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Old 11-17-2010, 05:13 PM   #31
Goldie05 OP
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Day 18 - Cooke City - Worland - Part 2

As I said on my previous post, there was much more to my Yellowstone adventure and I had a big surprise waiting for me as I left the park. I pull into Silver Gate, Montana, the first town on the north east exit and immediately have to pull to the side and dismount when I see the town filled with bison. I'm on a motorcycle, there's no way I'm going to challenge a very large herd of bison by riding towards them.



I walk behind some cars for protection while the "boss" stares me down from across the street. The bison is a magnificent and beautiful creature. The bison's temperament is often unpredictable. They usually appear peaceful, unconcerned, even lazy, yet they may attack anything, often without warning or apparent reason. They can move at speeds of up to thirty-five miles per hour and cover long distances at a lumbering gallop.



I move to a nearby store and chat with town folk who are obviously accustomed to these events. I notice a few young people perched on a huge rock surrounded by bison. I ask the locals if there's another way through town since I still have to meet my brother but alas, Silver Gate has one main road, I'm stuck until the bison decide to get off the road. The store clerk, a young fellow, informs me with a big smile that I might be stuck in town for hours since the bison sometimes stay put or continue walking down the street effectively closing the road. Shucks, I have no cell signal, my brother is going to be worried, maybe even upset if he doesn't hear from me.



I buy a drink and a candy bar and wait for the herd to move down the street. I move across the street and join the others on top of the rock. I snap a few pictures as the herd walks away and chat with the other folk, all tourist stuck in town.




The herd exhibits much restlessness during breeding season. The animals are belligerent, unpredictable and most dangerous. One of the larger males stops in front of a car and stands there for a while huffing and puffing, both motionless for a while until the bison decides the car is not a challenge and moves on. We get worried when we see a biker coming from the opposite direction heading directly towards the herd. One of the locals screams at him to turn around and go away but he's too far to hear him. The rider stands his ground for a while but then abandons the bike and runs to a nearby house for safety. We all breath a sigh of relief.



The herd walks along route 212 grazing along both sides of the road for about an hour and a half and then decides to move off the road and within minutes the entire herd has disappeared into the forest. Silver Gate has a few stores, a few homes and the majestic mountains of the Gallatin National Forest for a background, I stood there admiring the scenery and then realized my brother is still waiting for me, I get back on the bike and leave in a hurry.



I pull into Cooke City, a slightly larger town and start scanning for the BMW GSA, my brother's bike. I see lots of bikes but there's no sign of my brother. I was starving and I knew we had a long ride ahead of us, I stop and have a quick sandwich at one of the restaurants, sitting outside just in case my brother comes by. With no sign of my brother and since there's only route 212 ahead, I decide to continue hoping to run into him down the road. I was right, he was just outside town taking photos of a beautiful waterfall.



We continue on route 212 which crosses back into Wyoming before returning to Montana and the start of the Beartooth Highway. The Beartooth Highway is the section of U.S. Highway 212 between Cooke City, Montana and Red Lodge, Montana. It traces a series of steep zigzags and switchbacks, along the Montana-Wyoming border to the 10,947 ft (3,337 m) high Beartooth Pass. The pass has the most daring landscapes we have encountered so far on our trip.






Because of the high altitudes, snowstorms can occur even in the middle of the summer and the pass is also known for strong winds and severe thunderstorms. We drive the next 69 miles (111 km) from Cooke City to Red Lodge through amazingly tight switchbacks to the top of the pass where we stop for pictures. It was cold at the top but no snow.






The descent into Montana is even more dramatic with a continuous series of left/right switchbacks interspersed with the occasional lake, just beautiful, no wonder it's called the "the most beautiful drive in America".








We stop at the sign welcoming us to Montana. We continue descending towards Red Lodge along the beautiful mountains of Custer National Forest. I find a little friend that trusts me enough to grab peanuts out of my hand.











We stop in Red Lodge for a drink, walk around town and then continue east towards Belfry. We pick route 72 south and head towards Greybull where I had planned on spending the night. The road now opening up again into endless stretches of beautiful and deserted highways.




We arrive in Greybull late in the afternoon passing the South Big Horn County Airport where I snap one last picture for the day of some old planes parked outside. We start looking for a place to spend the night but quickly find out the few motels are all booked up. We find two other fellow riders at a gas station and after a little chit-chat decide to follow their advice and continue towards Worland. We hit the road and quickly cover the 38 miles to Worland.



We see a lit "vacancy" sign in front of a motel and quickly pull in. It turns out the owner is a very friendly man from Pakistan, we chat for a while about our birth places, I'm from Mozambique, he's from Pakistan, we both from the other side of the world and come to meet in Wyoming. Strange and beautiful world.

I had a wonderful day covering about 380 miles through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, Gallatin and Custer National Forests, amazing roads and beautiful landscapes, saw lots of bison and met a very nice Pakistani gentleman, another perfect day. I hit the pillow thinking about Big Horn National Forest and Mount Rushmore on tomorrow's ride. I was beat, I quickly fell asleep.


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Old 11-17-2010, 05:31 PM   #32
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Day 19 - Worland - Keystone

We have been on the road for 18 days, we have covered many miles through this beautiful land and yet it feels like we just left New Jersey a few days ago, we get up and are ready to hit the blacktop, spirits up and full of energy day after day.
We leave the motel and after a short ride through town find the Rams' Horn Cafe, we quickly park our bikes and go inside for a full breakfast. We had been hungering for a full breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries and toast and the Rams' Horn Cafe didn't disappoint us even though the service was a little slow.



We leave Worland and head east on route 16 towards Ten Sleep, a tiny town with a population of less than 500. Ten Sleep was an American Indian rest stop, so called because it was 10 days travel, or “10 sleeps,” from Fort Laramie (southeast) or Yellowstone National Park (west-northwest). The road just out of Worland offers us some spectacular views, a landscape filled with weird looking rocky and colored sandy hills. This land never ceases to amaze me with its beauty. Every day is a new surprise.





A few miles later as we approach Ten Sleep we pass farms with beautiful lush green fields providing a beautiful contrast against the reddish colored hills in the background.




It's a complete change of scenery as we approach Big Horn National Forest, the road now winding and climbing through a rocky terrain, a beautiful canyon with majestic rocky hills. The forest is named after the Bighorn River, which is partially fed by streams found in the forest.









We continue east through the park towards Buffalo where we pick Interstate 90 and then it's a quick dash of 70 miles on the slab until we reach Gillette. We get off the Interstate and head south on route 59 towards Wright and the Thunder Basin National Grassland, located between the Big Horn Mountains and the Black Hills to the east. Further down the road we take route 450 east and travel through another 70 miles of mostly deserted roads until we reach Newcastle.




We reach Newcastle with our stomachs rumbling, it was time for lunch. We see Donna's Main Street Diner and quickly head there when we notice the "Home Style Cookin" sign.



With our bodies replenished we leave Newcastle on route 16 and head towards South Dakota and the Black Hills National Forest. The forest's ponderosa pines are a nice change of scenery.





Our next stop is at the Crazy Horse Memorial, a mountain monument under construction in the Black Hills of South Dakota, in the form of Crazy Horse, an Oglala Lakota warrior, riding a horse and pointing into the distance. We enter the memorial park and head towards the visitor center but were a little disappointed that we could not go near the mountain, instead having to look at the carving from at least half a mile away.





We go inside the visitor center and spend some time reading about the history of Crazy Horse and The Battle of the Little Bighorn, also known as Custer's Last Stand. I find the history and battles of the Indian tribes against each other and the United States Army fascinating. As a kid I loved reading cowboys and indians stories. The visitor center is a beautiful wooden structure decorated with Indian artifacts and pictures.





The monument has been in progress since 1948 and is still far from completion. If completed, it may become the world's largest sculpture. I doubt I will ever see it completed at the rate it's moving. We leave the memorial and head towards Mount Rushmore National Memorial. We take the last picture of the day by the sign because by the time we reach Keystone the top of the mountain is covered in fog and we can't see the monument. We head towards Keystone where we quickly find a motel and decide to call it a day. I later walk into a local restaurant and end the day with a sandwich and a cold one.





We covered 340 miles from Worland, Wyoming to Keystone, South Dakota. We visited two National Forests and the Thunder Basin National Grassland. Another amazing day with good weather and beautiful scenery. Tomorrow will be our last touring day, we will visit Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park and then we start our trek back to New Jersey.

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Old 11-17-2010, 05:54 PM   #33
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Day 20 - Keystone - Sloan

Day twenty of our trip, last touring day, after Badlands National Park we will be making a straight line home and try to get back to New Jersey as soon as possible but today we still have beautiful places to visit.
We spent the night in Keystone at the Rushmore View Inn, next to the Grizzly Creek Gourmet Burgers & Spirit where the previous night I had dinner. Keystone is a small town in the Black Hills of South Dakota with a population of less than 500. We leave the motel and head to Peggy's Place, just a few hundred yards away, for breakfast. We have the usual fare, 2 eggs, bacon, home fries accompanied by toast and coffee. With our hunger satisfied, we hit the road and head up the hill towards Mount Rushmore.



Less than half a mile up the road we pull off when we see a perfect place to snap a few pictures of Mount Rushmore. The place is so perfect that we decided right there not to bother going into the park but continue up the hill going around the monument and continue our trip by going straight to Custer. The view from the highway is the same as from inside the park and we couldn't waste too much time anyway.






We go around Mount Rushmore on route 244 and continue south through the beautiful Black Hills ponderosa pines forest merging into route 385 south towards Custer. The town is generally considered to be the oldest established town and the "mother city" of the Black Hills of South Dakota. The site of one of the major encampments of the Black Hills Expedition of Brevet Major General (a largely ceremonial title, his official rank was Lt. Colonel) George Armstrong Custer's 7th Cavalry in 1874. (Wikipedia)



We park our bikes near the Steaks & Ribs Place located in the "First National Bank of Dakota Territory" building. The Bank was established 8 years before South Dakota became a state. The exterior and interior of the building has remained much the same as it was originally. We spend some time walking around town admiring the old establishments. I love the little western towns, they appear so peaceful and much calmer than the busy and always rushing towns of the east coast.





We leave Custer and head east through Custer State Park on route 16 taking route 79 north towards Rapid City where we get on Interstate 90 and continue east towards Badlands National Park. We stop a little later in a place I cannot recall the name to rest and have a drink. I snap a picture of the local fauna and sit down to chat with a young lady, very shy, she didn't say much.








One of the most interesting creatures of South Dakota is a mythical animal of North American folklore, the Jackalope, a so-called "fearsome critter" described as a jackrabbit with antelope horns or deer antlers and sometimes a pheasant's tail. Jackalope legends are sometimes used by locals to play tricks on tourists.



We continue east reaching the entrance to Badlands National Park midday. I had been looking forward to visiting this scenic park because it's such a strange land, the rugged terrain offering spectacular views. I was in awe when we made our first stop. The almost unnatural landscape disappearing into the distance as far as the eye could see.









We continue down the road passing amazingly colorful rock formations as I continue to snap photo after photo of the almost lunar looking landscape. It's a very surreal scene and at the same time peaceful, the roads almost deserted with an eerily quietness.







We stop again a little later and I see a sign warning us of rattlesnakes, we didn't see any. It was a very hot day and it felt better whenever we were moving, we continue through the park stopping at the visitor center to buy stickers for our bikes and buy some cold bottled water.






We cover around 40 miles through the park and then return to Interstate 90 near Cactus Flat, we then proceed east now through the Buffalo Gap National Grassland. Interstate 90 is pretty much flat and straight as an arrow. We pass Kadoka as we leave the Grassland.







The next 120 miles are uneventful and we make good time stopping for a late lunch at Al's Oasis Restaurant on the west side of the Missouri River near Oacoma town. There are a few restaurants and stores, an Old Trading Post and the First Dakota National Bank on site. The perfect rest area along Interstate 90 on the edge of the river.




We have a quick lunch and then hit the road crossing the Missouri River. The touring part of the trip being over, we were now in cruising mode as we were trying to cover as much ground as possible. We continue on I90 until Sioux Falls then take I29 south passing Sioux City later in the evening and then with the sky threatening rain we quickly find a motel in Sloan, Iowa and stop for the night.



We covered 535 miles of beautiful hills, forest, semi-desert and just plain out of this world land in the Badlands National Park. A long day but also a short day as there's always so much to see. A beautiful last day on the touring part of our trip, soon we will be home with the family but before we get home we still have to cover a little over 1300 miles and my brother's BMW needs a new tire.

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Old 11-17-2010, 06:01 PM   #34
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Day 21 and 22 - Sloan - Jackson

I get up early, I'm always the first, start packing my bags and try to get my brother up. I finish packing and head downstairs for a good breakfast, my brother joining me soon thereafter. We have oatmeal, some orange juice, toast and coffee, put a few energy bars in our pockets and return to the room to finish packing. We have a long day ahead of us and will have to make a stop in Iowa City for my brother to have a new rear tire mounted on his bike. We are soon on the road heading south on Interstate 29 with last night's storm ahead of us. The interstates in mid-America are surrounded by beautiful green fields. Iowa is often referred to as the "American Heartland" and is also known as the "Food Capital of the World". Iowa's main agricultural outputs are corn, soybeans, oats and is the nation's largest producer of ethanol and corn. With the storm south east of our direction and moving north we continue south until Interstate 80 and then proceed east towards Iowa City.







We cover the 295 miles to Iowa City in about 5 hours and then stop at a BMW dealer to have the rear tire mounted on my brother's GS1200 Adventure. The storm had been to the north of us but as we pull into the dealer it starts raining. He unloads his panniers from the bike and leaves them outside by the main entrance while the bike gets taken to the back to have the tire mounted. A little later, with the tire mounted and ready to go, we say goodbye to the techs and hit the road, my brother in front with me following him close by. With a drizzle coming down we return to the interstate and just a few miles down the road I see him signaling me to pull off while pointing to the back of his bike and that's when I realize my brothers bike looks different, there's no panniers. We were in such a rush to leave that he forgot to mount the panniers back on the bike. We pull off at the next exit and I wait at a McDonald's while he returns to the dealer to get his panniers. I have a quick meal at McDonald's while I wait for him and we leave as soon as he returns. We cross into Illinois and make our next stop in Princeton for a late lunch/early dinner at the Big Apple Family Restaurant.







With the storm having moved north we continue east and as the night approaches we decide to continue riding past the Chicago area so we could avoid the Saturday morning traffic the next day. We cross into Indiana and finally decide to stop around 10PM when we see a Hampton Inn sign near La Porte. I like Hampton Inns, they are very clean and reasonably priced and include a full breakfast. I was so tired that my eyes closed even before my head hit the pillow. We covered 567 long miles. We were beat.



It's Saturday, we are still 750 miles away from home and it's pouring rain outside our window. We head downstairs and have a good breakfast and after packing our bikes proceed to put on rain gear while other guest look in astonishment since it was still raining heavily. We hit the road and ride in the rain for the next hour. We are soon in Ohio, the sky clears and after removing our rain gear we continue east on Interstate 80. The temperature soars midday and 285 miles later we pass the Cleveland area and then take Interstate 76 south towards Pittsburgh. We enter Pennsylvania, pass the Pittsburgh area and then get on Interstate 70 now moving east again. We are now getting closer to the end of the trip and at the next gas stop we discuss our options. We decide we can continue and make it home in one day.





We hit the road again and continue through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania. We see lots of state troopers, my radar detector flashing intermittently, we maintain our pace stopping only for gas and water as the temperature was in the low 90's.





My bike can do about 275 miles on a tank of gas and my brother's can do even more, we do our last fill up at 175 miles from my house on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We have a drink and a snack and decide this will be our last stop, we look at each other a little sad knowing the trip is almost over, thank each other for a great trip and camaraderie and then hit the road. We pass Harrisburg, it's dark already, the sun having set earlier. My brother splits from me near King of Prussia and heads south east towards Philadelphia while I continue into New Jersey entering the NJ Turnpike a little later. I am now less than 35 miles away from home and do the rest of the trip below the speed limit on Interstate 195 as I approach home, almost not wanting the trip to end. I pull into my garage at 11.30PM, my wife and daughter waiting for me and thus ends my cross country trip. I did 750 hard miles today but if I could, I would turn around and head west again.



I covered 8900 miles across the US, crossed 3 time zones, 18 states, a number of National Parks and Forests, mountains, rivers and lakes, even a desert, went from the Atlantic Ocean and saw the sun setting over the Pacific. Saw amazing landscapes, crossed paths with Bison and numerous other animals, visited beautiful cities and crossed paths with numerous friendly people. Only one word to describe it; WOW!
It was a very successful trip, I am a very lucky man to have had this experience.

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