After the awful slog yesterday, I chose to take the secondary highway (26 to 97) down from Portland to Mt Shasta. So far this is my favorite route through Oregon, despite the state’s love of 55 mph speed limits.
Light traffic, some elevation and scenery changes, nice and cool weather since 90% of it is at higher elevation, and most importantly, NO CRAZY WIND.
So despite spending 6 hours on the road, it was the sort of motorcycle day that makes you think you can ride forever.
Tomorrow morning is another 4K ascent up Mt Shasta, which is significantly steeper and more consistent than Mt Hood & Mt Spokane.
Assuming I feel good after that, I may head straight on home via the interstate (punishingly dull, but at least I’ll be home at the end!)
…back to Idaho.. the weather scene today was just not working out, when I checked the forecast last night it was going to be raining in Park City and 96 in Salmon. At some point you just go for it and plow on through.
I got up early to make sure my tire still had air in it (it did) and yeah, it was raining.. I sorta assumed it would only be raining on the mountain, and then it would dry out… nope.
340 miles of nope.. it rained and rained.. and rained some more. Through Utah and into the Boring Valley Of Doom Idaho (aka Interstate 15) all the way up Highway 20 and across Craters of the Moon and the Nuclear Waste Dump. I was also riding ride along the edge of the storm system, so it was super blustery and windy too, yuck.
Finally once I hit Challis (60 miles from Salmon) things dried out and I got to ride the best part in the dry – this stretch of road is twisty and fun and has great scenery as it meanders along the Salmon river. I almost went and rode it again after unloading my luggage and bicycle, but then the storm caught up and it started dumping here too.. so.. nope.
300 miles of motorcycling today through an area I have never been, so I broke out the trusty AAA paper map and looked for secondary highways marked “scenic.”
Conclusion: There weren’t any. Luckily it wasn’t too terrible – the first hour or so leaving Grand Junction was pretty dull, but then you get some big mountains in the distance. Another hour takes you further into Utah mountains, and the terrain gets more alpine-ish instead of craggy desert plateaus and rock formations.
Past Provo, you pretty much ride straight up the mountainside to get into Park City.
Park City’s weather forecast is looking good, so I am going to hang out a few days and bicycle Empire pass, Guardsman pass, and Big Cottonwood.
I had hoped to take the motorcycle-bicycle rig down into the valley and ride Little Cottonwood, but since I have chosen the logistically worst hotel in the world, I think it’s gonna stay parked:
It’s a condo hotel, so everything is enclosed. I’m on the 2nd floor (3rd from the garage.) The elevator is on the opposite end of both the garage and my room. So the 4 or 5 trips to unload/reload takes a good half an hour and a lot of walking! The final issue: The garage has a maximum height of 6 foot, 10 inches. When I measured my moto-bicycle rig, it was a “comfortable” 7 foot. So I have to dismantle it outside! And there’s no easy street parking, either. So yeah, I don’t think I’m doing any day trips with the motorcycle-bicycle rig while I’m at this hotel.
For the same reason, I’ll be riding up 2K and then down to the valley for the climbs, so that’ll make each day a 6-7K ascent, but I figure after Pike’s Peak, that should be easy!
Starting to trim off climbs that were on my list, Ouray was looking rained out, so I headed to the desert – Mesa, CO.
Since today was forecast to be a hot one, I wanted to make it into town before noon, which meant 300+ miles of all backroads wouldn’t work, but I sure didn’t want to superslab it either. I split the difference – the first half I took Highway 24, which was empty and very few cars and great views of Mount Elbert. It was also really cold! I had to pull over and put on my heated jacket after an hour or two of 42 degrees.
24 joins up with the main east west highway, Highway 70. Unfortunately within 5 miles of the junction, CODOT was out setting up for chip seal work, which resulted in a FORTY FIVE MINUTE delay, luckily it was not hot yet or that would have super sucked.
Once hopping on Highway 70, you drop straight down into the desert, but it’s actually pretty scenic – Glenwood Canyon in particular is a marvel of traffic engineering – it sort of feels like you’re riding through a mini-grand canyon via overpasses, tunnels and bridges.
Once I reached the Grand Mesa Scenic Byway turn-off.. more construction. I hope this doesn’t screw up my bike ride tomorrow.
The weather looks reasonable to climb Grand Mesa, this is the 24th most difficult climb in the US, with roughly 5700 feet of ascent, judging by the views coming into town, it should be pretty epic.
Right after the climb I plan to head to Grand Junction and do the Colorado National Monument loop – not really a climb, but supposed to be amazing scenery.
Left pretty late this morning, since this is only 90 miles away. Manitou Springs sits right at the foot of Pike’s Peak.
First 20 miles or so are all superslab 4 lane freeway with angry cagers, reminding me why I stay away from cities when I’m out on motorcycle trips! After that, it turned into “mountain traffic” which is the Colorado version of California beach traffic, so that was nearly an hour of 20 mph. The urge to lane split was almost impossible to resist, but I refrained. I don’t know how non-lane splitting state residing motorcyclists do it. It was torture seeing all that open space!
So, despite being only 90 miles, it was more unpleasant than a lot of the desert runs.
The weather right now is looking pretty good, so hopefully it holds, because that mountain looks really really tall. Unlike Mount Evans where you can’t really see the peak from the start, Pike’s you can see it right there.
I’ve acquired breakfast and pop tarts, so the plan is to roll out around 6 AM before the tourist traffic really gets going.
Nothing real exciting to report – you can get to Idaho Falls from Estes Park by dropping back into the flat lands and taking the superslab, or you can take some of the back roads.
The weather was pretty much perfect (finally, the first day of good weather!) which was good because it is also the season of road construction, so I sat in several lines of cars waiting for 1 way traffic control.
Amusingly, the entire byway has signs posted every so often that say “MOTORCYCLES USE EXTREME CAUTION”
Even after using extreme caution for 90 miles, I still can’t figure out what the signs are cautioning about. It’s good pavement, well signed, etc. The only thing I can figure is that it is open range and heavily populated by moose and mountain goat?
In any case, the ride was fine and beat the freeway for sure. It was a short leg so as usual, I didn’t take any pictures. Here’s one of the bike in the hotel parking lot.
Tomorrow is Mt Evans, first trip up near 14,000 feet. Weather calls for some sprinkles off and on, but nothing too bad and no crazy wind or major thunderstorms.
500 miles, all motorcycling today, with the added excitement of random thunderstorm warnings.
The mosquitos would just not quit, even at 5:30 in the morning and at the Wyoming gas stations, I hope Colorado mosquitos are not as vicious.
Leaving Greybull is a bunch of secondary highway, which isn’t bad, then you connect through Windriver Canyon, which is very impressive and worth the trip – I was being chased by thunderstorms, so no pictures. The heat was cranking up again too, so unfortunately I could not stop at Thermopolis (“largest hot spring in the world” scrawled on a mountain with a big arrow) – it did look pretty big from the highway!
Unfortunately after that bit of excitement, my GPS beeped and said “Continue 238 miles on Highway 20”
I won’t say it is as bad as the high desert droning, since the scenery does change a bit and there are a few small towns descending into Ghost Town status.. but it was still pretty rough.
After a long, long time, I got into Loveland and it was 96 and humid. Even worse weather than where I was! Ugh.
The road to Estes Park goes through Big Thompson Canyon, which snakes along a river – it would be a very entertaining motorcycle road (ie, roller coaster) but it is also a heavy tourist corridor, so I settled for enjoying the scenery – steep rocky gorges and other interesting formations.
Lots of thunderstorming going on, but at least that is cooling things off.
Tomorrow my first trip above 12,000 feet before tackling Mt Evans & Pike’s Peak (14,000 each)
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.
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.