The days leading up to our departure were a frenzy of preparation. The Sweetzer Cellars brain trust was busy bottling (or planning to bottle) the 2012 Pinots as well as getting the equipment reserved, ordered, and in place for the 2013 harvest, which is going to involve four different varietals from three different vineyards in three distinct AVAs. Crazy Girl – which is how one of my beloved friends has taken to characterizing me – Took on an insane number of tutoring hours, organized a friend’s birthday dinner (in my circle, this is harder than it sounds, unless you’re willing to go the dictator route, which I was), joined team Hell YEAH for the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen (henceforth known as GISHWHES, all while on call for jury duty.

In other words, we were both ferociously busy doing everything EXCEPT preparing to Cycle Greater Yellowstone. Our bikes were long gone, and I’d only gotten in one cycling class at Flywheel since my return from DC, and that was Saturday, exactly a week before our departure.

Despite an exhausting week, we didn’t sleep the night before, kept awake by, “what did I forget?” I was up at 5:45, hell-bent on making sure my kitty hat found its way into my duffel bag, and our bottles and glasses were securely packed.

Decaffeinated, (I ran out of the Atticus House Blend earlier in the week and didn’t want to buy even a half-pound of coffee that would go stale in our absence) we headed to LAX Terminal 7, also known as seventh circle of hell because it means you’re flying United and you’re not in first class (they have a separate terminal for premium passengers). We got to the tiny plane gates without incident. Our plane didn’t have propellers this time, but it was still a gate-check situation for what would normally be carry-on bags.

This might have influenced the domestic partner’s choice of my reading material for the flight. He asked me if a wanted a magazine, and I replied, “Yes, please. The September Issue of Vogue if they have it, The Economist if they don’t.” He returned with The Economist because he felt I didn’t need to be lugging an 800 page magazine around Montana and Wyoming. “But sunshine, that’s what we got tent sherpa for…”

At the Grand Canyon, we noted a plethora of foreigners, and our flight to Bozeman was similarly international. Only 56 seats on the plane, but Australia, Japan, France and Spain were all represented, and that’s just what I could discern from eavesdropping. Who knows what other nationalities lurked on our little plane?

We arrived at 12:45. The 1pm bus to Bozeman hadn’t left yet, but there wasn’t room for us, so we had a few hours to kill before our 4pm bus. My new zombie decided to roam amongst the bears and bobcats:

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Finally, we piled onto our bus and travelled through the pointy hills and pointy trees of the set of A River Runs Through It and then suddenly we came over a hill and on the left was a lake of trees – a valley – and just as swiftly, we descended into it, back on a straight road lined with pines on either side. The big sky was dotted with clouds, just enough to punctuate the endless blue. An hour and a half later, we pulled into West Yellowstone and piled out of our bus. Check-in and dinner were at the Union Pacific Dining Hall, which reminded me of the dining room at the Grand Canyon Hotel (North Rim) if it had great loft windows and no view.

Check-in went smoothly, and when we had to select our Day 2 option, we both opted for 116 miles.

Dinner was delicious and the helpers were all members of the West Yellowstone High School volleyball team, whose t=shirts read, “got served?”

US Forest Service Ranger provided some context for the next day’s ride, and there were speeches from the ride’s organizers.

Then off to camp to check in with tent sherpa, get our bikes assembled and tuck in. Temperatures were predicted to drop to the 40s, so I drifted in and out of sleep, plotting outfits for Day 1.

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