A trip of a lifetime... Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming and Colorado. 1,892 miles of pure freedom.
Another bucket list trip for the Frogs. Dave and I left out of Sherman, TX at about 7:30 am on July 15, 2017, headed south to Blue Ridge to pick up Phillip. After a short visit and a homemade breakfast burrito courtesy of Mrs. Pulliam, we headed out to pick up the final Frog. Larry was dropped off by his wife along the highway sparing us the the slightly out of bounds trip over to Carrollton to pick him up. We headed down to Love Field Airport to catch our 11am flight. Larry accidentally left his bag in his wife's car when we picked him up, so after a short panic and a couple of Bloody Mary's, his bag was delivered along with few jokes... we're on our way to Seattle.
While it was not our preferred choice, we decided to rent Harley's again for this trip out of convenience. We've been talking about another west coast ride since our PCH ride two years prior, so I mapped out a potential route for us months earlier. After some consult and input from the Frogs, we decided to ride from Seattle to Denver and hit a few National Parks along the way. Shipping bikes to the west coast is not convenient or cheap, and with time constraints and work commitments there was no way we could feasibly ride there and back in our seven day allotment of time. So, Eagle Rider Motorcycle Rentals was our solution... or so we thought. We arrived in Seattle at about 1 pm and hitched a cab over to American Eagle to pick up our reserved bikes. They hold the bikes and process all the paperwork on bike rentals for Eagle Rider. We had made these reservations months in advance and had numerous calls and confirmations with them along the way. But of course, they did not have the correct bikes and kept us waiting while they tried to sort the mess out. Two of us ended up on bikes we didn't rent and the other two were in need of some service. We were in a bit of a bind so we settled for the Harley's they had available and took off on a hope and a prayer that we wouldn't have bike problems. By then it was 3 PM, we're starving and at the end of our patience. We stopped off at Smarty Pants Garage (Bar and Grill) for a beer and burger and said hello to our friend Kevin before heading east for our first night in Yakima.
The ride from Seattle to Yakima was fantastic! The initial plan was to head out of Seattle and take highway 12 east all the way to Yakima. But since we got a later start than we had anticipated, we decided to take highway 410 which was a very nice ride into Mt. Rainier National Park. The scenery was a bit different than we had experienced in California and Colorado but equally as beautiful. Enormous pine trees lined the highway through the forest, some as tall as 150 feet or maybe more. Simply amazing! Unlike the crystal clear rivers of Colorado, the White River that followed along highway 410 was just that. It was a white, milky color which I thought was unique, and many of the "smaller" pines were covered with moss around the banks of the river. You don't see that in north Texas.
After a long day of travel and several bursts of adrenaline, we finally arrived at about dark in Yakima, WA. We didn't spend much time exploring the town obviously, but it seemed to be an okay city. It sits in a valley so there's not too much to see. We briefly settled in to the Super 8 motel and set out to conquer a hearty supper. Luckily, we didn't have to go too far, as the Sea Galley Restaurant was a short walk across the street. We didn't have too high of hopes about getting a great meal since we were in a small mountain valley eating at a seafood joint, but hey.. we've had our fare share of gas station burritos. Thankfully, the drinks were good and the company was great which made up for an average meal. Our pothead waitress, Julie, was a good sport as we rattled the walls with laughter and probably dropped a few too many expletives for one public place. But it was all in good fun and no one was harmed by our evening rhetoric.
The next day we set out on highway 24 east towards Hanford Reach National Monument with our ultimate goal being dinner in Missoula, MT for the evening. This part of Washington is pretty cool too. We zig zaged through several back roads but there are not many mountains in this particular region of Washington but there are lots of beautiful rolling hills, grape farms and golden wheat meadows as far as the eye can see. We decided to blaze the trail with not many stops until we reach Spokane for lunch. After lunch at Perkins Restaurant, we headed over to Lone Wolf Harley Davidson in Spokane to pick up some souvenirs and get one of our rental bikes looked at. The air ride suspension on one of the bikes had gone out leaving Dave with a pretty rough ride. There was not much they could do on such short notice, so we call Eagle Rider to see if they could exchange the bike at another location along the way. Riding on a bike with no suspension is no fun, but we decided to head out towards Coeur d' Alene, ID and check out the lake. Let's just say wow! Coeur d' Alene has got it going on... It's a beautiful little city in a picturesque setting in northern Idaho surrounded by a national forest and spectacular Coeur d' Alene Lake. We pulled off at a park near the lake and took a quick stroll down to the white sandy beach to snap a few photos. This park was amazing too. Some of the largest and most unique looking trees I've ever seen. Beautifully manicured, it was filled with people taking in the beauty and relaxing in the summer sun. The lake looks similar to Lake Tahoe, but not quite as grand. Equally as beautiful though. Larry was able to photograph a plane landing on the lake as shown in the pictures below. It was quite a place. We continued on I-90 east over several beautiful bridges on our way to Missoula, MT hoping to get there before dark. Interstate 90 is a very nice ride through beautiful national forest with very little traffic and some pretty cool towns. We made one more stop at a watering hole near St. Regis and eventually landed in Missoula. After checking into our hotel we headed out for supper at a place called Oxfords. It was kind or a dive bar with a couple of pool tables and a fry cook who should have been long retired. Over all, it was a cool little town.
The next morning we left Missoula, MT at about 10:30 am after getting a late start. Luckily, Eagle Rider was able to pull some strings at the local Harley Davidson dealership and get Dave's bike swapped out for a better Street Glide that had suspension. We just needed to make it to Jackson, WY to pick it up. We decided to abandon I-90 for the next leg of the ride and take highway 93 south towards LoLo, MT. There was a nice canyon pass riding through Gibbonsville, MT but after that... Nada! Let's just say that we've never seen a stretch of highway so long and straight in some places where the road simply disappears into the horizon. Nothing but road and valley! Once we finally reached Salmon, MT we split off on highway 28 into hours of nothingness until we finally reached I-15 and headed into Idaho Falls, ID. It was a long day of riding and arriving in Idaho was a warm welcome. We stayed at the Le Ritz Hotel located right on the famous Snake River which was really nice. The only thing they had was a suite and we were lucky to get it since every other place we called was sold out. Across the parking lot was a restaurant called the Sand Piper, so after changing cloths and relaxing a bit out on the patio, we walked over for some needed drinks and supper.
The next morning was exciting, as we were headed off to Jackson, WY and the Grand Tetons. After breakfast we headed out on highway 26 picking up highway 31 in Swan Valley, ID. Once through the short mountain pass we picked up highway 22 east into Jackson, WY. It didn't take too long to get there, so we were able to get there by lunchtime. We arrived at Chester's Harley Davidson and met a nice gal named Dawn who was very nice and gave us the lay of the land and pointed us to the Silver Dollar Bar for a non traditional lunch. Dave didn't join us as he had an appointment at the local bike shop to pick up a replacement bike for the rest of the trip, so the remaining frogs went over to the bar and had lunch. They had a nice selection of microbrews, and the seasonal Lemon IPA was the bomb along with the Elk Gyro platter. It was between that or the Buffalo Burger, but I don't think you could go wrong either way. What a great meal. We took in some sights in downtown Jackson and headed north towards the Tetons on highway 191. This is your first real taste of what's to come as you see the Grand Tetons approaching to the west with it's grand formations, towering peaks and surrounded by blue sky. It's amazing and powerful. We arrived in Colter Bay Village located on the northeast side of Jackson Lake which was built in the 1950's as part of the National Park Service and now they rent nice cabins near the lake. This might have been my favorite night. We rented a nice two bedroom cabin that was in very good condition and recently renovated. They had an activity center located in the bay, so while two of the Frogs fell back to chill, Phil and I we went down to see if we could rent a boat to explore the bay by water. They said a storm was blowing in and recommended we not go out on the water, so we went up to the local store and loaded up with supplies for the evening. After supper at the local restaurant, we headed back for some poker on the patio and a few drinks. About sundown, the mosquitoes took over and ran us off the patio pretty quickly. While they are a different breed of mosquito than we have here in Texas, they were pesky, slow and ruthless. Much bigger than the one's we have here too, but they didn't really itch after you were bitten. Weird I thought, because the mosquitoes in Texas are almost invisible at times, and you never know when you've been bitten. These just swarmed and were less lethal.
The next morning we left Colter Bay at about 9:30 am on highway 191 north towards Yellowstone National Park. It was crowded as expected with cars pulling off the side of the road at every turn to get a glimpse of a ground squirrel. Tourists.. No, but it was as beautiful as expected from what we could see from the road. We decided to join the tourists and swing by Ol' Faithful... you know, just to say we did it. It was a zoo and not worth it in my opinion. Lot's of tourists, long lines and it was pretty hot too. And unless you get there early you don't really get a great view of the geyser. So in hindsight, I would have rather spent more time on the road riding in the park. While at the park we visited the Geyser Cafe for lunch and got bombarded my dozens of line cuttin' Asian tourists. I guess some of them don't know it's impolite to cut in line or invade your space for that matter. Anyway, the lunch sucked too so we got out of there as soon as we could. We headed up 191 and picked up highway 20 on the north side of Yellowstone Lake and then headed east on 14 towards Pahaska Tepee. The drive around the lake is spectacular to say the least, with lots of nice twists and turns, beautiful lake views and lot's of American Bison to see along the way. Yes, bison, not buffalo. After a few photo ops, we headed east out of Yellowstone towards Cody, WY. As we left the park and headed east through the canyon we witnesses a massive wildfire somewhere around Howell Mountain and Double Mountain to the south of highway 14/North Fork Highway. We pulled off to check out what was going on and saw a helicopter helplessly dropping water it was pulling from the Shoshone River. It was like pouring a cup of water on a house fire. You could see smoke for miles and it wasn't long before my eyes started to burn profusely and I was almost blind in one eye, and couldn't see out of the other due to all the smoke in the air. Luckily after a couple of hours, we were finally able to get a break from the smoke once arriving in Cody, WY. I was able to book us a room at the historic Irma Hotel, a place that was supposedly built by Buffalo Bill himself in 1902, and named for his daughter Irma. It was a pretty cool place I guess, everything you would expect to see in a place built in the early 20th century. They had a very good prime rib buffet and a nice staff that were more than happy to tell their story of how they landed in Cody, WY. After the grand buffet and a gun fight in the street, we headed out to explore the local flare. Larry retired back to the room for an early night while the other three Frogs ended up at a little pub for a couple of drinks, billiards and some live music. I retired shortly thereafter, while Dave and Phil decided to tie one on with a couple of the locals. They rolled in at about 3 am and I'm 100% certain they regretted the decision the next day. It's no fun riding tired and hung over.
After breakfast sitting at the famous bar that was gifted to Buffalo Bill by Queen Victoria of England, we loaded up and headed out south on highway 120 towards Thermopolis, WY with our target for the evening being Laramie, WY. This is a pretty flat ride with the exception of a strip of canyon riding just south of Thermopolis on highway 20. This was a long five hour ride, especially since our Road Captain for the day missed a turn leading us into purgatory. This portion of the trip was hot, flat and boring and we finally made it to Rock Springs, WY for a break and well needed sweet tea at Micky D's. We picked up I-80 east towards Laramie and that's when we hit our first real rain storm. We pulled off and suited up like we have so many times before, and with white knuckles we blazed on in to the eye of the storm. Well maybe it was no eye, but it was a pretty good storm which made for some pretty good photo's. After checking in to the Comfort Inn we ordered some Chinese food and called it a day.
The next morning we headed out south on highway 230 and picked up 125 in Walden, CO after crossing the Colorado state line. We continued on 125 south all the way down to Granby, CO which is a beautiful area with a nice lake, and then headed north on highway 34 up to Grand Lake, CO. Northern Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park are notorious for unexpected storms and changing weather patterns in the summer months. The last time we rode Rocky Mountain National Park, we went from 70 degrees when we entered the park, to 40 degrees and sleet once we got to the top of the summit near Marmot Point, all within a 1 hour time frame. We decided to take in some of the sites in Grand Lake and grab a bite to eat at a local restaraunt overlooking the lake. Grand Lake is a fairly upscale community and is very busy during the summer. After lunch we checked the radar and noticed a big storm rolling in, so we opted to skip riding north into the park and head back south to Granby, and then pick up highway 40 to Winter Park, CO. The radar indicated we were in for a wet afternoon, so we just suited up and went with the flow. There is not much you can do except keep you focus, slow down and keep the shiny side up. It really started coming down hard in Winter Park, CO and the mountain pass and switchbacks on I-40 can be challenging, especially in the pouring rain. We finally made it down to Empire, CO and I-70 before it finally let up and we were able to blaze the trail. Interstate 70 is a nice ride, but it's always busy and dangerous at times. We made the short 12 mile ride to Idaho Falls, CO and took Central City Parkway in to Blackhawk, CO for the night. The ride up this canyon road is also very nice, but short lived. We arrived at the Ameristar Hotel for a nice evening of gambling, drinks and laughs. Pretty much everything is overpriced at casino hotels, but it's a nice change from the Super 8 and Comfort Inn from time to time. After our $20 breakfast buffet, we were on the home stretch to Denver. We headed out on highway 7 which is a road that we'd never traveled in our previous trips to Colorado, and boy was in nice. This turned into highway 70/Golden Gate Canyon Road after a few miles and takes you in to Golden, CO. We arrived at Avalanche Harley Davidson in Golden for our 30th Harley t-shirt and headed in to Denver to drop off the bikes.... Almost 2,000 glorious miles.