Thursday, July 8, 2010

Alaska Ride, Day 25

The Beartooth Highway has been written about and talked about amongst motorcycling circles ad nauseum as being one of the "must ride" roads for motorcyclists. Joe, a guy I've been riding with recently, has raved about it as well.

So, I wanted to take the time to ride this road during this Alaska trip. I finally got to do that today.

Paul and I left this morning at 8:00am sharp from Rattin Campground inside the Custer National Forest, right at the very start of the Beartooth Highway.

The highway, officially known as US212, stretches for 68 miles connecting the touristy town of Red Lodge, MT with Yellowstone National Park. It's designated by the US Department of Transportation as "America's Most Beautiful Highway", reaching an elevation of 10,947 feet at the Beartooth Pass.

Northern start of the Beartooth Highway, Montana

And it's one of the most twistiest highways as well, with several switchbacks rated at 15-20mph, but I think that's deceptive. Paul and I were able to lean into them at 30-45mph. The most twistiest parts reminded me of Palomar Mountain in San Diego County, while other parts offered a series of wide sweepers like Sunrise Highway, also in San Diego County. We must have passed by a hundred other motorcycle riders, including cruisers, sportbikes, sport tourers, and dual sports. Much of the road was in good shape, except for about 10 miles at the pass, where it seems that constant rain and snow eats into the asphalt.

The scenery up there, is spectacular for lack of a better word. Hundreds of little pools fed by melting snow, which reflect the blue of the sky. And we were lucky to have that blue sky, for just yesterday I looked up at the Beartooths and saw dark grey clouds. For whatever reason, the motorcycling gods were smiling on us today giving us nice 70 degree temperatures and clear skies.

Scenery along the Beartooth Highway, Wyoming side.

Yellowstone National Park is a place I had never visited, and also wanted to do in this trip, and it just so happens the Beartooth Highway leads you right into the park.

We visited all the biggest attractions, including Old Faithful, and several of the other pools and geysers.

The roads in Yellowstone are actually awesome for motorcycle riding, except there's too much traffic. You just can't open up the throttle and lean into something. Old Faithful itself is such a huge draw at Yellowstone that the road leading into it reminded me of Disneyworld. We saw signs for the clinic, the giftshop, the lodge, and the restaurant, and then finally, signs the geyser itself. The road splits up in to several lanes, and we saw more signs telling us which lane takes us to the hotel, and which one takes us to the restaurant, and which one goes to the parking lot. It's almost like visiting an international airport.

Celestine Pool, Yellowstone National Park

We tried to see as much as we could in Yellowstone, while still keeping to our itinerary for today. We only rode on half the roads in the park. You really do need several days to see all of it. If the traffic wasn't so bad, we probably could have ridden all the roads.

Grand Teton National Park borders Yellowstone National Park, and we took the road that connects the two. It's cool that they didn't charge us to get into both parks. This park is much less touristy and commercial. The entire park is basically built around some awesome views of some awesome mountains.

But I didn't spend a lot of time in the Grand Tetons. I wanted to get to Victor, ID to visit the Grand Teton Brewing Company before it closed up for the night. I actually did not know what time they closed, but figured if I wanted some time to sample a few brews, I needed to get there at least around 6:00pm. I managed to get into town 6:30pm.

The Grand Tetons, Grand Teton National Park

It was at this point, Paul decided to split off on his own.

Paul was concerned about the higher temperatures as we continued to ride further south. He just doesn't like riding in heat. So he wanted to put in more riding time during the evening, while I wanted to hang out and relax. Hence, we bid farewell and each a safe trip home.

I spent the rest of the evening sampling the brews at Grand Teton Brewing, and I got to have a good conversation with the quality control manager there. She was an avid motorcycle rider herself, and recommended some routes for me.

I looked around for a room in town, but I couldn't find anything that struck my fancy. The main thing is that I needed Internet access to do my work, and it seems none of the accommodations offered that. So it made sense to just to wander into the Targhee National Forest and pay the $10.00 for a camp spot. That's where I'm typing this out, with plans to upload it somewhere tomorrow.

Grand Teton Brewing Company, Victor, ID

Beartooth Highway, close to the pass

Grand Prismatic Spring, Yellowstone National Park

Fountain Geyser will actually shower you with cold water

Old Faithful draws a huge crowd, Yellowstone National Park

Highway 191, South, Grand Tetons National Park

Setting up camp inside the Targhee National Forest


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About Steve

A vagabond who hauls a motorcycle around the country in a toy hauler, earning a living as a website developer. Can often be found where there's free Wi-Fi, craft beer, and/or public nudity. (Read more...)