Sunday, August 6, 2017

Yellowstone to Glacier National Park - Bike Rides and Other "Stuff"

There are lots of things that you see and experience while traveling.  Big stops like Yellowstone and Glacier National Park are great but the "small stuff" is fun too!  Here we go.

We left Yellowstone, made an overnight stop at Three Forks, MT, never even unhooked, ate at "Wheat Montana" which we had heard of but we had never been to one - not overly impressed, but OK.  And for you Trump supporters out there -  "Bake America great again."

Next day to Missoula, MT.  Stayed at our first Yogi Bear "Jellystone" Campground (variant of Yellowstone from the cartoon series).  Lots of these campgrounds out there - "Smarter than the av-er-age bear."  First class campground and beautiful sunsets.

Full RV mode here and FOX news to boot.

An even better sunset. 

Our campground was only 18 miles from the beginning of Lolo Pass, the number 1 motorcycle ride in Idaho, so I took advantage of that and got a bike ride in.  Yogi was a bit down - 5 wildfires in the area with one only 3 miles south of my route.  Oh, wait a minute, that's Smokey the Bear, different bear.  Anyhow, about 20 miles into the ride, I was clear of all the smoke and some firefighters at my fuel stop before the ride assured me I would be OK on my route.

This kind of sign is always a "good sign" for a motorcycle ride!

Lolo Pass is basically Highway 12 from Lolo, MT to Lewiston, ID, crossing the Bitterroot Mountains, about 175 miles along the Lewis and Clark route.  It was a very unique kind of ride - it never changed!  If I recall correctly, the sharpest curve was 35 MPH and most were 45 MPH and up. You kind of get in a groove and it never varies.  According to the reviews I read, the entire length of the ride follows the river and it's in view 90% of the time, so the scenery never changes either! Imagine this shot below about a thousand different ways and that's Lolo Pass.  For the eastern portion that I rode there are no towns, no overpasses, very little traffic, and it actually got a little monotonous. Fuel is an issue also - you reach a point where you have to either turn around to make it back to Lolo or keep going to reach the next fuel stop for the return trip. That would have added 120 miles to the ride for me and the road began to get rough at that decision point, so I turned around and headed home. Beautiful, but IMHO, not worthy of a #1 ride classification.

You meet some "interesting" folks out on the road.  When I refueled at Lolo, I tried to strike up a conversation with this rider from Washington state. 

 The conversation was a bit one-sided and went something like this (as he never looked my way).....

Me:  How you doing?
Him: Alright.
Me:  Where you from?
Him:  Seattle.
Me:  That's an interesting setup you have there.
Him:  (nothing)
Me: Mind if I take a picture?
Him: No (as he walked away to go inside).

Maybe he gets those questions a lot???  Certainly, his business is none of my business, but I kind of feel sorry for the two dogs.

We had no idea we would be entering cherry orchard territory for about 20 miles along Flathead Lake south of Kalispell, MT.  It starts abruptly, you see almost nothing but cherry trees for that 20 miles, and it ends abruptly.  Stunningly beautiful territory and lots of fruit stands.  

Most of the orchards were mature and very dense, but here's a young orchard that shows the beautiful setting with Flathead Lake in the background.

And cherries on the trees!

After touring Yellowstone for several days, we had seen a PBS special on international efforts to extend and create a continuous protected territory for an assortment of animals from Yellowstone northwest way up into Canada.  One of the big problems with that is crossing major highways along the route.  So, they designed animal crossings for that purpose.  They have cameras at each one to monitor the numbers and species that use these.  Lo and behold, the next day we went under one. Cool, and apparently the project looks to be producing desired results - movement and growth of those wildlife populations.  Other countries, including Australia and India, are adopting similar programs for their wildlife. I don't know how they teach bears, elk, moose, etc. to sometimes use a bridge to go over the road and at other places to use a tunnel to go under the road. Maybe the animals are all "smarter than the av-er-age bear."

Our RV Park at Glacier National Park was "North American RV Park and Yurt Village."

In case you are wondering (I was ), these are yurts - round, portable, tentlike homes traditionally used by nomadic people of Central Asia.

Our campsite at North American RV Park and Yurt Village was right across from the restrooms, like maybe 50 feet away, so we had a first-hand observation point to watch and observe traffic to and from the restrooms for 3 days.  I reached the following semi-scientific conclusions (emphasis on semi).

1.  Women go to the bathroom at least twice as often as men.
2.  Women appear to usually be in a rush with a sense of urgency to get there. (Why do they not just 
leave sooner?)
3.  Women stay in there longer.
4.  Men are very casual  and in no hurry to get there (frequently appear indifferent about the trip).
5.  Men often are still getting their clothes back in order when they exit the door to the outside.  In 
many cases, it's just a "check" to be sure they have not forgotten to close anything.  It's actually 
very entertaining.
6.  Kids are the funniest, especially since there is a cipher lock involved.
7.  Girls always seem to know the code and have no problems, so the boys are actually the funny 
8.  Most of the boys struggle with the code and the cipher lock.  So, either the parents did not give 
them the code, they were not paying attention, or they forgot it.  Then they stand there, look       
around to see if anyone else is coming that might know the code, and if there's not, try to decide 
what to do next. There are usually 3 responses.  Try a few codes, go back and get the right code, or 
just go back to the playground and forget about the bathroom trip, not necessary.
9.  There are no pictures to substantiate my findings.  

On a more serious note, we were impressed with the Montana highway system - they memorialize all highway deaths with a small white cross at each accident location.  In many cases, they are also maintained and decorated by friends and family.  At some of the obviously more dangerous locations, there would frequently be lots of crosses.  While the intent is to memorialize those who died at these sites, they also serve as reminders to take more precautions while driving.

I also rode the number 2 motorcycle ride in Montana - "Going To The Sun Road" across Glacier National Park (GNP).  I am saving the pictures of GNP for a separate post but here's a hint.......

The ride across GNP is only about 60 miles but it takes a minimum of 2 and 1/2 hours one way with all the traffic and DRIVERS THAT WILL NOT PULL OVER AT THE PULLOUTS AS THE SIGNS DIRECT THROUGHOUT THE ROUTE TO ALLOW THE FASTER TRAFFIC TO GO BY!  There are pullouts all along the way but some folks are oblivious to the 12 cars they have backed up behind them while they creep along at 15 MPH.  But after about 60 miles in second and third gear, I finished the crossing and decided to head to Canada, only about 20 miles away from the east entrance/exit to/from GNP.  My conversations with Customs were similar to the one with my friend from Seattle except they involve trick questions.  The only experience we have had with customs was while traveling in Canada by boat in 2013.  No problems arriving and departing Canada, but we had a random boarding in Gore Bay, Toronto and we were not happy with that.  Here's the story and we had a little fun with it anyway - - But the guy at Carway, Alberta was very nice and had some suggestions for my short bike ride into Canada.

I haven't parlaised any Francais since high school and college and thought I might have gotten the signage and kilometers a little confused in Canada - looked up and thought I was back at Devils Tower in Wyoming!

But I managed to make it back to the border and was ready for US Customs and their trick questions!

Here's the coversation after I handed the agent my passport and license.

Him:  Where you coming from?  (Think about it - that could mean a lot of things).
Me:  Alabama
Him:  Yes, I see that on your passport and license plate.  But where are you coming from?
Me:  Oh, you mean now?
Him:  Yes.
Me:  North American RV Park and Yurt Village in West Glacier.
Him:  No you're not, you just pulled up to this booth from Canada.  Where are you coming from?
Me:  Oh, you mean now, as in right now?
Him:  Yes.
Me:  About 30 miles up the road.
Him:  What?  But where did you come from in Canada?
Me:  I just crossed into Canada about an hour ago for a short ride just because I was close and could. I'm not up this way very often. I rode about 30 miles and turned around, back to here.
Him:  Did you buy anything?
Me:  No.
Him:  Did you pick up anything?
Me:  No.
Him:  Well, did you stop anywhere?
Me:  No.
Him:  Welcome home.  
Me:  Thank you.

(From Rhonda: Not sure I should continue to let Wayne go off by himself.)

We spent one afternoon touring the towns of Whitefish and Kalispell, MT.  They are very modern and "clean" towns.  Most (like 99%) of the population appeared to be younger than us, seriously, as in maybe 40 and below.  Whitefish is a ski resort and Rhonda says a lot of the winter Olympics folks train here.  The ski slopes with no snow....

And the town has an impressive train station with lots of traffic through there, including AMTRAK.

In closing, we also toured the town of Missoula, MT, home of the University of Montana Grizzlies.  We never did find THE Grizzly mascot statue so this is the best we can do.

The campus was a bit "underwhelming" and their stadium is really small for a state university.  But the city of Missoula is nice, fronting on a beautiful river as does most everything else in Montana.  We made one special stop at their downtown park and rode their carousel.

The Missoula Carousel was a volunteer effort by the community. People learned how to carve wood, adopted and designed each animal, and spent 500-800 hours carving each one of the 38 animals. Volunteer mechanics spent four years to assemble and machine more than 16,066 pieces (not including the nuts and bolts) to make the Carousel work. This baby is also a bit unique in that it runs at 11 mph, twice the speed of most carousels.  It also has a dragon at one point which has colored rings coming from a tube out of its mouth.  The challenge is to grab a ring as you go by, hoping for the brass  ring which will get you a free ride!

Well, all that is fun stuff, but the carousel reminded me of my dear friend, Bob Hopson, who succumbed to cancer one year ago tomorrow.  So, I want to remember Bob as we close this post.  I miss him a lot.  We met Bob and Barbara Hopson at a new members class at Lindsay Lane Baptist Church in 2006 after we moved to Athens, AL.  We have traveled extensively with them by boat and car over the years, and I would be afraid to guess how many games of dominos we have played together. Bob and I had a lot in common - airplanes, boats, motorcycles, SARCASM, and our Christian faith. Here's the link to the carousel reminding me of Bob - a photo at the Chattanooga, TN riverfront carousel on a boat trip many years ago.  Bob and Barbara were avid RVers also and have given us lots of pointers.  Barbara, we love you and are thinking of you on this one-year anniversary of Bob's departure from this earth to eternity with his Lord and Saviour.  While it is a difficult time, we hope this is also a pleasant reminder for you of all the great times we have shared together!  Hang in there and we'll see you in a couple of months.

I'll be posting Glacier National Park real soon.  We are currently backtracking a bit from Glacier to the west side of Yellowstone, enroute to Swan Valley, ID (east of Idaho Falls) to spend 3 days at the Grand Tetons.  Did I mention that the high today is 75 degrees? Later.

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