"Say what you have to say, and not what you ought."
~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, September 9, 2011

Six Motorcycles, Yellowstone, Six Men and Me

About two months ago, Mike bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.  When he asked me what I thought about him buying it, I think he expected to hear a list of reasons why it didn’t make sense.  Little did he know, I love riding motorcycles.  Not only would it be fun, the price was right and the savings on gas made sense.  We’ve had fun taking short rides close to home but were anxious to take it out on a longer road trip. 

Mike proposed the idea of riding to Yellowstone National Park for a weekend with a few guys from Foley’s MMA Training Center, the gym he teaches at.  I was all in, and looking forward to a relaxing weekend with friends.  I soon found out I’d be the only female in the group of seven going on the trip.  I was less than thrilled to discover this, especially since I barely knew two of the men, and two more were complete strangers to me.  After some reassurances and cajoling by Mike, I reluctantly agreed to go on what I thought was going to be a testosterone fueled guy’s weekend.  Still, I complained that I’d be bored and out of place, especially since the conversation was sure to center around motorcycles and MMA fighting.  Not exactly subjects I have much knowledge of or interest in. Plus, we were going to be tent camping in bear country, which made me super anxious!  My attitude in the days leading up to the trip was one of reluctant acceptance.  I was definitely going to be out of my comfort zone.

We all met up at Foley’s the morning we left.  The variety of motorcycles everyone would be driving was as unique as their personalities.  Mike’s decked out Road King was definitely going to be the most comfortable.  Everyone teased him about his huge old man cruiser.  He dubbed his bike the “old man starter kit”. Everyone was excited to hit the road.  We all loaded up, and with a huge roar of engines, we were off.  It’s hard not be excited by the sound of a bunch of motorcycle engines loudly revving up and heading down the road.  At least for me it is.  I couldn’t help but smile and enjoy the moment.  
Ready to hit the road.
The morning was beautiful, and we all cruised along at a good speed stopping for gas every 80 miles or so.  After only one wrong turn and about 20 miles of back tracking we made it to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  We did the usual touristy things there, snapping pictures in front of the arch made of antlers, and stopped for food and cold beers at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.  After that it was back on the bikes and into Yellowstone.  

Jackson Hole

We checked into a campsite and quickly got camp set up.  When we checked in we were told that three Grizzly Bears were living about 400 yards down the road and to follow every precaution to avoid attracting them.  Yikes!  That didn’t exactly set my mind at ease.  After a good dinner prepared by our camp chef extraordinaire, Mike, we spent a nice evening laughing and talking around a fire.  So far, there hadn’t been a single conversation about fighting, and the bike talk had been minimal.  In fact, that night we had a rather in-depth discussion about religion and beliefs about life after death.  I was relieved at the ease with which we all got along and how easy-going and fun the group was.  

After an uneventful night devoid of any bear visits, we were up for breakfast, then packed up and hit the road.  We spent some time sightseeing in the park that morning, including time at Old Faithful.  The plan was to leave the park via West Yellowstone and ride over Bear Tooth Pass, then back into the park to camp for the night.  We ended up taking a different route that took us through Cody, Wyoming.  We rode over Chief Joseph Highway, which was beautiful.   We still hoped to make it up Bear Tooth and back, but it was getting late and storm clouds were rolling in.  Everyone had warm clothes, but not all of us had full-length rain gear.  

We decided to take a chance and took off in a light rain.  Within minutes we were in a torrential downpour!  I was soaked to the bone and very cold.  We continued on until we finally reached a service station where we could change into dry, warmer clothes.  After some coffee, and putting on dry clothes and extra layers, things were more comfortable.  At 10,947 feet elevation, Bear Tooth Pass is the highest elevation road in the Northern Rockies.  Needless to say, it was cold and windy at the peak.  After a slow, cautious trip down, we rolled into Red Lodge, Montana cold, damp, hungry and tired.   During dinner we decided to get a motel and stay there that night.

The next day we were all rested, warm, refreshed and ready to tackle Bear Tooth Pass again, this time taking time to stop and enjoy the scenery along the way.  The ride was incredibly beautiful.  The view of glacial lakes and big, open blue sky is truly breathtaking.  It’s one of those places that reminds me what a tiny speck I am in this vast universe.  About halfway up the pass, I realized it was August 29th--15 months since the day my sister died.  I was determined not to let the thought ruin the ride and my enjoyment of the scenery.  But the more I took in the beauty and the feeling of absolute freedom and happiness I had, the sadder I became about her loss. Finally, I gave in to the tears as I once again mourned that she couldn’t see her way out of the darkness in her mind, choosing death over life.  If only I could have been there to remind her of the many reasons there were to live, including heart-stopping moments like this one, in a place that felt like I was on top of the world. 

As my tears dried, we started our descent, ending up in Cooke City, Montana where we stopped for lunch.  From there we headed back into Yellowstone.  Up to that point, the only wildlife we’d seen were some squirrels and hawks.  All of us were anxious to see some more exciting wildlife.  It wasn’t long before we saw moose, buffalo, and elk.  Alas, we didn’t see any bears.  While I don’t like the thought of sleeping in a tent with the possibility of a bear attack, viewing one from a safe distance would be cool.  

Near the top of Bear Tooth Pass

The rest of the day was spent going through the park, stopping at various points of interest along the way.  Then we started the long ride home.  Ultimately, the day turned out to be very long, with at least twelve hours of it spent on the bike.  I was exhausted, cranky and longing for my bed and sleep.  I finally fell asleep hunched over on Mike’s back, making the drive awkward and nerve-racking for him, because he had to keep shifting me so I wouldn’t fall off.  Finally, after 1,000 miles in three days, at nearly 1 a.m. we made it home.  

Despite the long, less than fun end to the trip, I had an amazingly good time.  Not only did I not have to endure talk about fighting and motorcycles, I was hilariously entertained, and got to know   people I might otherwise wouldn’t have known.  Yes, buying the motorcycle was a good choice, as I was once again reminded of all the unexpected joy and great experiences that come when I step out of my comfort zone.     

Last day, ready to head home.


  1. What a great adventure, Keicha! And you know, I've learned that men are people, too, and know how to have a good time that doesn't always include icky things like WWE. The pictures add a whole lot to your post. Thanks for including me on your motorcycle adventure! (I'm a friend of your mom's and now a friend of yours.)

  2. What a great trip! I actually enjoy the company of most men, and would probably relished such a journey. I can't believe you fell asleep o the motorcycle!! But that's an indication of the trust you have in that dear man in your life. Very good. :)

    I'm a blogging friend of your mother's, too. And I'm enjoying getting to know you, as well. :)

  3. I'm secretly jealous. I would love to take a motorcycle trip through Yellowstone. You know how I love to take a motorcycle ride. I'm happy you had such a great time and saw such beautiful scenery while on the back of a bike. That must have been a very freeing and exhilarating experience. XO


Thanks for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment. I appreciate your feedback.