A short 5 hours after I went to sleep I was packing up and leaving the quiet dark of the hotel parking lot. The gas station was understandably abandoned and I got my receipt and was soon blazing a trail north through the early morning dark. As usual my paranoia levels were high, and so I kept my speed at a suitably judicious rate. I hoped to find a car that I could follow that would act as a buffer between me and any wildlife. Sadly the few vehicles that I did come across were simply moving too slow, and I passed them by. The only wildlife I managed to see before the park was a rather sad affair. There was a dead fox in the highway, and its mate was trying to get it to wake up and move. The living fox ran out of my way as I approached, and I went around the deceased one.
By 5:00 I was working my way through the town at the west entrance and entered the park at 5:03. I had a good cell signal here and managed to discover that Old Faithful was not due for another hour, so I had plenty of time to get to the geyser. Many riders had talked at the start about how difficult Yellowstone was going to be. It was notorious for very slow traffic, long lines at the entrances, and frequent wildlife roadblocks. Well at 5 AM there aren’t even any rangers working the gate! You just drive right in. There were a few cars in front of me, but they were making good pace until we came across a utility truck hauling a spool of wire. As soon as I could I worked around the traffic and had the road to myself.
Wildlife was still sparse in the dawning light. I spied a small herd of pronghorn on a hillside, but they were well away from the road. There was also wolf near the road at one point, but he was more interested in hiding than taking me out through kamikaze attack. Soon I was pulling into the parking lot for Old Faithful. It was abandoned. I found a spot very close to the entrance of the hotel. As I kid I remember there being big countdown clock somewhere inside, so I went to look for it. There was no one about and no clock so I meandered over to the geyser.
Lying among the benches encircling the geyser I noticed the hi-viz yellow that is a favorite amongst the LD rider set. I wasn’t sure if the rider was awake, but as I approached I realized that the rider was just lying there texting on his phone. It was none other than Will Barkley!
Now Will was new to the world of the Iron Butt Rally, but not long distance riding. He had won the Hokka Hey Rally twice. The Hokka Hey does not get a lot of respect from the LD community. While we have nothing against the riders of the event, the event itself is met with derision for several reasons. First it was supposed to have a million dollar winners prize. The Iron Butt Rally has no prize. Just some trophies. A million dollars is a lot of incentive for jackasses and people that shouldn’t have anything to do with long distance riding. It also is notable incentive to cheat. Second, the Hokka is only open to American V-Twin motorcycles; basically Harleys. Third, the original organizer appears to have a somewhat checkered past. It’s widely rumored that Will never really got paid for winning it twice and that there are lawsuits pending.
All I know is that Will is a heck of a rider and can ride the wheels off his Harley. We chatted to pass the time. He’d been there for the previous eruption, but hadn’t been able to get a picture. The Hokka didn’t have bonuses, and picture taking was new to him. I’d done a lot of night time practice on the Big Money Rally, and I knew that the shot would have been tough even with a huge flashlight.
Will had already ridden 3100 miles by this point, compared to my 1600! He was on a strategy to get as many states as possible, so that he’d have 25 by the third leg, and could then go wherever he wanted. I Wished him well on that strategy but worried that his extreme mileage total would not serve him well on leg three.
Old faithful was a few minutes late, but it did finally erupt and Will and I got a few good pictures and were wishing each other well and headed to opposite ends of the parking lot. I was back out on the road and headed north, Will would go west to Oregon.
YELL – Old Faithful
101 Miles Since Rest in St. Anthony Arrived 5:27 Departed 6:05