Okay, I just read James’ account of this ride, and that is NOT how it went. Allow me to set the record straight.
First off, realize that I am married to a male. As it goes with this particular gender, every so often, James makes choices that might put fun before safety. He’s actually a very intelligent guy, I’ll give him that, but sometimes he flips his internal stupid switch, and I want to wring his neck. This ride was one of those times.
We had the weather on our side, and Theodore Roosevelt National Park was close to deserted. We were camped in the North Unit of the park, and so we got on the bikes and rolled out of the campground. Here’s a shot of the road out of the campground:
It really is a lovely campground.
But then, as we got to the end of the campground, I spotted this sign:
Now, this isn’t our first time to Theodore Roosevelt National Park. We’ve ridden with open range buffalo before. But last time, we were in the South Unit, which is one giant loop. Plus, the last time we visited was August, and the park was hopping with other people and cars, keeping the roads clear from 5000 ton creatures. This time, we were in the North Unit; an out and back road. That means only one way to come back! If the buffalo decide to roost on the road as we’re trying to get back, we’d be trapped.
I shared all these concerns with my husband, the male, and he responded with, “Bah. Come on! It’ll be an adventure!” Whenever I start getting fretful, James calls me “Mildred.” It’s the name of his grandma, whom he adored, but who was so over-the-top nervous about EVERYTHING, the whole family still laughs about her legendary fretting nature. I wasn’t about to give him another opportunity to call me Mildred. I shut up and rode on.
The first 2 miles went without a hitch. The park is beautiful and the roller coaster nature of the roads really is great for biking. But then we ran into this:
Road closed. I already mentioned this was an out-and-back road. It was either head back to the campground with a measly 4 mile ride in for the day, or ride around the barrier and see what was ahead. I was okay with calling it a day at that point. There would be no cars on the closed road keeping the buffalo away, and there’d be no people if anything went wrong and we needed to hitch a ride. Back to that internal stupid switch. As you can see from the picture, Mr. Smarty-pants wanted to keep going. So we did.
At first, I’ll admit, it seemed pretty cool having the road to ourselves. But that was short-lived. Less than a mile from where the road was closed, we ran into this:
The road had been pulled out and some abandoned road construction was under way. We couldn’t tell how far ahead and how long the construction lasted. And here we have yet another moment where sane people would have turned around. But, NOOOO.
Me: Well! I guess that’s that. Let’s head back.
James: Wait! Let me just run up the road and see when the pavement starts again!
If you aren’t familiar with road biking, our tires have about ¼ inch of tread that actually connects with the ground. When not on a smooth surface, it’s almost impossible to stay upright. So there was no way to ride over the dirt road. Also, our shoes have a big 2 inch clip sticking out right under the balls of our feet. Walking in cycling shoes isn’t fun. So, James put his bike up on his shoulder and began traipsing through the dirt. As I waited at the edge of the pavement, I secretly hoped he wouldn’t be able to see the end of the construction, and we could go back. No such luck.
James: I can see where the road starts again! Right around that bend! Come on!
Oh great. But I am no Mildred. Must act excited.
Me: That’s awesome! Be right there!
I hoisted my bike on my shoulder and hobbled through the dirt to catch up with James.
We started biking again on the other side of the construction, and James was in his glory. But we didn’t get many miles down the road – the CLOSED road – when the terror started.
We didn’t see it until it moved. As we were climbing around a bend, there was a buffalo sitting right at the side of the road, right next to us. It was so startled it jumped up and started running aimlessly. For a split second, it was running towards us before it switched gears and headed away. FINE, CALL ME MILDRED, because that moment was the most terrified I think I’ve ever been in my life. I thought he was going to charge us.
This makes about the 5th point where any sane individual would have turned back. But James laughed, and rode on. Meanwhile, I was making sure I hadn’t wet my pants. I followed, mostly because I was dreading having to pass the buffalo again. Now that I had unleashed my inner Mildred, I was in full panic mode.
Me: How are we going to get back?
James laughed like I said something funny and biked on.
When we came upon an entire herd in the road just a few miles past the last buffalo attack, I finally said “ENOUGH”. I turned my bike around, and James knows when he’s been defeated. He turned around, too, and we headed back.
I was shaking as we approached the spot where the buffalo almost killed us. James kept reassuring me, “aww, come on, he’ll be long gone.” But he wasn’t! That oafish beast (the buffalo, not James) was now standing directly in the middle of the road…blocking our path back to the campground.
We stopped and discussed our options. Actually, I hyperventilated while James discussed options. As I listened to James’ “options,” it occurred to me, his kind of options were what gave us the sport of bull-riding.
For the next 5 miles, we played a game of “chicken” with that single buffalo. We’d roll up as close as we dared, I’d pray he wouldn’t charge, and we’d make noise and try to bully him down the road. You’d think he would have turned off the road at some point, but no. He stayed on it, as if he was intentionally messing with us. I was for sure we were going to die. Death by buffalo trampling. Plus I wanted to kill James for getting us in that situation in the first place. So lots of death as the subtext to our ride.
It took us about an hour to go those 5 miles while the buffalo continued its reign of terror. But finally, glory halleluiah, the menacing buffalo made a hard cut right and we were free. This all happened at the top of a hill, and I booked it down the hill so fast because I was sure the buffalo knew a shortcut and would be waiting to gore us at the bottom.
I’m happy to report I beat the buffalo down the hill. I ran full-tilt through the construction, carrying my bike. I set a limbo speed record shimmying back under the “Road Closed” signs. I high-tailed it back to the civilized part of the road, to the campground, and to our RV. As if I needed further proof of the stupid switch, James continued riding past the campground in the other direction, hoping to tempt fate some more. I made him give me the keys, so I could drive the RV into town when they asked me to identify his trampled carcass. Somehow, he survived, and returned an hour later.
I didn’t speak to James the rest of the night. I’m sure Mildred wouldn’t have either.