Yellowstone Teton Moto Adventure – Part 1

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Back in August and early September, Nick, my dad, and I went on a 9-day motorcycle tour. We clocked roughly 2,100 miles in five states (Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana and Washington) and three national parks (Craters of the Moon NM, Teton NP, and Yellowstone NP). Big thanks to my dad for the route map.

We were originally going to trailer our bikes to Boise, ID and ride a slightly shorter loop from there. Two days before our departure, however, we experienced a bit of a setback. We loaded my dad’s broad-shouldered K1300S on the middle of our borrowed motorcycle trailer and quickly realized the trailer was way too narrow to accommodate two more bikes. The trailer was apparently a three-bike trailer – but only if you had skinny dirt bikes. Ugh!

We’d need to go to Plan B. (We didn’t really have a Plan B.)

After a visit to U-Haul 10 minutes before they closed and some quick math, we realized we’d come out ahead financially if we scrapped the trailer plan and simply rode to Boise over two days. We had some ideas about how we might rejigger the route home, but thought the final decision on that was better left until later in the trip when we had a better idea of how we were riding. (Too much planning might ruin the “adventure” part of our Mega Moto Adventure, after all.)

We went home to pack with plans to meet at Aura Bakery the next morning for a proper motorcycle tour send-off.

Day 1 – 277 miles from Kirkland, WA to Pendleton, OR

It’s been said before: all good motorcycle tours begin with croissants and a latte big enough to swim in. This one was no different. Properly fueled, we gritted our teeth for what we knew would be a long, taxing ride to Pendleton.

There is no really good way to get there in a day that avoids freeways, so we sucked it up and rode I-90 to Ellensburg. Traffic was light, the smell of fresh hops was in the air, and the miles flew by. From Ellensburg, we turned south and headed for Yakima and the Columbia River Gorge.

If you haven’t been there, the Gorge is an incredibly windy place, owing to its unique geography and location between a cool Pacific Ocean and hot inland dessert. Somewhere around Coffin Road (the irony is not lost on me), gusting cross winds began buffeting us. Our survival strategy was pretty simple: get low, hang on, and drive faster. (Question for any physics expert reading this: Does the gyroscopic effect of our wheels really keep us on track better? Or is this just a myth?)

We quickly wore ourselves out driving in survival mode, so we stopped at our first roadside attraction – the dinosaur park. What you see here is sadly all that this park has to offer, but it gave us a good laugh anyway.

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From here, it was a short ride to Pendleton, where we traded riding gear for civilian clothes and slaked our thirst at the Prodigal Son Brewery. They offer a Beer Charity board, which seems like an awesome idea that should be implemented at more neighborhood pubs, don’t you think?

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Day 2 – 224 miles from Pendleton, OR to Boise, ID

It was no surprise when we woke up on day 2 to find that Nick’s bike need brake fluid. His bike drinks fluids in mysterious ways, and he usually has a stash of stuff for this occasion. Curiously, his stash did not include Dot 4 brake fluid.

We wandered the streets of Pendleton, looking for an auto parts store. Pendleton, as we discovered, has many more churches than auto parts stores. I don’t think the coffee had quite kicked in yet, though, because all of the church signs seemed to read funny. We found a church for “method-aliens,” “episcopists,” and a “church of the red femur.” Strange.

The ride south from Pendleton goes over two small mountain passes with 55 MPH sweepers that are easily ridden at 70+ MPH – not that I ever endorse speeding egregiously, mind you. We stopped for lunch at a roadside taco truck – my dad’s first. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water for a bottle of cold tamarind soda. Mmmm.

After lunch, we took a detour to the Warhawk Air Museum in Nampa, ID. We arrived only 20 min or so before closing, which was fine by me. I think Nick could have spent all day here. They had a fly-in event that weekend. We missed the flying, but that meant all of the planes were on the ground for us to see.

South of Nampa, the legal speed limit increased to 80 MPH. (That’s not a typo.) And we cruised into Boise where we showered, watched an arrest take place outside our hotel room door (“too much stupid in one place,” according to the officer), took in the city sights, had drinks with long-time friends Todd and Shannon, and dodged a sudden evening storm on the way back to our motel room.

Stay tuned for the next installment…

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