Choose Your Own Adventure
AA group of us decided to get together for a fourth of July ride to Yellowstone National Park. We were excited that there would be a few people going with us that had never gone on a long ride with us before. Attending this ride was Eric and Dawn, Kris and Myself, as well as Brad, another MSF instructor on his 650 Pegaso, and his girlfriend and proud new rider/owner of an SV650. Dave (the other Dave) would be riding along on his Race'd out R1 as well as Scott riding a customized Honda Shadow 1100.
- Day 1. An Introuction of RedBull
- Day 2. I Wanna' Pet a Buffalo
- Day 3. Felonious Evasion
- Day 4. The Meltdown
- Alternate Endings
From Salt Lake City to Grand Targhee
We left Salt Lake after a mellow breakfast at Einstein Bagels and rode up I-15 to Brigham City, and then over to Logan through Sardine Canyon. We stopped briefly in Logan for gas then excitedly took off for Logan Canyon. Kris and I started our riding career in Logan and it was fun to take some fiends to our 'ol' stompin' grounds.' We had heard that Logan Canyon was under construction, but didn't think it would be that bad. Unfortunately we were wrong. Not only was the canyon jammed with holiday traffic, but the construction zones had the roads churned up to loose, large gravel and mud bogs. Dave and I jumped out in front of the rest of the group and tried a bit harder than the rest to get ahead of traffic. But there was too much to be overcome and we spent most of the canyon trolling behind camper trailers and Subaru station wagons.
Dave and I stopped at the first gas station on the other side to allow everyone to catch up then we rode down into Garden City where we all got a bite to eat. The most popular item ordered was, of course, the famous Bear Lake Raspberry shakes. Mmmm, Good!
We left Garden City and rode up the west side of Bear Lake until we took the turn off to ride through Mink Creek canyon. Fortunately, most of the holiday traffic was already at Bear Lake and Mink Creek was pretty empty. Dave, Kris and I got out in front of the group and enjoyed a very spirited pace through the canyon. Dave was in the lead and I really enjoyed listening to his R1 howl every time he cracked the throttle to accelerate through a corner. It was a really great stint of riding with warm weather and clear roads.
We stopped again to allow the group to catch up again. Eric and Dawn were not far behind with Scott on the cruiser riding right with them. Brad and Mari were always behind us. This was Mari's first real canyon and she was wisely, carefully plotting her way through the unfamiliar road.
We regrouped and headed straight north towards Soda Springs, but made a quick stop in Grace Idaho for more gas and more ice cream. It was here that we introduced Mari to Red Bull. Mari was already starting to get tired from riding and being a new rider so we encouraged her to try Red Bull. It seemed to work. When we got back out on the road she was riding faster and with more confidence. I guess Red Bull does give you wings.
We headed out of Grace and up to Soda Springs and then towards Henry to ride Tin Cup Canyon. Another empty fun road that has proved to be very enjoyable for us many many times. We took it easy for the first while as cattle is common in the area, then as we climbed in elevation we increased our speeds. Before long Dave and I were enjoying a very spirited, yet very sane, pace through the corners. Down the east side of the canyon, the road opens up into a series of left right sweepers that have awesome visibility. We swept through a couple of them and then came to what appeared to be a "perfect" corner. Dave described it as "My eyes lit up like a Christmas tree when I saw that banked corner approaching." We rode into it with the same quick pace and I immediately noticed something funny. Daves R1 was squirming all over the place, then I noticed that I was squirming all over the place. The road, through the corner was extremely slippery. We both broke formation and widened our lines to cross over the double yellow line. Something we never, never do, but the lack of any traffic reassured us it was safe. As soon as we were safely through the corner, Dave through his arms in the air in a display of victory and relief. We immediately turned around to get ahead of the corner to warn the rest of the group of the potential danger.
When everyone had arrived, Kris took a moment to explain to Mari what was going on and let her know how to best get through the corner safely. Meanwhile, Dave and I decided to walk down to the corner to get a closer look at what was making the road so slippery.The Dave's had done a good job of stopping everybody before they rode into the corner. Kris had a short chat with Mari to explain what was going on.
What we found, when we arrived was an extremely thick layer of tar on the road. The tar was so think that the impression of car tires and our footprints were easily seen in the soft tar. Tar of this thickness does not adhere well to the road well and was not very fun to ride on.\Unknown to any riders was the thick level of greasy tar that was on the road, right in the middle of the corner.
The stuff was clingy and slimy. The Dave's had entered this corner at a good pace and were fortunate to have not slipped worse than they did on the horrible road surface. God was smiling on us that day, because it wasn't our tires that were holding our bikes up and on the road. Again, another reason why you should ride comfortable on the street. You never know what you may come up upon.
After our fun filled adventure with the road muck we charged down the rest of the way down Tin Cup canyon. Although I was very concerned about coming into another slimy corner, every other corner along the way was fine. The best that we could tell was the cars and trailers coming hard into that corner would brake and churn up all the tar on the road to the surface. The tar was so thick that it actually was dripping down the slope of the road in big globby runs.
We rode into Alpine Junction and stopped for gas before heading towards Driggs Idaho. This is where Kris, Danny and I had gotten a ticket two years ago and I did not want to return to that town, but it was on the way to the best hotel rate we could find. Before we go to Driggs, we go to go through one more canyon! Traffic was getting heavy as we neared Jackson Hole so we had to ease way up to flow with the extremely slow traffic.
We rode through Driggs without stopping then up towards Grand Targhee Ski Area and Summer Resort where we came upon a very pleasant surprise! The road up to Grand Targhee had just been resurfaced and was a magnificent stretch of tight, windy turns that squirmed its way through trees, meadows and over hills to the ski resort and hotel rooms. We arrived with happy smiles and tired muscles from the day of riding. But we still had more to go. We unpacked and jumped back on the bikes to head to Jackson Hole for dinner and Fireworks. Eric said he knew of a great beer pub and restaurant. We went straight for it!
When we finally arrived in Jackson Hole, Eric took us to his favorite Brew pub, but the wait to get in was longer than 15-minutes. I cannot remember the name of that pub, but the beer was cold and good and the atmosphere was warm and relaxed. It was a really nice way to start winding down at the end of the day. We finally got our seats and ordered dinner and were thrilled to find out that Daves wife was in town visiting friends of the family and would be able to join us for dinner. Plus to top it all all off, the fireworks were visible from our seat outside on the deck!
Fortunately, the view from our dinner table was magnificent, providing a great view of the fireworks show.
After the Fireworks show we loaded up on the bikes and headed the 40 miles back to our hotel. On the way Dave was in the lead taking us back through the backroad series of country streets to get us back, unfortunately he took us down the wrong road resulting in a moment of confusion accented only by Brads laughing at the rest of us while he watched the whole thing by the side of the road. Fortunately, the really great road to Grand Targhee was even still a great road in the dark. Imagine that.
Grand Targhee to West Yellowstone
The next day we woke up early, by our standards, and headed into Driggs for some breakfast. We stopped at a cute breakfast nook that tried to hard to come up with a good name. Called "MeeSo-Hungry" it played on the popularity of a current George Lucas character, Jar-Jar Binks, that every human over the age of seven found to be utterly obnoxious and most probably have a hard time watching Episode I because of him/it/digitalcreation/whatever.
Anyway, that aside, breakfast was good and it got us ready to go for the day. We made the ride, again, back to Jackson Hole. Eric needed to make a quick stop at a motorcycle shop to replace dawns scratched facesheild and as we rode into town we got separated. I left the larger group and went back to try to catch up with Brad and Mari and eventually found them waiting patiently at a gas station.
Brad was having some problems with his Pegaso He couldn't get it run right and the bike kept stalling on him really badly. So he asked if I'd be willing to look at it while we waited for the rest of the group to catch up with us.
At first, I was stumped and felt like I was chasing dead ends. But I found the problem when I started playing with the idle adjust. I would adjust one way, slower, but then not readjust to speed the idle back up. I had turned the idle up, but the know did not adjust the carb linkage. I guessed that it was probably just dirty linkage. When the rest of the group showed up, Dave valiantly agreed to go to the nearest grocery/parts store and obtain for us, a can of WD-40. Upon his arrival, we quickly blasted Brads carbs, then my kickstand and a host of other components on all of our bikes.
Finally, we were ready to leave, but we had gotten a very late start in the day. We rode north out of Jackson then up towards the Grand Tetons. Once we entered Grand Teton National Park the road got really wiggly, arcing left and right then down long straightaways before throwing itself back into convulsive twists and turns. Traffic was extremely light and we were able to pass a lot more than the local constabulary would have preferred, I'm sure.
We stopped at the entrance gate to enjoy the warm day and get our obligatory photos. Dave, Kris and myself were a little ahead of the rest of the group, but we were happy to hang out in the warm weather and wait for them to show up. When the rest of the group did arrive, we hung around for quite a while enjoying the afternoon. We didn't have far to go for the evening so none of us felt very rushed and were happy to lollygag about.
Kris and the Dave's were ahead of the group, but everyone else arrived shortly. Brad showed off his amazing packing skills, (and his multicolored boxers) which was more than we really wanted to see.
I had to take a photo of this sign because of the first line "Park Regulations Prohibit Feeding or MOLESTING of animals." I didn't know they were having those kinds of problems there.
We left the front gate and started wandering towards Old Faithful Lodge and then to West Yellowstone for our lodging that evening. The roads between the South Gate and Old Faithful lodge were created just to torture motorcycles. The road drapes along a huge ravine writhing along the terrain. The view is spectacular and the road surface is magnificent. The speed limit is about 10-15mph too slow for motorcycles. Just a bit faster an the road would flow together like a masterful Chopin symphony, but at the posted limit it feels more like a "Brittany Spears" tune. Too fast, then too slow and none of it really fitting together, but pretty if you can contort your perspective enough.
An old pastor of my childhood used to joke "I can resist anything but temptation" and the temptation of speed was powerful. It was taking all of my strength to control my right hand, I felt I was fighting off an angel of light whispering softly in my ear "just a little faster, it would be so nice if you could just go a little faster." I caved, I could not resist the temptation and wicked up the speed to a ludicrous 50, then 55mph. Ahhh, is was a euphoric feeling. But fear grasped me and an quickly brought my speed back to the almost illegally fast 40mph in a posted 35mph zone. Just as I crested the hill, a Park Ranger passed us going the other way. Whew!
We stopped at Old Faithful Lodge to grab a snack and maybe get in a little shopping. We took a break at the Yellowstone Lodge, We had looked for a room here, but they sell out about nine months in advance.
The foyer, or great room, is spectacular no matter how many times you've seen it. To imagine someone hoofing along picking out all those matching, strange shaped trees just to build a staircase. It is neat!
We also stopped for a quick lunch/snack where we ordered every appetizer on the menu. The restaurants were pretty packed or closed until dinner, so we opted for the next best thing, the bar. This is the bar where my dad bought me my very first beer. Ahh the memories. But the whole group, for lunch, decided to order every appetizer on the menu and share them around. It was a great idea and a nice unconventional lunch.
After lunch we all hit the 'Tradin' Posts' to find trinkets and treasures to remind us, forever, of our journey with plastic Buffaloes and fake rubber knives all scribed with "Yellowstone National Park." In fact, it doesn't really matter what the item is as long as it has Yellowstone written on it somewhere, it is appropriate for our Nations National Treasures, our National Parks.
Mari really wanted to pet a Buffalo, but I beat her to it by petting this little guy right behind the gift shop. He was really soft and fuzzy.
Mari was noticeably absent and it was pointed out that she had found a Buffalo. Apparently she assumed that because this was a "park" that the animals were tame and was frustrated that she was not allowed and that Brad would not let her approach and pet a Buffalo.
After lunch, we went to see some sights. These 'hot pots' seemed to be the ticket. We left the Buffalo and headed towards West Yellowstone but stopped along the way to enjoy some of the sites. We first stopped at some hot pots and enjoyed a brisk walk around as the sun crawled towards the mountains.
They were a lot of fun to look at and didn't even smell that bad.Dawn really wanted to get a picture of the dead tree. I don't know why really, but librarians tend to be artistic like that.
We left and started towards town out the West gate into West Yellowstone. Traffic was really heavy but moving slow enough that I wanted to try to get some action riding shots. We used to snap these photos all the time, but hadn't tried in quite a long time. It can be difficult and challenging to try to hold the camera and take the photos at the same time. It is not a safe thing and I had to adjust my thinking to accept that I must be willing to drop the camera to prevent an accident and rely on the strap to prevent catastrophic loss of the camera.
We rode into town and immediately stopped for gas. It was at this point that I realized that I had forgot to bring the hotel information. I assumed I would be able to solve the problem with a few phone calls, and at the very worst, find an internet connection and re-find the hotel using the same search techniques as I did initially, hoping it would lead me down the same path to the same hotel.
I started making phone calls with the local gas station phone book and my calling card, but it was taking an extreme amount of time to re-dial the 27-digit access number for each hotel. So Eric offered up his cell phone and his unlimited calling minutes. I called every hotel in town and some hotels twice. Not a single hotel claimed to have a reservation under my name. Not good. With it being a holiday weekend, we chose to try to search out another room and maybe the original lost reservation.
To the four directions of the compass we went, stopping in to talk with every hotel manager we could find. We came across to rooms almost immediately, but the surly nature of the owner operator was bad enough to prevent us from acquiring the rooms. After that, we were essentially begging for rooms that other people had yet to claim. By about 11:30, and an extreme amount of stress and tension, we gathered four rooms scattered across town. Several hours earlier, Brad had called the person watching his house and left her a message informing them that we had left the hotel paperwork in his living room. We were about to decide as to which rooms to take when they gave Brad a call and found the paperwork and hotel reservation numbers.
I immediately took the information and headed over to the hotel where are reservations were supposed to be. I walked in trying to stifle my displeasure with the Hotel and said I was there to claim my three rooms. They had no listing for a reservation under my name. I knew they would say this because I had called them twice and they had been visited by Eric and Brad on previous occasions. I gave them my reservation number and they immediately found my reservation. Apparently they had transposed the first two letters of my name when they took the reservation and upon both of my phone calls to confirm my reservation they would simply look for the first letter and not finding it, would say they had no record, forgetting to look at the next nine letters of my very unique last name. But at the very least we had rooms for the night that we would not have to pay for twice.
We quickly left the lobby and headed for anyplace to get something to eat. However, it had taken so long to finally find where we were going to be sleeping that everything was closed. Well, almost everything was closed. So we had to get creative. The only place open was one last bar with a few tourists cluttered in, listening to a local folk singer. We were desperate so we stopped in thinking they would, for sure, have something to eat. They did. They had popcorn. Yumm. They also had a full bar. We'll leave the rest to the imagination of the reader.
West Yellowstone to Jackson Hole
The next morning, amazingly enough, we had a difficult time getting up and getting moving. A light drizzle was welcoming us to the morning and the bikes were nice and damp with the sky showing signs of possibly relenting.We took a quick group shot on the lobby steps of the hotel that was so hard to find the night before.. But we wont' talk about that..
Mari also found the opportunity to finally pet a buffalo.
We weren't really excited about getting out to ride in the wet, so we sauntered across the street into a local breakfast eatery that was not only close, but looked like it may be tasty. It wasn't. The food that wasn't cold was burned and the restroom was in the kitchen. That's never a good sign. At about 11 we finally got on the bikes, filled up with gas and headed into the park.
View a map of Yellowstone, courtesy of www.nps.gov.
Traffic was pretty heavy, but we patiently crept along behind them slowing for everything along the side of the road that was potentially a living creature. We turned North and headed into the northern part of park despite bright orange signs warning us of road construction. Two motorcyclists on BMW 1150GS's watched us turn and shook their head at us, probably for the foolishness of our actions. If they were unwilling to tackle the road construction, it must have been pretty bad. But it wasn't the roads were dirt, bumpy and not much fun, but nothing to fret over. The worst part was the dust and having to avoid the massive potholes and 6-inch deep pools of pea-gravel that made the tires feel flat.
When we finally got past the construction we stopped at a favorite water fall to rest our aching wrists from the torture of super slow speeds and bumpy roads. Brad was quick to point out the advantages of his Pegaso and tauntingly road over curbs to illustrate his bikes dirt road superiority.
Three boys talking about bikes, I'm sure, Brad, Dave and Dave. It was a pleasant day. Again we rode north, and the amount of traffic slacked off allowing to increase our speeds to the intense speeds nearing 50mph. The sky had clouded over and cool breezes rushed out of the west convincing the fields of wild grass to flow like amber waves of grain which was very appropriate behavior for the fourth of July.
Before long the road crossed a large expanse before squeezing in between two massive walls of rock. I've always been impressed by this section of road because, without much warning the speed limit drops to 25mph and the road plunges in elevation and begins spiraling down towards the bottom of a huge valley to the North. Its pretty cool, not only for the refreshing corners, but also because the road in ingenuously attached to the wall with bridges that any engineer would be proud of. I always stop after the first few tight corners, at a pullout, to enjoy a nice break. Scott wanted to get in on the conversation, he was thinking sport bikes were getting cooler all the time.
From there, the road gets steeper and the corners get tighter for a few more fun filled miles North until we arrived at the North-West gate and Mammoth Hot Springs of Yellowstone where visitors can enjoy a gift shop, a restaurant, gasoline and small crowds. Now was a good time for ice-cream and we all wandered in and out of the gift shop until we each had our sugary treat of choice. Then, without much warning, the clouded sky began a deluge of water. Being the tuff motorcyclists that we are, we didn't scamper for cover like droves of silly tourists. No, we confidently marched over to the museum and unlike the water-blanched tourists, we arrived sopping wet. But after our casual tour of the ancient museum vestiges and stuffed wildlife that now lived inside glass cases on the second floor, we had dried out in the surprisingly arid climate. Plus the sky had miraculously cleared again prompting us to continue our journey.
We rode East across the Northern side of the park then South towards Tower Falls. Traffic was virtually non existent and the smooth pavement and unpredictably coiling road was wonderful fun! I was in the lead and in the distance I saw a slowing of cars and slacked of the pace to deal with whatever was catching the curiosity of the automobile drivers. I arrived just as the last car snuck around a huge buffalo using the strip of tarmac for a corridor through a narrow canyon. This was way cool, but also posed a problem. Their was really no way to safely skirt around the massive herbivore while giving him a wide enough girth to not upset him with the bright colors and growling sounds of motorcycles. We were resigned to idle along behind him as he promenaded along his way. However, his agitation with us becoming clear as he began to periodically look back at us and increase his pace. I, by no means, wanted to upset or disturb this incredibly animal. He looked like a veteran of many seasons. One of his horns had somehow been broken off and one of his legs looked to be twisted with arthritis, and like many Buffalo, his eyes seemed to hold a depth of wisdom that escapes all other bovine. A little ways a head, at the bottom of a small hill I noticed a medium sized pull-out that would afford us to slip around him, hopefully quickly and quietly. I stopped and waited for the T-tonka to get closer to the wide spot in the road. As he neared I quietly accelerated then as I neared, I pulled in the clutch and coasted around him giving him the greatest amount of space. Dave was right behind me and we both slipped around. I zipped forward and pulled into the oncoming lane of traffic to stop an cars, that might be coming from crowding the situation. The cars that I stopped were more than happy to stop and watch the show. Unfortunately, the Buffalo was still coming towards us, quickly decreasing the size of the gap the rest of the group would have to get around. When Mari, with Kris and Eric right behind her, came up behind the Buffalo. Mari, who for this entire time wanted to go pet the Buffalo, realized their size and stature and refused to pass. Also, a Park Ranger approached and warned them to stop as the Buffalo was, in fact, becoming agitated by us. So they stopped and waited for the Buffalo to find his way off the road and back into his lush grazing fields.
The road then started to climb up and over Mt Washburn at just over 10,200 feet. (3100 meters) Named after Henry Dana Washburn, a Republican U.S. congressman from Indiana from 1866-69. In 1870 he led an expedition to find the headwaters of the Yellowstone River and discovered Yellowstone Park. We then started back down and stopped for a break, and to regroup after the Buffalo near Dunraven Pass.
From there we continued south and stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone for some photos. Brad in his excitement to park, unintentionally, cut off an angry young man in a late '70's brown Buick. Apologies go out to him as he was very upset by this and was sure to squawk out some very choice obscenities at us and he drove on looking for another place to park and finally found one two stalls away. Again, apologies go out.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. I still think its prettier than the original Grand Canyon.
Lovely couple number two...
Lovely couple number three...
And... couple number four... (not really)
After the park, we noticed that hours left in the day were becoming fewer and we began to feel an urgency to press on to Jackson Hole and then, hopefully, back to Grand Targhee for the night. Traffic was starting to thin, and like most parks, late afternoon was the best time to get around because most people were either heading for home or resigning to their campsites for roasted hot-dogs and S'mores.
A quick stop to put on extra layers as the day wound down and the clouds rolled in.
We rode long and fast heading south, racing with the sun knowing we would never be able to outrun it. As we rode south out of the Park, we came to long straight sections of road that allowed a vacuous view of the road ahead for, in some cases, several miles. Strangely, though, double yellow lines were strung down the middle of the straight expanses of road.
Their was also a massive exodus of vacationers heading south as well creating long lines of traffic moving as slow as a pack of Cruisers on a Poker Run. It was hard not to take advantage of 120+ Hp to zing past them and maintain and more enjoyable pace. On one pass however, I heard someone scream something about "double yellow.. Can't do that" something or other, out their window as we went past. We didn't pay much attention because motorcyclists typically slip in and out of these peoples lives so fast and never do anything to affect them physically that angry words are as potent as a virgin Shirley Temple.
But as Dave and I rode past the last exit gate of Yellowstone, I noticed the Park Ranger rushing for the phone. Didn't think much of it, but apparently what happened to the rest of the group went something like this: As Eric, Brad, Kris, Scott and Mari arrived at the gate they were stopped by the Park Ranger and told to wait. Brad immediately asked why they were being detained. The Park Ranger explained to him that a Park Law Enforcement Officer had observed several "racers" on motorcycles cutting off cars and riding very recklessly. By about that time the Park Law Enforcement Officer arrived and began questioning the rest of group. Brad explained that they were not the only motorcyclists on the road and that his 650, 40hp Pegaso was not capable of such feats of irresponsibility. The cop, obviously not having seen any wrongdoing was forced to let them go. After discussing this later we decided that, since none of us had seen any law enforcement presence, and since as sport bike riders we were as tuned into cop presence as bargain shoppers are tuned into garage sales, the only reasonable explanation was the fellow in the car must have phoned us in when we passed him. Dave and I felt pretty bad at having caused the rest of the group such stress but with no-harm, no-foul, none seemed too concerned and we simply continued towards Jackson Hole.
We weren't able to beat the sun, but because of our lackluster dinner the night before, our nasty cold breakfast that morning and ice-cream lunch, we were all craving a nice dinner. We planned to meet at the Million Dollar Cowboy bar but instead decided to eat at the Silver Dollar. We still parked amidst the Harley's just to mess 'em up. Surprisingly, the Harley Riders were all very friendly which was very refreshing. As a result we enjoyed a very nice conversation with some very friendly Harley Riders before a very tasty dinner.
After dinner, we all headed back to get some well deserved sleep. Scott wasn't feeling very well so half of us stayed in a local hotel in Jackson while the other half enjoyed a very brisk ride back to Grand Targhee. We would meet up again in the morning for breakfast.
Jackson Hole to Salt Lake City
The next morning, in the hotel parking lot, Eric found a special gift waiting for him. Eric picked up a special souvenir in the park... Lucky guy! See how proud he is...