Days 17 to 19: The first big push part 2. 24 to 26th August

It took us a while to leave Coeur d’Alene with so many goodbyes, but we got on the road around 11 and began what was to become our love/hate affair with Interstate I 90.  A great road for getting somewhere the quickest way possible, for creating muscle aches in places we didn’t know existed, and for halving the life span of rear tyres/fuel tanks.

So after less than a day in Idaho we rode into Montana, the land of cowboys, huge hamburgers and really terrible coffee. And wall to wall Harleys with helmetless riders.  I do get the whole “freedom” thing, but at what cost? Sure a helmet provides protection in an accident, but it does at all other times too. “Freedom” vs bug splattered cheeks, loss of hearing and severe wind/sun burn. I know what wins for me. But then… I suppose we’re riding a bit further than just the next pub.

Anyway, we had been told about this little piece of magic called Lolo Pass so decided to check it out.  The GPS took us on a shortcut that the sign called a “Primitive road”. Basically just unsealed for about 10k, but the herd of goats was a bit of a surprise.  Anyway, Lolo Pass turned out to be exactly what we were told, and a quick stop at the ranger station clued us in on a secret campsite near some hot springs, down a walking track, overlooking a gorgeous valley. We were so there.

So we found the Weir Creek carpark, the walking trail and about 100 mtrs in, the little campsite that was our home for the night.  No photos of the hot springs, but trust me, it was everything as described, a (almost) natural rockpool, halfway up a mountain overlooking a valley.  It turned out to be quite popular with a group of about 6 or so 20-somethings hiking down the track just on dark.

Another little surprise awaited us too. Just as we finished unloading the bikes 3 ute loads of big beefy guys turned up. We saw our quiet night evaporate into a beer fueled boys party, and then they approached us, told us they were Sheriffs doing drug checks and proceeded to have a sniffer dog check all out gear.  We ended up chatting to them for about 20 minutes and they were quite amused about our original impression. (And no one got arrested just in case you were wondering).

The camp site was really lovely, the squirrel investigating our gear was entertaining and the hot spring was fantastic.  And for the dronies, I flew up and down the creek which was a huge technical challenge as it was almost entirely done out of sight on the screen. The drone came back in 1 piece, but was carrying some unexpected foliage.  Still, a successful and highly technical flight.

The next morning we rode back up Lolo Pass to the dreaded intersate and we made good time till our overnight stop in Bozeman. A cute little cowboy town with a public hot spring that gave us free admission. Unfortunately it was Saturday night and it seems that every teenager in Bozeman comes to the hot springs then too. Interesting, but that was about it.

The next day was meant to be very special, and it was sort of, although not entirely as we expected.  Two of the best motorcycle roads in USA, both in the same day! Beartooth Pass into Wyoming and Chief Joseph Highway to Cody, the gateway to Yellowstone and the goal of this big push.  The ominous clouds on the approaches to Beartooth were a giveaway, and as expected we soon encountered mist, then rain, then cold, then sideways rain…  And let’s not mention those damn RV’s (Winnebago things) grinding their way up the mountain.

We made a quick stop at the lookout to stare into the cloud before pushing on over the pass. It dropped down to about 6 degrees and the wind got worse until we were riding at about 30kmh to not get blown over.  But it was also breathtaking. Absolutely amazing to have achieved that.  And then suddenly we were on our way down, the wind stopped, the snow cleared and the sun came out.

We grabbed a quick hot chocolate at the next town before turning onto Chief Joseph Highway in warm sunshine and no wind. The next hour was one of the best rides of our life. Hardly any traffic, no RV’s, a fantastic road surface and scenery that was simply stunning. It was quite possibly the best road we had found so far and easily made the trials of Beartooth Pass worthwhile.

Sadly the road ran out eventually, we turned only another straight highway and rode into Cody Wyoming. Apparently the center to the Wild West.  More like the center of nowhere, but more of that later.

We had arrived at the gateway of Yellowstone Park. Eight days of hard riding, amazing experiences, new friends and personal achievements.  We never expected this would be easy, and it wasn’t. But every minute was worth is.

And then it rained… and then it snowed.

And then they closed the Park Entrance….

Weir Creek campsite

Beartooth Pass

A quick stop at Beartooth Pass lookout.

Flying the drone down Weir Creek, Lolo Pass, Idaho