2017 Journey – A Wrap!


Day Ten – Desert Deja Vu

Anxious to get home, we skipped the free breakfast at the motel, had a Spark and a protein bar and hit the road.  We said goodbye to beautiful downtown Ely.

We began the long, lonely journey into the desert.  Highway 50 is known as the loneliest highway in the US.  It’s true.  We drove miles and miles without seeing another car.  

The scenery rarely changed for over 200 miles but every now and then, something interesting would come into view like these wild horses.

We stopped in Austin for a light breakfast and an espresso.  Feeling recharged, we set out to more of the same.

The air was filled with smoke due to the California wildfires.

The temperature was beginning to reach the low 90s so we stopped in Fallon to wet our cooling vests.  After about another 50 more miles of desert, we finally began to enter our familiar Sierra Nevada mountains.

Although there was a lot of traffic, we enjoyed some cooler temperatures (80s) and beautiful views.  Eventually we started to make our way down to the hot Sacramento valley, but we were close to home.  As we turned onto our street, the temperature was 102.  Thank goodness we have the cooling vests.  They make a big difference in our comfort.  

We unloaded the bike and took this picture of our trip odometer.

So, 3,404 miles and nine states in ten days.  We saw some beautiful sights and met some interesting folks along the way.  We’ve already started to explore where we will go next year but for now, we’re happy to be home and snuggling with our puppy!  And, Cathy is grateful to have something besides this to look at:

Cathy’s “Barn of the Day” pic:

Day Nine – Birthday in the Great Basin

It’s Tom’s birthday!  We got up early and hit the road by 8am in order to beat the incoming storms.  It was a good thing we did because Price received two inches of rain in 90 minutes today.  

We didn’t have high hopes for an interesting ride but we were wrong!  Just outside of Price, we began to climb into the surrounding mountains.

We then turned south at Mt. Pleasant toward Fairview and enjoyed some of the most beautiful scenery we have seen on this trip.

The birthday boy taking a stretch break.

Soon this beautiful ride was over and we descended into the Great Basin which is surrounded by high desert mountains and laced with salt flats. And it’s windy.

We entered Nevada and arrived in Ely around 2pm.  The birthday boy was tired so we took a nap.  After a good rest and a shower, we walked into Ely.  Not much here.  We decided to be very bad and have an ice cream cone before dinner.  We then found the one restaurant that wasn’t in a casino and therefore not full of smoke.  Not exactly the Ritz but it was an adequate birthday dinner.

Tomorrow we head home.  It will be a long day – about 430 miles and it is supposed to be very hot.  Our cooling vests are a lifesaver.  We are ready to be home and off the bike for a while.  

Cathy’s “Barn of the Day” pic:

Day Eight – Desert to Deluge

The Nordic Inn was great.  Clean, comfortable and offered the best cup of coffee and breakfast we have had thus far.  We took off around 9am.  We passed some beautiful ranches along the outskirts of Steamboat.We hadn’t realized that Steamboat Springs is on the edge of the Rocky’s forested area. Within minutes of leaving Steamboat we were back in high desert.

The sky was beautiful and the temperature was a perfect 76 degrees.  As we rode along the sagebrush lined road, we noticed the thunderheads forming in the distance all around us.  

The surrounding mountains were so interesting with their colors and different rocks formations.  Dinosaur fossils have been found in this area so in addition to the Dinosour National Monument, the locals have embraced that theme as well.

Soon we entered Utah and the mountains were even more beautiful… and the clouds were becoming more ominous.

We stopped in Vernal for lunch and overheard some locals talking about flash floods the day before.  We saw flash flood warnings on the weather report due to monsoonal storms.  We weren’t sure of the area they were talking about.  It was here.  We decided to get back on the road and try to beat the incoming storm.

As we began to climb in elevation, the storm was getting closer.  Also our Zumo (navigation device) froze up.  Luckily, we knew where we were at this point.

We were seeing lightning ahead of us but soon we were in it – the hardest rain we’ve ever experienced while riding.  So strong that it hurt when it hit us.  And it was difficult to see.

Luckily it was only a few more miles to Price, Utah.  And, of course once we arrived, the rain stopped.  

Tomorrow we hope to beat the afternoon showers and get to Nevada’s dry, hot desert without arriving soggy.  

Cathy’s “Barn of the Day” pic:

Day Seven – High, Low, High

We headed south out of Custer early this morning.  We had a long day ahead of us.  The sky was beautiful as we traveled through the last of the Black Hills on this trip.

We understood why they were called the Black Hills when we looked back at them as we descended back into high desert.

The landscape soon changed into meadow and then high desert.  Cathy hit the wall today and was struggling to stay awake. Falling asleep would not end well so despite the boring landscape, she tried to take some interesting photos.As we re-entered Wyoming, the high desert went on and on and was a bit tedious, but the pastel pinks and greens are really beautiful.  In some places, even the road is pink.  Great place to film a western.

The wind tired us both and we stopped often.  It was 97 degrees in Laramie so we stopped to rehydrate and wet our cooling vests.  The bike is a mess.

After Laramie we headed for Colorado.  We began climbing in elevation and the scenery became more interesting.

We stopped in Walden for a light lunch.

The sky began to fill with clouds so we hit the road again, trying to beat the rain before we got to Steamboat Springs.

Thankfully we turned before heading into the heavy rain. We got a few sprinkles as we pulled into Steamboat Springs.  Our motel is very nice and the innkeepers were helpful in choosing a great dinner spot.  We ate at a restaurant right on the Yampa River.  The food was delicious and the view spectacular.

As we walked back to the Nordic Lodge, it began to sprinkle again.  The town looks so pretty at night.

Tomorrow we head to Utah and the weather there now is stormy.  Fingers crossed…  

Cathy’s “Barn of the Day” pic:

And a bonus (not really a barn but a very cool building):

Day Six – Men in Black…Hills

We took a while to get going this morning knowing that we had fewer miles in the saddle. We left the hotel at 9:30am.  We passed a coal mine/power plant right outside of Gillette.

You have to love Wyoming speed limits!

And you never know what you’re going to see… maybe a plane on a stick!
The weather was perfect.  Not too hot as we saw our first glimpse of Devils Tower.  It’s so weird to have this rock appear out of nowhere.

We decided to stop at the KOA and have a cup of coffee and admire the giant rock.  

From there we headed southeast into the Black Hills National Forest.  Deadwood was our lunch stop.  This is a cute little town with a rich history.  In fact, it is where Wild Bill Hickock was murdered and the home of Calamity Jane.  We enjoyed a walk through the town and visitor center and had lunch outside at the site of an old gas station – now a restaurant.  

Mining built the town and after World War I, the mining industry diminished.  It is now a tourist destination with ski resorts and casinos.

After lunch we traveled deeper into the Black Hills.

Eventually we made it to Mt. Rushmore.

The human ingenuity to accomplish this feat is remarkable.  However, it is not as big as we thought it would be.  Still a site to behold.

Then we enjoyed more of the beautiful Black Hills as we made our way to Custer.

We took a short detour to view the work in progress of a Crazy Horse memorial, similar to Mt. Rushmore.  

Tonight we took a nice long walk into Custer for dinner and then stopped for ice cream on the way back.  Great relaxing day with nice roads and beautiful scenery.  Tomorrow will be a long day – about 400 miles.  We’ll end up in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Cathy’s “Barn of the Day” pic:

Day Five – Pleasant Surprises

We knew we had a long day ahead of us so we set the goal of 8:00am departure time. We had a so-so breakfast at the B&B. No frills – scrambled eggs, sausage and a pre-formed hash brown.  We left Cody in a very comfortable 67 degreees and decided to take a route to Little Bighorn over the Bighorn Mountain pass.  We weren’t expecting much.

By the way… there is something up with the camera.  All the photos are washed out. We’re going to try some different settings tomorrow. 

We were amazed at the fantastic road that unfolded.  We rose up to over 9,000 feet in elevation and looked over the Bighorn Basin.

This was one of top roads we have been on. It was just beautiful and the gentle turns were a treat!

We soon descended into farm and ranch lands.

After the pleasant surprise of the morning’s ride, we made our way to the Little Bighorn Battlefield and veterans’ cemetery. 

This was a sad and sobering experience.  

At least the Native Americans who were fighting to remain on their land have been given their proper reverence.

Leaving the monument, we took back roads east and south to Gillette, where we are spending the night.  We traveled through a Cheyenne reservation and miles of hay and alfalfa fields. As we got closer to Gillette the industry turned more to coal and natural gas.  Pronghorn antelope were plentiful as were miles-long trains full of coal heading to a nearby power plant. It was more asphalt bliss for Tom with long, sweeping curves and almost no traffic. 

The bike is taking a beating.

We pulled into Gillette around 6pm. Tomorrow we go to South Dakota!  We’ll see Devil’s Tower and Mount Rushmore, as well as the Black Hills.  It will be a shorter day so hopefully we will have more time to take it all in.  

Cathy’s “Barn of the Day” pic:

Day Four – Buffalo Breath

We  awoke early in anticipation of Yellowstone.  We were out of the hotel and on the road by 8:30.  Once inside the park we were immediately greeted with beauty.We passed by some fumaroles soon after we entered the park. The first wildlife we encountered were elk.We stoppped at Gibbon Falls.And then had to let this little friend cross the road.Yellowstone is fascinating with its geological formations.And the wildflowers were in full bloom.Then, we hit a Yellowstone traffic jam.  This was sketchy because they were in front of us, next to us and behind us.  We had no metal between us and them.  And they are huge.  At one point they were only a few feet away from us.We soon exited the park and jumped on the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway with more fantastic scenery and great roads.  We even encountered a little rain.

 We rolled into Cody around 2pm and stopped for a quick lunch, which turned into an interesting event.  We met Skye, a Vietnam vet from Ontario, Canada, widower, and general BSer.  He invited himself to join us and carried on all sides of the conversation.  Nice enough man but we were ready to get to that museum.  We rode a few blocks down and entered one of the best museums around.

It is a must-see!  We only had a few hours there but took in so much.  We checked in to our B&B.  The Roaming Cowboy.  This is what happens when a hoarder becomes an innkeeper.

The innkeeper gave us a great recommendation for dinner at an Italian restaurant.  While we waited for our 7:30 reservation, we went to the Silver Dollar Bar.  Tom was happy.Tomorrow we go to Little Bighorn and will wind up in Gillette, WY.  

Didn’t see a barn today so this will have to do as the “Barn of the Day” pic:

Day Three – Bobbing and Weaving to the Big Sky State

Today we headed northeast along the Salmon River on the Salmon River Scenic Byway.  We left at our usual 7:30, only we are in Idaho so it was really 8:30.  We downed some really bad, weak coffee from the hotel restaurant and headed out.  It was a comfortable morning. We started off through more beautiful farmland.Shadow selfie…Then we joined the river.  We saw several eagles and ospreys on the rock cliffs along the river.We stopped in the town of Salmon for a stretch and hydration.  We decided to wait until the next town to eat breakfast.  Big mistake!  It would be over 130 miles before we found a town with a restaurant.  The scenery was beautiful for a while.When we got to the high desert, we experienced very strong winds that bobbed our heads around for about an hour.  Annoying!  And, we were getting very hangry. We finally made it to Rexburg where we had a huge lunch.  Then it was north to Montana.We could see this rain storm over the west side of the Tetons.  Does anyone see a stuffed elephant?We started to climb in elevation and the landscape reminded Cathy of parts of Alaska she’d seen.  Soon we entered Montana.We rolled into West Yellowstone around 3:30pm.  We were tired so we took a nap before exploring the town.  Once rested and showered, we took a walk through the town which was full of activity and tourists. In fact, we heard more foreign languages than English.  We had our first proper meal with a delicious bottle of wine.  

Montana has an open carry policy…Tomorrow we will go through Yellowstone park and end up in Cody, Wyoming.  We want to spend some time going through the museum in Cody.  We’ve heard from many people that it is a must-see.  We will probably experience some rain tomorrow.  There is a thunder storm here right now which is cool to see out our hotel window.

Cathy’s “Barn of the Day” pic:

Day Two – Rivers and Canyons

We left Burns around 7:30 this morning.  It was a comfortable 72 degrees as we headed toward Ontario, OR.  

We passed through tranquil farmland with crops of alfalfa, corn, onions and oregano that smelled so good, it made us hungry.

We soon met the Malheur River on Hwy 20 and followed that for a bit.

​​​We entered Idaho and continued east on Hwy 52 where we met the Payette river.  It was starting to warm up to the low 90s and it was cloudy which made the air muggy.  

The Payette is fast moving with many forks. We followed the river for miles and miles through beautiful canyons and saw a bald eagle and several ospreys. 

At Horseshoe Bend we turned north on Hwy 55 for a short while that followed one of the forks of the Payette and saw several kayaks navigating the rapids.  This road was called the Ponderosa Pine Scenic Byway and was very twisty.  Hundreds of curves later, we reached the Sawtooth Mountains which are spectacular.  We could smell rain and see it in the distance.  We encountered some damp roads but nary a drop on us!

Sawtooth selfie with helmet hair (not Tom).

At Stanley,  we continued east on Hwy 75 and met the Salmon River.  Finally it turned north and brought us to Challis, Idaho.  

We met several other bikers along the way.  Tonight at dinner we met two guys who are on a six to eight week ride and have no formal plan.  They were from North Carolina and both retired – one an engineer and the other a psychologist.  They just decide where they want to go each day.  We were envious of their freedom.  Earlier we met two gentlemen from Atlanta and Tom met a Frenchman from Banff.

Tomorrow we head to Montana; one of our favorite states.  We have about 300 miles tomorrow and will end up in West Yellowstone.  We are hoping to see some wildlife.  Today we only saw raptors and a bunch of “Game Crossing” signs.  Fingers crossed.

And… Cathy’s “Barn of the Day” pic: