The 1911s do YFO

Yamaha FJR Motorcycle Forum

Help Support Yamaha FJR Motorcycle Forum:

This site may earn a commission from merchant affiliate links, including eBay, Amazon, and others.


Well-known member
Mar 27, 2008
Reaction score
Laurens SC
The 1911s do YFO, the trip that must have been meant to be.

I fretted a little about this report getting wordy and wandering to areas not directly related to a ride report, but then I concluded that this isn’t assigned reading and nobody is forced to follow, and that maybe the folks (lady-THANKS Tyler) that started this deal might get a kick out of how big a deal this was for us, so here you go:

About ten years ago I brought home a new to me FJR and have been saying “one day we’re going to ride this thing out west” pretty much every since. Mrs1911, upon seeing the FJR at first demanded that it be returned but before long I had to be sneaky to get out of the garage without her on the back. Within the past couple years though she seemed to lose interest in going anywhere on the back of the bike. In spring 2016 I decided that I was putting the tent on the back of the bike and going to Redlodge. I asked if she wanted to go. She said yes to my surprise. I put the trip out west off for another year. I couldn’t carry enough camping gear for two and the added expense of hotels and added time for shorter mileage days didn’t fit in the days off from work or the $ I was willing to spend at the time.

Later in 2016 my mother, who lives with us, had a little cardiac event ending with a couple stints installed. Mrs1911s father started talking about a hip replacement and Mrs1911s mother has a case of Alzheimer’s coming on. It occurred to me that for a gifted procrastinator such as myself, the window of freedom between raising our kids and being there for the folks that raised us might not be open much longer. When the 2017 vacation bid hit the top of my box the weeks around YFO were open and I pulled the trigger. The first time in my working life that I have planned two weeks or more together at one time. YFO is the motivation to finally do the trip! And we were both looking forward to it. Mrs1911 has only been west of the Mississippi twice. Once to visit my grandparents in Arkansas. Not the part of Arkansas that ANY tourist has intentionally visited, the soybean, rice and mosquito growing, HOT and humid part. And once we flew out to Phoenix for a couple days, work related, but saw little more than a few cacti close about Phoenix. I’ve crossed the country several times, but as a kid who didn’t appreciate it.

Let the prep begin.

The Craigslit Bushtec may have been the first sign that this thing may really happen. There was still a LOT of stuff that had to work out for us to take this trip. The spring had to be wet enough that there would be a decent stand of grass for the horses. We had to get somebody to take care of the ponies and look in on the place and mom. We had to figure out what to do with the dog. I didn’t get both syllables of kennel out of my piehole before the Mrs shot that down. Smokey is 68 lbs of muscle and energy, needs daily exercise, and is too much for mom to handle. There was camping gear to upgrade, farkles and maintenance for the bike. But there was plenty of time, says gifted procrastinator. And there should be a test run.

Mrs1911 has slept in a tent, lived out of a cooler for a few days, and been on long m/c rides. But not all at the same time, for a long time, with weather not known ahead of time. When we finally got to do our test run it couldn’t have worked out better. The ride up to Hungry Mother SP Va on Saturday started warm and sunny but ended in the upper 30s with wind and rain.

Saturday night was cold and wet. It was chilly when we crawled out Sunday morning but the sun was peeking out.



Her new heated jacked and rain suit, and the new mattress and sleeping bags worked just fine. Sunday was a beautiful ride around Jefferson National Forest.



Sunday night was cool but dry and the trip home Monday was pretty good too.



The none-to-gruntled Mrs1911 having chased me to the top of Roan Mtn in not-made-for-hiking-gear


YFO was ON. And now that I was sure we were going to do this it was time to finish a couple of the most expensive and time consuming items on the YFO prep list, that I hadn’t wanted to do if this thing wasn’t really going to. May 20-21 we take the dog to Orlando, to stay with my daughter and her dog Parker. Down there he’ll be well cared for, exercised, entertained, and have his social horizons broadened.Celebration, Florida's down town and eateries are dog friendly. Smoke would come home a few pounds heavier and an ice cream junkie.




And so YFO begins, Friday afternoon May 26, about 7 hours later than planned.

Day 1 Friday: Because the SS Immediate Procrastinator leaves port late the backroad routes to Land-Between-The-Lakes Ky are scuttled and we get on the slab. Asheville’s bumper-to-bumper misery is erased from our memory after hitting Knoxville at 5pm. We roll into Canal campground well after sunset and pitch the tent with flashlights in hand. The morning reveals nothing backwards or upsidedown.


Day 2 Saturday: We get up and look at the radar. We abort the planned breakfast at camp, pack up fast, and get on the road. We wait out storms in McDonalds.


After we dodge the morning storms the ride west across southern Missouri/northern Arkansas is a pleasant one, until we get to almost the night’s stop, Roaring River SP, then it’s time to dodge the evening storms, and these are the mean ones, with flash flood warnings for southwest Mo, not a good thing for a tent by a roaring river. At least we get to check out some of northwest Arks fine roads. We end up in Eureka Springs looking for a room. There are none. The town looks like bike week Daytona. The ES KOA is full too, but I explain our plight to the owner Mike. After we wait out storms in the game room we put up the tent in what he calls the dry storage area, about 1am. It was fine camping to us.

Day 3 Sunday: Across Oklahoma. Now we are seeing something not like home.


And burning more fuel than usual for some reason


Just before we get to the nights stop the scenery starts to get appealing, and Black Mesa SP is when I get excited about looking around. Bonus, we won’t need to use flashlights to set up tonight. And the sunset…..





Day 4 Monday: Kenton Ok having no fuel caused a minor reroute. We lost some country roads that I was looking forward to but in the end it shortened the time on bike for the day, which turned out to be a good thing, as this day would have the first “scare” of the trip. Just a little west of Trinidad Co we ran into a storm. I headed to a picnic shelter along the road near Trinidad Lake planning to take cover and put on the raingear. I could see the shelter from the main road but I didn’t see the admission $ booth until I’d snaked around the entrance road. I backtracked to the main road, but found no shelter. So we end up putting on the rain gear in the open, with rain, and then hail coming down. As Mrs1911 is trying to get her rainpants on over wet boots and riding pants, with nothing to lean on or sit on, she cries out in pain. She aggravated her sciatic nerve. Something that hasn’t bothered her for 10 years. Selfishly, one of the first things that comes to my mind, after we conclude that this isn’t (yet) a call 911 event, is “I’ve been expecting for months something to come along to tank this trip and here it is”. I help her finish with the rain gear and help her back on the bike and we get under way again. Of course, 3 minutes after we are under way again the rain stops. But by then we have rainsuits on over wet riding gear, and we are cold. We find a place to pull off and regroup. It must have been a comical sight for passers-by to see me trying to help my wife on and off the bike, in and out of her gear, as we get the heated jackets on. She eats a handful of Ibuprofen. Once under way again, the combination of the pills and the Gerbing on high has Mrs1911 declining my offer to sell the bike at the next town and buy plane tickets home. A few hours later though she says we need to stop, she feels “bad”. The tone of her voice is worse than the words. I scroll through a few screens on the Zumo and head to an intersection in Alamosa Co that gives us a choice between pulling into the hospital or Arby’s. She chooses Arby’s. We take a break and get something to eat. We conclude a handful of OTC painkillers on an empty stomach may not have been a good idea. In the excitement of stormdodging, don’t forget to eat. Mrs1911 soldiers on. Over the next couple days we work out a way for her to mount the bike before me, minimizing the leg lift and I give her a hand getting up from the bed and out of the tent. Once she’s standing up straight and moving around she’s ok. I worry that she is being such a trooper just to keep from ruining the trip for me, but over two weeks later, after it’s all said and done, she is into this trip as much as me.
We get a little taste of the Rockies and it is good!

US160,10,000 feet and climbing, about to drop down to Pagosa Springs. The drop down was spectacular, but as would happen many many times on this trip, there would be nowhere to pull off to take a pic right where we wanted to. Folks, you just got to see it for yourself!


La Veta, Co. Here I failed to purge a gravel shortcut from the route. The folks on the downtown La Veta backstreets sure were giving us some strange looks. My FJR and passanger are no stranger to unpaved roads and I sure wanted to take this. After mulling it over a little and considering with great weight the suggestions from the back seat I took a pic and backtracked.


Looking at the Spanish Peaks, from just south of La Veta


And from inside San Isabel National Forest


The day’s delays have us rolling into camp again well after dark. The camp reservation at Mesa Verde NP isn’t site specific. It’s a little bit of an adventure trying to find an empty site but at least we are getting good at setting up in the dark. To cap off the day just right, during the search to find a spot I knock my new RF1200 off the seat. It lands forehead squarely on a sharp rock and rolls around a while, trashing the visor. It’s a cool, dry night and we sleep well. It’s always interesting to get up in the morning and look around to see what we’ve occupied in the middle of the night





The hot shower in the morning helps Mrs1911s back. The pictogram on the shower wall disturbs us both.


We do a load of laundry. The breakfast served up and the café is good and fairly priced.

Stay tuned folks. There is twenty days worth of this and it is just starting to get good.

Day 5 Tuesday

My mother’s brother, and last of six siblings still with us, lives in Casa Grande Az. I haven’t seen him in person since 1999. This is a man I can relate to. He’s a mechanic that likes guns and motorcycles. I’m a mechanic that likes guns and motorcycles. He takes credit for my love of motorcycles, having given me my first ride. Mom’s got a picture of a fourish year old 1911 (50 now-you do the math) sitting on the tank of a Kawasaki 2 stroke triple that Uncle Tad has taken me for a spin around the block on. The pic was taken in Arkansas. He’s ridden the 2x3 from Arizona, sleeping under picnic tables with his feet between the tires, so he’ll know if anybody tries to mess with his bike. He must think us ATGATT, air mattress toting Iron Butt wannabe types are a bunch of pansies.

When I’m fairly confident this trip is going to happen I tell him that I’m going to come down to Casa Grande and harass him a little. He says it’s “supposed to be 107 in Casa Grande, let’s meet in Heber, it’s cooler”. And so off to visit Uncle Tad we go.

Coming down from Mesa Verde


And we can’t pass by this close to Four Corners without a picture.


Rolling up to the ticket booth at 4 corners is a little bit of a shock. I didn’t know that it was a reservation operation. The entrance isn’t much to look at. Like a pay booth to get into a flea market. Mrs1911 is leery of paying 10 bucks to get into this attraction. But I insist. Thankfully once inside things look better. Still, it’s hot and she’s not enjoying waiting in line “just to get some stupid picture taken”, but I insist some more. It’s not too crowded but we still have to wait a little for a gaggle of kids, from what appears to be about three families combined, to get their pics taken, in various poses and arrangements on the corner. Watching them makes think of what it would have been like to bring my kids and their 5 cousins on a trip like this. Waiting in line, the “more than one timezone away from home” effect kicks in. It has been in full force for a while now. You all know it. Somebody sees your tag from far away, or sees your helmet/gear and asks you where you’re from. And then you get the “you RODE all the way from….on that…..?” I don’t know the exact formula, but being a couple increases the effect. It’s to Mrs1911 that all the initial conversation seems to be directed, go figure. And pulling a trailer increases the effect again. That’s where all the interest in talking to me comes from, just the people curious about the trailer’s effect on handling, or speed, or mileage, or whatever. Mrs1911 seems to be enjoying the attention and making friends, whether it’s standing in line in UtNMAzCo, at the gas pump, rest area or wherever. We eventually get the picture I want and by this point in the trip we’ve eaten enough stuff out of the trailer that we might be able to squeeze in a few trinkets, so she goes to look around while I go out to get a few more pics around 4 corners.






When we met up again she’s on her second go around. I join her. This is our first substantial encounter with the Native American community and I can’t get over their friendliness and cheerfulness. Later in the day, and in the trip, we’d spend quite a bit of time riding through reservations that didn’t have a tourist draw. And it made the friendliness of these people even more appreciated. I wish I had spent a little money at every booth back Four Corners.

Back on the road we luck out big. All the way down we watch storms on both sides of us. Mrs1911 has me figured out now and can tell when I start looking for some place to get pics of Canyon de Chelly. She reminds me that I gave Uncle Tad an ETA and that tomorrow we’d be at the GRAND freakin canyon. We mosey on. We never hit a drop of rain but the crosswind between Burnside and Holbrook is brutal.





Canyon Point campground between Payson and Heber, at 7000 feet, turns out to be one of my favorite campgrounds. Spending Tuesday evening/Wednesday morning with Uncle Tad, Aunt Francis and three of their grandkids is one of the highest highpoints of trip for me. Long conversations don’t come natural to me but before we’re done Mrs1911 is fussing at me about getting to the Grand Canyon before dark and the camp rangers are passing by on their golf cart reminding us that checkout time is getting near.



UT has been doing this camping stuff for a while, the Coleman attests.


Day 6 Wednesday Canyon Point to Grand Canyon.

I come to realize that it must be an inside joke among Arizonans to tell outsiders that it never rains in Az. EVERY time I’ve been there it has rained. There’s no riding between the storms this time, and there is a lesson well learned. As the first few raindrops hit us right outside Happy Jack we pull into a gas station where the area under cover is crowded with Vtwins. One of the V riders points us to an empty spot under the fuel island roof. We nod thanks and don our raingear with amazing grace and efficiency. By now the rain gear is at the rear of the trailer, in color coded ditty sacks, to be accessed without a panicked rummaging search. I’m thinking the looks we get from the V riders as we pull right back out on the road are in awe of our dedication to the sport of sporttouring. But it might be that they’ve just come from where we are headed and they are in awe of our foolishness. As we turn toward Mormon Lake we run through rain and a little hale but no big deal. The second “scare” of the trip, and the lesson, is that riding where it previously hailed could be way more dangerous than riding where it is hailing. We have cleared the worst of the storm and are just cruising through a little drizzle, picking up speed. We crest a small rise and suddenly the FJR is squirming around and plowing through an inch or so of hail accumulated on the road. Luckily the road is straight, level and free of traffic. I roll off the gas and let the rig sort of go where it wants to. Now, in addition to never forgetting my shower shoes again I’ll be wary of where storms have been as well as where they are.

We get to Grand Canyon at a decent hour. It is Grand. Words and pics are insufficient. We hit the Yavapai Lodge Restaurant right before they switch from lunch to dinner. The food is good and fairly priced. The campsites are huge and level. Wow!












Day 7 Thursday: The visit with my uncle means that we’ll try Grand Canyon to YFO in one day. Well worth it to me. Mrs1911 keeps it to herself if it’s not to her. I’m expecting a boring and painful mad dash on slab to get there but still find myself stopping for pics along the way. Locals must laugh at the hicks from SC that take pictures at rest areas. I don’t recall ever stopping at a rest area here on the east coast and being impressed by the scenery or by the rest area itself. They really got a kick out of me stopping to take pics of whatever the hell this was, out on the Joshua Tree Highway. We came over a hill and thought we were about to meet a UFO.

Laughlin Nv



Standing in the middle of Joshua tree Hwy looking one direction


And the other





As it turns out:

It sure was good to roll into Mariposa, not too terribly late. Would have been a little earlier without a trailer. I’ll call this a “concern” rather than a scare. When we hit the California interstate/highway system I thought it was cool that “trucks over three axles” got a 55mph limit and I got a 70mph limit. For a while the “trucks over three axles” signs were followed by “autos pulling trailers 55mph”. I was motoring along in the fast lane with the rest of the traffic enjoying the fact that all that slow moving stuff wasn’t clogging the passing lane. I stopped reading the signs closely. A little while later Pillion says over the intercom "you know you are in a 55 zone don't you". I say "we're not a 3 axle truck or an auto". And she points out that the signs now say “all vehicles towing trailers 55mph”. And she points out the radar cameras. I slow down, painfully. We get to the Lodge and meet a few new faces and a few old. It’s been a long day. Our plan is to get a shower, grab a drink and then hang out in the parking lot as everybody rolls in. I shower first. The real bed looks good. I’m just going to lay down here for a minute while Maralee gets her shower. When I wake up we go to breakfast.

Day 8 Friday: Yosemite!!!

There might be some pictures out there that do Yosemite justice. I’ve haven’t seen them, and certainly haven’t taken them. But you can’t do a rr about Yosemite without them, can you.

















And then Ice cream (I found a shop a just down from the lodge that serves hand-dipped chocolate chip), and then dinner with Castle and SenecaHome, and then hanging out in the parking lot.

WOW what a day!

Day 9 Saturday: In the morning we run over to Merced to get a new visor. It’s today that I’m certain that Mrs1911’s back is ok, when she’s in on this ride rather than relaxing at the lodge, which she had considered as an option yesterday and today. I enjoy the roads and scenery around Hornitos, La Grange, Coulterville, Lake McCLure, and the run down 49.






When we turn toward Yosemite the sign says “parking lots full expect three hour delays”. I should have planned better. I don’t want to miss dinner. We get ice cream cones and explore a little around town.



It is still a great day, relaxed. The parking lot banquet
. And I score big in the raffle

What a great choice Mariposa was. Great lodging. I love all the old buildings. Everything we needed was in walking distance. Including handdipped chocolate chip ice cream and hardware. It was a well stocked hardware store too. I went in to get stuff to try to fix Mrs1911’s headset and again to get a few camping supplies . A broken wire caused me to not be able to hear her. She could still her me and Zumo. The break was too close to the plug and unfixable. Exskibum generously offered up replacement parts but the geography and time didn’t work out. We finished out the trip with a sort of tap code.

Day 10 Sunday:

I can’t believe how quickly and easily we cruise through San Francisco. Almost a little too quick. I contemplate turning off the route to maybe get lost and explore a little, but we do want to get to Manchester before sunset. And we have a time or two on this trip ended up rolling into camp WAY AFTER sunset. Better safe than sorry.




I’m also stunned that just a few minutes after crossing the Golden Gate Bridge we are back out where livestock grazes right up to the sea and trees line the road.




And that a jetliner messed with my sunset picture on Manchester Beach, which was spectacular in its isolation.







And how good the sun felt Monday morning.



Last edited by a moderator:
Day 11: Manchester Beach to Chiloquin Oregon-Spectacular coastline and big ole trees.

Running up the coast on Highways 1 and 101 is everything I hoped it would be, but there were quite a few short stops for construction. I sure do like this lanesplitting/filtering stuff, when I’ve got the nerve to take advantage of it.



We ate at a drivethrough and cruised through the Avenue of Giants.









When we turned east at Orick we found the pavement of Bald Hills road so rough that we turned around and tried to find another way over to Hornbrook. That’s when we realize what a wilderness, and probably dual sport heaven, northern California is. We end up continuing up the coast to Crescent City and using Hwy199 to head east for the first time in 11 days. Talk about good misfortune. I don’t see the size of the Avenue of Giants in the trees on 199 but the beauty of the Redwood forest just goes on and on. There should be pics, but by this time we have lollygagged among trees, rerouted and waited at construction stops enough that we are running late again. We pitch the tent by flashlight once again at Collier State Park, just a little north of Chiloquin Or. In the morning we emerge to see what we’ve occupied in the dark, which is apparently the mosquito capital of Oregon. These things give the Arkansas rice paddy mosquitos around my grandparents place a run for their money. At least they are too big to sneak up on you. There is a notice on the bulletin board that says in three days they will be spraying for mosquitos, so they must be unusually bad for some reason. Collier has a logging museum on site that we take a quick look at before leaving.


Day 11: Chiloquin Oregon to Nachez Washington-Subconscious Realization

Oregon and Washington mean rainsuits and lush forests, right? Not this Oregon and Washington.

I route this day up US97/US197 because it looked like a good compromise between the unpleasantness of the interstate and slow travel time of more interesting backroads. I had no idea what I was getting into. And the lack of expectation may be why I was so blown away by this day’s ride.

We stop just north of La Pine Or for lunch with Broken Top, Bachelor and a couple Sisters.


Then we spend quite a few miles chasing Hood, trying not to run off the road due to all the gawking at scenery.







As we parallel the Deschutes River the scenery is breathtaking. I’ve never had too much of an urge to go kayaking/rafting but a float down the Deschutes is now on my bucket list. Funny, we take a bucket list trip and our bucket list just gets longer. As 197 descends into Maupin Or we get into sweepers and images like Virginia 16 on steroids.




It’s somewhere near Maupin that I subconsciously settle with absolute clarity upon the answer to a question yet to be asked. Later on, as friends, family, strangers at rest areas and gas stations hear of where we’ve been they ask what our favorite thing about the trip was. I should have to think. It should be difficult to decide which moment or scene at which spectacular famous attraction most stands out. The first time I’m asked this question though, it takes a millisecond to answer-THE BEAUTY CRASHES-the ride into unexpected beauty. The big attractions are awesome. They must be seen in person and each is worth its own vacation. They are worth the reservations, the admission fees, the waiting in traffic and lines. We expect them to be awesome. But my favorite moments occur on the seat of the bike as we round a curve or top a hill and slam into a surprise scene of amazing beauty. It could be many things. A straight road to the end of the horizon with nothing man made on either side. The first glimpse of snow capped peaks. Coming down from on high at looking at an entire town from one end to the other. Running alongside a river. A piece of wide open rangeland dotted with livestock, antelope and horses (there are some FINE looking horses out here) is a beautiful sight to us. Maybe there is a genetic defect at work here. One that allows a person to stand, looking at one of the most amazing sights a person can behold, and wonder what’s on the other side, just over that ridge, just around the next bend.

We get a taste of the Columbia River and and a steak in Union Gap before we set up for the night on the Naches River, just a little northwest of Naches.







The owner of Elk Ridge Campground (sorry I don’t recall his name) takes pity on the fire that we’ve built from the leftovers of the neighboring firepits and what we’ve picked up off the ground. My wallet can’t stand to see 10-20 bucks worth of campground store firewood go up in smoke EVERY night. He brings over a complementary load and throws it on the pile. We chat. I pick his brain about local roads and points of interest. He goes on at length about local agriculture, wine making and beer brewing. If you are a camping wine or beer aficionado this place may be the place for you.


There wasn’t a bad campground experience the whole trip. How were trips like this planned before the web and online reviews? We stayed at places run by the feds and the states and those privately owned. As far service and effort toward customer satisfaction goes the private places with the owners on site ranked highest.

I stay up past bedtime hoping that the moon will rise high enough over that ridge to light up the river valley. It doesn’t.


It tries to hind behind a tree.


Find me a better white noise for sleeping than a river or creek.

Day 13

Naches to Glacier NP

There will be a lot of interstate today. Out here though the slab doesn’t suck near as bad as at home. The scenery is nice and the traffic light. Especially the heavy truck traffic. The speed limits are reasonable. The drivers are better. Some of my favorite signage out west, especially on the two lane roads, read “ILLEAGAL TO HOLD UP 5 CARS OR MORE SLOWER TRAFFIC USE PULLOUTS”, “$1000 FINE FOR LITTERING”, “FINES UP TO $6250 FOR LITTERING”. It may seem odd to some for a traveler to take note of the littering signs but around my home county and many of the places I like to ride, the litter ruins the scenery. It makes me think of Iron Eyes Cody.

Day 14 Glacier to Livingston Montana

We depart Glacier NP heading east across the bottom of the park, then we head south, keeping the Rockies on our right and plains on our left.

Browning, in one of those see the whole town moments


And to your right.....


Had to get a picture of the weather over the hills west of Choteau. You should have seen it in color (sorry Jamie Johnson).


Down to Wolf Creek from Augusta. Do the folks that live out here ever get bored of travel to views such as these?


Lunch in Dupuyer. If I tell you this is the last corny rest area lunch stop pic of the report I’d be lyin’. The whole time we’re here only two other vehicles roll through.



The minivan ignores us but the m/c rider sees or tag and comes right over. He seems a little surprised at how far we’ve ridden on “that’s not exactly a touring bike”. He’s a retiree from Virginia, near Roanoke. He’s bought a summer house here in Montana. I’m jealous. Mrs1911 is amused by the two of us standing her in Montana talking about riding in the Carolinas and Virginias.

We get to Livingston KOA a little cold. There was about a 60 mile stretch of I-90 near the end of this days ride. It was cool enough that we could have stopped to add a layer or plug in, but when the barn’s almost in sight……We crank up the tstat in the cabin and stand in front of the “fireplace”. We’ve reserved a cabin for tonight. About every fourth or fifth night we’ve arranged to sleep indoors, trading tent pitching for doing laundry and pondering why all the old arcade games seem to end up in KOAs.




This place is NICE

Day 15 Friday and Day 16 Saturday- Yellowstone!

KOA Livingston is right outside Yellowstone. The original plan was to do a load of laundry and then head into Yellowstone. Friday breaks sunny but quickly clouds up. One thing I like and have really looked forward to is being able to watch weather in the wide open western skies, so the clouds dont bother me at all. Its a little chilly though and a sprinkle of rain blows through occasionally. Weve got a tent site in Grant Village Campground reserved for Friday and Saturday nights. Grant Village is on the western shore of Yellowstone Lake at 7000+ feet. From the comfort of our cabin I keep checking the weather forecast for Yellowstone Lake- scattered showers, lows in the 30s, 20-30mph winds. I ask the desk if our cabin is available for the next two nights, kind of hoping that it isnt $$$$. The clerk says yes, the plastic comes out. When I call to cancel the campground reservations Im surprised that the vendor says they will refund my fee. I second guess my decision for the next couple days. Wimping out means seeing a little less of Yellowstone. Two things make me think we made the right call though. The temp at Yellowstone Lake Sunday morning is 28, without the windchill. When we get home we find in our email, from the park service: "Our records indicate that you're scheduled to stay at the Grant Campground within the next week. We wanted to advise you that due to the exceptionally heavy snow fall this winter, and the 7,800 foot altitude of the campground, we're still working hard to clear snow from much of the campground. Warmer temperatures should help us with this process, but there remains a possibility that many sites will still have snow while you're here (see campsite images below).We ask you to be prepared for cooler temperatures and snow in and around the campsites. Some tenting guests may need to set up on top of the snow. Lingering snow in RV-compatible sites might make for a tighter fit for the RV itself.Please be advised that there is very limited availability at the other Xanterra-operated campgrounds in Yellowstone. While we don't want to discourage you from coming, if you chose to cancel your Grant Campground reservation due to this snow situation, we will gladly waive the cancellation fee and fully refund the Grant Campground portion of your reservation." Two extra nights in the cabin-priceless.

So Friday morning we head into Yellowstone, from the north entrance, and head down the western side of the Grand loop. Once again words and pics are insufficient.




The traffic is a little heavy and progress slow, as expected, and not a big deal because we are sightseeing too. Let so much as a ground squirrel pop up and everybody has to stop to take a picture. Its not as bad as some friends and family have reported though. We get to Old Faithful at the end of an eruption, so we go to the store to kill 90 minutes. We grab a bite to eat and watch some docu/info stuff on the TV, including video intended to discourage dummies from approaching wild animals. Stuff like elk destroying cars and bison goring and tossing people around like rag dolls. Remember that bison part, well need it later. We catch Old Faithful and a little more scenery and then exit through the west entrance





Even outside the park I stop to capture the views and weather.


Right up to the road into the KOA.


Saturday we head back into Yellowstone, almost with a little dread, expecting the crowds and traffic to be even worse. One of the Rangers working traffic at admission asks if we have our pass already and we show it with enthusiasm. She tells us to bypass the rest of the traffic on the shoulder and move to the front of the line
When we finally get over to the east side of the Grand Loop there is hardly ANY traffic. Our progress is exactly what WE decide it will be, with plenty of photo stops.









I cant believe it when we catch a horseback tour heading out among the bison and the whole picture taking traffic jam is exactly one FJR long.




We stop for lunch at a pullout that isn't too crowded. We eat and walk around a little, ending up on the northern end of what a little farther south is called The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.




This focus point of video clip passes right over some wildlife.



And this fellow has a bunch of people (not me of course) thinking they are capturing eagle antics.




Its getting a little late and I want to see Yellowstone Lake. I ask some visitors that have come the opposite way about directions, distance, time. They tell us to go across Dunraven Pass



where we catch a few flakes of snow in the air

and turn left at the fourth buffalo.


Yellowstone Lake-WOW.




If you concentrate hard enough on the chop on the water and the clouds over the mountains, you can almost feel how glad I am that we are sleeping indoors tonight.


Its getting late enough that Mrs1911 reminds me that if I dont quit stopping to take pics of mountains and blowing snow


were going to be out way past dark.

So I put the cameras up and we head to the exit. We are in back to the barn mode when the last big scare of the trip happens. We notice the oncoming cars flashing their headlights at us then we come to a stop in a curve behind a camper. When the camper ahead of us pulls off we are face to face with a group of bison and recalling the goring/tossing video from the day before. They are walking toward us four abreast in the oncoming lane just like it is the most natural thing in the world to them. Closest to the center line is an adult. Next to the nearest adult is a calf and next to the calf two more adults. I want to dig out a camera but there is no way Im taking my hand off the clutch and throttle. The centerliner passes by so close that I could reach out and poke him in the eye. I see nothing in that big black eye that indicates fear, excitement or any real interest at all in us. That the GoPro battery is dead and the cameras are put away is one of the three moments of great sorrow on this trip. The other two are when the last of Mrs1911s homemade brownies is eaten and when Bottle Rockets I Love my Dog plays on the radio. We do miss our dog so.

We get back to the cabin shortly before dark having enjoyed immensely a day that started out with a little reservation, and getting a few more weather pics outside the park.




Day 17 Livingston Mt to Custer SD

Changing our lodging arrangements at Yellowstone means we’ll miss some stuff that I had wanted to see on the way out of the park, like Beartooth Highway. Mrs1911, being the trooper that she is, disguises as relief and joy her disappointment at missing out on some more altitude bouncing, sheer drop-off just over the white line, winding mountain roads. But there’s usually a trade-off.

I didn’t know we’d be passing right by Big Timber Mt. And it’s driving me crazy trying to figure out why the sign for Big Timber is significant to me. Just before we pass the offramp for Big Timber it comes to me. I veer off and we wander around looking for something .45-70ish. Big Timber is a little town but my blind search is fruitless so I pull over to see if Google can help. The network here is slow. While I’m waiting on Google I find myself thinking about the folding paper and available plastic that are riding along with us in case of emergency, and what can be jettisoned from the trailer. Before Google comes up with anything I shut it down, take a picture and head back to the slab.


What’s in Big Timber to test a man’s self control so?

The more northerly route and extra time mean we can stop at Little Big Horn.








Mrs1911 is particularly interested in the horse cemetery and tells me all about Comanche, the lone US Calvary mount to survive




A ranger delivers, quite artistically, a monologue/interpretation about the battle and circumstances leading up to it.


We have arrived at Little Big Horn about lunch time. Conspicuous in its absence at a National Park is food service. If there is a bottle of water for sale I missed it. It takes a while to dawn on me that this is a cemetery and that maybe that has something to do with the subdued retail environment. In addition to the people that died in the Battle of Little Big Horn, Custer National Cemetery rests finally veterans from all US conflicts up to Vietnam.



You can’t always choose your neighbors. We set up at our campsite in Custer SP.


We are right next to several families sharing a spot. And there is quite a collection of youngsters among them. Kids in the 5-10 year old range, with toy walkie-talkies and cell phones, are running amok and generally having a big ole noisy time, exactly as a bunch of kids should be doing. Kids doing what kids do doesn’t make for the restful evening that a couple weary travelers are looking forward to. We run into the town of Custer and eat a pizza. It’s pretty good, or we’re really hungry. When we get back the kids haven’t slowed down at all. Mrs1911 predicts an unpleasant evening. I tell her not to panic. 10pm is quite time as posted in the campground rules. If things haven’t calmed down by then I’ll go over and ask for a little consideration. I don’t think I’ll have to. These kids have been running through the campground and fresh air all afternoon. I’m betting that as soon as somebody makes them sit still for more than a minute or two, they’ll be out cold. Sure enough a little after sunset one of the adults next door is ready for a little relief from the racket and wrangles in the flock of hellions. In no time they are out like light bulbs and so are we.

Day 18 Custer SD to ?

We notice somebody looking over our shoulders Monday morning as we eat a decent reasonably priced breakfast. We go out to investigate.




We meet the last surviving Rushmore driller. 97 years old. We listen to a few stories.


We are a looooong way from Wall South Dakota when we start seeing signs promoting Wall Drugs. As we leave Rushmore we are getting into the “ready to be home” state of mind. There aren’t any major attractions left on our route. Just an asterisk on the route a little past Wall, because it’s hardly out of the way. We pass the exit for Wall Drug. I’m not interested in any more gimicky tourist trap kind of stuff. At the next exit we pull off for fuel and ice. We stop at the info center for Badlands National Park to see if this little detour off the slab looks worthwhile. Wouldn’t you know it, Mrs1911 sees Wall Drug on the next block. We’ve come in the back door. She says “I’ve been reading Wall Drug signs for two days and we’re going to check it out”. Well, if you have any fondness at all for a good ole American tourist trap, or taxidermy, you’ve got to see this place. There’s a whole main street/shopping mall/circus atmosphere surrounding it. And you can get anything you want there, except a bag of ice.





We spend a little time in Wall Drug. We spend a LOT of time in The Badlands. The Badlands being an afterthought kills any notion I have that I am a master trip planner.











And the last corny rest stop lunch pic, no lie.


Our planned stop for the night is Waubonsie SP Iowa. At Rushmore I asked a family from Iowa how to pronounce Waubonsie but they didn’t know. I still don’t know. We’ve done more sightseeing today than planned. At 11pm we are still an hour from camp. It’s a warm, muggy and buggy night. We recalculate and Super8 for tonight. Blair Nebraska.

Day 19 Blair Nebraska to Lexington Kentucky

This was already a long day as planned. And now we add to it the 70 miles or so that we stopped short yesterday. Traffic and weather favor us. Des Moines, Ottumwa, Quincy, Springfield and Champaign fly by. There are afternoon thunderstorms around, but we enjoy their power from afar. We turn south at Indy about dusk. The sunset to our right is a beaut. The fireflies come out in abundance. It’s odd that we’ve never ridden through lightning bugs before, we’ve got them at home. Smashing fireflies with your windshield and visor is something everybody should try at least once. And should my headlights go out you could still see me coming thanks to natures hi-vis jacket coating. Louisville is pretty at night. I’d like to see it in the day. We pitch the tent at Kentucky Horse Park’s primitive (cheap) campground and finish off the ham and cheese tortillas about 1am.

Day 20 Home sweet Home

We wake up to bright sunshine, heavy dew, and HUMIDITY. I want to go back to Montana. At least the campground isn’t too crowded.


We visit with Secretariat and Man-O-War before packing up to head home.



Heading south we can see tstorms straight ahead. But we are going to turn east at Corbin. It’s too warm for rain gear without the rain. The race is on. I think we can get to our eastbound turn before the rain does. Or at least get to our exit and cover before the rain. And we might have done it too if not for the goofy Ky drivers that slam on their brakes and turn on their flashers, on the interstate, at the first sign of a moderate downpour. We end up with raingear on over soggy clothes again but at least it’s not cold.

When we stop for fuel in Jonesville Va we have broken out of the clouds for good. The c-store that we stop at has tables and chairs off to the side. They are made of black steel mesh and there is no shade. It’s like they set this up as the perfect place to take a break and dry gear just before you ride one of the best m/c roads around. We do, we do and we do. Hwy 70 through Blackwater Va is one of my favorite roads. I’m reminded how lucky I am to live where we live, despite humidity. After 20 blissful days lapping 2/3rds of the US I find myself inwardly grinning as the last couple of hours riding into home have roads like Va70 and NC208/212.

Home is ok. WOW, what a ride. I remember to zero trip 2 before we left and manage to not accidently reset it at gas stops. Something which I can’t always do on a short trip.


There is still one little YFO related thing to do. We get home Wednesday night but it doesn’t feel fully like home. I work Thursday and Friday. Saturday we go back down to Orlando to get the dog. We take the hounds out to eat in Celebration one more time.


When we get home Sunday night with Smokey, then we are HOME and it is GOOD.


Random closing thoughts:

20 days on the road and…….

…… only the first day, with heavy, three day weekend interstate traffic, from home to western Kentucky would be a chore. And if we’d left on time we might have enjoyed day one. The ride from Grand Canyon to Mariposa was a long day with a lot of slab, but what we’ll remember of that day will be Joshua Tree Highway. All the rest was adventure, new to us and wonderous.

…….the grand aggregate of time spent in traffic jams due to accidents or construction wouldn’t come to two hours. Only one significant detour for fuel. Nothing in Basecamp, Zumo or the phone said that Kenton Oklahoma had fuel, but I had to try. Zumo never let me down

…..unplanned expenses: A night’s camp fee at KOA Eureka Springs Arkansas, hiding from the storms in southwestern Missouri; two extra nights in the cabin at KOA Livingston, hiding from snow and wind; a night’s board at Super 8 in Blair Nebraska, just cuz we were tired; and a new visor for my helmet’s tumbleweed impersonation.

We dodged a few storms and rode through a few, but never spent more than about twenty minutes at one time in rain. The highest temp on the FJR dash was 97, and that was only for a little while, through Bullhead City, on the Arizona/Nevada border.

The only mechanical glitch was Mrs1911’s intercom crapping out (she could hear me but I couldn’t hear her- I know some would not call that a negative but I will, and not just because she might read this).

The only scare close to messing with this ride was Mrs1911’s back acting up but that worked itself out after a few days.

Considering all that luck, how can a person NOT conclude that this was a trip meant to be?


I think understand addiction a little better now. After months of preparation, anticipation, and panicked preparation leading up to it, and three solid weeks of adventure and surprise, getting back to the the same old grind is just so….damned…… BLAH.

Food porn/meal plan


This was no ride to eat. Our plan was to eat breakfast at camp, usually oatmeal and a bagel or muffin, a little fruit, and coffee. Lunch was to be light and quick on the road too, and then we’d get a nice dinner before each night’s camp. We usually take sandwiches along on a trip. By the time we were done packing space was tight-I had to bump my sweat shirt. Swapping loaf bread for tortillas was a stroke of genius. They pack much smaller. On a few nights it was ham and provolone tortillas for supper too. But for supper we’d heat them up and wash them down with a cold adult beverage, so it didn’t seem like we were eating the same meal twice. We both loved this meal plan. It gave us options. It was nice not having to find a restaurant a couple times a day. Just find a nice spot to pull off and roll up a couple. If we did happen on a good looking prospect while hungry we’d take advantage of it. But never having to go looking for food was nice. Too, it made Tyler’s banquet that much better.

Since my son-in-law moved to Orlando to work for The Rat, and took my daughter with him, we’ve spent a lot of time in and around the big theme parks. I guess I’ve come to expect getting gouged in the wallet for a meal at an attraction. It was a pleasant surprise to us that the cafes’ and restaurants that we patronized in the national parks (Mesa Verde, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Rushmore) served decent meals at fair prices. Heck, the only places that gouged us were Ruby Tuesday and Chile's.

I saved my gas card statement as a reminder of where we’ve been. It’s surprisingly detailed thanks to the FJR’s limited fuel range, especially on 80mph limit highways with strong headwinds.

Drivers out west are better.

Mrs1911 wants more. She says she’s in on any of the future FJR events that I frequent, EOMs, SEORs, camping meets RTEs, etc. I hadn’t figured on that.

Here’s a resource I found quite useful, just filtered campgrounds with showers

Next? More Utah. And I’ve got my eye on bigjohnsd’s next Black Hills event and waiting for the 2018 vacation bid sheet.

Awesome ride report there Mr. 1911. Excellent photo composition, writing tone, and pacing.

Happy for you also, that after your opening description of concern for trying to get your wife into 2 wheel travel with you, she now has the same wanderlust (you are blessed).

Also, with that duration trip, distance, and weather changes, kewl that you both enjoyed stamina and good spirits.

I've been on a handful of trips through western Canada and the Pacific Northwest over the last few years with a bunch of semi-committed local buddies, but we are starting to wonder about just "unplugging" from our regular responsibilities for a longer (~1 month?) trip south some time soon to traverse the continent and enjoy some of the same roads you've described.

Thanks for the narrative - inspiration for my rides to come...