Kamiah, ID to Sheridan, WY
Despite going to bed well after midnight, I awoke easily before my alarm even went off once. Once again the sun was out, and I was surprised how ready I was to get on the road. I loaded the bike fairly quickly and had a quick Clif Bar breakfast and was off to get gas. After getting gas, I continued east on US-12 on Lolo Pass. It was a very scenic road and wound along the river.
In Lolo, I took a picture of the Post Office, then called my boss. I am the Finance Director at my company and our first draft of the budget will be presented to the Board of Directors three days after the last day of the rally. Once check in was completed, I continued on to Missoula and joined up with I-90.
Several hours later, I exited i-90 and headed south towards Ennis, MT, where I picked up the "E" in MERA. A few miles south of Ennis, I stopped at the Madison Valley Historical Museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed, though I'd arrived during the stated hours of the Museum. I was, however, able to meet up with my aunt- and uncle-in-law for a very brief family reunion. After a few minutes, and some homemade cookies, I was off again headed back to I-90.
At some point I stopped and made a reservation at the America's Best Motel in Sheridan, WY as I didn't yet have the confidence to just roll into town and hope there was a room for me. For whatever reason, I feel so much more secure knowing I have a place to stay. In my mind, the reduced stress of knowing there's a place to say more than makes up for having to stretch a little bit for a further destination.
My next stop wasn't for several more hours in the town of Red Lodge, MT and the beginning of Beartooth Pass and Chief Joseph Highway. This would begin the undisputed highlight of this trip. It was early evening, so the road was wide open and the sky was clear. What better conditions to go over a 10,000 foot pass?
I'm glad I had the foresight (and ability) to pull off in several locations to take some pictures. This was one of the most epic roads I'd ever been on. There were some great switchbacks as you climb out of Red Lodge, then once you get above the tree line, you are treated to expansive vistas.
On the way down the other side of the pass, I'm 99% sure I saw a bear cub. Being that it appeared to be a Grizzly and a cub, I didn't turn around to verify it was real.
I rolled into Cody just after dark and got my picture of the Post Office to claim the points for the bonus. This is, most definitely, where the fun stopped for this ride.
I really should have known better. I'm mean, I've BEEN to this part of Wyoming and spent a week in the Big Horns. I should have realized when I was planning this route that there was likely to be a mountain pass between Cody and Sheridan, my planned stop for the night. (My friend Nate is getting a giant kick out of this right now...)
Hindsight is obviously 20/20, and had I planned a little better I wouldn't have gone anywhere near US-14 after dark. I have never seen so many goddamned deer in my life. Without being sarcastic, I would conservatively estimate I saw well over 100 deer on this route. It seemed like every damn turn had at least two little points of light greeting me. My GPS was already estimating an arrival in Sheridan around midnight, and this assumed I was doing the speed limit - which was 65! There was no way I was doing anywhere near that. Between the deer and switchbacks, my average speed was definitely a lot slower.
After cresting the 9000 foot summit, I came upon an accident in the opposite direction. Unfortunately for me, one of the responding ambulances pulled out in front of me and proceeded to go 15 mph down the hill. On a dark winding road with a crap ton of deer, I wasn't too eager to blast around him and give him another customer. I pulled off at a turn out, which I'm sure during the day had an amazing view, and decided it would be a good time to take a leak.
The moonless night left be dumbstruck with how dark it was and how many stars were visible. Had I not left the key in the bike, which kept the parking light on, there's no way I'd be able to see. It was definately a relief to be back on the bike and headed down the hill again with a light in front of me.
I made it to Sheridan around one. My GPS decided to give me the scenic tour of downtown rather than continue to route me on the freeway for two more exits. Whatever. At this point I was beyond caring. The America's Best in Sheridan probably has a significant risk of being sued for false advertising, but it was a bed and a place to park for the night. At this point, its exactly what I needed.
Indicated mileage: 819