The Best Motorcycle Trip Ever (so far)
Friday July 29 Eau Claire, Wisconsin to Bemidji, Minnesota 331 miles
On Thursday night I had changed the oil on my 1987 Harley FLTC, then .went to hear a couple of my favorite local bands, Landfill Park & Planet Melvin. They had cancelled so the few of us remaining stayed and drank till 3:30. As I walked home, I knew I'd regret it tomorrow.
Jul & I got on the road at 10:00 am with 77307 miles showing on the venerable black cherry Tour Glide. Here's Jul showing off her painted fingernails. We'll see how they look by the end of the trip!
The temperature was perfect, a nice sunny day. It would hit a high temp of 67 degrees F. later that day. We took hiway 53 north of Eau Claire. The air smelled nice and tangy and sometimes you would get a whiff of fresh wood burning as people cleaned up the mess from a wind storm a couple of days ago. It is a nice four-lane and traffic was light that day. The first things we saw were three deer walking across the wide shallow Chippewa River. After gassing up in Duluth, we headed west about fifteen miles to Cloquet. It was 211 miles from our house to Cloquet. We found our friend's new house. We hung out with Noah & Bert and had some laughs and snacks. We planned to meet up with them later in Sturgis.
Then we hit the road thru some beautiful countryside to Bemidji, Minnesota where we stayed at a motel for the night. It was a nice motel but the fire alarms went off at 1:30 at night because somebody burned some popcorn.
The odometer showed 77638 miles.
Saturday July 30 Bemidji, Minnesota to Winnipeg, Manitoba
Just south of the Canadian border was this little church with some kind of devilish looking decorations on it.
We had an easy customs crossing - there was only one overworked border agent. Unfortunately I had already dumped all my contraband back in Thief River Falls.
We drove completely around the outskirts of Winnipeg just looking at the city from a distance. The city disappears pretty quickly when you are past the city limits. It is a blue collar town. The motel was pretty funky, but we had a good dinner nearby at a restaurant that had tables outside.
Sunday July 31 Winnipeg, Canada, to Regina, Canada
Regina is a nice town, but they pronounce it to rhyme with "vagina" - when one resident corrected my pronunciation I told her she was just begging for a limerick. All the stores closed at 6:00 pm so we ended up getting a bottle of wine and watching Star Wars - Attack of the Clones. The bike's speedo showed 78291 miles.
Monday August 1 Regina, Saskatchewan to Medicine Hat, Alberta
We drove past big piles of alkali out on the flat prairie. It looked like snow but smelled like potash.
We met a couple at an A&W who asked us about our route and recommended that we go down the west side of the Rockies when we got there. Later on, we were glad we took their advice. The husband was a semi-retired rancher with 500 head of cattle - he called it a "small" farm.
It is so flat in this part of Canada that you could see a whole train at one time - over 100 cars!
I'd been riding without a helmet so far. We met some riders who were coming in to a wayside as we were leaving. They told me there was a helmet law in Canada, and gave me a number to call in Medicine Hat to buy a cheap helmet from them. Seriously, up until this point I didn't know there was a helmet law in Canada. The guy at the border hadn't said anything, but now I understood why a couple of truckers and bikers had given me a big thumbs-up. When we got to Medicine Hat, I called the number for the helmet but nobody was home. I would be sorry later. Anyway, Medicine Hat is called the "The Gas City" and it was pretty nice, but it was some kind of holiday in Canada again, so the grocery stores were closed.. By now the odometer showed 78365 miles.
Tuesday August 2 Medicine Hat, Alberta, to Calgary, Alberta
Saw a lot of oil derricks and small refineries near Brooks. Cool temps and light clouds. Starting to see hills as we approached Calgary.
We saw some antelope in the hills. It looked like we were crossing paths with a storm, too. I took an exit just in time to get under a gas station awning when the hailstorm & rain hit. Another guy on a bike was trapped there, too, so we shot the shit for a while. He said Calgary had seen some bad flooding recently. Calgary's big economy is oil.
Things were going well until I got stopped by a cop on the freeway in Calgary. My violation was riding without a helmet. He was going to tow the bike, but I pissed and moaned so finally we worked it out so that I could drive the bike with Jul's helmet on while she rode in the cop car! She was a little ticked off and I guess I don't blame her. We got a helmet and I got a big fine. Screw canada. At least Nebraska gave me a warning a couple of years ago.
There were a lot of these kinds of birds around in the city of Calgary.
Wednesday August 3 Calgary to Banff and back
We headed west from Calgary to Banff. It is a cold 75 miles. We bought a pass into the Canadian national park. Then we saw a bear and a jackass. The jackass was a tourist was chasing the bear trying to get a close-up picture. The cops led him away in handcuffs. Funny stuff! We took a stroll around Lake Louise. Some guy was playing Amazing Grace on an alpenhorn. Then we headed back onto highway 93. We made a lot of stops along the way and took a lot of short hikes to see waterfalls and lookout points..
(click for larger picture)
We turned around at Saskatchewan Crossing. We talked to some people who had come down through Alaska through hundreds of miles of mud, rain, and gravel. They were in pretty good spirits, considering everything.
Thursday August 4 Calgary to Banff and back 274 miles
We headed out of Calgary in the morning. Started the day with 79166 miles on the bike. On the way to Banff, we could see some of the structures left over from the past winter Olympics in Calgary.
We saw a lot of sheep and goats. It was a good day for hiking, so we hiked to some waterfalls, then rode back at dusk for our last night in Calgary.
On the way back, we stopped for dinner in Banff and looked at some rocks in a rock shop. I never saw so many colors of agate, so I bought a purple one. You can't carry very many rocks on a motorcycle!
Friday August 5 Calgary, Alberta to Kalispell, Montana 539 miles.
Taking the advice of the rancher we met in Regina, we took highway 93 south. It was beautiful, with mountains on both sides of us most of the way to Radium. We stopped for lunch in Radium.
After another easy border crossing, we used our Nation Parks passes to go thru Glacier National Park.
Even after all of the spectacular scenery we had travelled through, Glacier National Park still took our breath away. We rode the Highway to the Sun in late afternoon. It did feel like you could go over a cliff and fall into the sun.
click for the full-size picture
I could spend a lot more time in the park, but we went on to spend the night in to Kalispell. On a Friday night, Kalispell is a redneck town. There were drunks in pickup trucks yelling out their windows, and casinos everywhere. The town looked better the next morning, however.
Saturday August 6 Kalispell, Montana to Bozeman, Montana 311 miles
Sunday August 7 Kalispell, Montana to Tetons National Park, Wyoming
Monday August 8 Hiking in the Tetons 0 miles on the bike
Anita points to our destination (click for big picture), and below is kind of a fuzzy picture of a bear that was in the woods eating the landscape. Anita is a stern taskmaster but she also had the food and water so we had to jump when she cracked the whip.
Above is a bear we saw along our hike. It was eating leafs and berries. Later, we saw this moose cow near a moose crossing sign.
Tuesday August 9 Tetons to Cody, Wyoming
Added one quart of oil to the bike. This would be the only oil I added all trip. Headed north through the Tetons to Yellowstone. As usual, the area around Yellowstone is crawling with animals.
The northeast leg of Yellowstone Road was closed, so we took the north exit and ran into a little rain near Gardiner, where there is a weird stone that we had seen a couple of years ago on this same bike late at night. It was nice to see it in the daytime. The little white dots in the lower right corner are people, to get an idea of the size of this bizarre rock.
The road kind of guided us around the rain which barely touched us that day.
Beartooth Highway was in bad shape. Beartooth Pass is closed. After being the first bike in the platoon let through the road construction, we took off down Chief Joseph highway, which is one of the most beautiful roads I have ever ridden. There are broad grassy mesas and mountainous overlooks with striped canyons. When we got to Cody, there were deep puddles on the roads from the heavy rain that we missed. A bunch of local girls were standing next to the puddles and encouraging people to splash them with their vehicles. It must be dry a lot in this town! Bike is filthy again. We were lucky to find a room at a nice privately-owned motel called the Burl Inn. We ate Chinese then went to the rodeo.
Wednesday August 10 Cody, Wyoming to Sturgis, South Dakota
We left Cody with 80742 miles showing on the odometer. As we headed over the Bighorns, we came around a corner and here was a deer trotting along between the bike and the mountain's face. I hoped that the deer wouldn't bolt at us and knock us off the mountain. I'm not real sure how Julie managed to snap this picture.
Thursday August 11 Sturgis
S&S Motors were displaying some amazing bikes made with their modern new shovelhead engine, like this one below,
and of course, there were the girls. It was hard to take photos with Jul always trying to slap the camera out of my hands.
Friday August 12 Sturgis, South Dakota to Sioux Falls, South Dakota
It was another beautiful day and we had National Parks passes, so we stopped at the Badlands to make sure they were still bad. The park ranger said they were as bad as ever, so we went in.
There were a lot of these white-assed animals poking around in the Badlands.
Saturday August 13 Sioux Falls, South Dakota to Eau Claire, Wisconsin
After we got home, I set all my gas receipts out on the kitchen counter.
The total trip was 4618 miles. It sure doesn't seem that far now. The bike ran perfectly the whole way, averaging about 45 miles per gallon. I think the clutch took a beating going up and down all those mountains, and the tires are showing some wear, but that is what Wisconsin winters are made for - bike maintenance!
Here are Jul's fingernails at the end of the trip. Obviously she didn't have to change any tires or push the bike out of the mud too many times on this trip!
See you on the road!