Day Five: Wells, NV to San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, September 2, 2008
557 Miles

Total trip: 5 days, 2086 miles – and worth ever mile of it. However, I’m thinking that the next time I have only five days off for a ride to Yellowstone; I’ll fly into Jackson Hole and rent a bike. The last day, while enjoyable, wasn’t as leisurely as I prefer-I only stopped to gas up and eat.

Although I didn’t take any pictures on day five, I’ll leave you with this map of the whole trip. Now to plan the next one…



Day Four: Jackson, WY to Wells, NV

Monday, September 1, 2008
443 Miles

With a somewhat clearer (and much colder) day facing us, we wrapped ourselves around a hearty breakfast, suited up, gassed up, and headed south on the Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway and then Hwy 26/89.

This is a beautiful drive. Under dryer conditions this road would be sheer pleasure. Smooth, fast, sweeping curves with the mountainous scenery that one would expect in Wyoming. I want to come back here in the late spring again.

We spent the next five hours or so running through the occasional rain shower and freezing our hands off. And yes, I do mean hands. Our other gear was sufficient to keep us warm in the near-freezing temps, but our gloves, being damp, just weren’t up to the job. I would have given a hundred dollar bill for a pair of dry, waterproof gloves and almost that much for a $1.50 pair of hand warmers. Pretty sure Pete would have done the same.


With snow covering the mountains around us, we stopped to get gas and thaw our hands at Gardner’s in Afton. As Pete mentioned in his post, he had the unexpected pleasure of learning that one of his wrestling heroes, Rulon Gardner owned the place where we stopped.

Having missed our turn, we replotted our course through Geneva, Montpelier, and back up Hwy 30 to Soda Springs. Once again, a trip I’d much rather take in late spring or early summer.

With the storm bearing down on us from the North, we didn’t stop much for photos or for much of anything else continuing on up Hwy 15 to catch Hwy 86 West back to Twin Falls.

Having decided that neither one of us are Iron Butt riders, we grabbed a quick dinner at Sonic with the intention of splitting up and making as much time as we could toward our respective destinations. As usual, we tasked some unsuspecting soul with capturing the picture below.


I headed South on Hwy 93 while Pete continued on his way. Several hours later, realizing that I had indeed missed the storm, I pulled over to add a couple of layers of warmth and snapped the following picture:


My intent was to make it to a campsite in Wells. I did make it to wells, but all I could think of as I rolled into town was a hot shower and being warm. Dry gear that will keep you warm during the day when it is in the mid-30’s doesn’t quite do the same job after the sun goes down and the temps drop into the low-to-mid 20’s. I did make it to Wells, but I checked into the first hotel I found to thaw out.


Day Three: Yellowstone & The Grand Tetons, Wyoming

Sunday, August 31, 2008
156 Miles

By far the highlight day of the trip, Sunday began with a fresh cup of coffee, the clouds breaking up from the previous night’s storm, packing up and waiting for Old Faithful to show up for her photo op…

Old Faithful

Old Faithful

Once we had our obligatory experience with Old Faithful, we took the same approach as the Glacier National Parkway leg of last year’s trip: no schedule and no hurry. There is something uniquely peaceful and restorative to me about being high up in the mountains just after a rainstorm. The air smells cleaner, the colors more vibrant, and something about it restores my soul. As Pete said, “the road is great therapy.”

As an aside, Pete is one of the easiest going traveling companions I’ve had the privilege to share the road with. I don’t recall us talking all that much — just kicking back, and enjoying the road, signaling the other when one of us wanted to stop, and intuiting when it was time to move on. The first part of the day was virtually perfect.

As we headed north to do the lower loop, we ran across this old chap who didn’t seem to be all that thrilled to have been woken up from his nap by the bikes.

"Go away. I'm not due for another public appearance for at least an hour."

“Go away. I’m not due for another public appearance for at least an hour.”

Here are a few shots on the way up HY191 & HY 89 to the Norris Canyon Road cut-over.




After brunch along the way at a standard Xanterra managed restaurant (only notable for its expected bland industrial food and surprisingly friendly service), we turned south on HY 20.

I didn’t take this route last year, so Pete and I took advantage of our lack of schedule to loiter along the vistas. The combination of another storm blowing in and the sun still shining made for a great canvas of scenery.



The wind was picking up, making it more than a little difficult to light our cigars.

Pete lighting his cigar...

Pete lighting his cigar…


Continuing south we catch our first glimpse of the storm coming over the Tetons at Willow Flats.


It was getting cold, windy, and as the first sprinkles of rain began to fall we stopped at Leek’s Landing for a great pizza and several cups of coffee. Pete mentioned this in his post as a place named in honor of Stephen Leek, the “Father of the Elk.”

Here is shot of me in the rain that Pete took at a stop alongside the lake.


And here is where the story gets a bit more difficult for me personally. We stopped to admire the scenery and I stepped out into a field to take this picture once we were in Grand Teton National Park proper.


Right after I took the above picture, I received a message and returned the call to hear that Sue Chambers had finally lost her battle with brain cancer the night before. I spoke to her daughter-in-law on the phone for a few minutes, certainly no more than five, and when I ended the call and looked up, this was what I saw…


This is a zoomed in shot on the same scene. It matched my mood perfectly and was a sobering moment. Sue, her husband Dave and their entire extended family mean more to me than mere words can express. Sue was known and loved for her unshakable faith, the joy with which she approached people and life, and the inspiring way that she, Dave, and their family fought their three year struggle against cancer.

As the wall of rain approached, and in a much more somber mood, Pete and I rode into Jackson to find a dry place to stay, a beer, and a decent steak. On the trip down I spent a significant amount of it in tune with the fact that none of us knows how long we are going to be here. We have no idea if we have 30 minutes, 30 days, or 30 years left on this planet. And as I pondered these things I recalled one of the reasons that I enjoy riding motorcycles so much is that riding keeps me in the “now.” To stay safe you have to stay aware and you can’t do that if you are focused on the road you’ve already ridden or too far up the road you are going to be riding. Being “here, now” is something Sue demonstrated in spades throughout her life and it is one of the many things that I appreciate her for over the years.

In Jackson, we easily found a nice motel that would get the bikes in out of the rain. Armed with a strong recommendation from the front desk staff, we went to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. There, we had a couple of beers, shot a couple games of pool, and then retired downstairs for an excellent steak and no small amount of reminiscing about our friends Sue & Dave.

Route Day 3

Route Day 3

Day Two: Saturday, August 30, 2008

Twin Falls, Idaho to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
323 Miles

Saturday arrived with clear skies and a no small amount of heat. With the assistance of our friendly camp neighbors Larry & Pat Wilson, Pete and I got a cup of coffee before the local store opened, broke camp and hit the road looking for a good place to stop for breakfast.

Along the way the wind was blowing enough sand around that Pete decided he would trade in his open face helmet. I couldn’t resist snapping this picture with the Wrong Way signs in the background.

A happy Pete

A happy Pete

As typical for these kinds of outings we like to keep our options open. Add that to the fact we decided to leave on this trip Wednesday evening, and you’ve likely deduced that we had no place to stay in Yellowstone. We stopped for breakfast around Pocatello and armed with a phone number from the Wilsons, we called to see if there was anything available. We would have been happy to camp, but all the campsites were booked, so we booked the last room in Yellowstone at the Old Faithful Inn.

And unfortunately for Pete, I didn’t bring along an extra windshield, so we stopped in Idaho Files at a Harley Dealership to pick one up.

Preparation for the coming weather...

Preparation for the coming weather…

Here are a few shots of our first stop/cigar in the park. As Pete said in his post, the road is great therapy.

Pete Puccio

Pete Puccio

Bill Sanders

Bill Sanders

The Bikes

The Bikes

And the picture I was taking when Pete was making fun of me taking pictures…

Big Sky

Big Sky

And then a few more shots from a couple of “wildlife shows” on the way to Old Faithful.





We ended the day with a phenomenal prime rib at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, next door to where we were staying. And with the weather changing, we were happy to be inside, warm, and dry.

Day Two Map

Day Two Map

Day One: Friday, August 29, 2008

San Francisco, CA to Twin Falls, ID
671 Miles

One of the great things that you can say about Pete is that he makes decisions quickly. When I called him on Wed night before the trip and pitched Yellowstone, he was smoking a cigar with Bob Rankin. Maybe it was the mood, but it took him about 30 seconds to agree to meet me in Twin Falls on Friday night.

I’ve read about the Iron Butt and figured that if these cats can run over a thousand miles a day for several days on end, then 650 miles wouldn’t be “all that bad.” And as an effort to get somewhere, it wasn’t that bad. But it sure wasn’t conducive to sightseeing, picture taking, or cigar smoking.

Left around 6:30 a.m. relatively awake (a double shot of espresso does wonders for waking up), and stopped only for gas until lunchtime. The ride was Reno was beautiful, but I forewent stopping for photos to continue making good time.

I did come away impressed with HWY-80 through Nevada. It was in great shape (at least the left lane) and I love the higher speed limits. It means you can kick back and cruise at a reasonable pace without worrying about getting a speeding ticket. At first, and coming out of the Serra Nevada’s, the land seemed rather desolate. But after awhile, I noticed that although it’s a little sparse, the land has it’s own type of beauty.

I-80 Nevada

I-80 Nevada

Open Road

Open Road

And, as the sun went down as I neared the Idaho boarder, it got even better.

Sunset near the Nevada Idaho border

Sunset near the Nevada Idaho border

Shadows and Light

Shadows and Light


The original intent, of course was to be in Twin Falls before dark and we would have both made it if someone hadn’t had a head-on collision right on the Nevada/Idaho border. I ended up cooling my heals in traffic for about an hour while they airlifted out the injured and cleaned up the mess. And it was a mess.

Alas, we made it to Twin Falls and Pete already had camp picked out and his tent set up. Of course, despite the long day we found the energy to smoke a cigar and catch up untill close to midnight.