Day 6
June 16th, 2002
Yellowstone National Park
Canyon Village Campground

We were up early, and blowing smoke in the cold mountain air.  Packing went quickly and were loaded and ready to go by 7am.  
Just before mounting the bike I called Glacier for the latest report on Rising to the Sun Road.  A big time storm dumped 5 feet of snow up there 10 days ago, so there was a chance the road would not even be open.  The ranger reported the road was open, but not all the way.  Crews were still plowing the high elevations and were not even close to finished.  He said to come in from the west and we could ride the first 16 miles.  That would be better then nothing, so we layed in a course to bring us in from that direction.

We now begin a breathtaking 2000 mile trek to San Francisco over the most scenic, and challenging roads any one has ever rode.  Ninety percent of the next 3 days will be on this country's finest motorcycling highways, taking us past its most glorious scenery.

We left the campground with Dennis in the lead. I employed all the cold weather gear I had for the chilly morning.  Heavy gloves, thinsulate vest, and long wool socks.

The sky was deep blue, not a cloud in sight, and the air smelled clean.

We rode cautiously in the cold morning air, eyes peeled for deer and elk.

The ride north out of the park on this fine morning was another dream like ride.  The weather was perfect, as the sleek STs traversed this wonderland of nature.  

We went up in elevation and then down a long downhill, breaking out from the forest into a golden river valley filled with yellow wildflowers.  Elk grazed off in the distance, I spotted a Eagle overhead as he scouted his domain.  I imagined him checking us and out, and seeing we were harmless, letting us pass through.  The mountains formed a nice backdrop, and Mt. Washington with its snow capped peak put the finishing touches on a portrait I shall never forget.






















                             A golden valley in the splendor of Yellowstone.

We stopped and took a few pictures, but they do a poor job of reproducing what we saw.

At one point I see Dennis extend his arms outward in the appreciation of such beauty.

Nearing the north entrance the road became twisty.  We leaned the STs left and right, carving the turns with caution.  The road is unfamiliar and we don't know what lies in the many blind turns.  A elk? Washout? Perhaps a hiker.  I can feel my cupped front tire, wallowing in the line, but I am able to compensate for it.

We stop in Hot Mammath Springs for coffee and cokes. A black BMW RS is in the parking lot of the cafe.  I pick up a USA today on the way in to catch up on the news.  I am missing TV, and after 6 days I have not a clue what is going in the world.  I can't even tell what day of the week it is.  All I know is I'm on a trip, and the biggest decision I have to make is where to eat lunch today.

After the morning break, I remove my winter gear and go back to my summer ensemble.

I called home and checked on things.  No need to call my son, he's not up yet.  I left my brother a voice mail, asking how mother is.
Rested, we load back up and cross into Montana onto US 89 North.  We pass through the private campgrounds in the town Gardiner, all proclaiming to be the best.  

Montana is special to me.  Its beauty and vastness are unique in America.  It is rugged and can be unforgiving.  The people here want to be left alone, and each respects that right.  They don't pass laws that restrict a man from doing what he wants to do with his land.  There is something about this place, the high grass prairie of Eastern Montana contrasts sharply with its rugged mountains in the Western part.  There is no place else like it. 





















                      Dennis Ryan, enjoying the beauty of Montana



This will be my second trip here, and surely not my last.  I can't imagine living my life, and not having ever visited Montana.  What a loss that would have been.  If you don't believe in God, just take a ride through Montana.  It is that beautiful.  The sky alone is worth the ride getting there.  BIG, and tinted a blue you won't find anywhere else.

We over take a passenger train running parallel with 89 and wave at the passengers.  I KNOW all are watching the 2 sleek and powerful bikes overtake them as if they were standing still.

We meet several groups of south bound riders heading for Yellowstone. 

We follow 89 to I-90 and mow down the miles east.  

At Willow Creek we drop off the interstate and take a butt break under some trees by a small lake.  I laid in the grass and stretched out.
From I-90 we see the rugged mountains in the distance.

In Deer Lodge we exit for lunch.  A busy little town.  Ranchers are busy buying seed and equipment at the various farm supply stores as we ride through town.  A man in a light colored cowboy hat and plaid shirt waves as we ease by.

In the middle of town we find a closed down prison, that is now a museum.  It use to be a huge state prison, right in the town square almost.  large brick walls are face Main Street, and guard towers are on each corner.  I think about the prisoners that were housed here, and what they must have thought.  They were only a few feet from the free world, and people going about their everyday lives.

Lunch was at a cafe called Schaf's.  I had an excellent hot roast beef sandwich.  I made a few phone calls to friends and family.  When asked, the owner said the prison shut down in the 70s.

After lunch we exit I-90 east of Missoula and ride SR 141 North.  A quiet meandering road, that we follow past ranch land and green hills.  We effortlessly jet by the occasional slow moving vehicle.

At the intersection of state routes 200 and 93 there is a rest area.  We take it, and stretch our legs, and get a drink of water.  The weather is still perfect, warm and bright.





















                            SR 141 took us deep into Montana wonderland.

SR 83 slices its way between the mountains.  It is straight road, and to be in Montana, not much fun.  It is thick with car and RV traffic.  We swallowed up lumbering RVs by the hundreds it seemed like.  I have a love/ hate relationship with the vehicles.  I can't see around them, they are vastly underpowered, and bog everyone behind them down.  They are a bane on twisty mountain roads, but yet that is where they seem to congregate.  The worst are the guys that pull their car behind them.  Some people can make travel so complicated.

We reach a place called Swan Lake and pull off in a roadside tavern/cafe for a cold drink.  The owners are Minnesota Viking fans, and the place is decorated in purple and gold.  It was a welcome break.  I chuckled at a wall mounted air conditioner, blowing from across the room.  These people really think its hot?  I guess all things are relative.

For some reason, I can't get comfortable in the saddle today.  I am constantly squirming.  Thirty miles after a break, my butt is stiff again.  I don't know what the problem is.  I am struggling to keep up with Dennis.

All day Dennis and I take turns in the front.  Every 50 miles or so, we swap up.  Riding behind another bike or bikes takes away something.  You have to constantly work to keep the proper distance between you and him.  Your eyes can never go long without coming back to him.  I would never forgive myself if I plowed into the back of a rider and messed up his bike, because I was sight seeing.  There is no excuse for that, NOT ever.
We met several south bound riders on this route and waved.

Our route brings us to the west side of Glacier by mid afternoon.  The towns of Evergreen, and Whitefish cater to the Glacier tourists with pride and efficiency.  Need a t shirt? No problem we got em.  How about some Indian Jewelry?  Got that too. They have ice, sunburn lotion, and more Goofy Golf courses then your kids could play in a month.  It's funny.  A guy can live 2 blocks from a Goofy Golf course back home, and not go there once, but let that joker go on vacation and they will play it every night.

At the park entrance we take pictures and discuss the options.  We passed a KOA on the way in and we decide to return to it to spend the night when we leave the park. 





















 
                                          West Entrance, Glacier National Park

It cost me 5 bucks to enter the park.  Brother Dennis gets in free with the "golden agers passport", I kid him about. We also get discounted camping fees at National Park campgrounds with it.  Along with AARP discounts at the Motel 6.  He is handy to have around.

Rising Sun Road. A great ride, what we saw of it.  We followed it pass Lake Mcdonald into the mountains.  I can see the snow capped peaks, but I can't reach them.  We reach the barricades way too quick.  I am big time disappointed, but will have to get over it.  Oh well, just means I have a excuse for another trip to Montana.

Dejected, we turn around and head back west.

Our fuel lights begin to flicker and we find a Exxon station in Martin to fill up.  We compare intake.  I took 5.5 gallons, and brother Dennis 5.6.  YES we are compatible.   

Loitering around the station, Dennis says-

"lets keep riding south brother, the day is too early to quit"

Even though I was tired and stiff I said "ok"

I recall another rider with a touring site, highly recommending the Polsan KOA, about 70 miles away.

With a course layed in, we ride south on US 93 in the late afternoon, the most dangerous road in America.  I saw more white crosses on this road then I ever have anywhere else.  

The ride into Polson was anti climatic, and fast.  I am tired and stiff and I just want to get there.  The road follows the shores of Flathead Lake, with the mountains in the background.  It reminded of Teton.

We have little trouble finding the KOA at the top of hill just north of the town.  We pull in the office at dusk and pay the extra 3 bucks for a premium site at the tent village.

Brothers, let me tell y'all this KOA is something else.  We have a site with a covered table, a porch light, outlets to charge our phones, private running water, thick grass to put our tents on, and a privacy fence.  The bath house has individual showers and toilets, that are clean and well kept.  To top it off we have a spectacular hillside view of Flathead Lake and the Mountains.  A great place.

As we set our tents up, I hollered over to Dennis-

"damn brother, ya rode the dog mess outta me today"

I walked around in shorts, t shirt, and bare feet, enjoying the thick grass under me.


















                   Looking tired, but happy, we enjoyed this view

 
right outside our tent flaps.

It was a 581 mile day, through some truly awe inspiring scenery.

With camp set up, we rode into town for something to eat.  Even though it was still light, it was almost 10pm, and we had trouble finding a open place.

Pizza Hut was 10 minutes from closing so we went there.  We apologized to the manager who took our order.  She said, "Not a problem."
Her name was Earlene, and she commented on the fact I pronounced it correctly.

"it's a southern name baby"

I discovered a soda out here called "Sierra Mist", a 7 Up like drink bottled by Pepsi, and I really like it.  When it comes to Pizza I am a basic kind of guy, so we order a pepperoni with thin crust.  It hit the spot.  

I knocked my drink over, but Earlene comes to the rescue quickly, before any damage can be done to my sacred Roadcrafter.

After we eat we go by the grocery store for a few items.  We only have a 300 or so mile ride the next day, so we plan on sleeping a little late, and taking our time striking camp.

We make the short ride back to the campground and get ready for bed.  Polson is pretty much shut downs by this time of night.

I take a long hot shower in the luxurious bath house, and then take a seat at our table to enjoy the view.  Bugs must not like the west, I wasn't bitten one time.  I guess it gets too cold for them.

It was a beautiful star filled night, and people wonder why I like to camp.  The wind was blowing just right, and the night was quiet.
I was really bushed, and went to bed about 11:30pm.  I slept with the flaps open to let the cool mountain air in, but mostly so I could wake up and see the mountains to the east.

I was so tired I didn't even listen to my headphones.  I got in my bag, fluffed my pillows and went right to sleep.
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​​Day 7