October 28th, 2010 – Follow the Yellowstone road

I wake up and realize it’s a bit later than when I planned to wake up.  Kamilla is already up and has whipped up some breakfast.  I stumble out of the room and before I can say a word, she sticks a hot cup of coffee in my hand – what a friend.  We sit down to enjoy some breakfast and chat.

After breakfast I quickly pack up my things.  As I am finishing up, Palina shows up to wish me a safe trip.  We say our goodbyes and I am once again back on the road with a goal to get to Yellowstone by the day’s end.

As I make my way out of Boise, I have to stop at a gas station to fill up my tank.  I pull in, take my helmet off and start fueling up.  A gentleman approaches me and asks me about my bike and the trip.  He tells me that he is traveling in his Lotus Elise and points to a yellow sports car parked by the mini-mart.  The Lotus owner also told me that in Idaho, state police can’t ticket you for anything over ten miles over the speed limit, but he prefers to keep it at twenty fiver over because he has a radar detector.  I smile and think back to my experiences with the law earlier, but don’t mention anything about it, nodding my head in understanding. I finish filling up the bike and get on my way.

I pull onto the freeway for the last twenty mile stretch, before I have to take an exit to continue the journey on two lane highways.  Five miles before my exit I spot a police trooper on the side of the road with someone pulled over.  As I near the two cars, I see that it’s the already familiar to me yellow sports car – hopefully he had time to slow down just a bit before getting clocked, because twenty five over is a hefty ticket in Idaho.

On the road to Yellowstone, I found a few fun dirt roads that ran parallel to my route.  For the most part I really enjoyed riding them, even the parts that had small ice patches leftover from the past night.  I also found a really cool tank that I just had to take a picture with.  As my good friend Andre pointed out, I look more like tank driver than a motorcyclist in that picture.  On one of the dirt roads I also found some really cool looking rocks, including one that looked just like a human skull if you looked at it from the right angle.

As I made my way closer to Yellowstone I decided to take a side road to visit large reservoir and have some lunch.  When I got to the boat launch at the Mormon reservoir, I was surprised to find out that it did not reach the water.  In fact, the closest water was about 100 feet from the launch ramp.  As I rode down the ramp, it became obvious that for a good portion of the year the boat launch does indeed serve it’s intended purpose.  As I slowly neared the bottom of the ramp, the GPS already showing me that I am swimming in the reservoir, I thought to myself – “how cool would it be to launch a motorcycle off a boat launch ramp, onto what is usually the floor of a reservoir?”  I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

As my front tire left the concrete ramp and transitioned to the muddy and very slippery ground, I realized that perhaps I have been too quick in my decision to go “amphibious” on my motorcycle.  The front tire slid and before I knew it I was standing over my motorcycle which was laying on its side.  And so began the tedious task of taking all the luggage off the motorcycle, lifting it up and remounting the gear.  After fifteen minutes the bike was up and ready to go, but still on a very slippery surface.  I very carefully rode it out to the water to take some pictures.  As I dismounted, I noticed how soft the ground really was – there was a half inch layer of mud on my tires!

As I was taking some pictures, a red truck appeared in the distance.  It slowly made it’s way down the boat ramp and onto the muddy reservoir floor.  It drove out slowly to where I was standing and stopped.  A Hispanic man got out of the car and started unpacking fishing gear.  As he was getting ready to cast his line, I struck up a conversation with him.  He introduced himself as Jose and went on to tell me about the big fish he was after.  He also took one look at my bike and said smiling – “This is not a good place for a bike, no good at all.”

I finished my lunch, said goodbye to Jose and got ready to go.  Again, slowly made my way back to the ramp and here I realized I had a serious problem on my hands.  The ground is soft and slippery and there is quite a steep slope leading up to the ramp.  The best approach to the ramp would have me riding up a pretty steep slope, with sharp drop-offs on both sides (so I can’t put my feet down) and at the very end there is a concrete curb to get onto the ramp.  I realized that this would be an all or nothing deal – either I get it 100% right or I don’t, in which case the bike and I would be stuck in the mud and I would have no way to get it out without outside help.  I took a good five minutes going over the plan in my head, mounted up the bike and proceeded through the mud.  I went in with a little extra speed to make sure that I have enough speed up the hill and as I hit the very soft mud I lost all feel for the front tire and realized I was no longer in control of the motorcycle. As I slid through the mud without any control of direction, I tried to keep the front tire as straight and the gas on for the imminent impact with the curb.  It was over in just a couple of seconds as I hit the curb and regained traction.  As I realized that I was safely back on concrete and the bike was somehow still upright, I let out a victorious scream inside my helmet – success never felt better.

Puckett family

Puckett family magic bus

The next hundred miles were mostly uneventful, as I entered the Craters of the Moon National Preserve.  What a cool little park!  I have never seen such interesting lava rock formations.  I took about two hours to explore the park – the caves, craters and inferno cones were awe inspiring to look at.  I also found some really cool looking rocks.  As I was exploring the Indian cave, I met the Puckett family – they are a traveling family of magicians.  As they say: “a family that does magic together, stays together.”  As I exited Craters of the Moon Park, I noticed that there were campsites available, but against my better judgment, I decided to press on into Wyoming, into Yellowstone National Park.

As I made my way to the border of Idaho and Wyoming, it quickly got dark and soon it was very cold.  As I neared the entrance to Yellowstone, the ambient temperature gage continued to flash “32F” at me, as it had been for the last fifteen minutes.  I rode up to the entrance, but nobody was at the booth.  I grabbed a map and noted the closest open campsite – 23 miles from the west entrance.  As I rode into the park, I was greeted by numerous flashing “Buffalo Xing” and “Deer Xing” signs, as well as a 35MPH speed limit sign.  Since the temperature has now dipped below 32F and I was riding through thick fog, I decided to ride at a leisurely 25MPH; hitting a buffalo is the last thing I wanted to do.

An hour later, as I neared the campsite, my feet and hands were frozen, I was hungry and there was ice on the road.  At this point the temperature has dropped to 24F and I was happy to be so close to the campsite.  As I took the turn to the campsite, I was surprised to find that the entrance to the campsite was closed with a sign on the gate “closed for the season.”  The next campsite was at least 20 miles away and since this one was supposed to be open, there were no guarantees that the next one wouldn’t be closed as well.  I decided to ride around the gate and stay at the campsite regardless – as far as I was concerned, it was dangerous to ride any further and I had a pretty solid reason for staying at the campsite if a ranger happened to find me before morning.

I set up camp on the frozen ground and struggled to boil some water in the freezing temperature.  Along all the regular food I cook throughout my trip, I also carry with me some of the Mountain House brand camp food.  Since it’s quite a bit pricier, I save them for emergencies and this night seemed as good as any to use one up.  It was probably due to the fact that I was very cold and tired, but that hot meal was one of the most satisfying of my life.

By the time I finished with dinner, the temperature had dropped to 16F.  It would continue to drop throughout the night to a low of 8F, but even at 16F it was so cold, my face would freeze outside of the sleeping bag.  I had to curl up completely inside of the sleeping bag and tie off the neck straps to leave a very small window for fresh air.  This night would go down as the coldest night I have ever camped out in.

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4 Responses to October 28th, 2010 – Follow the Yellowstone road

  1. dingoatyahoo says:

    Super! Keep going, Nikita:) I hope to eventually find out what riding/camping gear you used for this trip.

  2. Rowan says:

    Doesn’t look like you’ve had time to do much writing on your adventure. I was hoping to see what kind of crazy experiences you might have out there. Hope you are having fun and enjoying a safe journey.
    Rowan Laing
    Jackson Wyoming
    VIP Adventure Travel

    • Nikita says:

      Hey Rowan! Good to see you posting on here.

      Yes, the updates have been put on the back burner while I tried to make time through the northern states. The alternative was staying in Maine until next summer, which would not have made for a terribly exciting blog. ;)

      Look for more frequent updates coming very soon. Your chapter is coming up in just a couple of posts!

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