Bring Out the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch!

Ah, Banff™, we hardly knew ye. Dad claims that I’ve been to Banff before. When I was 12. On a train. For a few minutes or so. Please correct your scorecards, those of you following along at home.

Perhaps it was that shock of deja vu that caused my ass to fall out of bed in the morning. All I know is that my alarm went off, I reached across the large bed to snooze it, and promptly crashed to the floor. Apparently you don’t have to reach quite as far when you’re actually sleeping in a twin bed. Paul, the quintessential father-person, shot straight up in his bed and demanded to know if I was alright (in spite of the fact that I was laughing my ass off on the floor). I was up.

And yet, while my ill-fated alarm was set for 7:30am, off we rode at…yep, a little after 10. It just takes time to pack, shower, load, and grab a muffin and coffee. I’m slowly adjusting to the pace.

Twin beds < King size beds. Lesson learned.

Off we went towards Jasper, our intended (but not ultimate) destination for the night. We retraced our steps for a few miles, then split off to the Icefields Parkway that runs the length of the park up towards Jasper. Once again, the views were staggering. I’ve lost count of the different ranges that we’ve ridden through or past, but each of them is more amazing than the last. Teton, Yellowstone, Glacier, and now Kootenay parks are all special places worth at least a visit, and we’ve now been riding through them for four straight days….

Shot at speed from the road.
The disgusting collection grows.
Gratuitous ice porn, in case Paul ever reads these posts.

Before Jasper, though, comes Lake Louise. This is a natural lake at the base of several mountains which is fed largely by glacial melt. It’s just crazy beautiful. And k-k-k-k-k-rrrrazy crowded. I mean really now. I’m used to crowds in National Parks. This is not new. But I’m talking over-run. It’s also so well curated that it feels like Snow White is about to pop her head out a window to ask for help. The whole time we walked around the area I could not help feeling like I was in Canadaland at the Disneyland North park. It really took something away from an area that trades not just on its beauty, but also on it’s wild heart.

Amazing, right?
Let me step back a few feet. 🤯
Look kids! It’s the new Lake Chateau ride!

We walked (in our gear, no less) to the far end of the lake and back. On the trail, wouldn’t you know it, Paul spotted THE EXACT POINT OF REFERENCE FOR HIS PARENT’S PAINTING!!!!! A truly exciting moment for me (yet again). And we then spent a good amount of time moving a bit up and down the trail to find just the right shot. At my insistence, Paul contacted his sister to confirm for me that he was in the right spot. She responded that he was losing his damn mind and, no, not the right picture. We remain ever vigilant, though. Paul’s ice-porn collection continues to grow, in other news.

Here we see Paul heroically searching for Just The Right (Wrong) Spot.
The place is pretty amazing, though.
It was a 30 minute line to take this picture, but totally worth the wait!

At the far end of the park we discovered Lake Louise’s ugly secret: Child Sacrifice. I’ve determined that the locals worship a local, warmongering chipmunk diety. To sate it’s thirst for blood they send him elementary (and possibly middle-school) aged girls, which he feasts upon leaving a field of bones along the pristine shore. To my horror, we came around the corner just in time to see the Chipmunk God strike down his latest prey. What came next was…disturbing.

One more innocent falls to the bloody chipmunk god.

The scene in front of me did call to mind this classic:

After finding only lame resort food at the lodge, we pressed on for another 2-3 hours to Jasper. The views continued to stun, and the road was quite nice. The rain came not long after we left Lake Louise and we finally gave in and stopped to gear up, cursing ourselves for not doing that sooner. It wasn’t too bad of a rain, but the temperature dropped to at least the low fifties. A little insulation with the rain gear and I was cozy. The rain came and went for most of that leg, but it was clear when we rolled in.

Just some raw footage of the ride. Nothing of note happens.
Same as above, with rain.

We looked around a tad, and it seemed like a nice town. But good lord, it was just as crowded as Banff and Lake Louise, if not moreso. We yelped up a restaurant and went to grab something to eat. While getting food was easy, we found out over dinner exactly how crowded Jasper really was: no rooms available. On a Tuesday night. And I mean N O N E. I cast my net a little wider and found one room about 40 miles away in Hinton. I jumped on that and booked it. Dinner we ate and off we drove, to cover the last hour into Hinton. It was relatively uneventful, aided in part by the laaaaate sunset up in these parts along with the fact that it wasn’t out of the way of our main route.

Jasper was about as crowded as Banff and Lake Louise (note the crowds to the right).

On our way out of town, Elk Attack! The wily bastards came en masse this time. We were saved by the quick actions of law enforcement. Kinda seriously, actually. Saved from a long delay, at least. This whole herd? gaggle? antler? of elk began crossing the road in ones and twos, with the others waiting just off the road. As traffic backed up, these uniformed Elk Police pulled up in a marked unit Code 2 (just lights, no siren). They exited their vehicle and began to escalate force with a display of Less Lethal weapons, specifically paintball guns. What they did was get around behind the laggards and shake their guns, rattling the ammo balls around in the hoppers. The elk heard about two shakes and were like “Fuuuuuuuuuck that!” and bolted right over the road to a small wooded area on the other side. I’m not sure what was in those paintballs, but the elk certainly were, and they wanted none of it.

Paul is thinking, “Holy shit, that elk is in my parent’s painting!”
The best shot I have of Elk Police in action, sadly.

Made it to Hinton, checked in an crashed out.

Starting Odometer: 34748
Ending Odometer: 34998
Daily Total: 250
Running Total: 2,435

We Done Went (to the Sun)

Day 5 Blog (Redux)
Keep in mind that this entry is for Sunday, Helena to Whitefish.

So last night I had a nice FaceTime with Bear back at the homestead. We discovered that we could take screen caps of each other, and much hilarity ensued. I am comfortable in the knowledge that my goofy faces are safely in the phone of an 11 year old with minimal technical skills. Her goofy faces, though, are in the hands of a man with a blog!

Best not to mess with a man with a blog…

So, it being Sunday and all, we decided to get up at the crack of dawn for no discernible reason. Ok, not true. Paul went on a two-hour expedition to get an anniversary card and get it in the mail (you know…for that special Sunday mail pickup). I watched an unexpectedly interesting Hungarian Grand Prix. After we were each done with our respective non-travel-related tasks, we regrouped and had breakfast. We were packed up and on the road by 10:30am or so.

Off we went towards Glacier National Park and the rightly famous Going to the Sun Road. Siri knows to guide me off of the interstate whenever possible, and that little digital pocket gal really delivered today. We started out on one of the nicest, smoothest, prettiest mountain roads I’ve ever driven. And the speed limit was 70mph! It was kind of insane, really, but at least I never felt the urge to speed. By the end of the road, I think that this was actually what I looked like under my helmet: 😍

Even after we got out of the twisties, the road did not disappoint. What was a serpentine road through craggy mountains became a straight line through sprawling Montana prairie land. It should be noted that these prairies clearly had an interesting geological history beyond, “and then the time of the sediment layer came. The end.” Large buttes, carved arroyos, broad valleys. And apparently it’s chock full o’ dinosaur detritus, too, to judge from the various roadside attractions. We meandered through a couple of small towns, ranging from an apparent county seat with one traffic light to a small settlement with one tooth. The county seat had the unusual feature of a courthouse which sat in the middle of a traffic circle. Seriously. I guess it saved them money that they would’ve otherwise spent on a second traffic light, though. They’re playing 4-D chess in these parts…

For the haters and the doubters out there, I give you the Teton County Courthouse/Traffic Circle!

We then cruised through the Blackfeet Indian Reservation just outside of Glacier National Park. There’s not anything insightful or constructive that I can really offer about that part of the trip, but I can tell you that it made me very sad.

The road did throw some interesting curves at us today, I should add. The Yellowstone bison had clearly radioed ahead as we were being stalked by the local critters. Lucky for them, though, we never had to school them with our advanced Hide and Seek skillz. The first bison scout was a coyote that darted across the road about 20′ in front of me (note that I was doing about 70mph, so this was about as close as he wanted to get, I’d think). Paul ran over the remains of a skunk, causing me to take the lead for a bit. Finally, a velveted stag elk trotted out in a blatant attempt to kill Paul. Paul had no time for that elk’s bullshit, though, and went about his business with just a hint of a skidmark to betray his inner terror. One additional obstacle was a solid couple of miles of slippery gravel in a construction zone. I was “secretly” smug about my bad-ass adventure bike (and it did indeed cruise through the gravel like butter over a hot knife), but my smug…edness? smugitude? took a bit of a hit when Paul’s land yacht with street tires glided right through as well. Mine still looks cooler, though. Right?

Up into Glacier we went, finally on the Going to the Sun Road. And sister, it was spectacular. Keep in mind that we just did Yellowstone the day before, and the views in Glacier were every bit as amazing. Virtually every turn heading up to the summit made us want to stop to take a picture or just take in the view. Interestingly, Paul called a hasty halt when he realized that the view in front of us was the same as in a painting that had hung in his parents’ house since their marriage. No one knew what the painting was of, but it was a family touchstone. Turns out, it was this particular vista from Glacier N.P. Many pictures were taken. (Spoiler Alert: He was wrong.)

One of 50 stops for Paul to capture the exact picture from his family’s painting. He failed.
Panorama of Glacier National Park. Also not the picture from Paul’s family’s painting.
This bike, it do get around.

This, too, is where I discovered that Paul has a glacier fetish.  We’ve now spent a good part of the last few days stopping at every new glacier vista point to stock up Paul’s ice-porn collection.  It’s a little creepy, but I figure I’m safe as long as I remain room temperature or above.

On the backside of the pass we had a different but equally amazing ride. The road was almost literally carved into a granite cliff. And by that I mean that there was about 2 lanes for cars, a rock guardrail on the outside and the inside shoulder is OMGWTF A MOUNTAIN! And it went on forever. Until it was over, dumping us out into a forest that grew along the Flatiron river leading out of the park.

The road out to the western entrance. More fantastic vistas.
And the view to the front. Please note that this is before the road gets narrow, and the OMGWTF A MOUNTAIN on the right hand side just pushes closer and closer to you as you go down. It also gets bigger and more mountain-y. But I’d put my camera down by then.

We headed into Whitefish, which seems to be the Jackson Hole of the North, if maybe a little less so. Nice town. So we found a good piece of Montana beef to eat, some beer, and located a local Patel Motel for a spartan but serviceable room at a reasonable rate (which was a rarity in the area).

This day was just about perfect, I must say. If all the weather was like this, all the roads were like this, and all the trips were like this, there simply wouldn’t be a market for cars.

Starting Odometer: 34166
Ending Odometer: 34468
Daily Total: 302
Running Total: 1905

We’re In Canada, Eh.

So.  Up early at the Patel Hotel we crashed in Whitefish.  The fact that it was known as the “Cheap Sleep Motel” just 12 weeks ago (before the lovely Patel’s bought it and wisely rebranded as The Inn at Whitefish”) should tell you all you need to know.  Suffice it to say that we slept well, the coffee was hot, and it kept the bison out.

I leisurely re-sorted and re-packed my gear.  I had time, after all, because Paul was on a mission to Wash My Bike™ again.  I swear that I will have the honor of riding into Alaska with both the newest AND the cleanest Goldwing to ever grace that fair state.  Sooner rather than later we had one clean bike and two riders packed and ready to roll.  Again.  It’s hard to believe that it’s only been five days so far. All I can clearly remember at this point is riding.

It is interesting to me how solitary this ride is, riding partner notwithstanding.  It’s not that we don’t talk, mind you.  We talk quite a bit, both on the bikes and off (we have wireless communicators that allow on-bike chatting, which has been brilliant).  But there are loooooong periods of alone time as we eat through the miles.  It’s very different from sitting in a car with someone, and even the noise of a podcast or Spotify doesn’t totally erase that aspect of this mode of travel.  

As an(other) aside, if you haven’t listened to the In The Dark podcast, please do.  I am specifically referring to Season 2, which is a stand-alone season that does not rely on anything from their first season.  Taken at face value, it is a brutal takedown of the criminal justice system as seen through the lens of one extreme case, which is that of Curtis Flowers.  Season 1 is also extremely well done, but it lacks the ultimate impact of the follow-up.

And now back to your regularly scheduled Epic Journey.

We cruised out of town at our now-customary 10-ish.  There was really only one route north at this point, so that’s what we rode all the way to the border.  The US-side of things was quite pleasant.  Good pavement, great weather, and amazing scenery.

Border crossing was smoothish, aside from having to get off the bike to read the guy my plate number.  Seriously?  You don’t have a camera for this shit?  And lest you think that I sound like a whiner, have you seen my bike these days?  It’s a legitimate chore to get on and off with all of this gear. I did have a twinge of guilt when I said that I had no weapons, hoping that he wouldn’t see the 9” Gerber knife strapped to my pack in a sheath directly in front of him.  To be fair, though, it’s a tool not a weapon.  I’m far more likely to throw it at somebody as a distraction as I run far and fast than I am to go stabby-town.  I’ve found that my size and girlish screams are an effective deterrent, weapon or no weapon.

But then…meh.  We rode a long slog from the border up to Radium.  It was only a couple of hours, but it felt like forever.  It was just…boring.  I’m a little afraid that Doing three consecutive days of Yellowstone, Yellowstone, and then Glacier has really set a high bar for “interesting” these days.  And this shit did not deliver.  It was pretty, mind you, but not spectacular. So we had a beer in Radium to blunt the disappointment (it’s a trick I picked up from Melissa early in our marriage).

So after Radium we continued riding towards Banff, taking us into the Kootenay National Park.  Daaaaaaaamn.  Canada, you’ve been holding out on me!  All of those miles between the border and KNP just dropped out of my brain as we rode from breathtaking vista to spectacular view to WTF is that all about mountains.  It was a great 90 minutes or so into Banff.

Kootenay National Park, Alberta, Ca.

I’ve heard a lot about Banff over the years, but this was my first visit.  It seems like a great town, and it is in an undeniably beautiful area, but it seemed a little overrun to me.  Loooooooots of people, lots of touristy crap, not a lot of accessible substance.  That could be a construct of this particular trip, mind you.  Arriving at 5:30pm without a hotel, plan, or idea of what to do isn’t the best way to discover the soul of a town, especially when you’re leaving at 10ish the next day.  But what I saw wasn’t “Banff”, it was Banff©, a slick operation focused on separating tourists from cash.  That said, Banff© had a mighty fine brewery (Banff Ave Brewing Co) and many fine food choices.  So it all worked out in the end.

Banff. Crazy pretty, pretty crowded. And pro tip: the second “f” is silent.

We chatted over a few beers and wings (no lunch, remember), then walked down to dinner.  On the whole, a very nice night.  I left Paul in the room to crash out (he is my elder, after all), and went back out to the brewery to type up my thoughts for the day.

A Canadian Mai Tai. Tasty as hell. Who knew?
I’m assuming Paul requested the “romantic faux fireplace” option….

Starting Odometer: 34,468
Ending Odometer: 34,748
Daily Total: 280
Running Total: 2185


I had a whole post written up for today, but it seems to have disappeared into the ether. It’s about 1am and I’m a bit frustrated, so I’ll re-do it tomorrow. The photos below show bits of our trip from Helena to Glacier National Park (on the Going to the Sun Road), and on to Whitefish.

Day 5 Photos

Mountain road above Helena.
Please note the broken yellow line…
Gravel Road Into Glacier Park
Glacier Park Panorama
Top of the Park, Going to the Sun Road, Glacier NP
Vista down the valley as you leave Glacier headed west.
Road out of Glacier. It gets tighter and hairier, but I’d put the camera down by then.

Jeff Gets Lit (Up)

I’ll get the bad shit out of the way early and we can never talk of it again. I got pinched. My partner pulled a quick pass at the end of a dotted-yellow, and I followed him after our side went solid. The sheriff that was two cars behind me lit me up. He was quite professional and nice, noting that he’d just about stopped paying attention to me because I was keeping well within the speed limit and then… It took longer than needed, but I paid him $85 in cash on the side of the road and went on my way. Seriously. It was…odd (although I should note that I did get a ticket, so I basically pled guilty on the side of the road and paid my fine, for all intents and purposes).

But that was the one shadow on an otherwise perfect day. Great weather, great roads, great scenery. Really spectacular.

Got a bit of a late start as we sorted a sensor issue on Paul’s bike. We skipped breakfast in the interest of time and headed straight to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. On the way…Bison Attack! Clearly not satisfied with their loss yesterday, the Bison hid by the side of the road and leapt out as we approached. But we were ready for them. Paul bravely dodged to the far side of a car and tried to look like a fender. I courageously turned around and hid behind a fence. But this time I took pictures!

Please note two things: 1) the fence standing between me and certain death and 2) there is a CAR(!?!) behind the buffalo…

Okay. I’ll admit that there is a bit of forced perspective at play here, but believe me when I say that this buffalo was the size of a small moon.

After we won the finals in Hide and Seek, Buffalo Edition, onwards to the Grand Canyon. It was, indeed, grand. But I made Paul run up and down the hill to the brink of the falls because we were on a tight timetable. After a quick peek, on to Old Faithful.

We made it to Old Faithful with about 30min until the next eruption, which gave us time to see the Inn and get a good spot at the geyser. Nice eruption, but nothing of particular note. Over to the lodge for cafeteria lunch and back on the bikes. If this all sounds hurried, it was. Not ideal, but this is not North to Montana, after all…

Next stop was Grand Prismatic. Also grand!

It’s like a liquid rainbow. But with bacterial mats!

We elbowed the Chinese out of the way and made good time around the Prismatic loop, then back to the bikes.

A note here to say that motorcycles were hands down the best possible way to see this park. At least in good weather. Mobile, easy to park, and quick to maneuver around traffic and such. Just watch out for those sneaky bison!

On to Mammoth Hot Springs, which was out last stop in the park. We just took a quick peek and a few photos, then back on the road. I made a not-so-quick stop in the men’s room that nearly ended the trip in tragedy. I felt the need (ahem) to wait for a stall. Both were full. So I took up position and pulled out my phone (as you do). I noodled about for several minutes, then suddenly the door was thrown open into me and the man stormed off as I fended off the metal panel. I took my seat and looked up, still puzzling, when I heard a loud voice talking about an asshole pervert. Holy shit. I am that asshole pervert! I realized that I had been standing directly in front of the door hinge line, and I have no doubt that I looked to either be watching, filming, or both… In my defense, the stall was laid out a bit oddly and I had no idea the guy was sitting right in front of me, but I did have a nice chuckle about the misconception. Until I realized that the rangers were probably on the way to ask me some probing questions. Job done, I buggered off (so to speak).

Mammoth Hot Springs. Cool place. 😉

We gassed up and vacated the park, heading to Helena. On the way out of Mammoth we passed a herd of elk chilling in the traffic circle. They did not charge, so I liked them better than the bison. Aside from my run-in with Johnny Law we went straight through to a pizza joint, then on to the hotel. Even the interstates in Montana are gorgeous, and we got in with a bit of daylight left as the sun set on an amazing day in MAGA country.

Starting Odometer: 33858
Ending Odometer: 34166
Daily Total: 308
Running Total: 1,603

Day 3 Photos

Shoshone Falls
On the road to Yellowstone. Outside of Idaho Falls.
My bike makes it to Wyoming. I was close behind.
Grand Teton? More like O.K. Teton. Amirite?
Note the family still lurking around the sign (to the left and behind). We realized that it says the same thing on the backside, and they took even MORE pictures back there. It was spectacular.
They look so peaceful from a distance. IT’S A TRAP!

He’s Comin’ Right For Us!

Another long day, even though the mileage was lower. We started in Twin Falls, Idaho, and were heading for a cabin at the Roosevelt Lodge in Yellowstone. Due to time concerns we skipped the Craters of the Moon northern route and opted for the interstate route to Idaho Falls. It was the right decision, and the scenery wasn’t nearly as bad as Nevada, but interstates just suck ass. This was no exception.

Interestingly, we spent a good few miles on the I15 again, which is where we started this whole thing back in Norco. Unsurprisingly, there was traffic.

Things improved immensely after we gassed up in Idaho Falls and headed on the state route over to Jackson. We drifted on the two-lane road through Idaho farmland before climbing up and over the mountain rim of the Jackson Hole valley. Off the interstate we came through one or two small, old farm towns that really looked quite idyllic.

Jackson has a reputation for being a playground for the rich, and it certainly had the feel of a moneyed town. The upsides and the down. Sure, it was clean, well kept, charming, and chock full of nice restaurants and other diversions. But damn was it crowded. And it looked expensive as hell. Again, since we were pushing daylight we were forced to bomb on through town and run up through Teton.

Teton was a new experience for me and much different than I expected. Basically the road runs along the bottom of the Teton range along a river valley. In my mind it was a mountain ride. Nope. It was quite beautiful, though, and the view of the Tetons was spectacular.

One of the reasons I was pushing hard was that I had heard of fairly significant traffic delays in parts of Yellowstone. The rumors were right. We got to the ranger station that takes entry fees to the park and there was a loooooooooooong line up of vehicles waiting to get in. We debated doing the motorcycle thing of cutting to the front and ultimately decided against it, if only because we’d literally be cutting in line (as opposed to simply using space more efficiently a la lane splitting). While I didn’t time the wait, I’d put it at 30-45 minutes. On the upside we were able to snap a few pics at the Yellowstone entrance to kill some time. After the family in front of me finished taking ALL of the pictures, that is. I mean: Mom and Sign. Sign. Dad and Sign. Sign. Mom and Dad and Sign. Sign. Mom and Daughter and Sign. Sign. And so on. If pictures truly steal a part of their subject’s soul, I’m afraid that family has single-handedly doomed the poor sign to a soul-less eternity.

We ultimately made it through the gate and it was certainly worth the wait. We cruised up the carved river canyon to Lake Yellowstone. On past the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone towards a beer and a break for the night. We hit a few traffic slow-downs but made quick work of them. Until our first Bison Backup, that is. A large herd of bison was leisurely strolling across the road, causing a major traffic jam. It was my bright idea to cruise up the empty oncoming lane to bypass a good chunk of the waiting cars. I didn’t really think it through, though, and we quickly found ourselves smack in the middle of a herd of bison. They were everywhere. To the left. To the right. Walking down between cars. And fuck me but they didn’t they start coming our way with the quickness. In hindsight, this would have been an excellent time to turn around and leave, as tricky as that would have been. Nope. Honestly it didn’t even occur to me. Instead, we started playing Hide and Seek, Bison Edition. Paul and I had our communicator channel open and coordinated a leapfrog maneuver which kept a reasonable sized car between us and the most pressing bison opponent. Things went swimmingly until The World’s Largest Bison caught on to our strategy and just started charging down the side of the road at our lead vehicle. Thankfully that was Paul. He dropped his kickstand and leaped off his (brand new) bike, dodging behind another vehicle on foot while I encouraged him to invade the nearest RV for shelter. And maybe a beer. Luckily, Paul had effectively blocked and distracted the Mega-Bison, so I was (relatively) safe for the moment.

After a bit more excitement, the bison collectively lost interest and decided to move along en masse. Paul was still a bit panicky and still unused to the bike, so it took him an achingly long time to figure out how to get back in gear and start moving. All the while the bison were moseying alongside us. I like to think that they know that they beat him, and that his girlish squeals will echo pleasantly in their ears for the rest of the summer. I swear it. That was him doing the squealing. Truly.

While we completed our ride to Roosevelt we discussed a change to our future bison engagement strategy. A conversation that we probably should have had just a bit earlier…

Landed at Roosevelt, grabbed a beer or two and sat down for dinner. Good food and reasonable price. Highly recommended. Paul went to bed after and I went back to the lodge to type up some notes and enjoy the evening. Honestly would have enjoyed it a bit more but for the odd experience of being surrounded by drunk, chatty summer buckaroo employees from the local cowboy experience operation. In spite of how awesome it should’ve been being in the midst of a bunch of cowboys while sitting on the porch of a giant log cabin in the wilderness, it was boooooooring. The same inane work gossip and gripe fest that you can find at any office job, and the occasional reference to a horse, saddle, or wagon did not change the fact that they were just bitching about Becky and how long is Boss Chad going to let her get away with her shit, anyway…

On the whole, a great day. But we rode from about 10am until 7:30pm with just one brief stop for water while we gassed up in Idaho Falls. Loooong day in the saddle, but it passed quickly once we got off the interstate.

I’ll get some photos posted soon.

As an addendum, the chatty crowd of employees all wandered off to bed while I was typing this up, and I’m now watching an electrical storm light up the night sky from the log porch, all by my lonesome. It was worth the wait.

Starting Mileage: 33478
Ending Mileage: 33858
Daily Total: 380
Running Total: 1,295