In our first post we talked about planning the Motorcycle Yellowstone trip; and then in the second, we covered getting here. Now, let’s dive into how we saw the park with only a week to cram everything in.
Waking up in Jackson Hole to some of the blackest rain clouds you can imagine was crushing to the soul. The forecast offered no relief and could have destroyed our attitudes, this trip may turn out to be a bust. Riding a motorcycle, being somewhat dependent on the weather is just part of the adventure…..not the good part. However, we go into these trips with eyes wide open. You hope for the best, and you take what you get
We have excellent rain gear and good tires: riding in the rain is not impossible, but seeing the park under heavy cloud cover is far from ideal. I decided after a micro-examination of the weather maps with eternal optimism, it was worth a try at skirting the storm for a run to Artist’s Point.
Karla started singing the Billy Joel song, “You May be Right.”
Even rode my motorcycle in the rain
And you told me not to drive
But I made it home alive
So you said that only proves that I’m insane
You may be right
I may be crazy
But it just may be a lunatic you’re looking for…
She chose to stay in the hotel, saying the hot tub was the sane choice.
As I passed the Grand Tetons, the worst of the storm looked to be staying over the mountains, slightly to the west. Every time I took a curve to the left I looked doomed, but a right turn was toward the clear sky……
At exactly 80 miles I came to a, “Continental Divide” sign and stopped to get a photo of me and the bike. No sooner than I had set up the tripod that I heard the first thunder clap. Within seconds, the hail started pelting me.
My plan was defeated and I accepted what I had feared for the last 30 miles, this was going to be one hell of a storm. I’m wearing a pretty heavy Kevlar jacket but the hail felt like someone was throwing rocks at me. I promised myself to not tell Karla of the magnitude, less she start singing that darn song again. She particularly likes the line, “That just proves you’re insane.”
From all my years of outdoor experience, I know fairly well how weather works. Yes, the storm had closed in behind me and for the next 80 miles it was only going to get worse. However, I am also well practiced at ignoring facts when necessary!
My apologies to the ranger who was waving for me to stop and show my pass. Leaving Yellowstone into Grand Tetons. I only saw him in my mirror.
At 8000′ the rain is far from tropical, it was cold. The triple flap seal of my Motoport zip-in Gortex is impenetrable to any amount of blowing rain, so I would be dry. I did find myself wishing for my Warm & Safe heated glove liners. They were, “Warm & Safe”….back at the hotel.
Seeing Yellowstone is important, but riding Beartooth Hwy is essential!. The forecast Saturday is calling for 5″ of SNOW on Thursday…..great. But, Jackson WY., is not a bad place to kill some time. When you can’t ride, you can always eat.
Lotus was our first of many wonderful eating experiences in Jackson. We went for an early dinner and the crowds had yet to appear, but by the end of our meal the places was packed. Nate was the bartender, and since the rest of the evening staff hadn’t arrived, he was our server. Nate was friendly, but had the, “I’m not a server” attitude. I had the, “I’m not a tipper” attitude…..there you go Nate ?
The food was totally awesome and I softened….You’re lucky this time Nate. We would go back without hesitation. Vegan is required, organic is a plus and excellent is final answer.
Lotus Organic Restaurant is a score
Since we’re on food, let’s go through a couple more of our Jackson Hole favorites. There are some Fine Dining establishments…..some really high priced menus too. Being vegan is not only healthy, but it’s cheap as well. You really can’t charge what you might for a steak……for tofu & vegetables….so we eat in style but for less.
Teton Tiger was another favorite. Having recently changed; not owners but cuisine it was a little confusing. Now a Indian/Asian fusion, it turned out really well.
The tables are close together, so if you’re uncomfortable eating around others, it may not be the place. We’re pretty social, especially on vacation (Karla would add, “to strangers”) so it fit us just right. The service was great and the food was excellent.
Jackson Hole Playhouse Jackson Hole Playhouse has been offering Broadway quality shows since 1978 with various iterations going back to 1948. The actors are the same you see in the daily Jackson, Shoot out in the town square everyday except Sunday.
We choose the dinner/Theater option with actors as servers delivering food and song. The dinner was very good, and the show was, in our opinion a must see while in Jackson.
Reservations required. Actors are recruited mainly from NYC & Los Angeles, but there are a few locals as well. This year they are performing, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”
To say the weather is fickle would be a gross understatement. Just because they say, it was 80 degrees last week, does not mean it won’t snow this week. But we got sunshine and it was time to ride. We left early enough to beat the crowds, although it’s still 100 miles to the heart of Yellowstone. From our planning we knew the, “can’t miss” attractions, and we first went straight to Artist Point to view the South falls of the Yellowstone.
We (Karla) really wanted to hike to, “Uncle Tom’s Trail” but it was closed for renovation. We knew that ahead of time, and that meant we would not be able to walk the 600 step stairway down (and back up.) Darn the luck! That also meant the large parking area that would absorb many autos was also closed and they would pass by to Artist Point. This is a one-way in, one-way out road, so even early the traffic was heavy. Cars were backed up about a mile and you could tell people had been waiting awhile, as many were attempting U-turns as they gave up
I had spied the lot from Google Earth and knew where a pirate motorcycle might find safe harbor………The lot is fairly small, holding maybe 100 cars.
The back up on the road was caused by people who were waiting for a spot to open up. As one car left, the next guy in line would accelerate around the loop to grab the spot. We pulled around everyone and slid up next to the curb where only a motorcycle would find appealing.
The first car in line was from Tennessee. Nothing particularly interesting in that, but he was stubborn as a mule….not going to move until a place opened up….
We parked, stripped off our riding gear and walked the path to the view point for some photos. We stayed for an hour and upon returning to the bike, guess who was 1st in line…….Hey Tennessee! We u-turned around in front of him and waived as we sped away.
You could easily spend a couple of days on the Grand Loop Rd., depending on how many places you stop and if you’re hiking any trails.
Most of the major attractions are accessed from here, but there are great side trips as well. It covers 140 miles, but the speed limit is 45 mph and many times in traffic you will be going slower.
There is almost always some portion that is under reconstruction, flaggers, pilot lines and maybe miles of dirt. It’s recommended you consult the Yellowstone website for current road conditions, before you go.
We made a few trips to different parts of the loop on separate days. Your goals and planning will dictate the direction you travel and which entrances/exits to use.
Here are the places where you can get food, gas & a T-shirt!
The food, including vegan was surprisingly good. Our previous experience in National Park cafeterias has not been this way. There were two large buffet areas with different choices.
Two vendors operate food service in Yellowstone; Xanterra & Delaware North… both are well known in National Parks. We ate at both, and in this park there was quality food throughout.
When you get to Grand Prismatic Spring, if there are lots of cars parking on the road…..park there and walk in. If you get in line for the parking lot, you may be in a jam for an hour or more.
The walk is only about an extra 100 yards or so, and it’s easy. We sort of, “found” a place that no one was using. No matter what, you need to see the springs, absolutely beautiful!
We did ride the entire Grand Loop Rd. more than once and some of this may be out of order. There are just so many places you could stop, it’s impossible to see it all. Our plan was to hit the highlights, the things we didn’t want to miss.
The Mammoth area has a hotel, gas, food….everything you need. It’s a very nice area, but we were most interested in the herd of Elk that hang out.
This was at Mammoth. The park is so huge, you need a map & GPS…..OK, I was lost.
Everyone stops for everything. Bears are number 1. People bail out with there cameras. Or, if they are too close they stay in the car. On a motorcycle, it can be a problem. Bison too, but a pissed off, sow bear is nothing to mess with….on a motorcycle.
We had never booked a room in a National Park Lodge. We decided it was time to have that experience. Since Yellowstone is so big and you’re driving so far everyday to get there, this was a good choice. Expensive and hard to get. You need to book a full year in advance. It was worth it for the experience. Too expensive, in my opinion.
You have to visit Old Faithful, right?…..it was about #10 on greatest attractions in our book, meh
The valley is rolling hills and a pretty flat wide open road. Expect traffic and jams as people stop in the road to get photos. There are many areas to pull out, but people stop anywhere. We were too late at 8:30 to hope to spot a grizzly, or hear the wolves howling. Young Bison calves were playing with each other, not far from mom.
You are now traveling the Northeast Entrance Rd., and in about 100 miles you’ll reach Red Lodge MT.
Chief Joseph Hwy from Beartooth Pass to Cody WY is a great ride. Not as twisty as the pass, but beautiful scenery. The Chief Joseph Scenic Byway is named after the Native American chief of the Nez Perce Tribe. Following the Battle of the Big Hole in Idaho in 1877, Chief Joseph fled east through Yellowstone. He and 1,000 members of his tribe ran from the US Cavalry, who were trying to force the tribe onto a reservation so that white ranchers could have their lands.
Cody was our turn around point, after this we would be headed toward home. We didn’t make it to the biggest attraction in town, The Buffalo Bill Center of the West. You may know it by it’s former name, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center. It is a complex of five museums and a research library featuring art and artifacts of the American West. There’s always something for next time.
Yellowstone National Park was a lifelong dream of mine. Overall, my impression was very good and I’m happy to say I’ve been.
We saw, Black bears, Bison, Elk, Coyotes, Mountain Goats and a lot of other animals. I probably won’t go back, at least not for along while.
It is beautiful and has geologic features you won’t find anywhere else. But, the visitor count is high and they can act like total fools.
Since this trip we have visited, North Cascades and Mt. Rainier National Parks too.
Riding to any great place with the love of my life is always a joy. I’m happy just going on a Saturday ride/picnic, not 50 miles from home. I’ll forever have the wanderlust, and I’ll never experience all the adventures on my list.
Mark one more off our bucket list
Peace on Earth…….We need it now like never before
Don & Karla