Planning a Trip to Beartooth and Chief Joseph Scenic Byway

BeartoothChief Joseph

Yes – that’s what I’m doing right now – planning!  Those two places are on my bucket list and I hope to check them off in July.  My son and daughter-in-law, two close friends and I will be headed to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho on July 23rd.  On the 24th we will attend a Bike Blessing and go on a ride with everyone who participates in the event. My husband did this last year, 1 week before he was killed, and it’s something I want to do to honor him and to see old friends who are also honoring him.

From there, we will head to Bozeman on the 25th. Then on July 26th, 1 year after my husband’s death, we will celebrate his life at the top of Beartooth. Then we’ll head down to Chief Joseph Scenic Byway on our way to Cody.  There are lots and lots of YouTube videos on both of these rides and they look to be wonderful.

Any trip like this takes a lot of planning ahead.  You need to know your route; distance between gas stations based on the capacity of the motorcycles in the group; and, reserve motels (unless you are camping).  I have an app on my iPhone called inRoute where you can map out each day of your trip. You can then share the trip with everyone in your group, provided they have an iPhone. I’m sure that Android has a similar app. When I’ve done long trips with others before, we have found it very helpful to use the app, and each morning before we take off, review the route with everyone in the group.  Determine who the leader will be that day and then make sure that everyone knows the towns you’ll go through, and the roads you’ll turn on. This is especially helpful when you are on two lane roads going through the countryside because sometimes you may have to make several turns to get to the next road you need to be on. It helps everyone to relax if they can anticipate the trip. Then, when you stop for lunch, go over the balance of the route again. That way, if the leader forgets, they can ask one of the other riders (if you have a communication system) where to turn or stop. Usually, one person remembers!

Of course, you also have to pack. For this trip I have to dress for warm and cold conditions. Since Beartooth pass is 10,947 feet in elevation, it’s not unusual to find that you’re very cold and there is still snow around you. Even though we’re going in July, it can still be cold. So, I will take my heated jacket liner. I can slip it on before we start the ascent and take it off at the bottom on the other side.  I’ll also take heavier gloves.  Always need to be prepared for rain and I usually have my rain jacket with me all the time, just in case.  I can cram it into a corner and it won’t take much space. Yes, I have heated gear. Here’s why. A trip to the Oregon coast in June where we all froze – literally shaking cold even after putting on everything we could get on. I vowed I would not take another trip without at least some heated gear. I have a heated jacket liner and heated glove liners. My chaps usually keep me reasonably warm (unless it’s raining). It doesn’t bother me as much to have cold legs as to have a cold torso and hands. That is just miserable – hence, the heated gear.

I’m learning to be pretty minimal on what I take. 2 pairs of jeans – 1 to wear and another to change in ton, then wash pair #1. At least 3-4 pairs of good socks.  Of course, you need the basics like underwear – take what you think you need. I take 2-3 shirts – 1 long sleeve and 2 short. I’ve learned the hard way to take less because I always buy something along the way. We make a point of stopping at every Harley Dealership along our route!  You need gloves, toiletry items, medicine (if you need it) and a First Aid Kit. Take at least 1 jacket – might need 2 depending on the weather – cold and mesh. I also take along another pair of shoes that don’t take up much room, like some Toms or something similar.  You’ll need something to change into when you get where you’re going, since you may want to shed those jeans for awhile.  I pack my toiletries in 2 zip lock bags. I do this for anything I take that might leak. Make sure your boots are in good condition and waterproof them or buy waterproof boot covers.

You’ll need a bag. How big it is depends on how many people are putting clothes in it and how many clothes they’re taking.  I have a Saddleman bag that I love. It holds everything, has outside pockets, a rain cover, and more. I can easily access the inside because the sides of the bag zip open. It also has a place for a water bottle. Believe me, after several hours in the heat, even warm water tastes good.  I usually bring along a small cooler with some ice, water. a couple of protein bars and some fruit if I have room.

Prep your bike. If you’re close to the time to get a service done, get it done. Check your tires. and, if your tread is low, get new ones rather than taking a chance on having to do this in another town where they might not have the tires you need!  Of course, check your oil and tire pressure and do your regular check of your bike. Make sure you have a small tool kit with you to tighten up whatever might become loose along the way. I always take zip ties – just in case. I also have tie downs and nets with me at all times. Take a window cleaner and some rags – the bugs are plentiful and, if you look through your windshield, you are really going to want to be able to clean it.

The people I ride with are all safe riders who are more interested in enjoying the trip than in speed. We want to see and appreciate the places we go so, we plan stops along the way or, randomly pull over if something gorgeous appears around the corner. Our goal is to have fun and relax. We stop often – usually every 100-125 miles or less, depending on the sites we’e trying to see. On this trip, we’ll stop a lot on Beartooth and Chief Joseph. We also recognize that it’s important to stay fresh and hydrated, so frequent stops help with that.

Check your helmet and your communication system to make sure everything is working. Don’t wait till the morning you’re leaving!  If your communication system isn’t working, you might want to know about that a couple of days beforehand so you can actually do something about it with having an angry group of riders before you even get started!!

This isn’t an intensive list of all the things you need to do, you can find those all over the internet including a list of what to take and how to pack it. I think you can see that, if you are planning a trip of more than 2 days, you need to start getting ready long before you’re ready to leave. It makes for a much more relaxing trip if you’re not getting lost, stopping to buy maps, taking 2 hours to figure out where you are and how to get back to where you should be!  However, U-turns are normal and acceptable. Make sure everyone is comfortable with turning around on a two lane road in the country.

Most of all – have fun! I can’t emphasize that enough. For the previous two years, I went on long bike vacations with my wonderful husband and I cannot tell you how much I treasure the memories of each day. Take LOTS of PICTURES!  Last year, my daughter-in-law took, literally, thousands of pictures over our 10 day trip. Now, I look back at them and treasure every single one because they bring back wonderful memories. Keep in mind that a trip isn’t something to conquer – it’s something meant to make beautiful memories and connect you even more closely to the people who are with you. Be blessed as you ride.

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