Live Bison and Dead Horses

Trip Start Jul 17, 2012
Trip End Nov 30, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Arizona
Thursday, August 23, 2012

    Had a pretty dull stay in Helena to be honest - highlight was overhearing an old woman talking about her spoilt grandson in a restaurant - 'He wanted for nothing that boy - he had an idyllic childhood. Used to take his shotgun to school with him and shoot pheasants on the way home!' Moving on from Helena we felt the transition from the cold north to the hot south. Not a cloud in the sky and managed about 400 miles south to Cody, Wyoming - home of Buffalo Bill. On the way we took in two diversions to ride the Beartooth Highway and the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Both were great but the Beartooth would take the gold. It went up right above a glacier in the Shoshone forest - very strange looking down on the glacier bowl from above ! Can't really do justice to the scenery - you'll have to look at the pictures ! The Chief Joseph took us into cowboy country - rolling hills and rock formations out of a spaghetti western. Millions of Harleys out - lots not wearing helmets as per the state law. Don't know why so many people are swanning around on a weekday - may be they're all on holiday I suppose. Stopped in the first motel we saw on Main Street, Cody - tired but happy with a great day's ride.

    Yellowstone National Park is only 50 miles away from Cody - we'd booked a camping spot at Bridge Bay overlooking the Yellowstone Lake. The booking was essential - everywhere is packed out this time of year. Got to our site and tents up by one-ish and then rode the Grand Loop route.
The secenery everywhere within Yellowstone is Amazing with a capital A. Everywhere you look there's something new - geysers (two thirds of the world's total), lakes, waterfalls, sulphur vents, meadows, mountains - and all just come at you one after the other. Again, the photos really do say a thousand words. The weather also was perfect - cloudless sky but comfortable riding temperature. First stop was Old Faithful - unfortunately arriving just at the end of one eruption so we had to while away 90mins for the next one ! Bang on time the next one came along soon enough. The 145 mile loop took the rest of the day - via Mammoth Hot springs and Mt Washburn and back past the East entrance again to the lake. And at last I have  achieved - drum roll - 24hrs of camping without it raining !! Highlight of the park for me was seeing herds of Bison - incredible.

    From Yellowstone (wish I'd paid more attention to the BBC David Attenborough documentary by the way!) it was a couple of transition days as they call it in the Tour de France covering ground south to Moab. Route took us through Grand Teton NP and Flaming Gorge and the National Elk refuge ! Also passed the historic Oregon Trail - you can still see the wagon train tracks (allegedly) as hundreds of wagons a day headed west. Nothing really worth mentioning except for GS buffs that we got over 500 miles out of a tank - we have also now covered over 5000 miles so far on the trip as we crossed through Wyoming. First night stop there was Green River - cheap motel and it had to happen eventually - cheap dinner in a 50's diner with Harleys parked outside. Iced tea, a good burger and cherry pie for $15. Caught up on some admin - pleased to hear that Iron Horse Motorcycles in Tucson, Arizona (BMW dealer) have agreed to carry out two oil changes for us without booking a set date and also to supply a new back tyre for my bike which should  then last until Panama. Have booked a hotel in Tucson for the 24th near to the dealers. Also looked up an insurance broker which hopefully will cover us for Mexico. Lastly have been fighting the language barrier to arrange the air freight of the bikes from Panama.

    Second night was in Moab, Utah. Temperature during the day up to 40c. Spoke to a couple from Germany in a camper van. They are also heading for Argentina from North America but are taking a year. Next morning we retraced our steps slightly and went to the Dead Horse Point National Park (Dead Horses featuring heavily so far in this trip!). This gives a phenomenal view across Canyonlands and below to the Colorado River. The name comes from cowboy days when apparently they would corral wild horses in the natural U shape of the top of the canyon, block the exit with brushwood to stop the horses escaping and then select the best which they would keep. The unlucky ones were left trapped and to their fate to die of thirst overlooking the river 2000ft below them but unable to reach it. The alternative, less macabre, and my favourite alternative is that Mormon settlers on seeing the twists of the Colorado thought one section looked like a horse lying on it's side. As long as it didn't look as though it was dead I'm happy with that. Onwards southbound again bumped into a German (who else?) riding a HP2 (a sportier version of our bikes) also going from Alaska to Argentina - taking 7 months this time.

    We then went off the beaten track to the top of the plateau overlooking Monument Valley. From here a dirt road - the Moki Dugway - drops the 2000ft in about 6 bends to the valley floor. Views again were unreal. Reaching the bottom you turn off the tarmac again and head across a little marked track that runs through The Valley of the Gods. Surrounded by rock buttresses in all shapes and sizes and with the desert sun casting all different shapes and colours it was really something else. Glad not to get another puncture we bounced back on to the highway for a quick look at the famous view as per close encounters. To be honest I'm amazed tourists go there and miss what is just a few miles up the road. Motel for the night (with pool!) was well deserved after another 7hours at 35C in full bike gear. Had to feel for the German bloke - he's camping virtually all the way. With Mexico on the horizon will try and update the blog text as we go and download the pics once a week or so as I have been doing up to now.

    Moving on from Bluff across Utah we had a positive National Park fest including Capitol Reef and Grand Staircase Escalante all in one day before arriving at Bryce Canyon for the night. Again, I'm lost for words to describe the scenery. Escalante alone is 1.9 million acres worth - a lot of space filled with a lot of big scenery. My favourite though isn't even a national park - Glen Canyon.  Some of the communities along the way were only connected by road fairly recently due to the terrain. Boulder for example still had post delivered by pack horse until 1940 ! Everywhere we have been since Yellowstone by the way has been far from a tourist trap. Yes, there's facilities like motels when you need them but sometimes there is 100 miles of nothing between them. There are tourists but spread over such a vast area that you sometimes don't see another car for half an hour. All the way through Valley of the Gods we saw 1 bike (the German guy we last saw 200 miles earlier) and 2 cars - in about an hour. The route has also taken us north again slightly - that will be the last time now until Ushuaia all being well. At one point we were at 10,000ft which kept things a bit cooler than we've been used to and we dodged another thunderstorm on the way into Bryce. JB splashed the cash on some more GoPro camera gear in Moab so he's gone filming mad. Typically today is the first stop where I can't upload pics - the WiFi only works in the hotel lobby (what !!?)  and wiring up all our cameras and sitting there for 3 hours isn't really possible !

Update 2:
    Got up early for a ride through Bryce Canyon (and back). Raining but the sight of deer roaming around and the strange hoodoos - stone pillars almost like stalagmites - made up for it. Got caught in heavy showers all the way today but some sunshine dried us out. Strange to think we have followed so much of the journey of the Colorado from mountains to the Grand Canyon. A bit of trivia for you - so much of the Colorado river is diverted for irrigation etc that only in years of very heavy rainfall does it actually empty into the sea as it would have done for millions of years in the Gulf between Baja California and the Mexican mainland. In the afternoon we had a look at the Glen Canyon Dam and chatted to a family from Antwerp. They told us our trip would be a dream for most people but only a few would realise it. I realise how lucky I am and I'm trying to fully appreciate each day. It's a bit of balancing act - the nature of the trip means we have to cover the miles, but also want to avoid rushing and missing stuff. Had a deep and meaningful conversation with JB over a beer yesterday and drew some other conclusions too - he misses his wife Cristina, and I miss my dog Maggie ! Eventually got to the Grand Canyon - managed to get in almost free and the ranger gave us a years pass to all National Parks because of how many we have visited already. JB had wisely kept all his receipts - I'd binned mine to save weight ! It would be a cliche to describe the canyon - no doubt awesome and breath taking would be involved. Suffice to say if you haven't seen it I would definitely recommend that you try to one day !

Update 3 (Thursday)
    Staying at the Grand Canyon Plaza Resort (not as flash as it sounds) we managed to get caught out by a thunderstorm that went on all night. The ride south across Arizona got us to Tucson back in sunshine at 3pm and straight to Sanborn's insurance. Coincidentally it was on the same street as our hotel which I had tried to get as near to the bike dealer as possible. This was also on the same street albeit all 3 were 5 miles apart ! Got our Mexican Insurance sorted with Vicki and also spoke to a bloke outside riding a GS from Canada to Southern Mexico to be best man at a wedding. He had of course emigrated from Germany when he was 16 ! Also bumped into an old boy who thoroughly recommended the fish and chips in Aberdeen. Everyone seemed to be of the same opinion - be careful in Mexico, you should be ok but just don't hang around near the border. The old boy also stated where we are heading for our first night was fine and his son goes snorkelling there. 10 days TPF+T cover - 40 which I thought was pretty good and will keep the Mexican border guards happy.

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Mark on

We want pics! ;-)

The only way I can put it is, it sounds awesome! I think you're still ahead of schedule, so be sure to enjoy some time out of the saddle in Vegas, it really is party town!

tim on

getting envious now,did you meet yogi bear

v5rcb on

Unfortunately not Tim - he was on holiday apparently. Will do the pics as soon as I can - promise.

cristina baker on

Well done on the pictures! WOW! Glad you are enjoying the delights of my country.

Good luck into Mexico.

v5rcb on

Thanks Cristina. We still plan on booking hotels ahead (1st one already done) for the first few days and heading south from the border before we start to chill out a bit. Will keep the updates coming !

Gene Gemelli on

John - Lehnis just visited and furnished the link. Thrilled you are enjoying America. I have visited many of the same parks and share your appreciation. Love the pictures and the commentary. I am sure the creature comforts will take a step down as you enter the next phase over the border. Stay safe.

Bet regards

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