cycling utah Oct/Nov. 2000
By David R. Ward
Sometimes, everything comes up just right. Such was the case last Saturday as I spent the day with my 11-year-old daughter, Marinda, and several good friends riding from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful as part of the Yellowstone Fall Cycle Tour 2000.
Twenty-five years ago, my wife and I formed a close friendship with Rick and Katherine Wallin. Over the years, we have raised families together, and our children have become good friends as well. We also introduced the Wallins to cross-country skiing, cycling and Island Park, a resort area about 20 miles south of West Yellowstone. Since then, we have shared many great times together in the Yellowstone area.
A couple of years ago, I had participated in the inaugural Yellowstone Spring and Fall Cycle Tours. I had shared with the Wallins how much I enjoyed these two events. So this fall, Rick called me to say that he was interested in riding in the Yellowstone Fall Cycle Tour on October 7. As the event approached, he was joined in his desire by Katherine and some of their children. In the end, it became a real family affair.
I should have realized the gods were smiling on us as we drove to Island Park late Wednesday night, October 4. It was a clear night and, as we ascended the Malad Pass just north of Malad, Idaho, I could see a dome of light radiating up from the horizon. Normally, I associate that with light pollution from an approaching urban area. However, the valley north of the Malad Pass is anything but urban, so I was baffled. Then, shafts of light started shooting up from the horizon, and it dawned on me that I was experiencing the aurora borealis, or northern lights, for the first time in my life.
That may not seem like a big deal, but I had heard of this throughout my life, and had even been in areas where they had been seen, but I had missed them. I was excited, and woke my sleeping wife and daughter to view the sight.
To get back to the story at hand, we arose early Saturday morning and met, with 225 other bicyclists, at the West Yellow-stone Chamber of Commerce. It was clear and cold, about 30 degrees, and I was a little worried that it might be a little too cold. Still, we bundled up and prepared for the 9:00 a.m. start.
I was riding a tandem, with my Marinda, stoking for me. Rick and Katherine had brought five children, Laurissa, Miriam, Spencer, Elizabeth and Kristin, and one grandchild, Grace, along for the ride. Rick was pulling Grace, age 1, and Kristin, age 6, in a trailer. Needless to say, we made quite a train.
As we took off, we soon began to warm up. It was a clear day with a brilliantly blue sky. The full scent of fall was in the air. As we rode the 30 miles into Old Faithful, we were inundated with the natural wonders of Yellowstone Park. Buffalo, geese, ducks, elk, squirrels, chipmunks and a plethora of other wildlife filled the natural flora through which we peddled. The sparkling Madison River flowed alongside and around the legs of fly-casting fisherman. The varied colors of the changing fall foliage mixed with the ever- constant green of growing pines to present a tapestry of color to our eager eyes.
As the day progressed, our train stopped numerous times along the route for rest and refreshment. Marinda alternated with Elizabeth, age 8, on her bike to give Elizabeth's young legs a break and a chance for rest on the back of the tandem. When asked how she liked that, she said it was great. "I just pedal and Dave does all the work." She is a sweet girl, and I was glad to do it.
Finally, after five hours, we reached Old Faithful where the return shuttle waited. Marinda chose to stick with me and ride back on the tandem. Spencer, age 14, Rick (sans trailer and its passengers) and Katherine decided to join us for the ride back. With a smaller, stronger train, and my tandem providing a good draft, we fairly flew back to West Yellowstone. While it warmed up, the temperature topped at about 65-70 degrees, making for a very comfortable return ride.
It was a dazzlingly beautiful day, complete with family, friends and that marvelous machine, the bicycle. It was a day that was refreshing for my body, mind and soul. It was a day of great satisfaction. A day to remember.