First off, I'd like to thank everyone who contributed advice in the thread I posted Friday. It at least let us know we were going off half-cocked and that our ride could certainly be better conceived and executed!
Truth of it is, we used the sage wisdom to help prioritize our stops and remembered along the way...it's only 260 miles from home, and we can come back any time. So today, I chronicle our Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip, its wonders and woes, and solemnly deliver the casualty report
We left EARLY (7:30) Saturday morning, bound for West Yellowstone. Interstates were largely avoided since it's mostly punishment for my wife on her Shadow. The li'l 750 struggles to hang with the Vic at interstate speed and her lack of windshield contributes to her rider's fatigue. I often say that Southern Idaho is the price we pay to ride in central and northern Idaho. We have a few gems like the South Hills and the Hagerman run, but you mostly find yourself staring at a stretch of uncurved blacktop through desert or farmland all the way to the horizon. Downside to this route is is takes enough extra time that by the end of the first leg you kinda wonder why you just didn't tough out the interstate. We did hit our first minor crisis on this leg however: I forgot to take my meds before we left that morning, and was forced to get into what I had packed for the weekend. This guaranteed we'd have to be home by Sunday night, and I learned a valuable lesson: just take the damn bottles of pills with you.
We rolled into West Yellowstone well behind schedule, arriving at around 2:00 PM. We were hungry and a little cold, and I immediately began second-guessing cheaping out on the hotel. We only needed basic amenities, but our room at the Days Inn kinda looked like it'd been broken into a time or two. It was, at least, very clean. We grabbed a pizza at Gusher's, which was fantastic, and rolled into the park about 3:30.
Yellowstone is truly a beautiful place, but at first I was a little underwhelmed. When you've had the pleasure of touring central and northern Idaho on a motor, the scenery when you first enter Yellowstone is pretty familiar. It's like the Snake River Canyon: I know it's a majestic sight, I remember how I felt the first time I looked into it. But when you see it every day on your commute for 7 years, it gets a little more mundane. Not bad, just...regular.
That said, I thoroughly enjoy riding through mountains and forests on twisty roads, so I was still enjoying myself immensely. Then we came across Gibbon Falls for our first stop-and-gawk:
We rode around the park clockwise from the Madison junction, which mostly gave us a clear run; very little traffic headed in our direction. This was very relaxing and pleasant, and we stopped again at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone:
It was here I discovered, after my wife said she heard something rattling from the back of my bike, that I didn't get one of my bags locked all the way back on. Pure luck I didn't lose it or crack the backside of it.
Onward from there, we rode along Yellowstone Lake and finally ran into our first traffic jam: a big bull elk was lying down in the grass by the side of the road. Seeing an elk was nothing new for me, but I have to admit I've never been that close to one. And he didn't seem to care at all that so many people were so close to him.
The next leg went quickly and we crossed the Continental Divide on our way to Old Faithful. A serendipitous turn of events brought us to the geyser at exactly the right moment:
Didn't get to see a whole lot else there since a couple bison were blocking the path around the geyser area. And my riding boots aren't what I would call activity-appropriate footwear. After Old Faithful we rode back to West Yellowstone and got dinner at Beartooth Barbecue, which was really pretty good.
The next morning was a lot of "let's see what we can see before we get back to Idaho." Back through Yellowstone, except southbound this time. Lots of folks were headed into the park and in the same direction, so traffic was slow. Most folks did their best to move things along and not block the road, altho we kept getting stuck behind ONE VAN with CA plates that would slow down to 5 MPH and put on their hazards as if that makes it okay to block traffic. They finally turned off at Firehole Lake. Shortly after that traffic stopped dead for over a half an hour because a small herd of bison had wandered onto the road. We toughed out a couple miles of feathering clutches and hoping we didn't aggravate anything in the one-ton weight class, and they finally wandered back down to the river to graze and cleared the route. However, as we accelerated away, one of my chin spoiler bolts rattled loose and fell out! My back tire stropped it and flipped it into the underbrush (thankfully not my wife's face) to be lost forever. After that small crisis it was back over the Continental Divide:
It was here we met a couple riding sportbikes and shot the breeze for a few minutes. And it was here the guy pointed out to me that I had a fork leaking. My left fork is a leaky mess, I'm not sure when it happened, but it took some enjoyment from the ride home since I had to keep cleaning it up and was worrying about the front end collapsing under hard braking or getting squirrelly in the corners. But I had little choice, and we kept going.
We stopped for a quick shot over Jackson Lake:
Then we proceeded to ride hard to get home that evening. We got home sore, tired, a little sunburned, but not at all disappointed. 771 miles and 14.5 hours saddle-time, but it was all worth it. We're actually planning on going up again this summer.
But now I've got see about getting that fork fixed, and hope it doesn't keep my bike tied up at the shop for a month.