Reader Ride: Westward Bound

Text: Eric and Patrick Moore • Photography: Eric and Patrick Moore

For years, I had wanted a motorcycle and for one reason or another had never attained one. But after I returned from an all expenses paid trip to the other side of the world, courtesy of Uncle Sam, the motorcycle fund was sizable enough and my wanderlust was brewing. When my brother Patrick got back from Iraq, we began planning a long overdue trip to take us into the heart of the western United States. Almost two years had gone by since I had seen him. The day I stepped on the plane to go home was the day he set foot on the same sand I had left behind, and we never crossed paths.
I had been riding for nearly a year, so Pat had some catching up to do as neither of us had ridden bikes before our deployments. After much work, practice, and many odds and ends were purchased, we jumped astride our KLR 650s and headed west. The initial plan was to take our time and enjoy the ride but fate stepped in and bestowed two days of scenery drenched with rain. Though tired and soaked, we pushed on, ahead of the storms. We arrived in the Badlands of South Dakota on the morning of the third day - not a bad push from our rural home in Eastern Ohio. Despite our being saddle sore, excitement built as we passed through the mud-caked mountains and strange formations of Badlands National Park. We set up camp, off-loaded our gear and explored the various back roads dotted with potholes and prairie-dog towns under the canvas a big sky painted on the horizon.

After two days, our journey continued and we sought rural routes toward Devil's Tower in Wyoming. The roads seemed to go on forever and even at speeds of nearly 100 mph, the big singles seemed to be crawling along. At times the afternoon sun was brutal and temperatures of 115 degrees brought back all too recent memories from halfway around the world. We passed by Devil's Tower, the landmark for settlers and travelers of long ago, and motored on for Yellowstone National Park.

The ride into the eastern side of Yellowstone winds through rocky outcroppings, crystal-clear rivers and alpine ecosystems mixed with occasional aspen stands. A friend working for the summer in the park set us up with a place to stay and showed us around. In exchange for a short stint of volunteer work, removing non-native plant species for a day, we were allowed to follow the work crews to Osprey Falls some twelve miles off the beaten path. We had to park the bikes for the last section of the trail that winds its way through switchbacks two miles down into the gorge. The hike was worth it and Osprey Falls remains a jewel still unseen by many who visit the park today. In the evenings, we sat around a campfire and shared stories and a drink or two with some of the other workers and volunteers at Mammoth Hot Springs. Even in the middle of summer, the night cooled quickly and the crisp air mixed with the smell of wood smoke from the fire. The back roads around Yellowstone meander through open valleys and twist through the mountains and one will randomly see bears, wolves, bison and elk. Often traffic has to slow or stop as these lumbering creatures cross the tarmac. We stayed for several days, riding through and around the park, meeting people and visiting with new friends. It was hard to leave but the trip wasn't over yet.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2008 back issue.