The ups and downs of cycling through a National Park

I had been looking forward to cycling through Yellowstone ever since I embarked on this adventure. Riding through one of America’s most popular national parks, marveling at it’s natural features, especially the geysers, I imagined it to be an experience like no other.

And it was. However while there was natural beauty on one end of the spectrum there was a source of stress on the other: tourists, in amounts I hadn’t really anticipated. Legions were traveling through the park in rental cars, pickup trucks, SUVs and, most notably, RVs the size of buses. This caused me a good amount of anxiety, especially given that the width of the shoulder on the road was just narrow enough to anticipate some driver not paying attention and hitting an unsuspecting cyclist while looking for bison on the side of the road.

I felt that by traveling through the park on a bicycle, one notices the amount of traffic even more, cars passing within feet of your left shoulder. In a car, you can crank up the a/c, turn up the volume on the stereo, sit back a bit more in your comfortable seat. On a bicycle, especially if it is a heavy touring bike, not so much. Distance needs to be worked for and nuisances like heavy traffic (possibly combined with steep uphills, headwinds and heat) can take the beauty out of the experience quickly and bring you back to reality rather harshly.

Grand Teton had a wider shoulder, which was a relief, however because of the smoke from wildfires burning in Idaho, only the outlines of the mountains in the Teton Range were visible. What are usually picture postcard views were somewhat degraded to a hazy nature scene, leaving the spectator guessing about what lies behind the smoke.

Cycling through both parks was still a quite unique experience, one I would not have wanted to miss on this trip. However there is a voice in my head that wishes that more people would leave their RVs behind, get their fat bottoms out on a bicycle and experience, for once, what life really looks like outside their houses on wheels.

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