Wednesday, August 7, 2013


impressions of a trip through our northern plains
…fourth in a series…

and dedicated to all of my boys named "Cody."

As a life-long educator, there are kids – because of their quirks or characteristics – whose names you wouldn’t pick for your own offspring.  For some folks it may be Kyle or Stephen or Bree or Adolphus.  Or even David.  For me “Cody” is one of those names.  Attention to details like… well…  the rules or organization or planning challenged many of the Codys I’d had as a teacher or principal.  So on this trip through the northern plains, I hoped to drop into Cody, Wyoming and see if there might be a dot or two I could connect.

Unfortunately, or luckily, in Red Lodge, MT, a great degree of roadwork caused through traffic to detour a block or two away from the US 212 main drag.  Somewhere in the orange cones and caution signs, I missed the one that said, “Cody, that-a-way.”

Several miles out of town, I found myself entering a deepening canyon.  The route didn’t appear the way my mind had rendered it.  It appeared better.

I stopped for a moment to refer to the map, deciding then and there not to correct my error.

US 212 weaves between Montana and Wyoming on its route from Billings to Yellowstone and beyond.

Along the way, sinews of pavement rise continually, causing the rider to reflexively gulp with each new expansive view.

Motorcycle jockeys from all over seek this route that I’d known nothing about because, like many of my former students named Cody, I wasn’t paying attention.  At a popular turn out, I pull in next to a phalanx of Harley Davidson’s each sporting an Aussie flag.  “What do you gents ride at home?” I asked.  “Why these,” came the reply.

Traveling up in elevation is like traveling north in latitude.  The air gets cooler, the growing season shorter, and the plant life more stunted and distinctive.

While each turn invites the rider to see what’s next, each new perspective demands a stop for a photograph.

Riders, regardless of marque, grin and chat and are willing to take your picture if you’ll take theirs.  An Albertan on a beautiful green 1500 Gold Wing insisted on taking mine.

With each pause and dismount, someone you passed below, passes by.  I think these are a couple of the gents from Down Under.

Just as you feel you are reaching the crest, you round a turn and find the summit yet further away.  When hiking the high country, this can become a frustration.  When riding, however, it simply seems like a gift you continue to eagerly unwrap.

Then there’s that little letdown when you finally achieve the pass’ 11,000 feet.  As things unwind, will the spectacularness fade?

I pause for a final look to the east.

To be sure, the route down the hill didn’t evoke the awe that ride to the roof of the world had brought.  Summer in the high country, like the growing season, offers only a short time for roadwork and there was roadwork aplenty going on west of the pass. 

I stopped in Cooke City, a berg just east of Yellowstone, for some butt rest and a sandwich.  I harbored a concern that the famous park would be a let down after the morning’s run over Beartooth.

But, I found as I descended into Yellowstone, there are many definitions of spectacular.

Some are subtle and delicate.

Some are not so subtle, but just as delicate.

Some take wing on an evening breeze.

And some simply flow.

All in all, this had been a great day riding, despite my Cody-like planning prowess.

© 2013
Church of the Open Road Press

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