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June 3, 2012

NXNW Motorcycle Trip - Day 3: 'Saratoga to Yellowstone'

I am alive and well and resting quietly in a cabin on the shores of the peaceful Snake River, just outside the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park.

Date: June 3, 2012

Motorcycle Odometer
Morning Odometer Reading: 24,558.8
Evening Odometer Reading: 24,911.5
Miles traveled: 352.7

GPS Readings:
Trip Odometer: 347 miles
Max Speed 88.3 mph
Elevation: 6,854 ft
Total Ascent: 15,409 ft
Max Elevation: 9,454 ft

Note that there is a discrepancy between my GPS mileage and my bike mileage because tonight, I rode for about 15 miles without the GPS unit.

GPS Tracks:
Follow my path online with contour maps, satellite images, etc.
Day 3 GPS Tracks


NXNW - Day 3 - Saratoga to Yellowstone

I awake in the morning and decide that I have to change my oil.  No more putting it off.  The problem with changing your oil on the road is that a) you have no place to do it and b) it's messy.

I figure it will be better to change the oil in Saratoga, Wyoming, than in Yellowstone National Park.  So I'm not putting it off any longer.

So, I'm trying to think of the best place to do it.  I've changed it in the motel parking lot, and it's usually not pretty.  Usually looks like an Exxon Valdez-grade oil spill by the time I'm done.

Plus, the plates are expired and my driver's license is suspended.  So, you don't want to draw a lot of attention to yourself.  I decide to hide the bike behind the dumpster across the street at the gas station.

This actually works out really well because there's a lot of stuff in the dumpster I can use to collect the used oil...boxes, cartons, etc., plus, lots of rags etc.  

Plus, the dumpster provides fairly good cover from the curious eyes of a small town.  

So, I hide behind the dumpster and change my oil and it actually ends up being not nearly as messy as it normally is.

Of course, as soon as I pull up to fill up the front tire with air, the Saratoga Police pull up to the little gas station and I'm sure that they're there to arrest me.  But somehow, they just don't pay me any attention.

People are driving ATV's (four wheelers) through the streets of town without helmets.  Somehow, and I'm not clear how, but somehow this little Wyoming town has police that don't seem to be intent on raping the citizens.

My plan is to make it somewhere close to Jackson or Yellowstone today.  Take off out of town heading North.  Take I-80 west about 20 miles to Rawlins,.

At Rawlins, I decide to ask the guy at the gas station how far it is to the next town.

"I'm taking Highway 287 into Yellowstone," I explain.  "How far to the next town."

The guy looks at me like he's not sure, which is surprising to me.

"Well...which way are you going?"

"I'm taking 287."

"Hmmm.  Well, it's over a hundred miles to Walden," he starts.

Now, I'm not sure if the guy is retarded or a genius.   But if the guy at the gas station isn't sure how far it is to the next town, then you'd better gas up.

As I'm gassing up, I decide to fix the issue with my gas tank vent hose that caused my engine to die yesterday.  My new theory is that, if something hoses you one time, you shouldn't let it hose you again, in the same manner, in any event.  I want to prevent the problem from happening again.

My assumption is that I'm basically about to leave civilization behind.  Probably will be rolling into some massive desert.  So, I top off the tank, and buy some more water for the trip.

Highway 287 is basically one lone tar snake.  If you don't know what those are, theyre' the little squiggly black lines on the concrete roads where the road crews fill the cracks with tar.  For a car, they make no difference.

For a motorcycle, they make what should be a pleasant ride into a nightmare.  They move your bike right or left unexpectedly, so you try to avoid them at all cost.

Wyoming basically has their own trade winds, and I'm riding them as I go north on 287.

This part of Wyoming is basically a desert.  Some parts are primarily Sagebrush.  And some parts are full-on Moab-type desert.  

I've crossed a few deserts on my bike and they're always the most dangerous.  If you run out of fuel or break down, then you could end up in a life or death situation very quickly.  I've learned not to take desert crossings lightly.  I always take lots of food, water, and gas.

So I start rolling north and eventually, I do come to alll of the little towns he mentioned.  By the time I roll into Lander, WY,  I've driven roughly 160 miles.  My goal for the day is to drive about 330 miles, so I'm about half-way there.

I'm beginning to think that 300 miles is too far to ride in one day.  The winds are strong.  Face is dry and sunburned.  Lips are chapped.  Stop in Lander, glad to be alive and eat lunch.

Two guys pull up on bicycles.  Lock them and and start to go inside.

Where you're from? I ask.



Exit 88.

You rode that here from New Jersey.


So, every time you start to think that you're cool, someone is always standing right behind you doing something 40 times harder.  Or so it seems.

Fill up with gas in Lander, WY and head out of town on the Tar Snake Highway (287).

After I've gone 230 miles, I realize I only have another hundred miles to go and I'm so happy to reach this milestone.  Riding through the desert isn't all that much fun today.  I'm tired. Bored.  Not a lot to see out here.  Not as exciting as I'd hoped.  Fairly monotonous.

I've crossed the continental divide so many times I've lost count.  As I get closer to Jackson, Wyoming, I realize that I'll have to backtrack to the south about 30 miles to get there.  I really want to go to Yellowstone, so I change my course to head north towards Yellowstone, instead of backtracking down to Jackson.

When you're on the road on a motorcycle, you spend a lot of time inside your own head.  Why am I here. Where am I going?  When should I go back to work?  Do I really have time to go to Canada?

These are the questions that I ask myself.  I've second-guessed my trip so many times I can't say.  But I've talked to other riders and plenty of riders cut their trips short, go home, and regret it.  The wise people on the road say "go live your dreams...go to wherever it was that you initially planned to go...don't wimp out...do it".

So, I'm not sure where I'll end up, but Yellowstone seems like a good place to try to get to tonight.

When I get to Teton National Park, I start asking if I can find a place to stay.  Dude gives me directions to the Flagg Hotel, just outside the southern entrance to Yellowstone.  So I make a beeline for this place, wanting to get off the road at all costs.

In the Teton National Park, the speed limit is 45, which is excruciatingly slow.  But, I don't want to go to prison, so I'm driving the speed limit.

Now, I have the police and all forms of authority for many good reasons. Or so I've onvinced myself.  But now, I'm in a situation where I have to obey the law in order to stay out of jail.  And now, this makes me think.  How is it that I got to be this old without realizing that, if I just obey the law, I won't have the authorities pushing me around all of the time.

I'm counting down the miles until I get to my motel and driving excruciatingly slow.  Finally, I get there.  But the only rooms they have for rent are private cabins for $180 a night.  Fine. I'll take one.  I'm so tired I could die.

Check in. Get a shower.  Feel much better.  Decide that I'd better go shoot until it gets dark, so I find a gravel road through the Targhee National Forest and a moose standing in the middle of the Snake River eating grass.  Stop to get some photos of the moose.

Then into Yellowstone to shoot Moose Falls with the tripod.  Then back to the hotel for dinner and drinks.  Finally go back to the cabin and collapse.

Posted by Rob Kiser on June 3, 2012 at 10:02 PM


At it again are you? Oi.

A couple things from your Canadian "Port Angeles-Victoria" buddy from last years ride.
The Going to the Sun Highway (Glacier National) will not be open til AT LEAST June 15 (and maybe later). You'll be able to get AROUND the road, but not over it. The other thing is, if you are actually "packing heat" (it's hard to tell with your "style' of writing sometimes), don't even bother trying to get into Canada. Oh, and remember, at Crater Lake there's two seasons - August and Winter.

Posted by: Angus on June 4, 2012 at 2:53 PM


Great to hear from you, man. I can't tell you how many times I thought about your advice on this trip, particularly as I was going through Yellowstone. I seriously wanted to make it to Glacier. I was well aware that the pass was not open (and still isn't). But you can still drive up the road, you just can't cross over Logan Pass at this point. There's like 1 mile still to clear. Snow is 10' - 30' deep, etc.

Problem was that I didn't have enough time to do the trip I wanted. So, I just kept driving until someone at work texted me and said "dude...where are you?" Then, at that point, I drove to the nearest airport, left my bike in short term parking, and flew to SF.

I return to get my bike and then resume the journey tomorrow.

Posted by: Rob Kiser Author Profile Page on June 7, 2012 at 1:01 PM

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