A Gold Wing Trike Roadtrip
Renae and I have only been Members of GWRRA for a short time by some standards ( joined in Jan. 2012), but have made remarkable friends. Dave and Elaine have shared many trips to Wing Ding, our first was to Fort Wayne, then Greenville, and then Madison. This would be our fourth year sharing a trip with Dave and Elaine.
Planning our trip
Right after our 2014 trip to Wing Ding, we started planning our summer 2015 long trip. The decision was made quickly – we would be going northwest to Banff and Jasper. Al and Nadine were dubbed our “tour guides,” as they have vast knowledge of the area and attractions. It was determined that the six of us would embark on about a 5,000-mile motorcycle ride from the Twin Cities through Glacier, Banff, Jasper and Yellowstone National Parks and a stop in Black Hills National Forest on the run back to Minnesota.
Once we agreed on the approximate route and dates, Dave dubbed the trip – “3 on 3 for 3” – three couples on three wheels for three weeks. We all have Gold Wings. Al and Nadine have a Silver 2013 with a Roadsmith conversion with matching trailer; Dave and Elaine have a Red 2013 with a California Sidecar conversion with matching trailer; and we have a Pearl White 2012 with a California Sidecar conversion and a matching trailer.
To save money, we doubled up on rooms and looked for family rooms (three queen beds in a room). With the preliminary route in hand, Elaine and Renae booked rooms where there were two or three queen beds per room. We were surprised to find some places (Pincher Creek and Banff) had three queen beds at a reasonable price. We alternated couples for the single room. We got lucky in Banff on getting a family room, but Jasper and others were all sold out. We should have made reservations even earlier, probably two years before we traveled. Sharing rooms made the total trip very cost friendly. Since we had limited storage space for three weeks even with the trailers, we broke down the games and snacks between the couples. Dave and Elaine brought cards, Al and Nadine brought snacks and Renae and I brought the dominoes. We planned on playing games at night or if there was rain.
Some trip details
Day 1-2 – Minneapolis/ St Paul to Glendive, Montana
Renae and I took a southern route through South Dakota, stopping by Sturgis for a few hours – too many people for the 75th Anniversary motorcycle rally, so we quickly made our way northwest to Glendive. Al, Nadine, Dave and Elaine took the northern route through North Dakota, stopping at Theodore Roosevelt National Park to view wildlife – and found buffalo on the road. We planned to meet in Glendive on the evening of day two.
Day 3 (Aug. 5) – Glendive to Great Falls, Montana
As a group, we took Montana Highway 200, west. The ride was an easy one across the rolling hills of the Montana plains.
Day 4 – Great Falls to Columbia Falls, Montana
Our intention was to drive up U.S. Highway 89, then turn onto U.S. Highway 2 toward Columbia Falls. Embarking on the day’s drive, the crosswinds were 20 to 30 miles per hour with higher gusts; this made the ride very strenuous as we were fighting the winds and the gusts. We turned to the southwest on MT 200. This seemed out of the way, but the plan was to get out of the crosswinds. We took a break in Lincoln at the Lincoln Valley Historical Society Museum and Hi Country Trading Post for some jerky and souvenirs. We placed this on our GPS as a must see, if in the area. Riding west, we cut north on Montana Highway 83/35 toward Kalispell/Columbia Falls. What a stroke of luck – the winds abated once we got in the mountains on MT 200. This was a beautiful drive through the mountain trails, across the continental divide and into Columbia Falls.
On Day 5 – Columbia Falls to Pincher Creek, Alberta
We headed out to ride through Glacier National Park taking U.S. 2 east, hoping to take the Going to the Sun Road that was closed by fire in late July. We had been monitoring the Reynolds Creek Fire abatement progress during our trip, hoping the road would be open. Before leaving the hotel, we had good news – the road was open from the West Park Entrance to Logan’s Pass. The bad news was the road was closed from Logan’s Pass to the East Park Entrance; which meant a threehour delay. As we parked the bikes at Logan’s Pass, there was traffic leaving the pass going east. Talking with a Park Ranger, he said the eastside had opened that morning. This was going to save us serious time. Going down the east side, we saw all the devastation caused by the fire. In some instances, the fire had burned right up to the road. There were a few spots still smoldering off in the distance as we progressed down. We continued on U.S. 89 to MT 17, crossing into Canada at the Chief Mountain Boarder Crossing. Once in Canada, we stopped by Waterton in Waterton Lakes National Park, another wonderful park.
Day 6 – Pincher Creek to Banff, Alberta
We headed up Alberta Highway AB-6/AB-3/AB-22 to Longview to the “World’s Best Jerky” at the Longview Jerky Shop. After filling up on supplies, we took AB- 40 through the mountains for a spectacular journey through the lower Canadian Rockies. We stopped about half way at Fortress Gas Plus wayside rest on the Kananaskis Trail (or AB-40, as the road winds around the Kananaskis Range) for a snack.
Day 7-9 – Banff
There were some touristy things that we wanted to do – a gondola ride and see Lakes Louise and Moraine. The rest of the time, we enjoyed riding through the parks and taking in the beautiful scenery. On one ride, taking the TC-1A back to Banff, Al stopped at a little known WWI commemorative plaque and statue entitled Castle Mountain Internment Camp. Another ride was to Radium Hot Springs, British Columbia, on the Kootenay Highway.
Day 10– Banff to Jasper, Alberta
Our entourage moved further north to Jasper National Park riding the TC-1 and the Icefields Parkway (AB-93), taking breaks at Columbia Icefields and Sunwapta Falls Rocky Mountain Lodge – about 30 miles from our destination. While the Columbia Icefield feeds eight major glaciers, the Athabasca Glacier (the glacier nearest the Parkway) is the most photographed – as most of the glacier is beyond our line of sight. Approaching the Columbia Icefield Discovery Center, the weather was clear and the temperature was dropping as a result of the glaciers. After a break at the Columbia Icefield, we rode on to Jasper and settled in at Becker’s Roaring River Chalets for three more days in the Canadian National Parks and Rockies.
Day 11-13 – Jasper
The only touristy thing we planned was a Gondola ride to Whistler Mountain. The remainder of the time was for rest and riding mountain trails and passes. We relaxed by the rustling waters of the Athabasca River. The river is named for the indigenous tribes of the northwest Canada and Alaska. We also drove down to Athabasca Falls – about 20 miles from where we were staying. We were “far enough north” that the river was running south to north; so the water we were watching go over the falls would be passing by the Chalets. While very beautiful, the falls are very dangerous if people leave the fenced paths. There were many “Do Not Go Off the Path” signs and benches commemorating those who fell. As we turned a corner, someone was hopping back over the fence.
We took the Yellowhead Highway (Highway 16) east of Jasper turning right on Maligne Lake Road/Township Road to Medicine Lake and then on to Maligne Lake. Medicine Lake was about half full, which is normal for this time of year. Medicine Lake is not actually a lake, but is where the Maligne River backs up on its way to Maligne Lake. During the spring and summer runoff, Medicine Lake swells, as more water runs into the lake than can run out. As the runoff slows down, the lake’s output is greater than the input and the lake “disappears.” Early Indians thought the lake was inhabited by spirits because it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. The ride between Medicine and Maligne Lakes was marred by a forest fire in the past few years. At Maligne Lake, the water was like smooth glass. We relaxed and shopped at the Maligne Lake View Restaurant, however, we did not take the boat ride to Spirit Island.
Day 14 – Jasper to Banff, Alberta
There was a sad reality that this part of trip was coming to an end, as it was time to head home – an eight-day journey. As we left Jasper, we encountered the coldest weather on our trip – around 40-degrees F when we saddled-up. Since we had planned for all conditions, we donned our heated vest and gloves.
Day 15 – Banff to Columbia Falls, Montana
We made a run for Columbia Falls – a long run by our standards, but doable. We rode down AB-40, through Longview, Pincher Creek and by Waterton Park. Then, after going through U.S. Customs at the Chief Mountain Boarder Crossing, we rode MT 17 to U.S. 89 and MT 49 by Glacier Park, and then U.S. 2. On our way south, and just before Longview, there were some free-range horses running back and forth across the road. MT 17 is open range. We ran across cattle standing on the road, too. Al had the lead motorcycle, with Dave in the middle, and I was the tail or drag. Al had passed a cow standing on the road. Dave approached the cow slowly. As Dave got nearer the animal, the cow made a swift turn at his motorcycle, which brought Dave to a halt. The staring contest started. After about a fiveminute standoff (it seemed longer), the cow got bored and retreated off the road.
We went around Glacier National Park this time. We saw the only bears of the trip as we rode outside the park. Being that Glacier National Park fire was “controlled,” we were amazed at how much smoke was in the air. The expectation was that we would be turned around by a fire crew as we rode to Columbia Falls. But there was no fire on the road, just surrounding hills, so we made it to our motel on time. Later, we found out there was fire at the southern end of Glacier National Park. U.S. 2, along the southern edge of the park, was closed to trains and vehicles about two days after we passed the area as the fire approached the highway.
Day 16 – Columbia Falls to Livingston, Montana
We started out on the same roads as we rode into Columbia Falls initially, MT 83 and MT 200. But we took MT 141 south to Avon and U.S. 12. Dave spotted a little, unassuming diner as we were leaving Avon, called Avon Café – a gem, good food and witty service. The group headed east on U.S. 12 to Helena and U.S. 12/U.S. 287 to I-90. We had thought about taking a more scenic route, but the sky was turning dark. Rain started slowly, but we were only 10 minutes from Livingston. So we pressed on and did not get too wet. We stayed at the historic Murray Hotel. Years ago, passengers used to take trains to Livingston and stay at Murray Hotel across the street from the depot, before catching the train to Yellowstone National Park. Murray Hotel is restored using much of the original materials and furnishings – another gem of our trip.
Day 17 – Livingston to Jackson, Wyoming
We took the roads through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park. The ride was easy to Gardiner and Mammoth Hot Springs. It was slow going throughout the park, whether it was a buffalo on a bridge (we had to wait until he moved) or the number of people. We made it to Old Faithful late in the afternoon and waited for the show. As we sat patiently for Old Faithful to report – and it was worth the wait – we all commented on how the park had changed in the past 30 years ago. The parking lot used to be small and right near the Lodge. Now, we had to ask for directions from the parking lot to the geyser. Since it was late, we rode quickly the rest of the way through the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Memorial Parkway and Grand Teton National Park to our hotel.
Day 18 – Jackson to Casper, Wyoming
Dave and I wanted to ride Teton Pass Highway (taking WY 22 west from Jackson) to Idaho, so four of us, drove the pass before breakfast. When we returned, Al and Nadine joined us for breakfast at The Bunnery Bakery and Restaurant. It was an interesting, old building. We decided to ride through Grand Teton Park taking U.S. 26 north, turning on Teton Park Road – riding to Jenny Lake. While crossing Snake River, Elaine thought she saw something down by the creek. Another statue, she thought – until it raised its head. There it was, a bull moose. This immediately drew a crowd, including us. We pulled over and snapped a few pictures. We left the park and headed east on U.S. 26. After climbing up and over mountains just outside Grand Teton National Park, the ride was flat and smooth.
Day 19 – Casper to Keystone, South Dakota
We departed east on I-25, then turned north onto U.S. 18 (just southeast of Douglas) to arrive in the lower part of Black Hills National Forest. We decided to take Custer Wildlife Loop. So instead of continuing to Hot Springs, we took SD 89 north to Custer where we restocked our supplies and ate lunch. After, we headed east on U.S. 16A, turning south on SD 87 to Custer State Park and the Wildlife Loop (Csp Road 1). Upon the advice of another motorcyclist, we took a dirt road to see buffalo. The first left turn was Oak Draw Csp Road 3 and was the dirt road we were looking for. We drove three miles, up and down hills and washes, to arrive where others were viewing a buffalo herd of about 200-300. As we looked further, the road we traveled reconnected with the Wildlife Loop less than a half mile ahead. In other words, we could have cut off two and a half miles of the dusty dirt road. Upon exiting Custer State Park and Wildlife Loop, we again headed east on U.S. 16A toward Mt. Rushmore and for a ride on Iron Mountain Road. Iron Mountain Road is a great 17-mile ride consisting of 314 curves, 14 switchbacks, three pigtails, four tunnels and four presidents. The route includes spiral wooden bridges (called pigtails) and single-lane tunnels that frame Mt. Rushmore like a picture frame.
Day 20 – Keystone to Huron, South Dakota
We took U.S. 16 to Rapid City and then I-90 to Wall. We shopped and looked around and visited Wall Drug. We took U.S. 14 across the plains of South Dakota to Huron. From the start of the day, there was a good share of wind, but in the Black Hills, it was minimized by the hills and forests. During the ride across the South Dakota plains, there were winds from 20-30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. Sometimes, the winds were at our tail but other times they were bad crosswinds. Riding trikes is a little different than two-wheelers, providing greater stability for riding “2 up” and using push-pull instead of countersteering. In crosswind situations, the push-pull steering takes its toll on the driver, requiring more patience and frequent rest breaks to relax arms.
Day 21 – Huron to Twin Cities
We rode U.S. 14 east to MN 19, then U.S. 212, County 92 and other back roads. Our ensemble stopped for one last meal of the trip to celebrate the trip’s success at Ox Yoke Inn near Maple Plain, Minnesota. A toast was initiated, “To fun, friends and family and the overall triumph of the vacation.” Al indicated that this was not a vacation, it’s always an adventure – everywhere we go. We all agreed that this was not a trip or vacation, but an adventure. So, in future travels, rides will not be vacations or trips or anything other than “adventures.”
Our group ran into little rain, only an hour total for the entire 21-day or three-week adventure. We played dominoes or cards most nights to relax. Sharing a room is a new concept for us, we had not thought of before. It worked out great. We just needed to schedule shower times.
When traveling on trikes, make sure enough time is allotted to talk about your machines and have pictures taken with others. This happened predominantly in Canada, but there were many times folks were interested in the trikes and how they ride. Not many had seen Gold Wing trikes with matching trailers. Our group was more than happy to crow about the trikes – fun to drive, comfortable with a smooth ride – and folks were amazed at how far we had ridden.
With Wing Ding 38 in Billings, Montana, we have started planning and hope to spend a little more time in some areas we buzzed through quickly this time.
Bob and Renae Hicks, GWRRA #349635, Al and Nadine Rohe, GWRRA #144804, and Dave and Elaine Harder, GWRRA #271251, all belong to MN/ND District, Chapter Q and are all very active in the Chapter. Bob and Renae Hicks are Chapter Q Directors. Chapter Q’s home base is listed as Maple Grove, Minnesota, which is a northwest suburb of Minneapolis. All three couples live in towns about 10 miles away from each other in the northwest suburbs.
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