After a full wasted day, spent watching TV, scrounging up “lunch” and “dinner” from the town supermarket, and being bored out of my skull, I had lost a day of progress in going anywhere.
So, when the following morning came, and I had left my alarm off to try and “sleep in” to avoid the boredom of the morning. I awoke at 07:15, got up showered, made sure I was packed, and sat around being bored stupid by 07:30.
I must have sat by the window for a good hour and a half looking out every time I head a diesel engine go by, only to see Paw Kettle drive by, since EVERY pickup and working vehicle is a diesel out in Wyoming.
9 AM came.
10 AM. It was getting close to my checkout time of 11AM, and the front office had told me UPS came “between 11 and 1PM ” I was trying to psych myself up for 3 hours of sitting in the motel office bored to tears.
10:50, I went to the front office, dropped my key off, and pointlessly checked out the UPS tracking number: Out for Delivery.
11:03, I hear a rumbling, and a familiar metal on metal mashing. I look up, it’s UPS! I grab my stuff, go outside and sign for my package. I couldn’t walk the mile to Ding’s shop from the motel fast enough, but I did have time to notice how heavy all my shit was, when it had no proper way of being carried.
I get to Ding’s shop, take out my awesome, unbroken stock clutch and had it on 5 minutes later. Took the bike out for a short spin to make sure everything was OK, and went back to the shop to load my bike. Ding charged me for the towing, and the welding, I rode to get gas, and couldn’t get the fuck out of Dubois fast enough.
I cruised along US-287, and encountered the road I’d gone down on, now hard packed, dry soil. My mind played tricks with me for the 10 miles of construction, until I finally touched proper tarmac again. There were a few big ruts and bumps where the GPS marked I had stopped moving on that road, and I wondered if any of those had contributed to me going down, hidden under the mud, but I could only speculate.
US-287 branched off between Yellowstone, and Jackson, but I’d heard there was more construction in Jackson, and didn’t want to deal with more shit roads (lol) so I headed north, seeing the Grand Teton range off in the distance.
Continued a little further north, and stopped at Jackson Lake overlook. Awesome. I’m just amazed by how nature works the land with colliding tectonic plates, volcanic rifts in the crust, wind, water, sediment.. the whole deal. Just awesome.
I encountered ANOTHER 8 miles of torn up road on US-287 just before the entrance to Yellowstone, and was getting fed up with Wyoming’s fucked up roads, but finally, after a day and a half delay, I’d made it to Yellowstone.
Riding through the south end of the park was somewhat uneventful. There was a river that had cut a shallow canyon alongside the road, but there was a thick patch of pine trees blocking the view, and I saw nothing extraordinarily exciting. Part of the giant loop that you can drive in Yellowstone had been closed for the season for, you guessed it, road construction, so I figured only riding to Red Lodge in Montana for the night, doubling back through the park to start heading home.
Stopped for gas, and a small Yellowstone sticker from the General Store as a memento, and had a disgusting, dry “ham and cheese” sandwich as my first morsel of the day (at 2PM)
Continued heading north on the east side of Yellowstone’s Grand Loop, and the land opened up, leaving wide prairies and mountains off in the distance.
It was here I finally saw the Buffalo Crud and Fuzzy had told me about. They were pretty cool. Completely indifferent to cars, they just walked straight down the middle of the road, sashaying as slow as they pleased.
Traffic was stopped in BOTH directions several times because of them, and I guess when you’re the same size as anything but an SUV, why would you care about everything else around you? The buffalo fully expected YOU to stop for THEM. One even stopped IN the lane to graze on a little bit of grass.
Heading north, I eventually hit a limestone canyon, that had been cut away by a river, Tower Falls were nearby, but I couldn’t catch a glimpse of them. I could however, see the sun starting it’s descent in the sky so I decided to keep moving. With luck, I would be able to take Beartooth Pass to Red Lodge for the night, and come back through Chief Joseph Highway, and take a little while longer coming back through Yellowstone on my way south towards home.
The road eventually branched off, to the northeastern exit of Yellowstone on US-212, the Beartooth Highway. This road had been one of my trip goals all along, Yellowstone had just been the route to get to it. I was excited. The highway opened up to the Lamar Valley, this must be quite the gateway to go through when heading INTO Yellowstone this way, which I realized must have been how Crudmop and Fuzzy had ridden into Yellowstone when they came through a couple of years back.
You could definitely feel the “Wild West” and big open plains that the Native Americans had before civilization came along.
When I finally reached the park exit, there were a trio of Harleys just checking into the park, I swung around to ask them the road conditions. Not surprisingly, they told me it was fücked up, just like all the other roads in Wyoming. I thanked them by using my Park Pass for all 3 of them, saving them each 25.00 and already having gotten my money’s worth for that pass.
Crossed the border into Montana, as US-212 zigs and zags between MT and WY several times, and encountered nothing but dirt and gravel road for about 5 miles. Kept on 212 heading east, slowly climbing elevation through coniferous forests, to where the road branched off to Beartooth Pass, and Chief Joseph Highway. I was planning on staying at Red Lodge in Montana, doubling back to Chief Joseph the next morning, and riding through Yellowstone to exit in Idaho towards home.
Beartooth pass presented itself with tight switchbacks climbing a mountain, then an idiotic break of 500 yards of road scraped away, 500 yards of tarmac. Little bit of asphalt, little bit of road, and not all on one side. It was like a retard had tried to make a checkerboard pattern with the road, seemingly for no reason. If you’re going to tear up the road, why only tear up tiny little sections of it? Just stupid, but then again, I WAS in Wyoming, and I had come to realize that this was the land of piss-poor tarmac and gravel.
As Beartooth Pass climbed up to 11,000 feet, I found myself in an Alpine environment again, with gnarled trees, bald on one side, branches pointed uphill on the other. I wondered just HOW brutal the weather must get up in this pass during the wintertime. It was relatively cold, and I was wearing my Gerbings, plugged in, and it was summertime.
I finally hit the summit of Beartooth Pass. What an incredible view.
I continued on, only to find traffic stopped at what else, but road construction. I asked the woman with three teeth who was manning the Stop/Slow sign person how much further to asphalt, she said it was “at the Montana border.” The GPS said 18 miles. Did I mention how much I love Wyoming’s POS roads?
Carrying on, the road going from hard packed gravel, to much deeper sections where I could feel the front end sinking in a bit, I nervously carried on, my mind screwing with me again every time the bars twitched just like they had before I’d dumped it. A good 15 minutes later (yeah, I was riding like a giant puss) I saw the Montana welcome sign, and tarmac! Excellent! Fuck you Wyoming and your goddamned roads!
The Montana Welcome sign neared, and I smiled, and felt my left clipon snap off right in my hand. Oh, W T F. I looked down, and there it was, broken off just past the weld, everything from the controls and grip, right there in my hand. I guess Ding wasn’t kidding when he said he was a shitty Tig welder. Unbelievable. My spirits, which had been slowly building back up during the day, tanked again, and my frustration peaked. I immediately decided on scrapping Chief Joseph and returning through Yellowstone from my route and slabbing it home on the interstate. I wasn’t about to try another 30 miles of gravel with one handlebar. Annoyed to maximum, I was willing to just get home and deal with the busted clipon properly, rather than pissing away more money and time on an improper fix.
I decided to stop anyway and collect the Welcome sign, one handlebar and all, since I wasn’t coming back.
I pulled out my zip ties and secured the bar to my upper triple, with the controls facing up, so I could still use the horn, brights, and signal, which was now signal right to go left, and vice versa, as the controls sat backwards on the triple.
I began the ascent down Beartooth Pass, and had to chuckle at the fact I had to do it one handed. Thankfully I was no stranger to riding along one handed. I’d been doing it the whole trip so far to take pictures while on the go.
The road down from the pass looked fun, if I had daylight and warmer tarmac to play with.
As I finally reached the bottom of the pass, the sun was all but gone behind the horizon, and my mind began to concern itself with deer coming out of the treelines, so I backed off the throttle, and squinted through the dead bugs on my visor to look for any signs of movement.
About 20 minutes later, I finally reached Red Lodge, where I saw several motels with cruisers parked out front, and looked for the motel that had that “one-star dive” quality to it. I pulled up to one ratty looking motel, and was told it was $95 a night. I moved on to another one that was $110. Unbelievable. A quick search on the Zumo found a couple of motels a few miles outside of Billings, 50 miles northeast, and I called one up and was told it was $39 a night with wifi. It was a go.
As I rode the last section towards the motel in the dark, I came upon a casino that unexpectedly had a cowboy muffler man. Score!
I finally made it to Laurel, where I looked for the motel, and couldn’t find it, so I stopped at a gas station/truck stop and called the motel to ask them where they were.
“We ARE the gas station.” Lovely. I looked around and the only thing I could see was a portable bungalow on one corner of the lot. I checked the GPS for alternative places to stay, but it was either Billings, 10 miles away, or something “closer” to home, 60 miles away. I finally opted for the truck stop bungalow, which thankfully turned out to be no worse than any 1 star dump I’d already stayed at. Gave the RSV one dissapointed, sad look out the window, from the room, with it’s one bar, and went to bed, preparing myself to just hammer it to get home.