This morning it’s minus 3, icy and with a bitterly cold wind. Under the circumstances I’m glad to be in a motel with a warm shower and a hot breakfast, but if I could choose I’d be making my own breakfast in a campsite somewhere with a stunning view.
The road to the border is unexpectedly good, tight and twisty with a bit of deterioration to make the corners even more interesting. The border crossing is simple and painless, apart from a $6 charge for something unspecified. Then it’s a very long, very cold ride to Yellowstone, through the wide open spaces and big skies of Montana.
At Yellowstone. it’s much warmer and I’m starting to enjoy things when I discover that a road is closed by a forest fire. I face a 5 hour detour to get to the hotel I’ve booked. I call the hotel, and minutes later they’ve transferred my booking to a much nicer, much more expensive lodge right next to Old Faithful, at no extra cost. And it’s an hour closer than the original plan. Result!
As I ride round Yellowstone I see lots of wildlife. Big, impressive “megafauna” like Bison, Elk and Moose. But it’s utterly ruined by the lines of tourists with cameras. It’s like being in a zoo, it really spoils the effect of seeing such huge beasts in the wild. With all the people and cars and the perfectly tended road it all feels artificial. It is nothing like seeing animals in the wild. Seeing bears close up on a misty mountain trail, or having eagles swooping over your head in the wilds of Mongolia, or watching a stag cross the road in the middle of Siberia when there is no-one there but you – That’s impressive, that’s exciting, that’s awe-inspiring, that’s truly bone-tingling and unforgettable. Watching a load of retired americans point cameras at a moose in a wildlife park is feeble and pedestrian by comparison. As impressive as Yellowstone is, the user friendly parts are dull. In Mongolia you get the double joy of experiencing nature close up AND riding your bike. In Yellowstone you’d have to get off the bike and trek far into the depths of the park to really feel it, to see something unspoiled and wild.