Cross country ride, Day 4

Day 4 740 km/444 miles (Cody WY to Spearfish SD)

When I left Cody at 5:30 am, the air was warm and comfortable.  I had planned on spending the day on big highways to make up for some mileage, and had expected a full day of boredom.  However, I later learned that I was wrong with my expectations.

There was something magical about riding long distance alone.  The early mornings, the fresh air, the sun rise, the curious strangers, the sense of freedom and control all became very addictive.

The road was not very exciting between Cody and Big Horn.  However, I was kept amused by the sunray coming through the clouds for over an hour.

So far, I have not been bored.  I was pleasantly surprised again when I entered the west side of Big Horn National Forest on Highway 14.  The road became twisty, with steep walls of rocks on both sides of the road.  From the drop of temperature, I suspected the gain in elevation as I continued in the Forest.

I saw some deer bouncing across the pavement, and some open range cows.  The road provided lots of corners and curves for good riding fun.  There were dark red ancient granite and lofty red cliffs to all over the Forest.

The good part of the road ended before hitting Burgess Junction.  Since I did not expect any good riding all day, this was a pleasant bonus.  “This is great!  I’m loving this!”, I thought to myself.

I continued on the highway, riding towards the Devils Tower.  I was once again entertained on the highway when I hit a bird for the first time.  There was no time to avoid the bird, and I felt a little bad for it.  It flew head-on into my head light, producing a loud “thud!”  I saw it fall to the side of the road from my rear view mirror.

At the entrance of Devils Tower, I flashed my National Park Pass and got in quickly, and padded myself on the back for the smart move of buying the pass.

The short ride up to the base of the Tower was pleasant, but restricted by a low speed limit.  I parked the bike, and sat down to read the park pamphlet and admire the Tower.  Next to the Old Faithful, this was my second favorite spot on the whole trip.

The Devils Tower was formed from molten rock being squeezed out of the earth, made up of hundreds of hexagonal columns.  It stands 867 feet high, and the local natives claim that it has sacred powers.  All I could think of was, “Awesome!”

I stopped at a gift shop at the bottom of the Tower, bought some post cards and an over-priced ice cream cone.  I sat down to enjoy my ice cream and write the post cards.  A gang of six bikers started walking towards me from the other side of the parking lot.  Being a pessimist, I wondered if I was in trouble.  Then they proceeded to ask me where I was from, what bike I rode, why I was riding alone, etc.  Each like a little boy showing off his toy, they took turns telling me what bike he rode, how they met, and the plan for their whole trip.  They all went and checked out my bike and said some nice things about it.  We wished each other a safe journey, and they were on their way.

As I was about to finish my post cards and ice cream cone, a couple with a child sat down beside me.  They asked me why I had a Canadian flag patch on my hydration pack.  I told them I sewed it on before I left home, because I am a proud Canadian.  They got very excited, because they were from Ontario and were happy to see another Canadian.  They proceeded to tell me about their riding experience in the area, and told me about some good roads through Black Hills.

I was amazed to learn that people are willing to tell you their life stories, just because you are riding a motorcycle.  This family told me about their house in Ontario, about their jobs, and about their child’s school.  As they spoke, I envied them.  I envied their frank speech, their journeys together, their hard work, and mostly, that they have each other.

An hour later, I was on my way towards South Dakota.  I wanted to get as close to Black Hills as possible, so I can spend the next morning playing in the area.  I stopped at Spearfish for the night and found a KOA site to set up camp.

Some campers in a neighboring site came to chat as I was cleaning the bike’s chain.  They invited me to their site for a visit and a beer.  They were at the tail end of a Yamaha bike-meet in the area.

After I finished all the dirty work, I took a shower, and bought a bag of chips at the KOA store.  It won’t be polite to visit without bringing something, and I couldn’t just bring my cans of tuna.  I was feeling a bit apprehensive visiting some strangers.  Sure they appear nice, but what was I suppose to talk about?

It turned out to be one of the most enjoyable nights I have spent at a camp site.  Five middle aged men, all on their Yamaha Venturer, and one had his wife with him.  They treated me like I was their daughter.  They all showed me their bikes, their trailers, gave me advice about the roads I should take, and gave me beer.  One of them gave me a park entrance ticket for Black Hills, and another one gave me a sticker for their club.

We chatted about bikes, jobs, where we lived, families, trips, etc for over two hours.  At the end of the night, they extended invitation for me to come back the next morning for coffee and breakfast.  I crawled into my sleeping bag that night, thanking God for the kindness of strangers.

Thus far, I was loving the new things I got to see, and enjoyed most of the roads.

Cross country ride, Day 3

Day 3 567 km/340 miles (Deer Lodge MT to Cody WY) 

The goal today was to tour Yellowstone National Park.  I’ve heard so much about the park, but have never seen it.  Sometimes there’s a trade-off between sight-seeing and riding good roads.  Today was one of those days.

I endured some riding on I-90 for the sake of making good time to Yellowstone.  However, as soon as I saw a sign of Highway 287 as an alternative, I jumped on it.

Hwy 287 was much better than the big slabs.  I saw quite a few different kinds of birds, and there was little traffic.

In Montana, I was one of the slowest vehicle on the road, and one of the few with a helmet on.  Montana does have a posted speed limit, but it is rarely enforced.  There is also no helmet law.

I loved riding in Montana.  The sky was incredibly clear and beautiful, and the farms and ranches along the road reminded me so much of cowboy movies.  In fact, I did see two cowboys jumping off their horses and tying some ropes around the legs of a calf.

Getting into Yellowstone National Park did not take very long.  I bought a National Park Pass for US$50 at the ticket booth, and was on my way in about 10 minutes.

Leaving the ticket booth, I took a deep breath of the fresh air, brought the bike to a cruising speed, came around a corner, and had to grab a handful of brakes!  The driver in front of me had slammed on his brakes right after a corner, because he was sticking his head out the window to take pictures of some eagles.

I was mad, but I reminded myself not to get worked up.  I waited until he finished his pictures.

For the next 10 km, I was in riding hell.  The two-lane highway was crawling with cars and RV’s driven by inattentive drivers.  The driver in front of me was driving and trying to read the park map at the same time, and constantly slammed on his brakes to look in the direction of other cars stopped on the roadside for pictures of animals.

Ok, enough whining about the traffic.  Once I reminded myself that I was spoiled to have seen wildlife often in BC, I felt more calm towards the camera crazy visitors.

It was a warm day.  Clouds spotted the sky.  It was beautiful.  I was on the trip of my dreams!  Don’t let some bad drivers ruin it!

I rode towards the Old Faithful, hoping to catch a glimpse of the amazing geyser.  The geyser was given its name due to its predictability.  It erupts approximately every 76 minutes.

I parked, and sat down to wait for the eruption.  According to the prediction, it was supposed to erupt in the next 40 minutes.  The park staff explained how the geyser worked, and how Old Faithful is different from the other geysers.  It was very educational.  I chatted with the kids sitting beside me, as they were very curious about my leather suit and hydration pack.

40 minutes came and went.  No eruption.  However, I wasn’t going to leave until I see some steam!  I waited another 10 minutes, and the geyser started spitting out some water.  Then it came—over 100 feet of water and steam sprayed out of the earth.  The crowd cheered, and I was on my feet with awe.

Once the eruption subsided, I was on my way back to my bike.  As I walked towards the parking lot, I saw a couple kissing.  All of a sudden it reminded me again that I was alone, and I wished my husband was with me to share the experience of seeing the geyser.  I swear I was never this “soft” before I met him.

When I got back to my bike, I found it surrounded by big touring bikes.  My sport-touring bike looked a little out of place.  In my heart, I secretly wished I had one of those giant touring bikes.  Big windshield, CB radio, cup holder, comfortable seat, radio and cassette player, storage space…what’s not to love?

The East entrance to the Park was 7 miles of gravel due to construction, with lots of stops for gravel trucks.  Prior to this, I have not ridden much on gravel.  Gravel just makes me tense and nervous.  But 7 miles later, I was getting used to it.  However, the slow speed, dust, and potholes combined with rising temperature were not pleasant.

I stopped at Cody WY for the night, and decided that I must leave really early the next day to avoid the mid-afternoon heat.

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Cross country ride, Day 2

Day 2  680 km/408 miles (Spokane WA to Deer Lodge MT)

I spent the first bit of the morning riding concrete slabs, so I can get to Moscow to start riding Highway 12 to Lolo Pass.

I was tired from the lack of quality sleep, and my eyes were sore and puffy from crying. However, the thought of riding Highway 12 got me really excited.  The weather forecast for the day was a mix of sun and clouds—perfect!

I followed this site’s route suggestion from Moscow to Lolo Pass.  The road from Moscow->Troy->Kendrick->Orofino is tight twisties!  I’m so glad I followed someone’s route suggestion.

When I saw the sign for “Winding Road Next 77 Miles”, I couldn’t help but stop and take some pictures.

Highway 12 is the kind of road to my liking.  No stops, twisty (but not too tight), nice pavement, and scenic.

I thought about last summer’s trip to California; thought about all the good roads I’ve been on; thought about how BCRider would love this road.  I grinned the whole 77 miles.

In my mind, the plan for coming back to this road again was already forming even before I reached the other end.

I stopped at the visitor center for the washroom, only to have 5 people walk by and wanted to talk about my trip.  People see a BC plate and they want to know where I’m going and why I ride alone.  I eventually had to tell the last person I was starting to do the pee-dance and really needed to be excused.

The Lolo Pass Visitor Center has the nicest bathroom I’ve seen on the whole trip.  It looks like a log home with stainless steel fixtures.

The rest of the day was spent on highways, and I ended up at Deer Lodge KOA camp site.  This site was one of the cheapest but best KOA site I have stayed at (US$18), with free wireless internet access, kitchen, and free local calls.

After setting up the tent and taking a hot shower, I broke out my trusty little stove and made dinner.  Mmmm…look at my yummy food: pasta, cream of mushroom soup, canned chicken meat, and frozen peas.

I was in much better spirit today for some reason.  After dinner, I made my daily check-in call to my husband, planned next day’s route, and went to sleep.