I left Breckenridge and drove north through Colorado and into Wyoming, covering 500 miles in a single day. It was more driving than I like to do in one stretch, but I had places to be and people to see! My friend Ryan Jean had quit his job earlier in the summer and was bicycling across the United States with his two buddies, Erik and Matt. They happened to be in Jackson, WY that week and were heading into Yellowstone. I had never been to Wyoming and was excited to drive out of my way a bit and go camping with them.
I arrived after a 12 hour drive to find the cyclists staying at a friend’s house that was literally, no joke, one block from downtown. This was going to be fun. We had a few cold beers and headed out for dinner, drinks, games of pool, and general shenanigans. The next morning we were up early, the guys loading their bikes as I drove into Yellowstone to reserve a campsite.
I drove past the Tetons and through Grand Teton National Park. Our rendezvous point was the Grant Village Campground on Yellowstone Lake and luckily I picked up the last campsite available. I set up the van for camping, pulled out a cold beer, and waited. They were riding 80 miles after taking an entire week off in Jackson, so I waited for awhile. I laid in the hammock, read a book, rode my bike around the campground, lounged by the lake, and met the neighbors.
The guys rolled in just as dinner was being served next door. An entire family clan had reserved all of the sites around us and had quite the spread. The grand patriarch of the family invited us over to help share in the spoils and we were served plate after plate of meat, potatoes, veggies, and dessert. It was amazing.
The next day, with sore legs, the guys were happy to leave their bikes behind and cruise in the van around the park. We drove north and caught Old Faithful spouting in front of hundreds of fans, stopped to see several hot springs, and made our way to the Firehole River to float the rapids and jump off the cliffs. All of that driving and activity was making us thirsty, so we raced back to the campground, picked up cold beer, played dominoes, and relaxed.
The next day the guys headed east toward the Atlantic Ocean and I drove west. Mom and Tom were driving from Indiana to Oregon, and with my van topping out at 59 miles per hour, it was pretty likely that they would beat me there.
Exiting the park I drove through a brief section of Montana and into Idaho, my first visit to either state. My goal was Boise and I took the scenic route along highway 20 past Atomic City and Craters of the Moon National Monument. I was slightly disappointed that Craters of the Moon wasn’t actually craters left by moon rocks. In reality, it is a vast valley of black lava rock, which is still interesting. West of the park I stopped at a hot spring just off the highway and took a quick midday soak before pushing on.
Late in the afternoon I drove through the Solider Mountain Game Preserve and turned down a no name dirt road to explore. I spotted a herd of antelope and started pursuing them. That is, until I decided that the dirt road was too rough for my 2WD van. I maneuvered the van to turn around and exit, but my rear tires dropped perfectly into a huge rut. Crap. Well Chris, you’ve done some pretty stupid things in life, and this might be one of the bigger ones. I was stuck. I was miles from the highway, alone, with no cell service, and no way to get out. I found a few rocks nearby, used them to shovel the dirt and sand away from the tires, and placed the rocks under them. I rocked back and forth a bit, and after several tries, with bloody hands, the van lurched forward and I was free. Maybe I should not do that again…
In Boise I found a Starbucks that was open late, set up my laptop, and completed a few hours of work before finding a Travel Center gas station parking lot to urban camp for the night. The next day I’d be entering Oregon, for the first time ever, and on my way to see my family.