Yellowstone and a Glacial heart warming.


Rain easing overnight, the sun peered through scattered cloud. Droplets of condensation accumulated on the tents interior. Flicking back the nylon door, dew clasped to my hand sending cool shivers down to my toes, still within the warmth of my down sleeping bag. Plumes of moisture swirled from my mouth with each breath, in the frigid air. Mavis leaned dormant outside the tent, puddles of rain on the black leather seat.

Looking over the foreign surrounds, silhouettes only of familiarity from my late arrival evening past. I fished out a sealed can of mandarine segments from Mavis’ side, pried open the top and plunge a fork into its cool contents, taking a large mouthful of the refreshing fruit.

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Strolling to the southern banks of Lake Lewis (within Yellowstone NP) I splashed the icy water to my face and gazed across the glassy surface. No sign of a park ranger within a solid “Coo-wee’s” back at camp, I dismantled the tent and loaded up the bike. Back on the road, bypassing the campsite fee box (oops ;), Mavis and I slithered through Yellowstone National Park in the early morning light. 

The day was overcast, scattered drizzle making it difficult to gain enthusiasm for Yellowstone (of which I knew very little, at the time). My helmets visor was officially FUCKED(!) Predominantly from the mud bath of the day before and continual fogging and the fine scratches (caused by the gritty mud), obscured my vision completely! Passing the famed “Geyser basin”, briefly I indulged the tourist within and walked out to a steaming Prussian blue pond. With a limited capacity to mingle with RV tourists, I resumed position atop Mavis and continued out of the park to West Yellowstone. 

To the bemusement of a few french tourists, I pulled up in the town of West Yellowstone. Drenched head to toe, I ripped off my helmet and ducked for cover under the easement of a country store as an isolated hail storm passed over. Grabbing a pipping hot espresso, the warmth slowly permeated through the paper cup and thawed the numb in my fingers. My mesh riding gloves truly needed an upgrade, despite proving their worth thus far… 

Leaving West Yellowstone with a constant vertical ocean falling from above, I asked myself why it’d taken nearly four months to purchase all weather riding gloves!? The difference between blistering cold, numb fingers and warm and dry cannot be described, only experienced first hand… We raced towards Missoula, Montana making peace with the landscape , the climate changes it threw at us and the ever greater distance between Denver and Mavis’ rear wheel.

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An unseasonal warm spell welcomed Mavis and I in Missoula, as too my cousin Max, out from New York for study. Max cooked up a storm upon arrival that evening and entertained me for a solid, unexpected week. We explored the town and surrounds, including the beautiful Snake River and a few “locals only” swimming holes.

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Having left Denver and a professed love affair in tears within my arms, my heart deviated from the road less travelled. My mind agonizingly portrayed fanciful images of what could have been if I’d stayed in Colorado East of the Rockies, and not given into the calling of the road and the “Hellish” beckoning of Mad Mavis. Each mile closer to Alaska, was yet another mile further away from Denver. Knowing phone reception would be none existent once crossing over the boarder into Canada until returning back to American soil in Alaska (using a US phone service), I rang the girl in question. The conversation only fueled my desire to return to Denver, which would later prove to be a fatal error in judgment and perception.

Departing Missoula on course for Glacier National Park in the north of Montana, I chartered a course for the “Going to the Sun” road (within Glacier NP) to make my passage across into Canada. The road leaving Missoula hugged the edge of the Snake River for sometime before gradually peeling away. “Huckleberry Pie” stalls stood by on entry to Glacier, and regrettably I did not stop for one, only to consult the map. Dropping my right hand back on the throttle, stepping down a gear, Mavis prepared for the assent of the “Going to to the Sun” road pass (a narrow, twisting mountain pass). Possibly some of the most spectacular scenery either side of the roads carriage-way on the trip thus far as we gradually gained height. Spectacular river gorges with soft falling waterfalls some 100m lapses in gravity, water droplets expelled into the air to form a vertical stream of mist, cascading to the rock-forms below. Wild flowers having a last bloom amongst the alpine grasses before the encroaching harsh winter. Reaching the pinnacle of the pass, Mavis took a rest as I engulfed a sandwich prepared by Max on my departure. Up from the West came a howling front, gusting winds and a menacing cloud formation. I stood atop the apex of the pass and leaned forward into the strengthening gail. Snap went the Canon.

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Quickly descending from altitude, the wind kicked up ten fold while the Sun ducked for cover. Passing the sweeping lake within Glacier, large waves wipped up on the surface as the wind strengthened. Trees twisted and bent in the force of the formidable winds. Reaching a campground on the the East side of the park, I stopped and looked for a campsite. The wind so strong, I was unable to dismount Mavis without fear of her toppling over. I stood at the entrance to the campground, legs astride the bike, trying to make sense of the camp information board. “Niiiiice bike! Is that a Honda Goldwing?” exclaimed an aged man getting blustered about by the approaching storm front who seemingly appeared from nowhere, cigarette burning away in his mouth. “Wow! I’ve never seen anything like that” he said in his thick American accent. “ ‘82 ain’t she?”. I humored his banter for some time, before realizing the wind was picking up, and if I didn’t find shelter within the protection of the pines within campground, I’d be spending the night with Mavis laying on my lap, in the open.

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Mavis and I made camp under dwindling light. The gentleman who greeted us turned out himself to be traveling on a similar vintage Goldwing also, an “’83 out of Chicago”. He took photos of Mavis and kept chattering away. I listened and agreed. “These old Goldwings are amazing. They have a mind of their own. A life presence if you will”. I could only agree from personal experience as he continued. “The day I was supposed to leave on this trip, a huge storm came over Chicago. I thought about waiting it out, but then just decided to take my chances. The bike and I made it through the storm and it was the best decision we made. If we’d stayed in the city, that bloody storm lasted half a week”. He continued on, I too continued to agree. “ There’s just something special about these bikes. You’ll think they’re toast, then all of a sudden, they’ll spring back to life, almost as if they have a life of there own”. “Yes, exactly!” I replied, thinking back to Texas, Vegas, Colorado and all the rest of the trip Mavis has had a mind of her own. “”Yes? Exactly” what?!” the guy from Chicago exclaimed! “Yes I agree with you. You’re right, they do have a mind of their own. Especially Mavis, and by the sounds of it, yours to! I thought Mavis was special, unique”. I said. “Perhaps its just a common thing for this era of bike?” He didn’t take to this, and with that retired to his camp, reconnaissance mission complete with images of Mavis’ sweet digs taken under the cover of darkness.