Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Welcome To Montana, Red Lodge, and The #1 Motorcycle Ride in MT and WY

Welcome to Montana, enroute to the town of Red Lodge and Beartooth Mountain Pass Highway!  Beartooth is in every listing of the "Top Ten Motorcycle Rides In The USA," and in most it is number one.

First impressions of Montana - mostly grazing land and hay farms.

A rattlesnake warning is included in the welcome to Montana. Not quite sure how they teach the rattlesnakes to stay off of the sidewalks.

But they also had a clever rest stop area for pets, complete with fire hydrant.

Red Lodge is a neat little mountain town on Highway 212 at the beginning of Beartooth Pass (if you're heading westbound).  The Scenic Byway Pass is 67 miles long to Cooke City and the northeast entrance to Yellowstone National Park. 

We planned to take the historic walking tour in Red Lodge, but the weather did not cooperate, so we did a driving tour instead. We tried to follow the downloadable map, but are not including pictures here because the map did not tell if the places we were seeing were original or even the exact place. First we saw pretentious houses (brothels) called “Castles” that were labeled "female boarding houses" on official maps back in the day. The "ladies" entertained miners at picnics across the street in an area of aspens, a knoll, and a stream. We did not want to post a picture of some nice family's home as a former place of ill repute. Then there was the bank that the Sundance Kid tried to rob and the hotel where he stayed that might not have been built yet when he was in town. Finally, we learned that a house on S. Broadway was owned by “Punch Cowboy,” a notorious bootlegger. In the 1920’s the entire town entered the bootlegging scene by becoming producers, consumers, and distributors. So, Red Lodge had all the typical attributes of "wild west towns" back in the day. Today it is a nice little tourist town with everything you need but a place to eat a meal with vegetables. We asked at church where to go for veggies and were told Subway! 

For the third time now, we have arrived at our RV Park only to find that what we expected was not what we expected, all in the last few stops.  We had a 50 amp power problem at Sturgis but they quickly repaired it, so I won't count that one.  At Southern Hills in Hermosa, the power kept shutting off for our section of the campground so after 3 days we finally asked for our money back and left 2 days earlier than planned. (The new owner was super nice and was correcting the problem, but we were getting tired of the outages and having to run our generator.) At Perry's RV in Red Lodge, we got all set up at the site, then went to plug in the 50 amp power, only to find just 30 amp available.  I went back to Perry and he said, "The people in the site I had reserved for you decided to stay longer and all I have now is a 30 amp site."  Wouldn't that be a problem for the people that decided to stay longer and shouldn't he mention that before we headed to the site?  Then he explained that they had left for a couple of days and he had no way to reach them??????  Anyhow, he offered another 50 amp site down by the crick but would not be responsible for me getting stuck with the RV trying to negotiate tight turns and trees.  People were shaking their heads as we headed that way, one lady that lives there full-time even said to Rhonda, "That ain't gonna work."  I admit a chainsaw would have been helpful and then we had to go in opposite the normal flow of traffic, but we made it and the crick was beautiful!

I'll jump ahead of the blog here and mention that at our next stop in Wapiti, WY, their 50 amp was not reliable either (after we had already gotten set up) and we had to move again there!  But the folks there were very apologetic and as accommodating as they could be, and also offered to give us one day free of charge for our trouble!  Hey, stuff happens.

Bear story and then we'll ride.  Some of the campers at Perry's were reporting that a Mama bear and her cub were hanging out in the trees "but don't worry, they won't bother you."  Uh, I'm pretty sure that's the bear combination you are supposed to be concerned about!

  But we stopped at Red Lodge for Beartooth Pass, so let's get on with that.  It's all about beauty, curves, steep dropoffs, altitude, and the ride!  Most of this will be pictures - enjoy.  Headed to the pass below.

The steep climbs begin quickly.

You should be getting a sense of the steep climbs and dropoffs by now, but one thing you have not expected is that Rhonda is driving the truck through all of this!  I took a picture just to have proof. She normally is a little terrified (she says very terrified) of the curves when I am driving and she has now realized it is less scary for her when she is focused on the dividing line on the road rather than the edges and dropoffs.

As you approach the higher altitudes, there are grassy fields with lots of wildflowers.

I rode Beartooth the next day on the bike.  Picture is at the summit - 10,947 feet.

Starting down again to the lower altitudes, but plenty of beauty and curves remaining.

Rhonda had to check out the snow.

Grizzly bear country but we did not see any.

But like buffalo and sheep, cows can free graze and block traffic also.  

These bikers had to wait for this one.

Beartooth Pass Highway begins in Montana, drops down into Wyoming, back to Montana, and back again to Wyoming, so it is rated as the number 1 motorcycle ride in both states! I also rode about 70 miles of the number 2 ride in Wyoming - the 200-mile Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, but took no pictures and  just enjoyed the ride.  I may be able to finish that route due to its proximity to our next stop, Wapiti, WY to visit Yellowstone National Park.  If you recall, I had already ridden all 260 miles of the number 3 ride in Wyoming, so this has been a fun motorcycle state for me!

We attended church at Beartooth Mountain Baptist Church on Sunday morning before heading to Wapiti.  In lots of towns we have visited, it is difficult to find a church to attend, and for our friends back in Alabama - Baptist is not the predominant denomination!  Some of them are mission efforts from churches back in the southeast and frequently attendance is slim.

See you in Wapiti!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Buffalo, WY

I am having trouble keeping up the blog!  We stay so busy, there is not much time for such things. For example, we have been in Red Lodge, Montana for 3 days and I still need to post Buffalo, WY. Tomorrow we'll be in Wapiti, WY for a week at Yellowstone and I haven't even gone through all the pictures of Red Lodge.  Oh well, here goes on Buffalo.

We stayed at one of the nicest RV parks so far - Deer Creek.  First class professional operation - clean, spacious sites, nice facilities, SHADE TREES galore, swimming pool, ice cream get-togethers each evening, and they even water down the roads each day to keep down the dust!  We had a nice corner spot.

Almost forgot - Welcome To Wyoming!  (I did sort of a touch-and-go there a week or so ago on a bike ride from Sturgis to Devils Tower, but this is the official one).

The area is all about the Bighorn Mountains and there are 2 east/west passes across those mountains - Highways 14 at Sheridan, WY and 16 at Buffalo.  Lots of travelers cross here to Yellowstone from Interstate 90.  Rhonda and I rode the 16 pass together and I did a 260-mile bike ride loop of both of them.  It's about 70 miles across on HWY16 and 90 miles across on HWY 14.  Here we go.  One more thing - a biker friend of mine who has ridden lots of this and is following the blog commented recently to me that the pictures just don't show the true beauty and majesty of the land.  So true - we just use an automatic camera and sometimes the phones.  So, try and imagine about 10 times what you see here and you'll be close.  Here we go, again.

Obviously, the snow is interesting in the middle of July.  You see lots of snow fences in this part of the country, used to prevent snow drifts on the highways.  Farmers also use them to force snow drifts into particular areas to have a water source as the snow melts in the spring.

    Rhonda loves the wildflowers along the highways and throughout the terrain.  Mostly blues, but some yellows and reds also.

Beautiful lakes mixed in along the way.

In some areas, not much out there.  It isn't quite as noticeable in this picture below as it is going down the highway, but lots of the roads in this part of the country are made from rose quartz which gives the roads a pink color.

And then come the mountains.

And back to rolling hills.

In between HWY 16 and HWY 14 on the west side of the Bighorns, there was vast nothingness, literally rock and dust, didn't even bother to take a picture.  Then there's a stretch like the Rio Grande where the only green is along the river.  Then back into the mountains eastbound on HWY 14.

Love the road below.  The curves just about never stop when riding through the mountains.

Handmade signs started showing up on the side of the road saying "slow herds."  Sure enough, not long afterwards, hundreds, probably thousands, of sheep grazing.

And like the buffalo, they stake their claim on the highways and don't mind holding up traffic if it suits them at the time!

Followed shortly thereafter by free roaming horses.  I could only get a shot of 2 together.  You can also see more sheep in the background.

And you'll just have to take my word on the next stretch which was a deep green, heavily forested, kind of wet and boggy landscape along a creek bed (pronounced "crick" by all in this area).  There was a moose grazing along the crick and by the time I got turned around and pulled over to take the picture, it disappeared over a bluff.  Lots of establishments along the way were named "Elk this or that" but I'm sure what I saw was a moose - you know, the goofy looking one of the two! 

And you exit the east side of the mountains along a beautiful valley, then overlook the flatlands back toward Interstate 90.  It takes a while to get back down the mountains and the ride was beautiful, but no free hands to take pictures.

Speaking of sheep, there are 4 things we found interesting about the town of Buffalo.  Sheep were introduced to the area by the Basque people, sheepherders from the Pyrenees mountains, attracted here originally like so many others by the California gold rush, only to realize that their fortune would not materialize.  So, they returned to what they knew - sheep.  Here's a monument in town to their presence in the area. 

Several "sheep wagons" are also displayed throughout the town.

We've all heard or read about the cattle wars between the homesteaders who owned and were trying to develop their property and the free range cattle herders who claimed grazing rights on that same land as they moved their herds of cattle through the area.  The "Cattle Wars of 1892" are an example of this for this area.  It got so bad that the president had to order the cavalry in to intervene in the disputes.  It was a real mess and there are statues to represent both sides of the dispute.  The free range guys...........

..........and the homesteaders.

The Occidental Hotel is an historic location in downtown Buffalo from 1880, still in use today as a hotel.  Lots of well-known folks like Butch Cassidy, Buffalo Bill Cody, Calamity Jane, and several presidents stayed there.  It still maintains its old western look for today's travelers and there are even original bullet holes in the saloon section next door. (It is kind of amazing how many places Butch, Jane, and the others stayed in!)

We loved this old version of a tricycle!

Buffalo's other claim to fame is Craig Johnson, author of the "Longmire" books and movie series. And I should note the friendliness of the people here.  One elderly gentleman struck up a conversation with us and shared lots of details of his life here and interesting facts about the town. He closed with a joke - "Did you hear about the lady that went on an alcohol diet?  She lost 4 days the first week!" (There are definitely lots of bars and saloons out here.)

And even though we had already experienced the landscape of the area, several people recommended seeing "Crazy Woman Canyon."  This was a chance to get into the heart of the Bighorn Mountains up close and personal rather than just riding the highways.  Legend is that a woman settler's husband was killed, she was left there alone and went crazy, OR an Indian woman was left there to live alone (no reason why) and went crazy.  The only thing for sure that we know is that this gravel road is not recommended for large vehicles and 4-wheel drive helps in a couple of spots!

See you in Red Lodge, MT to ride the 67-mile Beartooth Mountain Pass, recommended by many as the number one motorcycle ride in the country.  I'll give you a sneak peak - I have now ridden seven of the top 10 in the country and they may be right!