Motobsession: A transcontinental ride fifty years in the making

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Oron, Dec 27, 2017.

  1. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    Allow me to paint the real time picture. The so called bomb cyclone (bombogenesis) winter storm is churning up the eastern seaboard. Millions of people are sheltered in place. It's already snowing hard outside my window, the wind is howling, and the motorcycle is tethered to the trickle charger for the foreseeable future. What a perfect opportunity for me to sort through my photographs, scribe some text, and continue to post my ride report. On to Yellowstone and the Pacific Northwest!

    Day 12

    Physically and mentally renewed, I was back on my journey by 7:30 a.m. I must admit, it was a little difficult to give up my luxury guest-suite at Kim and Gurney’s, but the open road beckoned. It was a chilly, dry morning and I layered with the down jacket under the EnduroGuard. The plan was to ride the Beartooth Pass and also see as much of Yellowstone National Park as practical. I had overnighted within Yellowstone Park's multiple hotels four years ago for an entire week, so I wasn't compelled to revisit the off-the-beaten-path attractions. In my humble opinion, Yellowstone is the best national park in the nation, and with its geothermal features and large mammals, it offers some of the most unique sights to be found in North America. Once again, it was the journey more than the destination. I made sure departing Cody that I stayed within the 30 mph limit, as I had already witnessed multiple vehicle stops by local enforcement over the past two days. Apparently, speeding tickets were a big source of revenue for Cody’s treasury.

    I took the 120, which becomes the 72 when you cross into Montana, then through Belfry (their high school mascot was a bat), and then a left to Red Lodge. I got a nice view of the town as I approached from the east. The 212 then leads to the mighty Beartooth Highway. I stopped before the ascend at the Rock Creek Resort's Beartooth Lodge to put on the heated jacket. This turned out to be a brilliant decision, as the temperature soon plummeted. The Beartooth must be one of the great adventure roads in America. It opened for vehicle travel in 1937 and was set to close for the winter months in seven weeks. It was incredibly dramatic as it sliced into the clouds for sixty-eight miles with dizzying switchbacks. In spite of some cloud cover, the views were spectacular. The hairpins were tight, and the suggested twenty-five mph speed limit was easy to follow. I stopped to relax at the Rock Creek Vista Point at over 9,000 feet and hung out with some mule deer. The BMW warned me around the 38 degrees mark with a loud tone in the headset and a flashing snowflake icon on the dash. By the time I reached the summit of 10,947 feet, the temperature was indicating 34 degrees and I was penetrating thick fog. There was some residual snow off the road’s edge, but none close enough to roll the bike into for a dramatic photo. Further along the Highway, back in Wyoming, I stretched my legs at the Top of the World Store.

    Epic Ride 223.JPG
    on the road to Red Lodge


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    abandoned mine


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    low clouds where I am headed


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    9:18 am, road mode, plenty of fuel, 85 miles into the day, auxiliary lights on, heated hand grip on level 1, and 41 degrees
    #41
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  2. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    Epic Ride 230.JPG
    Rock Creek Vista native


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    I chatted with a family of four from the Midwest touring in their classic Impala with the top down


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    summit border


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    the pass would close in a few weeks
    #42
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  3. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    Epic Ride 242.JPG
    year round snow


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    my battered palm sized Canon does not do it justice


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    Little Bear Lake


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    Top of the World Store
    #43
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  4. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    After dropping down the west side, I skirted back into Montana through Cooke City Silver Gate and then just as quickly, back to Wyoming and into Yellowstone Park. I followed the 212 as it cut through the dramatic Lamar Valley. Large herds of bison dotted the vast valley, and they often spilled out onto the road. There were several close encounters. I was particularly vulnerable sharing a road with an unpredictable thousand pound beast, and when they blocked the road, as happened several times, I did my best to give them a wide berth. Mere proximity was not as big a concern as proximity coupled with horns facing my direction.

    Epic Ride 246.JPG
    YNP


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    Bison dotting the Lamar Valley


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    no respect for the rules of the road


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    bath time
    #44
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  5. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    I passed through Tower Junction, then onto Grand Loop Road to Mammoth Hot Springs. The lunchtime crowds at Mammoth were reminiscent of Times Square. I spoke with a nice German couple at the outside picnic table we shared. My German was a little rusty. We had a good laugh when I attempted to describe a waterfall, and mistakenly used the term for diarrhea. We were surrounded by multiple nationalities and languages. Yellowstone was certainly a world class destination.

    In retrospect, I should have dropped down through Canyon Village, as I ultimately wanted to travel in a northwest direction, so I was forced into a southern detour continuing on the Grand Loop Road. I had suffered worse indignities, and rode by some amazing Yellowstone landscapes including bubbling turquoise thermals and thundering waterfalls.

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    roadside beasts


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    hot spring


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    boiling at about 200 degrees, there have been 22 recorded deaths in the park from thermal accidents, the last time in 2016


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    elk family
    #45
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  6. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    After exiting the park on the west entrance, I took the 191 to the 287 and into the valley that tracked northwest along the Madison River, passing the Hebgen and Quake Lakes. The topography was made up of a series of mountain ranges that orient north - south, so I was forced to choose a valley, which limited easy east to west travel. I stopped at the rest stop memorializing the 1959 tragedy when an earthquake triggered the side of the mountain to let loose, burying twenty-eight people in the valley below and dramatically altering the landscape.

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    Hebgen Lake


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    Hebgen Lake view obstructed


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    site of the 1959 landslide


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    bridge leading to the West Fork Cabin Camp
    #46
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  7. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    By late afternoon, I was exhausted and could go no further than West Fork Cabin Camp, where I pitched my tent for the evening. Dinner was a quarter mile down the road at the high-end Grizzly Bar and Grill. The bar stools were filled with young fishing guides and the tables were filled with their older, wealthy clients. The special of the evening was scallops over pasta, and as a New Englander, after ten days of red meat, I just couldn't resist some marine flavor, even if I was nowhere near an ocean. It was an early night and I made sure to zip up the vent windows on the tent, as temperatures were predicted to go down to the middle 40's. Mileage today 267.

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    campsite showing off my pillow


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    campsite showing off my hammock


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    fishing guides chilling at the bar


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    tucked in for the night
    #47
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  8. Joezeph

    Joezeph Been here awhile

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    I just "found" you, & thanks for an enjoyable hours reading so far & l look forward to the next installment!

    PS, l agree with you whole heartedly about Yellowstone being the best & most awesome NP in the USA!
    #48
  9. peejayess

    peejayess Adventurer

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    Whenever Orcus appears on screen she looks amazingly clean - did she insist on always looking her best for the camera? Sounds like you had a great trip, just what I'd like to do if I were your side of the puddle.
    #49
  10. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    Thanks for the kind comment. My week touring and hiking Yellowstone in 2014 was one of the best experiences of my life. The secret is to loose the crowds and hike the back country.
    #50
  11. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    She was very gently used when I bought her. I confess to liking a clean bike. Unless it rains or you muck in the dirt, a shaft drive bike generally stays pretty clean. As you will soon see, she got her share of dirt in the Yukon.
    #51
  12. chudzikb

    chudzikb Been here awhile

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    2 miles in on any trail in Yellowstone, and you are alone! It is truly awesome. Beartooth Pass is one of my favorite roads as well. I am sad that you did not have better weather. I recall going over with my family and the whole car screaming...don't look, drive! They would not let me look. Not fair...
    #52
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  13. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    Day 13

    It was a cold night indeed. I woke at dawn to 43 degrees. My twenty-eight-degree-rated sleeping bag did its job, but barely. A long hot shower thawed me out. My only other tent neighbor was a young kid in a beat up Montana-plated pickup with an ancient, arthritic black lab named Grizzly. The kid was not the talkative kind, so conversation was minimal. He looked like he had been through life's meat grinder. I surmised he was an ostracized fishing guide, but that was pure conjecture. Most of the other guests on the other side of the park were retired central Californians escaping the summer heat in their large 5th wheel campers. After my shower, I spent an hour back in the warmth of my sleeping bag and caught up on my journal.

    By the time I rolled out of Cameron, it was already after nine. The weather was once again ideal. I followed along the Madison River and watched numerous fly fisherman hone their craft. I continued on the 287 north to Ennis and ate a mediocre breakfast at the Ennis Cafe. I was falsely charmed by the quaint exterior. I then proceeded west to Virginia City and Alder. Both of these former pioneer mining towns were direct from Wild Western central casting, with Victorian buildings and wood sidewalks. The fields near these towns were dug up and left scarred in the search for gold and garnets. This section of the state was particularly beautiful, with majestic panoramic views and challenging elevation changes. I rode to Twin Bridges and caught the 41 to 2. Route 2 was an unexpected gem, with challenging twisties and dramatic cliffs. Passing by a small ranch, I was jarred by the politically venomous, six-foot-tall, hand-painted sign out front, that simply said, ”Hang Her.” No one was going to buy Hillary a cup of coffee in this neck of the woods.

    Epic Ride 285.JPG
    breakfast stop


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    view from the cockpit

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    Virginia City wooden sidewalk


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    Virginia City architecture
    #53
  14. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    I hopped on Interstate 90 for a few exits and then took Route 1 to Anaconda. Bypassing Opportunity and Wisdom wasn't the first time in my life, and certainly won't be the last. I had lunch at the Stokes Fresh Food Market, enjoying a sandwich made-to-order, iced tea, a banana, and a plum for $5.14, and such largesse included restaurant style seating overlooking Orcus in the parking lot. It was a budget lunch in Traveler Heaven.

    My goal was to stay west, but when I tried to go left at Porter's Corner Route 38 to Hamilton (and then up to Lolo), I was discouraged by a road sign that read “NARROW MOUNTAINOUS WINDING GRAVEL ROADWAY 16 MILES AHEAD.” I must have stared at that sign for a full five minutes deciding what to do. There was not a car to be seen in any direction.

    The adventure devil on my left shoulder whispered, "Go for it. You want adventure. It will be fun."

    The protective angel on my right shoulder whispered, For Christ's sake, its gravel. Are you out of your mind."

    I admit it, I chickened out. I had flashbacks of my dump in the sand near Burt Lake Michigan, and I simply was unwilling to chance dropping the bike in loose gravel and being stranded. If I wasn't traveling alone, it would have been exciting. I thought of the Bob Seger Roll Me Away lyrics, “I could go east, I could go west, it was all up to me to decide.”

    Epic Ride 294.JPG
    frontier cabin


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    The magazine selections at Stokes Fresh Food Market were skewed towards self reliance and individual freedom


    Epic Ride 298.JPG
    Do I listen to the devil or the angel?
    #54
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  15. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    I reluctantly continued on Route 1, also known as the Pintler Veterans Memorial Scenic Highway, until Drummond, and then was again forced back on I-90 until Missoula, where I dropped down to Lolo and took 12 west. It was about 85 degrees by this time in the afternoon. Montana does not make it easy to go west unless you jump on I-90, so that is what I did. While on I-90, I could make the claim that I rode faster than a Boeing 737 because I passed a train paralleling the highway that was hauling two new lime green Boeing fuselages. I hadn't seen that before. I was later informed that they were manufactured in Wichita and sent to Renton, Washington for further assembly.

    Epic Ride 299.JPG
    outrunning a plane


    In the valley of Route 12 West, I passed a small residential area with handmade signs thanking firefighters. Before I could comprehend the significance, I was warned by professionally lettered signs not to stop on the road because of ongoing firefighting. There was a police presence and the air was thick with smoke. Two large Chinook twin rotor helicopters filled their tanks in a nearby river and then flew overhead ferrying water up the mountain. The helicopters were part of a coordinated effort to try to control the multiple forest fires visible from the road. As much as I wanted to document the excitement with photographs, I was unwilling to risk the wrath of law enforcement by pulling over and digging out my camera. There were a few miles of blackened trees on the edge of both sides of Route 12, but I suspected, based on neighboring new growth, that these were from fires several years ago.

    I rode for about a half an hour with a father and son. Larry, the father, was from upstate New York and Matt, the son, was now living in San Francisco. They were riding and camping throughout the West together. The weather forecast was perfect for camping. As it was getting late, I followed them into a state campground. But while scouting for a suitable campsite, I thought better of it when I was besieged with aggressive mosquitoes and horse flies. Larry claimed that he was going to throw his sleeping bag out in the open without cover, but I could only assume that there would be nothing left of him but a desiccated corpse in the morning. He curiously declined my offer of bug spray. I told them I would only come back if I could not find other accommodations. The bugs were not my only concern. There were very few other campers and Larry emanated a whiff of maleficence. I was more than willing to move on.

    I rode further west toward Lolo Hot Springs, and noted a small sign on the right for Jack's Saloon Cabins. Further down the road was a small yellow sign with black lettering that simply said “Jack.” It directed me down a long gravel road that lead me to a great find. A clean comfy cabin was available, and down a bit further, a rustic bar and grill capably hosted by Mary, the all purpose bartender and cook. After a badly needed shower, I sat at the bar between three outlaw Harley riders from various parts of the West (Capt Kirk, aptly named Harley, and uninspired Doug). Further to my right were two car-traveling sisters, Susan and Colleen, from Ann Arbor and Washington, State. Susan was a Presbyterian minister, among other vocations, and had previously lived in Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts. The mood was festive and the liquor flowed. The bar itself was fabricated from a massive redwood log that required the building to be built around it. Over the years, the length of the forty-foot bar had been personalized with patron’s crude carvings. I found it ironic that carved into the bar’s tabletop, right in front of where I sat, was the BMW roundel. Miles 281.

    Epic Ride 301.JPG
    My little cabin for the night


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    Mary tending the bar at Jack's Saloon Cabins


    Epic Ride 304.JPG
    Only later did I notice this carved into the bar directly in front of where I sat
    #55
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  16. JoeBiker25

    JoeBiker25 Been here awhile

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    Bypassing Opportunity and Wisdom wasn't the first time in my life, and certainly won't be the last
    Ha ha ha, Brilliant writing! thoroughly enjoying your RR and the pics are excellent![/
    #56
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  17. DCrider

    DCrider Live from THE Hill

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    Noticed KLR is mispelled :lol3
    #57
  18. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    ...a drunken mistake
    #58
  19. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    Day 14

    I slept like a baby for a rare eight hours. I woke to yet another chilly morning and cloudless skies. As I packed up the bike, I noticed my three Harley friends were loading up their bikes as well. Captain Kirk was having a hell of a time trying to secure all his packs with bungee cords. I showed him my Rok straps and he seemed interested, but I could sense that he didn't want to hear any smart-aleck advice from a know-it-all BMW rider. I departed with a nod in their direction. As I traveled southwest on Route 12, I saw about a half-dozen deer on the side of the road, likely pondering if they should cross into my path or not. I saw a mother with a baby doe and another with two. While traveling the West, there are numerous signs warning of possible deer, sometimes with long distances such as “next 16 miles.” There were so many of these signs that their value was diminished. I get it; slow down and be careful. I had already passed so many fresh deer kills on the side of the road that it was difficult to count. Up ahead was a sign indicating the pull-off to put on mandatory chains. When you see that sign, you know you are about to climb into some altitude.

    I soon crossed into Idaho, and Pacific time, and stopped to take the obligatory photo of Orcus in front of the marker. I mistakenly parked too close to the edge of the turnout and almost toppled the bike trying to get back on. My right leg was way too short to reach the ground and it took a serious shot of adrenaline to avoid an embarrassing and costly spill.

    I have certainly raved about some roads on this trip, but Route 12 following the Lochsa River is one of the all time greats. I passed a sign that said “WINDING ROAD NEXT 99 MILES,” and that was an understatement. There was no way I was going to flatten the center tread of my tires on this road. It was a motorcyclist's dream, with plenty of challenging technical sections, reverse camber turns, increasing radius turns, and occasional frost heaves and pitted payment. You definitely had to be on your “A” game if you carried velocity. There was almost no traffic on the road. I encountered three bicyclists going the other direction and I couldn't imagine the conditioning required to tackle those inclines.

    Epic Ride 307.JPG
    Road from Jack's back to Rt 12


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    Route 12


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    Getting the kickstand up without toppling over took some gymnastics


    winding road.jpg
    Looks like its going to be a fun day
    #59
  20. Oron

    Oron Adventurer

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    I stopped for brunch at the Lochsa Lodge. Right after I parked, a distinguished gentleman on a Harley Heritage pulled in next to me. As he was traveling alone, I invited him to join me at my table. His name was (also) Jim, and it turned out that he was from Bainbridge, Washington, and was friends with Betsy's brother and sister-in-law. What a small world. There was a pretty good chance I would see him again outside Seattle in a few weeks.

    Gas tank topped off and a belly full of great brunch, I was on a serious high as I dropped through the endless curves of Route 12 that mimicked the path of the Lochsa River. The scenery was a blur of pine scented alleyways. I eventually took a break in tiny Lowell (population 23) at Ryan's Wilderness Inn, where I met a pack of dual sport riders. One of them mentioned his childhood in Rockport, Massachusetts. I rode with them to Kooskia, where they split south.

    Epic Ride 310.JPG
    Much of this trip seemed to follow Lewis and Clark's trek


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    Bainbridge Jim after a belly full of breakfast


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    Route 12 along the Lochsa River


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    the most fun you can have...while wearing clothing
    #60
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