Friday, July 13, 2007

Western Mountain Ride - Day 5

Yesterday was a very long and tiring day, riding south out of Billings on Beartooth Highway and into Yellowstone, across the northern portion of the grand loop and then out and north, back to I-90 and west to Missoula.

Beartooth Highway was incredible! But very technically challenging. It has many very steep and sharp switchbacks on a very steep road over Beartooth pass, then down the other side. It was only about 60 miles or so from Billings to Yellowstone park entrance, but I had to be mentally "on" the entire way. I have a fear of heights, more specifically a fear of falling. This road is narrow, bumpy, with the right track in each lane potted and in poor condition in some areas. There is no guardrail in most areas, and the plunge off the side is immediate, with no shoulder. It was nerve-wracking in places, as cars were often careless about drifting over the line in the hairpins. But, for the most part, I was able to enjoy the pass, and not freak out too much. Descending on the WY side, the views were spectacular!

Once on somewhat level ground again, I could continue into Yellowstone park and ride what's probably the drabbest part of the park, although I did see large herds of buffalo grazing in the meadows along this section of the park road. At Mammoth Hot Springs I grabbed my national park stamp at the very crowded visitor center and fought the crazy, clueless drivers to get to the upper terraces, where a tiny, steep, windy one-way road took me past some awesome travertine hot springs. A very elderly couple were standing in the little road taking each others' photos so I stopped to let them and dug my camera out of my tank bag and asked the man to take my photo, too. He got a really good one (see my photos).

I left the park out the northwest entrance, headed toward Livingston. I had stopped outside the park and bought some water and snacks to take with me, and lucky me, I found a great little rest area with picnic pavillions right on the Yellowstone river. Once in Livingston, I got onto I-90 and had over 250 miles still to ride to get to Missoula and it was already 3:00. Fortunately it gets dark very late this far north, and I got to the hotel around 8:00 PM, with the sun still quite high in the sky.

Tomorrow I'll go for a ride along Route 12 through Idaho and then spend the next two days with MTF folks before heading home.

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