Sunday, September 14, 2014

Montana Trip 2014 - Part V

This is the continuation of a trip my dad, my friend Jacob, and I took at the end of July.

Day 7 was a rest day.  I'm starting to think a good motorcycle trip has a rest day every 4th or 5th day, but we, possibly I, packed a lot of sights to see in a small amount of day 7 it was.

After getting to sleep in, for the first time in a week, Jacob and I headed over to where my mom and dad were staying and made use of an unguarded hose to wash the Montana road construction off of the bikes.
 For those of you who need reminding, one of the catalysts for this trip was that my niece got accepted to University of Great Falls on a soccer scholarship.  So I penciled them in for twenty minutes of meet and greet before we had to move onto the next state.  No I'm kidding! I gave them 30 minutes.

Here's my sister and her family, minus one son, who couldn't make it due to football practice.  They had flown in from Tucson that morning.
 We headed over to the University of Great Falls campus to check out my niece's new 'hood for the next four years(6 years if she follows in my footsteps, which I suggest she doesn't).
 Ahhh, home sweet home for all those new university students.
 Surprisingly my sister seemed pretty chipper about dropping off her daughter.  I swear I heard her muttering something under her breath.  I think it sounded something like "Only one more to go, only one more to go!".
 All settled in!  Just think about all the late night homework assignments that will be completed here.  Glad I'm not in college anymore;)

Day 8

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The next day we were on the road again.  We wanted to hit highway 89 through the Lewis & Clark National Forest, but made sure to get right back onto the interstate to avoid the construction we encountered two days before.  Here we are at the highest pass.  Got a little chilly that morning, I flicked on the heated grips for a few minutes.

 After a long stint on the freeway we eventually came to our next stop, the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.  This site was one of my dad's picks.  He never had a chance to stop here, but always wanted to see Custer's Last Stand.
 When you pull into the parking lot you're immediately drawn to the cemetery right in front of you.  This is called Custer National Cemetery.  The Battle of Little Bighorn took place in 1876,  this cemetery was established ten years later.  Most of the graves you can see were transferred from various abandon fort cemeteries in the area.  As well as soldiers and sailors killed in action that served in the U.S. military during the Indian Wars, Spanish American War, World War I & II, the Korean War and Vietnam.  It was closed in 1978 and I believe it takes a act of Congress if you want to be buried here now.

 Walking up to the visitors center we caught the last half of a ranger presentation on the history of the battle.
 From here you can spot the marker of the mass grave site on top of Last Stand Hill.
 My dad bought tickets for the last driving tour of the day.  The start of the battle takes place about three miles away from Last Stand Hill.  This particular tour was led by the Crow Agency and it was interesting to hear both sides on what happened here. 
 I'm not going to cover the events of the battle, you can read up on it from the link above.  But I'd strongly suggest taking the tour if you're there.  You'll learn about the events leading up to the battle.  Then a running narration of what is thought to have happened, starting on Reno Hill and concluding three miles, back at the visitors center, with Custer and his men at Last Stand Hill.
 Looking out over the bluffs at Reno Hill.  Even though this battle took place over a hundred years ago I felt like we had stepped back through time and Custer's army could be riding down from over those hills in the distance.
 The headstones you can see in the monument don't mark where real bodies are buried.  They mark the locations of where Custer's men fell during the battle. 
 My dad approaching Last Stand Hill after the tour.
 Days after the battle most of the bodies were hastily buried, where they fell, and each burial marked with the soldiers name. Which is why the white headstones reflect a eery picture of how the battle went down.

 The site where Custer is believe to have fallen is marked with a white headstone that has a black background
 This plaque explains what happened to the remains after the original burialials.
  The monument has a recent addition of a Indian Memorial nearby that honors the last stand of the Plains Indians and the end of their way of life.
 Jacob taking a break after exploring the monument.
 After spending a couple of hours at the battlefield we were eager get to our next campsite and take a break.  We pulled over as we crossed back into Wyoming.  I wanted to get our picture next to the Wyoming state sign.  A trucker was nice enough to take our photo.  I forgot to mention that after Great Falls my mom headed back to Tucson.  So from this point forward it was just the Three Amigo's on the open road.
 We pulled into the town of Dayton, Wyoming just as the sun was setting.
 I had found the Foothills Motel & Campground on Google maps.  It was probably the nicest grass camp sites we'd pitch our tens on during the whole trip.
 Notice all of our tent fly's are not out.  I kind of declared that there was no risk of rain that night.  Which Jacob and my dad blindly believed.  Come midnight we all heard the soft pitter patter of rain. A mad scramble ensues where we all jump out of our tents and run around in the rain throwing the rain tarps on.  From that night on, Jacob and my dad always setup their tents with the rain fly's on.
Whew it's late.  Hope there aren't too many spelling errors!  More trip coming! Thanks for reading!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Montana Trip 2014 - Part IV

This is the continuation of a trip my dad, my friend Jacob, and I took at the end of July.

Day 5

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Day 5 was my "rough" day of the trip.  I've found there's always one day of a motorcycle trip that really stretches you to your limits.  This one started off nice enough.  As we were packing up the bikes, a fellow camper told us about a great bakery in town called City Bakery.  So we decided to give it a shot.
After we parked we spotted some local wildlife wandering through the streets of Red Lodge.
The local was right!  Both Jacob and I agreed we'd ride back to Red Lodge just to eat at this place again.  Trust me..if you're in Red Lodge you need to have breakfast here!
Then we hit Montana road construction.  I now refer to this as Montana's motorcycle roach motel.  Once you get don't get out.  In fairness to Montana they did put up large construction signs warning motorcyclists to avoid the area, which we ignored.  In fairness to _us_ the construction area seemed to cover the entire central portion of Montana...possibly the entire state.  It seems Montana has a very short window for road construction, due to their seasons.  Rather then work on single large road project...they've decided to work on multiple short stretches, spaced out at twenty mile intervals.  So we'd hit some road construction, where we'd have to wait, due to single lane restrictions. Then ride through 2-3 miles of dirt, gravel, fresh tar, mud, and then repeat every twenty miles.  Let me tell you, it gets old pretty quick.
At about the fourth construction stop we met our nemesis.  I like to think of her as a siren right out of Greek mythology.  Not because of her beauty, but because of her screech.  She was a slow/stop sign bearer and had a fondness of screaming at people who stood in the opposite lane of traffic while waiting for construction to cease.  Notice where I'm standing below.  I got yelled at.  My dad got yelled at for standing on the yellow line next to his bike.  The people behind us got screamed at for getting out of their cars.  Jacob tried to placate her by asking about the best path to take to avoid additional construction.  In between bouts of loud yelling she mentioned the next section, to the north, was a 11 mile stretch of dirt road where they had just hit a underground aquifer and most of it was flooded out.  I'm not making this up.  She tried to talk us into some 80 mile detour to the east.  I wasn't going to go east, so we decided to just head due west and get back on the freeway.  Why we believed her I have no idea.  My mom passed through this same area later that day.  There was no 11 mile dirt road portion.  My mom even stated that after one additional 2 mile stretch of dirt road the path to Glacier park was free of construction.  The siren was out to get us!!
Taking our detour to the freeway added about 80 miles to our day and over a hour of additional drive time.  It was a _very_ long ride.  We didn't make it to Glacier Lodge East until about 7pm that evening.  As a side note we never intended to stay at Glacier Lodge.  I was hoping to grab a room at a Holiday Inn Express in Browning, MT.  But when we called they were all booked up.  So we spent a little extra money and stayed here.  Ended up being a happy accident through because this place was pretty sweet.  The next two pictures were taken the next morning, since I didn't have enough light when we arrived.

The inside of the lodge is lined with 40ft tall Douglas Fir columns with bark still attached. 
After a late dinner we hit the hay. Looking forward to what was going to be a highlight of the trip the next morning.

Day 6

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Thursday was the day we got to explore Glacier National Park!  More importantly we were going to be able to ride Going-to-the-Sun Road.  Cross that off the motorcycle trip bucket list:) 

We drove to the west entrance of the park so we could then drive back to the east side.  This way we'd gain in elevation and I'd get my going-to-the-sun experience.  Had we gone east-to-west they'd have to call it Coming-from-the-sun road.  (Taps the mic, "Hey is this thing on? I'll be here all week, make sure to tip the waitresses!")

Any hoo, here we are looking north over Lake McDonald.
 My mom left her vehicle at the lodge and was able to ride with my dad through the park.  She hates taking her helmet off and on, so for short stops she'd look like a Storm Trooper walking around:)
 The road slowly rises from the valley floor, scaling the side of the mountains, before dropping over Logan Pass which is just above the center of this photo.  According to Wiki they recorded a new record wind gust on April 9th, of this year, of 139mph at the pass.  Sure glad we didn't experience that kind of weather on this day.
 As a matter of fact the temperature was somewhere in the 80's and if you stopped for any period of time, with all of our gear on, it got a little warm.  So any soft breeze was appreciated.  The temperature was fine once we got going.

 Plenty of traffic on the road.  Everything from buses to cars, trucks, motorcycles..and this thing:)  What do you get when you cross a motorcycle and a Mercury Cougar?

 Now this is what I call a scenic drive:)
 Looking back at the Weeping Wall.  Click on the link to see a small Youtube video of the water running.  It was the end of July, first of August, when we went through so not enough runoff to cover the road.
 Here's Jacob at the top of Logan Pass.  Notice the rock rubble behind him.  We spotted some big horn sheep up on that hillside and I was able to zoom the camera in enough to catch a glimpse of them from afar.
 It's a shame my niece had to head back to Phoenix with her mom.  She would have been in this photo with me, I'm sure:)
 From the visitors center I wandered off alone because I wanted to capture some pictures of this foot trail I had spotted from the road.  After walking for a period of time I was about to turn back thinking the shot that I had wanted was too far away.  I asked the couple at the center of this picture how much farther and they said it was not very far..and if I did keep going I'd get to see a mountain goat.  Score!  So I kept walking.
 These were the two shots I was after.  You can follow the trail as it skirts the hillside, above the main road.  Notice the people in front of me taking pictures....
 I really wanted this shot.  You can see the main road rising from the valley floor all up to where I am.
 This is what the people were taking pictures of.  They were just hanging out three feet above peoples heads along the trail.
 I hadn't noticed the third one until I was about to leave.
 I didn't want to get too close.  She/He?? was eying the faded yellow of my motorcycle jacket.  I could see the headline now.  Motorcyclist mauled to death by angry mountain goat in Glacier Park.

 We spotted even more big horn sheep back at the visitors center before we left.
 After making it back down the other side of Logan Pass, we had heard the road up to Many Glacier Campground was a nice drive as well.  So after passing through a short rain storm we entered the park and took this photo at the Many Glacier Hotel.  Looks like a neat place to stay.  We'll have to come back and check it out.
 So after our long day of exploring national parks we had to head back to the lodge to pick up my mom's vehicle.  Jacob and I waiting for my parents to catch up near Lower Two Medicine Lake.
 And here they come!
 Another great day of riding.  From here we all headed back to Great Falls.  Tomorrow was a rest day and I can't speak for everyone in the group but I really needed some rest:)  Thanks for reading, more to come soon!