Meandering north to Alaska

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by jwc, May 24, 2019.

  1. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    7/5/2019


    We had called Leland’s Honda and Suzuki in Kalispell on the 2nd and asked them to overnight a new key set for Ted’s bike which includes the ignition switch, keyed gas cap and seat lock and a new TKC80 front tire. They also agreed for me to use their address for Gpscity to ship a Garmin map sd card so I could finally use my new Montana 610. We arrived at Leland’s Honda right at 8:30 as they open and the Garmin map card is there. But no bike parts. Shortly the UPS truck pulls up with my ignition set and it gets installed in short order, don’t you love it when a plan comes together. Then we wait for the ‘overnighted’ front tire, and wait and wait...... The 17” CBX front tire is not a common size in dual sport type tires and I’ve always had to order one. Eventually we find out that the ‘overnighted’ tire will be in Monday which means installed Tuesday when Leland’s opens backup. Hmmmmm. I had already paid for the tire so they offered to credit me the cost of the tire on order and sell me a Michelin Road 5 set. By 3:15 we were on our way with a CBX that didn’t shut off indiscriminately and a brand new pair of shoes. Ted felt the difference in the ride of the new Road 5’s immediately. Many thanks to the folks at Leland’s Honda especially Kilee who worked hard to get us worked into their service schedule and fixed up and back on the road. We were at the mercy of the shippers and apparently the 4th of July had the shippers running behind. Hey Fedex, overnight does not mean 6 days, sheesh. At least Leland’s had a nice lounge area we could hang out in.

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    Since we left at 3:15 we only got as far as Butte MT, but the ride was truly scenic. Forested two lane paved road for Ted to scrub her new tires in that ran along lakes shorelines. We didn’t take any photos so you’ll have to take my word for it or come and ride it for yourself. I certainly hope you get the opportunity. I didn’t know Montana had roads through beautiful countryside like this.

    We made it to Butte around 8:30 and called it a day. The first 5 hotels we called were all booked up but finally found a room at the Hampton Inn. We met Dave and his wife in the lobby who were traveling on a Harley trike. We spent 45 min visiting then went to our room.
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  2. rtcoker

    rtcoker Adventurer

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    Did you go down 35 or 83? Both are pretty but I like 83 better.
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  3. rtcoker

    rtcoker Adventurer

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    If you are planning on going through Yellowstone, try entering from the north at Gardiner, instead of West Yellowstone. That ride down from the north is much prettier in the valley and Gardiner is more engaging than West Yellowstone. But 191 through Big Sky is also amazing.
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  4. rtcoker

    rtcoker Adventurer

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    Hope you are going through Yellowstone to Bear Tooth and Red Lodge, WY. (stay overnight there. Very nice town!)
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  5. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    We rode down 83, I overlooked that 35 was an option. I agree, 83 does not disappoint.


    I wish I would have seen your posts earlier. But I can’t complain about the scenic ride we did have. We came down from Columbus on 78 -nice rural 2 lane - to US 212 through Red Lodge. It was packed - then took the chief Joseph byway down to Cody. Amazing views.
  6. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    7/6/2019



    It was a beautiful sunny day as we made time on I90 from Butte to Columbus MT in part to help make up the day we lost getting Ted’s bike repaired. Even the views from the interstate were good, excepting dodging the 80 mph speed limit traffic with the 30 mph semis struggling up steep grades. I wanted to come from the north through Red Lodge to catch what I have been told is the prettiest part of the Beartooth then turn on Chief Joseph and ride it south to Cody and the route was amazing. I will miss these landscapes as there are no mountains in south Louisiana, I will also miss these cool temps after returning home to what is currently 108deg heat index weather. It was 50 deg on the top of Beartooth pass as the wind whipped over the fields of snow that lined the roadway. Most of what I thought were the best views I didn’t find a spot to pull over to take the photo. Looking over my past posts it seems like I use words such as amazing and magnificent a lot to describe what I am seeing and this may sound like hyperbole, but I think my words and photos fall short of portraying the actual grandeur present.

    Red Lodge. A little further down you couldn’t find a parking spot, there was heavy pedestrian traffic.

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    Hey mister, got anything for me?

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    Views from Beartooth and Chief Joseph

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    Attached Files:

  7. rtcoker

    rtcoker Adventurer

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    You two are so lucky to have the love not only for each other but for the exploring adventure of motorcycles o am thoroughly enjoying following you journey.
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  8. rtcoker

    rtcoker Adventurer

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    If you want a local guide in the smokies let me know I would be happy to point you on some terrific routes
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  9. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Sounds great. we love the smokies and try to make a trip there at least once a year.
  10. onjeffsbike

    onjeffsbike n00b Supporter

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    Wow! Thank you for this amazing report. We're planning a trip to Alaska next year (two-up, since I don't ride), and you've provided inspiration, great information and -- for this relative newbie to motorcycling -- reassurance. I wish you many more safe and fabulous travels!
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  11. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    Thanks for the kind words. And as it’s been said before: just do it. (And don’t forget to write your own ride report ! )
  12. wingtraveler

    wingtraveler asphalt to dirt

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    plan on staying there next year on the way up and back down!
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  13. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    From Cody it’s close to a 2 hour ride on US14 through the parks east entrance at Fishing Bridge to the Old Faithful Lodge and geyser. We rode by the Buffalo Bill Reservoir and then followed the North Fork Shoshone River and once in the park the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake. It’s a ride worth taking in its own right.

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    Finding a parking space we entered the Old Faithful Inn and enjoyed the unique architecture used in the Lodges construction.

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    When it was time we went out to join many other folk who waited for Old Faithful to erupt.
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  14. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    The rangers said all this water comes through a 2 CM hole.
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    Afterward we followed one of the designated paths which consisted of about a 5 mile loop to see various geysers, pools and vents that make up the areas unique geological personality. A park ranger we spoke to informed us that some of the pools could very hot, acidic and deep. So much so that any hapless visitor that stumbled into one could be dissolved without leaving a trace. With open pools being enough to be wary about there is also that which appears to be firm ground which could actually be a thin crust over a thermal passageway. -And they say riding motorcycles is dangerous.....
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    Completing our 5 mile walking tour we arrived back at the Old Faithful complex and I noted two things. First - tall ADV riding boots don’t always make for the best walking boots. Second, we saw that the typical large crowd had congregated to view the eruption. Thinking that now would be a good time to leave the area and get ahead of the traffic that would ensue. Alas though what our plan possessed in theory it lacked in execution. The parking lots surrounding the Old Faithful geyser and Inn complex are large and varied. It is crucial when making a quick departure to remember exactly where you left your motorbike. After touring several parking lots and watching masses of people who did know where they had parked we found our motorcycles and fell in the rear of the line to leave the area.

    Once back into Cody we assuaged our frustrations that usually came with crowds and slow moving traffic with a steak dinner from Bubbas bar-b-que and returned to our hotel. It’s worthy to note that our hotel, the Kings Inn has 17 taxidermy big game animals mostly from Africa mounted in the hotel lobby. Including the head of a full grown elephant, an full adult rhino, several lions, a crocodile, and various species of deer. The effect in such a small room is a little overwhelming. Inquiring at the front desk we learned that the ‘trophies’ were shot in Africa by the hotel owner with a few exceptions that were zoo accidents. The taxidermist was local to Cody. Ted’s take on the exhibit was that the owner, once procuring his prizes, was informed by his wife: “oh no, you’re not brining that into my house”. And so it goes

    Sorry for the lousy photos, wrong light and cell phone....

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  15. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    A guy from Calgary tripped off a wooden walkway at Yellowstone last year into the bubbling brew and was never found.

    They said he "desolved".
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  16. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    7/8/2019



    Leaving Cody we took US14 which winds through the Bighorn National Forest. It’s a spectacular ride that is also known as the Bighorn Scenic Byway. We had reserved a campsite at Devils Tower KOA which is located literally right next door to the National Monument. You can see the tower rising from the landscape around it at various points from the road as you get closer.

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    The campsite was happily on a grass pad instead of a gravel pad that most campgrounds seem to think are preferable to tent campers.

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    One unfortunate fact about grass is that it is sometimes associated with soft ground. Yep, before I could get the coaster out for Ted’s side stand the inevitable happened.
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    Oh well it’s not like I haven’t done the same thing. After righting prostrate Honda’s and setting up camp we rode to the visitors center to explore. Apparently the tower is quite popular with climbers but what is perhaps less expected is that there have only been 9 deaths associated with the climb since records were kept. Indicating that the folks involved are very skilled or no attempt is made.

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    The campground shows the movie classic Close Encounters of the Third Kind nightly on an outside patio. This mid 70s movie, in case you’re not familiar with it, was shot on location at the National Monument. We were about 10 min into the movie when a storm front started to blow, knocking over unoccupied chairs and scattering anything loose across the patio. Not being sure if it was the aliens returning or natural phenomenon we determined that this wasn’t optimal for viewing and left to seek refuge in our tent after checking that our tent stakes were holding. What a time to forget the tinfoil.

    The expected rain ensued and I am happy to report our bikes were not blown over, the tent did not collapse nor leak and to my knowledge, no one was transported for alien experimentation. Rather, a good nights rest prepared us for traveling to Mount Rushmore in the AM. At least I think that’s what happened......
  17. rtcoker

    rtcoker Adventurer

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    Keep your excellent RR's coming! Enjoy the heck out of them!
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  18. jwc

    jwc Ready to go Supporter

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    We left The Devil’s Tower National Monument and took Hwy 24 (turns into Hwy 34 at the state line entering South Dakota). Apparently this is a popular route for motorcyclists as we saw an inordinate number of folks out enjoying the day on their bikes. I can certainly see why. It was smooth asphalt with interesting elevation changes that winds through beautiful pastureland populated with ranches. Eventually it brought us to I90 where we headed toward Rapid City, where we hoped to do a bit of bike maintenance.

    On the way to a Rapid City we jumped off the super slab at the first of two exits for a little place called Sturgis. Seemed like I’d heard it was famous for something. We circled through town without stopping except to snap a few photos and back on I90 at the second of two exits. Not sure but it looks like they are preparing for some kind of event.
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    Due to a previous gust of gravity I had been riding with a left hand aftermarket mirror that vibrated like crazy but was better than nothing since Kalispell. Additionally after 10,600 miles my rear Motoz Tractionator GPS needed replacing. With only a couple mm of tread over the wear bars and the tread cracking getting worse I didn’t trust it to get me another 2,000 miles to get me home. I suspect the gravel and chip seal roads in Canada and Alaska took more of a toll on the tires than the same mileage in the lower 48 would have. Rice’s Rushmore Motorsport in Rapid City had an OEM mirror in stock. They are a huge dealership and even had the new 2019 CB500X with the 19” front wheel on the floor. Other dealers that I had talked to couldn’t even order one. When the time came I had thought it would be the replacement for Ted’s current steed that now had 43k miles on the clock. Alas when Ted sat on the ‘19 the friendly seat height of the previous CBX models had disappeared and her toes barely touched the ground.

    Wanting to get to Mt Rushmore we procured the new OEM mirror and thinking we would save time by making an appointment for later for a new rear tire we left for the National Monument.

    As with a lot of my planning it was quickly derailed. As we arrived in Keystone which bills itself as the gateway to Mt Rushmore so did the rain. Deciding on waiting out the rain here in Keystone we took a zero day and tried to enjoy a bit of down time. Keystone reminded me a bit of Gatlinburg TN. Not to disparage in any way those that enjoy the atmosphere and the boardwalk diversions that are provided, as the crowds of people testified to the fact that many do enjoy it, it’s not our cup of tea. So we made do by grabbing dinner and made new plans to see Mt Rushmore in the AM where sunny skies were forecasted. Arrangements were also made with Rice’s Motorsport for the new tire install on our way to the Badlands National Park.
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  19. twowings

    twowings Comfortably Numb... Supporter

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    You're in a fantastic area for motorcycle riding...Needles Highway is a particular favorite of mine...

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    Same goes for Spearfish Canyon Road, Vanocker Canyon Road, Route 16A, Route 87, etc., etc. etc...
  20. AllSeasonRider

    AllSeasonRider Wandering, maybe a little lost...

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    You're in some areas that I hit on my first truly big Moto trip - brings back some excellent memories... And some not so excellent like getting poured in the Black hills. Needles was still worth it!
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