Today was a planned off-day, since we didn’t know if our legs would still respond to brain signals after yesterday’s 20-mile hike. Surprisingly we were able to emerge from the tent without the aid of any cranes or forklifts, but we certainly weren’t ready to go on a 72-mile bike ride or anything like that. That’s what we need to do tomorrow. Wait, what? A record-distance bike ride two days after a record-distance hike? With a 3000-foot climb over the Continental Divide in the middle? Hmm, maybe we should take another off-day. Especially because we would have much more favorable winds than if we were to move on tomorrow.
Another reason for today to be an off-day was that Rett had a video call appointment. The cellular service at the campground wasn’t as good as I’d been expecting (getting any data in and out was pretty much a crapshoot, and didn’t seem to be tied to time-of-day like in the other parks), but during our various rides I’d been tracking the connection as we rode, and I found the spot near yesterday’s trailhead to be consistently solid across multiple days (and it’s near the Jenny Lake Lodge; coincidence?) So we rode back up there in the afternoon, got Rett set up in a clump of trees off the parking area, and found that we could get an insanely fast 200Mbps down/12Mbps up with my Verizon signal. I’ve never seen a signal change from being nearly unusable to being, well, unusable-in-a-good-way (how could anyone possibly use more than a fraction of that huge pipe?) in such a short distance. I went off a ways and since Rett was using both of our phones, I set up my chair right next to the trail and worked on some sewing projects, specifically mending the insulating neoprene sleeves on our coffee mugs. I definitely got interesting looks from people going by on the trail, but that’s the difference between “going on a trip” and living our lives out here.
Tonight we put together a Greek salad dinner from our produce carried from Colter Bay. And had a couple of familiar faces join us in the hiker/biker area: Claude and Sylvie, the charming white-haired French couple we had met at Madison in Yellowstone were here! We had actually expected to see them at Grant, two days after our Madison night together, but that was the day that it rained for 24 hours straight, so even if they had turned up at Grant we sure as hell didn’t go looking (and it turns out, no, they wisely were able to take other shelter that day). So making up for the missed visit here was perfect!
With nothing to do today but enjoy our enviable campsite, you’d think we could let the warm glow of the sun reflecting off the mountains wake us up. But no; while the mountains may have been glowing when the alarm woke us up, it wasn’t yet a warm glow since it was only 45°F. But because this was an “extra”, unplanned day, we didn’t have any breakfast food to spare so we needed to get to the Jenny Lake General Store by its 7am opening to ensure we got one of their hot fresh-made breakfast sandwiches before they sold out.
Claude and Sylvie came over to say a nice goodbye, telling us that there is a saying in French that roughly translates to “when there’s two, there’s three”. In this case they meant that we had now seen each other twice in two different places, so even though we had no expectations from this point, they were confident that we would run into each other a third time, even if that is two years from now and halfway around the globe. They didn’t even know what precedents we already have for such things!
When I walked up to the registration office to take care of our final unplanned night, I was briefly confused because Rett was suddenly there too, and all suited up for a bike ride. Huh? No, that girl isn’t Rett, she is just wearing the same multi-colored Da Brim sun-shade around her helmet! And the helmet itself is nearly the same color too. I’ve never seen that particular Da Brim anywhere besides Rett’s head, so it’s become a rather iconic thing I assumed was exclusive to her, like Michael Jackson’s crystal glove or Steve Jobs’s black turtleneck. I’d also never seen one of any color on a person younger than 55 (besides Rett), but Karrie is even younger than Rett, just similarly conscientious about sun protection. In addition to the two of them bonding over skin-care routines, we were also able to immediately bond over annoyance at car-campers stealing hiker/biker sites in Glacier!
When Karrie (37) and her dad Fred (76) settled in near us (their early arrival explained by the fact that they had spent last night in a regular campsite at Jenny Lake, not knowing that there were hiker/biker sites here when they made the reservation), we quickly learned their way-awesomer-than-us story: they are doing a west-to-east cross-country ride, though a bit more choose-your-own-adventure than the people who just pick a cross-country Adventure Cycling route and stick with it (e.g., like us, they had been to both Glacier (even doing Going to the Sun Road “backwards” like we did!) and now the Tetons, which are on the Northern Tier route and the TransAmerica routes, respectively).
There isn’t really a “mold” that forms the people who do this sort of thing, but Karrie and Fred would not fit it even if there was one. They’re both first-time long-distance bike tourers, but in some ways it’s new to neither of them: Fred has been dreaming of doing a cross-country ride for decades (after learning about bike touring from young students of his), and Karrie has done an epic amount of country-crossing travel, but on her feet, with through-hikes of the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails (among others) under her belt.
Fred bought his bike and gear years ago with this trip in mind as his post-retirement adventure, but for various reasons was never able to get his dream off the shelf in Pennsylvania and out onto the road. There it sat, literally and figuratively collecting dust. Karrie, living in Arizona, was leaving her job. So she called up Fred: “hey dad…do you still want to do that bike ride across the country?”
Oof. When Kevin Costner says “hey dad…do you want to have a catch?” at the end of ‘Fields of Dreams’, it never fails to send tears streaming down my face. And while tossing a baseball back and forth in an Iowa cornfield with Dad will generate lasting emotional memories, crossing the entire country together on bicycles multiplies that by a thousand.
They’ve been out here for well over 1000 miles already, succeeding not just at this new-and-challenging biking thing, but succeeding as a pair and learning about each other as adults in ways that most children and parents never get an opportunity to do. We’re sure glad we met them and shared the campsite together!