We left Custer and headed west through the hills and prairies. The Italians, mostly,
know how to ride in formation. They are in the staggered 1 and 2 second intervals
used by most GoldWingers. There are eight bikes and a U-Haul truck. Maurizio, the
organizer of the trip had planned to buy a truck when they got to the US, but the
one he had agreed to buy over the internet turned out to not be running. Needless
to say Maurizio was not happy. They need a truck, not as a rescue rig but to carry
the rider's gear and the pallets he has for shipping the bikes. The eight pallets
are custom built steel platforms that fit fine in a cargo container. He is not about
to abandon them just to need them again when they reach Alaska. This is the seventh
trip Maurizio and his wife, Nunzia, have organized. They are very experienced and
put together a very good tour.
But no matter how carefully you plan, every ride must have its construction zones! This
was not the only one but it was the worst while we were riding with them. Kathy
and I want to publicly thank Nunzia and Maurizio for letting us ride, visit, eat
and tour with them. We enjoyed it very much.
We made it through the construction, over the pass and down into a rock canyon that
reminded me of our Columbia River Gorge, but without the trees.
From there it was out into more of the prairies of mid-Wyoming. Maurizio kept an
even pace on cruise control but as with any convoy the distance between the vehicles
lengthens or shortens and then the driver changes speed. This then causes the next
vehicle to do the same, but more so. This escalates to the back of the convoy where
that vehicle feels like the tail end of the child's toy know as a "Slinky Dog". We
were seventh in line and definitely felt the effect.
We arrived at Cody and bought tickets to a Cowboy Dinner and Rodeo. The dinner was
an all-you-can-eat buffet with live cowboy music. The band is at the red and blue
lights. The "Wingstore" on the jackets is the name of Maurizio's GoldWing shop in
Cody holds a rodeo every night during the summer season. It is complete with bull
riding, bronco riding, calf roping, barrel racing, rodeo clowns and a children's
The children's race consisted of calling all children under 12 years of age into
the arena. Then three calves were released into the arena, each with a red ribbon
tied onto it's tail. The children who returned a ribbon to the rodeo clown announcer
received a coupon for free ice cream in town. There were probably a hundred children
and it was a mad scramble by both the calves and the children!
This was not the first rodeo for Kathy and I but was of intense interest for several
of the Italians. Interestingly enough the seats that we chose in the bleachers were
next to two Italian couples that were there the same night as we were. Our group
and they talked, but not a word was understood by Kathy and I!
The next morning we had a free half-day and we went shopping and visited the Buffalo
Bill (W. F. Cody) Museum. At two that afternoon we gathered at the monument to Buffalo
Bill, lined up the bikes, and stood tall with the spouses for the obligatory BTDT
(Been There, Done That) photo shoot.
The yellow bike on the right is not ours. We stayed out as this was their tour and
their BTDT. We were parked over to the side where we got our BTDT picture with both
them and the monument.
A short day's ride is planned to get us to Yellowstone NP. The road leads us through
another rocky canyon and over rolling prairie. An interesting note, the very next
day after we passed through this canyon a big rock slide closed the road. It is
obvious that Maurizio is an excellent planner, he led us through BEFORE the road
At the Entrance of Yellowstone we stopped for another BTDT picture.
But here is view of a BTDT that is seldom seen!!!
Our "short" day's ride turned an hour longer when we ran into a traffic jam caused
by a Buffalo herd wandering down the road. Every few minutes a car or two would
sneak by and we would advance a little. It was tiring holding up the bike and moving
a slow walking speed.
But we eventually made it through the park to Gardiner, MT where we will spend two
nights. We have a free day tomorrow to explore the park.
We did our own thing for the day starting at Mammoth Hot Springs. They are no longer
"mammoth" hot springs. The terraces are still there but now only a trickle of water
flows here or there. I don't know if it is a change in the direction of underground
water flows or the drought that is causing it but it was un-impressive.
There are thousands of acres of Lodgepole Pine that are about 20-25 feet high with
dead stalks of burned ones sticking out of the forest. In 1988 a lightning storm
started lots of fires that burned a majority of Yellowstone NP. Lodgepole Pine cones
require the heat of a fire to open and spread their seeds. They did a very good
job, the trees are very thick all over the burned area.
An interesting note, we were in Yellowstone the day the storm went over. We have
not been back since. As a retired forester and wildland fire fighter it is very
interesting to see the recovery of the landscape. Mother Nature abhors a vacuum
and will grow something there. All we humans have to do is be patient and give her
We went to Old Faithful, and true to her name, she blew on schedule and impressed
everybody. We had lunch and bought gasoline. I had planned poorly and had to buy
it inside the park, at their inflated prices. I bought only enough to get back to
Gardiner where I filled up at 20 cents less per gallon.
Not every hot spring was drying up. This is one of a series near Old Faithful that
seemed to have plenty of water. The sign said it was flowing 4,000 gallons (over
16.000 liters) a minute into the nearby river.
During the day we followed several little one-way roads past rivers, hot springs
and forest. These were not high speed but were the best of the roads we followed,
for a motorcycle.
When we restarted the tour Maurizio led us through a mountain pass on a two-lane
road, deliberately avoiding the Interstate on the way to Great Falls, MT.
We spent the night there with no more intention than that it was one day's travel
The next day we all continued on north, this time on the Interstate. The roads between
Great Falls and the border have nothing to recommend them! About halfway to the
border we have a checkpoint to get in the little farm town of Valier, MT. You do
remember that this is our story of the Grand Tour don't you?
We parted from out friends and rode 14 miles west to get the checkpoint and then
14 miles back to the freeway. We are now 40-50 miles behind the Italians.
We then rode north to the border, crossed it without problem and on to the hotel
where Maurizio is staying only to find out we have passed them somewhere along the
way. We have been watching for a crowd of GoldWings along the way but somehow didn't
That evening we ate dinner with Maurizio and Nunzia and talked late into the night. They
are intelligent and optimistic people and they have traveled extensively (although
Maurizio said he had never been to Rome, only a days ride from his home). They do
a USA tour every two years and have seen more of the US than we have. In 2014 they
are talking about doing Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles, maybe we'll join them
again. This time signing up for the whole tour instead of just riding with them. We'll
have to see how things go.
We are now in Sundre, AB, Canada at our friends Dave and Maureen's house. We were
here with Dirk and Hetty, our Dutch friends that went to Alaska with us three years
ago. (That is Dirk making himself comfortable with his foot on the Bison rug.) Their
house is filled with wild animals including mountain lions, bears, owls, deer, bighorn
sheep and various birds. A very interesting group of animals that they have collected
on various hunting trips.
We will rest up for a day and then it is onward to get the last checkpoints and go