Day 4: Yellowstone

Another scorcher on deck.. 102+ forecast, time to get out of town. My destination being Redlodge Montana, pretty much the only place under 90 degrees in a 500 mile radius.

My route called for going through Yellowstone, since I had never been.. but to get to Red Lodge, you must go over Bear Tooth Pass (11,000 feet) – the weather, to say the least, can be “uncertain.”

Checking the night before, called for rain, lightning, and gusty 40 mph wind, so Plan B was more likely:  Droning to Bozeman and going in the back way.  500 miles of mostly boring highway.

Woke up at 4 AM and checked the forecast.. now calling for only 20% chance and no thunderstorms.

Decided to get to the Yellowstone turn off and decide then.

Fueled up on waffles and a biscuit (Super8 – breakfast at 4 AM!) and headed out.

Do you want to hear more about how boring southern Idaho freeways are? I can see why everyone rides Harleys. At least on pavement, there is really no reason to have a motorcycle.

Fuel stop!

Ethanol free gasoline! Donut! Payday bar!

US 20 coming right into Yellowstone city was, of course, under construction, so the last 10 miles took 45 minutes.

I checked the weather forecast and it got a bit worse.. now calling for thunderstorms by 2 PM, along with the gusty wind.

However after hours of soul killing freeway, I was feeling optimistic.

I headed into Yellowstone and it was… pretty nice.

Mostly the roads wind through “tree tunnels” – you can’t really see much, and the obvious tourist pull outs are SWAMPED. In those areas you gotta be in full fighter pilot mode to not be murdered.

Getting through the park was slow going, lots of tourists being tourists, and lots of flat landers not knowing how to accelerate when they encounter a hill.

It got extra slow when a couple of lazy buffalo decided to walk on the road instead of in a pasture some where. Everybody was just stopped.. waiting for buffalo to walk by their cars.

Or in my case, waiting to goose the throttle if they decided they didn’t like me, which is why there is no picture of the buffalo (the craziest stuff never gets a picture.)

After several hours of battling the tourists, I reached the turn off that takes you up to the pass, met some locals and asked about the weather.  Conclusion:  could be anything, but thunderstorms are pretty much an every day thing this time of year.

I shrugged and headed off through the valley floor – which had hundreds of buffalo, but thankfully, far away from the road.

Once the road started turning up, things cooled down, which was nice. But then I noticed some rather ominous clouds up above, which was not.

Things continued to degrade.  Above 9000 feet, you’re basically riding a ribbon of asphalt up the mountain, with many many 20 mph switchbacks. Now add gusty wind coming at random angles, and no shoulder, and tourists going over the double yellow line.

For an hour or two. It was exhausting and precarious. Toward the top, the wind gusts were pretty bad, to the point I was getting angry with the slow tourists since spinning wheels help keep your motorcycle up.  5 mph means “blown over” – which sounded distinctly unfun.

The scenery, however, was epic. Alaska-scale epic. You’ll just have to Google Image search “Bear Tooth Pass” because I was too busy trying not to crash, die, or get struck by lightning (did I mention my bicycle sticks 7 feet up in the air?) to take any pictures.

RIGHT after I started the descent, a flash of lightning went off behind me, so yeah, no pictures.

Instead, here’s a picture of a golden retriever in a wagon I met at the gas station. He had 3 legs, so when he gets tired, they carry him in a wagon.

5 thoughts on “Day 4: Yellowstone”

  1. You’re in my homeland! If you want some local connections/recommendations let Andy know-we can hook you up.

    Red Lodge is a great jumping-off point for all kinds of adventures. Some of my favorite hiking and camping is there. Just watch out for bears after you’re done dodging lightning.

    If you’re lucky, you can experience a bit of “home” as the aftershocks of last night’s 5.8 quake in central MT roll through. 😉

    Happy trails!


    1. Thanks Heather (and Andy!) – looks like there’s lots of great outdoors activities in the area, probably worth its own separate trip! The scenery is certainly spectacular.


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