The Great White North - Day 10 - "Hitting Some Altitude"

By: Kevin JohnsonOct 28, 2019

Day 10 (7/20/19)

It was another cold morning, which wasn’t surprising since Cooke City sits at about 7600 feet.  The crisp air tasted good (yes, tasted…call me crazy but it’s real) and what was even nicer was the sun was shining which kept it from being bone chilling.  We loaded up the bikes, hit the gas station, and got on the road a little earlier since we knew there would be a ton of bikes on the road and we wanted to avoid them as much as we could even though they would be traveling the opposite direction.

It was still pretty early when we rode out of Cooke City and I was definitely doing some waking up still…which is why I was ill-prepared for the photo opportunity of the buffalo just walking down the road.  Luckily he was going toward town and on the “correct” side of the road, otherwise things could have potentially gotten hairy.  It was so cool seeing that big beast so close up though.  And then we passed a few game management vehicles driving that direction too, I’m assuming to help the beast out of the way for future motorists.

This area is so beautiful, it was such a privilege being able to take this route.  Since this trip has been all about taking more scenic routes we opted to go over Beartooth Pass vs. cutting down 296 toward the flatlands of Wyoming.  So we climbed up, and up, and up.  At one point I felt like I was pretty far ahead of Bob so I stopped and took a quick picture and then continued up some more.  We went through what was sort of like a little town and as I slowed down while looking around I realized that this wasn’t the top and we needed to continue climbing even more.

Once we got to the top I was so grateful we’d gotten up a little early to beat the crowds.  There was another adventure bike that was heading down the way we’d come from and two cars at the top; not bad considering what would be rumbling through in a matter of hours in addition to the usual amount of tourists.

Riding down the backside (or maybe it was the frontside?) of the pass we figured out where the name came from – the rock formations in the middle of the valley look like a bear’s tooth.  I was trying to get some pics but since it was quite curvy all the way down this was as best as I could do.  Not only were there lots of switchbacks, you also have to watch out for lots rocks and loose gravel; PSA to anyone headed over the pass in the future.

Eventually we wound our way down off of the mountain as a few bikes were starting to head up.  There was a smokey facing the direction of all the bikers heading up hoping to bring some revenue in, which I’m confident he was successful in doing at least a few times that day, and I was just glad he wasn’t pointed the opposite direction looking at me or I would have certainly been one of the unsuspecting victims.  Once we got down the road a ways and into Red Lodge we found the majority of the rally starting to fuel up and head out.  We were going to get some gas but didn’t bother since it was such a cluster so we just stopped and had a quick snack, used the porta-johns, and got back out on the road.

Cutting through Wyoming was a different kind of pretty.  Not what we were used to riding through and not what we were looking for really, but honestly anywhere would be hard to top scenically from where we’d come from through most of the trip.  It was a lot of rolling hills and plains but at least it’d been a decently wet spring and summer so far so everything was quite lush.  We stopped quick on Cody for some fuel and another snack and then got back on the open road and cruised until we got hungry and needed gas again.

The next stop was Thermopolis, WY.  You guessed it, we found another brewery which I expected to be garbage but actually turned out to be really good.  Food, beer, even the company at the One Eyed Buffalo is worth your time if you ever find yourself here.  There were two ladies sitting at the bar when we rolled in and from what I overheard from their conversation the younger gal (you can see in the reflection of the pic below) was in college in Fort Collins.  What brought her up here I have no clue.  The other lady was a local, a bit older, and I think just out for a day on the town away from her husband.  She was definitely making the most of it because I’m pretty sure she was quite hammered…it was Saturday though, so a little more justifiable.

As we were sitting around having a cold one Bob needed to run out and grab something off his bike so he headed out to find the most amazingly not PC building design across the street.  I imagine this probably wouldn’t fly in any major city and likely not in most cities except maybe those in Wyoming.  I’ll just let you look at the picture below and decide for yourself.  The sign on the side read: “Ron Paul – Hope for America.”  Likely just an unfortunate coincidence but also not an association I’d like made about me; but what happens in rural Wyoming stays in rural Wyoming…?  Except when it gets published here!

We left Thermopolis with one thing on our mind – getting to our last hotel of the trip.  All the way up until now I’d not really found what my bike could do speed-wise…well going up a pretty steep hill at about 80mph and completely loaded down with me and all the gear it finally felt a little sluggish.  Not too shabby for a little 800cc German!  Since most of the land was flat we able to haul ass most of the time though.  Also due to it being so flat we were able to see a storm come in from way off that we knew we were going to have to ride through.  I’m just glad it came in from the west, because although it sucked riding through even more rain and wind it was a super short storm and also we didn’t get hammered by all of the water being kicked up by the trucks and other cars – luckily all of that blew the other direction.

We got out of the rain and into Rawlins where they had the road we were supposed to take shut down and so we got detoured down the interstate to the next exit and back, all the while Bob is basically running on fumes.  Oops my bad, but we made it so it was fine.  We got to the hotel, I worked on tightening the chain some more, and realized that I hadn’t fully tightened the little swing arm adjusters the night before so that was all super loose but luckily the axle was nice and tight so there were no problems.  We then went out to dinner at this tiny little Mexican restaurant that was run by children.  It was mediocre at best but there weren’t a lot of options so it got the job done.  The portions were small, and they didn’t serve booze which I found odd.  There was also another biker and his girlfriend/wife/whoever there and we talked a little with them and also did some eavesdropping…and man was that guy was a prick.  He was super condescending and just seemed uninterested in everything she had to say.  Why a pretty girl would be with a guy like that I’ll never know, but oh well not my problem.

After dinner we got fueled up so we could again get on the road nice and early and get home.  I’m not sure what was going on but the gas station was extremely busy, and of course these guys from California driving through were taking up space at one of the few pumps while the driver was inside shopping after he’d finished fueling up.  All the while one of the locals in a big ass truck was heckling his buddy who was left outside with the car but no keys.  It was really funny and I half felt bad for the guy left outside but I suppose if you have California plates in a redneck town in Wyoming and you’re doing something inconsiderate you should fully expect what’s likely coming your way.  Nothing transpired other than some banter back and forth which was good.  We were tired and ready to be out of town at this point so we headed back to the hotel to rest our heads at our last hotel for the trip.

Kevin Johnson
Kevin was destined to ride motorcycles from a young age since bikes are a family pastime.  Only recently did Kevin become an internet motorcycle influencer and change the lives of no one while blogging about his exploits, both on and off the road.  He is currently (and constantly) thinking about the next places two wheels might take him, much to the dismay of his wife, so stay tuned for what's to come!