When life gives you lemons, go ride Lemonade!

Cody, WY

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 Navarro, Italy.







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 race.

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 closed!







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 a chance.

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 from Yellowstone.







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 see them.  

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 home.

Follow us back south.