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Riding through Yellowstone feels like a trip back in time. It’s different than riding through an old town that makes you feel like you rewound the clock a few decades. This feels like you’ve gone back several millennia. Before man erected structures to mark the land. There’s an unspoiled beauty to the place that I had never seen before. Buffalo roaming freely, moose peeking out through the trees, and even a bear roaming the hillside. This was by far the most wildlife we had seen in one place.C
We took our time getting through Yellowstone and continued the relaxed pace into Grand Teton where the spectacular beauty of the area continued.
The thing is, we were so enamored with what we were seeing that we forgot to make a campsite selection and our timing had us in one of the most popular parks on the weekend. You see where this is going. Nightfall was coming and after checking a few places that were completely booked, we decided we would have to stealth camp (what I mean by that is leave the park and camp in the National Forest but not at a designated campground. The spot we ended up choosing, however, was a retired camping area). The temperature got down to 37 that night which was crazy considering just a day before the mercury topped out at 112 degrees.
We broke camp at first light, packed up the bikes and headed out into the chilly morning. Barely awake and freezing cold we were presented with a view of the Tetons set ablaze by the morning sun which was amazing. Then through a herd of buffalo – this time so close that they seemed to have facial expressions as they crossed the road right in front of us and they weren’t overly enamored with the sound of the motorcycles.
We stopped in Jackson Hole for some breakfast (we ride right by the famous antler arch but didn’t take a picture) then it was on to Idaho. Originally the plan was to get into the Sawtooth National Forest and ride some of the area there but to save time, we blasted through Idaho’s southern portion. It was rather uneventful save for the crazy high crosswinds while riding the interstate.
We zipped from Wyoming, through all of Idaho, and half of Oregon where we noticed the landscape start to change again from vast openness to rolling hills. A welcome sight as we decided to hop off of the interstate for a bit and take a 2 lane road that made us feel like we were in the middle of nowhere with very minimal traffic.
We stopped in Burns, OR for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. I looked up campsites nearby and we settled on Idlewild Campground just north of Burns, off of 395. It was one of our favorite campsites of the trip. No bugs whatsoever, clean facilities, and running water. No bathhouse but that’s what wet wipes are for, right? It was here that, as we sat around the fire taking it in, we sort of just looked at each other like “Dude, we’re in Oregon.”
In the morning we would head back south to Burns, and take 20 over to Bend which was a fun little town. Here we would pass the 3,000 mile mark and set our eyes upon Mt. Hood. From there we would head South on 97 to our next National Park, Crater Lake. You can see in the GPS picture that we had spent almost 50 hours in the saddle up to this point.
Heading into Crater Lake was underwhelming, considering we had ridden through the beauty of Yellowstone and Teton already. The ride up to the overlook was nothing special but I remember snapping a photo of some snow at elevation because we hadn’t seen any up to this point. We parked our bikes at a small lot just outside of an overlook and I don’t think we were prepared for what we saw as we approached the edge of the deepest lake in the United States.
Leaving crater lake, we would head South and start to make our way toward California. I had my GPS set on shortest distance rather than fastest time as that’s usually a good way to see some nice twisty back roads. As we passed Applegate Lake, I started to realize that we might be getting off the beaten path to head into California. It looked like we were about to hit a twisty mountain forest service road to get ourselves across the border. I quickly stopped to recalculate the route for pavement, but that required an addition of a couple of hours. Screw that. Street tires be damned we were going to hit this gravel.
After coming down from the mountain we looked for a place to camp with a preference for finding something close by with showers. We ended up in the small town of Happy Camp, CA and settled on Elk Creek Campground. Now, I’m not picky when it comes to camping but this place was just weird. I probably wouldn’t stay there again.
The next morning there was one goal: Hit the coast and ride the Pacific Coast Highway.
Now, this next picture isn’t very good in the scheme of things but it reminds me of the only spat we had during the 2 week journey. Every trip has its ups and downs. Dad and I get along great but it was around this time that we were hot, tired, and in the middle of BFE that dad had a bit of a moto maintenance emergency. The GS was drinking oil like kool-aid and we needed a fix. I was hot and tired, he was freaking out about his bike and in this situation communication broke down. We exchanged some choice words, got the POS beemer fixed up, and hit the road. After a few miles of riding in silence apologies were exchanged and it was back to normal. Happy to report that the Yamaha Super Tenere had zero issues :).
As we made our way West, we had to be touristy for a moment:
And got stopped by road work several times:
At this point the weather was starting to turn. Which sucked because we were nearing the coast and you could almost smell the ocean. We’d ridden for an entire week with hardly a cloud in sight and no rain whatsoever. I was bummed that our first view of the West Coast was going to be tainted by cloud cover.
I remember riding down into a forest as the coast drew nearer and nearer. We couldn’t see much of the sky because of the tree cover but right as we were about to leave the forest we felt the rush of cold air, knowing that could only mean one thing. The coast was right around the corner! We pressed on, rounded a couple of bends and there it was; we’d made it all the way to the coast. From Nashville, TN.