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Archive for November, 2011

Pictures: Day 14, Oct 3: West-Yellowstone, MT – Cody, WY

Full Report: Day 14, Oct 3: West-Yellowstone, MT – Cody, WY

Day total: 250 miles
Trip total: 4341 miles

Riding. Pure riding. That’s what today will be all about. High mountain passes, lush valleys and autumn colored forests. Nothing but the best. One of those typical adrenaline-boosting days.

A quick look on my bike in the morning tells me it has been cold. There’s ice on it. Well, that’s not going to kill me… I’m out early today, as I can’t wait to make miles. I blast through Yellowstone. As beautiful as it is, I’ve been there, done that. More beauty awaits.

I don’t have to wait long. I exit Yellowstone National Park on the North-East side. It’s a ride through a long, wide valley, enclosed by high snowcapped mountains. Buffalos in the meadows, a river finding its way through, the sun highlighting the dramatic scenery. It is still early morning but I’ve already the largest possible smile on my face.

And it can only get better from here. I am aiming for Highway 212: the Beartooth Highway. The name by itself is mythical. Beartooth. Epic. I’m being stopped by a roadworker with a stop sign. Roadworks. I make my way to the front of the queue, so I am not stuck behind any slow cars on this phenomenal highway. As we are waiting to get through, a Porsche 911 pulls up. It is so shiny that it hurts my eyes. A man just on a little road trip from California. Rides the Beartooth once every year, and was complaining about how last year a friend drove his Porsche way too slow… “This road is begging for a sporty style of driving, where you have to keep focused the entire way, where man and machine become one” he says. That makes a promise. But so far, he is stuck in traffic, and I am up front.

We pass the roadworks and I can see what the Porsche-guy meant. My heart beats faster. My adrenaline starts building up. My grip gets tighter. My right wrist becomes the trigger. I’m the bullet myself. I’m off! I’m gone! The Porsche in my mirror is gone too. Wow. Like a race track on 11.000ft (over 3.300m) high. It is fantastic. The views are amazing. It is not just a mountain pass where you go up and over the mountain. As soon as you reach the highest point, you find yourself on some kind of plateau. For miles, you keep riding at that height of 11.000ft. Lakes are to be found left right and center. Just check the pictures…

As I make it to the top, I stop, for a picture down the mountainside, where the road makes it way down again. A car comes flying by. It is the Porsche, doing what it does best. He waves, thumbs go up. I guess we both felt like a little kid getting a present for Christmas while we were on this road.

And what did I do when I got to the end? Down below again? I turned around and rode it again. 40 miles back. It is like a whole new road. The views? Just as amazing. Actually, I had to ride it back anyway, as I didn’t take any pictures on my first run. I was too excited driving, so the compromise was that I would take care of that on the way back. And so I did. What a road.

Time for lunch. I stop at a little shop next to the Beartooth, which is named appropriately: Top Of The World. I figure a muffin and some M&M’s will do for lunch today. As I am enjoying it, the clouds come in. Dark clouds. Clouds that I don’t like. For a fair reason it turns out: it starts raining like there is no tomorrow. It’s pouring. Luckily, it is only a shower though, but new ones are coming in.

I complete the Beartooth. As I come down, I make a left on the Chief Joseph Highway, the 296. A road that is simply amazing too. It ranks easily within the top roads in America, but it is no match for the Beartooth… Anyhow, the clouds, the rain and the sun have a surprise for me: it delivers me the most beautiful rainbow I have ever seen. It is so bright, so clear. The contrast in color is amazing. I guess a pictures says a thousand words in this case, so be sure to check that out.

I’m able to outrun the weather while riding the Chief Joseph Highway. I am relieved to see that the showers can’t keep up with me. I feel victorious. The view from the scenic viewpoint strengthens that feeling. I realize that this whole area is simply amazing. I am also sad though, as it will be the last day that I will face serious mountains. And whoever rides a motorcycle, will tell you: mountains and motorcycles are made for each other.

Cody is the place where I will stay tonight. I have a room in Hotel Irma, an old Wild West styled hotel, and, as all the photos on the walls will show you, one of the favorite hideouts of Buffalo Bill, the one and only. There’s tons of pictures all over the place with Mr. Bill. Buffalo Bill or no Buffalo Bill, I’m just happy to find out they serve my favorite American beer. And I am even more happy to find out that the price is only $2,50 per beer. Coming from Los Angeles, where you easily pay $7,50 for a beer, it almost sounds like it is for free.

But, I can’t enjoy too many. I am tired. I’m here to ride. Not to drink. So I finish my cheeseburger and am off to an early bed. What a day. Epic.

Pictures: Day 13, Oct 2: Jackson, WY – West-Yellowstone, MT

Full Report: Day 13, Oct 2: Jackson, WY – West-Yellowstone, MT

Day total: 251 miles
Trip total: 4091 miles

It is early again. The thunder roars in the far distance. Dark clouds threaten the town of Jackson. I don’t want to get up. But reality gets a hold of me: I am going into the long-awaited much-anticipated Yellowstone National Park!

As part of my morning ritual, I stop at a gas station. I didn’t have breakfast yet. I figure a muffin and an energy drink will do perfectly fine. The clouds are being hold off by the surrounding mountains. I’m ready, the Triumph has a full tank, and nothing will stop me today!

Reality hits me again: on the way to Yellowstone National Park, coming from the South, you will find Grand Teton National Park. You will find out quickly what ‘teton’ means when you let your imagination go wild… One may doubt the similarities between the true meaning and the mountains by the way. Nonetheless, they are impressive! Simply said, it is nothing more than a mountain range.

But it is quite an amazing one! Rising from a flat valley, these mountains are ‘just there’. Out of the blue. But wow, it looks good! Still some snow on top. A little lake in front. The threatening clouds make the icing on the cake. The contrasts are beautiful!

As I am taking some pictures, a pick-up truck pulls up next to my Triumph. It is John, a man who is on a little road trip himself. Escaping reality. Kind of like me, breaking through the daily routine. He is very interested in the GoPro camera on my helmet. We chat a bit and both go our way.

I leave the Grand Tetons for what they are. There’s more to see today. Yellowstone is close. So are the clouds unfortunately. Right as I enter Yellowstone National Park, the first drops fall out of the sky. One drop becomes two. Two drops become… a massive shower. It is the worst rainfall I have seen so far this trip. By looking at the clouds I could already see that it would be nothing more than a shower. And I am right; after 10 minutes it clears up, and with the sun breaking through, I dry up quite quickly.

First stop in Yellowstone: The Old Faithfull. A geyser that erupts every 2 hours or so. Most geysers are unpredictable, but, and you guess, not this one. Every two hours tons of people line up around it to see the eruption of boiling water. And by tons of people, I mean tons of people. Even out of the season. Busses. Mass tourism. I hate it. But still, I choose to be there cause I too want to see it. As people from all over the world. Next to me is an Asian couple (the race doesn’t matter in what I am going to tell, it is just to describe the situation), dressed in tailored suits. Perfect English they speak. They look like sophisticated people. The lady sneezes. The man gives her a paper tissue. She uses it and returns in to the man. And this is where he surprises me: he just tosses it on the ground! No shame. Ruthless. Doesn’t even try to hide it with all those people around. In a National Park. I’m like ‘what the f*ck’. Here I am, as the so called ‘rough’ biker, didn’t shave for 2 weeks, being all dirty from the beating elements, and, here it comes, I am holding on to the left overs of my apple! My apple! While the perfect looking couple just throws their trash on the floor! Anyhow, this is just to describe that not everything is as it seems and clichés are bullshit too nowadays… We bikers are angels. Every now and then that is.

Back to where I was before I got distracted. The Old Faithfull. The earth pushes the water out with a stunning amount of violence. So it once did at least. Now, it kind of reminded me like a clown close to retirement, doing the same trick his entire life. I’ve seen it before this trip. I am finding myself slightly disappointed with the supposedly big highlights of the trip (like the Grand Canyon). Everyone has seen it already, on tv, in movies, on pictures. The expectations you have of those places are sky high. You already have this ‘been there, done that’ feeling the first time you actually see it! Contrary, I notice that it is those complete surprises that form the highlights of this trip so far. Something that you see for a first time. Something that you have never heard of, but you just go because you see one little sign next to the road. Caught in the moment. Spontaneous. In your face.

Well, I was up for a ‘in your face moment’. As I walk back to my bike, people obviously notice I am a biker. There’s not many around. “Is that your motorcycle over there?” someone asks me. “Yes,” I say, “why?”. “Because there is a couple of huge ravens on top of it, pushing their snouts into your bags. They threw your papers on the floor, including your passport”. Another so-called ‘WTF moment’ hits me. Another person: “your bike?”. “Yeah I know, I am on my way!”. When I see my bike, I am stunned. A huge raven, right on top of my tank bag. Picking the zippers. I don’t know how, but he managed to open the bag. He is picking my sunscreen now. He managed to put a whole in the bottle, messing up the inside of my bag. The stuff is all over the place. Unbelievable. I don’t know how they do it, but I don’t care. I am at war with these freakin’ birds from now on. Actually I think it is hilarious, but that doesn’t sound exciting haha.

I make my way through the park. Geysers, river streams, mountains, buffalos, elk, deer, it is all there. I cannot describe every single geyser or buffalo that I see; that would be simply too much. It is beautiful. The distinctive smell of sulphur and other geological gasses reveal another geyser around. The steam that is coming out of the earth all over the place tells you where another hot spring is. It is covering the road sometimes like a thick fog where you can barely see anything.

Besides all this showing off by Mother Nature, there’s also a manmade aspect that is particularly interesting to me: the roads. Curvy, sweeping corners over rolling hills, and black, brand new asphalt. Wow! Too bad there’s some other traffic as well. Or maybe it is good, they slow me down. I don’t think the park rangers would be too happy seeing a low-flying Triumph coming by. The park is huge, where the lesser known parts of the park make a bigger impact on me than the well known stuff, as I described before. The less people around, the more interesting I find it to be in general…

That’s why I decide to go off road again! Off the main road, there’s this scenic route, ‘not advisable for RV’s’. Heck, a motorcycle is far from an RV, so I hit it. And after all, didn’t I do twenty-some miles off road before? Piece of cake this! No one around. Beautiful views.

Bad decision. The road is in such a bad condition, that even I decide to turn around. There’s parts of the road missing, there’s wholes up to a foot deep, I’m bouncing from left to right. I don’t normally ‘give up’ easily, but continuing here, would be nothing but stupid. My suspension would go to hell in 30 seconds. With pain in my heart I turn around. At least I enjoyed the views!

It is getting late again. The day is coming to an end. On my way to West-Yellowstone, where I will spend the night, I come across some meadows. The antlers of numerous elk and deer, sticking out of the grass, form a beautiful contrast with the green lush land. That attracts photographers… Well, here I am! I stop to take a picture of some of those animals, and spot a Chinese couple. I note the gentleman’s camera, he notes my motorcycle. His name is Charles. His wife didn’t have a Western name, and, I’m sorry, her Chinese name has left my memory… Anyhow, he has never seen a Triumph before. “Only those Harleys and BMWs”. He is so right. My bike is original in the land of travelers. He takes some pictures of the bike, where he is particularly interested in the British flag on it. We talk bikes, we talk cameras. And all of that in the setting sun, overlooking a beautiful piece of land with wildlife all around. All it needed to be perfect was a beer!

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