Expect the Unexpected

Intention, that vague word that means something you intend to do whether you pull it off or not. Success is following that intention, whether you pull it off or not. We pulled it off. It was magical; beautiful and delightful in such a way as to seem removed from everyday life. When I started this journey, that was my intention, magic. Magic is what I got.

I think the editor would have to stop me, should I write everything that was magical about this journey, so here is an abridged version.

When Molly and I agreed to do this trip, I didn’t have a dual sport bike, camping gear, riding gear, or cash for any of the above. I did have a

I made the decision to go, and started making it happen. My enthusiasm and drive infected those around me, and the universe conspired to make it all happen. In the words of Nevil Stowe, I had a “horseshoe up my ass.” I think that once you get on a roll with something, and you focus on the positive, you are more open to seeing solutions.

We rode some pretty treacherous passes, under some daunting conditions, and never dropped our bikes, had a flat, or ran out of gas, food or water. Oh, there was that one time the Ratty pigeon leaned over in a deep rut, but it doesn’t count as a drop because the rut was too deep for it to actually fall over.

Bannack

Michelle Arrives on her XT 250 fuel-injected bike, packed with new saddlebags and big blue dry bag. After spending 2 years on the road, Michelle knows how to pack light. Our last night in Bannack was a bit warmer than the night before we woke up to frost but the water jug was only slightly frozen.

After oatmeal, we headed out to the old Bannack road, it was cold but doable. All of the bike struggled at altitude, with the Sherpa having the most trouble with power. I am guessing because the rider hasn’t figured how to ride it properly yet!

Chronology of events eludes me, but we rode in quite cold weather through the Bannack Road, an old freight road between Corrine Utah and Bannack Montana built back in 1862. We passed amazing views once again as the sun warmed the landscape, creating dusty roads once again.

We could not resist the chance to de-dust at a particularly inviting swimming hole, fresh, clear and COLD mountain water is highly refreshing. Later in the day, while passing through fabulous mountains, the weather started to turn and get colder. We stopped for coffee and a nap at a small town diner.

Being a maritime-raised girl, seeing a real cowboy on a horse with dogs herding cattle through the desert-like terrain in the cold was a highlight. When you are cold, it is tempting to keep going to get to a warm spot before it gets dark, but Molly turned around for a conversation, inspiring me to go back as well and record the passing of the cowboy. He told Molly that it is much warmer on a horse, not going 40 mph on a bumpy dirt road.

I wanna be a Cowboy

The Red Rock Pass, elevation 7120 feet, goes across into Idaho and the Targhee National Forest. It was so cold at times that we had to stop every ten minutes or so Michelle and I could put our hands on the bike engine to warm up. Molly had electric gloves, and at one point shared them with Michelle. Contrary to how it sounds, we all actually enjoyed the challenge, and pushed to see how far we could go before numbness forced another warm-up stop. I vowed to purchase heated gloves at next opportunity. As I had never been, we then left the dirt for a paved road to Yellowstone Park.

Then rode and met up with 2 dual sport guys.

We wanted to camp at a bicycle camping spot but it turned out to be not very well protected, there bears etc.

We rode a double-rutted road to find a spot but didn’t feel save – it was too windy.

Then stopped at the U of Utah outdoor education centre. They directed us to the campground. The two dualsport guys were camping there. They also agreed it was too windy.

Rain was added to the cold, so we were grateful to pull over to a coffee shop, corner gas type place, for hot chocolate and potato chips. The rain changed to snow while we munched—and not really looking forward to riding pavement in snow, phone calls were made to the closest accommodations. I’m glad there were three of us to split the cost, and we had Michelle, a hotel manager herself, to barter a lower price at the Super-8 a short distance away.

An explosion of wet gear all over the room, and a glorious night in a warm, dry bed.

It was chilly again in the morning.

Yellowstone’s South Exit, our planned route, was blocked by fire that day, and considering it was cold and rainy, we decided to skip the Yellowstone detour, and head for Jackson instead. We could either take a sandy track, or tarmac, and given the weather we chose the tarmac this time, for speed, armed with hand-warmers and my electric turtleneck, we headed to Jackson!

An Electric Turtleneck is when you take the carbon fiber panels out of an unused pair of heated pants, and iron them into a turtleneck sweater, one leg panel in front, the other in back. All the wiring remains untouched, just plug and play.

In a particularly woodsy part of the ride, a large owl flew out of the woods in a very Harry Potteresque kind of way. It flew slightly above and in front of me, so close I could see his or her eyes clearly.  The whole scene made me think of my son, and how much he would have loved to see that.

Traveling on extended trips is a dream come true for me, and I do it as often as I can. I have two grown girls back in New Brunswick and a fifteen-year-old son, who lives with his father in Newfoundland. As the non-primary parent it can be difficult to keep an open dialogue, especially with a 15-year-old boy. So, when I travel, I like to keep an eye out for cool, meaningful items I can send him.

Jackson is a tourist town known for its ski hills and cowboy heritage. What better place to keep an eye out for cool things than a Cowboy town. While the three of us were waiting to meet up with our hosts for the evening, Michelle and I went on a tour of the town, looking through the museums and stopping at the famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar for a quick picture.

We stopped in a jewelry shop, where the clerk asked me what I was looking for, and when I said a necklace for my 15-year-old son, she simply replied “I have it downstairs in the basement.”

I processed that statement for a moment as she proceeded to show me the incredible works of art the local artisans had created. I asked her about the basement, what did she mean? She replied “Do you want me to go get it?” Of course I said yes, and she returned promptly with a brass cast of an Owl’s talon on a tan-coloured leather band.

It was perfect.

The Clerk said she just gave her nephew something similar and he loved it, so when I said 15-year-old, she just knew what I wanted. I guess the owl part was a coincidence.

With the necklace tucked safely in my PVC tool tube, we arrived at Meade Ranch, once again the lucky recipients of Molly’s wide web of friends and contacts. Kate was a gracious hostess, and treated us to her upscale guest house where we were once again spoiled with a luxurious setting and beautiful home.

Jackson, Tetons, Kendal Valley

Jackson was a treat, 3 straggly travelers in the Meade Ranch guest house, our fine steeds each in their own horse stalls in a heated barn. Molly had been out to visit her friend Kate for a wedding many years ago, where a moose interrupted the nuptials.

Molly had two more friends to visit in the area, Ben, a fine bluegrass musician, and Justin, a young man from Maine whom Molly had known since he and his twin brother were boys.

To avoid packing up the backs, and riding for an hour through the mountains only to head back this way in the morning, Kate loaned us her farm truck (massive) so we could spend another night on the ranch and not have to pack up our gear for a stay an hour away, only to head back in the same direction in the morning.