The Great White North - Day 9 - "Yellowstone is Buffaloshit"

By: Kevin JohnsonOct 25, 2019

Day 9 (7/19/19)

How I didn’t notice the chain stretching so bad earlier, I don’t know…but we woke up, packed up our gear, and as we were getting ready to head out I noticed my chain was sagging like an old lady’s ta-tas.  Given that we had 400+ miles ahead of us today I oped to take the 15 minutes to unload the tools and quick adjust it to within spec before hitting the road.  Boy I’m glad I did too as I had no problems with it all day and I was perfectly happy to keep things that way.  So I finished up, loaded everything back up, and we headed out for the day.

Let me tell you, Montana can be COLD, even in July!  Thinking about where we came from I didn’t figure it would be all that bad, but boy I was wrong; and equally glad I had grip heaters, big gloves, and extra layers.  If I remember right it was about 44 degrees F that morning, which typically is no big deal, but with the crisp air nipping at us and the sun behind clouds and mountains it was bone chilling.  Riding next to Swan Lake wasn’t doing us any favors either, but we put our big girl panties on and survived.

Eventually it warmed up as we made our way down the road, and for some reason we were making really good time!  Before we knew it we had 200 miles behind us and were fueling up in Helena which was pretty nice being so far along that early in the day, and not hitting any truly bad weather.  I would also like to take the time now to point out the Montana sky – I don’t know what exactly makes it so profound but people aren’t exaggerating when they talk about it.  This being my first trip through, I was very impressed with not only the earthly scenery (I imagine east Montana is less majestic), but just the overall picture.

We cruised down the road some more taking in everything and generally enjoying the ride.  It was quite pleasant, not crowded, and just peaceful.  By this point in the trip I had taken my earbuds out for most of the riding as it was nicer for me to listen to engine, exhaust, and tires slapping the road vs having the tunes cranked up to 11 barely hearing anything anyway.  As we made our way toward Bozeman I noticed some small pieces of rubber starting to fly off of the truck that was in front of us.  Great, this retread is about to let go and take me out.  We quickly got around that guy before going the way of the rest of the road trash.

Getting into Bozeman was super pretty.  Like Boise, I’ve recently put this idea in my head about Bozeman being a wonderful place, and the two hours we spent there didn’t let me down.  We went downtown and stopped in at a pizza place, MacKenzie River, for some lunch.  It was super good, if you’re ever around one of their locations and craving pizza I highly recommend the Rancher pie.  Of course I lost credit card roulette again, and it was here I oped out of playing anymore.  Bob kept telling me that if I wanted to throw in the towel it was totally fine, and being the stubborn prick I am I kept thinking my luck would change.  I was wrong and finally decided to swallow my pride and equally this last circumstantial tab.  I’ll make it up in future credit card roulette tabs hopefully.

We headed out of Bozeman, semi-reluctantly, after filling our bellies with some hot, tasty pizza.  Had I known then what I know now I would have planned the trip slightly differently, but oh well, it’s a learning experience for future trips.  I think leaving Bozeman was even more pretty than riding in, cruising through the mountains, next to rivers, etc.  I can absolutely see myself living a place like this (probably where my unwarranted expectations of places stem from).  Growing up in small mountain towns was such a great experience for me, and although this would be much larger than where I lived, I still think it could have the same charm and appeal of a small town while still having some of the amenities of a big city.

I don’t know what I think about sometimes…or in this case don’t think about.  I KNEW we would be riding through part of Yellowstone, but why I didn’t think about it costing money to get into the park, even just passing through, is beyond me.  So to get in we had to shell out $25 each, an absurd cost if you ask me, but we were there and had no other options really so we were stuck forking out the dough.  I will say, if you ignore all of the campers and RVs and old people traveling a quarter of the speed limit, Yellowstone really is a beautiful place.  Even the fraction of it that we saw was pretty, so I just tried to ignore all of the annoyances and take in the good pieces.  We saw a ton of buffalo and also some cow elk standing in the middle of the town eating someone’s grass.  Maybe some paintball guns would be good to keep those pesky elk off your lawn!  Similarly to the Pacific Coastal Highway, I should have known there would be a lot of sight seers this time of year driving me crazy.  Another lesson learned into the bag.

After losing all of the time we’d made up earlier in the day, we finally got into Cooke City, MT, the only city in the state that can only be reached via road by exiting Montana and re-entering via another state.  Coming into town there were quite a few bikes already, and initially I was thinking well cool, this is just a cool spot to stop while on a ride.  What I didn’t know was that there was a bike rally the next day of riders coming through town on their way from Red Lodge, over Beartooth Pass and into Cooke City, ultimately ending up at Sturgis.  I’m glad we were not only heading the opposite direction but that we’d missed the majority of the crowds by a day.  Dumb luck for the win!

We got into our motel, the Alpine Inn, which was nothing fancy but felt like the right place to be for a bike trip like this.  I noticed my chain was nice and stretched even more so before dinner I tightened it up again.  It’s crazy, once those chains start to go they really go.  We cleaned up and headed to dinner, first walking over to the Bistro Cafe.  I felt bad because we were seated and shown menus, but after looking at the limited options and the prices associated with the options we just got up and walked next door to the Miners Saloon.  This was clearly the better option given that we had a hard time finding a seat.  Eventually we wound up with stools at the bar which is where I typically prefer to sit anyway, so it all worked out.

It took a while for our food to come out, but we knew about that in advance so it wasn’t a problem.  And the bartender was nice, he’d just written and had published a book titled Ernest Hemingway in the Yellowstone High Country so we talked about that some.  I’d asked what he thought about Cooke City and he absolutely loved it, being such a small town of only about 100 residents and no real police, he was very content; it was fascinating hearing his perspective.  He also told us that there were a few people who lived on Beartooth Pass year round too (where we’d be riding tomorrow), which I can only imagine being a true testament of will-power overcoming solitude harsh conditions, especially during the roughly nine months of winter they experience.

Another long day was coming to an end so we got out of there and headed back to motel to rest up.  Leaving the bar we came across this goofy ass SUV that had a sort of rhino lined, camouflage exterior paint job.  It reminded me of a prior life when I was traveling full time for work, the building materials store I was at in West Virginia was selling Mossy Oak camo pattern vinyl siding.  Why you’d put that on your house or this on your car is beyond me.  Different strokes for different folks for sure but I found it quite amusing and worth taking a picture of to share with the rest of the class.

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!