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Close Encounters of the Moose Kind: A Motorcycle Trip Out West

(day four & five map)

At sunrise we hit the Grand Loop into Yellowstone for another day in Paradise with plenty of wildlife stopping traffic on roadsides. I did get to photograph MORE moose, (and will spare you the lengthy description), but we barely slowed down for the shots of the buffalo. After having close up encounters with herds of buffalo in the Sturgis area, it simply was not worth the time or crowds to stop and see the buffalo on this trip.

As a motorcycle rider, we all know we are virtually invisible on the roadways. But if that tourist in the minivan has one eye on a buffalo and is pulling out into traffic, motorcyclists must be less than invisible, because they did not hear my horn either. As we entered an area where lots of cars were pulled over in the park, we just KNEW there was something exciting to see in that area. But we also knew that we had to focus on not getting hit 100% more than checking out the sights so that Billy Bob Tourist did not run us over. Several times, it was just too frustrating getting past the traffic in those areas. When I got the "Want to Stop?" signal from my husband, sometimes I would just shake my head- wanting to get as far away from the crazy people who were trying to run me over as fast as possible.

We paused for some photos while passing by the Grand Tetons, and came to a full stop in Jackson Hole for breakfast. Wow, now that is an interesting town on many different levels. The stagecoaches riding down the streets were a nice touch, but cosmetic surgeon ads on the sides of the stagecoach kind of ruined their effect!

We rode out of Jackson alongside the river to Holback Junction. It is not a very exciting route, but I suspect that God used up all his color palette and creativity for the entire region at Flaming Gorge, so these outlying areas just have to deal with being a bit less exciting when sitting between roads like Bear Tooth Pass and Flaming Gorge.

We twisted our way into the Flaming Gorge Dam area and checked into the Flaming Gorge Lodge, before jumping back on the bikes to go exploring in more depth. The Dam itself was pretty impressive, and the surrounding roads and views were spectacular. For the first time in the trip, we pulled out the little camera that took video and played with that toy to capture some video while riding the roads cut out of red cliffs that dropped into brilliant blue lakes. This area was filled with wildlife that came out to stand by the roadside in areas as if employed by the local Chamber of Commerce to enhance the beauty of the already spectacular area.

We enjoyed a comfortable night at the Flaming Gorge Lodge with great service and a wonderful restaurant before heading out the next morning to explore more of the area.

(day four & five map)

This is another road that appears time after time in every list and book of "The Best Roads in America" and for good reason. The dramatic colors of the red rock cliffs against the sparkling blue lakes make everything in this area all the more dazzling as you weave your way through the curves and swirls of the roads that resemble a world-class roller coaster. We seemed to be the only ones in the entire area that morning, with the exception of a dozen deer, a frisky mountain goat, some wild turkeys and the hundreds of jack rabbits trying to get as close as possible to our tires. We took the road that brought us down to the lake in the bottom of this vibrant valley, and enjoyed the luxury of playing tourist in what felt like our own private park.

After exiting the Flaming Gorge area, we stopped at a little restaurant called The Villa, in Manilla, Utah. Here we were treated to a close up view of a porcupine by one of the local trappers also having his breakfast.

We were winding down from vacation mode as we headed back to Salt Lake City, knowing we had to return the bikes that night, when just outside of Salt Lake City we stopped for lunch at a cute little deli/ bakery. Marcelo Occon, the owner of Fresh Harvest Bakery & Deli, playfully substituted one of his decadent pastries for the small side salad that actually came with my menu choice. Obviously, this place is a "must stop" on my next trip through that area. If you have a weak spot for exceptional food and overly accommodating service, you can check the details out at

The folks at Eagle Rider in Salt Lake City greeted us like old friends when we returned the bikes and were eager to hear the stories of our trip. They had won our hearts and our loyalty upon our arrival by filling our saddlebags with new riding gear and clothing when our luggage was misplaced by the airlines on the flight out from Florida. How do you repay such kindness? Mentioning them here is one way! I also fit in a quick photo shoot with one of their female employees for my book project, that night after we turned in our rental bikes.

It was a whirlwind five days of riding. After dropping off the bikes, we hit the red-eye flight home to Florida. Heading back to 90 degree heat and overwhelming humidity after several days of freezing while wearing full leather to ride in snow topped mountains was quite the adjustment! But the airline did manage to find our luggage. So, we arrived back in Tampa with a suitcase neatly packed full of clean clothes and untouched leathers.

Even with my experiences traveling all over the globe, these roads truly rank at the very top of the list for the most scenic I have ever traveled.


ruffrider says:

Holy Moose! That is one sweet moose encounter! :) thanks for sharing your story!
Thu Jun 6, 2013 at 7:52 AM

BikerMeme says:

Ragan....thanks for your article. It brought back memories of the trip my husband & I took in 2009. We were 4 couples riding from Winnipeg, MB Canada. We rode through 8 states total....but my favorite part of the trip was riding through Yellowstone and the Bear Tooth hwy. Another beautiful ride was the Chief Joseph hwy. which we rode coming back from Red Lodge, Montana. This was a 2 week trip....and what beautiful scenery we took in. At the time I rode behind my husband. Since getting my license 3 years ago I want to do that same trip again....but this time on my own motorcycle. What a thrill that would be. Keep riding safe

Wed Feb 15, 2012 at 1:16 PM

UtahDave2 says:

The blue of Bear Lake (1st picture) is different from any other lake I have ever seen. The state has put in a big pullout / rest area where you took you picture. Great ride - good article. Thanks for reminding me to go that way again this summer.
Mon Mar 28, 2011 at 6:01 PM

jeannine57 says:

Best memories for sure. I turned 50 in '07 and decided I'd find out if I was too old to keep riding. Headed out from Visalia, CA in late July. I kept going through many of the roads you wrote about. Destination Sturgis. 2 weeks later and 5000 glorious miles added to my Dyna I felt younger than ever! You've inspired me to write about the next adventure. Thanks!
Thu Mar 18, 2010 at 10:10 AM

duhbaglady says:

Your story brought back good memories, in 07, I decided it was time to go west, had wanted to do this for long ---Being an alabama girl ,i knew it would be a long trip, so I start checking the miles , GOOD GOD !! 5 days to get where I wanted to go ? So, by July 08 I had gotten over the shock and went for it , me and my road king. There is truly no words or photos to describe it. So, when I got home , my friends wanted to know about the trip. I just had to say , I can't do it justice with a few words. Find out for yourself.
Sat Nov 21, 2009 at 6:20 PM


I am also a South Florida rider. I would love to ride this area during the summer. I have only ridden in the Blue Ridge. I am a little squimish of heights. How was the riding in this area, I kmow you said your husband was a little nervous...also, what about the wildlife, did they ever approach you while riding? I want to be able to ride these areas but I don't want to nervous.
Thanks for the info from anyone.
Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 2:47 PM

felon says:

Depends how big the trailer is. Either way it sure wouldn't be as fun as riding!!
Fri Jan 9, 2009 at 4:09 PM

pego says:

How hard would it be to do the "Bear Tooth Pass" with a trailer?
Tue Jan 6, 2009 at 11:33 AM

felon says:

JoeMc: We ran Hwy. 78 between Columbus and Red Lodge, didn't make it up to Roberts.
Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 4:01 PM

JoeMc says:

Hey Ragan, nice report. I have ridden some of the roads the roads you mention in '98 and your descripton and pics are excellent.
When you rode through Roberts MT did you happen to notice if Montana Mikes was still there?
Mon Aug 25, 2008 at 5:04 AM

Pete4750 says:

Leathers don't keep you warm enough out here in the mountain west. I'm surprised Eagle Rider didn't know that. The elevation is what gets you. I've had days with a 5,000 foot elevation change and a 50 degree temperature change. The only thing that works as far as protective clothing in this environment is high-tech fabric clothing with zip-in liners. Even then, there are times I wished I had an electric vest and gloves.
Mon Jun 16, 2008 at 6:15 PM

mjdegeiso says:

You know it seems like we all come across a moose one time or another. It is amazing how big they are. Great story.
Thu Jun 12, 2008 at 1:51 PM

SgtRock says:

What a neat trip. Makes me want to do the fly-ride thing.
Tue Apr 1, 2008 at 8:43 PM

Pusanguy says:

I was born and raised in Logan, Utah. I've been on those roads countless times. I spent 23 years trying to get out of that town and the next 15 trying to get back. I look forward to riding those roads each summer when I go back for vacation. The ride up Logan Canyon to Bear Lake and Garden City is a gorgeous ride along twisting alpine roads. I spent many days skipping high school and university classes to make the run to Bear Lake to have a raspberry shake at La Beau's diner in Garden City. Flaming George is also an absolutely breathtaking piece of country. I'm glad you enjoyed the ride.
Fri Mar 21, 2008 at 12:53 AM

felon says:

Female moose, they don't have horns.
Tue Feb 19, 2008 at 4:04 PM

lmartin780 says:

The west is great for riding. I've done a similar trip several times..... but I'm not too sure that was a moose. Hard to tell with it's head down, but that sure looks like an Elk.

Great pics either way! Larry
Wed Jan 30, 2008 at 9:59 AM

TQ says:

Way to go Ragan .....passing your article over to all the gals in our chapter...
Wed Jan 30, 2008 at 3:45 AM

Birdman says:

Great article, make's me want to book a plane and check it out!
Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 1:23 PM

lillypad1752 says:

Excellent,fun article!
Tue Oct 23, 2007 at 12:12 PM

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