Going to the sun

August 13, 2010

I left Fri morning to head up route 89 and take in both Glacier Nat’l Park and the “going to the sun” road. Ten minutes into my trip the dark skies opened and it rained… And rained… And rained. Three hours later, I decided that I wasn’t going to the sun or anywhere else in that weather! I changed my GPS to head away from the clouds and toward Kalispell. I made it there by early afternoon and spent the rest of the day at a coffee shop with free internet. I asked the coffee shop guy for a recommendation on a steak house and he sent me walking up the street to Scotties. The place was packed so decided to watch the PGA and sit at the bar to eat. I had the prime rib and was soon joined by a lady at the bar. She also ordered the prime rib to go.

After finishing my meal, the lady asked me how my meal was. I was honest and sad that it was ok. She said what do you mean ok? I said that while the meal was good it wasn’t fantastic… Just ok. She seemed offended by this and then proceeded to tell me that she was the restaurant manager and had been for 27 years and that she had a new chef. Again, I was almost apologetic because I felt bad but the prime rib was just ok. We struck up more conversation and then she offered to buy me breakfast. HUH?? Yes, she offered to buy me breakfast… As a way of making it up to me and not in another possible meaning :). I told her I would take her up on that in the morning and asked for my bill. Next thing I know, the bill has already been paid for by the manager out of her own pocket! I was stunned at her kindness which was totally unnecessary. Next morning, I went to Scotties for breakfast and she again tried to pay for my meal. I refused to allow that but it was refreshing to see good old American hospitality alive and well… Not to mention excellent customer service. So… If you are ever in Kalispell, I highly recommend Scotties… They will treat you right.


Yellowstone… I must be missing something

August 11, 2010

I headed north today and made my way into Teton Nat’l Park… It was very impressive. The mountains are truly spectacular and, in hindsight, I wish I had spent more time in that area. Apparently, you can go para-sailing or something off the top of the mountains… Who knew. I ended the day in Dubois and had the most wonderful buffalo chili at a local joint.

The next day, I headed into Yellowstone with my final destination being a friend of the family’s house outside Livingston, Montana. So… All this talk I hear about Yellowstone… Seriously… What is all the hoopla about? Honestly, it didn’t really impress me that much. The scenery and the wildlife was ok but I had already seen far more impressive things on my trip. Old Faithful was interesting but the whole commercialization of the area kind of took away from the experience. The most exciting thing was the escaped murderers that were nearby 🙂

The trip itself was fine… The weather was good and although my GPS decided to take me on a different route than I had planned, it all worked out. I ended up in Bozeman after coming up through the Gallatin River route. That was quite nice because the roads were twisty and followed the river closely. I got to see many nice river views although the number of crosses on the side of the road made me a bit nervous. I did stop at a gas station and, as I was leaving, a couple rode up on a Harley. Now, this woman was about the most beautiful creature I had seen in long time and I wondered if she came with the bike 🙂

One small issue was my GPS. I had punched in my friend’s address (out in the boonies) and because I was coming from Livingston, it took me the 25 miles of gravel route instead of the 4 miles of gravel route. Not really an issue and I was glad that it did because I got to have the most amazing views of the Absaroka Range and several private ranches as I rode in. However, the problem was that my GPS was mildly mentally confused and didn’t even have the road I needed in it. So… After driving many miles into the Montana backcountry, through Tom Brokaw’s ranch and into the West Boulder Preserve, I finally realized that I was lost. Fortunately, I flagged down a kind gentleman who was just finishing his hike and he took me back to his home and let me use his phone. Now I was back on track and arrived 15 mins later at Bo and Nancy’s most beautiful home. A great meal and and few cold beers had me back in good spirits and I cannot thank them enough for putting me up for a couple of nights.

One of the highlights of my time in Montana was going fly fishing. I had seen it on TV and heard from friends who had done it but I never had the good fortune to go myself. Bo was kind enough to take me and teach me the ropes. What a tranquil experience and I now understand the huge appeal. Just you on a quiet river trying to catch an elusive fish and enjoying everything nature has to offer including herons, mule deer and geese! I will say that fly fishing takes some practice and is a lot harder that it appears but it felt great the few times I did actually cast successfully. Bo was a splendid teacher who often encouraged me by shouting “NO, NO…. You’re doing it wrong!!!” on many occasions… Thanks Bo 🙂

I also got to learn a little about ranching life in Montana, got to see the ranch where they filmed the Horse Whisperer and also missed meeting the woman of my dreams by a hair… Oh well, maybe next time 🙂

Teton scenery


Absaroka range… yes I got lost here

River where I went fly fishing

What a Flamer!

August 10, 2010

I left out of Vernal, Utah before 7am because I wanted to do the Red Cloud – Dry Fork Loop and get back in time to check out of my hotel and head into the Flaming Gorge Nat’l Recreation Area. The mountain scenery was fabulous as I rode up Route 191N to Forest Road 018 outside of Vernal. The kids would have loved the trip because at many points along the drive there were road signs that documented the type of geology present and its relation to dinosaurs and fossils. I’m sure that Alicia would have made me stop at the place that said “Crocodile teeth found here.” Check out my Blogroll for more info on this amazing area.

The Red Cloud – Dry Fork Loop is a mostly dirt road once in the Unitas Mountains. It was great for off-roading but some of the road got really twisty and narrow so I had to take my time. I was a bit nervous riding in the wilderness before 8 in the morning but I didn’t see much wildlife except cattle and the occasional deer. The descent into Dry Fork provided some greats canyon views and at the end of the loop you can stop at the McConkie Ranch for a real treat. The ranch has Native American petroglyphs that are world renowned, found all along 200-foot-high “Navajo Formation” sandstone cliffs. Trails take you up close and personal to view figures up to 9 feet tall. These figures represent the Fremont culture, which flourished in this area from about 1-1200 AD. My pictures hardly do them justice but one thing is clear… the people that drew them were mental!!!! I mean how else would you describe someone that climbs 200 foot cliffs to draw crap… Ever heard of paper dude 🙂

After checking out of my hotel I made my way north with my intention of getting to Pinedale, Wyoming that afternoon. This ride up 191 took me right through the heart of the Flaming Gorge Nat’l Recreation Area. I had heard good things about the gorge but nothing prepared me for the amazing vistas overlooking the gorge. My pics again fail to convey the sheer scale and beauty of the place. I left my bike in the parking lot and walked out to the edge of the gorge to one of the observation decks. Not a soul was around except for 3 deer. Standing 1300 feet above the gorge, I felt like I was the only person left on the planet… and it felt GOOD 🙂 I put my headphones on and hit play… my Sansa shuffled to “Better as a Memory” by Kenny Chesney… good song and perfect for the way I was feeling. I rested against the railing of the platform and listened to the whole song as I gazed out over the magnificent gorge. It really was peaceful… until I looked down over the edge and realized how high up I was… me no likey heights 🙂

The rest of my day was spent heading to Pinedale. Exiting the gorge area, the landscape gave way to vast plainfields that stretched for miles. As I neared Pinedale, the Wind River Range of the Wyoming Rockies came into focus and the vast number of peaks over 13,000 feet tall was beautiful to behold. So beautiful, in fact, that I pulled over to the side of the road and and gazed out at the mountains before laying down on my back on a pile of gravel. The sun was shining and it warmed my whole body… next thing you know, I am asleep on the side of the road!!!! I huge tractor trailor roaring by woke me from my nap and I hastily hopped back onto Juliette to finish the ride into Pinedale. As I walked down to the Wind River Brew Pub for dinner, I passed a real estate office and came very close to buying 20 acres of ranch property that bordered the national park! Seemed like a good idea at the time 🙂

BTW… don’t ever eat at the brew pub. Food sucked, service sucked and even the beer sucked. I’ve had better meals in prison!

Red Cloud – Dry Fork scenery

Rough road on the loop

Indian Petroglyphs

Flaming Gorge

Wind River Range

Dinosaur Diamond

August 9, 2010

The Dinosaur Diamond is a loop that runs through eastern Utah and western Colorado where dinosaur fossils and footprints date from 150 million years ago. I also decided to include the Colorado River Scenic Byway into my ride for the day. I started out early and headed southeast to the Arches National Park just north of Moab. This park is home to over 2000 natural arches and typifies the rock formations of the region. The formations were quite interesting but the park was packed with vehicles so I cut short the tour after an hour because I was feeling a little claustrophobic. I then headed northeast on the Colorado River Scenic Byway which hugs the southeast side of the Colorado River. Again, this ride was not planned until the night before but I was sure glad I took it. Again, the scenery was spectacular and, as it was Sunday, I got to see the many white water rafters on the river. The road itself was perfect for a motorcycle; narrow, twisty, fast and in danger of being crushed by falling rocks!

The Dewey Suspension Bridge built in 1916 was cool to see and it was a pity it hasn’t been restored to it’s previous condition. I also passed the Red Cliffs Lodge and again thought of my kids and how I would love for them to be with me and experiencing the wonders I was seeing. I should have taken them out of school and taken them with me… But I knew the ex would never have allowed it.

Back on the Dinosaur Diamond, I headed northeast into Colorado and the town of Dinosaur. Yup, that’s right Alicia, there is a town named Dinosaur, Colorado that lies right on the edge of the Colorado/Utah border in northwestern Colorado. See my picture below. It was cool to see all the dinosaur stuff and I wish you could have been there with me. From there I headed west to my final destination of Vernal, Utah an oil/gas town that fell on hard times after Obama became president and reversed concessions Bush had made that benefitted the town. I got into town early enough to go see a movie (the Other Guys)… I was disappointed, it was just ok.

I turned in early having planned to do the Red Cloud – Dry Fork loop and the Flaming George – Unitas Scenic Byway the next day as I made my way north to the great Rocky Mountains of Wyoming.

Arches National Park

Colorado River Scenic Byway

Dewey suspension bridge

Dinosaur Diamond loop scenery

The Sand Gods

August 8, 2010

I felt pretty good considering then previous night’s escapades. I was very much looking forward to Monument Valley after it got rave reviews from my buddy Rick. He was certainly right! My pictures don’t do it justice but it was quite amazing. Even better, you actually got the chance to see the rock formations up close if you paid 5 bucks to take the 17 mile loop around parts of the reservation. This loop is comprised of rough dirt roads that require a high clearance vehicle. My bike qualified, although I was a little apprehensive because I no longer had the knobby tires on. I took my time riding around the loop, gaining confidence with each mile.

Near the end, I was stuck behind a slow going SUV so I passed it with a quick rev of the gas. After passing it there was a fairly steep uphill climb that was all sand. When I came down it coming into the park it was packed sand but as I gathered steam to take the hill on the other side of the road (really just 30mph) I took a closer look at the sand in front of me. It seemed… Soft! However, I spotted some tire tracks going through it so I assumed it wasn’t as soft as I thought. WRONG!!! I hit the sand and quickly realized that I was in deep sh#t! I gave it more gas and tried to power through but by this time my front wheel was ten inches deep in sand. Everything slowed down then… Like in the Matrix… and the bike came to a grinding halt before tipping over to the right and back downhill! I was smart enough to “exit the vehicle” as it went over and I stuck the landing with both feet. The judges gave me two tens but the Russian judge gave me a 9.9 out of spite 🙂

Now there are tons of other cars coming down the hill and they stopped to watch the spectacle. Of course, the SUV I had left in the dust just moments earlier came teetering up behind me and a guy who looked like that guy from the Transporter movies gets out to ask if I need any help. Sheepishly I say yes :). The two of us heave the 800 pound bike up and slide it 50 feet backwards down the hill until we get to packed sand. From there I goose it and take off up the hill after saying my requisite thanks. So… first time off the bike not too bad. No damage and no injuries unless you count my ego 🙂

Heading through the rest of of the valley, the scenery was just as stunning as I made my way north toward Green River, Utah. This meant that I rode not only Monument Valley but also the Bicentennial Hwy from Blanding to Hanksville. In my opinion, the Bicentennial Hwy is just as spectacular as any scenic drive. The ride through Glen Canyon was awesome and the sheer scale of the canyon with its red rocks was something to see. The only disappointment was that it was raining on and off so the pictures were not so great. Even the vast desert plains near Hanksville had their own beauty.

As I rode the highway, I kept thinking about naming my bike. Weird, kind of, but it seemed right because this is something that I need to be reliable, dependable and supportive for the next year… I also need her to do what I say… Pity I can’t find an actual woman with those traits :). I thought about naming her Ann, after my daughter but that didn’t seem right. I thought about Samantha, after my first love but again, not right. In the end, I settled on Juliette… now can anyone tell me why? I gave you a hint in one of my earlier posts. Now I just need to find an artist to make it official 🙂

Maybe the tattoo artist I am going to visit will know someone 🙂

My ride was long that day but I chose to end it in Green River because the town sits on the Dinosaur Diamond Prehistoric Hwy and I thought that my beautiful daughter would like it if I did a dinosaur based ride… She’s going to be an archeologist, so she tells me. I say there is no money in it… to which she replies that she will marry someone rich!!! Her mother has taught her well 😦

Monument Valley pics

Mexican Hat, Utah

Pueblo Indian ruins

Glen Canyon