Friday, September 02, 2011

Jenn's Big Summer Adventure: Part 8 - More Windy Wyoming, Waterfalls & Old Faithful

Friday (9/2) - I woke up and Karen made me a delicious latte in the office. I made some miso for breakfast and spent more time than I should have playing with the black lab, Duchess and taking pictures of Karen's gorgeous flowers all around Blue Gables motel. Yes, I was dawdling and that was because I had no clue how long it would actually take to get to Old Faithful, obviously!

The lovely Duchess and one of her well loved, soggy toys:


The bird, Picasso (I think) - got jealous if I played with Duchess too much and would ring the bell and rattle things in the cage for attention!


Blue Gables







Finally, after packing up, I noticed that my front fender was missing a few bolts - so I got on the road with my fingers x'd that I would find a spot to pick up replacements. Not too far away, at Sheridan's Big Horn Powersports (, a young man named Vaughn was able to hook me up ith a couple bolts and put loc-tite on the other two bolts which were also starting to loosen up.

Given the distance to Old Faithful, I decided not to take the detour north into Montana to go over the famous Beartooth ( or even up to see the Medicine Wheel ( - and instead opted for the more direct route into Yellowstone.

After getting away from Sheridan, I putted along 14 and stopped when I saw a sign for an outdoor outfitters. It turns out it was now operating as a craft store in the front and a gun store in the back - something like Sonny's Gun Shop & Crafts store - I had a nice chat with the elderly gentleman who owned the shop, bought some local honey and headed off in search of lunch.

Approaching lunch time, I came upon a cafe called "The Branding Iron" in Dayton WY with a big parking lot - as good a place as any. I stopped at the same time as another motorcyclist who was (of course) on a Harley and riding without gear (of course) or a helmet (quelle surprise!). Amazingly - the Branding Iron had a salad bar (ok, that was really a surprise!).


The other motorcyclist & I struck up a conversation and while I enjoyed my lunch from the salad bar, I asked him about the whole helmet thing.

He had clearly thought this all out, without any actual statistics or facts to back him up, and was pretty sure he was right. This is what I learned from my luncheon companion:
  • Helmets do not save your life or prevent injury in motorcycle accidents because they are only good for speeds under 20 mph and only glancing blows at that.
  • A helmet will not protect you if a car runs over your head.
  • Most motorcycle accidents are caused by cars and you don't stand a chance.
  • Motorcycle racers wear gear because most of their accidents are by themselves and sliding so they don't have to worry about hitting their heads.
I did ask my dining companion if he would like to test out any of those theories with my foot in the parking lot, but he declined. When I told him that most motorcycle accidents are single vehicle accidents, he vehemently denied this and said that the only time he and anyone he knew ever had a "get off" was when they were hit by a car. Interestingly, when I related this story to someone at a Boise motorcycle shop - he said that a study had just come out about motorcyclists in South Dakota that said that 60% of reported motorcycle accidents were single vehicle accidents. I wish I had a link to that report! Someone had told me "Don't miss out on Shell!" - and since I was on 14, I realized I would be going through Shell but had no idea what to expect. Going up the pass, the road was all textured - I'm not sure if that was for upcoming construction or for icy conditions but I can only imagine that it was annoying to people on non-dual sport motorcycles! The pass was just gorgeous and along the road, there were all these signs telling you how old the rocks were that were exposed along the road way! SAM_0451 SAM_0450 SAM_0452 It was really gorgeous going through those mountains - I did stop a couple of times for photos of interesting palisades, hills and rocks but my photos do not do justice to this area. As I descended from the summit, I came through an area with very fun roads but had to stop because what I saw across the canyon was so shocking: miles of downed trees. This area was the site of the highest known altitude tornado touch down - in the 1950s! It took out many trees, and though the Forest Service recovered what they could at the time, the hillsides were so steep that many of the trees are still there, rotting. It looks like a volcano blew up and knocked them down (like around Mt St Helens). SAM_0458 SAM_0456 SAM_0457 SAM_0459 Another stop, not too far from the blown-down trees - to admire some roadside geology: SAM_0462 SAM_0463 SAM_0464 Finally - I got to Shell. I had no idea what I was to expect - and was perfectly delighted by the gorgeous rock canyon cut out by the river and waterfalls. SAM_0466 IMG_0194 SAM_0476 SAM_0475 SAM_0479 SAM_0485 SAM_0489 Also delighted by the end-of-season sale at the National Parks gift shop where I loaded up with stuffed animals and other gifts for my family, including a Smokey the Bear coffee mug that turned into a forest fire scene when full of hot liquid. I confess - I kept the moose who whinnies when you press it in the middle but the giant squishy buffalo and the bear who roars when you press its middle went to my toddler nephew. Loaded up with goodies - I headed down to the little village of Shell (after taking a few more photos!) and popped into the Shell Post Office (seeing a pattern here?) to mail stuff home. SAM_0499 SAM_0500 SAM_0501 SAM_0503 SAM_0505 I was beginning to regret having made a Friday night reservation at Old Faithful - the wind was a bit tiring at times, and there were interesting things to see between Buffalo and Yellowstone. It was getting quite late in the afternoon when I made a stop in Cody at Mountain High Natural foods ( where I stocked up on goodies for breakfasts and dinners. This is one of the nicest stores I have been in on this trip - they just moved into their new location and have so much space. The owner, Martie Clark, was super helpful and friendly. IMG_0200 IMG_0201

After eating a snack, I prepared for the final leg of my trip that day into Yellowstone. Sadly, skipping Cody though friends told me there were fun museums to explore there. I saw so many police in this stretch between Cody and the East Gate of Yellowstone, that I held down my speed and kept super alert for state troopers.

I finally arrived at the Yellowstone East Gate at 6:30 - the sun was going down and the speed limit in the park is something like 30 mph. Having seen so many people pulled over before - I kept to the low speed limit but people were tailgating me and some passed me (not so safely) so they could zip along at well over twice the speed limit. The wind picked up and the temperatures dropped - it seemed like I was so close and yet so far! My fingers froze.

I arrived at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge and couldn't even unbuckle my helmet but a super nice helpful lady, Mary Ann from Tennessee, came around the front desk and did it for me. She checked me in and advised me to hop right into a hot shower, "You've got about 30 minutes before Old Faithful will be putting on the next show!" I got to my rustic cabin - more like a trailer with low ceilings - had a very nice hot shower (apologies to my neighbors if they didn't get hot water later!), made some hot tea and got out to see Old Faithful put on a show while the sky still had the fading colors of sunset. I went back to my room and made some noodles and listened to another audio book, falling asleep soundly!  

Day 9: 326 miles

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