Monday, July 7, 2014

Conquering the Big Sky - Part 3

The next morning was cloudy and ominous.  I had gone just a short way before I stopped and put on full rain gear because I could see what I was approaching and it didn’t look good.  I was traveling on Highway 212 which goes into Wyoming and over Beartooth Pass at about 11,000 feet elevation then turns back north into Montana to Cooke City before entering Yellowstone Park.  It was raining, cold, (about five feet of snow on tap) patches of thick fog and at times windy.  This is all on a road with numerous 15 and 20 mph curves.  It could have been fun on a sunny late August day but it certainly wasn’t this day.  I was in pure misery by the time I reached Cooke City.  Nevertheless, I persevered and got the two caches in Cooke City which took care of Park County.  One was a magnetic on the side of a café and the other was at a log cabin behind a store.

Having taken care of business I joined several other bikers sheltered under the overhang of a Super 8 Motel.  After resting and visiting for a while I departed for Yellowstone in fairly heavy rain.  I had my Golden Age pass in my raincoat pocket and the attendant at the entrance was nice enough to dig it out for me so I didn’t have to take off my rain gloves.  The rain tapered off in Yellowstone and soon was gone to my relief.

I had my only really close call in Yellowstone, however.  I suppose I was doing about 50 mph when suddenly a small critter zipped from the right side of the road and went directly under my front wheel.  It was so quick I couldn’t even tell what it was.  It looked most like a small raccoon but it was moving faster than what a racoon usually does.  Whatever it was, it was hard as a rock and knocked my wheel sideways and I almost went down.  There was too much traffic for me to stop and see what it was.  I didn’t want to have to re-pass all the cars I had overtaken.

I did stop at the Tower Falls overlook to use the restroom and take off my rain gear.  I went a ways farther before stopping by a stream for my sardine lunch.  It was a good break.  Very soon after leaving the park at West Yellowstone I stopped for a couple of caches to take care of Gallatin County.  From shortly before leaving Yellowstone to many miles ahead I must have seen at least a hundred bicyclists.  They didn’t seem to be racing and they weren’t loaded like tourists.  I saw only two small groups and the rest were singles or doubles.  I don’t know what was going on with that but as many motorcyclists as I saw on this trip I believe I saw even more bicyclists.

I stopped in Ennis to get two caches for Madison County and to get gas.  It started raining while I was getting gas but fortunately I was under covered gas pumps.  I donned my rain gear again and took off for Dillon.  Of course, having donned my rain gear caused the rain to soon cease.  In Dillon I stayed at the same Motel 6 where I had stayed on a trip a couple of years previously.  I found a cache nearby at a “pickers” place that was really interesting.  I had dinner at a restaurant recommended by the motel attendant that turned out to be excellent.  It was so crowded (a good sign) I ate at the counter.  I had some type of grilled chicken rollup that was really good.  This had been a long day for having covered only 301 miles.

The next morning was cool but sunny.  I gassed up and picked up a really tasty milk type drink at Safeway to wash down my granola bar.  Now the nightmare began.  I was planning to go west to Wisdom which I have done before.  However, I was paying way too much attention to my GPS which led me to a cache about 10 miles in the wrong direction.  On top of that I didn’t find the cache.  There must be something about this area that gives the Garmins fits because I had problems a couple of years ago when I was in this area.  I headed back to Dillon and again the GPS led me to a cache in the wrong direction.  I had probably traveled 25 miles before I figured out something wasn’t right.  I believe it was Highway 91.  I decided to try another road heading west so at least I wouldn’t go any further out of my way.  I had no sooner gotten on this road which was terrible than I was stopped by road construction.  When the pilot car finally got to me I asked the driver about the road and she strongly advised me not to take it.  She said it was terrible and that a motorcyclist had been killed on it last year.  So back I go to Dillon.
This time I finally got it right and went through Jackson and over to Wisdom.  I stopped for gas at Wisdom and watched while a herd of cattle was being driven right down Main Street.  I’m embarrassed to say this but I again took the wrong direction.  I went only a short ways this time before realizing my mistake.  I finally was on Highway 43 heading west toward Lost Trail Pass and Highway 93.  I didn’t actually get into rain but it had been raining and the road was wet at the pass so I had to take it easy and miss the opportunity for a fun ride down.  I stopped at a Rest Area near the bottom, took off my rain gear and had a little break.  I got a couple more caches before stopping at Lolo for gas.  The weather was threatening but no rain yet.  At Lolo a big wind came up and I could see huge black clouds to the west.  It was enough to make me don my rain gear again.
Unbelievably, although the road was wet I didn’t actually get into much rain.  After the day I was having I didn’t even stop for a cache.  I stopped again in Kamiah for gas and got home around 4:30 p.m. after a 500 mile day.  It was a fun trip but I will have to say not nearly so much as many of my others.  I think it was because of the weather and I had too many miles for the number of caches.  It’s nice if I can stop for a cache on average every 50 miles or so.  So what’s next on the agenda?  My son, Yancey, did Wyoming and Utah with me and as he lives in the Denver area I believe I’ll try to finish Colorado and do Arizona (only 13 counties).  California still waits some time in the future when I can summon the courage.  M/W 

Pictures 1-Pickers place in Dillon; 2-Cattle herd in Wisdom; 3-GPS showing total mileage of 2,158; 3-My motorcycle really looked dirtier than the picture shows.


Richard said...


Kathy said...

This is "motocaching," collecting geocaches by means of a motorcycle. I call it self-imposed agony. We have a car. And I'm even a willing companion. I'm just not willing to ride a motorcycle.

M/W said...

Well, Richard, for a kid raised in Moss Point and spending most of his adult life in sparsely populated Idaho, the prospect of tackling a 14 lane freeway on a 400 pound motorcycle is a little daunting. I can just see it now - "*%#@, I didn't want to go to San Diego yet".

Richard said...

As one of the great philosophers of the South once said, "Stu**d is as stu**d does". Another said, "You can't fix stu**d!" No one ever said that you can't fix courage.
But you always were a risk taker!