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Posts Tagged ‘Continental Divide’

PORTLAND to BOISE – The outbound ride route was about getting miles under our tires as we looked for the fastest and most direct route (I-84) to Boise, ID.

The day started off with a heavy coastal cloud layer, but the futher we rode through the gorge the sunny weather was clearly present in the distant east.  By mid-morning the clouds burned off and as we rode up the gorge we stopped at a rest area prior to Boardman and met up with another group of riders/friends who were taking the northern route to the rally.

We continued on along a more southern route and headed toward Pendleton and over the Blue Mountains of the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest.  The crest of the range sits at 4193 feet just prior to La Grande and then we dropped down into the southeastern flank of the range and Baker City, home of the Hells Canyon Rally.

We arrived in Idaho, the coast-less, semi-arid, mountainous state to near triple digit temps and stopped at a rest area where the Snake River meandered along the interstate to cool off.  We made our way into the downtown Hampton Inn having to navigate around road blocks for a 3-on-3 basketball street tournament running over the weekend.

As a side-bar, the Hampton Inn experience (price/quality/service) was the best we experienced on the entire trip.  Major shout-out to Phil Cordell (GM) and team!

"The Posse"

We needed something to do and luckily for the group it was Friday night!  We grabbed some “Boise Caviar” (at: Bar Gernika) i.e. some spicy lamb grinder and a drink mixture of cola and red wine.  No thanks, I stuck to a local hops.

Bar Gernika is a dark little corner joint, but a fav for Basque food.  Some in the posse decided to doubled down on the croquetas and ask for extra spice because let’s face it – is there any better drunk food than spicy lamb?!  The joint had a sidewalk patio and was in close proximity to “Alive After Five” and the “cougar” deck at the Reef “Tiki” Restaurant where we finished off the evening.

BOISE to IDAHO FALLS – We departed Boise fairly early and continued our route to the “Craters of the Moon National Monument.”   About an hour outside of Boise we headed east on Hwy 20 and traveled through the semi-arid rolling hills landscape.  About 18 miles from Arco, ID on Hwy 20/26/93 is the National Monument and we pulled into the visitor center to cool off.  Even though we were at 5900 feet, the temperature remained in the 90’s.  The Craters of the Moon is a geologic wonder.  It’s a preserved volcanic landscape with craters, cinder coves, lava tubes and large fields on the Snake River plain.  It’s quite the contrast in colors.

Craters of the Moon

After leaving the monument we continue east toward Arco and rode through part of the nearly 1000 sq mile Idaho National Laboratory (INL) complex located in the high-desert.  For as far as the eye can see (~20 miles) there was nothing but sage brush and then a small industrial complex comes into view. INL manufactures highly radioactive plutonium-238 for classified national security purposes.

According to the reports there have been more than 50 one-of-a-kind nuclear reactors built at the INL facility yet all but three are shut down now.

"Middle Butte"

More important from a tourist viewpoint is that we passed by the now famous EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor) which first produced electricity back in 1951 and was the design test-bed for a nuclear military.  It’s on public display.

We continued heading east on Hwy 20/26/93 and rolled past “Middle Butte” which is this large cinder cone shaped mountain in the high-desert with every conceivable antenna tower on the flat top to broadcast or capture an electronic signal.  Undoubtedly it provides the 4000+ workers at INL cell phone coverage so they can check their email.

Idaho Falls

Evidently AT&T has yet to learn about this mountain as I had no service.

Finally after some road construction delay’s we arrived literally at Idaho Falls and the Best Western hotel.  Dinner was great at the Brownstone Restaurant and by moonlight and a small flashlight we made some late night foot peg adjustments before calling it a day.

IDAHO FALLS to CODY —

Grand Teton National Park

(via southern Yellowstone National Park entrance) – This day took us through northwestern Wyoming, via Jackson Hole and the Grand Teton National Park.  We were most fortunate to have sunny weather to view a spectacular landscape rich with majestic mountains and blue clear lakes.

The jagged Teton Range provides an incredible contrast to the sage-covered valley which Hwy 191 runs through on our way north to Yellowstone.

The Teton's

Yellowstone National Park is always inspiring with waterfalls, Lodgepole pine and the thermal areas. The south road entrance passes the Continental Divide three times and the route passes five geyser basins.  We drove by Lewis Lake and over Craig Pass (8262 ft) and then west to Old Faithful.  It’s the world’s best known geyser and erupts at intervals from 40 to 120 minutes.

We watch it do its thing and back tracked toward the East entrance through Lake Village and the Fishing Bridge where we were rewarded with panorama views of Yellowstone Lake.

Lewis Lake - Yellowstone

The lake is North Americas largest mountain lake at 20 miles long, 14 miles wide and 430 ft deep with average August surface temp of 60 degrees.

We traveled around what seemed like the entire lake then progressed over Sylvan Pass (8530 ft) and finished out the riding day with about 50 miles to Cody, WY.

The last hour of this route took us on the Buffalo Bill Scenic Byway which is a two-lane road in the rugged canyon carved by the North Fork of Shoshone River.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir - Cody, WY

Just prior to arriving in Cody are a couple of interesting tunnels and the Buffalo Bill Reservoir which provides recreational activity for locals as well as some limited hydropower from the dam.

With the sun setting behind us the scene made for some great photo’s.

CODY to STURGIS/LEAD – It was our 4th day of adventure and Cody is a transition point between the forested mountains of northwest Wyoming and the plains of the Bighorn Basin.

At Shell Falls Trail

There is spectacular scenery in all directions from Cody, the Beartooth Mountains to the north, the Absaroka Range to the west and Wapiti Valley to the south.  Our posse headed east on Hwy 20 to Greybull and picked up Hwy 14 which traverses the Bighorn National Forest.

We all have our favorite roads and one that I really like riding is the Bighorn Scenic Byway (US 14) which connects the cities of Greybull and Sheridan and includes 45 miles of scenic mountain driving.

Posse rolling across SD Plains

Within the National Forest area, you’ll encounter grass prairies, evergreen forests, mountain meadows, rugged alpine peaks, dramatic canyons, arid desert lands and cascading waterfalls — all within a couple hours journey.  The Cloud Peak Wilderness area, is quite unique and diverse.  I’d like to spend more time exploring the area rather than quickly rolling through on a motorcycle.

The Deadwood Cabin

We connected onto I-90 and headed east toward Sturgis.  Although the interstate is fast it’s somewhat of a boring ride until you get near Spearfish and the US 85 junction which routes riders south into Deadwood/Lead.  We had a cabin south of Lead, located near Recreational Springs.   Although it was a bit of drive into Sturgis it turned out to be a really sweet setup!

70th Sturgis Rally Travelogue – Part 2 HERE.

Photos taken along the route.

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St. Mary Lake - Glacier

St. Mary Lake - Glacier

If you’ve never driven a motorcycle on the Going-to-the-Sun road it’s clearly one of the top 10 national park experiences you should have.

We rolled out early on the “Sun Road,” as it’s known, and were treated to views that exceeded the Canadian Rockies.  Largely because the cloud coverage made way for some spectacular open air views in the various pull outs.  There is significantly less traffic (shuttle buses and tourists) when traversing the park East to West.   We didn’t have to contend with crowds at any of the prime view pullouts.

H-D on the "Sun Road" - Glacier

H-D on the "Sun Road" - Glacier

From pockets of thick, forest lining the many lakes to Logan Pass to the mountain-goat-crowded alpine high country and then back down to West Glacier on the park’s western border…  the road offers a visual assortment of outdoor views that anyone will enjoy.  The “Sun Road,” which initially was called the “Transmountain Highway,” rolls through the Crown of the Continent and offers up some road entertainment.   It’s narrow, precipitous in places, and in a constant state of repair due to the annual freeze-thaw cycle.

Glacier Mountain Flowers

Glacier Mountain Flowers

It wasn’t always clear that the “Sun Road” would follow its current path. There were debates over the best routing of a cross-park road. Some wanted it to run all the way to Waterton Lakes in British Columbia, and others were arguing for it to go by Gunsight Pass.  In the end the U.S. Bureau of Public Roads (the precursor to today’s Federal Highway Administration) decided the current route made the most sense. Once that decision was made, National Park Service landscape architects worked with Bureau of Public Roads engineers to, as much as possible, blend the road into the mountain environment.  The road is truly an engineering marvel and is a National Historic Landmark.  It spans about 50 miles through the parks interior and winds around mountainsides and cliffs.  Planners insisted that the bridges, retaining walls, and guardrails be made of native materials and to this day that mind-set prevails.

Logan Pass - Glacier National Park

Logan Pass - Glacier National Park

We pulled off at the Logan Pass visitor center.  This area is pinched tightly between Clements Mountain and the southern tip of the Garden Wall, and offers up terrific views that carries the Continental Divide through the park’s interior. Farther north are the bulk of the park’s glaciers and you soon realize that it would take a lifetime to really know everything that the park has to offer.  Many of the park visitors motor up the pass aboard a Red Jammer, one of Glacier’s renowned fire engine-red, open-air touring buses that debuted in 1937.  Supposedly they gained their nickname for the way drivers “jammed” their way through the gears.

The Red Jammer

The Red Jammer

We made our way down to West Glacier where it looks like time has stood still in this remote corner of Montana.  The log buildings haven’t changed much since they were built in 1938.  Any “inappropriate development” has been curtailed and the village has maintain its historic character.  There was a lunch break in Kalispell and we had a great drive along Flathead Lake and rolling farmlands.  The weather was comfortable as scattered clouds floated along the mountain range.  We were making good time for a layover in Missoula.

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

Just after St. Ignatius we connected with Hwy 200 and about 20 miles prior to I-90 we hit major road construction.  It was as if the contractor won every bid to re-surface the road, rebuild water culverts and widen bridges.  It was massive and to be candid riding a weighted down motorcycle on very loose and deep gravel was intense.  The “Motorcycles Use Extreme Caution” was an understatement!

We finally arrived in Missoula and met up with the other half of the posse from when we split paths in Canada.  Dinner and refreshments at MacKenzie River Pizza Company was a great break as we compared riding route and construction stories.

The next morning all I could think of was — No forest fires here!

Road Construction

Road Construction

This is usually the season for hot, dust-dry and smokey air in Western Montana.  Maybe an occasional thunder shower with little rain, but lots of fire-starting lightening.  However, our Missoula departure was met with flash-flood pouring rain.  We’re talking a wet-to-the-bone soaker!  Even with a full-face helmet it was miserable as we experienced 167 miles of heavy rain on I-90.  It didn’t stop until we exited in Coeur D’ Alene and was a half-hour into eating our lunch at a Denny’s!  I experienced for the first time rain gear seepage and damp jeans.  WTF?!  Sure that amount of rain qualifies as a season-ending event to the wildfires, but it was so intense and broad across the state that even I was looking for a culprit… maybe that hydrocarbon use is REALLY to blame for the glacier shortening and sea level rise which in turn effected the rings around the sun and the atmospheric motorcycle riding conditions in Montana?  A quick iPhone WeatherBug scan indicated that Spokane was at the edge of any possible rain and we decided it was time to head as directly as possible to sunnier sky’s.  By the time we hit Ritzville then south on Hwy395 toward the tri-cities it was re-hydration time and the layers started to peel off.  After several more wind surfing riding hours through the gorge we made it home.

Posse Pizza Dinner

Posse Pizza Dinner

A couple of closing thoughts on this great 8-day, ~2000 mile ride. The internet is for sharing.  It’s where we go to reveal our thoughts and describe experiences.  When going on a motorcycle road trip you encounter an array of fascinating landscapes, people and structures.  This trip brought with it some weather challenges for which we were mostly prepared and we adjusted to them.  There was also a lot of terrific riding, fun and now a historical travelogue.  At the end of the day, when you get home, it’s about having a few moments away from the daily routine and being able to share those memories with friends and family.  Thanks to the posse for a great time!

The 107 to 47 Journey — Part One HERE; Part Two HERE; Part Three HERE

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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