After leaving Yellowstone Park I made my way though the “big sky” country of Montana, with it’s crisp clean air and it’s expansive valleys and mountain ranges. This led me back to Canada, where after having my bike frisked by Canada Customs, I returned to my native home land of British Columbia. Yes the Border Guards liked my Harley so much they wanted to take a close look at it. Compliance paid off and after a brief 10 to 15 minute delay I was back on the road.
The Kootenay Rockies were exceptional with it’s pristine rivers and lakes, alpine meadows and snow-capped glacial peaks. Despite a few showers it was an amazing ride through the park where many pioneers had once traveled when the gold rush had lured them through the stunning mountain passes. Here’s a video of my ride that I’m sure will leave you with a sense of awe.
The ride only got better as I made my way to Banff and Jasper with an overnight stat in beautiful Lake Louise. Not having been in the park for a number of years, I was reminded of how spectacular it really was! With it’s crystal clear lakes and streams, the many waterfalls and the rugged glacial mountain caps that rose high above the tree line, I was left in state of wonderment as I spent two days riding through the parks.
Here are a few of the photographs that cannot do justice to the incredibly spectacular vistas that I experienced while visiting Banff, Lake Louise and Jasper.
And here are a few other photographs taken along the way.
Over the years I’ve only imagined what a visit to Yellowstone Park might be like. It’s like an institution. It’s to the US what Jasper and Banff are to Canada and to the world. I’m sure that if you took a poll, everyone has heard about it and it’s on the bucket list of many including mine!
I couldn’t imagine doing the The Big Ride without including a visit to this awe inspiring National Park that was established in 1872 and spans almost 3500 square miles comprised of lakes, canyons, rivers and some pretty incredible mountain ranges. It has an abundance of wildlife and many geothermal features, including Old Faithful Geyser.
When I arrived at the park after a couple of hours of riding, it was as if Old Faithful had been waiting for my arrival. I parked my bike, checked out the facilities at the lodge, including the purchase of a tasty ice cream treat and headed over to the information counter to see if there was any indication as to when the geyser was going to erupt. Within minutes she was blowing steam like crazy. Here’s a clip of her spectacular performance!
In addition to seeing Old Faithful spewing away, I was able to take in a few of the sights in the park including coming across some wildlife during my visit. Here are some of the photos from my visit to the park.
From here I’m heading north through Montana and back into Canada. I will be following the Canadian Rocky Mountains into Banff and Jasper, some of the most spectacular parks in the world, as well as visiting family and friends along the way. Stay tuned as the next chapter of this amazing trip unfolds!
As my trip unfolds it seems to me that the sights are getting better and better. While enroute to Yellowstone Park I took a day to ride Beartooth Highway which runs along the Wyoming and Montana border. The first known crossing of the Beartooth mountains was in August 1872. A General in the Civil War, along with 120 of this men followed the advice of an old hunter who recommended taking the route while returning from an inspection of Yellowstone Park. In 1936 when the road opened, it essentially followed the General’s first route over the pass.
The road is very impressive with its series of steep zigzags and switchbacks that continue upwards to almost 11,000 feet and includes some of the most dramatic landscapes. It was also very “cool” to see snow along the route at the higher elevations! Christmas in June anyone? 🙂
Because of the high altitude, snowstorms can occur even in the middle of the summer. The pass is known for exceptionally strong winds and severe thunderstorms. I was chased around by a few threatening clouds during the ride but managed to hang on to my bike and avoided getting wet.
Here is a video of the days ride across the Beartooth mountains along with a number of photos taken while enjoying the ride.
My next post will be with Yogi Bear in Yellowstone Park!
I had mentioned in a previous blog that after leaving Rapid City, South Dakota, I rode through Spearfish Canyon. It seems that route was just the beginning of more spectacular things to come. Yay for me!
Before I tell you about all of the other great riding I’ve been doing, here is the video I promised of my ride through Spearfish Canyon on my way to Sheridan, Wyoming:
What followed ended up being pretty spectacular. The ride from Sheridan to Cody took me through the Big Horn National Forest. It sounds like it would be a bunch of trees but that wasn’t the case. The road took me to the top of a couple of very spectacular mountain ranges including through an amazing canyon. The vistas were breathtakingly beautiful. So much so that I ran my GoPro camera dry before the end of the day and missed filming some of the most spectacular views. What an amazing ride that was. The magnificence of the incredibly awesome red canyon walls on this ride will stay with me forever.
Here’s are a few photos followed by a short clip of what can only be described as a spectacular ride:
From here it kept getting better and better!
After a great day of riding I finished up the day by taking in a dinner show at the Cody Cattle Company followed by the local rodeo. Yes you read that right. It’s been a few years since I last attended anything like it, but I must say it sure was a lot of fun! Here are a few photos from my evening out on the town…or should I say in the corral.
Then I was off to the rodeo to watch a few cowboys and cowgirls strut their stuff.
Here are few additional photos of things that caught my eye.
From here I’m heading to Yellowstone Park to look for Yogi Bear! Stay tuned 🙂
As I was leaving Colorado I felt somewhat melancholy after the awesome motorcycle riding I had experienced while visiting there. My ride to South Dakota took me through a small part of Wyoming with an overnight stop in Lusk, which at first glace looked like a one horse town. As it turned out, it was a cute horse.
I stayed at the Best Western in Lusk, Wyoming which had a very interesting western theme in their outdoor entertainment area. Building on this theme, the hotel offered its guests a “chuck wagon” breakfast served by staff members dressed in western attire. Not only was it a fun way to start the day, the omelette made to order was very tasty!
When I made my way to South Dakota I was “wowed” by what I found. The Black Hills offered some of the best motorcycling roads that I’ve come across and the roads through the parks, such as Custer State Park were out of this world! One of the roads in particular, Needles Eye, was engineered using “pigtail” turns. When you see a sign like this you know you’re in for some mean twists!
Here is video of my experience while riding the Needles Eye
In addition to some great riding, a visit to Mount Rushmore was equally as wowing in a different way! What an incredible undertaking it must have been to carve such a masterpiece out of the face of the mountain.
While riding outside of Rapid City, I had the good fortune of meeting up with a couple of riders, Robbie and Al who were from the area. While chatting, they mentioned that they were heading off to ride the “Canyon”. You know that peaked my interest so on the way out, I added the Spearfish Canyon into my route. Robbie, thank you for putting me on to this amazing route. Wow, what a great way to start the day!
Here are a few photos from the ride….video to follow.
As promised, here is the second video of the Million Dollar Highway in Colorado. It was part of my first days’ ride in Colorado. As you can see in the video, the road has a few challenging turns with a few potential hazards with its steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and few guardrails.
One of the many challenging roads in Colorado is the Million Dollar Highway and forms part of the San Juan Skyway Scenic Byway.
My first day in Colorado took me on this route from Durango, through Silverton and Ouray. Much of the route, especially between Silverton and Ouray runs through a gorge which is challenging and potentially hazardous to drive. It consists of steep cliffs, narrow lanes, and a lack of guardrails. It also uses a number of hairpin curves to gain elevation. In most places the lanes are narrow with much of it cut into the sides of mountains. Although the route was challenging, it was not nearly as technical as some of the awesome roads that followed. I have hours and hours of video so it will take a couple of days to put together a few clips to share with you.
Here is the first of the series that I will be sharing with you. The video hardly does it justice but will give you an idea of he amazing experience I had while riding the “Million Dollar Highway”.
Here are a few photos to share with you as well.
While on the road I also ran into some folks from Orange Texas who were also enjoying the ride.
Stay tuned for the next segment of The Million Dollar Highway…and some of the amazing Colorado Rocky Mountain Mama Roads that follow!
If you read my last blog titled Culture and the Arts you will know that my travels in New Mexico were filled with some great riding, along with some interesting Spanish architecture and an array of beautiful art.
My visit to Santa Fe was equally as charming. While there I had the opportunity to stroll through the historical district. There I met Donna, a former motorcyclist who was helping out a friend at one of the local art galleries. The gallery had a wonderful collection of Edward Curtis original photographs of North American Indians from the late 1800’s. Donna also shared an interesting piece of history about the building where the art was being shown.
The room where we were standing was joined to a small office that had been the working space of J. Robert Oppenheimer, (April 22, 1904 – February 18, 1967) often called the “father of the atomic bomb” for his role in overseeing the Manhattan Project, the World War II project that developed the first nuclear weapons. It seems my travels have been filled with some very interesting history!
My visit also included the famous Loretta Chapel which was constructed in the 1870’s. The chapel resembles the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris but it is on a smaller scale. Before the chapel was completed, the architect died suddenly leaving the builders to realize it lacked a stairway to the choir loft. Due to the chapel’s small size, a standard staircase would have been too large. The story is that a shabby looking carpenter appeared at the chapel and offered to build a staircase. He used a small number of primitive tools including a square, a saw and some warm water and constructed a spiral staircase. The identity of the carpenter is not known. When the staircase was finished three months later the carpenter was gone. The spiral staircase is twenty feet high and has two complete revolutions up to the choir loft. There are no nails or apparent center support. It is an incredible piece of mastery!
Another historical landmark in the Santa Fe historical district of interest was the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi, commonly known as Saint Francis Cathedral which was built during the three year period 1714 to 1717. Here are a few photos, including one of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (1656-1680) the first North American Indian to be promoted to Saint. In her final years, she lived in a Jesuit mission south of Montreal in what was then known as New France.
Here are a few additional photos that you may find interesting. Enjoy!
Two of the States that I have always wanted to visit were Texas and New Mexico, so having the opportunity to visit them back to back was incredibly amazing. As you know from my last post, Texas surpassed my expectations. Well, that was also the case with New Mexico!
I was able to spend time in Las Vegas, New Mexico – a small historical town , along with a couple days in Santa Fe. What a wonderful experience it’s been visiting New Mexico.
My first stop was in Las Vegas, NM, which was established in 1835. The little town was built around a central plaza in a traditional Spanish style with a plaza surrounded by buildings that would have been used to fortify the city in the event of an attack. With the arrival of the railway in 1880, the town became notorious for it’s reputation of murderers, robbers, thieves, gamblers and gunmen, including Doc Holliday and his girlfriend Big Nose Kate…I wonder how she got her name…Jesse James, Billy the Kid and Wyatt Earp. What’s interesting is that some parts of the town appear to still have a similar “flavour” 🙂
Here’s a few of my favorite photos from Las Vegas, NM.
From Las Vegas, I headed towards Santa Fe, NM. The scenery was exceptional! Here are a few photos from along the way.
My travels included a stop at the historic Nambe Trading Post off Route 503. It’s one of the last authentic trading posts in the area. There I met Jennifer Jesse Smith, one of the owners of the shop and a local artist. What a wonderful experience that turned out to be. Jennifer took the time to show me around the trading post and provided a commentary about the wonderful collection she has at the Trading Post, including numerous authentic native artifacts and an array of fabulous pieces of local art, such as handcrafted jewelry, locally woven native blankets, pottery, paintings and more. Included in the collection were a number of native costumes made by her mother, Cathy A. Smith, the Emmy award winning designer, made for the movie Dances with Wolves which starred Kevin Costner. If you are in New Mexico, stopping in at the Nambe Trading Post is a must! Here are a few photos of what you might find there.
Here are a few other photos that I found interesting.
My time spent touring around Santa Fe is worthy of its own post…stay tuned for Part 2 of “Culture and the Arts!”
I must say that I’ve enjoyed the past six days in Texas riding through the majestic Yellow Pine forests, through the hill sides and across the grasslands that went on forever until they touched the sky somewhere far off in the distance. The vast canyons called out to my soul as I traveled over the lands where many a great warrior had gone before me and I was able to share the passion of my dream with numerous locals along the way.
My last stop in Texas was in Amarillo where I visited the notorious Cadillac Ranch that is somewhat immersed after the tumultuous rain falls experienced in Texas a few weeks ago, not to mention a little shopping pleasure and of course being a carnivore at heart what would be a trip through the “cattle state” without enjoying a great steak dinner!
Here are a few final photos for your viewing pleasure:
Yup…they’re everywhere and Walmart has a huge selection!
A little shopping pleasure before leaving the state:
The past few days riding across Texas have been memorable. After leaving Nacogdoches I had the pleasure of chatting with a couple of locals in Marlin, Texas, a small town that was at one time known for its mineral hot spring and a buzz of activity with many people visiting to benefit from its healing properties.
An exuberant Beth Scruggs and her friend Earnest Cluck provided me with an incredible amount of information about that town and its history. Beth recounted how her father, now 87 was the owner of one of the largest herds of Texas Long Horns. She went on to say that the Hilton Hotel chain built its eighth high rise hotel in the town to provide accommodations for the many visitors who once flocked to what was a vibrant bustling little town. The lavish 110 room facility was built by Conrad Hilton in 1929 with a tunnel that led to a bath house across the street.
Visitors included the New York Giants Team who came to Marlin during their spring training between 1908 to 1918 to take advantage of the healing mineral waters.
Wanting to learn more about the mineral springs and the “little town that was”, I rode over to the Chamber of Commerce to check it out. There I met Dusty Rhodes, a 67 year old local who claimed that from the time he was a young boy he’s been drinking the water as part of his daily regime. He was there at the spring collecting water to take home for bathing.
Being the curious type and wanting to do as the Romans do….literally and figuratively speaking, I took the plunge. Not only did I experience relief when I soaked my hot tired feet in the mineral water…my feet had been stuck in my hot motorcycle boots all day. I also drank a full glass of the hot salty water. I must admit I think it made a difference. I feel wiser as a result and I think I’m a little taller too. Oh wait…that’s from those new cowgirl boots I bought…but now I’m getting ahead of myself in my story telling and will have to leave that for another blog 🙂
Riding through Texas has brought so many amazing experiences and riding into Palo Duro Canyon was one of them. The magnificence of the Canyon was far more than I had anticipated. From the research I did when planning my trip I knew it was referred to as the Little Grand Canyon. What I wasn’t aware of was that I would be able to ride down into the base of the canyon on my motorcycle. Doing so was nothing short of spectacular!
As I started to descend into the canyon I was in a complete state of awe and wonderment at the beauty that unfolded before me. The layers of the richly coloured rock that was millions of years old called out to me as I navigated my way through the park. As I rode deeper into the Canyon I could feel the presence of the Comanche Indians who dwelled there just a little over a century ago. As I looked up to the ridge, in my minds eye I could see them as they prepared for the battle against the US Army that would result in them being forced out of the 120 mile long expansive paradise. This was the Comanche’s last stronghold.
And for those of you who would like to be a part of the ride, here’s a video clip of some of what I experienced while in the Canyon.
Finally, here are a few additional photos to amuse you
As I made my way west I had the unfortunate experience of being stuck in traffic on the I-10 a few miles outside of Orange, my first destination in Texas. I haven’t been using the freeways on this trip but every now and again it’s a necessity, as it was a couple of days ago. It was Saturday, traffic was heavy and there was a short stretch of construction that resulted in hours…and I mean hours of sitting on the hot pavement idling along and slow riding in first gear. After an hour I pulled off into a truck weigh station to let my bike cool down and after the second hour I was fortunate enough to be able to pull off at the Texas Travel Center and benefit from their air conditioning and some fresh water. It was about 40 degrees Celsius that afternoon without taking the humid-ex into consideration or the heat off of my bike.
Lesson learned: travel during the cooler part of the day by leaving earlier and check the internet for possible construction delays.
On the other hand, my experience has been that with every challenge comes a blessing and stopping in at the travel center that day and speaking with one of the staff members was just that. She suggested that I include a visit to Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas to my route. What an awesome suggestion it turned out to be!
I took Route 87 through the Sabine National Forest which is treed with beautiful Yellow Pine. The scent of the pine filled my senses as I wound my way through the majestic forest. When I reached Nacogdoches I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a town that was rich with both history and beauty of every kind.
First of all, the little town wasn’t so little. It has a thriving University with an established forestry and agriculture program which adds a youthful and vibrant air to the town. A walk through the university’s arboretum was a delightfully refreshing experience on a sunny hot Sunday afternoon.
Initially Nacogdoches was an Indian settlement prior to Spain establishing a mission there in 1716. In the early 1800’s when Tejas (that isn’t a typo and was the original Spanish name for Texas) was still part of Mexico, Nacogdoches was considered the “Gateway” as settlers moved north during this era when Mexico encouraged migration and colonization to the region which is now the state of Texas.
After the Texas Declaration of Independence was signed in 1836 another significant event took place that changed the face of Nacogdoches. In 1866 the first oil field in Texas was discovered in Nacogdoches county. Yup…Black Gold…Texas Tea!
Here are a few photos of the town, as well as a couple video clips that I’ve put together for your viewing pleasure.
Here’s a two short videos of some incredible architecture in the historic town of Nacogdoches.
If Texas happens to be on your bucket list, I recommend that you add Nacogdoches to your itinerary. Be sure to stop into the town’s visitor center and while there speak with Mark if he’s around as he has a wealth of knowledge about the local history and is a delight to speak with. The center has a plethora of historical exhibits that you may find interesting as well.
Mark, thank you for all of the information on your beautiful town and for the many travel suggestions you shared!