Welcome (or welcome back) to the continuation of our bucket list trip in the summer of 2015. If you haven’t followed from the beginning, you could go back to Part 1 and catch up, if you like. Or not. 😉
Part 3 found us still in Cody, Wyoming and not as certain of our riding plan as the previous day. However, we knew that we wanted to start our day by visiting the much acclaimed Buffalo Bill Center of the West. The term museum really doesn’t do the place justice. We were amazed to find that the center is really a home to five separate museums, as well as, a research library and many interactive displays and experiences. We spent the entire morning here, and only managed to cover three of the five museums. Here are just a few photos from our visit.
I can’t recommend this center enough. I believe that even those who claim not to be “museum people” will find something to enjoy here.
At mid-morning, our museum-stamina was gone, and we saddled up and started out heading east on the Greybull Highway, with a plan of riding the Bighorn Scenic Byway in the Bighorn Mountains. US highways 14/16/20 collaborate to take you from Cody to Greybull and cross a fairly desolate area known as the Bighorn Basin; home to oil production, giant ranches and a whole lot of nothing. As we began the 60-mile ride just to get to Greybull, which is the western end of the 58-mile Bighorn scenic byway, we discussed other options for the day on our Scala Rider headsets, and decided to pull a u-turn. The Bighorn byway would have to wait for another day, probably during our upcoming stay in Billings, Montana.
As we turned back to Cody, we saw this. Hmmm, did we make the right decision?
We decided we would let fate, and the weather, make our decision. If we got hammered with rain, we would punt. If we didn’t, we would ride west through Cody, to the east entrance of Yellowstone. Miraculously, we avoid all but a few sprinkles of rain!
So, off we went on US 14/16/20 heading west this time, about 25 miles from Cody to the start of the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Byway, which follows the North Fork of the Shoshone River through the gorgeous Wapiti Valley and the Absaroka mountain range to Yellowstone. A few pictures from the Buffalo Bill reservoir, in the Shoshone Canyon.
We had visited Yellowstone in 1999, when we flew to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and rented a 24′ class C RV, on a trip that also included the Tetons and Glacier National Parks, but not on motorcycles. We had not really planned to include Yellowstone on this trip, but we were so close, how could we resist? I should mention that we had purchased National Park passes for this trip, so entry fees were not an issue, and an afternoon in Yellowstone is better than most places!
We entered at the East entrance, traversing the curvy roads around the northern part of Yellowstone Lake before reaching the intersection at Lake Village. You can see a park map here if you’re interested. We stopped at a lake overlook to survey the still-scarred landscape from forest fires that devastated the east entrance area in 2003. It is shocking to see how long it takes for a forest to recover.
At Lake Village, we discovered what Yellowstone is like on a summer afternoon. It was pretty crowded, but it appeared as if most of the traffic was heading south, so of course, we headed north, into the Hayden Valley.
We stopped briefly to read about the lovely valley, and observe the placid river in the distance.
We figured we would continue along the River, and head toward the falls, but we got buffaloed on the way. You must forgive the many pictures of buffalo…this is only a tiny fraction of the ones I captured on this day. Please continue to humor me. 🙂
It was unbelievable. I never left my motorcycle, but I swear, I was so fixated on this giant mammal that I could not stop taking pictures. The ranger was not at all happy with me for getting so close, and not moving on, but how many times in a lifetime will you get this opportunity? I promise, sir, I won’t do it again…
Anyway, we finally got moving and passed literally hundreds of cars who were so far back from the buffalo frenzy that they had no idea why they were sitting in traffic for hours. We were sure happy to be going north toward Canyon Village, and headed for the Upper Falls overlook. We parked the bikes and immediately ran into a nice couple riding a BMW RT and during our chat, we discovered they too were headed to the BMW MOA National rally in Billings in a few days. We shared respective travel info and then tore ourselves away to view the Upper Falls. It was summer, so even at this late hour, there was a large crowd at the overlook. The falls were spectacular, and Jerry caught this interesting perspective over my shoulder.
By this time, it was about 6:30 PM and we estimated we had about 120 miles to get back to Cody. We could brave the traffic going south the way we came (with the possibility of bison-backup we had experienced earlier) or head North, to the Northeast exit of the park. The northeast choice gave us the added bonus of riding the one portion of the Beartooth we had missed the day before, as well as, the opportunity to ride the Chief Joseph in the opposite direction. That choice was simple…new roads and new perspectives always win out!
We did take the time to put on additional layers prior to heading further north, as the evening hours brought a chill to the crisp air. After the massive traffic snarl we had encountered earlier, we were nearly alone on the park roads, passing herd after herd of bison grazing in the rolling hills of the Lamar Valley. It was simply spectacular; golden afternoon sun at our backs, riding free at a spirited pace through the deserted roads. Until…a park ranger approached with lights flashing a warning to tame that free spirit just a bit. 😀 Yes, sir, no problem! Dang, that’s twice in one day that I have annoyed a park ranger…
Exiting Yellowstone at the Montana – Wyoming border, we were back on US 212, the fabled Beartooth Scenic Byway. In Montana, we passed through the small town of Silver Gate, where coincidentally a dear friend from home had been visiting a day before, but alas our paths were not destined to cross this far from home. We continued on to Cooke City, stopping for gas prior to dropping down into the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone River basin and back into Wyoming. At the intersection with WY 296, we headed south and the Chief Joseph did not disappoint. It proved to be a heart-stopping ride in this direction as well, going from river level over multiple mountain passes, through the first pioneer community in this area, Sunlight, and of course, over Dead Indian Summit. You’ll have to take my word for the images of this part, as we were on a mission to get back to Cody before it got completely dark and really cold!
Just before we reached the end of the Chief Joseph, coming down a long sweeping descent through the historic Two Dot Ranch, we were stopped in our tracks by the most amazing sunset over the mountains ahead. Late or not, we had to shoot a few photos. 🙂
We made our way safely back to camp around 9:30 PM in the pitch dark, much to the relief of our new friends Anne and Brian, who had waited for us to get home prior to calling it a night! 🙂
It was a lovely stay in Cody, but it is almost time to say adieu and head north to Billings, Montana, and the 2015 BMW Motorcycle Owners Association (MOA) National rally. But that is a story for another day, soon…thanks for reading!
Author’s note: I have veered from my original intent to next share the fun we had at the MOA rally and traveling and camping with friends, and instead decided to share another spectacular motorcycling area, the Big Horns, first. You can read the next installment here.