Monday 24 September 2018

Yellowstone Trip Part 8 - Helena, Montana to Pincher Creek, Alberta

After leaving our Super 8 Motel (after an exciting breakfast of egg disks, super gristly bacon, and waffles- I actually just had toast) we headed onto I-15 which was a pretty nice road, considering that it was an Interstate highway. There were a fair number of bugs that squashed themselves on my visor but there were good curves and changing scenery as we motored along the road.

After the interstate, we took 287, which was a smaller highway, and we were blessed with more of the same, wonderful curves and interesting scenery. It was, however, quite windy. At Choteau, we took 89 and, again, enjoyed the road. There was nothing spectacular (which is why I don't have any photos of this part of the ride) but there was good scenery and it was an enjoyable ride. We would have had great scenery but there was a lot of smoke in the distance, obscuring the majestic mountains.

Smoke in the distance on a rural Montana highway
At Browning, we took the 464 diversion , which was an old highway, and then rejoined 89 at Babb. We took that until we hit 17 and saw a corner of Glacier National Park. We had originally planned to go through the park but the smoke looked pretty thick and I had already done that last year - it is much more spectacular when there isn't a bunch of smoke covering up the mountains!

We crossed the border back into Canada at a little border crossing called Chief Mountain. The border guard was OK - not too crabby - and a lot friendlier than the guard on the way down. We also entered into Waterton Lakes National Park and decided to stop.

I rode through Waterton Lakes on my bicycle several years ago but didn't recall going into the actual townsite. This time we did, and it was very nice.

We stopped for a beer at a restaurant and then went for a walk.

We saw a deer unfortunately trapped in an enclosure that was meant to keep it out.  it did not look all that concerned as there was plenty to eat.

We also went onto the dock and had a great view of the lake..

The rest of the day, we headed north on Alberta Highway 6 until we got to Pincher Creek. We were pretty tired by the time we got to the motel. There was a promising restaurant called Luigi's which was recommended but, when Dale saw the cooks outside having a smoke, he nixed it and we ended up having a bland dinner at Boston Pizza. As we walked back to the motel, the smoke was thick in the distance.

But we were home - well, sort of!

Waterton Lakes Prince of Wales Hotel - we did not stay here...

Tuesday 4 September 2018

Yellowstone Trip - Part 7 - West Yellowstone to Helena, Montana - 370 km

Thanks to Dale's internal and external alarm clocks, we got up really, really early this morning. How early? It was so cold that there was a build up of frost on my seat. How cold? It was 2°C. when we carefully made our way to McDonald's for our breakfast.

Fuelled by an Egg McMuffin, we carefully set out for the Prismatic Lake. It was really cold. I mean, really cold. I could swear that there was black ice on the road and we kept pulling over to let cars past because we were going so slow. It was a white knuckled, thigh clenching ride.

We finally arrived at the Prismatic Lake and, surprise, it wasn't packed! That's because it was shrouded in clouds. In fact, we had hit thick fog two or three kilometres from the lake and it was pea soup until we arrived at the parking lot.

We wandered around and then sat for close to an hour as the fog slowly lifted. Unfortunately, even when it had finally lifted, there was still fog coming from the lake as there was such a temperature differential between the water in the lake and the air temperature. We did, however, see a hint of colours in that mist.

When we left, an hour later, the air, and the road, had both warmed up considerably. A biker couple that we met in McDonald's during breakfast suggested going through Bozeman rather than the park - in fact, there were reports of snowfall in one of the passes north of the park!

We took highway 181 which was a bit rough to start. As we approached Big Sky, we say a forest fire, including the helicopters battling it, from the highway.

After Big Sky, the road improved immensely with good twists and turns. This was our favourite part of the day. At Bozeman, we went on Interstate 90 which very windy - as in the wind was trying to blow us off the highway - and the traffic moved rather fast. During one part where there was construction, and there was just one lane each way, a motorhome decided to tailgate me which was frustrating as I had nowhere to go! So rude!

Our route from West Yellowstone to Helena
Finally, we got off the interstate and ended up on the quieter 287 and 12 to Helena.

Near our bed for the night, the lovely Super 8 in Helena (which had the same horrid breakfast the next day), we found a highly rated Mexican restaurant. We were extremely excited! We walked there and, of course, it was closed for renovations. We ended up going to Albertson's and I bought some baked chicken and a bottle of wine and ended back at the room watching 'Man vs Food' (Food won everytime!).

Tuesday 28 August 2018

Yellowstone Trip Part 6 - Touring Yellowstone Day - 250 km

Smokin' Steps at Mammoth Hot Springs
Even when we stay in one place, we move around!

Today was our 'staying in Yellowstone day'. We decided to take advantage of this wonderful park and spend the day riding and walking around the park.

We got up early as there was lots to see. It was a very chilly 4°C. to start with but, after a quick breakfast at McDonalds, it had warmed up to a balmy 6°C.

The main road in Yellowstone makes a figure '8'. Yesterday, we had done the lower left part of the 8. We decided to start off with the top of the 8 and go to the bottom right part if we had time.

As we headed up the left side of the '8', we encountered construction. The road was, just like in Grand Teton, basically a gravel/dirt/super bumpy road - this time for around 5 miles. It was torturous! We kept thinking it was going to be over with the next corner and then it continued on again.

Once we got past the construction, however, the sightseeing opened up. And it was beautiful! The temperature was a tad warmer and the road was an interesting one to ride.

There were waterfalls and hills covered in white bacteria that almost looked snowy.

When we arrived at Mammoth Spring, there was an excellent network of stairs and platforms so you could see all of the terraces with different springs and features.

According to my friend, Siri, I went the equivalent of 19 floors up and down! The only thing was, due to the high elevation, I was a bit breathless at times going up the stairs.

As we continued onto the right side of the figure '8', we went by a mini Grand Canyon as well as some big waterfalls. We were starting to head down the lower part of the '8' when the weather started to turn. We decided to beat a hasty retreat and find shelter. Five minutes into our return trip, the skies opened up and fork lightning filled the sky.

We headed back to the intersection of the '8' where there was a gas station and, after abandoning our bikes in the parking lot, we joined several other bikers huddling under the gas station canopy. We both had rain gear but Dale, unfortunately, left his in the hotel room!

While at the gas station, an older guy with a Harley had parked his bike under cover, partially blocking one lane for the pumps. He seemed oblivious to the trucks trying to squeeze by his bike, wanting to fill up. However, the worst part was when, in this gas fume filled environment, he lit up a cigarette! Dale and I decided to put the ice freezer between us and him, not that it would have helped if the gas station had become a fireball!

After about an hour, the storm receded and we made our way back to West Yellowstone. My weather app warned of more unsettled events so we decided to hang around the town - which was, by now, sunny and almost hot.

A West Yellowstone Bison
We spent the rest of the day wandering around West Yellowstone. We met a few bikers on their way to Sturgis which was about to happen, including a couple from Saskatchewan who had attached a home-made trailer to their bike which included a spot for their cooler full of beer!

In our wanderings we saw several interesting things including the town museum, a store that allowed customers with open carry handguns, a pawn shop selling guns, and a place where you could shoot a variety of weapons, including machine guns.

After an enjoyable cup of coffee outside and, later, another McDonald's dinner, we retired to our less than sumptuous accommodations in anticipation of leaving Yellowstone the next day.

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Yellowstone Ride Part 5 - Idaho Falls to West Yellowstone - 350 km

View from the rest stop on Highway 26
We started off with what we would soon find out was a typical Super 8 Motel breakfast. There were a variety of items but we would go for the English muffin (toasted, of course), a strange yellowish disc of egg or egg-like substance, sausages - either a greasy, gristly sausage disc or actual sausages, and a piece of super-processed cheese. This way, we could make fake Egg McMuffins which paled in comparison to what McDonald's had to offer - but breakfast was included!

Highway 26 view.

Highway 26 (ala Swan Valley Highway) had some great views!
We took secondary highways as much as we could. First we were on Highway 26 which was good and  featured one of the best highway washrooms (restrooms) that we saw on the trip.

Day 5 route
Next was highway 32. This was a great highway and we really enjoyed the scenery. Unfortunately we didn't think to take any photos in that part.

Not to be outdone, highway 22 was absolutely fantastic - scenic and twisty all the way to Wyoming! I'm not exactly sure when we entered Wyoming, but the photo above, taken just outside of Wilson, is in Wyoming.

After we paid for our pass (annual pass for two - good for all National Parks - $80), the guy at the booth told us that there was some road work for 'a ways'. After a km or so, we then rode along mile after mile of basically dirt and gravel road! It was not a pleasant experience!

Grand Teton National Park (outside Moose, Wy)
We had gone to Idaho Falls the previous day so we could just head east into Wyoming .Our plan was to go up through Grand Teton Park, which we did, and then work our way towards West Yellowstone.

Wyoming selfie.

This was definitely a scenery ride - we didn't really stop a lot. It was also very hot.  And, thus, we considered, yet again, our second questionable decision. We decided, after a brief consult, to actually ride, for the first time in our lives, without helmets!

Off goes the Schulberth German helmet, on goes the Cabela's hat.

Dave makes yet another questionable decision
I guess we went maximum 50 kmh on the road for about 25 minutes and felt guilty the whole time. It was kind of nice to have that coolness on my head but I was very leery of what would happen if I had an accident. To paraphrase Dale, we made a pact that if one of us fell off the bike and became a vegetable, the other had to look after him because our wives would never forgive us for going helmetless.

Jenny Lake
We did one little walk around Jenny Lake. It was a very pretty lake and the walk around it was greatly appreciated by our stiff joints.

Grand Teton panorama
The thing with Grand Teton is, like the Canadian parks in the Rockies, it ran right into Yellowstone. Our pass, of course, was good for it as well so we continued to motor on in what was becoming a very busy day!

Such beautiful scenes! And wonderful nature!

I stopped (and lost Dale for about 20 minutes) when I decided to take a photo of the Continental Divide. Fret not! If you miss this one, the highway crosses the continental divide at least two more times!

Crazy busy parking lot at Old Faithful

We finally worked our way to where all the crowds were, Old Faithful.

You need to realize that I have never been to Old Faithful before. Dale said it was no big deal but I still wanted to see it. And for me, it was a big deal!

I was impressed by how high the geyser went and the predictability of it. And I was also impressed that people didn't rush at it and try to do something stupid. 

Speaking of stupid, while riding along the road, there were a bunch of cars pulled over. I asked what was going on to a woman who was standing with one kid in her arms and another holding her hand. She answered back "It's a bear and two cubs!" and proceeded to walk towards the forest, kids in tow. Unbelievable!

Our final treat that the park had to offer was a bison on the side of the road.  I was ready to roar up on the opposite lane but there was no need. He (?) just walked along the side of the road and didn't give me or the other cars in front of me much attention at all. 


We ended up in a old motel in West Yellowstone and we were exhausted! Luckily, there was a McDonalds' so we went for a simple burger meal, watched a little TV in the room, and slept soundly, in anticipation of our next day which was to be a park day.