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Two weeks, 8,600 km by motorcycle
Motorcycle enthusiasts Lorraine Young and her husband hit the open road last summer for an adventure of a lifetime – their most recent adventure of a lifetime.
They chose an 8,600 kilometre route taking them from Prince George to places in the U.S. with some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. Traveling on their Harley Davidson bikes, they completed the trip between July 27 to August 10. Along the way, they visited historic sites and famous landmarks – and they made new friends. The following account is made up of excerpts from the journal that Lorraine Young kept of their travels.
“This was a spectacular experience travelling on our Harleys through the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Bryce National Park, Vegas Strip, Route 66 and Jackson Hole, Wyoming to name a few. The most important thing we learned on this trip is that the journey doesn’t have to be out there, miles away, navigation on a map,” said Young.
“We are travellers. The road and journey is wherever we go. We plan a motorcycle trip every year. We have no idea where our journey will be until we look at the map and say, ‘Let’s do this route.’ The route continues to change while we are on the road. The open road is an adventure waiting to happen.”
Our trip was a little over 8,600 kilometres. We had weather ranging from desert heat to mountain coolness; it rained one day out of 17 and that was in Hatch, Utah.
We saw the most beautiful sunsets, sunrises, mountains, lakes and old buildings, switchback roads that range from winding road through mountains and switchbacks on top of mountains.
We spoke to many people along the way, the residents of towns we visited and other bikers along the way. We would pull up to the pumps for gas or stop at a restaurant, coffee shop along the way. Curious people would come and chat with us, must have been the curiosity of the motorcycles. They wanted to know where we were coming from, where we are going, what road we were taking, they would suggest roads [and] 80 per cent of the time we took their recommendations and we were glad we did. The locals knew their stuff.
July 27: Making sure passports are packed, medical insurance was purchased, bikes loaded and serviced. We’re ready to hit the open roads, we only have 17 days. The digital camera is tucked in my saddle bags waiting to be used at a moment’s notice. Turning the keys and [hearing] a sound only a Harley Davidson can make (wink, wink) – whatever motorcycle you ride, it is a freedom that you cannot explain – we were off with a smile.
Our first day leaving P.G. we met up with family in Edmonton, from there we went to Calgary and after staying with family for two nights, we head to the U.S. border in Piegan, MT.
July 29: Rode until we came to Coteau and stayed at Stage Coach Inn in Montana, located on Montana’s spectacular east side of the Rockies between Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks. Pam the innkeeper told us stories that made us chuckle..
July 30: Next morning woke up to another gorgeous day in Montana. The sky is a deep blue mixed with huge white cumulonimbus clouds and we went through several smaller towns along the way, to name a few: Augusta, Lincoln, North Fork and Missoula. The next town we pulled off the road for the night was Challis, Idaho (pop. 1,200) and the innkeeper, who was talking to other customers, talked us into staying. Before we left Challis, we met a resident who started to give us lessons in history and geography about the town and encouraged us to check out another route when we leave to go out of town.
He said [there was] some fantastic scenery along the way, the Craters of the Moon, Cathedral Gorge, Grand View Canyon. The rock formation was spectacular, [you] have to go there to appreciate it. Next stop was at The Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve. Craters of the Moon was miles and miles of lava rock, it even ran out of the edges of the highway; it had a violent past but is calm at the moment. It is a vast ocean of lava flows with scattered islands of cinder cones and sagebrush.
Rode into MacKay, ID where we had breakfast at Amy Lou’s Steakhouse. The breakfast was served by Amy Lou herself. There was a picture of Amy on the back of the menu holding a butcher knife. I guess she is not to be reckoned with. Left the restaurant with our thumbs up and, back on our bikes, next stop was Jackpot, Nevada. We gas up the bikes, grabbed a coffee and then hit the road again.
Next stop was the Pony Express gas station in McGill. McGill was a company town of the Nevada Consolidated Copper Co. located on US Highway 93 north of Ely. The population declined after the Depression and by the time the smelter closed in the late 1970s there were only 1,000 residents left. Today the plant has been dismantled. The town now retains about 250 residents. Interesting buildings exist and a visit is well worth the time. It appears to be a ghost town.
Ely, the next town about 12 miles away, is where we parked our bikes and stayed the night. Went for a long walk, enjoyed a vibrant sunset that filled the sky overlooking the town. It was close to a perfect day. Ely was founded as a stagecoach station along the Pony express and Central Overland Route.
August 1: Pulled up to the pumps 20 miles from Vegas, the city that never sleeps. Entering Las Vegas on motorcycles was one of the highlights of the trip. Road our Harleys into Vegas with ease, easy to maneuver the city, on and off ramp was a breeze. We rode Interstate from Browning Montana to Las Vegas BLVD. The temperature was 106 degrees when we rode into Las Vegas. The strip is about 4.5 miles but I am sure we did not walk 4.5 miles, even if it felt like we did.
August 2: Spent two days in Las Vegas visited the Harley Shop in Vegas and picked up a new Harley. The old Harley had 149,000 plus kilometres and did not have the strength to go back to British Columbia. There are good things that happen on the road and there are bad things. But mostly good.... We packed our saddlebags again, left the hotel dressed in all our leathers, jacket, gloves and chaps and helmet.
We rode out to the lights, waited, and waited, and waited. The light seemed never to want to change to green. It was 108 degrees and [with] the heat rising from the motor plus the heat from the sun, it was getting to be unbearable. Lights finally changed, we made a mad dash to the Interstate heading to Route 66.
Route 66, once the primary highway from America’s interior to the West Coast, has played a now legendary role in U.S. history since its designation in 1926, it is also known as Interstate 40. [Known in popular culture because of a hit song and the 1960s Route 66 TV series.]
Before we made our way to Route 66, we visited the Hoover Dam. It was 113 degrees at 10 a.m., a scorcher. The building of the Hoover Dam (833 ft, 764 feet wide at the bottom, was the first boom of the back then sleepy desert town. A huge water reservoir and recreational area 33 miles east of Las Vegas, were built because of the dam.
Next stop was the Grand Canyon. What a view. Colorado River carving its way through the canyon. Amazing mountains around 466 km long, ranges in width from six to 29 km. and attains a depth of more than 1.6 km. Visited the town of Kingman, top our motorcycles. Rode into Williams, it was as though time stood still. Old cars parked along the side of the road, old cafes that were still holding onto yesteryear. We pulled into the Highlander Motel, parked our bikes, wiped the grime from our faces [and] took a stroll down memory lane, had a nice dinner ... then onto the streets to join the town’s people to view a shoot out with the outlaws and the good guys.
August 3: Next town was Cameron, AZ, Cameron is know for its Trading Post an authentic Native American Indian trading post which is 54 miles north of Flagstaff.
August 4: Another beautiful day...on way to the Four Corners. The four corners is the only place in the U.S. where four states intersect at one point: Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. The location is very remote...there is a demonstration centre with Navajo artisans [who] sell handmade jewellery, crafts and traditional Navajo foods. The people are super friendly and made our trip worthwhile, travelling that extra distance, it was another highlight of our trip.
August 6: Early morning, another perfect day headed to a place called Hatch Utah. Short ride started to rain, so we decided to make it a day. Hatch was the perfect place to stop. Hatch is a town in Garfield County, Utah, a super friendly town, we had the pleasure to meet the owner of the Cafe Motel, Hatch Station’s Dining Car Restaurant, Harley shop and store – he seemed to own everything in the town. It was raining, he noticed that my bike was out in the rain, he told me to pull it up under the overhang on the store, then he said ‘wait a minute’ I will go to the Harley shop and get you a cover. “Don’t want that new bike wet.”
August 7: Next stop was Bryce National Park, named for one of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheatres carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau in southern Utah. Erosion has shaped colourful limestones, sandstones and mudstones into thousands of spires, fins, pinnacles and mazes. This is a biker’s dream road, roads Cannonville and Henrieville and leads to extraordinary scenery, onto another section of Scenic Highway called Highway 12, Utah’s first All-American Road.
August 8: Jackson WY, Jackson’s Hole is a valley located in the U.S. state of Wyoming near the western border with Idaho. The name hole derives from language used by early trappers or mountain men who primarily entered the valley from the north and east and had to descend along relatively steep slopes, giving the sensation of entering a hole. Gas up, took pictures and then headed to the Tetons National Park, the Teton Range is a mountain range of the Rocky Mountains in North America. Continued on through Yellowstone National Park and reached a town called Boseman Montana.
Had breakfast and enjoyed talking to the people about our bike trip and where we were from. Headed to the B.C. border and back up through the Columbia ice fields. Stayed in Fernie. Fernie is a city in the Elk Valley area of the East Kootenay region of southeastern B.C. located on Highway 3 on the eastern approach to the Crowsnest Pass through the Rocky Mountains. Again, we met some very nice people, had a great dinner, a little sad our trip was close to ending.
August 9: Gas up in the service area of the icefields, rode on to Jasper, topped up with gas and food and head homeward bound. We could not bring ourselves to make that night our final day for the trip and we said ‘Why not?’ and stayed in McBride, just two hours from home.
August 10: Took our time getting ready, had a coffee, breakfast, mosey on out to our bikes, strapped on our gear and head west. Rode into the drive way, looked at each other and smiled and said, ‘another safe trip.’