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Yellowstone Wrap-up 2016

Time: 10 days

Distance: 4922 miles

So much amazing riding, but missed opportunities to visit friends.  Normally my road trips are a mix of scenic riding and visiting folks that I do not see any other time; on this trip I was focused on the riding and missed some opportunities to visit people.

The Vision

On my first long road trip, I was worried about everything from where I would stay to running out of gas.  At the time, I had plenty of riding on the Kingpin, so that was one aspect that was not a concern.

Since the Vision is new and focused on touring, a big focus was how it would perform: it was amazing.  I’m really happy with the tweaks I have done and the one thing remaining is to do something about the grips: the Kingpin had comfort grips, but changing the Vision grips would mean losing the heating elements.  Still trying to find the right solution.

Destinations

Yellowstone was amazing, but my favorite part was riding US-14 thru Bighorn National Forest.

I originally planed to turn south leaving Yellowstone, but because I started late and took longer to cover the distance, I had to drop that part of the trip.  Even though I returned home a day early, that extra day would not be enough to include a southwest loop.

Looking back on the trip, there are several things I could have done differently, particularly visiting friends, but was just not where my head was at during the ride.  Even with the missed opportunities, this was an amazing trip.  I’ve been home for three days and would be ready to start another trip tomorrow, but have to go back normal life, at least for a little while.

Visuals

 

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2016 in Slideshow, Touring, Vacation

 

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Road to Home

Day 7: 447 miles (to Rapid City, SD)

Even though it was all interstate riding, this was still an enjoyable day.  I met a number of other bikers at rest stops and realized I am on the younger side of the motorcycle touring demographic.

Day 8: 518 miles (to Albert Lea, MN)

I’ve become somewhat frustrated with online hotel reservations (I’ve been using Priceline).  It seems that about 1 in 5 nights, there’s a problem: no room available or wrong type of room (smoking vs non-smoking).  I’ve heard similar stories from other people, especially people on road trips.

I’m not sure where the fault lies – with the hotels or the online service, probably some of both – but the uncertainty causes stress I do not need when I’m on vacation.  I suspect the services are better for traditional vacations, scheduled well in advanced and with fixed destination.

For the end of this trip, I used the Motel 6 app, which worked well.  In the future, I’ll probably continue to use that app or locate hotels with Google and call the front desk to schedule a room.

Day 9: 528 miles (to South Bend IN)

One unexpected bonus on my ride home was the Enterprise Rest Area.  I pulled over for a quick stop, expecting basic, hopefully clean, facilities, but what I found as basically a small and beautiful park.

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Day 10: 677 miles (to Abington, PA)

This was the longest ride of the entire trip – I normally try to keep riding days in the 400 to 600 mile range, but stopping 77 miles from home just didn’t make much sense.  At least the second half was all PA Turnpike; I driven this road so many times, it feels like home the first time I pull into a service plaza.

It was almost midnight when I arrived home.  I was exhausted it, but it was a great trip.

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Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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Yellowstone

Day 6: 442 miles

Rode to Yellowstone via US-14, thru Bighorn National Forest.  I picked the route because I had enjoyed riding thru the forest the day before.

Back thru Bighorn

All the highway signs recommend US-16, but I preferred US-14.  As I closed in on the western side of the forest, I mounted the GoPro Session on the outside of the Vision’s fairing:

Yellowstone

The road to Yellowstone is quite scenic including the area around Buffalo Bill Reservoir.

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I arrived at Yellowstone’s eastern entrance early in the afternoon.  My route thru the park would travel around to Old Faithful, then turn north, exiting to the north, into Montana.

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With stunning views around ever corner, it took a couple of hours for me to arrive at Old Faithful.  The site is a large complex with a lodge, general store and a huge parking lot.  Old Faithful was just erupting as I walked up – sorry no pictures, but here’s video (not mine):

After walked the path around the geysers, I continued on my ride thru the park.  The park speed limit is 45 MPH as the roads are generally small and winding, with many blind turns – you never know what will be around the next bend: bears, buffalo or an RV blocking the road.

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I recorded more video with the Session, but haven’t edited it yet – coming soon!

Rest

The park is huge so it was just getting dark as I reached the Montana exit.  For anyone planning a visit, I would recommend staying in (or very close) to the park so you can start your journey early in the day.

It was almost 11 PM when I arrived at my hotel and I was exhausted, but it was worth it.  This was most westerly point in this trip and I would be starting to head home in the morning.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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Bighorn National Forest

Day 5: 257 miles

Originally I had planned Buffalo, WY to be the jumping off point for my visit to Yellowstone, but when I discovered that would not work, I decided to explore Bighorn National Forest.  There are a number of signs along the highway (I-90) recommending US Route 16, so that where I started.

US Route 16

The spine of Bighorn is a mountain range running north & south.  In the southern region, Route 16 runs up and down the peaks with lots of twisty road and switchbacks with rock cliffs on one side and a drop off on the other side.

The views were spectacular, but the road also has some very scary parts.  I normally don’t pay that much attention to the yellow (recommended) speed limits signs, but in this area, they are to be taken very seriously.

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US Route 14

After surviving the US-16, and lunch in Worland, I decided to check out the unadvertised northern route, US-14 (I had to get back to Buffalo somehow).  As you head into Bighorn, from the west, the road winds along the bottom of a rocky canyon (this was my favorite part of the ride), then quickly rises up the mountains.  Unlike US-16, once you reach altitude, the road run thru the plateau for many miles.

The descent on the eastern side rivaled my morning ride for challenging switchbacks (and fear factor).  This routes seemed to be more popular with locals, which adds to the fear factor: since they drive these roads regularly (I assume), they run up & down the mountain at speed, leaving the rest of us nervous drivers to use pull outs to clear a path.  Don’t take this to mean the drivers are rude or obnoxious – people tend to be very polite –  there’s just 2 very distinct types of drivers on these roads.

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Next

Yellowstone! (finally)

 
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Posted by on June 28, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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Badlands & Wyoming

Day 4: 359 miles

I had driven along the edge of Badlands National Park during Sturgis a few years ago, but this was this the first time I rode thru the park.  The park is beautiful, but, as an extra bonus, there was a classic car rally going traveling thru the park at the same time.

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Wyoming

On my first cross-country road trip, I came out of Nebraska and into Wyoming.  In Nebraska, at 4 PM, the temperature was 70-80 degrees (F); by 5 PM, in Wyoming the temperature had dropped into the 40’s (even though it was August) and I had forgotten my cold weather riding gear.  Ultimately, I made it to Laramie, WY wearing sock mittens on my hands.  My exact words describing the experience were Wyoming kicked my ass and made me its bitch.

This time Wyoming tried to crush me with heat: heading to Buffalo, WY the temperature was 100+ degrees and the sun was beating down.  About an hour away from the hotel, I did run into a little bit of rain, which was refreshing, but it came with high winds (gusts of up to 35 MPH).

This ride was not as rough of as that original trip, but by the time I reached the hotel, I was dehydrated and exhausted.

Next

My original plan was to stay in Buffalo and drive to Yellowstone, then return to Buffalo.  As it turned out, I had misjudged the proximity and had to come with a new plan; details to follow.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Spirt Lake & Hotel Problems

Day 3: 565 miles

My goal for the day was to visit the Victory factory in Spirit Lake, IA, then continue toward Yellowstone National Park.

Spirit Lake

The route to Spirit Lake took me thru the beautiful green plains of Iowa on two lane  country roads.  The weather was perfect for riding – sunny & breezy, but not too hot – and except for the occasionally pick-up or tracker trailer, the roads were pretty much empty.

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I stopped for lunch in Estherville, a beautiful small town about 15 minutes east of Spirit Lake.  The town square is dominated by the public library fronted by small park and bordering on a storybook main street.

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I finally reached the factory around 1:30 PM local time.  I tried my best to be persuasive, the receptionist was politely adamant: no visitors can enter the factor or take tours while the new model year is being created; tours would restart in August around the time of American Victory Rally.

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Not getting into the factory was a little disappointing, but it was still an amazing morning riding thru the countryside.

The Hotel Issue

Leaving Spirit Lake, I got back on the highway.  Unfortunately much of I-90 is South Dakota is under construction / repair.  I was debating on how far I wanted to drive and eventually settled on Murdo, SD, but found there were no vacancies anywhere in town.

The next major town on I-90 is Wall, SD, which is a bit of tourist trap, although it is right by the entrance to Badlands National Park.  I reserved a room online and settled in for another hour of riding thru construction.

Arriving at the hotel, I found the hotel receptionist in quite a state.  I quickly learned the source of her stress:

  • There was corvette show in the area and pretty much ever town on I-90 was fully booked.
  • They were having a problem with the online booking system and did not have room for me. Ugh!

Contemplating how far I would have to drive to find hotel was putting me in the same state as the receptionist, but this kind woman came to my rescue: she called a friend ran another hotel in town; the hotel was being renovated, but he opened & gave me a room (a couple other desperate travelers also got rooms).

Despite the renovations, the room was clean, well-appointed and less than half the price of the room I originally reserved.  The only downside was the lack of WiFi, but I was grateful just to have a place to stay.

Tomorrow I’ll be heading to town outside of Yellowstone and visiting the park on Saturday.

 
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Posted by on June 25, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Into Each Road Trip, Some Rain Must Fall

Day 2: 583 miles

Today was a good day of riding despite some heavy rain and stopping short of my original goal.

The Rain

I ran into the main storm as I passed Chicago; because of the size of the storm, I chose to ride thru rather than wait it out.  I had encountered some light rain near home and raising the windshield kept me dry, but this was a downpour.

At first, the windshield and fairing kept me mostly dry, although some rain did hit my forehead.  I suspect the lowering kit changed the bike’s geometry enough that rain deflected over the top was not going quite as high.  As the storm intensified, rain also crept around the edges of the fairing; ultimately, I ended up with wet knees, face & elbows.

The Vision did not live up to the “completely dry” claim some riders have made, but I was mostly dry.  At a rest stop, a few hours after clearing the storm, I met another rider who had come thru the same storm on a small sport / touring bike (with a headlight cowling); he was soaked to the bone (his words); if I head been on the Kingpin, I expect that I would have been in a similar state.

Conclusion: big win for the Vision.  It had no handling issue with the heavy rain & wet roads, while in heavy traffic.  Although I did get a little wet, by mid afternoon I was dry and comfortable; anyone who has been soaked while riding, knows that once the water gets thru all the layers, the only way to get comfortable is to change your clothes.

Spirit Lake

Tomorrow I’m heading to the Victory (and Indian) factory in Spirit Lake, IA.  It will be a 2-3 hour ride, so my original plan to sneak in with the employees will probably not work.  I suppose I’ll have to be up front and admit that I’m a Victory fanboy who must be given a factory tour.  We’ll see how it goes.

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Posted by on June 23, 2016 in Motorcycle, Touring, Vacation

 

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