Saturday, June 30, 2012

A Glacier Experience - Day 8

Day 8 – Saturday, June 30 – Red Lodge MT to Sheridan WY
Dude Feeding Wildlife
Sorry Dude, No Food!
Bear Tooth Highway over the pass proved to be nearly as good as Glacier.  However, it was different.  There was no charge to go through it, since it is not a national park.  It does have some of the same similarities as Glacier.  The views were awesome, the mountain peaks had snow on them, and there were plenty of visitors.  The road is around 68 miles long and joins up to Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, also called Wyoming Highway 296, which is around 46 miles long.

Rob at 10,947 Feet
Kathy, Theresa, Ronnie at 10,947 Feet

Beauty Abounds
Coupled up, the Bear Tooth Highway and Chief Joseph Scenic Highway are well over 100 miles of twists, turns, elevation changes, and beautiful scenery abounds.  Chief Joseph takes you right in to Cody Wyoming.  However, we were ready to get off of Chief Joseph Scenic Highway due to the tar snakes, since they don’t mix well with motorcycles, especially when the weather is warm.

About ¾ the way through Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, we encountered a couple of emergency vehicles, then a couple more, then a couple more…  Around 8 in total police, ambulances, fire trucks, etc.  Something bad must have happened, but not sure what.  It is an eerie feeling when you are riding a motorcycle and seeing that many emergency vehicles.

Lake Creek Falls - Beartooth
Theresa and Kathy at the Falls
Last Day of Skiing
Dont Try This At Home
Beartooth Lake
Silver Dollar Saloon - Cody WY
We rolled in to Cody and toured the town for the Honda dealer to get Ronnie’s bike scoped to see what error code it was throwing.  As bad luck had it, the Honda reseller was not a certified garage, which Honda only allows to do service work and scope for error codes.  We had to wait for Rapid City since there was an authorized repair shop there.  That completed, we went downtown and looked for a place to eat.  We hit the Silver Dollar Saloon for lunch, which was a hit.   

Chief Joseph Scenic Highway (note GPS)
There was a rodeo during the time we were in Cody, so stopping here for the night was not going to be an option.  So after lunch, we headed east towards the Big Horns in order to get to Sheridan.  Our route took us through the northern section of Wyoming, where we smelled smoke from the fires in Montana drifting down.  Once we got close to the Big Horns, we paused for a rest stop and to get water for us and fuel for the bikes.  On our way in to the mountains, we met back up with a guy running a Honda Valkyrie, which was similar to a bike like Ronnie used to own.  The gentleman was pleasant to talk to and stated he was from the Sheridan area.  He stated he was going to run the northern pass, which is 14A over to 14 Hwy, since he didn’t take that route coming over the last time.  So, we followed him…  up the old 14A, which was closed.  It was a bleak less than 2 lane road that snaked up the hill towards a camping ground and looked less traveled than any road we had been on.  After he trekked up the mountainside a ways, we noticed he turned around. We stopped and chatted with him again and he said the road was closed and that we needed to turn around to get back on the highway.  So we did, back on to 14A, the intended route.  What scenery this was.  The highway joined up with 14 a ways in, which took us right to Sheridan. 

We stopped in Sheridan for some gas, checked out a hotel in the same parking lot, and then decided on looking for a dinner spot to inquire about more motels availability and prices.  We looked at the gps again for places to eat, which we though we had found a Mexican cuisine restaurant.  No such luck, as both were shut down.  We ended up going to downtown to a place called Sanford’s Pub and Grub.  It was a hit with all of us, since the menu was filled with a lot of options.  The best part - $1 domestic pints with food purchase, all day, every day.  Score!  We called hotels and motels again and found a place called Alamo Motel, which was a local place with a double room, three-bed option for $79. Score again! 

Other highlights:
·      National/State Parks: Bighorn National Forest
·      Miles: ~ 270

Friday, June 29, 2012

A Glacier Experience - Day 7

Day 7 – Friday, June 29 – Choteau MT to Red Lodge MT
We woke up after a well-rested evening in our respective motel rooms.  We departed Choteau Montana on 89 Hwy south and agreed to stop in Great Falls for breakfast.  What do you know, we found a McDonalds again.  We looked at the day’s route and planned one that took us to Red Lodge Montana

Before we left town, we had planned to find a post office branch to mail back some unneeded clothes as well as some shirts that we bought for some of our help back home.  The phrase, “if it fits, it ships” comes in to play here.  We bought the $15.95 box, which includes shipping to anywhere in the continental United States.  We shoved quite a few shirts and other clothing articles in there and off it went.  Ronnie and Theresa did the same thing.  Though the bikes didn’t feel any lighter, we knew they were, even if only slightly.

We motored down the road through the Lewis and Clark National Forest towards I-80, only for a little bit.  A couple miles outside of White Sulphur Springs Montana, right where 89 hooks up with 12, we happened across a red Cadillac driven by a mid 50 year-old woman with a red handkerchief waving out her window trying to get our attention.  I turned the Harley around to see what her issue was and as I approached her passenger window, she stated that there was a cattle drive on up the road and wanted to warn me of it.  Quickly, we realized how big the cattle drive was. 
Beginning of Cattle Drive
There had to be well over 200 head of cattle, on the road, with no way around them.  We basically had to stop and wait for direction from the three-or-so cowboys and two-or-so cowgirls.  There were also a couple of 4x4 trucks managing the cattle.  The guys nearest us were waving us to go through slowly and rev the motors a little to make the cattle scatter.  So, we moved closer in amongst them, as they moo’d – loudly.  Kathy was snapping photos above my head as I navigated through the cows, then the cowgirls near the end were waving us off to stop where we were.  Uh oh!  Now, its our two bikes and two others we picked up while we waited now in the middle of a two lane road with 200 head of cattle surrounding us.  One of the other bikes and I were in the lead and just proceeded on, which I think pissed off the cowgirls and the old guy in one of the trucks, but oh well.  It wasn’t safe in the middle!  We made a hole and went for it. I will say, that is a first for me, at least on a motorcycle.  We paused in the small town of White Sulphur Springs at The Lane Bar, where we recapped the event to each other and the bartender as we sipped our beers.  

We continued down 89 hwy towards I-80, hopped on the dreaded interstate, and made short of it.  We did have to pause for a gas and water stop around Big Timber.  Once starting back on the way to Red Lodge, Ronnie noticed his F1/FI light came on and started blinking.  We attempted to troubleshoot it on the side of the road, however could not figure it out.  Cautiously, we forged ahead, checking in with each other regularly to see if the Goldwing was acting up or not.  It appeared to be fine, but the light was concerning to Ronnie.  We then took off the interstate on 78 Hwy near Columbus Montana and rode to Roscoe.  The advice, from my boss at my regular work, advised us to eat at the Grizzly Bar and Grill for a hamburger lunch.  He was not wrong – it was great!
We cruised on down the road in to Red Lodge Montana.  Red Lodge is another ski town, but at the base of Bear Tooth Highway, over the pass, is proclaimed as the most beautiful drives in America.  This was one of the roads we looked forward to, since it has sweeping turns, switchbacks, and an elevation of 10,947 ft.  The shops and eateries are that of a ski town as well. 

We went in to a watering hole called Snow Creek Saloon, which was referred to us by our friendly bartender at The Lane in White Sulphur Springs Montana.  What a recommendation she had.  This place had all the right feelings, from the bumper stickers and license plates on the walls to the loft where the band plays.  I felt right at home.  We each got a beer and chatted about which hotel/motel we saw that looked appealing.  We also inquired the bartender, who offered us a couple suggestions.  I called a couple of places, and similarly to a couple of other times on this trip, it went to voicemail.  Interesting thing was, the Yodeler Motel called me back by using their caller ID and we booked with them.  It was a two-bedroom studio with a kitchen for $99, and happened to be their last room available.  Score! 
Nice Eyes, Deer!
You Can Say That Again!

I was taking photos inside the Snow Creek Saloon due to its eclectic look and a lady walked up to me and asked me about my attraction to the establishment.  I said I really liked the place and she offered that it was for sale.  How did she know that?  She was the listing agent for the place.  It’s only a cool $850,000 offering – pocket change, right?  I quickly started rolling ideas of owning a bar through my head, with Kathy shaking her head from side to side, knowing what I was thinking.  It was quite humorous, but man, what an opportunity for someone that has the desire to live in a ski town.

License Plates at Snow Creek Saloon
Snow Creek Saloon MHC!
We left the bar after talking to the realtor for a bit and then settled in to the room by unpacking our bags and stuff.  During our unpacking, a few guys on bikes approached the area, where we made small talk as we wiped down our bikes.  Turns out that one of the men on a trike was the Mayor of Mitchell South Dakota, Lou Sebert.  He brought a few of his son-in-laws with him, including a South Dakota State Trooper.  Everyone was great to talk to and they even shared their beer with us.  They take a trip from Mitchell, meet some buddies in Rapid City, and then head to Red Lodge every year.  Wish I were close enough to do a long weekend to this place! These guys were great.

Carbon County Steakhouse
The guys mentioned that there was a great place to eat downtown, which they were all headed to.  We took their advice and walked to town for dinner at the Carbon County Steakhouse.  Kathy and I opted to split the Cowboy Coffee Ribeye, which is the steakhouses claim as “Our award winning ribeye rubbed with our spicy blend of seasonings. Charbroiled then finished with a sweet spiced rum demi-glace. 12oz $29.95 18oz $34.95."  Kathy and I also split some mussels.  And her $5.50 advertised margaritas ended up $3 more for the patron option... We waddled back to the hotel for a nights rest.

Other highlights:
·      Miles: ~ 325

Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Glacier Experience - Day 6

Day 6 – Thursday, June 28 – Whitefish MT to Choteau MT
We began the day by packing the bikes up once again and heading out to find some breakfast.  The night before, a suggestion to try Swift Creek Café in the downtown area was offered by the motel clerk.  So, we rode on up there and walked on in.  Each couple split a breakfast burrito, which was hand prepared with lots of good stuff in them.  The service was ok, but there were quite a few people in there for a one-person wait staff.  The breakfast burrito is highly suggested!

Lake McDonald Lodge
Lake McDonald
Lake McDonald
We left Whitefish to travel through Columbia Falls in order to get to West Glacier, which is the western entrance to Glacier National Park. We approached the entrance to the park and used the ‘America the Beautiful’ park pass once again... That turned out to be a great investment.  On our Glacier trek, we happened upon the Lake McDonald lodge area.  Holy moly this place is wonderful.  We hadn’t been on the road long at this time, but we did stay for a while, snapping photos and just taking it all in.  Lake McDonald is 10 miles long and over a mile wide.  It also sits at an elevation of 3,153 feet, which is great for greenery and crystal clear water.

We proceeded onward through the curves and wonderful views of Going to the Sun Road, taking turn offs for photo opportunities.  There were some road construction signs up throughout the road warning of 20-30 minute delays in one particular part.  Right before we got the area that was under construction, we pulled off and made some friends that were snapping photos.  Once we got the photos we wanted, we began to part ways when we noticed a marmot under the couple’s vehicle.  We took a couple of photos of it licking the axle area of the vehicle and it didn’t appear to be bothered. However, once the couple left, the marmot scampered across the parking lot towards me as I attempted to get a clean shot on it in the parking lot.  That thing was way too quick for me, and coupled up with running at me, I got out of the way and didn’t bother with taking a photo…

Logans Pass Area
We rode through the construction a ways, which isn’t as easy as it sounds.  You see, on a motorcycle, navigating uneven roads, some gravel, with a full load on the bike, isn’t easy at idle speeds.  We managed and made our next stop at the Logan’s Pass Visitors Center for a break and to check out the paths cut through the snow.  That snow had to be over 8 ft tall in places, and that is at the end of June.

We migrated downward and stopped at Saint Mary Lake next.  It was there where we met Jim Kinny from Columbia Missouri.  He was driving a Goldwing, so Jim and Ronnie hit it off.  Jim didn’t seem to know a stranger either.  He talked to us for quite a while, snapped our photo with my camera as I did the same for him with his camera.  Once we parted, we decided to at least go check out Canada while we were near.

Going to the Sun Road - Glacier National Park
St Mary Lake - Glacier National Park
Rob Kathy Theresa Ronnie at St Mary Lake

We left Glacier and headed north to the Canadian border.  I was leading the two-bike group and ended up going past the point of no return in to Canada, but only to do a U-turn.  Turns out, U-turns are not allowed in Canada, or at least not at the border entrance… oops.  The RCMP quickly came out and asked us to check in the border entrance or leave the country immediately. It was harsh, but we quickly chose USA and proceeded back in to the states.  We couldn’t just skate through either, since we had to be repatriated by having our passports scanned and questioned by the US Customs agent.  We got back in, thankfully, and headed down the road for a lunch stop.

Two Sisters Café was the choice for lunch, which was housed in a light purple building that matched nicely with Ronnie’s ‘illusion blue’ Goldwing.  We met a couple of nice women who were riding motorcycles from Pennsylvania to Alaska and back.  They were on their way back home.  Wow, and we only went from KC to Glacier and back…  Lunch was good here, but a little pricey for what was served.

We traveled down the eastern portion of Glacier National Park, through twisty roads and wonderful views.  It had been a while since we had a stop, so upon hitting Bynum Montana, we located a watering hole named JD's Wildlife Sanctuary. We were met in the gravel parking lot by a mixed breed dog with a tennis ball – who obviously wanted to play ball with us.  Kathy picked up the ball and threw it across the parking lot in to the street and the dog quickly returned apparently ready to play again. However, the dog would not give up the ball this time.   What a hoot! 

We entered the establishment and ordered a frosty cold one from the owner/bartender and sat and chatted some.  We were the only ones in the bar at the time, but soon enough, there were a couple ladies that entered and then a young man.  The ladies had been drinking for a while, we think.  Heck, they even brought in their own red solo cups to get filled.  The gentleman that walked in spoke of his 2,000-acre farm that was just zeroed out by the insurance company due to hail damage the week prior.  Sounds like we timed the trip just right.  Sorry for that young man’s loss.  27 years old and farming a 2,000-acre farm…  Wow.  Impressive!

I took it upon myself to locate some hotel options via phone.  The next town, Choteau Montana, was only 13 miles away and that worked just perfect.  It wasn’t late at all, but we needed to do laundry again, since it had been a few days and we were all running out of clean clothes.  I called a few places but didn’t reserve any until we did a drive by to judge the places by the upkeep.  Turns out, you can judge a book by its cover when applying that theory to motels.  We landed at the Gunther Motel for the night, where we unpacked, gathered the dirty clothes, and headed to town to get them started in the washing machine.  Don’t let the reviews fool you, it was a decent place to stay, and they gave us rags to wash our motorcycles with. Another bonus!  As the clothing was being laundered, we walked across the street to John Henry's family restaurant for dinner.  It was wonderful, but they close at 9:00 PM, so get there at normal dinnertime.

Other highlights:
·      National/State Parks: Glacier National Park
·      Miles: ~ 230

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A Glacier Experience - Day 5

Day 5 – Wednesday, June 27 – Bozeman MT to Whitefish MT
As usual, Ronnie was up before all of us.  He drank his coffee and tooled around until we got moving.  Once we were up, most of us enjoyed the free banana bread, which meant no McDonalds – wOOt!  Although, Ronnie did manage to find a McDonalds for Theresa’s morning ritual diet coke. 

Dead Battery - Oops!
We started the morning with Ronnie and Theresa finding a CVS to get a prescription filled and to head to Walmart for Kathy to get some rain gear, since there were chances of rain in the forecast.  We agreed to meet at Walmart before heading out of town, which was a good thing, since I left my ignition on while Kathy was inside.  It drained the battery and rendered the Ultra Classic useless.  We attempted to push start it, to no avail.  A kind gentleman, Mel, happened upon us and asked us if we needed a jump-start.  Mel was from a town near Bozeman, but headed to Washington for a funeral.  Ronnie had jumpers for the battery tender that I attempted to use, but there wasn’t enough current going through to get the bike started.  So, I took the seat off and did it the old fashion way.  We ended up with Ronnie, Mel, another guy, and myself hovering over the bike as we got it started.  The ladies, Kathy and Theresa, were back watching, taking photos, and laughing…  Once we got the bike started, I asked Mel and the other guy what I owed them.  Mel piped up, “a hundred pounds of twenty dollar bills!”  We all laughed and shook hands as I humbly thanked them and wished them well.

Yellowstone Harley Davidson in Belgrade was our next stop.  Of course, to get a shot glass – as well as to potentially buy a battery for the bike.  I ended up with two shot glasses from that location, since I couldn’t decide which one I liked more.  Kathy and I also procured a t-shirt each, and one for Skylee.  Ronnie and Theresa just laugh when we go to the HD stores, but I think they are secretly jealous, since Honda dealers don’t sell collectable shot glasses and cool designed t-shirts. :)

We headed a little more west on I-80, then made the turn on to 287 north towards Helena.  Once on 287, I noticed a sign that said roadwork ahead, motorcycles advised to choose a different route.  We proceeded, with some skepticism.  We found the reason why motorcycles were not advised on the route once we got a little to far to turn around…  it was packed gravel, for around 4 miles.  That was not fun, but we managed.

We arrived in Helena Montana right around lunchtime.  Ronnie was challenged to find a place on his gps, since his is newer and mine is a few years old and most of the locations on my map are outdated. We landed at Motherlode, a sports bar, restaurant, and casino.  The server was very nice and the food was excellent.  Ronnie and Kathy each had the homemade chicken pot pie.  Theresa had chili.  I had a Philly cheesesteak.

Once meals were eaten, we headed back on the road.  287 turns to 12 Hwy in Townsend, a few miles prior to Helena.  Taking 12 out of Helena to 141 to 200 to 83 was the plan, so we could end up on the west side of Glacier National Park for the night.  We had around 90 miles on the current tank of gas, so I didn’t really even consider gassing up.  Neither did Ronnie.  We were only on 12 for a little bit and around the Helena National Forest, there were construction crews laying down chip seal.  Great.

Cell Phone Pic - Gas - Casino - Glad We Made It!
As we traveled a little further, we noticed that there were not many towns around. No towns imply no gas stations.  Things were getting a little edgy, since none of us wanted to walk.  We continued to use our gps’s to attempt to locate a gas station near, when we happened across a Conoco gas station – and casino – at the intersection of 200 and 83 hwys.  I would say we barely made it, since I had 4.8 gallons delivered out of 5.0 possible. Ronnie had 4.9 gallons, but I think he has more room available. 83 Hwy was most excellent and is highly suggested, especially with a full tank of gas.

We arrived near some civilization by driving through Kalispell to Whitefish.  We began our usual ritual once again by arriving at a local watering hole to search out a place to rest for the evening.  The Bulldog Saloon was the choice.  This is the dive of the town, if that is what you are looking for.  A sassy bartender stating there was no table service (as she came over to get our order) and bathrooms that adorned photos out of adult magazines. 

Cell Phone Pic of Whitefish MT
We decided on the Cheap Sleep motel, since once again, we were in a ski resort town.  The motel reminded me a little of my days in boot camp, since the walls were made of cinder block.  Though it was an average day of riding, mileage-wise, we were all pretty beat so we just walked next door to Pizza Hut for dinner.  This was one of our few chain dinner stops on the trip. 

We continued to hear about the heat wave back in Kansas City, as well as the Fort Collins fire and now the Colorado Springs fire. Decided to call it a night so we could be fresh for Glacier National Park’s Going to the Sun Road the next day.

Other highlights:
·      Miles: ~ 315