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Published: October 7th 2009
Glacier National Park
On the 'Going To The Sun Road' !!!!!
Yes, somehow we managed to tick off Montana ('Big Sky Country') and Wyoming ('Like No Place On Earth') in just 5 days - not enough time to do them justice really. You can guess what's coming next - yes, more long, windy road with sweeping bends and spectacular views. Although I'm sure you'll be pleased to hear that our first day in the USA was a total wash out and we got soaked to the skin. We crossed into Glacier National Park and travelled along the inappropriately named 'Going to the Sun' road. We didn't see any sun and spent the whole time in a cloud, along with a hundred or so cars in a traffic jam negotiating the roadworks on the highest pass. The locals kept telling us how spectacular the views are on a sunny day but that day it was so wet we didn't see a single one of the 20 odd glaciers in the park.
I did chuckle to myself when we first went over the border into the US. At home, on the moors we have 'sheep on the road' signs. The first thing we saw as we left the border was a 'cattle on
Mammoth Hot Springs
the road' sign. So we truly knew we were in the US where everything is bigger and better.
Luckily it was only one day of rain and the next day,after a drizzly start, we had blue skies again. Handy as we rode 350+ miles from Bigfork though pasture land and national forests to get to Yellowstone. Yellowstone was even more fun than I expected. You expect all the geysers and bubbling mud pools but there was yet more wonderful scenery which constantly changed from open plains with herds of bison to forest to dramatic canyon rims and waterfalls. And the colours were amazing with a kaleidoscopic array of yellows, oranges, blue and greens. We only had a day and a half there which just wasn't enough to see it all, although excitingly we did manage to see 3 geysers erupt plus Old Faithful of course. We timed our exit to perfection, riding out of Old Faithful Lodge just before president Obhama's helicopter landed for his 2 days stay when certain areas of the park we closed to the pubic. Even more exciting then the president's arrival was the big traffic jam on a hair pin bend, with an adverse
Mammoth Geyser Basin
camber, down a very steep hill. Apart from giving Edwin a few riding challenges this amount of traffic chaos was sure to mean something very exciting was happening. And sure enough there was an enormous grizzly bear ambling across the meadow - there was something exciting and well, just right, about seeing a bear in Yellowstone (or do I mean Jellystone?).
More exciting roads, and weather, awaited us outside the park. First we had to negotiate more road works where they had scraped off the surface of the road for several miles. It wasn't actually that bad it was all the 'Motorcycles Beware', 'Very Dangerous for Motorcycles - use extreme caution' warning signs that were worrying and another reminder that we are in the USA. Then there are two ways from Yellowstone to Cody; along the Beartooth Pass or along the chief Joseph Scenic Highway. Both are well spectacular roads so, not being of sound mind, we ended up going up to the top of the Beartooth Pass, coming back down then going along the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway. It was worth the effort. The Beartooth Pass (3337m) has lots of hairpins and rises 1000m in 12 miles i.e.
colourful pools - Prismatic Hot Springs
well twisty and steep and from the top there are superb views down onto the mountain ranges & valley. At the top the temperature was below freezing and on the return journey, back down the hairpins, it snowed. The Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, in contrast, has wonderful gentle swooping bends on a road that winds its way along the valley floor where it is certainly not freezing, then climbs through the mountains. It also has culture - this is the route taken by Chief Joseph as he led the Nez Percr Indians out of Yellowstone in 1877 during their attempt to flee the US Cavalry and escape into Canada.
In Cody, predictably, everything revolves around 'Buffalo Bill' Cody who founded the town. We even stayed in the Irma hotel he built and ran which still has the long wooden bar present to him by Queen Victoria, the one you slide the drinks along. The local museum was crammed full of Buffalo Bill memorabilia and black and white film footage of his wild west show (plus the largest firearm collection in the world with over 6000 guns). It was a bit like seeing a childhood TV hero suddenly coming to
more colourfull pools
life. In all the old western films you sort of knew Buffalo Bill, Annie Oakley etc. existed but they still seemed like a character in the story, now suddenly you can see pictures of him with his family and letters he wrote.
Apart from the Buffalo Bill connection Cody is still a genuine cowboy town, if you haven't got a Stetson, big belt buckle and cowboy boots you aren't anyone. The were several shops on the high street selling all the genuine paraphernalia and lots of cowboys around buying it. To continue with the western theme we went to a rodeo. The locals took it all very seriously with ladies barrel racing, 8 year olds trying to pull the ribbon of the tail of a calf and men riding bucking broncos or tetchy bulls.
All in all 5 days of total contrasts and a good start to the USA.
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