left Copenhagen, Denmark for Salt Lake City in the north of Utah, dreaming of Yellowstone. We spent eight days riding a loop route that exited Utah at the east, crawled up through Wyoming, showcased the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, cut out a corner of Montana, and slid down through the plains of Idaho back to Salt Lake. We rode 1.325 kilometres (830 miles) for more than 50 hours. We sought out peaks of 2.500 metres (8.200 feet); found solitude on backcountry roads; greeted bears, bison, and elk; and experienced the hospitality of the people of the American West. Transcending dreams, this was our Yellowstone Adventure.
Our first dose of Americana came quickly. We were greeted at Denise's Home Plate, a small diner in the heart of Coalville, Utah, with cheerful spirits and double cheeseburgers. "Where y'all headed on those bicycles?" asked a fellow customer, glancing at all our clothes hanging out to dry. “Yellowstone," was our humble answer, “and back. By Friday." We finished with cheeky smiles. Laughed out of the door with the blunt response that we were never going to make that, we were filled, not only with cheeseburgers but the feeling of determination. We were heading to the Rockies, bears and bison in sight.
We found ourselves riding frequently in rain, snow, and headwinds, yet we were met with smiles and warmth wherever we roamed. After a particularly heavy storm on our second day, a local farmer pulled over and explained to us how there was no way to get through the mud awaiting us. We placed our bikes in the back of a horse carriage and took a seat in the back of a pickup truck. The bumpy ride to Cokeville, Wyoming was filled with friendly chats with some kind folks from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose warm hospitality saved our ride by offering us and the bikes a ride to Afton to keep us on schedule.
As we pushed further from civilization, the roads were surrounded by open, dry land, with bullet holes in every sign. There were never-ending blue skies above carless roads that evoked a true feeling of solitude and calm amongst the sheer size of the American West. Of course, riding in the wide emptiness comes with challenges, like the day the pavement ended and a 160-kilometre gravel grind to Rexburg, Idaho was interrupted only by discovering the one resupply point en route was closed for the day. Two bottles and three Clif Bars really aren't enough to tame the Wild West!
Eventually, the endless horizons were tamed by the Yellowstone Grand Canyon. Despite our heightened expectations, the grandness of it still floored us. The contrast of towering heights and wide-open spaces reminded us that nothing in America is small! As we moved north through the park, crossing Hayden Valley, we finally got a peek at bison and bears. A mere 15 metres off the road, a grizzly was just hanging out. Further down the road, bison were grazing along the river. Speechless, and constantly on the lookout for wildlife, we had never ridden better miles on the bike.
Needless to say, travelling by bike in the U.S. starts so many conversations and sparks so much interest. We were fortunate to meet so many people of different backgrounds, all with a genuine interest in our travels, our mindset, our background, and our expectations.
1 week and 1.325 kilometres later, we concluded a trip of a lifetime. Dancing silly and laughing, we joked at the stupidness of riding 170 kilometres a day for 8 days straight as a sort of holiday. Nevertheless, we knew we were loving it to the bone. Travelling by bike is something so different, something so good.