Carla and I had always wanted to go out west so in 2009 we planned a trip to Yellowstone National Park. I guess that automatically makes me the Road Captain.
I had two weeks vacation and Carla was as excited as I was about the adventure. My 2008 Road King Classic was good and broke in. I think I had ridden over 6500 miles before the trip. Some idiot had tried to steal my bike earlier so the ignition and some other cosmetic trim around the fork lock that was replaced along with some paint repair to the tank.
Two guys that I work with wanted to go along for the ride and they where welcome to join us, they had no idea what they where in for. Paul road a Gold Wing and Marco had limited experience on his new Ultra.
The day we have waited for finally arrived Saturday morning in August and time to mount up and meet the others. The plan was to meet at a McDonald’s at 8:00am for a quick breakfast then head west. Off to McDonald’s we go Carla and I that is. We ordered some food and started eating, no sign of the other two guys. about the time I finished my breakfast I started to think that Paul and Marco had wimped out and I had better call to see. Paul and Marco wanted to know where I was at because they were waiting on me at McDonald’s. Good way to start a 4000 mile road trip we can’t even coordinate a meeting place 5 miles from home. They went to a different McDonald’s down the road a few blocks. After that first mistake we got our stuff together and pointed the bikes west and headed out.
This would be the first of our annual heading west trips. I wasn’t sure what to expect but if I had learned anything from 14 years in the Army was be ready for anything, so when I packed a small umbrella in the bike my wife thought I was crazy, after all how could you ride and hold an umbrella?
Day two that umbrella would come into use, we had left Des Moines, Iowa that morning and the sky was getting darker and darker. Paul my “Gold Wing buddy” had complained about ridding behind me and hearing my pipes all day the day before so I said: Paul why don’t you get up front and lead just stay on interstate 80 and head west. I forgot to tell him to stop before it started raining otherwise the rain suits don’t really do any good if there in the saddle bag when you ride into the rain. The last sign I saw said next rest area 34 miles, as the lightning flashed and the thunder roared but Paul kept a steady 70 MPH heading directly into the storm. Bam just like that it started raining and with no overpasses in sight and the next rest area at least 30 miles away we found a truck weigh station to pull off and put on rain gear then the wind started and the rain increased we stood next to a semi trailer for shelter and that umbrella did help a little with the sideways rain we stood in.
One thing you have to remember when you take a bike trip like this. You will be outside for the next two weeks with some small intermissions of indoor comforts. You have to understand that to get 500 miles down the road you have to be on the road and rolling. This is when the outdoor part comes in. I know but you would be surprised how some people think, if it rains i will just stop and wait.
That is fine if you want to spend your vacation in a Truck stop.
I prefer to get down the road.
After all isn’t that the point of a road trip.
Nebraska is a long state to travel across from east to west. I recommend that you stop and take in some sights along the way Gothenburg is home to the original Pony Express station.
the Sam Macchette station, in Ehmen Park, just 2 miles north of I-80. The station in the park was used as a fur trading post / ranch house along the Oregon Trail southwest of Gothenburg before it was used as a Pony Express station in 1860-61. It was moved from its original site and rebuilt in Ehmen Park in 1931. After the Pony Express we ventured N/W on Highway 26 towards Casper for the night. Along the way before leaving Nebraska we had to take a small detour to take in the Historic Chimney Rock National Monument.
http://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/scotts_bluff/chimney_rock.html The link will take you to the National Parks Service website for more information on Chimney Rock. After quick look around and getting an education about the pioneer travelers that traveled through this are and their way of life it was off to Casper.
While in Casper Carla and I woke up before sunrise so that we could watch a Wyoming sunrise on our first visit to the state of Wyoming. Behind the hotel was a large hill small mountain with a building sitting on top. Looked like a good place to get some pictures and take a look at our surrounding. The building is the Historic Trails Interpretive Center.
After a nice breakfast and some map recon. This is what us old military guys call looking at a map. I discovered a place noted on the local Wyoming map I had picked up at the hotel, Called Hells Half Acre.
Hells Half Acre is a lost and forgotten abandoned restaurant and tourist stop. Wiki says the following
Hell’s Half Acre is a large scarp located about 40 miles (64 km) west of Casper, Wyoming on US 20/26. Encompassing 320 acres (1.3 km2), this geologic oddity is composed of deep ravines, caves, rock formations and hard-packed eroded earth. Hell’s Half Acre was used as the scene for the fictional planet of Klendathu in the movie Starship Troopers.
The place was known as “The Devil’s Kitchen”, “The Pits of Hades”, and “The Baby Grand Canyon” until a cowhand appeared and thought he was at Hell’s Half Acre, an area southwest of Casper full of alkali and bogs.
Native American tribes used the ravines to drive bison to their death during their hunts.
As of December 2005, the roadside restaurant and motel/campground sitting atop the ravine were closed. The motel and the abandoned restaurant have since been torn down.
Continued on our way on 20/26 through Shoshoni Wyoming turning north on 20 up the beautiful Wind River Canyon.
Wyoming does a good job of placing road side information signs for you to enjoy and learn about the history and geology of the area.
In Thermopolis we jumped on 120 towards Cody Wyoming. Make sure you get fuel in Thermopolis. Butler Motorcycle Maps list 120 as a Lost Highway. http://www.butlermaps.com the Lost Highway designation from Butler Motorcycle Maps ” Beyond high mountain passes and plunging canyons are roads that reach out to the horizon and the unknown beyond. The faded paint of a center line, the crumbling shoulder is all that remains of these byways that seem lost in time. Void of the trappings of modern life, they provide a motorcycling experience as unique as the untouched landscapes they divide.”
I did not have a Butler Motorcycle Map during this trip in 2009 but I own several now.
We had a house we rented through Cody Lodging Company http://www.codylodgingcompany.com The house was nice and affordable for the 5 of us and would be our jump off point for the next three days exploring the Yellowstone area and the endless miles of mountain roads. Chief Joseph Highway, Crandell Road, Beartooth Highway. don’t over look Cody itself has a Rodeo and a Gun Fight every night.
The road from Cody to the East Entrance of Yellowstone is said to be the 50 most beautiful miles in America. There is some amazing scenery and you feel that civilization is behind you and you are a very small part of this huge landscape. Signs warn you of bear activity and remind you not to be careless with food handling and storage in this part of the country.
This is when I realized that the big bag of home-made beef jerky I had in my saddle bag might not be a good idea. I thought what if we break down and a bear comes?
When we stopped at Buffalo Bill Dam and reservoir I asked everyone if they wanted the jerky and I did not get one taker after seeing the warning signs I couldn’t give it away.
Trafic was starting to build as we approached the gate to Yellowstone, so I stayed in line on the bike and let Carla run over for the must have photo.
Yellowstone can be overwhelming with so many choices of what sights to see, where to go. The vastness of Yellowstone is not just the square miles but the entirety of the landscape so much that the park has its own weather systems develop and dissipate within the park. That means you don’t just look at the local weather forecast that says its going to be 75 and sunny all day and head out in a t-shirt to explore Yellowstone. The weather will change and can change drastically and quickly, be prepared. I had given out a shirt to one of the guys and gloves to the other, lucky for them I was prepared.
We chose to see Old Faithful Geyser. How can you go to Yellowstone and not see Old Faithful?
The lodge and the Huckleberry ice cream are must see and do as well.
Old Faithful itself wasn’t as much of a thrill as I was expecting, but knowing that it goes on a some what regular basis and has been since recorded time it is the most famous of all geysers makes it a must see.
From there head over to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Work your way around Yellowstone Lake. This is a huge lake and is deceiving as to how long it takes to get to the other side, plus stopping to check out the super heated water coming up from beneath the lake to the surface. It is said that you can catch a fish in the lake and swing your pole around and dip the fish back into the water near one of the super heated boils and cook that fish with out ever taking it off your line.
The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the lower falls are must see spots.
I can not describe the experience that you take away from Yellowstone, it is humbling to say the least and spiritual. When you hear people over using the word awesome describing their new bike or the new pair of hooker shoes that one chick just bought. You know they have never been to Yellowstone or they would know what awesome truly was about.
Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and the Beartooth where next on the to do list. Going North West out of Cody on 120 to 296 Chief Joseph is one of my favorite roads I have ever ridden. http://www.wyomingtourism.org/things-to-do/detail/Chief-Joseph-Scenic-Byway/7333 The Beartooth is not to be taking lightly. You will be traveling above the tree line and varying road conditions as well as weather issues. When we started the day it was nice and comfortable by the top of the Beartooth it was freezing rain and cold. Some time the best part of these adventures is after you have survived and can look back and remember the challenges of the adventure. Enjoy the photos. The following link is for the Beartooth. http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/byways/states/WY
The Yellowstone and Cody area are great motorcycle destinations and I have and will be back again.
Leaving the Cody Wyoming area we headed east on ALT 14 through Powell and Lovell. Crossing Bighorn Lake in the Bighorn Basin. http://www.wyohistory.org/encyclopedia/bighorn-basin-wyoming Up and over the Bighorn Mountains past Medicine Wheel ancient Indian spiritual site. Through Burgess Junction, and down into the vast open north central Wyoming to interstate 90 into Sheridan and on towards Sturgis South Dakota, not for the rally but the week after.
We had our sites set on seeing Devils Tower on the way into Spearfish, South Dakota for the night.
We arrived at Devils tower late in the afternoon and took time to take some photos and grab a snack and some ice cream. A nice woman at the snack place said “be careful going into Spearfish the deer come out this time of the day” and soon as we left I shifted into 4th gear, out popped a deer in front of me. Not to worry we slowed in time for Bambi to move on and we did too.
After a good pizza buffet and a cold brew we returned to the hotel and sat outside and watched the sun set and enjoyed a couple more cold ones, we had covered a lot of mile for the day. The hotel had some nice rocking chairs to sit in and were to much for Marco to handle. Rolling on the ground and not spilling a drop of beer after being bucked off the rocker. This was not the first time Marco had rolled on the ground during the trip.
Marco was a trooper and managed to not notice the gun fight in Cody but he noticed a saloon girl.
The Sturgis area is not just a place for a huge party known as The Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, but for Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse Monument and the Black Hills. We would go onto explore Custer National Park, Iron Mountain rd. and the Bad Lands.
After leaving Mount Rushmore and heading back towards Rapid City our luck ran out and the rain came in buckets, Paul and I pulled off at an Applebees to eat and Marco kept rolling towards Spearfish to the hotel. After eating and drying out for a little bit the rain let up and we met Marco back in Spearfish.
It was finally time to head back to Indiana and reality.