June 15, 2004 GMT
Still Going West

An on we go. Following my very positive experience with the Miller Family in Pierre, South Dakota, I move on towards the Black Hills, to see Mount Rushmore. On the way there, on a lonely gas station on one of these straight secondary highways, which don’t seem to end, I met with a group of bikers (I believe from Minneapolis) who were on their annual trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota.

We arranged to meet for dinner at the Blue Bell Lodge in Custer State Park. Unfortunately the weather changed from sunny-warm to rainy-cold during afternoon. What could have turned out to be a relaxed ride along a beautiful landscape on great country roads, turned into a slow, careful trip: the rain had turned the dust on the roads into a slippery film, which took the fund out of riding.

Dinner at the Blue Bell Lodge proved to be okay (Buffalo Meat Loaf). But the “homemade gravy” was not something to add to the speciality (no case for the “Food Feature”).

The next day was scheduled for the Mount Rushmore National Memorial. I had always wanted to be there, after having seen the film “North by Northwest” with Cary Grant (and that was some time ago). The monument itself had always seemed bigger on film or on photos. I could not avoid feeling a little disappointed.


Click here for Mount Rushmore

Next on my agenda was “Sturgis, South Dakota”. - Well known, not only among motorcycle enthusiasts, this small town is the location of the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, each year in August. Originally it was a meeting place of Harley Davidson riders, but – as was confirmed to me by locals – other motorbikes are being accepted in the meantime. I had a funny experience in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum: I found out that there I qualify as a “senior” – I benefited from a $1 discount for people aged 50 plus. – This was indeed the first time I was officially considered a “senior citizen” – and I did not even have to show my ID card…. – well…..

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Click here for another view of Sturgis0

Next on my trip schedule was the area north of Sheridan, Wyoming. Actually the area is in Montana – the Custer Battlefields at the Little Bighorn. The location, Custer’s Last Stand, is where General Custer’s unit was massacred by the Blackfoot
Indian's Chief Sitting Bull. The site is impressive. It has largely been unchanged, and together with the presentation of the park rangers provides a very good impression of what happened in 1876.

Custer_view.jpg
Click for a partial view of the memorial dedicated to the Indians

From Custer’s Last Stand on to Yellowstone Park. I passed the city of Cody, the home town of western legend “Buffo Bill – William Cody”. It was in Cody that I found the subject of this reports “Food Feature” – see below

Buffalo_Bill.jpg

Buffalo Bill – William Cody



Finally, Yellowstone Park. I had heard, read and seen so much about this National Park, that I had great expectations. While the sights and the natural phenomena are really impressive, I still could not help feeling a little like in “Disney Land”. The number of visitors – it was mid-week, pre-season - was phenomenal. – It may be the more appealing surrounding, the nicer setting, but somehow I liked the serene, sincere atmosphere of the Custer Battlefield better

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Yellowstone Park


Click here or a view of the crowd waiting for Old Faithful

After two days in Yellowstone Park, I continued to head north. The next stop was Bozeman, Montana, and after an enjoyable stay at the TLC Inn, I went to a small place just north of Missoula. The Glacier Park and Canada are waiting to be discovered.

People Met On The Road – I:

The words of old Gentleman who saw me and the BMW in a rest area on Interstate 90 struck a chord: “The only way to see the country – on a motorbike”. This is indeed true. Biker or not – the motorcycle seems to encourage people to stop and talk. It typically starts with just a couple or words, where one is coming from, going to. This became quite common and I thought that I should mention these in my report.

Here are the more memorable people whom I met:

“A nameless family of four in Yellowstone Park near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone” – on 3-week trip through National Parks of the West – travelling in a SUV, guided by Garmin GPS and worrying about the two kids potentially getting bored by “too much red rock” (the dominant color or of rock in the parks to be visited).


Click for picture

“Mike and his two nephews – from Oregon on a hiking trip through Yellowstone”. Mike’s father was in the military, stationed in Germany, where Mike was actually born. He went to school if Frankfurt and now he is a fire fighter in Oregon:

Click for picture

“A nameless mother with daughter and son – from Dresden, Germany. The saw my BMW on a parking lot outside of Bozeman, Montana. The daughter is an exchange pupil in Seattle, and was taking her family on a tour through the north-western US.

Click for picture

“Alex - from the TLC Inn in Bozeman”. He owns a Harley and is dreaming, one day, to take her to Alaska. We talked “motorcycles” for a long time. Sorry, we missed each other for dinner - and hopefully you’ll find the time to go north some day.

Click for picture

I hope to turn this into another recurring feature of future trip reports.

Food Feature II:

On of my favourite places in Frankfurt it the Mexican restaurant “Rodeo” –
which arguably serves the best frozen Margaritas. When I walked along Sheridan Ave. in Cody, WY I saw this:


Click here for picture of what causes my attention

It was the time for a comparison.

In the end it turned out to be a very close match for the “Rodeo” Margarita: well balanced taste, sweet sour with a bias toward the sweet, the consistency of the the ice: perfect (slushy snow). The presentation: attractive.


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The Chilis Rellenos I had as a meal and the salsa for the chips were an equally close match for my “reference restaurant” in Frankfurt, Germany.

chili_rellen.jpg

I am putting in a resting day (writing this report, doing my washing, plain hanging around in an Indian “Tipi” before venturing into the Glacier Part and on to Canada. More about that in the next report.

Posted by Heiko Neumann at 04:45 PM GMT
June 22, 2004 GMT
Turning North Towards Canada

It was with the best intentions that I left Bozeman, Montana for Missoula. I had seen an website for a campground in St. Ignatius, Montana, some 60 kilometres or so north of Missoula. St. Ignatius, in particular is nothing spectacular: a little provincial place in northern Montana, with a supermarket a hardware store, a bar and a gas station.

What had made it seem attractive was the fact that it had a campground with offered accommodation in a Indian Tipi tent and the fact that is was close to the Glacier Natl. Park, with the special attraction of the Highway to the Sun - a scenic ride in the Rocky Mountains that should rival some of the best routes in the European Alps.

So far so good. The positive surprise was that one of the Tipis was actually available when I arrived (it saved me to set up my own tent). The next issue was that the place was run by a German lady, Ursula. The really funny thing was that the most, if not all of the guests on the first night of my arrival were from Germany. What more reason go have a “German Dinner”. See below under “People met on the Road”.

I stayed there for two nights, hoping that the weather might clear up. Instead in got progressively worse and I cancelled me trip on the “Highway to the Sun”. It was not without regret but I was certainly not in the mood to risk permanent rain (or worse) in high elevations.

In the end I had to face hard rain on the way to Canada. I crossed the border at the rather quaint Roosville: nice reception by Canadian customs officials, easy crossing.

The first stop in Canada, was Cranbrook at the Campbell/Yard residence. I had not met Alison and Steve before (there were family of another Frankfurt friend, Susan Baumgarten), but they were extremely hospitable – the spaghetti dinner was excellent – and they made we feel very welcome in Canada.

I left the next day in the direction of Calgary. On the way I passed the small town of Sparwood, a mining place in British Columbia. The biggest attraction can be seen here:


Truck Sparwood.jpg
Click for bigger version - By the way, the small black something at the bottom of the left front wheel is yours truly…


Before going to Calgary, I stopped at “High River”, Alberta. – Accommodation at this place seemed problematic (an oil conference in nearby Calgary had occupied all motel room). By chance I was referred to a B&B place in a quiet residential place. Joan and Murray Hay run a very civilised B&B. The discussion with Joan about the politics and life in general were quite stimulating.

Click for picture of Joan and her “watch frog” – which croaked each time someone approached the front door

Next was Calgary – which is something special. I had briefly mentioned in an earlier piece on this weblog that I might be visit Canada. Brian Smith of the Calgary community had picked this up and sent me an E-Mail offering to be of assistance if I needed help finding things, looking for accommodation or else. After a number of E-mail exchanges, he even offered me to spend a day or two at his home.

So – following a first meeting in the hamlet of Priddis southwest of Calgary (I called him, Brian then met me on his motorcycle), he took me to his home. He and his wife Sandra were extremely hospitable. The guided tour through Calgary (with a skyline not unlike that of Frankfurt, Germany) was enjoyable, but the grilled salmon, the homemade pizza and the curry chicken soup which they served during my two-day stay were excellent. I was also impressed with Brian homemade red wine. I mistook it for some very decent Italian merlot.


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Sandra and Brian Smith – bidding me farewell



Banff National Park and Jasper National Park were next. The whole scenery is fantastic. Columbia Icefields (several glaciers forming a gigantic icefield) somewhere in the middle between Banff and Jasper should prove to be a highlight. Again the sight was fantastic but the real excitement came just before arriving there: a veritable snowstorm.

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Columbia Icefields


Click here: Icefields – also on the motorcycle

Fortunately, this was just a freak occurrence, the snow/ice storm was gone in a matter of an hour and the sun broke.

I stopped for the night in a hostel in Jasper. From here I went on to north via Grande Cache and Grande Prairie (Alberta) to Dawson Creek (Br. Columbia) – the beginning of the Alaskan Highway:


DawsonCrk.jpg

People Met On The Road – II:


The ad-hoc dinner group at the campground in St. Ignatius, Montana. From left to right: Alrun from Berlin on a 4 week trip in the north-western US, Ursula running the campground, Rolf and his wife from Frankfurt on a 1 year camp mobile tour through the US, Mexico and Canada.


Click for picture the German Dinner Group

Michel from Zurich. Met him in Sparwood (the mining city with the world’s largest truck on display). Michel was on a 3 months leave of absence from his job in Switzerland to learn improve his English and to explore northwest Canada.

Click for picture of Michel from Zurich

The friendly shop assistant in the”Bradley’s” saddlery and cowboy outfitter in High River, near Calgary. As a child she had to go to school on horseback. “Bradley’s” is the oldest saddlery business place in Alberta, founded inn 1902.

Click for picture of the shop assistant in High River

Jerry Mulhall, hobby painter born in Ireland and emigrated to Canada a couple of years ago. Visited the Lake Louise region together with a group of other people on a guided “painting outing”.

Click for picture of Jerry Mulhall, testing the BMW for size….

Martin and Katja Wickert from Hildesheim, Germany on two African Twins, currently in Canada. On a two year trip through Canada, Alaska, then all the way down to Patagonia. We met after the snow shower on the Columbia Icefields and went to Jasper together. Their website (great picture gallery): twintraveller.com

Click for picture of Martin and Katja

Elaine and Peter Haworth on vacation from the UK. Peter has a Honda ST Pan European back in Europe. The couple saw me packing my bike and we had a nice “motorcycle” talk in front to the local McDonalds outfit.

Click for picture of Elaine and Peter

Food Feature III:

This time it was somewhat difficult to find a Food Feature. But something that came as a real surprise was this:


Collossis_coffea.jpg

The “Colossi’s Coffee Shop” was hidden in a side street of High River. The coffee there (or rather the espresso and cappuccino) we of such quality that it could have been served somewhere in Italy. The biscotti which came along with the coffee were equally good.

Posted by Heiko Neumann at 07:45 PM GMT
 


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