Warm Welcome (USA Day 76)
***We've been out of signal for a week, but finally we’re back into society, with electricity and WiFi and the desire to share some stories. We have now mass-uploaded a bunch of journals here, dating back to Day 69. Read from there if you like.***
At some point in the night, I awoke to a shuffling noise, and fully believed Greg had come to kill us. Gripping my bear spray tight, I held my breath and listened to the rustle of grass, the slight whip of canvas, the crunch of gravel. Then far off in a tent, the real Greg coughed heavily and I returned to sanity.
Turns out, Amy spent half the night doing this too. Once it was light enough for being awake to become a sensible option, we threw everything onto our bikes, squeezed into some very damp clothes and sprinted back to the main road. In a patch of morning sun, we defrosted our fingers, gobbled Nutella bagels and debriefed what was most certainly an awful night. Perhaps we’ll leave primitive camping until we’re out of grizzly country, eh?
Just as we finished our breakfast, our hiker friend Pooch strode past. Our three-day double-back had kept us on par with his foot speed. It was just the unlikely and jolly reunion that jolted us away from bear-horror and back to the task at hand: a sunny cycle north along the Madison Valley to Ennis, Montana.
With the Madison river winding through the grassy plains and mountains on either side, this valley is known as quite the wind tunnel. Unfortunately, today it blew in our faces, so we distracted ourselves by bird-spotting. An osprey dived for fish in the glassy river, returning to its elevated nest to feed a chirruping chick. Two bald eagles, one full-grown and the other still in its black, juvenile plumage, sat on consecutive fence posts and surveyed their kingdom. A red-tailed hawk showed off its colourful wings while resting on a ranch sign. A sandhill crane, fat-bodied with a tiny neck, hid in the long grass, watching us with a beady eye. Purple martins flittered into and out of the eaves of the Blue Moon Saloon in Cameron, nesting, feeding, busying about. This was all the birds. Thanks for reading my bird paragraph.
Speaking of the Blue Moon Saloon, if you’re a cyclist, please don’t go there. They’re vile, hostile and not worth your dollars. Save your thirst for one of the many great establishments in Ennis.
When I entered, the woman blustered towards me and smiled fakely. “I didn’t make any coffee, so.”
“Okay,” I said. “I’m going to pick out a drink,” and so I did, paying twice the marked price because of dodgy labelling which, the woman made clear, was my problem. Didn’t matter: it was a hot, dry day and the chocolate milk was well worth its high price. Our last water refill had been yesterday, in West Yellowstone. When I returned with my empty water bottles, she blocked me at the door.
“I don’t fill waters.” Her fixed smile and cruel eyes gives me shivers to recall. “Says so on the door.”
It’s true. She’d had it printed in big black letters. “I’ll leave them here, then. Can I use the bathroom?”
“Bathroom’s for customers.”
“I bought two chocolate milks and some trail mix. You served me.”
“Oh…” I waited for her to apologise, which is the way these interactions work.
I left without another word. I’m told, by our host for tonight, that multiple cyclists have had a frosty reception over at the Blue Moon Saloon. Apparently they hate us, which is weird given that we probably account for a good twenty percent of their business.
Ennis, as mentioned, is lovely. Our host’s log cabin, fifteen miles back down the valley, overlooks the incredible Madison range. You can listen to the wind, watch the clouds roll in for yet another storm, drink a beer in the sheltered porch and sigh at the past week of wild camping, hill-climbing, rainstorm-dodging, bear-watching, pedal-pushing. Tonight we’ll sleep in a bed for the first time since Lander, 464 miles ago. That’ll probably feel pretty nice. Pretty nice indeed.
Today: 67 Miles
Total: 3,592 Miles