The sign read Road Closed.
It was just one more of the many hurdles met with moments of breakthroughs and solace along the road to First Annual Fatbike Summit held in West Yellowstone on January 19th, 2012. The physical journey to get to the Teton Valley in the van where we were now waiting had started a rather long 24 hours ago.
I had a feeling when I boarded the plane in Minneapolis that the flight to Jackson Hole might be cancelled. After a long lunch, involving some local Wasatch brews while waiting at the airport, I checked the monitors and sure enough "CANCELLED," in big, bright, red letters. Gary Sjoquist (Bicycle Advocacy Director for Quality Bicycle Products) and I began making plans. I had passes for the Outdoor Retailer show lined up to make the best of the situation, when Gary suggested we contact QBP Sales Representative Dyan Gill. She had been planning on the drive up for the summit and said something to the effect of "I will pick you up in 30 minutes". Lifesaver!
After 4-1/2 hours in Dyan's full-size truck we arrived in Victor, Idaho at Wildlife Brewpub. Scott Fitzgerald and Jay Petervary, from Fitzgerald's bike shop in Victor, were there to greet us. They were a great welcoming party to the beautiful Teton Valley. We unwound over beer and pizza. Dyan deserved it. She'd spent the whole time driving through wind and sloppy wet snow, hydroplaning over a mountain pass in sometimes whiteout conditions. But we had been gifted with the incredible sighting of a mountain lion while stuck on the road at one point.
Our good luck continued as Andy Williams from Grand Targhee Resort had set us up with rooms for the night. Thanks Andy! Dyan piloted the truck for another 40 minutes of tough driving to reach the resort and our soft, comfortable pillows for a great night's sleep after 16 hours of travel for the day.
Morning broke with a soft snowfall and 6-12" of fresh snow. Perfect if we were to be staying on the hill and skiing all day, not so much for a 2.5 hour drive to West Yellowstone. In Driggs, we found Pendl's Bakery and Cafe, another moment of solace. Good coffee and excellent pastries always make me happy when traveling. My best work trips, vacations, and rides can all be summed up with "remember the pastries and coffee at that place?" Scott and Jay met us and we loaded a borrowed 15-passenger 4x4 Ford Econoline with eight fatbikes, five passengers, and full travel mugs of coffee and continued down the road. In Tetonia we picked up Andy, drove a few miles north and then sat at a Road Closed sign, waiting.
Scott Fitzgerald summed it up best, "We just keep taking the next step and eventually this thing will happen." While we were stuck at the airport, he had encouraged Gary to get us to Teton Valley. When he started getting e-mails and calls from our host in West Yellowstone and those planning to attend the summit, Scott kept encouraging them to get there. There we were, sitting in the van with no known idea of when the gate was going to be lifted and Scott was still advocating for the event, his event, to happen. He and Jay are crazy about fatbikes. Everyone in the van was also crazy about fatbikes. So, for the entire 1.5 hours we sat there, and the next 2 to West Yellowstone we geeked out about fatbikes. In fact for the next three days, we geeked out, about fatbikes.
In West Yellowstone, we were greeted by16 excited attendees for the First Annual Fatbike Summit. While attendance was down because of the weather and travel funding restrictions, these individuals made it a point to come and represent state parks, national forest, and recreation areas in Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho. Sure, we had hoped for more attendees, but 25-50" of snow kept folks rightfully grounded. After our trip there, we were pleased that those in attendance felt it important enough to make the effort.
For two hours we presented information and fatbike experiences, taking time for questions and discussion about fatbike use on Nordic ski, snowshoe, and snowmachine trails. We gave examples of successful use cases and pilot programs, such as the one Andy Williams is running at Grand Targhee Resort with seemingly great success, and the Teton County MOU agreement that Fitzgerald and his staff have negotiated on Teton County Snow Machine trails. It seemed that everyone in the audience was engaged and open to the idea of fatbikes. Our goal was to have an open dialogue, understand concerns, and ultimately get decision makers to consider fatbikes for future plans in the parks and forests they are responsible for. At the end of the presentation and discussion we put anyone who wanted to try a fatbike onto one, and watched each of them come back with a smile on their face.
Just as fast as we had arrived to West Yellowstone it seemed we were packing up and hightailing it back to Victor. The entire drive back was rife with conversation about how we could improve the presentation.
TO BE CONTINUED...PART 2 OF 3 THIS FRIDAY