August 31, 2007 GMT
The US

Our route down through the US has been very carefully crafted to:
•Appeal to motorcyclists (a perpetual smile lurks under the helmet)
•Avoid big cities (before Tuscon – the biggest town we have stayed in was about 10,000 people)
•Get to the heart of the great national parks that live down the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Wyoming
•See the desert & canyon country of Utah & Arizona
•Wear out tyres – rapidly!

I passed the 10,000kms mark for the trip so far in the Grand Canyon – for the Aussies – that’s equivalent to Sydney to Perth and back – not bad for 4 weeks on the road.

Montana, Wyoming, Utah, a hint of Colorado, and Arizona were the chosen states, and the National Parks visited included: Glacier, Yellowstone, ????, Grand Canyon.

My fascination for log houses has been growing – Montana has to be the epicentre of the craft – most farm houses, barns, churches, and municipal buildings are constructed this way. While ambling down a windy road one beautiful sunny morning (well – not really ambling) – out of the corner of my eye I saw a most outstanding site – a very large log house being built – at the builder’s yard.

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Hit the picks with some suddenness – which caught my passenger for the day by surprise (young Evan – whose Honda suffered a terminal disorder near Jasper in Alberta – so he has been riding pillion most days) – well Evan woke up in a rush as our helmets clapped, and his posterior slid forward on the seat – with the inevitable and testing pillion splay!

After Evan recovered, we U turned & spent an hour exploring the builder’s craft.

A few shots of the largest construction of a log house I had seen (Evan is the scale marker) – no sealant between the logs – each is fitted to the lower with precision.
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Wondered how the logs got to be so straight – as they were obviously not machine shaped – I saw on the site the area where obviously a craftsman used an adze to trim each log – and from the sea of shavings on the ground – it consumed someone’s time most days.
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Simple tools: Band saw (petrol engine driven & a simple rack did any log splitting or thicknessing
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The rest is chainsaw, drill & chisel, and simple handling tools.
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Assemble with a small crane, decide where the doors and windows go – crank up the chainsaw – and presto a window opening appears. Match mark the lot – pull it down – onto an ordinary truck – up to the site in the hills & re-assemble the jigsaw.

Well Lloyd and Joe, I envy your chosen craft and lifestyle – for once I felt I have missed an opportunity to do something that really has clicked with me – well maybe not missed??? – I have been thinking of the property at Rainbow Beach more and more – how can I scratch this itch that has started???

Further through the majestic mountains, lakes and forests of Montana – a house on an island in a lake – must be tough living there – don’t you think????
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Unfortunately there have been forest fires in Montana / Alberta – causing huge areas to be burnt out – we had seen the haze for a few days, and the day we went to Glacier National Park, the haze was thick – so we missed most of the views – but still the Road to the Sun was an exhilarating experience.

Evan & I climbed eagerly and stopped at Logan Pass for the daily billy tea ritual – only to find at least 1,000 tourists (most with lily white legs in baggy shorts and branded with name tags in busses, or cocooned in hideously monstrous RV’s), but also a gaggle of Harleys & Goldwings all desperately seeking their mountain inspirational experience in isolation. Grossly over loved was my conclusion!

Amazing how 50 of Americana’s Harley riders in one place can look like a cloning experiment gone horribly wrong – enough black leather to support a tannery, frilled chaps, red bandanas, cut off tee shirts, the infamous winged tattoos, and the inevitable scowl (and that’s just the ‘old lady’ pillions) - all riding in close formation around the mountains at about 10kph - max wharp speed without sparks flying around the precipitous corners & starting more forest fires). Oh well – I am sure they are enjoying doin’ their thang!

Yellowstone was a little wet getting there – but the ride in, the afternoon at Old Faithful cruising the geysers, and staying at the 100 year old Old Faithful Inn was a high point (literally) – as the Inn is (yes that’s right) a log cabin construction – with the Foyer over 25m high - with an internal crow’s nest no less.
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It seems the architect was allowed to scratch his childhood tree-house itch to the max – and has produced a unique building and an experience I will treasure always -even seeing Lisa stealthily sneak up to the crow’s nest late at night (locked up because it is said to be unsafe after a 1980’s earthquake) silently scaling the locked gate - giggling uncontrollably with a wave from the top, and slipping down ½ a flight on the way down – trying ever so hard not to get caught.
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Unfortunately when Old Faithful performed (pretty much on schedule) – I had forgotten my camera – so here is Old Faithful in recharge mode – waiting for the tourist hordes to gather for her next inevitable burp!
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Again – something majestic being grossly over loved. As one lady put it at breakfast the next morning – 300 million Americans with only 2 weeks vacation a year – all cramming the sights in! She couldn’t comprehend our 5 month expedition, and concluded we were all vagrants!

We rode out the park the long way round & finally caught a panorama of a sizeable herd of bison.
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Such a rare sight – bison numbers are slowly growing again, having been re-introduced to many park areas. The thousands of bison slaughtered in the 19th century were hunted for pleasure (even from moving train windows), and to deprive the Indians of their food source – so they would be forced onto the reservations (Bill Cody’s claim to fame). I sometimes wonder about the human race!

Then some fantastic mountain riding – the highest pass in North America – Beartooth Pass (3,393m according to my very flash Highgear watch)
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went up and turned around and came back down – just so we could also ride the Chief Joseph Parkway, finally arriving in Cody – cowboy central. I know Justin is following the good roads in Mapsource - so Beartooth Pass is on US Highway 212 just inside Montana with the Wyoming border - and Chief Joseph is Wyoming state highway 296.

I tried to capture the sense of height at Beartooth Pass - but impossible with the camera - the outlook was breathtaking:
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This is dinosaur country – remnants and fossils abound & you can almost feel their presence. This is also oil country – modern day dinosaurs populate the arid plains – bobbing to feed rhythmically.
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In 1 day we traveled through some great, green mountains – to Douglas Pass, and then into the land of deserts and canyons.

At Douglas Pass I found some side roads that went higher & followed the ridges back towards Vernal for several kms – I wondered why the dirt road was so good – it was presumably a hunting road – as there were no houses. Then I saw this!!
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– with ominous signs promising the most horrific consequences should anyone trespass – so I found some more minor dirt roads that continued along the ridges.

My aloneness at this time added to the pleasure, as I had it all to myself – the thousands of baggy arsed lily whites were safely ensconsed in their gargantuan RV’s safe at some bitumened byway – while I was again boiling the billy with a view to die for – and I felt like I owned it!
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Afetr coming down the other side, first contact with the famous Colorado River was somewhat by chance. In what seemed a generic desert scape – I saw a few houses and this:
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there’s that itch again!!

It did leave me with a puzzle – why here? Then around the next bend – I saw the Colorado river, and realized the log house had a view from a cliff of this epic river. This river would play a role in our travels for quite a while.

The Dewey Bridge was an early (and beautiful – in my engineering biased opinion) development that opened up this area – 6 loaded ox wagons at one time! Too good an opportunity to miss & try some creative photography, and some mischief – as I found the bike just fitted between the rocks protecting each end of the bridge (shhh! – don’t tell anyone).
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Then the real desert and canyons abounded – several days of gob smacking sights, and desert heat (up to 40C in the Valley of the Gods).
Moab is a center of adventure tourism on the Colorado & a great little town – even if the Utah licensing laws are a little odd (eg – some restaurants can’t serve both wine and beer – one or the other!), and most bars are “private membership” – purchased for upto 7 people for $4 – go figure??

A day off the bike in Moab, and I chose to enjoy one of my other interests – kayaking on a fast flowing river with a few minor white water sections. But the best thrill was seeing the canyons from the river itself. John (a Geologist working in the North Sea oil fields) joined me for the day. John (father of Greg –also on our expedition) is a hive of knowledge and passion for the landforms – I enjoyed the day with John – he enjoyed the new experience & mastered the craft quickly. Thanks for a great day John. Oh – and guess what – we had the river to ourselves for the whole time we were on it – brilliant!
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A few more pictures trying to capture the majesty of this Navajo Nation area – a dismal failure I am sorry to say – no substitute for journeying though it, seeing, feeling, and yes – sharing it with our small group of like minded travelers in this case.
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Our expedition leader Kev – obviously enjoying it after a several journeys through this land.

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A 400m drop down this road to the canyon floor – see the bikes at the bend? (I was near the top).
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Have you seen this shot before? (near Monument Valley)
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Well the last day before Tuscon was a doozy - left Jacob's Lake Inn (about 2,500m elevation near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon) just before dawn and 8C temp - wind roads through the birch / fir trees - then down from the plateau to the floor of the canyon country - immediately the temp rose - it continued to rise throughout the 750km day to 43C - yep - bloody hot & dry - our longest day so far. Arrived at the BMW dealer to leave the bikes for their service & a few days R & R in Tuscon. Good to get to an air conditioned hotel. So - finishing the blog & doing domestics before Steve & Lisa's wedding tomorrow - looking forward to a great bash!

Then off to Mexico Saturday - our next adventure, and my next entry - cheers for now & hope you enjoyed the ramblings

Posted by Ron Markiewicz at August 31, 2007 07:57 PM GMT
 


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