07-26-2009, 09:25 AM
Joined: Jun 2008
Location: Cambridge, Ont., Canada
"Spirit of place! It is for this we travel, to surprise its subtlety; and where it is a strong and dominant angel, that place, seen once, abides entire in the memory with all its own accidents, its habits, its breath, its name."
~ Alice Meynell
Devil’s Tower, Wyoming > Red Lodge, Montana (Alpine Lodge)
Today’s mileage: 686.6 km, Trip to date: 3342.7 km
As a child, mountains, tall snow capped mountains captured my imagination. They would always be the subject matter of my drawings and paintings. I dreamed of traveling through them as the early settlers, miners and hunters did. Their rugged majestic beauty was a constant lure. I had only ever seen them in pictures and film. As a motorcyclist, I have traveled the eastern mountains; the Appalachians, extensively for about 8 years now. They are an older, more rounded and eroded mountain range than the Rockies. I never tire of the scenery or twisty roads that traverse them. I have always wanted to travel to the western mountains, especially by motorcycle!
Today would be a special day. Today would be one of the most exhilarating motorcycle experiences of my life. I left the Devil’s Tower in light rain. I was glad I got the “Kabin” after all. Packing up a wet tent and gear can be a pain. Eventually the weather would clear with only isolated showers here and there. Rather than take 2 lane secondary highways, which is usually my preference, I decided to take I-90 up as far as Sheridan to get to the mountains quicker, then 14 and 14A over the Big Horn Mountains to Cody. From Cody I would ride the Chief Joseph and Beartooth Highways to Red Lodge, Montana.
I wasn’t on I-90 long when I spotted another motorcycle ahead in the distance. I hadn’t seen nor talked to any other riders headed in the same direction for days so I picked up the pace to catch up to him. Eventually I closed the distance between us. You got to love the western speed limits! The other rider saw me in his mirrors and pulled aside and gestured for me to move up. I really couldn’t communicate with him at 130 km/hr so we just waved to one another and I tucked in behind him. We traveled as far as Sheridan where we both exited I-90 to for fuel. Turns out my fellow traveler was Mike from Baden, Ontario on his way to an FJR rally in New Denver, BC. He only lives perhaps an hour from my home! Our travel plans were pretty much the same for the day so we decided to ride together. It was actually nice to have some company.
One of the neatest memories of that day was when the mountains first came into view, I will never forget. Words cannot adequately describe my feelings at that moment. I had traveled for days on the relatively flat plains. We came over a slight rise and off in the distance were snow capped mountains and they were growing larger by the kilometer! There they were, the mountains of my childhood dreams! What a heart warming sight that truly was. I know Mike was taking it all in as well as he slowed down his pace and was busy snapping pictures with his camera.
What can I say about Chief Joseph and Beartooth other than breathtaking! I have never experienced anything quite like this on a motorcycle. Riding a motorcycle up to 10,000 ft surrounded by vast, majestic scenery, passing through snow banks as high as a house, twisting switch backs that you dare not take your eyes from…… incredible!
Chief Joseph highway GPS tracks
Beartooth Pass GPS tracks
Beartooth Pass GPS tracks
My GPS elevation track profile for Day 5
Mike and I would eventually share a room at the Alpine Lodge in Red Lodge. I had planned on staying here and Mike didn’t feel like setting up camp with the dodgy weather forecast being what it was. I think the localized downpour as Mike came into town might have been a motivating factor too! I highly recommend this establishment. The proprietors do cater to motorcycle travelers and heck, breakfast is included!
Once we got settled and unpacked into our room, picked up some supplies (beers), Mike and I headed downtown to get a bite to eat. We found a nice pub (that I wish I could remember the name of). After a good meal and plenty of conversation about the day’s events, we headed back to our bikes parked on the street. I saw a fellow really giving my V-Strom a visual inventory! It turns out this is Les, who lives in Red Lodge and owns a V-Strom as well. We all stood there on the street chatting motorcycles for some time until I suggested that we head back to the Alpine for some cold beer waiting in the fridge. We carried on our BS’ing until late into the evening. What an awesome day this was. Mike, thank you for sharing it with me!
Mike from Baden, Ontario
Climbing up the Big Horn Mountains
Entering the clouds
Lots of snow!
Panoramic view from the Big Horn Mountains looking west
Chief Joseph highway
Panoramic view of Chief Joseph higway
The view as you climb towards Beartooth pass
Beartooth Western Summit
Panoramic view of Beartooth Western Summit
Mike & Les enjoying some stimulating motorcycle conversation over a few beers!
Twistn'roads screwed with this post 07-26-2009 at 08:33 PM