Cornering in a car on a road isn’t fun, it’s tedious.
Even with the magic of leaning into a corner (which lets you dance on a tire instead of dumping all your weight to the outside) out of the equation, driving on twisty roads was a pale imitation of riding on the same tarmac. This was emphasized when crossing the Bighorn National Forest which had staggeringly twisty roads hanging from the sides of truly epic mountains (when they weren’t falling off them as they were in multiple places). A car on this road was tedious and sometimes terrifying rather than electrifying; that space also means a safety margin.
On this trip we saw people travelling in all manner of vehicles from the bafflingly expensive recreational vehicle to the sports car. Corvettes were an obvious and particularly popular choice in the US. On most roads this massive sled’s six foot plus width completely fills a small lane, giving the driver no room to move at all and leaving oncoming traffic to dodge his wing mirrors if he’s looking for an apex. Coming around a corner on a small mountain pass and seeing an RV spilling over into my lane was a common occurrence. The sheer size of North American vehicles bring their own problems.
Decades ago Jaguar came out with one of the most famous automotive marketing slogans in history. It captured the luxury grand touring ethos of Jaguar to such a degree that it has remained in the public consciousness since. I’d like to repurpose that brilliant piece of marketing for the vehicle that best exemplifies it. The motorcycle, for all its short comings, offers you the space to move gracefully down the road. With that grace comes the pace that motorcycles enjoy, which would explain why we got overtaken by so many of them on this trip.
The opportunity to retrace my four wheeled journey, especially through Yellowstone and the Bighorn National Forest is on my mind now. It’s a fifteen hour slog west over the plains to get to the edge of motorcycling’s magic kingdom. From there it’s the South Dakota Badlands, Black Hills, over Bighorn and on to Yellowstone. That would be a truly stunning motorcycling memory.
Some roads from the trip that might prompt you westward (if you’re in the east):
|Bottom left: sometimes the road can’t hang on to the side of the mountain…|
Some suggested must sees as you head west across the northern US:
South Dakota Badlands Scenic Road:
The Black Hills are riddled with small twisty roads, just try and avoid early August unless you like riding slowly behind farm vehicles. We stayed in Custer, but Rapid City has great restaurants and is a full on city with everything you could need, so I’d suggest that as a base camp for exploring the Hills:
Bighorn National Park was a brilliant surprise. We did Shell to Dayton through Burgess Junction. The roads ranged from some of the most dangly and exciting we’d seen to miles of gravel, ideal for an adventure bike. The 2-up Harley riders didn’t look like they were enjoying the road based colonoscopy so much. The national parks stop at Shell Falls was brilliant, with all sorts of information on hand about where we were:
Cody is worth a stop. It’s a great town with everything you could need with a genuine western flair. The two loops in Yellowstone each take a day, don’t think you can burn around them as quick as you can (you can’t). Between small roads, animals that weigh thousands of pounds walking onto the road at random, your bike at seven thousand plus feet breathing hard, and the other tourists, you’ll find rushing Yellowstone stressful. You’d also be missing the point. Stop often and check out the geothermal features and stunning scenery. A day for the north loop, a day for the south loop, and enjoy taking your time.
I’d hoped to get down to Jackson Hole in the Teutons in the south, but didn’t. Maybe on two wheels in the future. West Yellowstone offered better hotel rates than the North Gate which tends to be busier with better interstate access, but cheap hotel options are few and far between around the park.