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Old 10-03-2012, 07:40 AM   #1
Mr_Gone OP
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Location: Mountain Home, AR
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Black Canyon, Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Badlands

By the numbers:

3,670 miles — total trip distance traveled.
560 miles — longest day.
97 degrees — high temperature.
28 degrees — low temperature.
76.5 gallons of fuel.
47.8 mpg.
10 states.
4 National Parks visited.
1 close call.
0 performance awards.

This ride report is being posted a couple weeks after my trip, simply because I like to be very disconnected on my motorcycle trips. I don’t take my laptop with me. I don’t check email. I don’t answer my phone, and I listen to voicemails at the end of the day. When I’m on vacation, I am gone. Vacation = me, riding. That’s it.

And it’s my first ride report for a long trip, so hopefully I can meet the high standards set by the inmates of this fine asylum. I will try to include a lot of photos. And I’m a professional writer, so the RR is long and detailed because I love to hear myself type.

Beginning mileage:




The Bike, not yet packed:





Day 1 — Thursday, 30 August 2012
Mountain Home, AR to Wichita, KS






My vacation plans have been changed by the weather, and I am leaving early because of rain. The remnants of Hurricane Isaac are taking aim at Arkansas and threatening thunderstorms, high winds, and torrential rains. So I am rolling out a day early in the hope of avoiding the worst of the storm. The storm is moving north very slowly — somewhere around 10 miles per hour, according to The Weather Channel— so I don’t have to race out of town like a banshee, but I do have to leave earlier than planned.

Leaving early isn’t a big deal because my work schedule is flexible, plus I’m already packed except for tossing my wallet and cell phone into the Givi E360 topcase. The bike is a 2006 Yamaha FJR1300 I’ve had for just over two months, and she’s already fueled up. Air pressure checked. Maintenance on the bike was performed 1,000 miles ago, and I checked everything again last night. I have cash, a mental road map, and a pretty good itinerary that’s just getting shifted one day forward. My only *real* complaint about moving my plans forward is that I’ll be hitting Yellowstone on Labor Day, instead of the day after, which means I’ll probably have to endure larger crowds. But leaving one day early also provides an excuse to spend another day in Yellowstone, if I want to.

So I am ready to go.

The storm seems to be moving northward slowly (as I track its progress on radar), so I am not rushed, but all day at work I can feel myself getting more and more excited. I want to hit the road. I want to begin.

By 3 p.m. the winds are gusting up to 25 mph, according to the weather station. Not bad. The darker clouds are just starting to roll in, but there is still a lot of blue sky. The rain is less than fifty miles to the south and moving closer, and, as predicted by the weather forecasters, some thunderstorms are popping up ahead of the actual storm. It’s going to be close. I might or might not beat the storm out of town.

By 4 p.m. the blue sky has been invaded by dark clouds, and the wind gusts are in excess of 30 mph. The front edge of the storm looks to be about thirty or forty miles south. I find myself tapping my foot and drumming my fingers at work. I am anxious and excited. And impatient.

Five o’clock and I’m out of the office.

After making arrangements for my pets, during which it rains for approximately five minutes and then stops, I’m rolling out of town on the FJR under dark skies. But it’s not raining. I should quickly be out of the storm’s path by traveling an hour west and then an hour north to Springfield, Missouri. After that, I’m traveling toward Wichita, Kansas, where I plan to stop unless the storm veers northwest (which is unlikely, according to the weather-guessers on The Weather Channel). If chased by the storm, I’ll just keep riding through the night.


Winds are very gusty ahead of the storm, but the temps are in the low-90s so it’s comfortable as long as I’m moving. The bike feels pretty nimble even with the FJR’s sidecases and Givi topcase packed.

All in all, I’ve packed pretty light. The bulkiest items are jacket and pants liners, and a bike cover. The heaviest item is the tool kit. I could do without the bike cover, of course, but I like covering my bike at night, for a couple reasons. First, out of sight, out of mind, and I hope it’s a deterrent—if people can’t see the bike, maybe they won’t mess with it. I’m not sure if this is a valid belief or not. Second, the cover provides some protection from the weather if I can’t park under cover and it rains, hails, or snows. Plus, I don’t have to wipe dew off the seat every morning. Everything else I’ve packed into the sidecases is pretty basic stuff: boxers, socks, jeans, a couple base layer shirts, one pair of shoes, and toiletries kit. Electronics are in a Ziploc bag. The Givi topcase holds my tool kit, rainsuit, and three pairs of gloves (summer mesh, waterproof, cold weather). I’ll be hitting temps from the high 90s down to the freezing mark on this trip, so I’m taking all my gloves. I’m a glove whore.

I stop in Springfield, Missouri, to eat, then ride on. The rain is still south of me, and from the looks of the radar it will stay far enough south that I don’t really need to worry about it.

I stop again in Carthage, MO, for fuel, and to ask directions because the MO-96 bridge is closed. After getting some directions and drinking a Mountain Dew, I navigate through town back to the highway, and soon I cross into Kansas. It’s dark by now, so I don’t stop for a photo of the Kansas state sign. Along the road, I see two deer giving me kamikaze stares from the side of the road. But they remain in the ditch, and I continue on to US-400.

I stop at a gas station in Fredonia for a drink to stay hydrated, to stretch and loosen up my muscles, and I talk to the Fredonia city cop and the Wilson County Sheriff for a few minutes. They’re both pretty nice gentlemen. As I’m getting back on the bike to continue on down the road, the Sheriff walks out to his truck and points to my bike, and says, “You’re riding that… tonight?”

I nod.

“Man, that’s crazy… all the deer… that’s crazy,” he says.

I shrug. I finish my energy drink and ride on.

Somewhere on US-400, I am dive-bombed by a huge bird and I duck instinctively. I believe it was a pterodactyl. Or a condor. Maybe a bat, or an owl. It misses my helmet by six inches. The aerial monster was huge, I tell you! Huge!!! That jolt of adrenaline kept me awake all the way to Wichita.

I hit Wichita around 1 a.m. The temperature is 78 degrees. I check into a hotel, unload the FJR, stretch the bike cover over it, and I’m asleep within minutes.

~350 miles today.
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Old 10-03-2012, 07:45 AM   #2
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Old 10-03-2012, 08:04 AM   #3
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Day 2 - Wichita to Pueblo, CO

Day 2 — Friday, 31 August 2012
Wichita, KS to Pueblo, CO



I sleep later than planned, but that’s okay: today is just a travel day. It’s 72 degrees as I load up the bike. In the parking lot, I meet three guys on Gold Wings. We talk bikes and routes for a several minutes. They are heading to Dodge City and following the Pony Express Trail, then heading back home to Kentucky. We wish one another safe travels, then I have breakfast at the hotel before loading up the bike.

Packed and ready to roll.


I roll out of town around 9 a.m. The Etymotic MC-5 earbuds are incredible, and music is great on the bike. The Etymotics are noise-reduction earbuds (they use spongy foam inserts similar to regular ear plugs—very clever, I think) and severely cut the wind noise. In fact, they reduce sound better than the foam ear plugs rated for 33 dB reduction I typically use for shooting and riding, which I buy in bulk, something like 200 pairs for $35. Music comes from my Casio Commando phone (waterproof, dustproof, shockproof) and the WinAmp Pro app with 1,200 songs set on random play.

I’m averaging 49 miles per gallon so far, based on fuel and miles traveled, not the bike’s readout.

A few miles east of Dodge City, KS, I find a completely empty stretch of flat, straight road, and it’s time to find out how fast the FJR will go. No traffic ahead of me. No traffic behind me. No intersections. No LEOs lurking on the side of the road. I have a straight, clear shot. So why do it? Why climb Everest? Just to do it. So I twist the throttle and the torque just propels the FJR down the road. The speedometer hit somewhere around 157-158 mph but GPS on my phone indicated 150 mph. I’d say the GPS is probably more accurate, so my official high speed claim is 150 mph. The FJR felt rock solid and smooth at speed. I’ve been told that the FJR is capable for a few more mph, but 150 is probably twice the speed I’ll ever need. It was a fun few minutes. So I can check that off my list, and I won’t have to do it again.

I fuel up in Dodge City and keep rolling. The bike indicates 52.5 mpg, which is only slightly optimistic when I calculate my actual fuel mileage. Kansas is flat and boring. The roads seem designed by rulers on a map. Are curves legal here? I see only one State Trooper going east as I travel west.

I finally leave Kansas and hit Colorado, and roll into Pueblo late in the afternoon. The State Fair is happening in Pueblo this weekend, I think, and I strike out at the first two hotels I stop at, inquiring about rooms. Of course, with the State Fair going on I realize hotel prices are going to be jacked higher, but I quickly find a nice hotel with a vacancy at a reasonable price, and I check in. Dinner is pizza (Domino’s or Papa John’s… I don’t remember) and Mountain Dew while I watch pre-season football.

The high temp was 95 degrees today, according to several bank signs, and also the bike’s temp readout. After my first long day on the bike, my thumb is not numb, and the new Kuryakyn ISO grips and bar end weights seem to be working!

More photos tomorrow.

~425 miles today.
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Old 10-03-2012, 08:07 AM   #4
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Day 3 - Pueblo to Grand Junction, CO

Day 3 — Saturday, 1 September 2012
Pueblo, CO to Grand Junction, CO



I wake up at 6 a.m. to 57 degree temperatures. I eat breakfast at the hotel. I pack the bike and I’m on the road by 7 a.m. I take US-50 west out of Pueblo, and once I’m out of the city I catch my first sight of the Rocky Mountains to the west. I stop on the side of the highway on a rise and take a few photos.

I roll through Canon City and my next stop is Royal Gorge, shortly after they’ve opened. I park the FJR and walk up to the gate. I’m the only person there, except for two rangers. One of the rangers explains the entrance fee and says, if I want, I can ride my bike out onto the bridge and take photos. Well, hell yes, I do! I don’t really believe I’m getting special treatment, I think they do this for bikers on a regular basis, but it’s a pleasant surprise. So I pay my fee and walk back to the bike, gear up, and ride through the tourist attractions down to the bridge. I take a few photos and cross the bridge. Royal Gorge is breathtaking. I gotta admit I was holding on the bike with a white-knuckle death grip as I rode across the wooden planks of the narrow bridge over the gorge. I’m not paralyzed with fear by great heights, but I ain’t exactly comfortable riding 1,000 feet above the gorge on wooden planks. Wooden freaking planks! On the opposite side of the gorge is a small zoo with donkeys, elk, and bison. There’s even a rare white bison. I take more photos, then ride back across the bridge. I am still the only person there at the park, until a small group of bikers pulls into the parking lot. I give everyone a wave and ride out.

Royal Gorge.














I leave Royal Gorge and aim west on US-50, which is a terrific road! Great tarmac, great curves, great sightlines, minimal traffic, lots of passing opportunities. I’m riding faster than I should, but not recklessly (say, 65-70 mph most of the time), but this is so much fun.

A few miles from Royal Gorge, at the bottom of a hill, is a 30-mph, left hand, decreasing radius turn. If you’re not ready for it, it can bite you, I suppose. I didn’t find the turn to be a widowmaker, but at the apex is a white cross with the words “Harley-Davidson.” Apparently HD riders crash frequently enough on this turn that someone erected a cross to memorialize their foolish overconfidence. [Okay, if it sounds like I’m Harley-bashing here, maybe I am… a little. Harleys are not known for their high-performance cornering capabilities. I do want to say that, categorically, the Harley-Davidson riders I met on my trips were the nicest guys & gals I met. Period. And Harley riders waved back more often than any other type of rider, also. That’s just my experience. Your results may vary.]

US-50 is great, and the land is rising towards the Continental Divide and Monarch Pass. Finally I reach Monarch Pass, at 11,312 feet, so I pull over and park right in front of the Monarch Pass – Continental Divide sign. I take a few photos of my bike in front of the sign, then walk around and take a few more photos. The air is clean and crisp. There are probably forty vehicles in the parking lot there, but there aren’t near that many people walking around. Maybe they’ve all taken off on hikes, or bicycles. There’s some sort of visitor center there, or maybe a gift shop — I don’t know; I don’t go inside. Maybe everyone is inside there.

Monarch Pass.






As I’m about to leave, I am asked by a couple to take their photo in front of the Monarch Pass sign, and I oblige. Then I hit the highway again.

Twenty miles from Gunnison, CO, you enter the Gunnison National Forest. And there are no trees! I find that funny. I’m sure there are trees somewhere.

Eventually… trees!

I roll into Gunnison and see that I’m at 7,700 feet. I find a Subway for lunch, and spend some time pondering the fact that the Gunnison Jeep dealer must be a very, very wealthy person. Maybe half the vehicles I saw were Jeeps. There’s a different vibe here, for a small town, that’s different from the small town vibe I’m accustomed to in Arkansas. I can’t figure it out. It’s a pleasant, friendly, relaxed vibe, but… different. Maybe it’s a Western thing.

After eating, I find Western State Colorado University and take some photos for my father, since he went to college there. I wonder how much of the campus he’ll recognize. After all, it’s been more than 50 years since he was there, plus there seems to be a lot of construction going on, either adding or remodeling buildings. I walk around the campus, take photos, and ride around and take photos. Then I’m back on US-50, west out of Gunnison.

I parallel Mesa Lake and some clouds drift up from the southwest, and I am hit by 23 raindrops. That’s not an estimate. I counted them. Twenty-three. But I avoided the rainstorm and stopped at the Blue Mesa Dam for a few photos, trying to capture the darkness of the clouds.

Mesa Lake.




It is with regret that I am just now realizing the limitations of my digital camera. Maybe one photo in ten is good. The other 90% are average. Not bad, per se, just average. It does not take “great” photos. It’s an older digital camera, at least 6-7 years old, and only 5 megapixels, so the photos are decent enough if you take them at the highest resolution, which I do. Also, the memory card is limited to 1 gigabyte in size, so you only get about 700 photos at the highest resolution, which is okay because I’m not a prolific photo-taker, and it would take me a couple weeks to click 700 photos. But the quality of the photos still isn’t exceptional. The blue sky usually washes out to white or pale blue. Greens are vibrant. Reds seem dull. The camera is very light and small, so holding it steady is a challenge, and even the best photos have a little blur to them. One reason I do like the camera, aside from its small size, is that it’s waterproof, so I can keep it in my jacket pocket and if it rains, so what?

After the Blue Mesa Dam, I take CO-129 north to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, and holy smoke!!! The Black Canyon is an amazing geological feature! If you’ve never been there, it’s worth the trip. The road is full of twists and turns and hills and valleys, providing some exhilarating riding. The canyon itself is incredible, and there are times when I peer over the edge that I’m struck by vertigo. I’m amazed by the canyon. I stop often to take photos.

Black Canyon.












As I ride along the edge of the canyon, I hit 1,000 miles for my trip.

Finally, at Hotchkiss, I turn west toward Grand Junction, on CO-92, which is another truly great road. I might have hit triple digits once or twice. Maybe. I’m not admitting to anything. But I meet a State Trooper and I see him disappear in the side mirror — no brake lights. He keeps going. Maybe he’s used to riders ignoring the speed limits on these roads. Maybe he didn’t light me up with his radar, or lidar. Maybe he doesn’t give a damn because the road has very little traffic. I don’t know.

In Grand Junction, I have reservations at a hotel somewhere in town, but no idea where to find it. But I’m not in a hurry, so I ride through town and take my time to look around, thinking that I’ll probably stumble across my hotel at some point. It is 95 degrees. But I ride the length and width of Grand Junction and I still haven’t found my hotel. No worries — I pull out my phone and touch the app for “Navigation” and type in the hotel’s address. The app pauses the music playing through my earbuds, then a female voice tells me where to turn, then resumes the music when her instructions are finished. Now that is a very cool app.

Finding the hotel isn’t difficult. I check in, dump my stuff in the room, and take a shower. Having seen a Hooters restaurant on my way through town, I go there for dinner. My waitress is Maddison. Double Ds. In her name. Get your minds out of the gutter. The girl does not — repeat: does not — have double Ds, but she is cute as heck and very nice. Anyway, I have a beer and an order chicken wings with Thermonuclear Fire sauce. Just kidding. I like my colon. I watch college football while I eat and finish off the ice-cold beer, then ride back to the hotel.

~300 miles today.
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Old 10-03-2012, 04:09 PM   #5
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Nice trip report, Mr. G. Please keep it coming.
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Old 10-03-2012, 04:18 PM   #6
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Old 10-03-2012, 05:26 PM   #7
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I'm in!

Pretty nice writing ................... for an Arkie!

Thank God for Mississippi.

Thank you for posting your trip. I'm enjoying it.

Regards, Rob (native Arkansan)
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Old 10-03-2012, 06:05 PM   #8
Mr_Gone OP
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Originally Posted by ROAD DAMAGE View Post
Pretty nice writing ................... for an Arkie!

Thank God for Mississippi.

Thank you for posting your trip. I'm enjoying it.

Regards, Rob (native Arkansan)
Where ya from, Rob? I currently live in Mountain Home (north central AR) but I grew up in Iowa ó that's where I learned to read and write good. And do maths.
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Old 10-04-2012, 05:57 AM   #9
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Day 4 - Grand Junction to Pinedale, WY

Day 4 — Sunday, 2 September 2012
Grand Junction, CO to Pinedale, WY



Awake at 6 a.m., breakfast at the hotel, and it is 61 degrees as I pack the bike. I’m on the road by 7 a.m.

I take I-70 west out of town for a few miles, then turn north onto WY-139, which is another great road. WY-139 starts out running straight north through a large flat valley, then winds into some foothills for some truly great riding. [Looking at a map later, I see that the road ascends up onto the Roan Plateau.] Then the road begins rising to some great heights, and the temperature plunges to 45 degrees. Some of the switchbacks are 20 mph, and I’m dragging pegs occasionally without really pushing my own limits. The FJR doesn’t have great ground clearance, so dragging pegs isn’t exactly analogous to dragging pegs on a GSXR1000 at 120 mph on a track. Some of the turns are tight, and I enjoy the technical aspects through some very scenic valleys.







Ten miles south of Rangely, the sky darkens with a solid ceiling of dark clouds, and I’m thinking rain and wondering if I should put on my rainsuit. So I pull over and a quick check of the weather radar on my phone reveals no precipitation echoes, so I roll on. After leaving Rangely, I head west toward Utah and hit triple digits a couple times. I love the roads out West!!! Then the sky begins to clear and the clouds drift east and by the time I hit the Utah state line the sky is clear.



In Vernal, Utah, while stopped at a gas station for a fuel-up, I meet a couple—Andy and Dawn—who I passed in the mountains south of Rangely. They recognize my blue FJR and I recognize their blue Volvo. We talk for a few minutes and they are heading to Yellowstone also. I tell them to wave at me if they see me riding around, and I promise to wave also.

From Vernal, UT, I take 191 north and that is yet another great road. [Mental note: find a superlative other than “great” to describe these roads.] Riding through the evergreen forests, the air smells remarkably clean and pure. Some of the mountain passes are above 8,000 feet, and the views are spectacular! I stop a couple times for photos, to breathe the clean air, and relax. Then I ride on.

I ride through Flaming Gorge and stop a couple times to take photos.



I’m not sure why, but there are lots of law enforcement officers near the Flaming Gorge dam, and patrolling in the park. I never figured out why. Never stopped to ask, either. Maybe because it was a holiday weekend and they were there as a presence to dissuade the stupid people from doing, well, stupid things.





















From Flaming Gorge I ride north, and enter Wyoming and keep going north toward Rock Springs. Along the road, I see two antelope. I slow down, thinking I’ll stop and take a photo or two, but the antelope take off and my hopes of a photo vanish. Oh, well. I keep rolling.

I stay on 191 and the road seems to flatten and straighten out. Paralleling the road are these long wooden fences built like Xs. I can only assume they are for preventing snow drifts. I’ll have to remember to work my Google-fu on these fences to find out their purpose.

This seems like the high plains, but I’m unsure of the topography. But I think of it as the high plains so I can consider myself a “High Plains Drifter.” Stupid, yes, I know, but what else do you think of while riding for hours on end? The mind wanders.

South of Rock Springs, I pass a State Trooper going the opposite direction. I’m traveling at the speed limit, so no worries.

I arrive in Rock Springs, fuel the bike, eat a quick snack, drink a Mountain Dew, and keep riding. The landscape is still flat and vast for another thirty or forty miles as I ride through the Great Divide Basin, and then I begin to see mountains on the northern horizon. I believe it’s the Wind River Range, and I make a mental note to check a map when I arrive in Pinedale, Wyoming. [Edit: yep, it was the Wind River Range to the north, and the Wyoming Range to the west.]

Just north of Boulder, WY, in a creek bed just north of town, I see my first moose. No antlers. I don’t know if that means it was a female, or a male that just hadn’t grown it’s winter antlers yet. Now that I think about it, do moose lose their antlers every year? I think so. Another mental note: check moose antler info.

Late afternoon, I roll into Pinedale. 7,175 feet in altitude. The temperature is 71 degrees. I check into a hotel, and to the northwest I can see the summit of Gannett Peak, which is 13,804 feet, from my window. Then I go looking for dinner. I end up at the Wind River Brewing Co., sitting outside on the upstairs terrace, where I have a bacon cheeseburger and beer-battered fries. Both are average. The Wyoming Ale beer is better than average, and I have a second as I sit on the terrace outside, enjoying the weather, watching the other patrons, and I can see most of the town from the restaurant terrace. Pinedale is a nice little town, quintessentially Western. There is a different sort of vibe from the residents here; different from small town residents in, say, Arkansas or Iowa. The vibe is… relaxed. Maybe it’s the clean air. Maybe something in the water. Or maybe the water is so pure it’s the lack of something in the water—just pure H2O. I’d noticed the same sort of vibe in Gunnison, Colorado, also.

I take a quick walk around town. There are a surprising number of people walking around the “downtown” area, which probably represents eight or ten blocks. Everyone is friendly. Everyone smiles. A couple of people comment on my bike, which is parked out of sight three blocks away, so they must have seen me ride into town. You gotta love small towns!

One hippie couple asks where I’m riding, and I tell them up to the Tetons and then Yellowstone. The young woman tells me to ride safe. The guy asks what I’m riding, and I tell him a Yamaha FJR. “That’s a righteous steed, man.”

Right on!

They were a very nice couple, and I ended up talking to them for a few minutes before wandering around town some more, and finally finding my way back to the bike.

Back in the hotel room, I watch a pre-season football game on NFL Network and enjoy the fact that I have the windows open. The weather is fantastic. After the FJR cools down, I walk down to cover it with the bike cover, then go back up to the room. I’m asleep quickly, despite thoughts of tomorrow, for tomorrow is Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.

~350 miles today. I’m discovering that 350 miles is just about my ideal daily riding distance. I’m not rushed from destination to destination. I can stop as many times as I want, for as long as I want. I can take my time, eat a meal wherever I find a great view, take photos, just relax. I arrive at my end destination with enough time to wander around, see the sights, visit with people, maybe do some shopping, enjoy a nice meal, take a walk if the weather is nice. And I’m not completely exhausted at the end of the day. 350 miles — on future trips, that’s my daily mileage target.
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Old 10-04-2012, 09:11 AM   #10
TurkeyChicken
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Very cool so far. Black Canyon of the Gunnison was a great ride. I went there in 2011 and spent the weekend there. We camped on the Blue Mesa Reservoir for two nights and made that our base camp.

Hopefully you had nice weather up in Tetons / Yellowstone. When I was riding through there in July we couldn't see jack sh*t because of heavy downpours. It was a bit of a shame actually.
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Old 10-04-2012, 10:27 AM   #11
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Very cool so far. Black Canyon of the Gunnison was a great ride. I went there in 2011 and spent the weekend there. We camped on the Blue Mesa Reservoir for two nights and made that our base camp.

Hopefully you had nice weather up in Tetons / Yellowstone. When I was riding through there in July we couldn't see jack sh*t because of heavy downpours. It was a bit of a shame actually.
I had perfect weather for my entire trip, except the last two minutes from home on the last day. It was truly an epic trip. Something I hope to do again.
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Old 10-04-2012, 12:15 PM   #12
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Woohoo!
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Old 10-04-2012, 01:45 PM   #13
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I rode to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in August------absolutely beautiful. I also went to the Colorado Monument, Arches NP, Mesa Verde NP, Silverton, Durango, and Moab.

The west is beautiful. Why travel outside the country, the good old U.S. of A is all I'll ever need to tour.
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Old 10-04-2012, 02:22 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by glynb View Post
I rode to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison in August------absolutely beautiful. I also went to the Colorado Monument, Arches NP, Mesa Verde NP, Silverton, Durango, and Moab.

The west is beautiful. Why travel outside the country, the good old U.S. of A is all I'll ever need to tour.
+1 the West is fantastic. I can't believe I waited so long to see it all.
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Old 10-05-2012, 06:29 AM   #15
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Day 5 ó Pinedale to Grand Tetons & Yellowstone

Day 5 ó Monday, 3 September 2012
Pinedale, WY to West Yellowstone, ID
Awake at 6 a.m. It is 34 degrees. I eat breakfast at the hotel. I have a hard time tamping down my enthusiasm for today. Today = Grand Tetons and Yellowstone!!! I am beyond excited.

There are four firefighters in the breakfast area as Iím wolfing down a bagel smeared with peanut butter and then some cereal. Iím sitting next to them, and even though I donít have on any motorcycle gear (except my boots) they somehow know Iím the guy on the blue bike parked out front. They ask what Iím riding and where, and I tell them Iím on a Yamaha FJR and Iím heading up to the Tetons and Yellowstone. I ask them if theyíre fighting wildfires, and I guess Iím surprised that, yes, theyíre working a controlled burn up in Yellowstone. They are smoke jumpers from Missoula, they tell me, doing some training and also helping out with the controlled burn. One of the firefighters is a very tall, absolutely gorgeous blonde who I gotta say looks damned sexy in her firefighter gear. [Sheíd probably look sexy in or out of just about anything, but I digressÖ.] Of course, she completely ignores me, which means sheís either, A) completely indifferent to my existence, or, B) barely able to restrain her wild lust for me and playing hard to get.

When I think about it, the choice is obvious, really.

[Yes, itís AÖ donít mock me.]

I finish eating breakfast, say good-bye to the firefighters, check out at the front desk, and I pack the bike. Iím on the road by 7 a.m., taking US-191 North toward Jackson, WY. Leaving Pinedale the road is 25-30 miles of flat prairie, and I see several herds of antelope in the fields on either side of the road. One herd is 25 or 30 animals. There are several vehicles behind me, and thereís no place to pull over, so I donít have the opportunity to stop and take photos. Another missed opportunity.

In the distance, I can see the Bridger Teton range, and presumably the Grand Teton peaks, and I follow a river through several scenic valleys. It is very picturesque.

It is already near 50 degrees by 8:30 a.m. when I ride into Jackson, WY. I fuel the bike, take a quick tour around town, and it seems like a town geared toward tourism so I donít stop, then head toward Grand Teton National Park.

At the south gate, I pay my $20 (good for both Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, for 7 days) and ride into the park around 9 a.m. I take the Teton Park Road to the west (not 191 to the east) because Iíve been told that the western road is the slower route, and with better views. Well, Iím not here to rocket through. Iím here to take in the sights, so the slower route is the route for me.

And I ride slowly. I am determined to soak up every sight, every sound, every smell, every sensation. It is a gorgeous morning. At the first opportunity, I stop at a turnout with a great view of the Grand Teton range. I take thirty minutes to eat a snack, drink, enjoy, and relax. I am alone at the turnout. No one stops while Iím there, and often there is no traffic on the road. The silence is incredible. I almost forget to click a few photos before I leave.

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Riding through the park, I stop often at turnouts for photos, and I remind myself to take a few minutes at each stop to enjoy the view. The Tetons are hazy in the distance, and Iím not sure if thatís a function of actual ďhazeĒ or just distance. Iím not sure how good my photos are going to turn out, but Iím clicking away anyway. And I take time to just look at the scenery. It is not lost on me that this might be perhaps my only opportunity to enjoy Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. I hope to return someday, and to return several times in fact, but no one can predict what the future holds. So I tell myself I shouldnít waste a single moment.

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At one turnout, I learn from the information sign how Jackson Hole got its name. Very interesting, if you want to look it up. As I pull out of the turnout, I see a medium-sized aircraft descending toward the Jackson Hole Airport. Iím pretty sure itís a DC-8 or Dc-10. Probably a tour group flying in. Two minutes earlier, and I would have been able to click a photo of the plane against the backdrop of the Teton mountains. Oh well.

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Jenny Lake is insanely crowded. After riding on roads relatively empty of traffic, Iím surprised to find hundreds of people at Jenny Lake. I ride slowly through the parking lot, searching for a slot, and weaving around tourists. There are hundreds! Well, I donít find a parking space and I really donít want to deal with all these tourists, so I keep riding.

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Farther north, I stop at Jackson Lake. There, I meet another rider named John. He is riding a Suzuki DR 650 dual sport motorcycle. (At least, I think I have the model right.) John is from British Columbia, Canada, and touring Yellowstone and Grand Teton for a week before he has to go back to college. We spend a few minutes talking, but heís riding south and Iím riding north.

Sooner than Iíd expected, Iím hitting the exit of Grand Teton N.P. What a wonderful place!

I stop at the turnout right before the Yellowstone south entrance, with the intention of clicking a few photos. Of course, everyone wants their photo taken at the Yellowstone sign, and I have to wait a few minutes for everyone to vacate and I can take photos.

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Photos taken, I proceed through the entrance and ride north into the park.

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Riding north, I cross the continental divide three times. I remember to stop at take a photo once.

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I stop at Old Faithful next and park way out from the building. The parking lot is less than half full. There are dozens of huge RVs scattered around. Some look like theyíve just pulled in; some looked like theyíve been there for a few days or longer. The crowds arenít bad, and as I wait around for the geyser to blow, I wander around and take a few photos. The Old Faithful Inn is interesting.

Then itís time for Old Faithful to erupt, so I walk outside find an empty bench. Still, the crowds are sparse compared to what Iíd been led to expect. There probably arenít two hundred people there, some standing, some sitting, which I think is strange for a holiday weekend. Then she erupts. I snap a couple photos when the white plume of steam rises into the air, then just watch the rest of the eruption. Iím not here to simply click photos; Iím here to enjoy this great national park. Show over, I walk back to the FJR and ride out, getting ahead of the tourist exodus.

From Old Faithful, I backtrack south, then ride east toward Yellowstone Lake, where I stop a couple times to take photos of several thermal features, and then stop along one of the lakeside drives and eat lunch and drink a Mountain Dew. I am amazed that the lake is 7,733 feet above sea level. Actually, Iím amazed by everything in the park. It is windy, and there are whitecaps on the lake, along with a few small fishing boats.

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This is where I ate lunch!!!
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Lunch over, I get back on the South Loop Road. The roads are great. The tarmac is good. I never feel slowed down by traffic. And best of all, no drivers crossed the center line to try to kill me.
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