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It’s one of the legendary roads that riders talk about with a mix of pride and wistful sighs; pride for having braved it, and a sighs at witnessing nature unadulterated.

Beartooth Highway and Hype

One of the lower overlooks — not quite at the summit!

 

Yesterday I talked about Independence Day in Red Lodge, Montana and I’ll pick up the narrative just after the mule- and horse-packed parade concluded. I was headed to Yellowstone, where my husband had flown out to spend the next week with me. Neither of us had ever visited this magnificent National Park and I’ll be sure to come back to that later in this series.

To get to West Yellowstone, where we stayed in a camping lodge at the KOA, I had the privilege of traveling on the Beartooth Highway, a road I’d heard about for the three years I’d been riding a motorcycle. It’s one of the legendary roads that riders talk about with a mix of pride and wistful sighs; pride for having braved it, and a sighs at witnessing nature unadulterated.

I heard plenty of warnings about its difficult  series of switchbacks (or hairpin curves, or zig-zags, whatever you want to call them).  Riding a switchback, you can almost see the back of your bike (or your rear bumper in a car) as you head from one direction to another. Switchbacks are necessary to make any elevation shift, in this case from 5,200 ft to 8,000 ft in a 12 mile stretch of the road — you’d never do that in a straight line.

All the hype made me want to see what the hollerin’ was about, so I made sure my helmet camera was fully charged and set out.  It may be the highest elevation I’d traveled so far at 10,947 ft high, compared to 6,647 of Logan Pass at Glacier National, which is why it’s usually open mid-May through mid-October, weather conditions permitting.

Tamela’s ride report on Beartooth Highway

My report? Gorgeous overlooks. I’m glad I had the opportunity to ride it on such a spectacular day. That said, I didn’t feel I had any cause to puff up with bravery.

Look, roads are made for cars, and motorcycles are much more nimble than any car. My motorcycle is particularly so because it’s a dual sport instead of a sedan-sized cruiser. The most treacherous thing about the road to me was the wind. When I got to the summit, where there was still plenty of snow, I had to ask a guy parked beside me in a minivan if he would stabilize my bike while I took some snapshots; it would have been blown over without his assistance. You can hear it in the video here and see other photos on my Flickr site.

There are some interesting studies about hype and marketing that prove that people exposed to overhype feel greater disappointment with the same neutral experience as those not exposed to hype. I see that. Beartooth was lovely and certainly worth traveling — I got some great snapshots of the rugged peaks and valleys — but I kept thinking, where’s the challenge? 

Today, when someone tries to tell you that a challenge may be beyond your capabilities, maybe you should discount their pre-judgment of your skills. On the other hand, maybe you’ll give someone else the benefit of the doubt that they can  easily handle something you found difficult. As my yoga teacher reminds us, every day is a new day on the mat. The pose you struggled with yesterday is the one you’ll ease gracefully into today. And visa versa. And so it goes.

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About Tamela Rich

Tamela lives in Charlotte, North Carolina with her family, but most summers she'll be found elsewhere, astride her motorcycle. Ask her to share some of her lessons from the road at your next event! Tamela's award-winning book, "Live Full Throttle: Life Lessons From Friends Who Faced Cancer" draws on the stories she heard while traveling the United States on two long charity rides to benefit cancer organizations.

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