PA to Montana to Rapid City, SD and back home

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by wellcraft, Aug 1, 2020.

  1. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    I wanted to take a trip to Montana last year but didn't have time so I started planning the trip for this year back in January before all the Covid 19 stuff started. The original plan was to depart June 19th but we had to delay our start because of a death in my riding buddies family. We ended up launching out from Philadelphia, PA on July 14th and averaged about 550-600 miles a day. We had no interest in riding 2400 miles from PA to Montana so we hauled the bikes on my Aluma motorcycle trailer which I purchased specifically for this and future trips.

    Day 1: Drove from PA to Port Clinton, OH and stayed at Camp Perry. Of all the military installations I've stayed on Camp Perry had the absolute worse quarters I've ever stayed in and despite how bad they looked the cost was even more ridicules at 100 bucks a night :-( The installation is right on Lake Erie so we had good scenery to look at and Port Clinton had a good selection of shops, beaches and restaurants to choose from.

    Day 2: Drove from Port Clinton to Johnston, IA which is just outside of Des Moines and stayed at Camp Dodge a Iowa National Guard installation. Quarters were significantly better than the quarters we stayed in at Camp Perry.

    Day 3: Drove from IA to Rapid City, SD and spent the night at the Sleep Inn which was clean, comfortable, safe and quiet. We would return here on the way home and spend a day riding checking out MT Rushmore/Crazy Horse monuments and a few other places.

    Day 4: We arrived in Bozemen, MT Friday evening, checked into our Airbnb, unloaded the bikes and went on a short 40 mile ride to get the fluids flowing and find someplace to eat.

    Day 5: This is where the adventure starts and we get down to some serious riding. We rode through the north entrance of Yellowstone and took the Grand Loop out to Beartooth Hwy and up to the summit of Beartooth Pass. If you haven't been to Yellowstone you really should go, there is incredible beauty and diversity of life in the park with awesome roads and scenery. Along the way we saw Bison, Elk, Antelope, Bald Eagles and a bunch of people abandoned their cars when someone claimed they saw a bear. I wasn't to keen on seeing a bear while riding, bears and motorcycles don't mix well in my opinion.

    Day 6: Back to Yellowstone except this time we entered through the west entrance to the park. We started out riding SR 191 out of Bozeman and for about about 20 miles we enjoyed riding through a canyon with great curves and sweepers you could take at 70+ mph. Once we entered the park we headed south and visited several of the hot springs which were pretty cool. We skipped Old faithful because the line was to long to enter the parking lot plus you can end up waiting more than 90 minutes to see it go off. We were more interested in riding than waiting so on we rode out the south entrance to the park and rode the 20 miles to Grand Tetons National Park. Grand Tetons like Yellowstone was totally awesome and worth the ride down.

    Day 7: Our third day riding through Yellowstone and once again we entered through the West Entrance but this time went deeper into the interior of the park and checked out Mammoth Springs. The diversity of life in Yellowstone is mind blowing from Bison to Elk to Microscopic organisms that live in the hot/sulphur springs.

    Riding in the park isn't bad after you get through the entrance which can take a while depending on what day/time you arrive. Cost is 35 bucks for cars and 30 bucks for motorcycles but I was able to access the park for free as a disabled veteran. Once in the park we were able to maintain the speed limit, 45 mph, once we got out of the tourist areas. There are plenty of turnouts to pull over and observe wildlife or take pictures but there were a few idiots stopped in the middle of the road trying to see wildlife.

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  2. crawler07

    crawler07 Been here awhile

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    Great pics, thanks for posting your story and more so thanks for your service.
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  3. on2wheels52

    on2wheels52 Long timer

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    I got to ride through Yellowstone free with the geezer pass (62 or older).
    I thought was a bit crowded, was happy to get out. Have a son in Bozeman, was a week there for his wedding.
    Don't blame you for trailering, I hauled mine to a Tent Space past Denver.
    #3
  4. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    Day 8: After three awesome days riding Yellowstone and Grand Tetons National Parks we loaded up the trailer again and departed Bozemen for Kalispell and Glacier National Park. The drive from Bozemen to Kalispell was a little over 300 miles and we covered the distance in five and a half hours arriving in Kalispell early enough to squeeze a 100 mile ride in down to Polson for dinner.

    Day 9: We were up and out of the house by 9 AM and headed to Glacier National Park unsure what we would be able to see since only the western portion of the park is open. Fortunately there's a lot to see when you enter the park through the west entrance and we were able to ride almost 50 miles of Going to the Sun Road which has the majority of the spectacular scenery. I thought Yellowstone and Grand Tetons was awesome but nothing was as beautiful and stunning as the scenery on Going to the Sun Road. We first passed Lake McDonald with it's crystal clear waters with the mountains reflecting off the smooth as glass surface. There are plenty of places to pull over and take in the scenery and we pulled over and took as many pictures as possible. We were able to ride as far as Rising Sun where the road was closed so we had to turn around. There's a gift shop and restaurant you can stop at to grab a gift or a bite to eat before heading back. I suppose we spent a good six hours in the park and 99% of that time was on GTTSR.

    Day 10: I was so impressed with Glacier National Park I decided to ride the park a second time but this time I decided to ride Going to the Sun Road without stopping for pictures. I enjoyed the ride in without stopping but after eating lunch there were just to many opportunities for pictures that I had to stop a few times on the way out. I rode solo on day 10 because my riding buddy wasn't feeling well, I felt fine so off I went on my own which I do frequently anyway. I enjoyed myself the second time through the park as much as I did the first day riding through the park.

    I still have three more riding days to share but I'll share my experience from those days tomorrow, meanwhile here's pictures from day 8, 9 and 10.

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  5. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    There were quite a few people in the park but probably not as many as usual for this time of year due to people cancelling their travel plans because of the virus. Once we got out of the built up tourist areas we really had no issues riding through the park at a comfortable speed and seeing everything we wanted to see. I enjoyed myself and would love to go back in the future because as much as we did see there was twice as much we didn't see.

    I'm not 25 anymore and while I know there's a lot of riders that will ride cross country I'm not one of them. It was tough driving my truck 4 days in a row up to 600 miles so I can't imagine how beat I would have been trying to ride those kind of miles on my bike. By hauling the bikes we were well rested when we arrived and enjoyed riding that much more instead of being beat from just getting there.
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  6. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    Thanks and you're welcome
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  7. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    Day 11: While I was tempted to ride Glacier National Park a third day it was time to see what other types of roads and scenery Montana has to offer. We did a loop of close to 400 miles starting in Kalispell and passing through Whitefish, Eureka, Rexford, Yaak, Great Falls and back to Kalispell. The highlight of this route was the road from Rexford to Yaak which was an exciting 50 mile ride through the wilderness, we didn't see any homes, just a couple of cars, nothing but pine trees, twists, turns, curves, valleys and over one mountain. It was the most remote road I've ever ridden and I was expecting to see big foot or a grizzly bear cross the road at any moment. Once we passed through Yaak and jumped on RT2 we took a hour or so to checkout Kootenia Falls which required a hike of about 1/2 mile or so. Long walk in riding boots but once we reached the falls the walk was worth it. The falls was nice and a little further down the trail there's a suspension bridge you can walk across to see the falls from another perspective.

    The first photo is googlemaps of the road from Rexford to Yaak, thoroughly enjoyed riding this road but definitely not the road to break down on or run out of gas.

    The third photo is a picture of the road itself, nothing but pine trees and wilderness. We did see a few large piles of scat, not sure what type of animal left it but it had to big

    We saw these signs warning of bears in the area, we didn't see any which I was thankful for because bears and motorcycles don't mix well.

    The suspension bridge swayed back and forth quite a bit while walking across it and was a good 20-30 feet above the river

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  8. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    Day 12: We rode a similar route as Day 11 but instead of taking the road to Yaak out of Rexford we continued down RT37 for 40 miles along Lake Koocanusa which is named after one of the Indian tribes that inhabited the area. We ended up in Libby, MT and then rode north for 18 miles towards Troy, MT where we picked up RT54 towards Trout Creek, then we hit RT200, then back to RT93 and Kalispell for a ride close to 400 miles. Great scenery, great roads (except RT200 which was a little to straight and boring), and we've met a lot of nice people along the way. Day 12 was our last day to ride in Montana so after we ate dinner we loaded the bikes back up for the long drive back to PA but not before a planned stop in Rapid City, SD

    If you like water you'll love Montana because there's an abundance of rivers, lakes and streams everywhere and the water is crystal clear, cold and a beautiful turquoise color when more than a few feet deep. If you love the outdoors Montana is a paradise to hikers, boaters, and motorcyclists with plenty of roads to ride, trials to hike and lakes/rivers to fish and explore.

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  9. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    These are some of the resources I used to plan my trip:

    https://glaciermt.com/motorcycle

    https://glacierstogeysers.com/

    https://glacierstogeysers.com/

    http://greatrideswest.com/

    https://visityellowstonecountry.com/motorcycling

    https://www.roadrunner.travel

    Road Runner magazine is a great resource for getting ideas of places to ride both in the US and abroad. Road Runner has articles for long distance rides, what they call city-scape articles, reviews on motorcycles and other interesting articles. I've read Road Runner for 3 years now and been a subscriber for one and read each issue cover to cover. Only downside the magazine is only published bi-monthly :-(
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  10. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

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    Glacier is hands down one of my favorite parks. Never ridden there, but, have hiked extensively. The scenery just gets better when you get away from all the people. Yellowstone is the same, hike 2 miles in and the people just disappear. Don't know if it is people are afraid of bears or lazy or both, but, 2 miles seemed to be the line where people went away. And it was wonderful!
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  11. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    I did enough camping and hiking when I was in the military so wherever I go I prefer an engine, wheels and a seat to get me from Point A to Point B :-)
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  12. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

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    Fair enough! Just if you are not a fan of crowds, it is the way.
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  13. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    Day 13: Departed Kalispell early Sunday morning for the long 12+ hour/725+ mile drive back to Rapid City, SD where we would spend a day riding.

    Day 14: I'll start off by saying I wish we had spent 2-3 days in Rapid City instead of just one because I would have liked to have stopped in Lead, Sturgis and Deadwood to walk around, have lunch and checkout the tourist attractions. With that said we covered a lot of miles, 250, and saw most of the attractions to include Spearfish Canyon, Needles Hwy, Custer State Park, MT Rushmore/Crazy Horse Monuments. A second day of riding would have allowed us to ride down to Badlands State Park, Devils Tower and spend more time at the Crazy Horse Museum as well as more time in the local area. Of the places we visited Needles Hwy was the most impressive with all kinds of cool/interesting rock formations. During my whole trip and observing the stunning scenery and beauty of creation I'm convinced their is a creator whose name is Jesus Christ, I would encourage everyone to get to know Him because this type of beauty doesn't happen by accident or chance.

    Day 15: We loaded the bikes Tuesday evening and got an early start Wednesday morning for home. Our path home took as back through Johnston, IA, Youngstown, OH and finally home. While this was my most enjoyable motorcycle trip I was glad to get home after being on the road for 16 days. We drove over 5000 miles round trip in the truck and we rode close to 2300 miles between riding Yellowstone, Glacier, Montana and Rapid City, SD. We arrived home safely Thursday afternoon and it felt good to be home, eat a home cooked meal and sleep in my own bed.

    If you haven't been to Yellowstone or Glacier National Parks I would highly recommend you go, just plan your visit for Monday through Friday since weekends are the busiest days with the largest crowds. If you haven't been to Montana the roads and scenery are worth seeing in addition to the National Parks and if you visit Rapid City I would recommend spending at least 3 to 4 days so you have plenty of time to see everything without rushing. The only good things about our one day in Rapid City is I now have an excuse to go back :-)

    The rock formation in the first picture is where Needles Hwy gets it's name.

    There's still a lot of work to be accomplished before the Crazy Horse Monument is complete and I'd like to return to spend more time at the museum reading the history of the American Indian and checkout the exhibits and artifacts.

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  14. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

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    I remember going to crazy horse as a kid, like 45 years or more ago, took my kids there as well. Little had changed. The Indians think differently, they think over generations. So, won't be finished in our, or our kids lifetimes. But, when it is done, it will be glorious!
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  15. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    You're probably correct, I was surprised to learn the monument was started over 70 years ago.
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  16. zekester63

    zekester63 Been here awhile

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    Thanks for sharing your trip and pics. Both Yellowstone and Glacier are definitely on my bucket list - just waiting for the opportunity when I can take enough time off to do it! Also agree on the Rapid City area. Did that a couple years ago by car with the family, and would love to go back on the bike some day.
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  17. wellcraft

    wellcraft Been here awhile

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    It's definitely worth the effort to go especially on a motorcycle, there's just something extra special about seeing it all from two wheels.
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  18. chudzikb

    chudzikb Long timer Supporter

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    I did really appreciate being in a CAR when 2 feet from a buffalo!
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  19. Acousticplyr

    Acousticplyr Adventurer

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    What an ugly place. I don’t know why anyone would visit.*

    *Said no one. EVER.
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  20. ADVQuest228

    ADVQuest228 Been here awhile

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    wellcraft, very awesome write up with pics like post cards.
    it's been years since i have been to Glacier Nat. Park and a separate trip to Sturgis years ago with a few days at Yellowstone.
    Both places just command you to stop and listen and look and just don't say anything
    That's also a pretty impressive trip from Our Home state of Pa, just up the road from you
    thanks again for the Memory Reminder pics.
    #20