West 2009

Day 05

August 31


I decided that on this trip I would try at least to walk a little bit before I mounted up since I do that at home on a regular basis. I'm up around 4 AM and quietly slip on my clothes and head outside before sunrise, trying to be quiet so I don't wake Dave or Andy who are hard at the sleeping enterprise. It came a hard rain last night, so I figure it should be a nice morning for a walk. But as soon as I step outside, my heart sinks and my head hurts - Frost is laying on her side, having sunk down into the hardpack. Having been through this before, I know the mirror is gone, the tip-over wing is busted, the saddlebag is scratched up - without even lifting the cover. Try as I might, I cannot get Frost off the ground because she fell on the sidewalk and there's no place to use my legs to lift. As much as I hate it, I go back inside.

"Andy, man I hate to bother you, but my bike's fallen over and I need your help."

That's not something you really want to wake up to, but Andy is right up and dressed. Between us, we get the old girl right and on the side stand.

"Go on back to bed now, I'm going for a walk" I tell him and he does.

I could kick myself for not figuring out that the roof valley directly above the parking area would flood and soften the ground, but that's just life. As I always say,

"If money can fix it, it ain't too big a problem."

As I walk, I have the whole town of West Yellowstone pretty much to myself. An occasional car passes but the streets are silent on this cool, wet morning.

  I can't help but notice as I pass the Kentucky Fried Chicken place that the old Colonel is wearing a cowboy hat. I reckon out here if you're gonna sell anything, you better have the cowboy connection!  
  When I get back, Dave and Andy are already up. I uncover Frost to see what damage is done and try to figure out what my options are. Fortunately, the cover protected the right saddlebag and it escaped unharmed. But the right mirror cover, which holds the front turn signal is in at least seven pieces. The mirror is broken completely off the stem - a first for me in all of the tipovers I've seen. But with a little coaxing, Frost fires right up, so at least I can keep riding. I break out the gaffer tape, trying to figure out how to piece the puzzle back together.  

Dave speaks up -

"My mate took Super glue and baking soda and filled in a whole in a piece of aluminum. He drilled a new hole, tapped it, and it held. I believe it would work on this too."

"Well, I saw a grocery store just down the block when I was walking. Let's head over there and give it whirl. We can glue it together, then go do breakfast. By the time we're back, it ought to be as set as it's gonna be."

So off we trot to see if they have what we need, and sure enough they have Super Glue and good old Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. We are in like Flint, so we pick up a few more items for the trip and head back to the room. After my hand surgery, my sense of fine touch is pretty poor, so Dave mans the glue and reassembly after seeing me fuss with it for a few minutes. But he so fascinated by the 'white powder' that I begin to wonder about his chemical background ....


It's a simple process - glue a piece, then cover the glue with baking soda. Once it dries, dust off the excess. Pretty soon the fractured mirror cover becomes a solid piece again. I fit the turn signal back into it and we let it dry. We decide to try a different restaurant for breakfast, so we make our way over the Outpost. The grub is good and the service is fine and hits the spot. I tell Andy and Dave -

"There's a good Idaho sign right outside of town a few miles. If y'all don't care, I'd like to get this morning before we get into the Park. That way if we're late this evening, we don't have to fuss with it."

As usual, they're both agreeable, so we finish our food and head back to the room. When we get back, I check out the mirror cover - it ain't pretty, but it's as solid as the original. And once Dave helps me get it fitted back on the bike, the turn signal works.

"Well, I won't have a right mirror, but at least I'll have a signal. I was sort of concerned that some Barney Fife on the west coast might stop me if I didn't have one working."

And what will prove to be more amazing is that cover will ride the rest of the 5,000+ miles in all sorts of temperatures and weather and never come apart!

We get kitted up, and head out into a slight drizzle, but the skies are blue up ahead and hope springs eternal.

  We come to the line, where I have been before, and I get my Idaho sign. Four down and six more to go! This particular sign is also interesting in that it also marks a point on the Great Continental Divide.  
  This is a 'twofer' - two state lines that are shootable, so I grab the Montana one while I'm at it. We'll be coming this way tomorrow but I always figure it's better to get it while you can.  
  With that bit of business done, we head back through town and into the Park. We had noticed that there was a 'River Road' cutoff from the main road, so we decide to check it out. It's a peaceful but short run right along the river and not traveled by many folks.  
  Back on the main road, we encounter our first wildlife of the day. I'm still amazed that folks trot right out there and then wonder why the animals run off. I guess they watched too many Bambi shows when they were kids and were never kicked by an old ornery cow.  
  With the rain the night before and the dampness in the air, the thermal activity makes for a dramatic display. It looks as if the valley has been on fire, and the remains are still smoldering.  
  Being the hooligan that I am and the fact that nobody's around, I ride the Frost up on the walkway so I can get a dramatic backdrop looking down the valley. No little old ladies in wheelchairs were harmed in this undertaking.  

We're on our way to our first stop - Old Faithful - when Mr. Buffalo makes his appearance. As I ride by him, I tell him -

"That feller on the black bike behind me ate your uncle for dinner last night. You ought to ask him about it."

I'm referring to Dave, who had a bison burger last night. Andy and I did too, but I figure I don't have to tell Mr. Buffalo that. After all, he weighs in at around 2,000 pounds and he has right of weight.

  Traffic is pretty light this morning, so we get to Old Faithful in good time. As we are securing our gear, another V-Strom rider pulls in and he and Andy have a good discussion about their experiences on their respective bikes.  

As we make our way to the viewing area for Old Faithful, it is pretty deserted, which is typical. I tell Andy and Dave -

"Let's go ahead and get our seats now. You'll be amazed at how quickly this place fills up when it get close to the estimated time."

So we snag front and center row seats - the best in the house - at price you can't beat - free!

  While we're waiting, we can see numerous other geysers in the distance. I guess they're not as faithful as Old Faithful, so they are not the central attraction.  

Right behind me, an elderly couple sit down, holding a little dog in a sweater. I seldom pass up a chance to pet on a dog, so I ask them -

"Whereabouts are y'all from?"

The gentleman says with a smile -

"Oh, we're from Stuttgart, Arkansas."

"Yes, that's just south of I40 if I remember correctly. Y'all sure are a long way from home. Nice puppy dog you've got there."

"His name is Buddy and he is spoiled rotten" the lady tells me.

"Would it be all right if I pet him?"

They are fine with it, and I hold my hand out, palm down, for him to sniff and give his approval. Once I pass the test, the little feller basks in the additional attention.

I tell the dog with a solemn look as I can muster -

"I can see you're treated just like a dog - not at all as well as you'd like to be."

Of course the dog nods in complete agreement with me and looks up at his masters. We all laugh at that, since he's wearing a very nice poochie jacket and obviously is very well taken care of.

"I reckon a dog will love you when nobody else will. And they sure are a lot of company."

They nod their heads in agreement although the pooch says nothing.

Off in the distance a geyser starts to erupt, so I thank them for sharing their dog with me and I turn back around. It's not the main show, but it does a fine job before the opening act we've come to see.

  From our seats, we have a direct and unfettered view of Old Faithful. As the estimated time approaches, we are hemmed in on all sides by masses of people, three and four deep, peering over shoulders and the like. A park ranger comes over to our area and gives a short talk on geysers in general and Old Faithful in particular. Then the lady begins to introduce herself.  
  It's pretty amazing to watch, although it does not seem as tall as I have seen her go before. But the ranger has told us that the height depends on the previous eruption and various other conditions.  
  Slowly she settles back down, and rests until the next performance. As quickly as the crowds came up they disburse in all directions.  

I tell Andy and Dave -

'Let's wander over to the Old Faithful Inn while we're here. It's pretty interesting on the inside."

  From the lobby, in amongst the hoards of tourists from the tour buses, you can see four stories of balconies and the huge fireplaces. The lodge was constructed in the 1903-1904 time frame and has survived earthquakes and fires - and the tons of tourists.  

As we leave the Old Faithful area and make our way toward the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, Dave radios me -

"I'd like to get a shot of that Continental Divide sign. It's higher than anything we have in Scotland."

I call back to him -

"Sure thing, I'll keep an eye out for it and pull over if we see it."

If my memory serves me correctly, it should be coming up pretty soon. And when I see it, we pull over to get the shot. It is at almost 4,000 feet higher altitude than the highest point in Scotland, Ben Nevis, at 4,409 feet.

  As we continue making our way north through the park, we pass the beautiful Yellowstone Lake. At 136 square miles, is the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 feet in North America.  

As we roll along, I radio back to Dave -

"I had forgotten just how big this lake was. It just seems to go on forever and forever."

It dominates the view from almost any angle along the road, peeking from behind and through the trees like a naughty boy caught looking.


As we make our way to the Grand Canyon area, I radio to Dave -

"We'll pass the upper falls and go the lower falls first."

The upper falls are nice, but the lower falls are majestic, at 300+ feet almost twice as tall as Niagara Falls. There's a nice little walk to a great observation point where people become lost in their thoughts as they view the spectacular scene.

  From the same viewpoint, you can look down into the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It is not as spectacular as the Grand Canyon, but has it's own rugged beauty and subtle shades of color.  
  We thread our way through the numerous tourist and back to the bikes so we can make the short ride to the upper falls viewpoint. The upper falls are only 100+ feet, but they are nothing to pass by. And this time of year, they are flowing robustly as the Yellowstone River makes it's passage to the sea.  

As we walk back to the bikes, a feller notices we are riders and poses the question to us -

"How many miles so far?"

Dave tells him "2083 so far."

"Still have all your teeth?" he asks.

"I reckon so" I tell him, wondering if he knows anything about motorcycles besides Harley Davidson. We just look at each other and shrug our shoulders. I guess to some folks that is the only bike there is, but I like them all. It's not what you ride, but that you do ride. I'll wave to a feller on a scooter just like I do at somebody on an Electra Glide. As we head back toward the motel, I radio Dave -

"Well, looks like your cloud is following us again today!"

I'm wondering if we'll make it back without another bath for the day.

  Then we encounter Mr. Buffalo again meandering down the middle of the road. I think he is still looking for Dave, cause he ate his uncle. But by the time I get there he has decide to go looking off road.  
  We pass by the river road that we took earlier but stay on the main road since we've already been there and done that. Dave's cloud seems to be holding off, so we make haste as quickly as we can.  

When we arrive back at the motel, there are two more ST1100s parked. That means Al and Deb made it okay - and the tasty smoked salmon too! They wander out, wondering what sort of hoodlums are ogling their bikes and I give them a big bear hug.

"Glad to see y'all again" I tell them and we catch up on things a bit. After much serious deliberations - of about 60 seconds - we decide to go back to the same place we had breakfast - Outpost's Restaurant - for supper. With that matter of great gravity dispatched, Dave, Andy and I go back to the room and tidy ourselves up a bit.

  The nice thing about the Westwood Motel is that it is an easy walk to the downtown section. There are all sorts of curio and trinket shops along the way. In the window of one I see Dave's replacement for his ST1100 at home, since he's getting up in years and down in mental ability ...  
  Supper is great and the company better, as we plot out what we'll be doing together the next few days. It will be great with Al and Deb along, who know the area we are heading into quite well. We decide on a departure time of about daylight or so, and head back to our respective rooms. After the way the day started, I'm ready to put a lid on it. And as usual, it doesn't take me long to be in dreamland. But little do I know what awaits me on the ride tomorrow in the heat of the day.