This ride was only 20 miles, but it was one of the most awesome experiences I think I’ll ever have on a bicycle.
Stef and I are wrapping up a road trip with a mind-numbing amount of driving – about 5000 miles in two weeks! Since there’s been so much driving, we’ve been rolling in to our destinations pretty late. Couple that with the near constant rain this entire two weeks, and the opportunities for cycling haven’t been that great.
But last night, we rolled into Theodore Roosevelt National Park (North Unit) with plenty of daylight to spare, and not a raindrop in sight. The timing was right for a ride through one of our favorite National Parks, so I prepped the bikes and we got ready. We rolled out to an early evening symphony of frogs. Yes, frogs. There were thousands of them, and it seemed like they were singing us off – except they got really quiet when we approached. We also rolled past a few young bucks as we headed out.
The terrain in this park is a variety of rolling grassland, moderate climbs, treed valleys, and badlands-type overlooks. It can be challenging enough if you really want to hit it, but it’s also mild enough that Stef doesn’t complain too much. In short – it works perfect for us. It looks about like this:
But it gets better. About two miles into our out-and-back route, we came upon some construction that had the road closed to cars. We had to walk the bikes for about a hundred yards, but after that, we had seven awesome miles of road that there was NO CHANCE there could be any cars on. A closed road through a national park has got to be like the holy grail of road cycling – and we had it all to ourselves! As we headed deeper into the park, we spotted a coyote heading off across the hills. Nature awesomeness.
BUT IT GETS EVEN BETTER… A couple miles into our private, closed road, national park ride, we zipped past a buffalo that was napping by the side of the road. These beasts don’t pay any attention at all to cars, but cyclists rolling past are apparently terrifying. It jumped up, and ran away from the road. We had a good laugh about it, and then we were on our way again. There was another herd of buffalo at the turn around point on our “Mutual of Omaha Wild Kingdom Adventure Ride”, and with sundown approaching, we thought it best to head back.
When we got to the point where we had encountered the first buffalo, he was still there – standing in the middle of the road. We couldn’t very well ride through the buffalo, so we yelled and made lots of noise – and the buffalo moved, directly down the road. We rode forward and made some more noise. And the buffalo moved again – directly down the road. We rode forward and made more noise. And the buffalo started galloping down the road. WE WERE HERDING BUFFALO ON BICYCLES!!! Who gets to do that??!! EVER??!!
For two miles we rode on, herding the buffalo down the road. Eventually, the buffalo figured out that if he made a right turn off the road, we’d leave him alone, and that put an end to our buffalo herding. We rode the rest of the way back uneventfully.
The next night, to celebrate our buffalo herding adventure, I ate one of them.
Herding buffalo, by bicycle, in a national park, on a road that you’ve got all to yourself has got to be one of the more unique experiences I’ve ever had. I’m really glad Stef was there to share it with me, and I know she enjoyed it every bit as much as I did.