Just like that, it was back to the desert heat of the Valley of the Sun. I spent the ride, which was anything but technical, pondering the trip and what I’d seen. There were so many great experiences this trip that it was hard to pinpoint a favorite. The bear on Day 5 and the bison on Day 6, as well as the entire trip through Glacier National Park are certainly top of the list. I'm already considering a return to some of these parks to spend more time soaking up the amazing scenery.
Checking the weather, it looked like I might get hit with some more rain today, but it looks like most of the ride along the Million Dollar Highway from Grand Junction to Durango will be clear. Score!
In Rock Springs, I had planned to stay in a hotel and, given the weather of the previous day, I was glad I did. After meeting some other fellow bikers, I decided to stop a little early today in Grand Junction. The days started out with another section of Highway 191 known as the Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway.
After waking up to the sound of the river and preparing a quick breakfast and some tea, I broke camp and continued down Highway 93 and out of the Salmon River Valley. It breaks into a wide valley after the town of Challis, which was my first fuel stop for the day. Here, I began riding the section of Highway 93 dubbed the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway and the very broad valley heads toward Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Today, I depart Columbia Falls and start my journey back to the desert. My wife’s flight back to the Valley of the Sun wasn’t until afternoon, so I rode with her driving in tow as far as Missoula.
Today was my full day in Glacier National Park and, with my wife who flew in for the weekend with me, we drove the Going-to-the-Sun Road. Yes, drove, since my wife had joined me and we took the car rather than the bike. For the day, at least, I was a fellow explorer. We met a number of bikers along the way that were enjoying spectacular views of broad, U-shaped glacial valleys.
I set out from Choteau, but misinterpreted some detour instructions I had received around the construction on Highway 89. I didn’t want to ride for miles on loose gravel and dirt, so I stuck to the paved sections of highway. This mistake educated me on just how sparsely populated the state of Montana really is.
Leaving Yellowstone and the state of Wyoming behind (the state line was just a couple miles north of my campground), I dropped quickly from the 6,000 foot elevation to the valley I overlooked the previous evening into Gardiner.
Another early morning and I fended off the cold mountain air by keeping moving. I packed up the camp, but was a little too zealous and packed the food I would have had for breakfast. I had planned to pack up and then sit still and eat when it was a bit warmer.
Today started early, so I could walk down to the lake and catch the sunrise. It turns out, first light, and sunrise aren’t nearly so close together in the Tetons. I forgot how long the sun can be blocked from shining on a mountain valley in the Rockies. Nevertheless, I sat on the shore of Jackson Lake basking in the colossal shadow of the Tetons. When the light finally crested the mountains on the eastern side of the valley, all the cracks and crevices really started to show.
Today, I made it to the first of two places that were a big reason behind this trip. I hadn't been to the Grand Teton National Park in years and I've been looking forward to spending a couple nights here so I could enjoy a full day of hiking. Who knew I'd actually need to have my bear spray in hand at one point.
I took a quick hike before hitting the All American Road and heading for Salt Lake City. Highway 12 is one of my favorite stretches of payment ever and if you ever get a chance to ride it, you need to take it!
Well, I survived the first three days of Epic Road Trip 2017. My phone, however, did not. More on that later. So far, I’ve visited the North Rim and Bryce Canyon National Park for the first time and enjoyed an awesome stretch of highway called the “All-American Road” - that’s Highway 12 in Utah that winds through the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (another first).
I thought I’d give a little more detail on this trip ahead of time - before I start the actual trip and posting all the awesome pictures from the adventure. At the time of writing, it’s T-minus 6 days until I leave. At this point, I don’t really remember where I originally saw the idea, but as soon as I did I was on Google Maps figuring out the route. Highway 89. Arizona to Montana. FIVE National Parks.
At the end of June, I took my shakedown ride to make sure everything was in place. Back in April, I had the first real test ride with this configuration and found a few things lacking. This time, I was prepared. I set out from Phoenix toward Safford so I could tackle the Devil's Highway a second time. The first time, two years ago for the shakedown before Epic Road Trip 2015 to Seattle and the Pacific Coast Highway, was awesome, but wet and I was ill-prepared that time. This year, the rain held off until later and was much lighter.
It's that time of year again, when the temperatures in Phoenix soar and the highways out of the Valley and leading to higher elevations (and cooler temperatures) slow to a crawl (especially I-17, but that's less of an issue for me since I don't touch the Interstate system with my moto tires if I can help it). In 2016, I made a shorter trip with friends that took us along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and through Monument Valley before we arrived in the mountains just north of Durango where we could enjoy the windy goodness that is the Million Dollar Highway. That experience taught me two things. First, I REALLY needed to get a new seat on my Fury. Second, hail is hell on a motorcycle.
Well, I made it. The final day of my travels. This was the longest of all the days of riding (possilbly equal to my jaunt over to Vegas in terms of mileage), but it was going to be hot and I didn't want to go over 20 miles out of my way to stay in Lake Havasu City, Arizona. I was ready to be home.
Today was my last day on the coast before I made my way inland. I traveled 283 miles from San Simeon to Palmdale, California, with a little backtracking to check out the Elephant Seals I had passed up the day before.
Today I traveled through San Francisco and down Highway 1 for 240 miles to San Simeon. I started the day early so I could avoid San Francisco traffic and was able to get some great early morning shots of the Golden Gate Bridge before crossing and having a light breakfast and coffee in Montara.
Today was one of my longer days of riding. I started the morning in Eureka, California and wound down the Pacific Coast Highway (with a slight detour onto the Avenue of Giants) 246 miles to Novato, California - a north Bay area town slightly further than my original planned stop in Petaluma.
The next leg of this trek winds 216 miles down Highway 101 to Eureka, California. Checking the route, it looks fairly tame except for a couple twisty spots. What I wasn't expecting was the pea-soup thick fog of southern Oregon.
Luck was with me and the wildfires in northern California didn't force me to reroute. Today, I traveled 231 miles from Astoria to Coos Bay, Oregon along Highway 101. From here, I start the long ride down the coast from Astoria to Santa Barbara, picking up Highway 1 after I cross the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But we'll talk more about that later.
Today I started the return trip south, making my way over to the Pacific Coast Highway starting point in Astoria, OR, about 170 south and west of my hotel in Seattle. It was an easy trip and I finally had to break out the rain gear I'd been sure to buy.
I spent the next several days checking out Seattle - everything from the Waterfront to Bainbridge Island and even a ghost tour. I located some great breakfast places and over the weekend I recuperate, sampling some Seattle brews from Airways Brewing Company.
I started the day off with breakfast at the hotel in The Dalles. I walked out of my room and across the courtyard to the restaurant and had to stop for this shot. I wish I'd had my good camera, but I didn't realize what I was about to run into.
Day five took me across the entire state of Oregon, starting in Klamath Falls and ending up in The Dalles, with a slight detour around Crater Lake. I must have traveled through nearly every environment imaginable, but the the roads were cake compared to the last several days.
Day four took me from Lake Tahoe, CA to Klamath Falls Oregon, a total of almost 300 miles. It was a whole lot easier than the previous three days, but the scenery was no less spectacular. It was interesting to watch the mountains change from the solid, steep granite mountains of the Sierra Nevadas to the black, cratered, volcanic remnants of the lower Cascades.
Day three had me completing the first crossing of the Sierra Nevadas, then looping back across the same mountain range for a second time through the Sonora Pass. Tioga was relatively consistent in how steep and windy it was (which was both), but Sonora was a much more gentle climb which finished off with a very steep and challenging ascent and descent. In retrospect, I probably should have found another way around rather than crossing these two high, challenging passes.
After getting my first motorcycle, I knew it would only be a matter of time before I decided to road trip more. I started with some day rides on the weekends and it's culminated in what I have come to refer to as “Epic Road Trip 2015”. Probably not as epic as it could be, but its 99% back-roads, 1% freeway/Interstate travel, and absolutely and entirely fun.
I had my first test ride at the end of June when I tackled the Devil's Highway in Arizona's White Mountains. Two days, 550 miles, and elevation ranging from 700 feet to nearly 11,000 feet. The fact that it rained on the Devil's Highway aside, it was a great ride and good first test. To start, here's what I ended up with: