2009 – Three Generations PtVI

Day 18, July 7th and another early start, 6:20 and we were on the road with clearing skies and a temperature of 36 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Alpine Motel

We could not possibly have begun to comprehend the beauty we would see that day. It would be a tossup between this day and day 8 and 9 for the most visually stimulating day.

We travelled along highway 212 ascending Bear Tooth Pass to an elevation of 10,974 feet and passing into Montana again. The scenery along this section defies description with the sun shining down on the still snow capped peaks, the fresh mountain air and the road snaking its way back and forth up over the top and descending down to the valley floor on the Montana side. There was evidence of some substantial landslides along the side of the road reminding us that this area could be as dangerous as it is beautiful.

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Where we needed to get to that day the only practical way to get there was to go back over the top of Bear Tooth Pass. So after a nice breakfast at a little spot in Red Lodge off we set. I had mixed emotions about traveling the same route we had just done…..yeah right. I could go back and forth over the pass all day long and I’m pretty certain I wouldn’t get bored.

So Bear Tooth Pass twice in one day, well you’d think that would be enough and you’d be wrong. Once we got back over the pass we took highway 296 toward Cody, Wyoming. This route is also known as the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and was absolutely incredible. I think it was right around this point that dad told me for the second time that I had outdone myself with the route.

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We were not done yet. In Cody as highway 14 continues east there are a north route and a south route. We elected to take the north route which passes through Big Horn Canyon National Recreation Area. I have a friend who was on a trip that took him through this area a couple of weeks ahead of us and later when we compared notes it was clear, north route, south route it would be hard to go wrong. The weather was absolutely perfect for us but his experience was a bit different. He was at elevation under bleak skies when he rounded a curve right into a snow storm. It didn’t last long but provided for a white knuckle moment for him.

We encountered more buffalo here, an amazing animal. They were right up on the roadway and don’t seem to be bothered at all by all the cars.

The route down off the mountain was a series of switchbacks that were an absolute blast. We connected with Interstate 90 and a short distance later we stopped in Buffalo, Wyoming for the night at the Blue Gables Motel.

Day 19, July 8th another early start with the only highway to take being Interstate 90. We followed this to near Moorcroft where we turned north on hwy 14 to Devil’s Tower, Wyoming.

Not long on hwy 14 the oncoming traffic began flashing their headlights at everyone and then I could see in the distance traffic was slowing. Immediately your mind jumps to what, an accident and of course the thought of “I hope no one is seriously injured.” As we crested the next hill we were faced with a slightly different situation, cowboys and cattle. Yep partner a genuine cattle drive right down the middle of the highway. Hum now there’s something you don’t see every day or I guess around there maybe it is.

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Now where was, oh yeah the tower, I had wanted to see the tower since I was introduced to it in the 1977 classic, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, starring Richard Dreyfuss, where it was portrayed as this mysterious location that celestial beings would use as a docking station for their spacecraft. We spent a bit of time looking around and got a number of good pictures before pressing on. Going for a short hike here might be the only thing I would change if I were to go back. At the time it didn’t seem necessary. Of course this is always a bit difficult when travelling by bike as there are limited means of securing all the gear you are carrying.

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We continued around the hwy 14 loop to Sundance a town named after the sun dance ceremony practiced by several North American Indian Nations but probably better known because of the man that earned his nickname there. In 1888 after his release from a Sundance jail Harry Longabaugh became better known as the Sundance Kid. When I think about the distance we were from Telluride, Colorado and reflect on the activities of Butch Cassidy his eventual partner, I am struck by far apart these two locations were and at a time when their primary source of transportation would have been horseback, it is truly amazing that these two men ever crossed paths let alone that they would go on to be the stuff legends are made of.

From Sundance we took hwy 585 south where it connected to hwy 85. We took hwy 85 north all the way to Deadwood. It was a slightly different route into the area then I had planned on but it turned out to be great.

It was shortly after noon but we decided to get room and spend the rest of the day roaming around Deadwood. We managed to find a room at the historic Franklin Hotel named after a local entrepreneur and businessman Harris Franklin. The businessmen of Deadwood had been trying to build a hotel for years but it wasn’t until Franklin came forward and personal offered to match dollar for dollar any money raised that they finally had the funds to move forward and the Franklin opened in 1903. The hotel has seen tough times over the years and in 2005 was purchased by the Silverado Gaming Establishment and is currently undergoing a 7 million dollar makeover.  A lot of famous people have laid their heads to rest inside those walls over the years, including Buffalo Bill Cody, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft and John Wayne.

Franklin Motel

Franklin Motel

We strolled the main street, checked out the shops, watched a couple of gunfight reenactments and had a beer in the bar were Wild Bill Hickok was shot dead by a sore loser after a poker game in 1876. We jumped on a tour bus and took a ride through Deadwood to Boot Hill and the gravesites of Wild Bill and Calamity Jane. Point of interest, despite the stories Hollywood has woven around the relationship between these two people the truth is that they hardly knew each other. All in all our day in Deadwood was a very interesting one.

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Day 20, July 9th now if you have a map you would need it to follow along with today’s travels. We went south of 385 to Custer where we turned east on 16. We took a short side trip off on the Wildlife Loop Rd. and then continued east on 16 to Iron Mountain Road. This is a must see when in the area and the best way to experience it is to come north so that you get to see Mt. Rushmore as you pass through a series of tunnels cut in the rock along this road.

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We stopped at Mt. Rushmore and took some pictures. It might have been neat to go for a hike up to the base of the mountain but really other than getting sweaty and being able to get a much closer look at the presidential granite nostril hair there wasn’t any need.

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We carried on north on Iron Mountain Road/ hwy 16 then west on 244 and south on 385 for the second time today but only briefly as we turned east on 87 perhaps better known as Needles Scenic Drive. This is a very interesting drive and another must see when in the area. We stopped and I did a little rock climbing in search of the perfect spot to take some pictures.

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Back on the road this drive connects back to hwy 16 again and we headed east to where 16 becomes 36 and eventually meets with 79 north to Rapid City. In Rapid City we took hwy 44 which runs east through the Badlands. Inside the Badlands we took hwy 240 north through the heart of the Badlands a truly remarkable drive.

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Highway 240 eventually leads to Wall and the famous Wall Drug store which of course we took a walk through. It you need it and even if you don’t you can probably find it inside the walls of the Wall Drug store. There were the normal snacks and souvenirs but then there was all the leather products like a complete 6 gun rig or the stars and stripes cowboy boots for the geographically challenged cowboy just in case he forgets where he is.

As we left Wall we took Interstate 90 east and stopped for the night in Murdo. After dinner at the Rusty Spur which was next to the motel we had a discussion about the route from this point forward. We had intended to head south into Nebraska and the east but instead we opted to continue east across South Dakota into Minnesota. The next discussion centered on the distance to home. We decided that we had seen everything we had set out to at this point and that we could be home in a couple of days barring the unforeseen.

Day 20, July 10th we continued east on Interstate 90 leaving South Dakota behind us and passing into and through Minnesota ending the day in Wisconsin about 1100 kilometers further down the road from where we started the day. Travelling the interstate is not the way to take in the scenery but it does tend to get you from A to B reasonably quick and it made for a pretty straight forward day. It was dad’s birthday so I gave him the cards I have been carrying for about 11,000 kilometers since we left home.

Day 21, July 11th the skies to the east did not look inviting in the least so we got our raingear on and set out. I cannot possibly overstate how much I dislike taking the interstate through Chicago. It is like anything I suppose you could get used to it and it would be a different experience if you travelled it a lot but if it were not for the GPS it would have been a very unpleasant experience.

With Chicago behind us I for one was more relaxed. We still had a long drive ahead but it was a clear sign that that evening we would be sleeping in our own beds.

All along we had been telling family that we are on track with our original projections to arrive home around July 15th so everyone was quite surprised when we pulled in the driveway a little after 5 that afternoon, 852 kilometers for the final leg of the journey.

We saw a lot of extraordinary scenery on this trip; we had some good conversations, a lot of laughs, took a lot of pictures and made some good memories. As the picture fades to black on this trip its true what they say, just like in life, it’s all about the journey.

“Remember what Bilbo used to say: It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”

J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings)

I encourage everyone to step out and get swept away.

 

If you stuck with the story and made it this far then here is a little treat.

ROUTE MAP DAYS 18 TO 21

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2009 – Three Generations PtV

Day 14, July 3rd I took dad to the shop for 10 am and returned to the hotel to shuttle all his gear over in hopes we could shave some time off and get away quicker once his bike was ready. Nathan and I got packed and headed out to meet him. Guess what, 1100 became 1:30 in the afternoon, I guess lunch and stuff got in the way. As I alluded to earlier, not typical of the service I have experienced before. As we waited we got talking to a couple of other guys waiting for their bikes and as it turned out they were from Victoria B.C. but one of them had  grown up in London not far from where I did and he attended a rival high school, small world.

We travelled out of Medford on hwy 62 north and then east to the entrance to Crater Lake. It was a hot humid drive with the temperature rising to about 100. As we entered the Crater Lake area it began to cloud over and as we ascended up to the lake ring road the temperature dropped to 60. We got a few nice photos but our time here was short lived as a storm rolled in and we decided to press on so as not to get caught. Issue two was that there was one or two maybe, oh, a trillion mosquitoes that were out to drain anything they could sink their pointy little proboscis into.

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon

Rustler's Inn Prineville, Oregon. Great spot.

We travelled around the west portion of the ring road and down the north side to hwy 138 then west to hwy 97 north.

Just south of Bend we took a bypass that came out on hwy 126 near Powell Butte. Then east (whoa east that must mean something) to Prineville, Oregon where we found a great western style motel called the Rustlers Inn. We kicked back after dinner with a cigar and beer; I think I could get used to doing this for a living.

Rustler's Inn Prineville, Oregon. Great spot.

Rustler’s Inn Prineville, Oregon. Great spot.

Day 15, July 4th following hwy 26 east out of Prineville leads through the Ochoco National Forest and past the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. The discovery and study of fossils in this area began in 1881 when fossilized remains of a rhinoceros where discovered during an army expedition. John Day, after which a river and nearby town are also named, was a member of the Astor Expedition that passed through this area in 1810-1812.

Part of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

Part of John Day Fossil Beds National Monument

A bit N/E of Prairie City we took hwy 7 toward Baker City where we continued N/E on hwy 86 stopping in Richland for lunch. We got talking to the waitress and found out she was Canadian, born in Alberta in the same town as dad’s cousin Barbara Nelson, once again, small world.

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The next leg of our little journey would take us on a 44 mile round trip north along the east bank of the Snake River to the Hell’s Canyon Dam. This is right on the Oregon and Idaho border and is a must see when in the area. It was easy to find because I had it in the GPS. Otherwise the map I had lacked in detail and it might have been a bit trickier to find the road. I got a number of good pictures and used the GoPro to video the entire trip out.

Hell's Canyon Dam

Hell’s Canyon Dam

Snake River Canyon

Snake River Canyon

Now south on hwy 71 a very exciting, twisty stretch of road that runs south along the Snake River for a bit before breaking away S/E just south of the Brownlee Dam. In Cambridge we took hwy 95 toward Council. The weather was getting a bit questionable looking and we did get rain on a bit north of Council. Thankfully it didn’t last long. With it being July 4th the area was very busy. We took hwy 55 south near New Meadows to McCall which is a resort community on Payette Lake much like a number of small towns you could find up around Huntsville or Bracebridge here in Ontario.

Everything in McCall was booked but we managed to find a nice B&B (Meadowood Lodge) for the night north of McCall so we had to double back a short distance. We lucked out again I would highly recommend this lodge if in the area. They could accommodate a fairly large group if arrangements were made ahead of time.

Day 16, July 5th began at 6:30 with washing the bikes before anyone was up. We had a nice breakfast and bid our hosts adieu and we were off south of 55 toward Boise, a beautiful drive down out of the mountains.

It had been recommended to me before the trip that once in Boise we take hwy 21 north east back up into the mountains then hwy 75 down through Sawtooth National Recreation Area but we decided not to and opted on taking Interstate 84 and cut off on hwy 20 and connecting with hwy 26 in Carey. We turned and headed toward Arco stopping several times to take pictures as we entered the lava beds of Craters of the Moon National Monument. We actually went into the park and did a loop the park road through the lava fields. This was ten different kinds of cool. The soil, if you could call it that, was course granulates of lava rock. Nathan and I climbed a very high mound of this lava granulate in the middle of the park and the view was amazing.

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In Arco we headed east on 20/26 to Idaho Falls where we spend the night at the Red Lion Hotel next to the Snake River. We had a great dinner at the Brownstone Restaurant just down the street from the hotel. We ate out of the patio with a view of the park and Snake River across the street.

A nasty looking storm rolled in overnight again seemed to miss us. We have been ridiculously fortunate when it comes to avoid bad weather.

Idaho Falls. Days End

Idaho Falls. Days End

Day 17, July 6th I looked out and saw a group of people unloading bicycles from a cube van. Dad was already down packing his bike and I could see him talking to them. Over breakfast he explained how there were 65 cyclists in all and some had already set out this morning. They had been planning this trip for about 5 years and were travelling from somewhere in Oregon to New Hampshire. Their journey was actually going to take them through London around July 31st, there’s that, it’s a small world thing again.

We headed out of Idaho Falls on hwy 26 and deviated from the set route by taking hwy 31 in Swan Valley. We had passed a lot of the cyclists as we had made our way to that point. It was a very windy morning and for the cyclists it would have been ugly, sort of a head/ cross wind. I’ve been in their shoes and it ain’t fun but the scenery would make it a bit easier to handle.

Highway 31 brought us into a small town called Victor and from there we took 33/22 through the Bridger-Teton National Forest to Jackson, Wyoming. Oh man the scenery was amazing with the Tetons off to the north as you descend into Jackson. Jackson itself….a bit commercial but interesting and we parked and did the touristy thing because …well we were tourists so we checked out some shops.

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Entering Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Grand Tetons in the distance

Entering Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Grand Tetons in the distance

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Leaving Jackson we took hwy 191 and then 287 into the Grand Teton National Park which eventually led us into Yellowstone.

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There was a fare bit of construction in parts of the park and the going was a bit slow at times but that was great for taking in the scenery and there was no shortage of that.

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We stopped and hiked around for a bit at the West Thumb geyser basin. Looking off across Lake Yellowstone there appeared to be some miserable weather off to the east toward Cody, Wyoming. I got some really interesting pictures of the thermal pools which tip the thermometer in excess to 170 degrees Fahrenheit, apparently not an appropriate substitute for a hot tub.

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I talked to some other bikers here who had entered into the park from Cody and as I had previously predicted they had encountered some awful conditions complete with high winds, hail, rain and lightning. He looked a bit irritated when I told him we had missed it all.

Continuing from there we made our way toward Fishing Bridge where we turned north off 287. I believe that this was hwy 212 and it was on this stretch of highway running along the Lamar River that we got our first up close and personal look at Buffalo, lots and lots of them. With that came some wonder photo ops again.

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We eventually made our way out of the park to our resting place for the evening in Cooke City, Montana. We had considered going over the top of Bear Tooth Pass and staying in Red Lodge, Montana but decided against it as it was a bit late in the day and the weather ahead looked sketchy.

ROUTE MAP DAYS 14 TO 17