Tales from the Road

Part 2: The Ride of a Lifetime
Jasper, Alberta Canada

By: Clifford Meier
December 8th, 2007

 

My riding partner Michael and I had been riding together for many years. With many shorter and successful trips under our belt, we started talking about a ride of length. We were looking for that ride of a lifetime, the ride with great memories, never to be forgotten. The year is 1982 and the month is September.

It took us almost a year to determine our destination. These many discussions, usually including food and adult beverages, helped us decide on the perfect location, Canada. Once Canada was decided, it was an easy choice to narrow the area down to Banff. Just listening to anyone who had visited Canada, Banff was always a highlight in their trip.

We picked our route by the locations we wanted to see along the way and not wanting to ride the same road twice, we made our route into a loop.

The plan was to be just the two of us on a trip of two weeks in length, and both were subject to change. About 2 months before our departure Michael meets Carman and of course, he invites her to come along, now there were three. A wrinkle in the plan for which I must take the blame, Michael, faced with his recent divorce was lonely, Carman worked with me and I introduced them.

At dinner one evening with a bunch of friends, Mike mentions our trip. Cindy, who cut Mikeís hair and had ridden with Mike several times, comments how much fun a trip like this would be and that we were going to have a blast. So Mike, a good friend looking out for his bud, says why donít you join us? I wasnít looking forward to riding on a trip of this length with someone I really didnít know, but now there were four. 

About three weeks prior to departure, Mike and I both find out that two weeks away from our perspective jobs isnít an option. I have a major project come up and Mike as a company owner begins to think his business wonít survive for two weeks without him.

Both of us with new Ď82 Gold Wings equipped with all the bells and whistles, ask ourselves whatís the big deal? With a few revisions to our route and timeline, itís a go!

Cindy and Carman drop off their supplies late Friday afternoon and we load the bikes. We grab a bite to eat and now itís just a waiting game for Saturday morning.

We wanted to start our trip with a good night of sleep. In a word, impossible, Friday night brought no sleep. After dinner we decided in order to facilitate an earlier start, we should have a sleep-over and with the anticipation of the week ahead we kept the conversation going well past midnight.

Saturday morning arrives, and we head the bikes out I-25 taking US 80 west just before Cheyenne. Grabbing lunch in Rawlins we pick up 287. Having no area of interest in southern Wyoming we keep moving north to Dubois WY for a quick dinner at a local diner.

For our first nightís stay we continue on 287 for 21 miles entering the Shoshone National Forest, looking for a vacancy in one of the 5 campgrounds in the park. Pulling into The Falls Campground we find an intimate little area right next to the Brooks Lake Creek to pitch our tents. Unloading our bikes, and a brief conversation around the campfire, we head for our tents and a good night of sleep. We logged on this day, 445 miles of less than scenic and windy Wyoming.

Everyone woke Sunday with a smile and ready for day two except Cindy. It seems she didnít sleep well with all the noise of running water, and the harmonious snoring of Mike and me.

We broke camp and loaded the bikes, but before hitting the road we took a short nature trail just a few steps outside of our camp. This trail followed the creek and within a few hundred feet we see a fabulous water fall. What a great way to start the day of riding with a brisk walk and amazing scenery.

Continuing on 287 for a mere 35 miles we enter the Grand Teton National Park at the Moran Entrance, following 287 and picking up 191 we continue north. With Jackson Lake on our left and some of the best scenery Wyoming has to offer, this park is spectacular. If you have never visited this Park you are missing out on some of the best riding scenery Iíve ever seen.

Leaving the park and continuing north 6.5 miles we enter the Southern Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I have been to Yellowstone many times and donít get me wrong, IĎve enjoyed each visit. Itís always fun to see the wildlife and Old Faithful, but honestly guys, how many smudge pots can you look at before they all look the same?

Our original plan was to leave Yellowstone taking US 14 east to Cody. During lunch, Carman mentioned a campground in West Yellowstone that she had stayed at as a child. She remembered this great little campground as being by a river, with sandy areas to pitch a tent and a huge tree at the entrance on the left side of the road. As she recalled there was a restaurant and general store on the right. She asked if we could stay there tonight, if it wasnít too far off our plan and with the famous last words, you canít miss the turn.

Why not, West Yellowstone is not that far out of the way, a nice little restaurant at the turn for dinner, letís go for it. We left Yellowstone and drove. After 20 minutes we start talking on the CB, did we miss it? After 30 minutes weíre into Idaho. With all the back and forth conversation we hear Carman say, itís just up the road, we canít miss it.

I know itís been a few years and Iím told Iím prone to exaggeration but we drove for miles. This was supposed to be our short mileage day and we dove more than 90 miles into Idaho looking for that huge tree that was supposed to be in West Yellowstone. Finally, in Idaho Falls, there it was.

Carmen was correct about the restaurant, we had a great meal and just across the highway about 1/4 of a mile we pitched our tents right on the river. Unloading our bikes, heading for the tents, we logged on this day, 334 miles.

Everyone woke Monday with a smile and ready for day three except Cindy. It seems she didnít sleep wellÖ again. There was a train track that ran just behind the campground. From midnight on, which was about every 1/2 hour, as a train came to the intersection they would blow their whistle.

We broke camp and loaded the bikes. Not wanting to back track into Yellowstone we checked the map for a more direct route. We decided on US 15 north to US 90 just past Missoula taking US 93 to Flathead Lake, Hwy. 35 to US 206, and US 2 to the Glacier National Park west entrance.

I know, I keep saying amazing and awesome when I describe the scenery in these National Parks. There is no other way to describe it. This Park offers great views and riding, again check it out for yourself, itís amazing.

We had a slight delay in the park as Mazda was filming a commercial for their RX. The stunt driver put on a great show for us as we watched him pushing the car through the curves.

Along the way we picked up pork chops and potatoes. Finding the perfect campsite in Glacier we cooked a meal fit for kings. We purchased enough for leftovers; the plan was to reheat the chops and potatoes for breakfast. Now you know, there are bears in them there woods. The Rangers made a point of telling us that while cooking dinner. So to keep the food out of our camp, Michael decided we should put it in our mess kit, tie a nylon rope to it and hang it in a tree.

Walking out of camp we find this tree with low branches. Mike coils the rope and throws the mess kit as high as he can toward the low hanging branch. Missing the branch, landing in the weeds under the tree and I know you had to be there to appreciate the humor, Mike pulling the rope back and coiling it up, screams SNAKE, dropping the mess kit and starts running back to camp. You see, as he pulled the rope, the weeds moved, and he thought there was a snake. Grown adults, hanging food in trees and running from weeds that moveÖ well as I said, you had to be there.

With great belly laughs around a fine campfire, this was a good time. Heading for the tents, we logged on this day, 462 miles.

Everyone woke Tuesday with a smile, ready for day four and Canada except Cindy. It seems she didnít sleep wellÖ something about hearing bears swatting at a mess kit.

We had no intention of sharing those leftovers with the bears. While Mike and I broke camp and loaded the bikes, the ladies heated up those chops and potatoes on the open fire. Martha Stewart would have been proud.

We rode through the rest of the park and exited at St Maryís entrance taking US 89 to the Canadian boarder. Clearing Customs was no real problem save one. They had this huge sign, NO RADAR DETECTORS ALLOWED IN CANADA.

I had a cycle radar detector hard wired and mounted to the crash bar. There was no way I could remove it here, so I covered it up with a stuff sack. As we started the bikes, the 90 decibel horn went off letting the world know of its existence. The Customs Officer immediately pivots on his heal and points to the pull off area. BoyÖ youíre in a heap of trouble. Actually, he was very nice about it. With his help of course, it gave me the perfect opportunity, to cut the wire and remove it before we continued on to Calgary.

We planned to pass through Calgary but for some reason we were tired and on our last nerve. With little spats here and there between us we decided to take a break. We found the Majestic Inn and went our separate ways getting dinner and checking out the town. Cindy and I found a nice little Italian restaurant and walked the downtown area. We logged on this day, 219 miles.

Everyone woke Wednesday with a smile, refreshed, showered and ready for day five except Cindy. Apparently there was a party going on in the parking lot with drinking, and kids doing donuts. The rest of us were fortunate enough to have slept through the fun, which added a great deal to her anxiety.

Out of Calgary and a bit behind schedule we take Hwy. 1 to Banff. What a great little town, like Aspen or Breckenridge. A ski town with shopping, hot springs and the finest botanical garden you can imagine. We took a tour though the Botanical Garden and found amazing flower gardens and well maintained grounds with Gazeboís everywhere. Unfortunately we didnít have much time to spend there, a couple of hours, lunch and on to Jasper.

Before we made Jasper we stopped at Lake Louise. What an amazing area this was, Banff National Park, Lake Louise, Jasper National Park, all between Banff and Jasper. This is the type of riding we were hoping to find in Canada.

Just south of Jasper was our half way point at 1727 miles and unfortunately behind schedule we didnít have the time we wanted to spend here either. We checked out the ice fields and glaciers, turned and headed for home.

Returning Hwy 93, the same route we took earlier, we picked up Hwy 1 again. Heading south west for British Columbia we pick up Hwy 95 heading south.

Considering we wandered around Banff for close to 3 hours, stopping at Lake Louise and the Ice Fields of Jasper, we didnít start heading home until after 2pm. Trying to make up some time and getting in as many miles as possible, we enjoyed the rest of the scenery from the bike while doing a blistering speed we pull into Golden, British Columbia around 8pm.

A small town, with Kicking Horse River on one side of town, Columbia River on the other side and nestled at the base of the Columbia Mountains. We were whipped, it had been a long day and Golden seemed like a good place to stop.

No idea where the campgrounds were, we see this old man sitting in front of a general store so we pull up to chat. This old man, with ratty shoulder length hair, no teeth, and chewing tobacco nods, and says hello. After exchanging pleasantries we ask where we could pitch a tent for the evening.

Just down the road, he says; look for the park and playground. Just the other side of the playground is our campground. No charge and I doubt there is anybody there, just pick a place and make yourself at home.

As we get ready to leave for the campground, he says do you mind if I ask a question? No sir, go right ahead. How do you know which bike is yours? You see, Mike and I both on Wings, same year, and same color, looked alike to the old man. I said itís easy my friend, I ride the blue one, he rides the red one. The old guy looked at the bikes, then back at me and responds with a smile, I understand. That old man was the topic of conversation for several days.

Looking forward to some sleep, we pitched out tents in the dark, just to the left of the Merry Go Round. We logged on this day, 452 miles.

Sleep came early, but didnít last long. None of us slept well; maybe thatís why I remember Golden BC so well.

This far north in September, well letís just say, it gets cold, very cold. Do you remember those two rivers that run on each side of the town? Our campsite was on the river, if you climbed out of the tent and tripped youíd fall in. Cold and sleeping on the river doesnít work well.

The temps dropped down to the mid 30ís and adding the moisture coming off the river, the tents and sleeping bags were soaked. In fact, the bottom of the tents had a good 1/4 inch of standing water. I didnít know a person could get that cold.

Everyone woke Thursday frozen and cranky. We tied the tent and sleeping bags on the bikes so they could air dry. We put on our riding suits, rain suits, and anything else we could find, it wasnít enough.

We had nothing on the agenda for day 6 other than to ride and put some miles behind us. Heading south we rode through Core díAlene, and beautiful country it is. Continuing through southern Idaho back into Montana and spending the night in Butte Montana.

Not really ready to spend another night in a tent we found a Motel, showered and found a greasy spoon. We logged on this day, 598 miles.

Waking Friday morning, we were all tired and glad to be on the homeward stretch. Leaving Butte we decided to ride and make no scenic stops. Stopping somewhere in Vernal Utah, we find a nice campground, pitched our tents and enjoyed whatís left of the evening around the campfire. We logged on this day, 590 miles.

Waking Saturday, for the last day of our trip, everyone was quiet as we packed up camp and loaded the bikes. We were all tired and glad to be heading home.

Just after the Colorado line we stop in Dinosaur National Park. Checking out the dinosaur bones and the visitor center briefly we move along heading through Craig and into Steamboat for a hearty lunch. From Steamboat we put the bikes on auto pilot taking US 40 back to I-70 and home.

Pulling in the drive around 3pm we unpack the bikes and send the ladies home. With 341 miles on the odometer for this day, Michael and I took the car for a beer.

We had a great trip, filled with many memories and scenery that we will never forget. We logged just under 3500 miles in 7 1/2 days. It truly was the ride of a lifetime.

I wonder if we had an additional week, would we have seen or enjoyed it more. Probably not, there is only so much fun a person can take.

The ladies were fine back seaters but I do know had we taken an additional week, somewhere along the route, probably day 4, at least by day 5, we would have stopped at an airport and sent Cindy home on a plane. Itís amazing what happens to people who spend this much time together. Ah yes, but thatís another story.

Now before you jump on me about Cindy as a passenger and start asking me a bunch of questions, please remember, this was 1982 and B.C. (Before Carol) And yes, I asked my lovely bide for permission to post the story and pictures. Good Man!

Until we ride again,
Cliff

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route traveled by day

To see more pictures from the ride, check the Photo Gallery and look under Other Galleries, The Oldies Gallery Index,
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