My shy wolf was nowhere to be seen as I rode north. But in its place campers and cars with early morning photographers had begun to spring up. The pronghorn herd was still there, and I spied a large bird of prey soaring above the road. I passed north by the west entrance without any traffic delays, but it was apparent that the park was waking up. A national park is not an area where its good to test the limits of space and time though so I kept to my usual pace.
Little did I know that I was about to have the longest 80 seconds of my life.
There was road construction on the grand loop through the park. I had slowed to a prudent pace through one construction area as the ground was hardpack, but slick with morning dew. Rounding a bend in the road I was confronted with a sight I was wholely unprepared for. In the middle of the road about 100 feet away was a buffalo. Not a wee baby buffalo. But a big adult buffalo, with a huge head and horns. I came to a dead stop quickly. In the oncoming lane, the ubiquitous rental RV was stopped waiting for the buffalo to move. For a few seconds, the RV and I were in a standoff with the buffalo between us. Behind the RV was the standard line of traffic.
A cowboy hat bedecked buffoon in a 1970s Ford pickup truck gunned his engine and moved out behind the RV charging the buffalo. The buffalo, spooked now, turned and charged straight at me. At this point, I was pretty sure that I was going to go down in history as the first Iron Butt Rally rider to be killed in the rally by an animal while stationary. I stood there on my bike awaiting my impending doom. Luckily the animal stopped moving as the Ford swung around on its right and roared by me. There is not much intelligence behind the eyes of a buffalo, but at least it didn’t appear to see me as a threat. Eventually the beast turned its head toward the side of the road away from me and, following the example of the moron in the Ford I gunned the engine and roared behind my certain doom.
As the miles increased my heart rate dropped to a sustainable level. I hoped that this would be the closest encounter with wildlife on this trip. Soon I was passing out the gates of the park and crossing a small bridge, headed south towards the park was my friend Gregg Lenentine! I tried to call him quick on the cell, but I lost the signal before I could get him. I was worried that he had not been able to get Old Faithful last night as he was headed towards the park entrance, and I couldn’t think of a good reason he would be going south at 6:17 in the morning.
US89 from Gardiner north to Livingston is a beautiful road the further you get from Livingston, sadly I was headed in the wrong direction, and the scenic river and canyon walls soon opened up into boring flatlands and the outskirts of Livingston. A few minutes after turning east on I-90 I managed to raise Gregg on the cell. He was heading south so that he could go get a receipt as he had spent his rest bonus on the front lawn of a hotel in Gardiner. Even if they had a room available he wouldn’t have paid the $250 a night they wanted. He had indeed managed to get the last eruption before darkness at Old Faithful, but it was late, and he had been unable to make it to Livingston before midnight to start his rest bonus. I can’t sleep on the ground like that, Greg is a harder man than me! He too was on his way to Little Big Horn and was 20 minutes behind me. We chatted for a few minutes and I wished him well on his way.
An hour or so later I was bored of cruising on I-90, and I started to call around to talk to other riders I knew. I managed to raise Eric Lipps. Eric had come to one of my how to tour on a motorcycle seminars and had ridden my Triumph to Sacramento for me when I need to swap out my Versys on the 2013 IBR. He was fairly new to rallying but was a force to be reckoned with. Eric was 30 minutes ahead of me and his ride was going like clockwork. We traded rider sightings and rally gossip for a few minutes and then wished each other well.
The miles clicked down and soon I was in need of fuel. it was early in the day and I didn’t look for ice cream so it was a quick fuel stop in Hardin Montana.
FUEL – Hardin Montana
273 Miles since Yellowstone Arrived: 10:21 Departed 10:30
A short jaunt later I was waiting in line to get into Little Big Horn. Stopping in the lot there was already a couple of riders there, but my memory escapes me as to who it was. We had to get a picture of the monument at the top of the hill, but it was windy out. I found a nice woman to hold my flag and was quickly mounting back on the bike. Before I could leave I say none other than Danny Dossman pulling in. He had picked a precarious parking spot on a left leaning hill and as he shifted his weight off the bike his front wheel lifted alarmingly off the ground and the bike rose up. Luckily he caught it before it tipped over. I jumped off my bike and helped him to a more advantageous parking spot. He explained that his fuel cell was mounted too high and when it was full his bike was too top heavy. He’d tipped it over yesterday and broken off the clutch lever. Danny had to wait in a dealership for a few hours yesterday while he waited for his turn to get it fixed. I wished him well and was soon on my way.
LIBI – Little Big Horn National Monument
15.9 Miles Since Fuel at Hardin Arrived 10:43 Departed 10:52