Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Today will be forever known as the day we lost Steve. Our plan was to head south through Yellowstone and head out the West Entrance, then head north through Idaho to Bozeman, Montana. This would give us some time to see some more Yellowstone sights before leaving the park.
We started out ok as a group and all stopped to take pictures of "Roaring Mountain." We then headed further south and started running into a large number of tourists in buses, motorhomes and cars stopping to take pictures. In the confusion, I rode ahead with Dennis and Colleen, Jim and Cindy, Jim McCann, and John. We turned at the first right out to West Yellowstone.
We waited up the road at the first turnout on the right and took pictures of elk in the river.
After a while Dan and Paula showed up and we asked where Steve was. They had not seen him. They returned to look for him where he was last seen taking pictures, and could not find him. John asked me to go look for Steve. I took off on the BMW and headed on south down the road on the presumption that he missed the right turn. I got as far as Old Faithful before deciding to call him while cell service was good. I left a message. I then called my Dad and left a message letting him know of my plan to wait for Steve at Old Faithful. Steve then returned my call and let me know he was almost back into The Grand Tetons! He was riding fast away from the group on the presumption that he was trying to catch us! Lesson learned - agree on contigencies when riding in a group. Steve came back to Old Faithful, bought a drink and we called the group. We told them to complete their ride as planned, and we would head back to Gardiner and directly to Bozeman.
Steve and I gassed up in Gardiner and headed on up the road (Rt. 89). I asked him if he was comfortable riding at 80 MPH and he said no problem. On the open road I started to stretch the Beemer's legs a bit and Steve always hung back. I was wondering if he was uncomfortable riding fast. Although I was concerned for Steve, I couldn't resist the urge to see what she had. I opened it up and in short order the BMW was doing 120. A personal new land speed record for me.
I waited for Steve to catch up and while we were riding together we saw a fire in the mountains to our right. This fire had just started by a mini-thunderstorm that just passed in front of us. As we rode by this fire - it mushroomed into a major fire that was quickly spreading from the top of the mountains down a valley. The other riders later said they were watching the same smoke while they were separated by another mountain range to the west!
Steve and I pulled into Bozeman in the late afternoon. He told me his Harley did not want to go faster than 75-80, and that is the reason why he was lagging behind. Bummer - glad I rented a bike with some cahones! (In all fairness, John McCann later said his would go to 110 if you wound out 4th gear - Steve was trying in 5th gear).
Around 6:00 everyone else pulled in. I heard descriptions of the day's riding on their route ranging from, "God-awful boring" to "Beautiful." Just goes to show that one person's tastes can vary drastically from another's! We then went out to eat at various places because we could not agree on a place as a group. My dad and I did find a great coffee shop for desert. He had a chocolate w/cherries brownie and I had an apple/peach pie with a dollop of butter creme. We both agreed they were excellent.
Today we rode out of Cody via the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. The road was a wonderful surprise - with incredible views and many switchbacks down into a wooded valley and back up to the Beartooth Highway.
At the scenic vista stop at the highest point, Steve, Jim McCann and Colleen fed a tame chipmunk some trail mix.
A few miles before the turn for Route 212 (the Beartooth) there was a 8-mile or so stretch of road grevelling and oiling that we had to stop for. After 10 minutes a pace car came to lead us through. The riding was slow but manageable through the gravel. As we were mostly on rented bikes, we did not worry too much over the oily rocks hitting our bikes. Jim and Cindy did have a problem, however, as the rocks were pitting the front fenders of their trailer.
Right after the Chief Joseph came the Beartooth Highway. The ride was a wonderful side trip to Red Lodge, MT and lunch at the outdoor cafe in a converted caboose. Rt. 212 climbs to 10,967 feet through places where you ride above the snowline. The riding was incredible. Not much traffic and no police, and lots of other bikes. Needless to say we sharpened our cornering skills on the hairpin turns ;) I took this video (click here) of the return trip up the north side. I tried to video the way down too, during which I taped the whole group for a while and then Jim McCann, John and I rode at warp speed, but the tape malfunctioned after our stop at the top.
After riding the Beartooth we headed west back into Yellowstone. The road was under construction through Cooke City and provided more dusty and tricky riding. While waiting for everybody to get back into the Northeast Gate to Yellowstone, we were attached by many biting horseflys. Several people rode ahead. At that point Jim McCann was getting off his bike at the ranger hut and forgot his kickstand (it had been another long,hot day of riding). He pulled his hamstring trying the prevent the bike from falling totally over. He was OK except for a big bruise on his leg.
We rode through the valley in the northern part of the park and saw some buffalo in the Lamar Valley.
A rest stop was needed at Tower Falls lodge in which we were treated to a dance routine by two pre-teen sisters singing Blondie's "The Tide is High."
We arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs as our last stop. Colleen, always the one to find a way around the rules, was the first one of us to reach through the railings and touch the material making up the rock of the springs. Paula and I followed suit and we agreed that the material feels like chaulk.
We rode into Gardiner to stay at the Travelodge for the night. As we were checking in a quick storm blew through, and was followed by a wonderful double rainbow! From my vantage point, the end of the rainbow pointed to a sign for CiCi's Fine Goods.
We ate a decent meal at the Yellowstone Mine Restaurant and I moseyed out early and got an ice cream across the street. As I was unable to get an internet connection from my room, I turned in early. I suspect that everyone else had an early night too.