This is Yellowstone motorcycle trip, it’s part 2 of a 3 part series. We Chose Yellowstone as our one long venture of 2017. This is probably on most people’s bucket-list of places to visit, and not just us in the US, but people around the world.
It attracts around 4 million visitors a year; and although it’s a very large park, you’re not going alone at major attractions. Such a grand place with so many wonderful attractions, this is Yellowstone Motorcycle Trip Part 1.
We talked about planning of the trip in the last blog post, so now we’re going to share how it turned out. First, there are basically two ways to get across eastern Oregon from our home in Bend, to Boise ID our stop over. To make the best time and travel the shortest distance, you take Hwy 20…… nothing but desert, 3 curves, and a stop in Burns for gas. For more forest and mountains, we chose Hwy 26 a slightly longer but much more scenic route.
Boise is generally our 1st night stop-over when we’re headed east. Esto perpetua; or, “It is Perpetual” is the official state moto, also known as, “The Gem State.” But we all know it’s the, “spuds.” The potato (potatoe?) capital of the world. I do love french fries and for that we need….spuds. Boise is the capital, with 225,000 of the state’s 1.6 million residents. I guess there is much to see & do around Boise………we’ve never found it.
We stay at Holiday Inn Express, of which there are a few to choose from. We’ve been disappointed in restaurants there before, so as a safe bet, we walked to Red Robin for a veggie burger. The French fries were average.
I don’t know how to say this and not sound mean……it’s butt ugly out there. The Great Basin is a huge desert with oases that are lush, green and beautiful. Those spots are where you want to be and the rest is the price you pay to see them. I know some people will say, “the desert ecosystem has a beauty all it’s own.” I’m sure to a rattlesnake, there’s no place like home.
Our timing was perfect. A heavy winter & Idaho was so green….for about 3 weeks Normally, by this time of year this area is bone dry. The difference was obvious just 10 days later.
Now where else would you put a nuclear reactor, but way out in the desert where nobody would ever go? In 1951 the Experimental Breeder Reactor 1 (EBR-1) produced some of the first electricty from nuclear fission. Despite a partial meltdown in 1955, things were going along pretty well……Until 1961 when it really melted down, killing all 3 employees. If you’d like to know more, and I don’t think you really do…..the Idaho National Laboratory’s Wiki page can be found here. Most of the area is top secret including the Nuclear waste dump or “recycling center” and it goes on for miles and miles.
I like to take Karla to all the, “hot spots” along the route. So, of course we’re going to tour the EBR 1…….they say all the bad stuff is now encased in lead…..the same way they buried those 3 poor souls who worked here.It was air conditioned !
Click on photos to expand
Craters of the Moon National Monument is located somewhere out there as well. If you’ve never seen large lava flows, it’s probably an interesting stop over. Be aware, I’m not sure it ever gets below 100 degrees and there’s no shade. The visitor center is air-conditioned, and on a trip like this……cold water and air conditioning are like gold.
We have Lava Lands National Monument back at home, not 15 minutes from our house and believe it or not, they look surprisingly similar. But we’ve got one over on Idaho…..a piece of ours went to the moon …………..and stayed!
In 1965 when NASA was around town for lunar landing training, one of our local newspaper writers Phil Brogan convinced astronaut Jim Irwin to sneak a small piece of lava onboard Apollo 15. As promised, he dropped it on the lunar surface. “Keep Oregon Weird!”
It was hot and the desert riding was just about over. Idaho Falls was going to be our last town of any size and we had hopes of finding some lunch…. Trip Advisor showed two locations for, “Jalisco’s” Mexican reataurant and one was right by the falls. It listed itself as vegetarian friendly, and Mexican is almost always a safe bet. Well, in gambling you win some, you lose some…
Oh well the falls, even though man-made are quite beautiful and you soon forget a bad meal…….Idaho Falls has a nice Riverwalk, if you’re in the area.
I think we were in the new wing
Finally as you approach West Yellowstone from the south you see and feel the fresh coolness of forest once again. Our second night was spent at the, “Historic Madison Hotel.” The people were so nice, they made you feel like family.
West Yellowstone MT., turned out to be a pretty nice place to stay in an, “economy” room. It was advertised as room to sleep……oh yeah, but don’t bring any luggage, there’s no room for that! It was OK, we were only stopping for the night and we did sleep……How much updating can you do to a hotel built 105 years ago? It was surprisingly quiet & cozy. There are lots of places to stay in West Yellowstone, but none has the charm of the Historic Madison Hotel/Motel
Vegans eat everyday…..at least we try to
Do you know the term, “Hangry?” Dictionary.com says, “adjective, hangrier, hangriest. Slang.
1. feeling irritable or irrationally angry as a result of being hungry.”
Karla says, “We need to eat before you ram someone for not using a turn signal.” Irrational? Perhaps.
We realize we are the outliers. We’re the ones who not only eat a plant based diet; but we also knowingly show up in towns where the word, “Vegan” instills confusion & anger (the regular kind) in many locals. In West Yellowstone you can order: Bison Buger, Bison Steak, Bison Roast, or the special of the day, Bison scrotum stew…..OK, I may have made that one up……I’ve ridden in the heat all day, and I’m damn HANGRY!
We use Trip Advisor & Happy Cow in every town we stop to eat. Trip Advisor allows you to search, “Dietary Restrictions” as vegetarian friendly (I guess they don’t get angry) or Vegan Options (also known as, “Good Luck Buddy”). Happy Cow is a vegan only version. When I opened it and put in West Yellowstone, the screen flashed a big red DANGER……YOU HAVE ENTERED AN AREA KNOWN TO BE HOSTILE! West Yellowstone full of nice people and we decided to just walk around and look at menus….and then we went to the grocery store and looked for Hummus and vegetables.
West Yellowstone has an IMAX theater, but we missed the show we wanted to see, so we skipped that. The one must see venue is the Wolf & Grizzly Discovery Center, and it may be the only place to get up close with either. The 7 bears and 6 wolves were either set to be euthanized or were otherwise unable to be returned to the wild. This is not a zoo. We are opposed to wild animals being in captivity for any reason other than their survival. The center is ran by a passionate group of conservationists.
Enjoy the sunshine when you can
How many times have you read, “The weather is unpredictable?” With a base altitude of around 8000′ anything can happen, anytime of the year…..oh sure, but this is the 4th of July and it’s, “Always” nice on the 4th……We’ve been lucky so far in every summer of travel to the high mountains…Glacier NP last year was hot & beautiful.
They say thunderstorms can occur; snow may fall so be prepared! Well, I’m just a little smarter than some guy with a PhD in meterology…..I go on a Yellowstone motorcyle trip in July and we’ll have great weather. Sometimes life’s lessons fall like hail so hard that even my thick head takes a pounding. But today, I’m right and the skies are clear, the view is magnificant and I’m pretty confident.
The park entrance is like right in town at West Yellowstone, but this is a huge park. We showed our pass and wow, we were in Yellowstone National Park.
My mind was buzzing with, “Holy Cow, you’re in Yellowstone.” I’ve been thinking about this moment for 50 years….seriously. And now I’m here but it looks just like the area where we live, beautiful forest, blue skies, all that, but it looks like home.
I had to stop and take a photo, a Yellowstone photo. The one above is from the first parking area, along the Madison River and it was a beautiful scene…….just like home. No geysers, no hot springs, no Bison, Wolves or Grizzly’s, but it was Yellowstone!
From the entrance to Madison Junction where you connect to the, “Grand Loop Road,” is only 14 miles. Our reservation for the next four nights was in Jackson WY., Jackson Hole as I had always heard (and never understood). At Madison we would turn South and ride about 120 miles…….this is a really big park.
Steam! I see steam! Now it’s getting exciting. I pulled over again for another photo and this is not one I could take at home. Karla’s probably thinking, “we are 20 miles into the park, we have 3 hours (without stops) to get to our hotel and we’re already stopping again!” I admit, I do like to stop more often than Karla. It’s a hassle to park the bike, get off (and on) take off your helmet & gloves….take a picture and start up again.
Right after Midway Geyser Basin we will pass by Old Faithful (you can’t see it) and touch on the edge of Yellowstone Lake at West Thumb. Then, if traffic cooperates, we’ll pass out of the park into Grand Tetons in 20 miles, still 60 miles from Jackson.
You don’t just go to Yellowstone, you go to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons. Two separate National Parks (with two entrance fees) and if it weren’t for the entrance stations (lines of cars) you wouldn’t know you left one and entered the other.
The first photo above is perhaps one of the most breathtaking vistas I have come across. Grand is an understatement.
But today, we’re just passing through, although we have plans for hiking and sightseeing in Grand Tetons completely apart from our, “Yellowstone” trip. As always, there is too much to see and too many trails to hike, and in a week you’re only beginning. A person could easily spend one week in Grand Tetons and two in Yellowstone. Most folks on a motorcycle ride through, and stop at a few highlights. Planning will make the trip much more appreciated, and you’ll know which spots to make a priority.
We didn’t stop at Jenny Lake because we had plans of hiking around it tomorrow. Jenny Lake is probably the most visited spot in Grand Tetons National Park. You can ride a ferry across and skip the 8 mile hike….but then there’s Karla “We must hike” Schultz right over my shoulder….We will walk old man, and you will like it!
We did stop at the Craig Thomas visitor center so I could buy yet another National Park Tee shirt… If you want the highest quality shirts, don’t buy from the vendors. The visitor centers, ran by the National Park Service always have the best ones. Remember your Yellowstone Motorcycle Trip with yet another tee shirt.
Moose-Wilson is the, “back way” into Jackson Hole and there’s nothing better on a motorcycle than taking the back roads. As usual, I had a little trouble finding the turn off and after going in a few circles…..I was forced to ask for directions.
Now, I’m not sure if starting the conversation at the information desk with, “Hey ManBun” added to this fellows interest in assisting us or not……but let me tell you; I got neither information nor assistance. Karla said, I think it’s time to eat……
We covered about 800 miles and the adventure is just beginning. In the next post, we’re going to be hiking and sightseeing at two of America’s greatest national treasure’s. Spoiler alert… this was the last day we would see the sun for a few days, it turned to crapola quickly……stay tuned !
The Alt National Park Service movement is comprised of over 1.8 million individuals from around the globe, and created by a coalition of National Park Service employees, state park employees, National Forest Service employees, EPA employees, USDA employees, and environmental scientists.
“We formed in response to the new administration, who has shown little mercy for the environment. As Americans, we have the opportunity to voice our opposition. We will not be silent. Resistance is not futile, but it is strength. In unity, we find power. America is a government by the people, for the people. We will not stand idly by and let our government destroy our environment.”
Beartooth Pass and much more is coming in Part 3 of Yellowstone Motorcycle Trip.