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Part 1 - Westward Bound - Summer 2012 (GoldWing - Road Trip)

Trip Background - Heading back out to the Western parts of the U. S. again this year. This is becoming a yearly ritual for me now that I’m retired. Will probably cover about 7,000+ miles and approximately 15 states. Try as I might I can not convince my wife, Yong, to come along on this long road trip with me. However, she is graciously allowing me some freedom to roam by myself for this month on the Wing. Since she is not coming I will use the rear seat of my 2004 Goldwing to house my camping gear that I will be bringing in hopes of deferring some motel cost as they add up pretty quick. No real plans other than to seek out the road less travelled, meet up with some old friends and hopefully make a few new ones and spend some time with family along the way … all the while enjoying the open road.

Reactivated my SPOT tracking device for another year so if you want to see where I’m currently at or the route I’ve taken check out my spotwalla link below

Pictures and daily ride updates (provided I have internet connection) will be posted on this page.

**** One interesting note about this particular road trip is somewhere along the way the odometer on my 2004 Goldwing (now sits at 247,245 miles) will cross the 1/4 of a million mile mark. That’s right 250,000 miles I will have put on this bike since I picked it up brand new at the dealers 8 years ago in March 2004. Did a lot of maintenance on the bike before I left and am hoping I have no serious break downs. This should be fun :-) ****

Let’s get started …

Saturday - July 21’ 2012

You would think departing solo for a motorcycle road trip of this duration and length would be pretty daunting. You would be right. It’s amazing how many different scenarios or outcomes your brain can project in the last few days and hours prior to rolling that can make you anxious and just a little nervous … ok a lot nervous. What if this happens … What if that happens … What will I do if …. I’ve learned over the years it just goes with the territory. I’d be more concerned if I wasn’t worried and anxious. With a bundle of nerves rumbling around inside me I mounted up and handed the camera phone to Yong to take this departing shot of the brave explorer and his trusted Wing sidekick before they rolled into history.

There’s only one cure that I’ve found that works to steady my nerves and that’s the feeling of the Wing underneath me, the open road ahead and my favorite cruising tune blasting out of the speakers. For me this was Bob Seger’s song “Roll Me Away”. As I wound my way up the Trace north between the Land Between The Lakes Bob was pounding out in song the essence of what it means to enjoy freedom on two wheels. I tell ya if that song doesn’t send goose bomb down your soul nothing will. Before I know it all my cares and worries are gone and I’m once again in my comfort zone … and as Bob says … I was rolling the power on.

Today would be a fairly easy riding day … only about 500 or so miles up to Kansas City area in about 8 - 10 hours. As I rolled out around 6:30 a.m. all was quite and not much was stirring. However, that was going to change pretty quick. Within less that 1/2 mile of my house a rather large deer bolts across the road ahead of me. Fortunately, he was just far enough ahead of me as to not cause a panic brake but simply to serve as a very real reminder to stay alert and focused. For that I was thankful as I always try and remind my self before each ride regardless of length that it could be my last. Take nothing for granted.

The freeway made quick work of the first couple hundred miles and then I’d had enough. Time to find a road just a little less traveled. Highway 94 runs east to west from the St. Louis area to Jefferson City just south of and parallel with I70. It follows along the Missouri River the way Lewis and Clark expedition did years before. I had taken this route years ago when I lived in Missouri and since I had the time today it would provide a nice alternative route into the KC area. Unfortunately, the road was being prepped to be paved and had gravel and fresh oil in places along the route so it wasn’t quite as enjoyable as I had hope. Once they get that repaved it’s an awesome road that runs right along the Katie Trail and through many wineries and fertile farm lands. Once I hit Jefferson City it was time for a quick bite and a quick jaunt down highway 50 right out to my bud Robert’s house near Lone Jack which is were I’m resting tonight.

Beer’s tonight with friends and then some Bar-B-Que grilling tomorrow as I relax prior to the next leg of the journey which will take me up to the Rapid City, South Dakota on Monday.

Monday - July 23’ 2012

Well … after taking a beer nap late Sunday afternoon :-) and checking the predicted weather forecast for my planned route up to Rapid City, South Dakota it was clear it was going to be a scorcher of a day. Predicted temps were up over a 100 degrees. With 725 miles of Interstate and approximately 12 hours of riding ahead of me for this next leg of the journey I was trying to formulate a plan for trying to avoid the heat. Having just slept some and the sun setting I was toying with the idea of making this run over the night time hours. However, with a few exceptions I for one do not like riding at night. There are just too many things along the road (even the interstates) that go bump in the night. I thought better of the idea and instead forced my self to sleep more and rolled out of KC at about 5:00 a.m this day ready to face the enemy --> HEAT EXHAUSTION

The best way to fight hight temps and blistering sun during a ride like this is to stay hydrated and that means drinking lots and lots of water even when you don’t want to drink any more. Sun tan lotion on face and exposed parts of the body and off I went. The first few hours were very comfortable … almost cool in a weird sort of way. I told myself to enjoy the little cool of the morning because I was sure by afternoon on that last 300 miles or so stretch into Rapid City would be tough. By the 9 o’clock hour the temps had already climbed past the 90 degree mark and I was starting to bake. No problem, I just had to stop more and take more frequent breaks. I normally take a 20 minute break for every 2 hours of riding I do. This usually translates into when the gas gauge gets near the empty mark but this day called for stopping just about every half tank.

The Wing was running great. I enjoyed so much just looking down at the temp gauge and seeing it just sit there just below the 1/2 mark like a decal. My thoughts escaped to the horrible coolant and water pump issues I had late last year with the bike. Even though the temps soared the gauge never budged although the fans were coming on occasionally as I slowed down at stops. As I rounded Sioux Falls, South Dakota and turned my eyes west for the last 380 miles of I 90 nothingness I passed the time counting the number of billboards for “The Wall Drug Store”. That will keep you busy … there are ton of them. There wasn’t much else to see on this stretch other than the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota and the 1880sTown if you’re in to those things.
Boring …. but the good roads laid ahead in Wyoming and Montana.

As it turned out there were just enough clouds in Southern South Dakota this day to knock a few degrees off of the temps and provided a short respite from the heat. I successfully made it to my daughter’s house just outside Rapid City, South Dakota by 5:00 p.m.

One thing is for sure …. Nothing can rejuvenate you better after a long ride like this than to see my 2 year old Grandson, Travis, smiling ear to ear as he sees Grandpa pull into the drive way … PRICELESS!

Will visit family and rest here before continuing west on Wednesday. There is great riding right here in the Black Hills of South Dakota but I’ve already covered most of those roads here on previous road trips so my eyes were set on finding virgin roads west of here. I’d like to get up towards Red Lodge, Montana by Wednesday night and spend two nights there so I have a full day to explore Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Beartooth Pass before heading north to Glacier National Park and the Road To The Sun …. getting exciting now. I’ve ridden the Road To The Sun before a few years back and in my opinion it is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. Really looking forward to seeing it again. July is about the only month of the year this road is usually open.

Wednesday - July 25’ 2012

One of sweetest feeling you can have when you’re riding solo on the open road is the simple pleasure of changing your mind just about any time you want. Having no one else to consult with I made the command decision not to jump up to Red Lodge, Montana after all but instead get situated just south of the Chief Joseph and Beartooth Pass highways and for that location I selected Cody, Wyoming to head towards as I rolled out of South Dakota around 7:30 a.m. this day.

I skirted up I90 pass Sturgis and Spearfish and exited the freeway North and got up on highway 34 and did a run out towards Wyoming and Devil’s Tower.
I’ve been here before and each time it gives me the chills. In fact, I checked my SPOT Tracker while I was sitting there only to find out that my batteries had gone dead. Must have something to do with the mysterious forces at work here at Devil’s Tower. Hummm … doubt it. They were due to expire and I had brought a new set for such an occurrence.

Since I’ve made the route west along the I90 interstate before I decided that once I left Devil’s Tower I’d head back to Hulett and grab highway 112 north that would take me over the pass and hook up with Montana 212 West. That would go through Custer’s National Forrest and eventually come out on I90 again at Custer’s Last Stand Memorial. The road over the pass was a good one ...
However once on 212 the road turned out to be not so great after all with a lot of construction. Some of the road over one of the passes was all gravel for 10 miles. I probably could have just stayed on I90 but you have to give new roads a try when you see them.

After lunch I was looking forward to the afternoon riding because the rest of today’s ride would take me south along and then over the BigHorn Mountains in the Big Horn National Forrest. It was refreshing to see the temps only into the 80’s today with the higher elevations in play. Heck at one point today I caught a brief shower in those mountains and the temps dropped about 25 degrees from 84 to 59 degrees. Here are some shots as I went through those mountains up to around 8,200 feet in elevation.
My first time along this particular route …. very nice.

Had a little surprise today by a dumb dumb cage driver but I’m always on the look out for idiots and this one certainly qualifies. I was hitting the on ramp to get back on I90 south from 212 and as I was turning on to the on ramp I see a car coming straight towards me going the wrong way exiting off the freeway. UNBELIEVABLE - Evidently he wanted that turn and missed it so he figured he’d just drive up the on ramp of cars getting on to the freeway to exit. I did a quick double take to make sure I was right and I was and then gave him a less than friendly wave and he just continued on oblivious to everything else. Nothing surprises on on the road any more these days.

I made it over to Cody, Wyoming eventually and am resting here tonight. Another Goldwing buddy of mine from Arizona (Jim and his wife Candi) are on a road trip also and they left yesterday from Arizona heading north to Glacier National Park and Canada. We have plans to hook up on Friday around mid day at the summit on the “Road To The Sun” that cuts through Glacier National Park. For that reason I will hit both the Chief Joseph and Beartooth Pass highways in the morning and then depart the area to get up to St. Mary’s, Montana by tomorrow night for our meet up on Friday.

Also at the end of today’s ride an issue popped up with the bike. Nothing serious but more plastic that just keeps breaking. The latch on my rear trunk has cracked off and now the idiot light telling me the rear trunk is open is flashing constantly. I picked up some super glue in hopes of gluing the cracked plastic back together tonight but I’m not sure it’s going to work. The lid stays shut but it can’t latch. I may just have to live with it that way for the rest of this trip. When that plastic cracks there’s not much you can do.

Thursday - July 26’ 2012

Lot of ground to cover today to get all the way up to St. Mary, Montana but Chief Joseph and Beartooth Pass highways were up first to be conquered. I figured to spend most if not all of the morning hours winding through those two alone and then make a beeline for St. Mary, Montana and Glacier National Park. The weather for this road trip so far has been great and this continued this day as …
I entered on to the Chief Joseph Highway. Beware the tar snakes on this road.

The morning ride up to Red Lodge peaking out well over 10,000 feet was so beautiful today it made me want to stop every 5 minutes and take a picture. It’s always so hard to explain just how great it feels to be out here and see all this beauty first hand. Words and pictures can only go so far. I sure hope everyone can get up here and check this place out … here’s what you’re missing ...
Open range and there was a cow in the middle of the road around one of these turns.
Neat tribute to those that were here first. Sculpture fits right into the landscape
America’s Highway? …. Yeah … I think so! … Simply to awesome for words. Can you see the highway way down there?
Some mighty fine riding and I was right by the time I got to Red Lodge it was already noon and I had a long way to go still. I don’t normally do this but I called ahead to St. Mary’s Red Eagle Motel and made a reservation … one of the last ones for the night. My wife and I had stayed there on a previous trip and I wanted to make sure I had a bed waiting for me as I wouldn’t roll in to St. Mary until around 8:00 p.m. …. but roll in I did after some harrowing experiences with construction delays and routes blocked and just a little rain in the area to make it interesting ….
Most of this missed me …. this time :-)

When I finally got up and on to highway 89 that went north into St. Mary, Montana the scenery was already starting to get really good … Again :-)
Sunset picture taken from the Red Eagle Motel in St. Mary, Montana

I was disappointed that I had no internet connection or phone service up here but it is pretty remote. Seems Verizons is the only cell service that works up here (I have AT&T) at this remote location. Now that I’m at the foot of the “Road To The Sun” highway I’m ready to head up tomorrow and see if I can hook up with my Arizona friends coming up the other side.

Friday - July 27’ 2012

Up early and grabbed some breakfast at the cafe next to the motel and then took this shot
I’m loving this picture with the flag on the side. This is looking back east from the Red Eagle Motel.

After turning in my room key I was off but not up the Road To The Sun highway not just yet. There was a neat spot up the road a ways my wife and I found (by accident) the last time we were up here that’s worth checking out if you get all the way up here. It’s called “Many Glacier”. From St. Mary head up Highway 89 for about 9 miles to a little town called “Babb” and just before entering the town there will be a road to your left called “Many Glacier Road”. There is a sign for it also. Take a ride back there and this is what you’ll see …
Drop dead gorgeous … The road is paved but bumpy in spots … just take her slow … well worth it.

Now with that out of the way and all my senses on overdrive I was ready for the accent up The Road To The Sun and to Logan Pass which was where I was hoping to meet up with my friends from Arizona who were riding up the other side of the mountain.

Got some great pictures on the way up the Road To The Sun on the East Side…
While waiting at the Logan visitors center I met a group of guys and gals from Europe and in particular I ended up chatting with a gentleman from Switzerland. I tell ya … it’s not every day you meet someone from Switzerland. We struck up a conversation and I found out the entire group had shipped their bikes into Fairbanks Alaska and road all the way down to the states and were on their way to Utah. His name was Claude and he said the travel all around the world to different locations for motorcycle trips like this one. Man … that must take some cash … but very cool …. Guess with my budget I’m stuck roaming around the U.S. :-)
Picture of Claude Frossard from Switzerland at the Logan’s Pass Visitor’s center.
I was the official picture taker at this location for about an hour while waiting for Jim and Candi to get there.

By 11 a.m. Jim and Candi had not arrived so I started down the western side keeping a sharp eye out for them on the way up. There’s construction and delays of about 30 minutes on this side of the mountain and it’s a muddy mess but guess this is the only time of the year they can work on the roads. As I continued down our paths finally crossed and we stopped and chatted for a while. Jim and Candi headed on up and made the loop coming back around on Highway 2. I continued on down and met them on the other side along Highway 2 and we headed to a place called the Huckleberry Patch to get something to eat. Don’t ask we where it was …not sure Candi had picked it out when Jim and her were on there way in. Here’s a shot of Jim and Candi after we had an early dinner and were about to part ways. They were heading up to Canada for a few days and I’m continuing on West. We may get a chance to hook up again in a few days.
Good to see you guys … let’s try to meet again in Washington state in a few days

Here are some more pics on the west side of the Road To The Sun
What can you say … is that awesome or what
And a river flowed through it …..
Lake McDonald on the Western side of Glacier National Park

Resting tonight in Kalispell Montana …… ready to continue rolling west tomorrow.

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