Bluegrass-O-RamaWritten by Layne Cope
2056 miles in 7 days… It was an awesome trip!
Day 1: We ended up stopping at Steve’s Café for breakfast on the way out of town. If you are a Helena local and haven’t tried them, DO! Their food is delish and it is a nice clean and friendly place to eat! We rolled out of town at about 9:30am on our adventure.
Of course, it is road construction season. We made it half way to Townsend (about 20 miles from Steve’s) before we were stopped for road construction. Annoyingly, while we had to wait for traffic to clear the zone, wait for a pilot car and a green light to go, we had to fight with oncoming traffic the whole way through the zone. Don’t know why they even bothered making us stop if we were going to have to battle traffic anyway. Took us about 20 minutes to go the 4 or 5 miles of the construction site.
Finally we made it through Townsend and headed East on highway 12. I had used Google Maps and had found us a route on County Road 300 south out of Ryegate because we wanted to go from Highway 12 to Columbus MT. Well, turned on the road and rode 5 miles, beautiful roads… All of a sudden it was gravel. Seemed well maintained but not what we were looking for, so we headed back to Ryegate to a gas station. I shot some gas into the bikes while Penny went in to gather a map with more detail and ask about the road. The cashier told her “OH, it is a great road, a few narrow spots where there was some damage because of the flooding from the wet spring but it was a nice road". So, we decided to go for it. Yeah, nice road… It was pretty nice to start. A few narrow rough spots like she mentioned but pretty soon we started hitting roads not on either of our maps and were essentially lost to our destination. I hit a HUGE bump and broke one of the straps holding my bag on the seat and shattered my spleen (not really about the spleen but it HURT). We stopped and asked directions from some fellas that were installing some communications cables or something and claimed they “grew up” in the area, but they didn’t know how to get to Columbus from there. They did point us in a general direction to one of the towns on our map. The roads kept getting narrower and narrower, even to where there was a grass strip down the middle. Finally, the road started getting wider and more travelled looking again. It started coming up out of the canyon and we had some hope that we would be able to make it to Columbus. As we putted around this corner, I noticed a cow standing in a HUGE culvert alongside the creek we had been following. As I got further around the corner, I noticed the 30 foot wide 15 foot deep washout across the road where the culvert USED to be… As luck would have it, a couple locals were arriving at the other side of the washout (on four wheelers) as we were getting off our bikes. We chatted with them a little while across the washout. They told us we were on the right road, that it was in fact well travelled, even a school bus route, but that the washout we were eyeballing was the first of five similar washouts as the road worked its way out of the canyon. That the only way through was on four wheelers. Though, if we rode back 5 miles, there was another even lesser maintained road that would get us passed the trouble we were in… It was at that point that we decided to cut our losses and return to highway 12 and reroute through Billings. This little side jaunt cost us about 2 hours of time, riding around on dirt roads as well as time lost riding through Billings and returning to Laurel. Anyway, I guess the moral to this section of the story is… DON’T PUT BLIND FAITH INTO GOOGLE MAPS (or gas station attendants)!
It was starting to get a little late when we finally reached Red Lodge. As we were gassing up, we debated whether we should forgo the ride over the Beartooth Highway and through Yellowstone and divert directly to Cody from there. We decided to go ahead and ride the Beartooth pass but to skip the ride through the Eastern side of Yellowstone. That was actually an AWESOME decision! After riding over Beartooth Pass, we turned onto the Chief Joseph Highway toward Cody! INCREDIBLE!!! Just a bunch of beautiful mountain vistas, grassy meadows, lush forests, rushing clear rivers and best of all, windy well paved roads to carve. While we made it into Cody well after dark, it was TOTALLY worth the ride. I wish we hadn’t gotten “lost” in the canyon south of Ryegate but if it had worked out like we’d planned, we most likely would not have discovered this awesome route, instead riding a path through Yellowstone we had ridden last summer.
Day 2: We got up and washed the dust and dirt off the bikes, loaded up and hit the road to Colorado. By the way, if you are a motorcyclist, I definitely recommend staying at the Best Western in Cody. They have nice rooms AND a dedicated spot for bikers to wash their scoots! Our intended route was to leave Cody on highway 120. We would ride to Thermopolis, Rawlins, hop on the interstate for about 20 miles to highway 130 and work our way to Walden Colorado. We stopped to gas up in Thermopolis (thank goodness) and were talking to another gas station lady. She said we would like their canyon (we did!) and told us about this route to take to Rawlins. It turned out that this was the path we had already chosen. Unfortunately, we skipped a gas stop in Riverton Wyoming thinking we could gas up in Jeffrey City or something. Yeah, Jeff City has a FEW houses and several abandoned well forsaken gas stations and nothing else. Penny’s low fuel light had been on for a while by the time we got there and we still had 60 miles to go to Rawlins with nothing on the map in between. For the record, her bike gets about 50 MPG and she has about a gallon left when the light comes on… SO, we were sweating it. Just when we thought I was going to have to go get a gas can full of gas for her, we came to this “T” intersection with a gas station. Of course, it was out of 91 octane premium that we run in our Harleys, so we shot a gallon of 85 octane into each of our bikes (at $4.85 a gallon) to get us to Rawlins and were thankful. We hit the highway from Rawlins and made it to Walden without incident. Then we hit the Poudre Canyon Highway… 50+ miles of AWESOME canyon carving! WOW! We saw MOOSE CROSSING signs and signs with big capitol letters stating "MOOSE ON THE ROADS AFTER DARK! DRIVE WITH CARE!" Sure enough, we saw three moose (2 bulls and 1 cow) in broad daylight! It would be an awesome area to visit again for some camping or something. This was definitely a fun ride. It was another late night on the roads. We rode through downtown Ft Collins Colorado at the height of party time on Thursday night! Seems like EVERYONE was out! We finally arrived in Longmont CO at about 10:30, found our hotel and hit the hay.
Days 3-5: We spent the next three days at the Rockygrass Bluegrass Festival! Talk about FUN! It is definitely an interesting mix of people. There were about 3,500 at this one. It is situated at the north west end of Lyons Colorado, along the St Vrain river that follows this cliff which is the North and East boundary of the venue. It is about 20 miles further to Estes Park. Boy it was hot, but it was nice to have the river there to cool off in. We met our friends, Jim and Leslie who had also driven down from Helena to attend the festival. We hung out with them and we also made a new friend; a fellow named Matthew who came all the way from England, ENGLAND!!!, to attend this festival. We had a BLAST visiting with Jim and Leslie and Matthew. It turns out Matthew is also a struggling banjo player so we compared notes about banjos and life and the U.S. versus England, etc. It was a lot of fun! I hope we see him again next time we attend. It was three hot days, sitting in the sun, but the music and friendship was TOTALLY worth it!
The line up...
- Friday, July 29, 2011
- 10:00 - 11:00am — Henhouse Prowlers
- 11:15 - 12:15pm — Brother Mule
- 12:30 - 1:45pm — Darol Anger's Republic of Strings
- 2:00 - 3:15pm — Bryan Sutton & The String Set
- 3:30 - 4:45pm — Shawn Camp Band
- 5:15 - 6:30pm — Peter Rowan Bluegrass Band
- 7:00 - 8:30pm — David Grisman Bluegrass Experience
- 9:00 - 10:30pm — Del McCoury Band
- Saturday, July 30, 2011
- 11:45 - 12:45pm — Della Mae
- 1:00 - 1:45pm — Mike Marshall & Caterina Lichtenberg
- 2:00 - 3:15pm — Kruger Brothers
- 3:30 - 4:45pm — Sarah Jarosz
- 5:15 - 6:30pm — Psychograss
- 7:00 - 8:30pm — Steve Martin & The Steep Canyon Rangers
- 9:00 - 10:30pm — Hot Rize
Day 6: Monday morning, we got up and loaded up the bikes for our ride home. We hit I-25 South toward Denver and found a Cracker Barrel for breakfast then hit the road. We rode right past Denver and out Interstate 70 to Idaho Springs Colorado, rode over some nice passes on the way. Gotta love that Denver traffic! WOW! We were happy to leave Denver in the mirrors. Thank goodness we missed rush hour! Once we reached Idaho Springs, we jumped off the interstate to ride up Mt Evans. That was AWESOME! Lots of windy narrow roads with no guard rails, we made it to the parking spot at 14,130 feet in elevation and got off and wandered around a bit and took some pictures. There was a path to the peak - another hundred feet higher or so - but I didn’t want to be all puffed out and loopy while trying to ride down the narrow road back to Idaho Springs. After this side trip, we rode another 8 miles or so West down I-70 and took off toward the North on the secondary highways again. This time we rode over a high pass, got snowed on a little bit, rained on a little bit and rode down the other side to Winter Park Colorado. It was definitely and “exclusive” zip code… There was even a sign warning drivers to be careful for "dashing sleighs". Of course, that sent me off on a couple rounds of "Jingle Bells" at top volume (a definite benefit of wearing a full face helmet on these long rides)... We rode through before they recognized us… We did a bunch more canyon carving and pass riding, even some rain splashing, and got back to Walden where we retraced our tracks to Rawlins. This time though, we kept on going down the I-80 and made it to Rock Springs Wyoming at about 9:30pm, where we spent the night.
Day 7: We got up the next morning and loaded up again for the final stretch of our trip. We gassed up and headed up the road to Jackson Hole. It took us a few hours of desert riding before we finally got into the mountains. We got to carve a few more canyons. Lots of fun! We finally made it to Jackson and gassed up. We rode into Teton National Park and rode through Yellowstone from the South Gate and out the West Gate to West Yellowstone. At this point, we decided to ride past Earthquake Lake and up through Ennis. We were going to gas up at the Wheat Montana at the junction with I-90 and ride to Townsend on home, but once we arrived, there was no pavement on the road. It was about 9:30pm by this time and the signs indicated 66 miles of road construction. SO, having nightmares about riding on dirt roads, we followed the suggestion of the signs (motorcycles should consider an alternate route) and rode over the hill on I-90 to Cardwell MT where we took the highway up to Boulder and got on I-15 for the trip up to Helena. We pulled into our garage at 11pm on the dot… TIRED!
All in all, it was an AWESOME trip! Can’t wait to do it again next year!!!!
The rest of the pics (of course)!! I actually took the video camera on the trip too and will post the videos I took to the photo gallery once I have a chance to convert them to an internet worthy format...
I am a geek. A Windows geek to be exact. I do all things computer. I do like outdoor activities; camping, fishing, riding my hawg, etc. but I always gravitate back to the computer. In fact, between work, the biz and other stuff, if I am not on the 'puter for 14 - 16 hours a day, I feel deprived!