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. 

Sunday 19 August 2018

Yellowstone Ride Part 4 - Missoula, Montana to Idaho Falls, Idaho - 550 km

The road to Wisdom.

For those who are not aware of US geography, the state of Idaho is skinny at the top (it's called the panhandle) near Canada and gets wider as it goes south. As a result, we ended up go in and out of it during the trip.

The route from Missoula to Idaho Falls

Day four was a big day in terms of kilometerage (is that a word?) or mileage as we did well over 500km.  What better way to start at the day then a substantial breakfast? Well, the hotel had Costco muffins, cut in half, for breakfast and coffee with whitener. Not the best.

I don't know if it's an American thing or just a cheap American motel thing but every motel we went to did not have cream - they had whitener - you know, that Coffee Mate stuff that my parents thought was cool because astronauts could take it to the moon. I don[t know anyone that uses it except for, possibly, camping.  Luckily, most of the motels had cereal as well so I just used the cereal milk (which I think I got funny looks for doing!).

Anyway, after having our exciting half muffin (Dale had three halves), we got on highway 93 which was a good highway. It just got better as we gained elevation with really nice scenery. Unfortunately, it had twisty, edgy roads that were an absolute blast to ride but without any pullouts to take photos.

At the top of the elevation gain, there was a rest stop where we had a break. We spoke to a couple of locals and asked them the best route to Idaho Falls, They told us to take Highway 43 to Wisdom and then 278 down to Dillon where we would finally get the Interstate to Idaho Falls.

Folk art in Wisdom

Coffee stop in Wisdom
Highway 43 was another excellent route and we stopped in Wisdom for a coffee. The woman behind the counter of the coffee/gift/hunting shop was really nice. Her Dad had returned to his childhood town of Wisdom and, after she had gone t culinary school, decided to support her family for a couple of years while they got their business off the ground. I really enjoy how you hear different people's stories on trips like this.

Highway 278 t the Interstate was also a picturesque highway - highly recommended.

Just outside of Dillon
But then we got to the Interstate. It was windy - not just a bit breezy but super gusty - like trying to throw you off your bike gusty! All the way to Idaho Falls there were strong gusts. In one particularly nasty moment, we were in a construction zone and a motor home was behind me in a single lane. He was going close 0t 100 mph (160 kmh) and riding my butt in a 65 mph (100 kmh) zone. I had no where to go and the wind was constantly trying to shove me off of my bike!
Eerie evening in Idaho Falls
Eventually, we were blown into Idaho Falls and our motel.

We asked what was good to eat around the motel and were told that it was prime rib at the local bar. We ordered it and it came in about 10 minutes - not a particularly good sign for fine dining. It was quite chewy and required a fair bit of salt to make it palatable, but the baked potato was nice.

After the high of great scenery and riding and the low of the big blasting gusts of wind, we were pretty tired and, after a quiet beer, I fell into a dreamless sleep.

Saturday 18 August 2018

Yellowstone Ride - Day 3 - Spokane, Washington to Missoula, Montana - 350 km

The sun beaming on Wallace, Idaho.
After an OK breakfast in Spokane, we packed our stuff, checked out and headed up the road.

Today was a three state day - Washington to Idaho to Montana. There were a few different ways to go but we decided to take I-90 because we wanted to visit Wallace, Idaho. Luckily, the first half hour or so was on a secondary highway which was mostly pleasant although it was quite bumpy.

Taking the Interstate is always a difficult choice. The Interstate highways are meant to move people quickly and efficiently and are great if you are in a hurry or if you are in a car. They are the opposite of what you want to be on if you are on two wheels. Unfortunately, the only way to Wallace was on I-90 so we had no other choice.

Wallace has a long and chequered past and we were eager to explore this pioneer town. This excerpt whey our appetite for an interesting Western town:

"A mining community with a "work hard, play hard" attitude, Wallace became well-known for a permissive approach toward drinking, gambling and decriminalized prostitution. From 1884-1991, illegal yet regulated brothel-based sex work openly flourished because locals believed that sex work prevented rape and bolstered the economy, so long as it was regulated and confined to the northeastern part of town. Between 1940 and 1960, for example, an average of 30 to 60 women came into town to work in one of the five well-established brothels. The town currently continues to honor these historic roots, with its Oasis museum dedicated to the history of sex work: housed in a former brothel, curious tourists or nostalgic former patrons can tour the upstairs, which has been preserved as it was when the women left."

However, when we got there, instead of seeing something like Barkerville or Winthrop, it seemed more like a town that had assembled buildings to look like a pioneer town. I'm not saying this is what actually happened, but it did have that feeling. 

Perhaps we were there too early in the day but it didn't have that feeling of notoriety that we were expecting. Still, it was a welcome escape and we did have a good coffee on the main drag.  

Dale ponders another questionable decision

It was shortly after having Wallace that we began to notice all of the other motorcycle riders without any helmets. It was another smoking hot day and we were sorely tempted to join them but allowed our law abiding nature to take the high road. 

We arrived in Montana to the Brooks Street Motor Inn which was a rather old, slightly dilapidated motel but was actually located near some good places. It was also clean and it was cheap.

Our first stop was  Great Burn  Brewing where we were able to get a nice shady table outside.  I tried a flight and then followed that with two Rum Infused beers which definitely put me in a great mood. It was an amazing craft brewery and we really enjoyed our time there. 

After our beers, we stumbled over to Fiesta en Jalisco for an amazing Mexican food meal.  I had an asada burrito which was perfect. I find it is always quite hit and miss to find good Mexican food in Canada but is much more reliable in the US.

After that, we ended up in Cabela's so I could purchase a 'Cabela's Missoula, Montana' baseball hat and then went back to the room. 

Despite thundering down the Interstate, I ended up having a good end to the day and slept very well.