Leaving the Tetons for Sturgis

After almost two weeks in or near Yellowstone and Teton National Parks the time had finally come for me to move on down the highway towards Sturgis (yes… I was about to brave the biker rally), but I have to admit I had a very hard time leaving this place behind. I’d fallen in love you see, with the breathtaking beauty of The Grand Tetons in particular. What a haunting and majestic mountain range!

I have ventured through, and often lingered, in some amazing places on this journey. How many times have I thought to myself (and written), “It couldn’t possibly get any more beautiful than this!”, only to take a turn in the road the following day and have the exact same words excitedly jump through my mind? I have numerous favorite places tucked in my memories. I had to laugh at myself the evening I drove over Teton Pass for the first time, and thought “Oh my God… this has GOT to be my favorite place!” It brought to mind the “Excerpts from a Dog’s Diary” I’d read years ago…

Excerpts from a Dog’s Diary
8:00 am – Dog food! My favorite thing!
9:30 am – A car ride! My favorite thing!
9:40 am – A walk in the park! My favorite thing!
10:30 am – Got rubbed and petted! My favorite thing!
12:00 pm – Lunch! My favorite thing!
1:00 pm – Played in the yard! My favorite thing!
3:00 pm – Wagged my tail! My favorite thing!
5:00 pm – Milk bones! My favorite thing!
7:00 pm – Got to play ball! My favorite thing!
8:00 pm – Wow! Watched TV with the people! My favorite thing!
11:00 pm – Sleeping on the bed! My favorite thing!

(I’ll share the “Excerpts from a Cat’s Daily Diary” at the end of the post to balance out the humor here)

After the amazing two day road trip that I shared in my last blog post I prepared to continue my journey east, but decided to take one last morning hike with my new friends, Beth, David and Jesse (introduced here), before hitting the highway. We met up early and drove together to Jenny Lake. There we saved ourselves a little bit of time by taking the ferry across to the start of our hike up Cascade Canyon. Since I had a bit of a drive ahead of me and David had a scheduled conference call to attend to we would only be able to hike so far before turning back, but we were determined to get as far up the trail as we could before that time came.

Rockchuck Peak I believe (someone correct me if I’m wrong!)

Hidden Falls

Colorful Amish hikers

Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point

Standing on Inspiration Point with Jenny Lake in the background

Cascade Canyon trail

I am constantly on the look out for wildlife while I’m hiking, and was lucky to spot this Bull Moose quietly grazing in the shade some distance off the trail.

Bull Moose

Cascade Canyon with Teewinot and Mount Owen on the left and Mount St. John on the right

With my friends Beth, Jesse and David

A little bit of Zen at the edge of Jenny Lake

When our merry little gang returned to the campground after our hike we said our goodbye’s and shared a warm round of hugs. As we did I acknowledged to myself that I had been very blessed to have met these wonderful new friends. Beth, David and Jesse… I hope you all read this post. Thank you again for our delightful time together. You made my stay in Teton National Park all the more memorable, and that much harder to drive away. I sincerely hope to see you all again down the road!

That afternoon I battened things down and prepped Zippy and The Beast for my final drive north through Teton National Park, into Yellowstone National Park and out the east side of the park toward Cody. I have to admit it was a bittersweet drive. If not for my commitment to be in Sturgis for the annual motorcycle rally, I might still be camped at the base of the Teton Mountain Range!

One last shot of a Bison herd who grazed daily along Gros Ventre Road

The ever so grand Teton Range

I like to think this bull Bison climbed up the hill in my direction to bid me farewell as I drove east out of Yellowstone

Absoroka Range

As I drove east I was amazed once again to watch the landscape change before my eyes. This is a part of travel that can only be witnessed from the road. The diversity of the landscape across our beautiful country is such a joy for me to witness!

I had every intention of taking several days for the trek between Yellowstone and Sturgis, but my decision to make the trip back to Big Sky Montana, and to stick around for a bit more hiking with my friends, hastened my journey a bit. I booked a camp site in Cody Wyoming for the first night, which worked out nicely because a friend of mine from Frisco, Chris Fritche, and his new wife (who I had not met) were there at the same time. After settling in and taking the dogs for a good long walk, I met Chris and Lori for dinner at the well known Irma Hotel. And of course we had to follow that with a night at the Cody Rodeo!

I knew from experience that the 360 mile drive from Cody to Sturgis (roughly six hours by car) would take me longer in my big motorhome, especially considering I had to tackle Bighorn Pass on the way. I’d been warned by David and Beth that it was steep and grueling, and I believed them. Long, steep, windy and narrow passes like that are treacherous and tiring, so I played it smart and booked my next camp site just beyond the pass in Sheridan Wyoming.

As I entered Bighorn National Forest I was amazed at how quickly the elevation changed. It seemed like I went from flat open space into the forest and pointed up the mountainside in a matter of moments. In no time I was wishing for places to stop for pictures. It was beautiful! Often times I can’t stop because of the size of my motorhome, but in the case of this narrow highway I would have been just as frustrated in my car. The few turnouts I came upon did not lend themselves to capturing the beauty of the area, so I used them only to let those who were patiently following behind me (mostly Harley’s) pass safely.

I regretted not having more time to explore Cody and Sheridan, but I was on a mission to get to Sturgis. My sole purpose for going to this motorcycle rally was to capture images of the dogs who come along with their owners on their Harley’s. The plan was to meet up with my very good friends, Steve and Lisa Jane Johnson, who had been there several times and new the ropes. They have a group of friends who go every year and rent a house 20 miles west of the heart of the rally, in Spearfish. The gracious and hospitable owners of the house, Dave and Claudia Little, agreed long before we met, to allow me to park my RV on their property while there.

At that time the benefits as I saw them were saving me the substantially increased pricing to stay in an RV park for the week and proximity to my friends. Looking back, I cannot imagine experiencing my time there any other way! I would have been a fish out of water planted amongst thousands of bikers in any of the area campgrounds.

As it turned out, Steve and Lisa Jane had to cancel their trip only days before they were due to arrive, but I was welcomed with open arms by their friends and enjoyed spending my time with them immensely! Each day we shared coffee and/or breakfast together and then they’d take off on their rides while I journeyed out to find my Harley Dogs. When evening rolled around we met up again… all hot, sticky and dead-dog tired (no pun intended)… to share libations and dinner and our stories of the day.

The Motley “Crew” (my new friends) from left to right- Phil, Mike, Susan, Todd and Ryan

On a personal level… from the seat of my Honda hatchback, or standing on street corners watching for dogs… I thought the entire event was absolutely insane. Hundreds of thousands of bikes and bikers cruising individually and in groups through the jam packed streets and backroads in a large radius surrounding Sturgis, the hub of all the craziness. I saw it ALL (actually I’m sure I didn’t because I was only out there in the daylight)… the tattoos, the tricked out bikes (one disguised as a Bison!), the tough looking dudes, the biker babes riding topless behind THEIR dudes, the cram-packed campgrounds most of which did not exist except for the two or three weeks surrounding “Sturgis”… but not once did I feel in the least bit unsafe milling alone amongst this crowd. Every single person I approached and talked to was friendly and gracious.

Oh, and did I mention the dogs? 🙂 For the purpose of my book project I have to keep most of those under wraps for now, but I met several and they all seemed quite happy to be a part of this annual migration to Sturgis. I don’t know what better word to use, but I will say that during the few weeks leading up to and following this event the percentage of bikers on the roadways increased tremendously.

Not a great shot, but an interesting trio for sure!

Most of my time was spent in search of dogs, but I did take time off to drive out to some of the favorite day trip destinations… Devil’s Tower, Spearfish Canyon, Mount Rushmore and The Badlands. All very impressive, and all drives that would be great fun on a bike.

Devil’s Tower, South Dakota

Mount Rushmore, South Dakota

The Badlands of South Dakota

My time in South Dakota was interesting to say the least. I was happy to put the noise behind me, but I was glad for the experience, and most especially to have met some wonderful new friends. A huge thank you to Susan and Mike for arranging a spot for my RV, introducing me around, and looking out for me during my stay. It was my pleasure to meet you two as well as Phil, Todd, Ryan and Heidi. Let’s plan on a reunion when I come back through Texas!! Thanks also to Steve and Lisa Jane for hooking me up with such great new friends!

Up next… Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin!

_________

Excerpts from a Cat’s Daily Diary

Day 983 of my captivity.

My captors continue to taunt me with bizarre little dangling objects. They dine lavishly on fresh meat, while the other inmates and I are fed hash or some sort of dry nuggets. Although I make my contempt for the rations perfectly clear, I nevertheless must eat something in order to keep up my strength. The only thing that keeps me going is my dream of escape. In an attempt to disgust them, I once again vomit on the carpet.

Today I decapitated a mouse and dropped its headless body at their feet. I had hoped this would strike fear into their hearts, since it clearly demonstrates what I am capable of. However, they merely made condescending comments about what a “good little hunter” I am. Bastards.

There was some sort of assembly of their accomplices tonight. I was placed in solitary confinement for the duration of the event. However, I could hear the noises and smell the food. I overheard that my confinement was due to the power of “allergies” I must learn what this means, and how to use it to my advantage.

Today I was almost successful in an attempt to assassinate one of my tormentors by weaving around his feet as he was walking. I must try this again tomorrow — but at the top of the stairs.

I am convinced that the other prisoners here are flunkies and snitches. The dog receives special privileges. He is regularly released -and seems to be more than willing to return. He is obviously retarded. The bird has got to be an informant. I observe him communicate with the guards regularly. I am certain that he reports my every move. My captors have arranged protective custody for him in an elevated cell, so he is safe. For now…

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  • This looks like such a great road trip!

    • fran

      A year full of great memories… so far. Thanks Margaret.

  • Mom

    Hi Fran, We love all your travels. The buffalo reminds me so much of one in North Platte, Nebraska when we lived there. My Grandpa Byrnes came to visit us there and he told us about the buffalo so we went to see them. They were in a fenced area and the spaces between wires were about four inches square so I could get my hand in to pet them. One big male was very friendly and he licked and nuzzled my hand and my cheek. I named him Gramps. We went to visit him often while we lived in North Platte.

    • fran

      I guess there’s a big difference between the wild bison and the more domesticated (fenced) ones Mom. Ignorant (and illiterate) people are attacked by them every year. Cute story though.

  • patty

    the dog, the cat and the rat is one of the funniest pictures I’ve seen in a long time…oh my goodness!!!!

    • fran

      Apparently there used to be a bird and mouse too! This brings new meaning to “Let’s all just get along!”

  • Lisa Gregory

    Beautiful photographs. The bison reminds me of fond memories when I was young. We’d take a road trip from Longview to Montana to visit my great aunt & uncle who worked and lived near a bison range. Thanks for sharing your journey–I’m loving it!

    • fran

      Thanks Lisa. I’m glad you’re enjoying the journey with me. I loved seeing numerous herds of Bison all around the Teton/Yellowstone area. Amazing to think that humans slaughtered them to near extinction not all that many years ago.

  • LOVE these! I’ve seen many of these same sights in the Tetons, Yellowstone, Devils Tower. This brings back great memories for me!

    • fran

      I’m glad they bring your memories alive JoAnne. Thank you for letting me know!

  • Susan

    I just love following your journey… and makes it extra special that we got to be part of it for a whole week! It was a great trip — your pictures are absolutely fabulous and bring back lots of good memories. So even though we weren’t with you for this entire post, our route home covered some of your route to Sturgis!

    • fran

      Thanks a million Susan! I can’t imagine Sturgis without you all there! See you in Texas this winter!

  • Laura

    Excited to see more pictures and read more about the dogs of Sturgis! My mother and step-dad were down this year, and you photographed their dog (Oz). I’m hoping to see him in a book! How exciting would that be!

    Beautiful pictures!

    • fran

      Thanks Laura. The book will be a work in progress. Tell you folks thanks once again!!!

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