Beartooth Pass, Red Lodge, Montana

The Pilgrimage: Day 23

I hung out in Red Lodge for a little while, ended up talking to another guy who was also doing the “moto-vagabond thing” as he called it, but he has a giant brand new BMW 1200. It was a little funny to talk to him, because the biggest problem he’s had on his trip since leaving Indiana was getting ‘bogged down’ in some mud in the badlands. He had to wait for an hour for the mud to dry, and then got free. Yup. 

I left Red Lodge in the afternoon, just when the wind started to pick up. Just a note, Beartooth Highway was incredibly beautiful. I can’t properly explain the amount of times I wished with all my might that I could stop right there and paint for hours. The surrounds were magnificent and seemed to only get better. However, the high wind that picked up was very very stressful on that very narrow road. It didn’t help that there were mega motorhomes traversing in the opposite direction that thought it was a great idea to drive on top of the yellow line. The photo above is one of the only photos I stopped to take, because the bike was not liking all of this hill climbing business!  

I entered Yellowstone, and kept a wary eye on the dark clouds that had been taunting me all day. I wish I could spend a day or two in Cooke City, even though it was definitly a tourist town, it was one that appealed to my love of everything ‘Old West.’ 

I did get to see some bison, including a big bull that called the pavement a good resting spot for ten minutes. I was stopped a safe 100+ feet away, but we won’t talk about the idiots who tried to go around the giant in their car *smacks forehead*. 

Roosevelt's Arch, Gardiner, MT

I exited Yellowstone around 5pm and I had a very false impression that the storm was going to pass me. By the time I got to Carson Springs, the wind had picked up and made it almost impossible for me to go more than 50. Ten minutes later the rain came in buckets. Before I could even think about stopping to put rain gear on, I was soaked. My gear is normally pretty good at keeping the majority of the rain out, but it was no opponent for this storm. 

I was already mentally exhausted from fighting the wind going over Beartooth. My arms, legs and back were still sore as hell from dumping the bike and picking it up more times than I would have liked the day before. So. Being very cold and wet was not welcome. At all. 

I had initially planned to camp somewhere in the national forest near Jardine, but I totally missed the turn, and then I became focused on trying to outrun the storm. (Another side note, I destroyed four out of eight of my tent stakes while I was in Big Horn Canyon trying to get them to go into the hard ground. So, until I could find another store that has them, setting up my tent in a storm wasn’t an option.)

It rained off and on on me until around Emigrant. Miserable, I decided to try and find a campground with a shower, so that I might be able to dry out and warm up before attempting to sleep. (Another note, at the height of tourist season near Livingston and Bozeman, it is almost impossible to find anywhere to stay if you didn’t book ahead.) Every RV Park I stopped at was full. I drove into Livingston in hopes that there might be more RV Parks in town that may have a spot. Nope.

At this point it is 8:30, I’ve had more than a few of the attendants at the RV parks inform me that Bozeman is raining and there is going to be rain here soon too. Oh, thanks. I couldn’t tell by the big dark storm clouds.

I made an executive decision that not breaking my rules wasn’t worth getting sick, getting harassed by police for camping somewhere I wasn’t supposed to, or sacrificing the chance to feel a little better after a stressful day. So, I broke my no hotel rule for the second time after 23 days of the Pilgrimage and 46 days on the road in total.


It feels kind of crappy, however I wouldn’t go back and change it because of how much better I felt after having a shower, sleeping in a real bed, and not waking up five times during the night to adjust the blankets.

Thank you to my grandma, for making it possible for me to get a room in a ridiculously expensive town. 

PS. I have so many bruises on my legs, you’d think I was a kick boxer.

Castle Town, Montana

The Pilgrimage: Day 24

I left Livingston with much higher spirits. Never underestimate what a hot shower and a warm bed will do for you. I took frontage road towards Bozeman which led me straight to the Montana Grizzly Encounter. Where I watched two of their amazing bears play around in the enclosure. It was pretty incredible. Appreciating the size of these creatures is a little easier when there isn’t glass between you. 
I wish the weather had been a little better so I could have just sat around and drew those gorgeous animals. 

Montana Grizzle Encounter, Bozeman, MT

I had to find a sneaky way to get into Bozeman since frontage road ends there at the Grizzly place. I ended up finding one of the most awesome windy roads. Jackson Creek Rd. connects frontage rd to hwy 86, through farms and small houses. Just yes. 

I wandered around Bozeman for a minute before I finally discovered the location of the Museum of the RockiesWorth it. They had an awesome exhibit about life in the cities that surrounded Mount Vesuvius before it erupted. Plus, one of the more impressive collections of Dinosaur skeletons that I’ve witnessed in Montana. They have an adult Triceratops skull, and holy jeebus it’s ginormous. 

They also have a lovely Native American exhibit, and Life in Montana during the 1940s. 
I left Bozeman around 5p (when the museum closed hehe) and eyed the dark clouds coming my way. Stopped and put rain gear on just a few miles out of town on hwy 86 when it started to sprinkle. Good thing I did, because it absolutely poured on me for around a half hour, going through Gallatin National Forest, which would probably be a really fun road when it’s not wet.

Castle Town, Montana

It died down for a bit once I reached hwy 89 and headed north towards Castle Town. For the record, Lennep is literally two houses, a church, a community building, and what looks like two more abandoned buildings. 

The road going into the Castle Mountains is rough dirt, and the majority of the property on either side of the road is private. Including the land that Castle Town (or what remains of it) sits on. There’s a big sign stating that it is private property, and several signs from the land owner warning that trespassers will be shot etc. I took a moment to look at this unlikely town site, the two remaining buildings, and appreciate that at one point in history Calamity Jane owned a restaurant here. That’s pretty freaking cool. 

I continued on with the intention of camping in the National Forest on top of the Castle Mountains. As I tackled the forest service road, I started to realize that there wasn’t really anywhere I could logically camp and not get the bike stuck in the process. It was funner than hell though. Lazarus and I missed mountain roads like this. I could tell, because I was basically on an empty tank since leaving Castle Town, but she climbed and descended those mountains like she had a full tank. 

By the time I reached the other side of the range, where the developed campground is, it began to pour again. I spotted the break in the clouds to the West and opted to stay in White Sulphur Springs After doing 25+ miles on empty through the Castle Mountains. 

Despite everything being wet, my spirits are much better.

PS. My Bruises have begun changing colors. My legs are rainbows.