First Reader and I have spent many summer vacations traveling the western US from the saddles of our iron ponies. Back in 2008, a group of friends approached us about taking a two-week motorcycle trip to Yellowstone National Park. We thought it would be fun since we love to ride, and I had never been to Yellowstone before. Someone in our group made reservations for the park and the follow-up hotels after we left the park and headed home.
That trip was the first of many multi-week motorcycle vacations that First Reader and I have taken with a group. We had a lot of fun. We split the park into four days of sightseeing. Conveniently, the park is divided into four major areas. I can’t find a lot of my pictures for that trip, but I did find a few.
Eight of us traveled together that year. Not knowing how smoothly the trip would go, we arranged for a “lag wagon” to haul some of the stuff we couldn’t fit on the bikes. We also had a trailer with us, just in case someone broke down.
Riding in a group of motorcycles, called a pack, is an exciting experience. Our trip to Yellowstone was not the first pack I’d ridden in, or even led. It was, however, the first one I led that took us onto Interstate 80 with all the semi-truck traffic. I tried to keep within a few MPH of the speed limit, but keeping eight people together at highway truck speeds (90 MPH or so) was an exercise in futility. We were strung out over a half-mile, and the lag truck was nowhere in sight.
In those days, we didn’t have fancy wireless helmet headsets we could talk to each other through. We made a plan when we stopped and used old-fashioned hand signals. (Those hand signals didn’t always convey the message we wanted to send, though.) Then we played follow the leader.
The first night we stayed with one rider’s family about halfway between home and the park. We could have ridden much further that day, but our friend’s family arranged for a nice meal and an evening of socializing. It was a fun night, and the atmosphere was terrific.
Coming from the east, we rode through the center of the park the next day en route to our hotel in West Yellowstone for the next few days. The sights and smells were amazing. The sounds were blown away by the wind and the roar of the motorcycles. As we approached the western park entrance, a sign reminded all of us touristy types to keep driving and not stop for the mated eagle pair and their eaglets. It’s not like any of the cars paid attention. And I have to admit that we stopped at least once or thrice to take pictures to the nest.
The weather was passable for the most part. I do remember the day we rode to the Lamar Valley—we got caught in a hail storm as we were climbing from Canyon Village to Tower Junction. The group pulled into one of the pullouts, geared up, and laid over our bikes to protect the paint jobs from getting damaged. At one point, someone in the car parked in front of us clean off a spot on the window and take a picture of this group of bikers leaning over their motorcycles. Good times.
After we visited the four corners of Yellowstone, we headed south to the Grand Tetons. By this time, we were glad we’d brought the trailer. One of the bikes developed a starter problem early in the trip. We took turns push-starting the bike—until it just wouldn’t start anymore. At which point, we pushed it right onto the trailer and tied it down.
We mostly passed the Tetons by and rode south through Jackson, WY, and down to Rock Springs, where we stayed a few more days and rode around the Flaming Gorge in Utah and Wyoming. The road around the Green River and Flaming Gorge area is high atop a ridge with some spectacular views.
One of our friends was considering buying a bike similar to mine, so I doubled up with First Reader and spent the day taking pictures from the back of the pack. While I was enjoying the ride from the pillion seat, I found out later that First Reader was freaking out at the elevation and the steep views off the side of the road. She hid it well.
A couple of days later, we headed home. This was the first of many summer vacations with our group of biker friends. The pack has shrunk over the years to three of us die-hards, but the journeys are no less enjoyable. Honestly, it’s easier to keep three or four of us together than eight, so I’m not lamenting the size of our group. There’s also a lot less drama to contend with when fewer people join the fun.
This summer, we have a few rides planned. Watch this space, I’ll fill you in on the fun.