Monday, September 21, 2009

Daily Ponderings

This Friday is an impromptu class reunion. I am from Boyd Texas. A map dot, but home. I never felt that way when I was young living there but I do now? Only to some degree though. Too many ghosts. Not skeletons, you can't have those in a small town. If you don't know what your doing right then, just ask someone. Everyone knows what everyone is doing in small town America.

This is the last graduating class out of our "old" high school, which is one reason for the get together. They are building a bigger new one that opens next year. My best friend Melody and I, had 5 kids between us. Four boys and one girl. Three of those boys are Melody's. Noel is her youngest and the youngest of our kids, he is part of that last graduating class.  Why is this bothering me so much? It didn't even bother me that much when my kids left school.

I guess it means the end of an era and the start of another. I sure hope it is a good one for everyone. Congrats Noel. You have turned out to be one hell of a young man and I am proud of you. I am proud of all of you kids. I love you all.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Day 7 Yellowstone

For those of you that are interested, here is a small file PDF map of inside Yellowstone to give you a better idea of where we were.

I honestly did not realize that Yellowstone was that big. It was 106 miles from Cooke City to Old Faithful, one way. Now you cannot go to Yellowstone and not go to Old Faithful. We headed down from the NE gate and took a left at the Roosevelt Tower this time and came down the East side of the park. It is a beautiful drive down by Yellowstone Lake. Notice the sky and the water are the same color blue? Gorgeous I tell you!

The only problem? TRAFFIC... Yep, because that road between Norris and Madison was closed there was more traffic on the Eastside. Bumper to bumper for 30+ miles at 45 mph if you were lucky. I was amazed, I never thought I would see that many people in a national park at one time.

We got down to the area around Old Faithful and had to find a parking place. Luckily parking bikes is easier than a 4 wheel. We wandered down to the ranger station to see what time it was due to blow again and found we had an hour. We also found that we had cell service for the first time in two days lol... So I uploaded some trip notes and took a few pics with the phone and we found a spot in the shade to wait for the blow. Of course let me remind you that these features are sulfer based. Sulfer STINKS, rotten eggs galore, so some of the features were anything but pleasant. Pretty but YUCK! We got to see Old Faithful blow and I will admit it really didn't do a thing for me. It sure didn't look as fascinating in real life as it did on the National Geographic channel....

Of course once it blows everyone bails and I sure didn't want to sit in a traffic jam trying to get out of their so we headed out. We stopped at the mud pits on the way out and those were interesting to look at. Liquid rock... hard to imagine. Stinks like hell though lol...

We were coming back up through the East side of the park and once you cross Norris Road that leads to the East gate, traffic just disappears. No complaints about that. We rolled back up into Lamar Valley where the buffalo are. We got behind a SUV with three adults in it. No kids, just adults. They are slowly pacing an old bull as he walks along side the road. Now there is traffic coming at us and then they stop because they want to see the bull too. Now I love buffalo, I think they are the most majestic creatures on this planet but I would have pulled over at one of the many pull offs the signs tell you about. A little tongue in cheek sarcasm there sorry. I am watching them pace this bull and I can tell all this bull wants is to be left the hell alone so... hehehe I am awful. Now picture them less than two foot from this bull to their immediate right. Now my bike is not a quiet bike, I have loud Jardine pipes, so... hehehe. I pulled up right behind their bumper, less than two foot from this bull, pulled in the clutch, and racked the pipes twice :-)... Now the bull just ambled off to the right but the people in the SUV shot me some nasty looks, but traffic was moving again so.... lol.

Ah but it wasn't to last. We made it less than a mile down the road and everything just stopped. Both directions for as far as you could see was stopped. Now at this point I have killed the bike and we are sitting there and I look down the road for the cause. Now picture a HUGE old bull and he just ambled right out into the middle of the road. No problem. Everyone stops and waits, he will move right? hahaha NOT! Nope, he looks right, looks left, shrugs and lays down LMAO! Yep, lays down right smack in the middle of the road and nope, he ain't movin' for nobody... Now I am a country girl and I have dealt with livestock traffic before but watching these city folks get tweaked having to wait was hysterical. They even went and got a park ranger to come down and clear the bull out of the road. Can you imagine what that bull must have been thinking??? "Damn city people, always in a hurry. They are in my backyard and they can just wait" lol....

Of course the rangers I am sure get tired of dealing with the pettiness of people. I couldn't do it. My hats are off to those lucky few who get to work in the most pristine work environment ever created....

Well by this time I am just plain wore out and ready for dinner so we head out after the traffic jam. The speed limit in the park is 45 mph. Personally that is just fast enough. Anything faster and your missing the whole point of the ride anyway. Now having said that, traffic has thinned out and somehow we have picked up two bikes behind us. As we are rolling into Ice Box Canyon, I guess they thought we weren't going fast enough so they shagged ass up around us (in a no passing zone I might add) and headed up only to pass a white pick up in front of us. All the sudden you see them hit the brakes and slow WAY down. A few miles up the road as we got to the main gate, we discovered that they had just shagged ass around a park ranger... HAHAHA! Well they didn't get stopped (unfortunately) and I guess they were feeling really emboldend and goosed it coming out of the gate only to discover that traffic was stopped due to the repaving they are doing, all the way to Cooke City... LOL!

Now Bill and I come easing up just as the pilot truck turns around and I am slow racing just fine and managed nearly a mile at less than 5 mph without putting my feet down or stopping. Fat boy in front of us? Not so much... he and his twinkie friend on the other bike think they are cool with their Minnesota plates and matching Shoei helmets. We had to follow this goof all the way back to Cooke City, stop, go, stop, go. UGHH... Ok breathe, your on vacation, it's all good.

When we got to town, we pulled up at the Exxon to get gas and darned if they didn't too. Of course fat boy gets off his bike with an attitude and slings that Shoei off and stands, glaring towards us. Of course about that time, off comes my less expensive but much nicer Nolan N42 and oops, all my hair falls out of my helmet. That's when it dawns on him that he was just out ridden by a GIRL. The look on his face was priceless and Bill just nearly died laughing. Of course the filter between my brain and my mouth has never been very thick, I just had to make a comment about how this little ol' girl from Texas, that has only been riding for a couple of years, just out rode some middle aged poser from Minnesota. Oh and did it without breaking one traffic law. :-) He just nodded and walked away. I just smiled and headed for dinner.

Day 8 to come... Thanks for riding along guys!

Ride report Day 6

Out of Hardin, MT we headed to Billings and then South to Cooke City, MT. To get to Cooke City you have to cross Beartooth Pass. Beartooth Pass, elevation 10,947 feet of AWESOME!!! Ok now that I got that out of my system lol.... If you have never ridden Beartooth Pass, I highly recommend it. So does Motorcycle Cruiser magazine:

In August 1872, the pass was crossed by Civil War General Phillip Sheridan and 120 men returning from an inspection tour of Yellowstone. Rather than take the long detour down the Clarks Fork River to return to Billings, Sheridan took the advice of an old hunter named Greer, who claimed intimate knowledge of the Beartooth Mountains. When the road was opened in 1936, it essentially followed Sheridan's route over the pass.

I will admit there are no pictures from the Pass. See it is 67 miles of switchbacks and wandering roads BUT it was also under construction when we came through there. There was 18 miles of construction. Until we got through that, I was not stopping. When your riding along and the next sign you see says: "ROAD CONSTRUCTION AHEAD MOTORCYCLES USE EXTREME CAUTION". I tend to take those pretty seriously. I know that trees don't grow above 8000 feet due to lack of oxygen. I know that somewhere in the back of my head I knew that there would be ice up that high but it just didn't click. We had to stop and wait for the pilot truck and it was downright cold. Once we took off I nearly stopped and said no I wasn't going up that! We dropped off the pavement and my back tire sank into the gravel. The only thing I knew to do was 2nd gear, plant both feet firmly on the boards, scoot up to the tank, and put the brain in dirt bike mode.

Just as we are coming into the first good switchback in the gravel, I looked over and damned if there isn't a glacier. Yes the ice kind.... It was HUGE! I wanted a picture so bad, but at that moment I discovered that switchbacks, gravel, and motorcycles are scary as hell combined and thought better of stopping. The pilot truck takes you a little over halfway through it and then your on your own, two lane traffic, still on gravel but packed better.

Now I am from Texas as you all know and it doesn't get that cold down here. Of course I took a First Gear Kilimanjaro jacket, my leather shirt, and long finger gloves "just in case" (shameless plug).... Boy am I glad I did. We spent the next 5 days in that gear.

We came down off the mountain and ended up in the most wonderful town of Cooke City, MT. For those of you looking at your map, you will see that is right outside the NE gate of Yellowstone. The least used gate in all the park. It is closed during the winter as the annual snowfall average is around 500 inches a year. Yes that's hundreds. I could not picture that until I saw this:

Cooke City has a summer population of 300. Yep that's all. They don't even have enough residents to fill all the summer jobs. There are numerous hotel / motels and places to eat and lots of jobs to fill. To combat this problem, the city and business owners contract with foreign exchange students on work visas to stay and work for the summer. It is really kind of neat because, lets say you eat breakfast at one place and their help is from Czechoslovakia, but the place across the street, their help is from Germany. They all speak English fairly well and it can get interesting when you have to explain the difference between medium and well done lol....

We got a room at the Alpine Motel. Nice little place and very biker friendly. We spent the evening exploring the gift shops, places to eat in town, and called it a night early so we could be up for the mountain morning sunrise. It was awesome just as I expected. We headed into the park after a light breakfast. The cool thing about going into Yellowstone is that you pay one price that covers 7 days and both parks, Yellowstone and Grand Teton.
See the ice? That is Beartooth Pass from below, a valley on the way down, and the last picture shows why they are called the Beartooth Mountains. See the peak? Looks like a Beartooth. Going into Yellowstone you pass through Ice Box Canyon. It comes by its name honestly, it was COLD coming through there. You rolled out of Ice Box Canyon and into Lamar Valley which rolls alongside of the Lamar River. Lamar Valley is where the animals are along with lots of fly fishing going on.

I don't understand people. There is signs all through the park that says use pull offs if your stopping, IE.. DON'T BLOCK THE ROADWAY! Ahh I guess no one reads those signs. Now please understand, I am on a air cooled motorcycle. That means not moving? No air. No air? Hot motorcycle. Hot motorcycle? Hot rider and not just from the heat. We are wearing long sleeve leather shirts and long finger gloves, most all day everyday, but that doesn't mean sitting still is comfortable.

The Northeast section of the park, as far as I am concerned, is the most beautiful part of the park. We spent the first day just driving the North end of the park. When you come in the NE gate, you travel along that road until you get to the Roosevelt Tower. This is where you can take the bus tours and gas up if you need. Gas stations are a long way in between so plan accordingly. We took a right and headed over towards Mammoth Hot Springs, which is really the only caldera feature on the North end.

You pass rivers and creeks that have the coldest, clearest water. You then roll down to Norris which is where the museum is along with places to eat, get gas, shop (their souvenier shop is NICE), and it is also where some of the employee housing is. A number of years ago I actually applied for jobs at the park just on a whim. Man, I wish I had gotten that job. They house you, feed you, on site medical clinic, and the most amazing work environment you can imagine.
PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPeek a booPhotobucket

The park is shaped like a long oval with one road bisecting the middle gates, East and West. Part of that road from Madison to Norris was closed so we took a left and headed back up towards the NE gate through Canyon Village and Dunraven Pass. I have to say, there just isn't an ugly place in this park. We headed back to Cooke City for the night. We will explore the South end tomorrow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ride report day 5 continued

For those of you that are following this, thank you. I hope that I have not bored you to tears. Please drop me a line and let me know.

After Deadwood we headed for Little Bighorn. For those that have never been there, myself included, it was somewhat strange to be riding along, and you know your "nearly" there and your starting to watch for the signs to show you were to turn. There were none. We were rolling along and all the sudden, there is the driveway heading up the gate. We almost shot past it. I love history and Native American history has always fascinated me.

History has always been written by the winners and I know that there is always some exaggeration of the facts but I have never experienced complete omissions of information. History textbooks have always talked about the Battle of Little Bighorn as the complete destruction of Custer's men and that is what it was BUT... I was not aware that there were 3 battles that day. Three battles that started as much as 5 miles away and involved different generals and troops. The troops from the first two battles lived to tell about it but Custer did something that anybody would have told you was suicidal.

Do you remember playing king of the hill when you were a kid? You remember being the guy trying to get to the top? Well that was Custer. Here he is, faced with odds that would frighten even more experienced men, he tried to take the hill. He marched his men through a valley into the hands of death. Sad to say that most of it was because of arrogance. I have been to other battlefields and there is usually a feeling that you get when you stand there and play it over in your head. I never got that feeling here. I was surprised to learn also that Little Bighorn was a National Cemetery.

Somehow that fact had eluded me. What an honor it would be to be buried there. Of course it was overrun with tourists and after Deadwood and riding all day, I was beat and ready to call it done. Fair warning though. You are just outside of the Indian reservation and you have to ride to Hardin Montana to get a decent room. I will catch up day 6 in just a bit but here are some pics to enjoy while your waiting.


Photobucket This is the valley that Custer lead his men through. I am looking from the Indian point of view off of Last Stand Hill.

PhotobucketPhotobucket This is the Indian Memorial that was placed here a few years back. Better late than never I guess. This is the outer artwork. Inside the memorial is a break down of the tribes and their dead. BTW? The Indians lost approximately 60 men to Custers 242.

Photobucket PhotobucketAnother fact? He isn't even buried here with his men. He was originally but when they disinterred the men and moved them all to the mass grave at the top of Last Stand Hill, his body was sent home to buried with his family.

Ride report day 5

OK Frank I get it lol.... Sorry guys, it has been a while since I worked on the ride report. So I owe you a long one today ;-)

The fourth night we spent in Deadwood. Now for those of you that have never been up there, think tourist, western, and gambling all rolled into one. Now don't get me wrong, there is history here, obviously. I just hate seeing what such places turn into. I have no problems with gambling, hell the history of this town centers around gambling. I just hate the glitter and chrome that comes with it.

We found this one really cool saloon (freaking casino) that was part museum, part bar, all casino. I think I can let most of the pictures speak for themselves. The first picture though I thought was kind of cool. First thing we saw in Deadwood was the original spelling of the family name lol.... Now everything you see in these pictures are the actual vehicles, clothing from movies and TV shows. These are all thumbnails that you can enlarge so enjoy!

Photobucket of course we all know Herbie the Love Bug..Photobucket
I left this picture big on purpose. For those of you that remember the show Grizzly Adams, you know he was not a small man. This is his personal Iron Head Sportster. I can only imagine what that must have looked like..
Can you see what that third picture is? Yep, that is The Bandits autograph... Yes I loved that movie!
Yep, Magnum PI. Damn that was a sweet looking ride!
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This picture pretty much sucked because this outfit was behind glass. For those that cannot read it, this is the military uniform Tom Hanks wore as Forrest Gump.
This is what I mean about history being overrun with glitter.
Oh my hero. Yes I loved John Wayne. Funny thing is, so does Bills mother and that was my excuse for taking all those pictures lol.. So here you go mom, just for you!
I laughed when I first saw these. Yep, those are "workin' girls". Of course they aren't real but you forget that is how things were "advertised" back then.

Well we are done with Deadwood and headed to Little Big Horn. I will continue this in a few.