Day 26 – Heading to Yellowstone
June 11, 2014
When I woke up and was loading my bike up I looked up at the sky and saw this…
I thought to myself, “OK, here we go again.” Spring riding across the country has been mainly about trying to navigate around the storm cells that pop up all over in the mid west. These storms you can often see off in the distance and perhaps can ride around if you are willing to go out of your way. Or, like this morning you have no choice but to zip up, put the heated liner in with gloves and just ride into the storm in order to continue to heading west.
Chilly start but I have said this before I rather have it on the cool side than HOT any day. I find it way easy to keep my core warm than cool. 9C or 48 F.
Before I left I also found my self thinking a lot about my dog Cruizer, his sudden death, me not being home and how I was going to deal with returning with one less dog. I also at this point was thinking what else do I need to prepare for? The reason for this solo journey was to work out how hurt I was when my life suddenly, to me, turned upside down being a apart of a partnership for almost 17 years to being single, living in my house with my three dogs. I knew I would have legal issues to contend to because before I left there was no resolutions agreed upon. I could feel my body getting tense and my head getting full of ruminating thoughts.
Out west I noticed like in 2010 when I rode X country the many types of material being used on the roads. Seems as though “someone” is desperate to figure a combination of sorts to try to make these roads last through the harsh winters.
While I began my day I said to myself, “clear the head….you have to. There are still a few thousand miles to ride and you need to keep a clear head.” Easier said than done.
I put the music on early this morning, that distracts me in a good way. I focused on the short-lived storm I was knowingly heading into and tried to focus on Yellowstone. My mid west tour had turned into a bit of a National Park adventure. Which was a pleasant surprise. Another pleasantry was once through the dark low clouds I was privy to the above picture.
Just as quickly as the skies turned blue with white puffy clouds. I LOVE clouds when riding, the temperature dropped as I headed in to the hills of this region.
5.5 C or 41 F. As long as I have my heated gear on I never worry about the temp. All I do is turn up the temperature gauge dial and moderate my heat.
My short-lived sunny ride turned into another rainy cold ride but it would get better. Common occurrence throughout any given day out here. Rain, cold, sun a bit of warmth back to rain back to sun.
Rt. 16 to the east Yellowstone was a great route to take. I have been trying at this point to avoid the interstate as much as I can and enjoy other routes with views and even some curves. The interstate serves it’s purpose for sure. When I ride long distances I welcome the ability to get on one to pick up the speed and catch up on both time and mileage. Pop in pop out is what I say, options…not bad at all.
My cockpit view I was fortunate to see every day I got to ride. My bike and I have become one. I feel as though my F8 is broken in by now, the ergo’s, my set up and even the BMW stock low seat have made this bike into a super touring machine. Totally comfortable even for a GS. I have taken the Triumph Tiger 800XC in 2011 up to Alaska and boasted about that bikes road comfort. Well…when comparing the 2 bikes…my 2013 F800 and the 2011 800XC…believe it or not my F8 is a road worthy competition. Other than the twin vibey engine compared to the triple of the Triumph, my bike felt just a good on the road. Very very impressed and surprised.
My route took me through the Big Horn National forest with decent elevations. Here I got encapsulated by the low cloud cover and very cool temps. I actually thought it might snow on me. I don’t mind snow as long as it does not accumulate on the roads. My visibility soon dropped to almost 10 feet.
This is a little scary at times. I mean I can’t see and that means cars and trucks can’t see me. I keep my hi beam on and if I feel or hear a car coming at me or behind me I pump my rear brake so they can at least see a flash. I have been asked via messages and emails “how do I enjoy myself on a bike when it seems I have so many hazards to worry about?” Great question but easy answer. You get used to this, hazards, weather changes when you ride long distance or even just in a day to work. You learn to instinctively adjust your riding. It become automatic all the while taking on the views, the smells, the surroundings and actually relaxing through what may appear to be distractions. I am aware of what I need to do while riding to try to make myself more visible but not for a second am I going to miss even the sneak peek of the views ahead of me.
Can you imagine what I would be seeing if I could see? ;-)
I can see blue skies ahead. Hopeful that it won’t be long before I get out of the clouds and into better weather soon.
As descended from the pass I made a short detour to a little lake right off the main road. Again, so important to pay attention to the road surface. The turn off was a little dirt road but it was wet. So, of course I come zooming in and almost lost it when my bike transitioned from pavement to wet slippery mud. I was looking at the lake not and not paying attention to the surface. All good, did not wipe out but it only takes a second to have something like this little turn possibly ruin your day.
It was here that thoughts of my beloved dog enter my frontal lobe. ;-) Once again said to myself this is not the time. So, I find myself shaking my head literally to get Cruizer out of my thoughts. Feeling guilty about not being home and even guilty not allowing myself to feel his loss off I went.
Yep in love with my bike. Hard for none riders to understand, hopefully not for the avid rider like me.
It’s easy when out on the road to forget your worries. I mean that is what holidays are all about. I was not able to do this all the time. I would often escape into my own world, even forgot many times I was ever married and going through a separation. But the death of a pet is hard to shake..so I did try to honour Cruizer throughout this day one I stopped at a beautiful place. Little did I know I would be actually having a celebration of life outside the east entrance of Yellowstone.
Back up into the clouds after the lake for a short while and back down to what I saw for the rest of the day…a treat to dry and warmer weather.
We have roads like this in BC and been on roads in many parts of the USA…but you have to love them that much more when you are present and riding wherever you are. To me it’s about the region. Even though it may look familiar to home I love that it’s not.
Viola! Yes, just like that the terrain changes, the deep black newly paved road and sun. Beautiful transition and not so subtle. Come out of the mountains and the conditions change just like that.
The road heads off into what appears a never-ending road.
In 2010 I found this “boring”, in 2014 I find all the roads out here to be beautiful. I didn’t care if there weren’t any twisties or curves. One thing riding solo is I found myself just enjoying being with myself. Adversity can do that to you. Less consumed with separation, hitting my helmet, shaking my head not let Cruixer confuse me I felt relaxed. I do think on some level Cruizer was allowing me not to grieve. ;-) I think he had a bigger mission for me on this day. Remember I said earlier I would have a celebration of life?
This flag pole was off to my left on Rt 16. Well, off a little dirt road. I saw it from a distance and thought, “what the heck? Why is there a flag pole in what seems to be such a random location?” Even though I thought that to my self, I rode past it doing 140 KM/hr. I rode about 200 yards past it and all of sudden I grabbed my brakes full on to stop. I look over my left should and see the flag again. Make a quick u-turn and went to check it out. I had to something was making this a mission.
Not far off Rt 16 but a perfect location for my bike and soon to be memorial stone for Cruizer. It became a no brainer when I got to the pole why it was there. Seemed to be a site for memorial stones, perhaps loved ones lost, pets?. I
saw numbers, names, and graphics on the rocks at the base of this pole.
Well, I guess I will succumb to my untapped spiritual side yet again. Something compelled me to u turn and go to this site. I never u turn for anything even riding solo. I always want to take pics of state welcome signs and almost always miss them only to keep riding. Compelled I say because I really felt this pole grab me as if I had no choice. I got it when I got off my bike, looked around at the panoramic view only 100 Km’s or so from the entrance to Yellowstone. I got the message. Have a ceremony for Cruizer. celebrate his life the day after he died. Do something I said to myself because I mean after all I always tell my donor families, I work in organ donation, to celebrate the life of the loved one they just lost to a tragic sudden death. I needed to take my own advise.
I pushed the OK button on my spot to mark this location forever.
Not that I would ever forget where it is. Perhaps one day I will bring Cruizer’s ashes back here. I was asked by a few why here? Aren’t you Canadian? Nope…American born and raised. New Yorker to boot. Not that makes any difference. But totally appropriate for me to have my first private celebration. Not sure what to do I found a pen in my tank bag, wrote on what I now call Cruizer’s stone and had a moment of silence that lasted about 30 mins or so.
It dawned on me too. While sort of preparing my bike for this trip I changed much of my gear. Without being too conscious about the reason behind this….I had an Epiphany of sorts while here. I changed my gear and my bike to look completely different from any other trip i have done with my ex. I wanted my pictures to look new, fresh and have little reminder of how when traveling as two our bikes were so similar because I would buy 2 of everything. On this trip, new memories, fresh pics and my bike looks and felt different. This was my trip and only my trip.
My moment was over, felt good at this point in a weird way and I continued to Yellowstone. Not sure what I was going to do when I got there. I mean camp in the park, ride through this day? I would play it by ear. Prior to entering the park I was texting Mani, back in NYC who was telling me he was glad I went this way home. He is originally from Montana and said he was jealous I was there and he was in NYC. Mani and I rode to Montauk together with my friend Dean back on Long Island. We stayed in touch for the rest of the trip. Virtual friend to real friend.
Made a few little pit stops before riding the last 100 KM to the east entrance. Bridges and trains fascinate me on the road. Not so much at home but always on the road. I entered Scenic Byway of Highway 20, aka the Wapiti Valley, the road is wedged into a valley shaped by the flow of the Shoshone River. The Buffalo Bill Dam/Reservoir and Buffalo Bill State Park were worth another Kodak moment.
Soon enough I reached my destination for the day, well sort of. I ended up riding through the park and for the most part enjoying myself. Been here when I was kid and saw Old Faithful and parts of the park with my family. I say for the most part because I mean there were bison every where and that attracted cars which equated to traffic jams. After I got to the visitors station I was surrounded by cars and it took me forever to get out of the park. I wanted to see more but gave up. I was all ready on the bike when I arrived at the west entrance 10.5 hours and it took me another hour or so to leave the park in worse than rush hour traffic so it seemed.
The culprit creating excitement among all the tourists. This was only 3 but there was a huge heard at the exit/west entrance that everyone one had to stop for and get pics of the young ones too. I was in my literal friction zone, did not snap a pic of the heard. Did not want to stop and going to slow to do a one-handed shot. But I saw my share but no other real wild life. Was a little bummed but bison are cool
It got cool again as I headed into the park. Back went on my heated liner and gloves as I climbed up the road into the east side.
No people on this side. $20 to get too.
Glacier fed, still snow and beautiful
I pretty much kept to myself today. Even when I stopped and guys were around my bike, I waited for them to leave instead of socializing. Wasn’t in the mood. Wanted to be alone. Was getting tired by the time I got to the park, needed to eat and needed to find a place to camp or just stay for the night.
A little sulphates action on the side of the hills and mountains. Sulfur mud pies all over too. The geothermal areas of Yellowstone include several geyser basins in Yellowstone National Park as well as other geothermal features such as hot springs, mud pots, and fumaroles. The number of thermal features in Yellowstone is estimated at 10,000. There some trivia info for you. ;-)
Pretty eh? Love how the weather gave me break to be in the park.
Now who do these guys remind you of? Entertained myself watching them at the visitors centre while I got a quick cheap sandwich and refuel and head out for the night.
After some more Kodak moments, I eventually did the over 100 KM drive, did not explore nearly the entire park. It’s huge! I ended up only making it to West Yellowstone for that night.
Met a guy named Paul at the McDonald’s in town, my resting/pee/wifi hang out throughout this trip. Paul did not know it at the time but it turns out he is a face book page follower of mine. We went to the local rip off KOA together. Paul has been on the road since last October, from California and will be traveling until this October. One year on the road on board his BMW F650GS.
More about Paul in the next post. I was exhausted by now that traffic jam did it for me getting out of the park. Got a cabin, unloaded and went to bed both physically and emotionally done for the day.