Thursday, July 1, 2010

Day 10 - Beartooth Pass

When I went to sleep in Cody, with the gentle sounds of the air conditioner and the sweet horse whinnies, I had no idea what was in store. I woke to the loudest howling gales I have ever heard in my life! Ran to the door and opened it to immediately get a mouthful of sand.... the parking lot was blurry with the clouds of grit flying around. I was seriously afraid for my bike, that it would get blown over. Back inside, put on my motorcycle boots and not bothering to lace them, I went in the gales. My hair was being whipped all around my head and face as I got on and put the bike into neutral to move it. It was left boot needs new tread on the bottom, I could hardly grab the kickstand to pull it up, while my right foot was slipping in the gravel with the bike swaying in the wind. I would love to have seen this all on video! Into neutral and I muscled the bike under the overhang in front of my door.

I don't know if this actually would have helped anything or not,
but it made me feel a little better.

I opened the door in the morning with the expectation of some sort of damage from the night, but all was quiet. I did chuckle because it looked like my bike wanted to come inside.

Bike loaded, I headed toward Chief Joseph Highway. Today was going to be the highlight of my trip, I was sure!

I was not disappointed in this road, the views were spectacular, the switchbacks were a ball and I found a place to stop and have a cup of coffee and a warm cinnamon roll. Another rider was there eating breakfast and we struck up a conversation about seeing the country. Don was in the area for a class reunion and took a couple of days to run the roads that are a Mecca for motorcyclists.

With a big smile, I turned onto Beartooth Pass and headed toward Red Lodge MT...49 miles of what was promised to me to be an amazing experience. It was! In the early morning, there was not much traffic as I climbed... feeling the temps quickly falling as I started to pass patches of snow on the ground. Toward the top, there were still areas of snowbanks.

I was quite chilly, but loving the feeling of the cold air being forced into my lungs. Near the peak, you will never guess what I came across.....
*rolls eyes*
.... more paving.
Since I was parked for a while, a photo op presented itself!

Nothing takes the fun out of sweet twisties more than having to follow a pace car at 15 mph. A few miles of this and a lot of dirt roads to ride, and it opened up toward Red Lodge.... a sweet historic town. I puttered the main street, my original plan was to stop here for a few hours and rest. But I am fighting being sick right now and just did not have the energy to do it. So I gassed up and decided to make a run for my stop point, which was in MT, via back through Beartooth.
Jack, (remember, my gps) was telling me that my arrival would be about 4:10. I was planning to get stopped early and sleep this thing off if I could.
So, turned back into Beartooth, and ahead of me the sky was turning ominous...

Holy crap.... I was about to be challenged one more time. These western thunderstorms are scary! I had my mesh pants on, so I only put on my rain jacket. The rain drops were big and hurt, the visibility was instantly down to just a few yards...the next 48 miles were going to be work.

Sitting at the top, freezing my butt off, waiting for the pace car.

I don't mind work though. But add in the icy rain to the mix and I started shivering...the tight turns were taken very slowly, without the sight line to turn, I pretty much took the turns like I had learned to ride the bike last week. Those of you who ride know what I am talking about, pretty darn vertical turns. How depressing! But better safe than sorry, the newly paved roads near the summit had no guardrails and now I was on the outside lane.
Of course the timing for the paving at the top was bad.... of course!! About 20 minutes of sitting in the rain, shivering my butt off, trying to will the thunderstorm to move somewhere else. Did I mention how big the lightning and how loud the thunder are?
FINALLY the pace car showed up and I will admit... I was happy to follow it like a beacon down the curves. As the altitude decreased, the temps rose and there was an occasional break in the clouds. I have never been so happy to feel the sun! What a difference a few miles makes on a thunderstorm, as I reached the end of Beartooth Pass and headed into the north part of Yellowstone, I was warming up. It is difficult at best to steer a bike when the front wheel is wobbling because I was uncontrollably shivering!
Entering Yellowstone, the sun was strong and I warmed up.
And I got a big treat... saw my first buffalo!

With a speed limit of 45 through the park, it was easy riding with one hand on the camera. It is funny how the buffalo and the boulders look identical from a distance. I would get my camera ready for the big one on the right... and find that it was a buffalo shaped rock.
The ride through was quick, I will be back to Yellowstone next week to see the interior of it. Now, I wanted to get to Livingston MT to sleep.
I had about 40 miles ahead of me, and thought I was in for a quick easy ride....but the Goddess of Nature was not done with me yet. I think my name was pulled out of her hat this morning to be picked on. I learned how it feels to ride through the winds that pushed through Cody last night. I was riding along and suddenly was hit with a head wind that cut my speed by 20 mph instantly! Not so bad, I can deal with a headwind...but no, of course there is more. Crosswinds, determined to push my bike off the highway or into the other lane were relentless!
More than once today, my mortality crossed my mind as I pondered how small I am in comparison with the elements of nature. I actually think this is a good lesson for all of us to learn.
By the time I reached my motel last night, my body was wound up so tightly that it hurt to sit up and get off the bike. I did not realize that I had hunkered down behind the fairing so much. I arrived at about 5:30, the weather had added over an hour. Grabbed a sandwich from Subway which was like heaven to me, just across the parking lot...wolfed it down and went to bed, with some slight worry that I just may have to alter my route to be able to sleep in for a day. This would mean taking Glacier Park out of my trip. But if I had to, of course, I would do it....I am not going to ride when ill, not fun and not safe. Sometime in the wee hours of the morning, I woke up to feeling much better, like a fever had broken through. Still have a cough, but I will be okay.

Headed toward Glacier National Park and the Going to the Sun Road today, which I will ride tomorrow. Please, if you will, send me sunny skies and easy riding! :) One more view of Beartooth Pass :)


  1. Kate,
    I'm glad to hear that you're feeling better and will be able to proceed on your planned route.
    Stay safe,

  2. Whoa I am glad you are able to get to Glacier. Remember it is the Going to the Sun Road and you are looking for sun, that should be good enough to cover your wishes.


  3. muahahaha, i LOVED this post. im sorry but i cant help but smile and laugh and enjoy ever shivering mortal thinking minute. ive been here, i love these rides, this will make up moments that will stay with you forever. even the darn pavers and pacers, lol. bravo for living in the now and enjoying all the crazy stuff the road brings!!

    ps, i love the pic of the bike knocking at the door, lol. i used to keep my bike in the dining room. ahhh... thanks for the big warm smile today! hope you're getting lots more miles today.