Posted by: mckenzie68 | September 8, 2011

Day 20 – WPFG Adventure – Billings via Yellowstone!

Well Mr Murphy has tried to keep me exhausted, and last night was no different, he managed to kill the air conditioning to my room, and I was not able to sleep.  I did rest, but the sleep I needed was not coming, so I did what any good adventurer would do, I got up!  I was packed and on the road before 5:00am, and the rain from the night before had not went away.

I left Vernal, UT northbound on Hwy 191 which climbed over a mountain range and of course through rain soaked roads.  With all the curves, animals and wet pavement, I decided that I would not push my luck, and traveled at an ultra conservative pace, maybe 40-45 mph!  There is a special feeling riding in the dark, a heightened sense of your surroundings, the coolness of night, the adrenalin from the unknown in front of you, life at it’s fullest.  I stopped a few times, shut off the bike just to take in the silence, high in the clouds.  I was able to do this strictly because there was so little traffic, and I took a picture of the morning mountain mist ahead of me, and although the shot is not perfect it certainly echos the silence of the moment.

I thoroughly enjoyed the solitude, and the road, both inspiring me for what I knew was going to be a marathon ride north to Billings through Yellowstone National Park.

My path along Hwy 191 took me by the Flaming Gorge reservoir and dam, which was stunning in the dawn light, despite the cloud cover.   The exhustion I felt melted away, and as I took pictures in the tranquility of the moment, I knew this was going to be an awesome day regardless of what Mr Murphy tired to throw my way!

The road climbed, wound its way north eventually rising to the Great Divide Plain, a vast grassland area around 8,000 feet up!  I was riding with the clouds, in the clouds and over the clouds!   The area was impressive in the vastness of the plains, and the fact that it was so remote, there was no quick response to anything that happens out there.  There was a chill in the air at that altitude though and that helped keep me aware of my surroundings.  There was no shortage of deer and antelope everywhere along the route, some right beside the road, reminded me of my encounter with a deer in the fall of 2009…

I began to see higher levels of traffic the closer |I got to Jackson Hole, and the Grand Tetons National Park.  Traffic from that point forward was downright dangerous, and was more like riding in New York City, than a National Park!  As I traveled through Yellowstone there were Buffalo jams, Antelope Jams, Deer Jams, Geyser Jams, waterfall jams, and I had reached the point that riding at 20-30 mph with people doing downright dangerous stuff right in front of me had got OLD…really OLD!  ie…”OMG Martha there is a Buffalo, lets stop in the middle of the road, jump out with our door still open in the middle of still moving traffic and then RUN in front of the now hard breaking motorcycle to get that stunning picture”.  Yup, I was so impressed with traffic that I bypassed Old Faithful, geez, and I thought traffic would have been better after school had started!

I made my way northeast towards Hwy 212 and was rewarded with far less traffic and corner after corner…motorcycle heaven!  I never thought I would say it, but I was happy to leave the throngs of tourists behind to enjoy Yellowstone…it was that bad.

The positive side was the ride on Hwy 212, OMG…again OMG what a road!  I had forgot how nice it was and especially Beartooth Pass which was almost 11,000 feet up!  Sure there was a stretch of construction, but chit chatted with fellow motorists, and allowed myself to absorb the beauty of the area while waiting for the pilot vehicle to take us all through the rough construction zone.  The road was amazing and I stopped frequently to take pictures, and just to enjoy the moment…along with several car loads of people who were mirroring my advance north.  Even the thunderstorm (it rained a little but missed us) could not put a damper on our drive!

I rode switchback after switchback to the summit of Beartooth Pass and paused to wave at the other drivers who were going by…the sun at that moment began to peak through the clouds, beams of light reaching out in an array to the valley below, a stunning view, leaving me humble…

I began my decent along roads which had a significant drop of thousands of feet if you make a mistake, so I was cautious, yet I enjoyed the thrill of riding the road, not fast but perfectly…paying attention to the exact line I was taking through a corner.  It was pure bliss!  =D

This portion of the ride more than made up for the disappointment that Yellowstone had been, and I could not have asked for a better way to end the days ride.  Although I was physically and mentally exhausted I reached the hotel (I had booked it the night before) with a HUGE smile on my face.  What an incredible day, long, challenging, but absolutely an adventure….

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