I had four days off work for the holiday weekend, and the best way I could think of to celebrate our nation was to go out and enjoy some of the natural beauty it contains. It’s been 2 or 3 years since I rode through Yellowstone, so I packed up my camping gear and headed that direction. (I’m coming from just outside Ogden, Utah.)
I intentionally avoided interstate highways, sticking instead to two lane backroads where speed limits are generally 55 MPH, traffic is minimal, and the scenery makes the trip itself as enjoyable as the destination.
First fuel stop was in Logan, Utah. This is a nice little city in a mountain valley where the Winters are harsh and the Spring and Fall tend to be long and cool, but it’s hot there now, and the young ladies from the local college aren’t wearing too much as they go about buying gas, talking on their cell phones, and whatnot.
Next, I continued through Preston, Idaho (setting of the stupidly funny sleeper hit movie Napoleon Dynamite), and then Franklin, which is the oldest town in Idaho. That’s what the sign says, anyway, and why would a sign lie?
In the rolling hills north of Franklin the wildflowers are so thick in places, they turn the whole landscape yellow.
On closer inspection, you discover that the yellow ones are simply the most visible, but there are flowers in white, purple, blue, pink, orange—at least a dozen different species flourishing. I can’t help it, I love wildflowers, but at least I’m man enough to admit it!
I think this is a really neat place, although the red roof is a bit bright.
I made my way to Soda Springs, Idaho, hoping to meet a couple of other RugerForum members and say hello. Unfortunately, I got away pretty late that day (don’t ask), so it was 5:00 PM before I arrived there, and I missed them. Sorry, Dick and Steve. We’ll hook up sometime soon. I should have taken a picture of the HANGUNNR license plate to prove I was there, but I didn’t think of it until I was on my way out of town.
The little highway from Soda Springs to Freedom, Wyoming is becoming one of my favorite roads. The stretch alongside Tin Cup Creek is full of settings like this:
Sixshot, I now realize that you were warning me about the sharp curves on this route, not on the gravel road up Long Valley. I’m a little slow sometimes. I didn’t have any problems, but I can see why you said there have been some bad accidents.
Rolling into Star Valley, I had to stop and get a picture in front of one of the world’s coolest companies. This little factory is where all those beautiful model 83s and 97s come from.
I stopped for gas in Alpine, then continued toward Jackson and learned that the road had recently been closed by a big rock slide near Hoback Junction. Fortunately, it was cleaned up by the time I got there. I rolled right through Jackson—didn’t even stop, because I never feel comfortable in that crowd. I have way too little money, and when I arrive there I’m usually sunburned, windburned, bug-splattered, smelling like sweat, motorcycle, and road dust, and generally not fitting in too well with the high society jet set. I got into Grand Teton N.P. just before dusk and managed to get a few pictures of what have always been my favorite mountains.
(Fun fact: Grand Tetons = French for “big hooters.” Honest. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Apparently, this is what these mountains called to mind for the French explorers who got the privilege of naming them.)
It’s been so wet up here, there’s a very healthy crop of mosquitoes. I couldn’t bear stopping for longer than a minute or two. They were swarming on me by the millions, trying to suck me dry. It could have been worse, though. Most of ‘em were no bigger than hummingbirds.
I decided to camp for the night at Colter Bay. The first thing I did was buy some bug repellant from the general store, then I had dinner, walked around a little, just relaxed and enjoyed being outside. I didn’t even bring a tent on this trip because the forecast called for good weather all weekend. Here is where I slept.
I have a silk liner inside a mummy bag inside a Gore-tex bivy sack, all on top of a Therm-a-rest pad and space blanket. I don’t get cold. And that’s a good thing, because in the morning there was a light frost on everything.
I walked around by the marina and watched the sun rise over the bay while I ate my breakfast. Here are the Tetons above Jackson Lake…
…and the same scene with an incredibly handsome guy in the foreground.
Take it easy, ladies! I'm already spoken for.
Some boats in the misty early morning.
After letting Mr. Sun warm things up a bit, I rode to this place:
I don't know these guys. They just happened to be stopped by the sign.
There’s still quite a bit of snow in places.
I stopped to look at all the usual attractions:
Local residents browsing on some leafy greens
And some high mountain passes.
I crossed this about half a dozen times.
This is me reflecting on a rocky, tree-covered slope (or vice-versa).
They have this guy to keep the grass trimmed around the Lake Yellowstone Hotel…
...and a short distance away, this one does the same thing along the side of the road.
He looks like he could use a good combing—still getting rid of that winter coat.
Leaving the park through the East gate, I rode through Wapiti Valley, then past Buffalo Bill Reservoir. Check out this tree on a hill just above the highway!
Can you believe that little thing stopped such a huge boulder right in its tracks? Good thing it was there, or that rock could have rolled right onto the road.
I arrived in the town of…
… where things like this are a common sight.
Checked in at the Ponderosa Campground.
I’ve stayed here before, and they treated me well. Hospitable, informative, motorcycle-friendly, and they have nice facilities. Here’s evidence of how easy-going they are: some folks were occupying a site near me with their large trailer, and parked their truck in an adjacent site, presumably without paying for both. This note was left on the truck.
It even starts with a “Howdy!” I’ve known some commercial campgrounds to be much more harsh than this. But people all over Cody are generally very kind. I felt safe, secure, and comfortable the whole time I was in town—it’s a great place.
A craft fair went on at the city park all weekend, and I met a local knife maker there by the name of Ricky Snow. He had several designs that appealed to me, especially some traditional style skinners with elk handles. I had to buy one.
I don’t know much about metallurgy, knife making, or other such dark arts, but he told me this one is of T-6, a steel that, for whatever reason, is no longer available. He got the material from the blade of a 120 year old buck saw.
I’ve never stayed at the Vacancy, but it must be a popular chain, because I saw locations all over the place.
Seriously, the Irma goes way back to the days of Buffalo Bill Cody himself.
Here’s a bike I saw parked in town. Whereas I take a minimalist approach to motorcycle touring, this guy is at the opposite end of the spectrum.
He seems to have every gadget and trinket imaginable. There might even be a kitchen sink in that trunk, but if not, it’s the only thing he’s missing.
Every night they have an old west shootout reenactment in the street, which is kind of fun to watch. Here are some of the players in costume:
A few rough characters
…and a fairer one.
Cody calls itself Rodeo Capital of the World, and Independence Day weekend is the biggest time of year for their rodeos, so I decided I’d better go watch one. Here is a USMC Mounted Honor Guard presenting the colors at the start of the rodeo. Very cool.
Some members of the rodeo royalty.
It was hard to get good pictures once the sun went down and the action started, but I’ll suffice it to say that I was not disappointed with any of the events. The top bull rider of the night was a feller out of Santaquin, Utah, name of Wesley Silcox. In 2007, he won the world championship in bull riding. Now I ask you, what better name could there be for a rodeo cowboy than Wesley Silcox? It’s as if he was destined from birth for this occupation.
On Sunday morning, they had a big parade. It included all the usual parade stuff, but here is what I liked:
About 20 or 30 of these guys were patrolling the parade route, not as participants so much as public safety officials. I don’t know if they are called Sheriff’s Deputies, Marshalls, or what, and don’t know what kind of duties they have every other day of the year, but they clearly were not at the parade just to look cool. As I mentioned before, Cody is a neat town.
Leaving town about noon, I went northwest toward Cooke City, Montana and the northeast gate into the park because I’d never ridden that road. It’s the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, and it passes through something called the Sunlight Basin, a beautiful route.
If you’ve never been through this territory, I recommend putting it on your “To do” list. Unless sublime natural beauty is not your thing. In that case, don’t bother.
See the sharp, narrow peak? The Crow Indians named it Na Piet Say, meaning “the bear’s tooth,” which is what we call it to this day. I always imagine some dark wizard on the top of it, conjuring evil sorcery amid thunder, lightning, and general spookiness.
They have signs like this all over the place. I think they’re suggesting that we take a lesson from bears and eat a lot each Fall to bulk up for the Winter.
From the pictures I’ve seen of RugerForum members, it appears some of us are taking that advice to heart. Just sayin’…
I went back through the park following a different loop than the one I rode Saturday. Here is an area that burned in the fires of 1988, which I swear I had nothing to do with. I was nowhere near Yellowstone at the time, and I have witnesses who will corroborate this.
There are millions of dead trees, both on the ground and still standing, and the new crop is coming up among them, ranging in size from 10 feet to about 20 or 30 feet tall. (Cue “Lion King” Circle of Life music.)
I saw lots of bikes, mostly Harleys, but a good assortment of other types too. This vintage Norton was probably my favorite (and perhaps the only thing that’s even less reliable than an old Harley!)
Rivers everywhere are running high, and the Lewis is no exception. Here is Lewis Falls.
And the Lewis River’s flood plain.
By Fall, this might be reduced to a single narrow channel.
I rode out the south gate, back through Tetons and Jackson, over Teton pass to Victor, Idaho, and then down to Idaho Falls, where I stayed with family for the 4th. By the time I rolled through Jackson it was getting too dark for pictures, and I got into I.F. quite late. On Monday we had good food, watched fireworks, played in the yard with the kids, and buzzed around on a little 4-wheeler. This was a most relaxing day. Tuesday morning I got up and rode home on I-15, about a 3 hour cruise. There’s nothing interesting about that ride, but it wasn’t too bad. By that afternoon I was back at the salt mines, the daily grind, the old routine. It will be many moons before I can take another vacation like this, but my pictures and memories will sustain me.