It was chilly this morning in Jackson – I bundled up with a long-sleeve t-shirt and my heavy jacket as well as my fleece face liner. As it turned out it wasn’t enough, I ended up pulling out my sweater a few miles up the road and then my leather chaps a few miles beyond that. It’s a refreshing change from the searing heat of Gila Bend, Phoenix, and Utah this past week, and a reminder that I’m further north, and higher in elevation.
The Old Road out of Jackson up to Yellowstone runs almost due north, and along the east side of the Tetons, so as the sun comes up, the mountains are in a glorious setting on a clear day in the morning light. I've actually gotten pretty good at riding and taking pictures on this trip -- something Tony always did when we rode together. The picture on the right was taken with my cell phone camera. Just as I pulled up to take the picture the camera batteries died on the camera, wouldn’t you know it. I’m glad the cell camera is good enough to capture the setting. You recall I overnighted in Jackson because of the “migrating Elk” that tend to wander on the highway – unfortunately I didn’t see any on my ride this morning.
At my second stop – a little roadside rest area outside the Park entrance where I stopped to put on the chaps, a ranger pulled up in his pickup truck to talk bikes. “A little early for Sturgis isn’t it?” I laughed and said yeah it was, and a tad cool so I was putting on more layers. He told me he regularly rode as long as there wasn’t snow on the ground. He also commented “too bad they misspelled Kawasaki on your bike”. I told him “there are only two kinds of riders – those who ride Harley’s and those who wish they did.” We both laughed and he warned me of the road construction ahead and I headed back out.
Sure enough, a mile or so up the road I ran into a line of stopped cars. The nice thing on a bike is you can ride to the head of the line and wait for the Pilot Car to arrive. I asked the flagman how long, and he said “15 minutes or so”, and I stopped the motor and sat in the sun. He came over, as people are prone to do when they see bikers, and started telling me how he’d come up here 38 years ago with some friends who were bikers and one was killed in a terrible accident. He said they buried him with his “leathers, his handlebars, his ladies panties, and a bag of weed.” It must have been quite a funeral.
It was still very much winter in the park – you can see the frozen lake and the amount of snow as I crossed the Continental Divide. It wasn’t all that cold by this time, as the sun was shining and I was well layered with sweaters, jackets and pants.
Yellowstone is truly a wonderous place – so beautiful, I remember the first time I went there as a kid. We were in our camper on the back of that old 66 Ford. My brother Gordon and sister Jill were riding in the cab of the truck with Mom and Dad, and I had the camper to myself. Back then the bears wandered the roads and people fed them from their cars. Well we got stopped in traffic jam with bears moseying about, and I wanted to see them, but I was trapped in the camper. Dad had rigged up a sort of rope that was wound around the outside of the door so that the door wouldn’t open from the inside – to keep us kids from flying out back as we were riding down the road I guess. Well I opened it anyway, and it opened a bit like a door does with a chain lock. Just enough for a bear to stick his nose in a bit and my mother to scream like I was being eaten alive.
This trip, the only wildlife I saw were buffalo – lots of them. The babies are cute, except when they block the road and don’t move. And avoiding their “pies” in the road on the bike can be fun. Lord knows I’d hate to run through it – it’s probably slicker than…well you know.
I stopped for lunch and to watch Old Faithful go off and wander the geyser basin there. It was so nice since the park had been only open a few weeks, it was still winter, and there were no crowds at the geysers or on the roads. I took the better part of the day wandering through the park, and finally made my way out at Gardiner, Montana about 230pm. From there it was a straight shot north on US-89 to Livingston.
As I approached Livingston I had a major decision to make, and it took me some time to make it. Truth be told, I’m rather road weary and anxious to get back to Seattle. At Livingston, US-89 crosses I-90. I want very much to say I’ve ridden the old road from border to border – but the Canadian border is still a day away, and I’m not any closer to Seattle. I could hop on I-90 and head west and be home in 2 or 2.5 days. The idea for the trip was to gather material for a book on the old road – and ride it from border to border, and incorporate some family history and stories too. Since there isn’t really any of that after Yellowstone – and I can come back and do it another time, I swallowed my pride and decided to head for the barn. I turned left and throttled up the ramp onto I-90 West.
All in all it wasn’t a bad ride – I did nearly 180 miles to Missoula in the setting sun. There was little traffic and it was pretty – and I was able to do 80 mph. At that rate I’ll be in Seattle by Friday night. I’m feeling like I didn’t quite finish it – which means it will draw me back again. But it does feel good to be headed home to my bed in my house. I’m still at least a day out, but I’m riding off into the sunset for this trip – and I’m OK with that.