Monday Morning on July 28th the Blue Knights West Coast Conference concluded its business meeting and several members from CA-1 rode to Little Big Horn Battlefield, site of George Armstrong Custer’s defeat at the hands of a combined force of over 1500 warriors from the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapaho tribes . Little Big Horn is about an hour’s ride east on I-90 from Billings. We arrived just in time for a talk given by the Park Ranger detailing the events that transpired during the battle. Following the ranger presentation, we boarded a bus for a tour of the Reno-Benteen battle site five miles away and then back to Last Stand Hill where Lt. Colonel Custer met his demise. The tour guide was a student from the local college operated by the Crow Nation.
The remainder of the conference included guided and self guided rides to various locations, the show and shine event and the gymkhana or motorcycle rodeo event. Two California 1 members brought home awards. Lu Linebarger won first place in the Show and Shine, and Bill Samuelson took third in the gymkhana event. The conference concluded with the customary banquet on the last night where California 1 filled three tables.
On Thursday morning, July 31st, we began the final leg of our journey. Two new riders joined us, Merle Schneblin and Mike Harrold, while Lu Linebarger left our group and struck out for points east and Gary Smith headed to his home in Canada. We also lost Mack and Marie McCormack, who continued north in their SUV to visit family in Canada. We were now down to 16 motorcycles, so formed into two groups, Group 1 led by me and Group 2 led by Karl Hutchinson. This day’s ride took us over the Beartooth Highway and into Cooke City where we stopped for coffee before entering Yellowstone National Park.
Leaving Cooke City, we negotiated five miles of major road construction before reaching the park entrance. After lunch at Canyon Village, we had planned to view the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, however all the roads to the various viewpoints were closed. Next we headed south toward Lake Yellowstone, but a mile down the highway, a sign advised us of a road closure due to a fire near the east gate. Somewhat disappointed, we detoured west to Norris and finally arrived at Old Faithful Geyser around 3:30 p.m. Fortunately, Old Faithful was scheduled to erupt in about a half and hour, so we were all able to find vantage points to view the geyser. Later, as we walked back to the parking lot, a familiar face came into view. Here was California 1 member, Randy Trefrey, who was vacationing in Yellowstone with his family. After a number of handshakes, it was time to saddle up and ride toward our day’s end in West Yellowstone.
Arriving at the Brandin’ Iron Inn at West Yellowstone, we were greeted by the smiling faces behind the registration desk. Check-in at the Brandin’ Iron was quick and easy. Everyone’s room key was in an envelope, with room number on it, waiting at the desk as we walked in. This was a complete 180 degree turnabout from our experience at the Holiday Inn in Billings. For anyone who travels to the Yellowstone area in the future, I would definitely recommend staying at the Brandin’ Iron Inn. Their reasonable rates along with the clean, well appointed rooms, friendly staff and hot breakfast bar make it a first choice when staying in West Yellowstone. Dinner that evening was at Bullwinkle’s Restaurant, a favorite in West Yellowstone and is also highly recommended.
Day thirteen of the ride took us into Idaho with a full morning of riding until we reached our lunch destination in Arco. A little trivia tidbit: Arco Idaho is the first city in the world to have its electricity provided by nuclear power. The best place in town for eats is Pickle’s Café, home of the “Atomic Burger”. For those who are wondering why Arco has such a preoccupation with nuclear power, it’s because the Idaho National Laboratory, a nuclear engineering research laboratory that has been in operation since 1949 is just down the road. INL was the first to produce electricity from nuclear energy in 1951.
Our next stop was Craters of the Moon National Monument, a landscape of volcanic activity over 600,000 years old. If you are interested in the earth’s volcanic history, be sure to stop at the visitor’s center and then take the tour.
The end of the day found our group in Jackpot, Nevada, at the Horseshu Hotel & Casino. It had been an unusually long day, especially when we got behind a very wide load vehicle which lumbered along at what seemed like a snail’s pace. Our group finally got around the caravan that included two pilot cars and a tail car, only to have them pass by us again in Shoshone while we were taking a well deserved break. Unfortunately, the traffic between Shoshone and Twin Falls was much heavier than our earlier encounter, so, we were stuck for 15-20 miles in traffic behind the convoy until it finally turned off.
The last day, most everyone was beginning to smell the barn. Some riders decided to leave earlier than our usual 8:00 a.m. departure time, while others slept in a little later as they were going to spend the night in Fernley. Gary Stevens was riding as far as Elko to visit a family member. The remaining riders were riding the rest of the way home today. As with most long rides, the last day is pretty anti climatic. Once we left US 93 and jumped onto I-80 at Wells, it was essentially a straight ride on the freeway home, with the fuel and rest breaks and a quick lunch at Arby’s in Winnemucca.
I want to thank all the riders for joining in the ride and for their cooperation in making it a most enjoyable and memorable trip. Everyone went the extra mile to blend with the diverse personalities that comprise a group this size. Also, it is not uncommon for acquaintances to become friendships by the end of a ride such as this one. But again, that is one big reason we all ride. The riders included: (Group 1 – The Noisy Group) Mike Martin, John Gunter, Jim Hutton, Ben Samuelson, Ron Miller, Lu Linebarger and Don & Judy Mahlke; (Group 2 – The Soggy Bottom Group) Karl Hutchinson & Pam Beck, Gary Stevens, Al Nabong, Joe Dean, Debbie Morrow, and John Barrow; (Group 3 – The Geriatric Group) Bob Trout, Dennis Dunn, Bob Casselberry, Harold Graves, Stu Fisher and Don & Cindy Thompson; Mack & Marie McCormack; (SUV) and the late arrivals, Gary Smith Merle Schneblin and Mike Harrold