Hell yes! That is the only plausible answer when friends invite you to join them on an eight-day motorcycle ride through the mountains of Montana (including the legendary Beartooth Pass), Wyoming, Idaho, and Alberta, Canada.
We start our ride in Billings, Montana, on a pair of Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Classics rented from EagleRider, and head south to Laurel, where we pick up U.S. Route 212. We continue south to Red Lodge, where the road becomes Beartooth Highway and crosses into Wyoming on its way up to Beartooth Pass (10,947 ft). This is one of the best motorcycling roads in America, and it is easy to see why, even in the rain.
West of the pass, we turn south on Wyoming Route 296, which is also known as the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway. The byway has great sweepers as well as picturesque views of the Absaroka Mountains as it climbs up and over Dead Indian Pass (8,071 ft).
We arrive in Cody in time to tour the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, a superb display of life in the Old West. The center has five museums: the Buffalo Bill Museum, which is about his life and times; the Plains Indian Museum, which showcases art and heritage; the Draper Natural History Museum, highlighting the ecosystems of Yellowstone; the Whitney Western Art Museum; and the Cody Firearms Museum.
We awake to a light rain that lingers until we head into the mountains west of Cody, and then the heavens open up with what my granddad used to refer to as “a real frog-strangler.” Looking over and around the windshield, I am barely able to make out the taillight of the bike in front of me, and I have no idea how he manages to follow the road on our way back to Beartooth Highway. The clouds part as we ride into Cooke City, Montana, a Wild West town where motorcycles have replaced horses at the hitching posts.
Our adventurous ride through Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park includes a wide variety of wildlife; a large RV that decides to stop, unannounced, in the middle of the road to take some pictures; and a herd of bison that crosses the highway one or two at a time, backing up traffic for a mile. When our turn comes to run the bison gauntlet, an exceptionally large bull gets ready to cross the road. We are directly behind a pickup truck, so I suggest to our riding partners that when the truck starts to move, we should stay close to its rear bumper so it looks like we’re being towed.
After spending the night in Jackson, Wyoming, we ride west on State Route 22 over Teton Pass (8,432 ft) and into Idaho. The winding roads, the views of the Tetons to the east, and crossing rivers with trout fisherman in waders fly casting made for a fun, scenic ride. We continue north on a stretch of U.S. Route 20 known as Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.
We cross back into Montana and end our day in Butte, once a wealthy copper mining town and more recently home to the late Evel Knievel, the legendary motorcycle daredevil. In the morning, we ride through downtown to view the mansions that signify a bygone era, and then head west through mining country. It’s Saturday morning and we are getting low on gas, so we stop in the tiny town of Phillipsburg to fill up. The gas station also serves as a general store, a casino, and a bar, all of which have numerous customers.
We turn north from Missoula in 100-degree temperatures, finally gaining some relief along the shady roads on the eastern shores of Flathead Lake. Heading back west across the top of the lake, we encounter the largest flock of eagles we have ever seen.
We spend the night at the Hidden Moose Lodge in Whitefish, an exquisite place that serves a gourmet breakfast every morning. With full bellies, the bike feels noticeably heavier as we climb Going-to-the-Sun Road through Glacier National Park, one of the few roads that can give Beartooth Highway a run for its money. We venture across into Alberta, Canada, and visit Waterton Lakes National Park, which is the northern part of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park.
Being from the flatlands of Florida, we’re overwhelmed by the endless peaks and scenery of the Rocky Mountains. We stay at the quaint Kilmorey Lodge, overlooking the Emerald Bay of Waterton Lakes. Relaxing by the gazebo with a refreshing beverage, we’re joined by countless white-tailed deer that consume any vegetation not covered in chicken wire.
Heading south the next morning takes us back across the border through the towns of St. Mary and Browning in northern Montana. A sign on the outskirts of Browning warns of strong crosswinds, but there’s nothing more than a gentle breeze. Ten miles farther south on U.S. Route 89, the breeze becomes a 60-mph crosswind that we battle with for the better part of 40 miles.
The town of Dupuyer, Montana, has a population of 93 and no general store or gas station, but it does have two bars. We opt for the Ranch House of Dupuyer for lunch and are pleasantly surprised when the owner/bartender/chef cooks up a superb pulled pork dish. It’s served by his children, ages four and seven, who provide better service than waiters at many fancy restaurants.
After riding through the haze of wildfire smoke, we stay overnight in Great Falls. The final leg of our journey takes us across the flatlands to the small town of Ryegate, where we are disappointed to discover we’ve missed the annual Testicle Festival.
We arrive back in Billings and return the Harleys to EagleRider. Over eight days and 1,500+ miles, I can say that there was not a single road that I would not ride again in a heartbeat. Great roads, beautiful country.
(With Inputs from ridermagazine)
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