Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Day 55: Wobbling my way into Montana

Day 55
Grant Village, WY to West Yellowstone, MT

Last night, I had a bit of a problem.

At some pint during the day, I had noticed that my back wheel had developed a fault. One of the spoke nipples had actually pulled through the rim a bit, cracking it. As you can see from this slightly blurry photo.

I had hoped to get to West Yellowstone, where there were a couple of bike shops listed and get a replacement.

A bit later last night (after I had written yesterday's blog entry) a tourer called Kevin turned up. Originally from Wisconsin, he now lived in Alaska. I showed him my problem, and as it turned out Kevin was a useful guy to have around. He has done the TransAm, the Northern Tier (a coast to coast ride which stays close to the Canadian border) and another cross country route he devised himself. At the moment he's just doing a bit more touring. He had an in depth knowledge of the bike shops in the West Yellowstone area, as well as in Jackson, which is south of Grand Teton NP. I also noticed I had lost a spoke, but as I tried to true my wheel, it just got worse. The usual procedure is to tighten the spokes around the area where the wheel is a bit out of shape. But this didnt work today. I imagine because the whole structural integrity of the rim was compromised. Basically, I ended up with one very wobbly wheel, and a couple of other nipples were also splitting the rim. It was so out of shape that I had to ditch my rear mudguard, as the tyre was rubbing against it.

This was all happening as it was getting dark, so me and Kevin were there with our torches trying to fix it!

Eventually hit my tent, but I had a lot on my mind so found it hard to sleep. In the end, I decided to try and nurse my wheel through to West Yellowstone. If I could get a replacement there then great, if not I would order one from Jackson and have to wait a day or two for it to arrive. As I would be around 6days ahead of schedule if I managed to reached West Yellowstone, this wasnt too much of a problem.

So this morning I set off early. Partly to get my bike fixed ASAP but also to beat the traffic. Its absolute peak season in the park right now, so trying to avoid the mass of cars, pick up trucks and RVs is a sensible approach.

After thanking Kevin for his help, I rolled out the campsite about 7am, back wheel wobbling away beneath me! The first part of the day involved two steep, but not too long, climbs, with a descent in between. I didnt want to go too fast down the hills as I didnt want my wheel breaking, and I also had to disengage the back breaks too stop them rubbing the rim! Each of the climbs also took me across the Continental Divide (I've given up counting completely now!) and then after that it was mainly downhill or flat.

Today's ride also took me past the area of Yellowstone where most of the geysers are situated, included probably the most famous, Old Faithful. This area is one of the most crowded of the entire park, although thankfully early in the morning it wasnt too bad. Im glad I have been to Yellowstone before, so I didnt feel the need to stop and wait for Old Faithful to erupt. I took a few photos of the general geyser area, but I was a bit more concerned about my wheel!

The last part of my ride took me through some lovely meadows alongside, first, the Firehole river, and then the Madison river. I was nearing the west exit to the park, and the traffic coming the other way was very heavy. Thankfully there were less people leaving the park, so I didnt have too much traffic trying to overtake me. By now I'd stopped worrying so much about whether my wheel would hold out, and was enjoying the ride.

About 2 miles before leaving Yellowstone, I passed a small but important road sign. I was now entering Montana, state number eight of ten. The sign was pretty simple, but I assume this was because it was inside the park boundary, and thus regulated by the NP service. All the road signs in the park are like this one. Simple wooden signs, with white writing. After passing through the park entrance, it hit me how nice it was to have things so simple. I immediately entered the town of West Yellowstone, and its a bit of an eyesore to be honest. Massive billboards everywhere, loads of tourist shops, rows of motels and RV parks. I guess you cant blame the locals, but a bit of refinement wouldnt have gone amiss.
7 done and dusted

A slightly more flashy sign in West Yellowstone

Went to the first bike shop, and the guy wasnt that helpful. The only rear 700c rim he had was for a fixed gear bike. So not much use to me. Thankfully the second one had a nice shiny new rim for me. Their mechanic was out for lunch, so I went to find somewhere to stay. The town was very busy, with most places having no vacancies. I had earlier met an eastbound TransAm-er called Tom, who had found one motel which had vacancies, so I booked a room there. The town seemed to be full of tourers. First I met an older couple from Pennsylvania who were doing the TransAm east to west like me. Although they had started around 3 weeks before me! They were planning on getting about 20miles down the road, but tomorrow we were both planning on getting to the same town, Ennis. So might well see them there. Also met another younger couple, doing a tour to Oregon although they were devising their own route.
Not quite the same as the real thing!

So once my wheel was fixed, I could relax and update my blog! Also at the end of the next section of maps, so be good to plan where I'm going to be stopping for the next week or so.

But overall I really enjoyed my time in the National Parks. Such amazing views. I definitely think that going west means you get the two parks, the rockies and the pacific coast as a reward. If you go east, you get most of the good stuff out the way early!  

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