Wallula, WA to Seattle, WA: Homecoming after 196 days and 23,000 miles!

Saturday, May 23

We were up early today, eager to be home. Chuck had to go into work that morning for a meeting, so we missed saying a proper goodbye to him, but we had a nice breakfast with Dee.

We rode west along the interstate to Yakima, where we got back on Hwy 12, heading towards Mt. Rainier. It was such a strange feeling to be riding through such familiar territory. It simultaneously felt like we hadn’t been here in eons and that we had just left yesterday. Rainier’s passes had just opened, and the mountains were covered in snow.

We passed so many riders out for Memorial Day weekend rides. Riding season was just beginning here but our riding season had never ended. We looked a bit out of place with our fully loaded dirty KLRs amidst all the sport bikes and cruisers.


We hardly stopped at all because we were on a mission to get back home. Seattle area traffic was light, and before we knew it, we were pulling into our driveway.

After 196 days on the road and 23,000 miles we were home! It was an indescribable moment. As happy as we were to see our house and Seattle, we were sad that this great adventure had come to an end. We were tremendously proud of what we had accomplished together and we’d already started talking about our next trip 🙂



Hamilton, MT, to Wallula, WA: Almost Home

Friday, May 22

We packed up the campsite early so we wouldn’t get in trouble for camping at a picnic only site. I managed to take a nice picture of the creek in the morning light.


We skipped breakfast, deciding we’d venture into Missoula. I had passed through there years before when I was moving from Houston to Seattle and had eaten breakfast at a great cafe. I tried in vain to find it, but we had a tough time finding the right part of town and ended up eating breakfast at a hipster cafe on Main street. It wasn’t what I had in mind but it was still good.


We backtracked a bit out of Missoula and went west on 12. 12 was another fantastic ride. It’s a hundred plus miles of two lane highway following a river tucked into a densely forested mountain valley. There was not much traffic and the curves never ended. It just went on and on, pure motorcycling bliss. The river was swollen with snowmelt, adding to the scenic value of the ride.


Near Lewiston, we crossed into Washington. Washington!! We were so close to home and now after all these miles we were back in our home state.


Earlier in the trip I’d been corresponding with Jonathan, from the Tri Cities area near eastern Washington. He, his brother, and his father were doing a two month ride to South America, leaving after us and finishing before us and I’d given them all the advice and help I could. As we crossed into Washington, I spoke with him on the phone and while he was going to be out of town, his father invited us to stay with them.


We spent the evening at their place in Wallula. Chuck and Dee were gracious hosts, and swapping stories from our rides was a great way to spend our last night on the road. I think Inna and I were in a near state of shock that this was our last night on the road. Anticipation of being home was running high. We really enjoyed our time that evening and we hope to meet up with them again and meet their sons in the future.


Ketchum, ID to Hamilton, MT: Scenic Idaho

Thursday, May 21

After doing some blogging in the morning, we set out for our ride north along 75. We climbed up over a mountain pass, still covered in snow and beautiful in the bright sunshine.


We descended towards Stanley and continued east along the river. It was an open valley, with some of the rock formations and colors reminding me in less dramatic fashion of the some of the mountains we’d seen down south many months beforehand.


Just south of Challis, 75 met up with 93 and we headed north along the Salmon river. We ate lunch in Salmon, ID, eating mediocre food at a cowboy restaurant.


The ride north from here, into Montana, was another beautiful ride on a beautiful day. Most of the time, the road was just gentle curve after curve following the north. The river is flanked on both sides by mountains and this day’s ride was just wonderful. You can’t go wrong riding along 93.


We stopped in Hamilton, MT to buy some groceries for our campsite dinner. We weren’t sure where we were going to camp for the night, but the manager of the store chatted us up and recommended a campsite up in Blodgett Canyon, just outside of town. He gave us good directions, and the campsite was a small 7 spot site tucked up in the forest in the mountains. It was full so we had to camp in a picnic only site right on the creek.


It was another great night of cooking over the fire and camping.


Yellowstone, WY to Ketchum, ID: Geysers and Craters

Wednesday, May 20


We packed up the camp, secured our newly acquired elk trophy on the back of my bike and headed out. On the road leading out of the campground we saw a little black bear on the side of the road. He ran away before we could snap a good photo. It must have been the same bear that was spotted around our campsite yesterday by the campground host while we were hiking. Upon returning from the hike, we noticed that our tent had been moved five feet, the helmet rolled from the bench onto the the ground and other belongings scattered around the site. Something seemed off. As we found out later from the campground host, it was the young black bear snooping around for food.


More elks sightings had followed.


We stopped at the Mammoth Hot Springs and walked to the Canary Springs, which looked out of this world apocalyptic and mystifying.

Dark and creepy,


colorful and texturized,


and massively beautiful.


We rode out the west entrance of the park into Idaho.


The scenery of flat farmland was surrounded by stunning mountain chains.


We drove into the Craters of the Moon National Park and Preserve located on the Snake River Plain in Idaho and did the 7 mile loop around the park, climbing a few weird looking volcano cones.


The park’s landscape was created over the last 15,000 years by lava eruptions and is filled with such features as cinder cones, spatter cones, and lava tubes. This is one of the best reserved flood basalt areas in the continental US. The Great Rift volcanic rift zone is over 60 miles wide with basalt lava deposits over 10,000 feet deep in some places.


It was not the most beautiful landscape, it seemed stark, isolated and lifeless, though some plants, birds and animals make it their home. However, it was nothing like I have ever seen before, definitely a unique place that deserves a visit.


We made it out of the park as the sun was setting and were rewarded with more beautiful scenery.


We ended the day in Ketchum, Idaho outside of Sun Valley.

Yellowstone: Bisons, Bears and a Half of an Elk’s Rack

Tuesday, May 19


Our plan for today was to ride around Yellowstone and find a campsite for our last night in the park. We had a cup of coffee on the deck of the lodge watching the farewell eruption of the Old Faithful geyser. It was a bright day, though we could spot the clouds approaching us from the west.


We planned on riding the central artery road loop that goes around the Yellowstone lake. We checked the road closures yesterday and were aware of one of the roads being closed but when we arrived to the intersection it turned out that both roads were closed due to flooding and we had to turn back around and go along the west side of the park. Not that it wasn’t spectacular.


We encountered groups of buffalo who were moving slowly along the side of the road, and sometimes crossing the road, completely oblivious to people and cars, creating traffic jams. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a buffalo so up close before.


They are huge and look intimidating from afar, but when you see them so close, they have the most serene, innocent and friendly faces. No wonder they were almost wiped out by the settlers, this pacifist bull won’t hurt a fly.


In addition to bisons we also saw elks, and even a little black bear who created quite an uproar on the road as people were trying to snap his photo with their big zoom cameras. All that he was concerned with though was finding some food to eat.


I was amazed at how huge Yellowstone Park is. It spans an area of 3,470 square miles or 2,219,789 acres and sits on the largest supervolcano on the continent. It took us a few hours to get the the Northwest corner of the park, where we grabbed a quick lunch and picked up some food and wood for camping.


We chose to camp at the Tower Waterfall. Yet again we got lucky and took the last available campsite. After setting up the camp we went for a hike into the valley. The trail crossed the river, but the bridge normally used by hikers was washed away. The only other option was to cross over one of the logs placed by the rangers. After some hesitation and overcoming the fear of crossing the rapid bubbling river below by balancing yourself on the long narrow log we made it onto the other side.


The valley looked like it had burnt pretty badly some years ago, but the young pine trees were coming up vigorously in place of the destroyed forest.


The cute marmots were everywhere and very vocal about letting us know we were intruding into their territory. You could hear their loud leisurely chattering which sounded different from when they tried to warn their buddies about approaching intruders.


The sun was setting so we turned back and Matt spotted an enormous elk horn in the trees. This thing was at least five times bigger than the one we found on the elk ranch in New Mexico. I wanted so bad to take it home as our trophy…

The rest of the story about what happened to the trophy is to be told in private. 🙂
After returning to the campsite and before going to bed we did a short hike up to the amphitheater and gazed at the night sky lying face up on the benches.

Grand Tetons, WY to Yellowstone, WY: The Old Faithful

Monday, May 18

We awoke to a beautiful morning on Jenny Lake. After breakfast we headed over to the lake and were greeted with complete stillness and incredible views. The water was a perfect mirror reflecting the morning sunlight and the snow capped peaks of the Tetons. Parts of the lake were covered in floating ice.


After packing up camp, we rode north towards Yellowstone. We stopped at another mirror lake for more pictures and rode into Yellowstone. I was a bit surprised to see how much snow was still on the ground. I knew we were there early in the season, but 6 feet snowbanks on the sides of the road were more than I was expecting. The small lakes were frozen solid, and even the giant Lake Yellowstone was covered in ice. We were fortunate, the Yellowstone was experiencing an unusual heat wave, with temperatures up to 80 degrees, so while the views were frosty we were quite comfortable.


After a nice ride in the park we arrived at our accommodations in the old Faithful Lodge. It’s a beautiful historic building made entirely of lumber. Every piece seems custom fit giving the building a very natural feel. As far as the hotel goes, it’s mostly an expensive Motel 6. The rooms are very basic and not in the same beautiful wood style as the main lodge. We were also there a week after opening so the young summer stuff were not quite settled into their new jobs.


We spent the afternoon and evening touring the hot springs and geysers around the lodge. Inna got to see the famous Old Faithful geyser a few times, and we even managed to perfectly time our arrival for an eruption of the Grand Geyser, the biggest predictable geyser in the world. It erupts every 8 or so hours up to 80 ft in the air.

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We ate a very forgettable dinner in the lodge’s dining room and had an early night.

Vernal, UT to Grand Tetons, WY: Big Sky Country

Sunday, May 17


After a bizarre free motel breakfast of muffins, terrible coffee, and giant Memorial Day cupcakes, we set out for the Tetons. We rode through the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, which I expected to be more red rocks like Utah but it was mostly brown and green. We rode along some high altitude, wide open grassy hilltops, which reminded me of a less spectacular version of our ride out of Caraz in Peru.


After reaching I-80 and passing through Rock Springs, where we stopped at IHOP for brunch (Inna could hardly contain her excitement for Danish pancakes), we headed north. The road itself was not very interesting, but the natural foreshadowing was. To our 2 o’clock, in the distance, loomed a long chain of snowcapped peaks. The air temperature was comfortable, but I got cold just looking at those frosty peaks. This continued for an hour and we never seemed to get any closer to that range.


The highway weaved through mountain valleys, following a river until it took us to the town of Jackson, WY. It looked like a fun town but we passed right through on our way to the Grand Teton National Park. We first stopped at the Gros Venture campground, but it was an ugly open space RV parking lot.


We headed over to Jenny Lake campgrounds, where we got the last spot! With the massive Tetons looming closely over us, we made a fire from collected branches and cooked dinner. We could tell we’ve made good progress riding north because the sun didn’t set until 9 pm. After dinner we walked over to Jenny Lake to watch the twilight glow fade behind the mountains.


We’re in bear country now, so the campsites are full of warnings and metal, bear proof food storage boxes. We were careful about putting everything away and it was an unusually quiet night. I didn’t hear a sound until the birds started chirping the next morning.


Moab, CO to Vernal, UT: Arches, Red Rocks, and More Arches

Saturday, May 16


It felt nice waking up in the middle of the red desert surrounded by cool rock formations. Matt said that all night he had been listening to the wild sounds of the desert. I wear ear plugs at night to escape Matt’s snoring, so missed all the spooky night desert chatter. Maybe for the better.


We packed up the camp and drove to the Arches National Park. It was my first time there. The park preserves over 2500 natural arches of all shapes and sizes as well as a variety of balanced rocks, fins and pinnacles that are millions of years old.


The park covers 76,000 acres and contains striking contrasts of red rock, blue skies, and green vegetation.


We made a short hike to see the delicate arch from the upper viewpoint which provided spectacular views of the arch and the surrounding rock formations.


Even the quaintly dressed lovebirds enjoyed the view.


We realized our limitations for hiking the many trails available in the park due to heat and gear constraints, but we managed a couple short walks to the numerous arches.


Mainly though I just enjoyed riding down the main park loop in awe of the surroundings. The scenery reminded me of the Parque Provincial Ischigualasto, also known as the Valle de a Luna (Moon Valley) and The Parque Nacional Talampaya that we visited in Northern Argentina. That was a tiny park that had restricted visitor access, in the US we have the whole states of Utah and Colorado that are like national parks. And the roads are nicely paved.


After Arches we drove on highways UT-128, I-70, CO-139, and US- 40 to get to a tiny town of Vernal, UT. CO-139 was surprisingly scenic with a nice climb and good views. Yet again, we were dumbfounded that a Super 8 in a one road town in the middle of the country’s boonies would cost $80/night. We tried another motel. The business savvy Chinese owners, who strangely also run a smoke shop out of one of the rooms, offered a good overnight option for $65+tax in the “just remodeled/under new management” motel. Nice find! That would be our stop for the night.

Mancos, CO to Moab, UT: Wild Wild West

Friday, May 15


After a quick breakfast, we packed up the camp and were on our way towards Durango. From Durango we rode on 550 through two spectacular passes surrounded by snow peaked mountains and dense forests.


We arrived in Silverton, an old mining town set in the middle of a valley. I love towns like this. The inhabitants did a good job preserving its endearing American west look and feel. We were just in time to see the narrow gauge rail steam train to take off.


We had a bite a cute restaurant located in the building that used to be a brothel. It was fascinating to learn that there were more than 40 brothels in this town of three streets during the golden (or silver?) days of Silverton.


Next door to the restaurant was a photo studio, located in the oldest brothel in town, which advertised “old tyme portraits.” We thought it was a good chance for us to dress up and have some fun.


We chose our outfits. I was a bordello girl and Matt Doc Holiday. I think we looked the part in the final photo. 🙂


We then asked the photog to take our photo on the bikes outside.


After the fun at Silverton we headed towards Ouray, which was also a cute town and worth stopping at, but we had to make up some miles so we pressed on west towards Moab, UT.


It was a beautiful ride going through alpine meadows, canyons and high desert on highways 62/145/90/46.


We arrived at Moab and were stunned to see that all the inns and motes had no vacancy. That was not a good sign for us as we planned on finding a camp site in the Arches National Park. It then downed on us that it was Friday night and the beginning of the travel season. Needless to say the campground at Arches was full and the ranger directed us to another campsite along the Colorado river. Nothing was open there either. We started to worry as it was getting late, but finally found a private campsite deep in the canyon land. We grabbed the last one that was available and to our surprise it even had wood for us to use.


Chama, NM to Mencos, Colorado: Mesa Verde

Thursday, May 14


We fixed ourselves a simple breakfast and leisurely packed the bikes. It was another perfect day so we knew we had good riding ahead.


Bill was out front doing chores while we packed. Once we were reasonably packed, I chatted with Bill as he did some leather work in his shop. Once Bill had had an accident shoeing a horse and had broken his pelvis. While he’d been unable to cowboy, he’d learned to work and repair leather, which eventually led to him having a saddle repair shop, Wild Bill’s Trading Post.
Check out his cowboy poetry.


Bill is just full of great stories. Inna noted that it sounded like he had a 100 different lives. We just loved his company. He’s the coolest cowboy you’ll ever meet. His life story is so fascinating that Inna and I want to write his biography. Someday we will make it back and do some horseback riding and make a proper stay at the ranch. I can’t recommend his services enough, and being a biker himself, his b & b ranch is biker friendly. It was a real pleasure and good luck for us to meet him.


Back on the road, we rode north through Pagosa Springs, where we stopped at a patio cafe for an outdoor brunch and to pick up yet more motor oil. The ride along Hwy 160 through Durango to Mesa Verde was nice but not spectacular.


We did a mostly riding tour of Mesa Verde. I had been there before but it was Inna’s first time to see the Anasazi cliff dwelling ruins. We toured one set of ruins, and then road the circuit of the park viewing the other cliff dwellings and villages. It’s an amazing place and we left wondering what it would be like to live tucked under cliff overhangs. The only downside for us had been the heat. It was quite warm in our riding gear and the sun was merciless. It’s difficult to do long hikes in the park for us – walking in full gear in the heat is very uncomfortable and having to secure the bags, jackets, helmets, etc every time we went for a hike was tiresome.


Since the campgrounds in Mesa Verde were not yet open for the season, we headed back to the town of Mencos to camp in the state park in the mountains overlooking the town. The campsite turned out to be along a man made lake with a view of the valley below. We’d been waiting to do some camping on this trip and we had a great evening cooking over the campfire before calling it a night. Finally, camping!