Friday, September 15, 2023

Yellowtail Dam

September 15, 2023

With beautiful weather and nothing pressing on my calendar, its a perfect day for a ride.  I’ve been wanting to do a ride to Yellowtail Dam and that made a perfect destination for today.  However, exercise comes first so I met Shelley for a run at 5:30 am and we logged about 4-1/2 miles as part of the Run All of Billings Project.  Today’s run is blogged here.

After returning home, getting cleaned up and fed, I packed a lunch, loaded up the bike, and was pretty much ready to go when Keith pulled up a bit before 9 am.  He rides a 1977 Goldwing.  We chatted a bit before I grabbed my helmet, jacket, gloves, and tank bag and got on our way.  

We wove through the quieter streets of Billings to get to South Billings Blvd. which takes us south out of the city.  The weather was perfect, about 70 degrees, clear skies, and no wind.  The road, Hwy 416, goes over hills and has some sweeping curves before it ends at Hwy 418, AKA Pryor Road.  We turned south here and about 20 miles later we are in the small town of Pryor on the Crow Reservation.  We made a quick stop for photos before heading east.

The road is Hwy 91 and there was a warning sign that indicated “Rough Road” for the next 40-some miles.  I’ve done this ride several times and it is a rough road due to some potholes, some patches, and some rough cattle guard crossings.  50 miles per hour is a reasonable speed.

We stopped along the way for a gander at the scenery.

About 20 miles into this road we passed a half dozen cattle cars lined up for loading, well, cattle, at a corral.  It was a depressing sight so I didn’t stop for photos.

The next town is St. Xavier and it’s pretty small and has some abandoned buildings, like this one.  This is at the corner of Hwy 91 and Hwy 313.

Looking north.

Looking south.

The abandoned school is nearby.

The next 20 miles took us to Fort Smith.  I think this place survives on tourism (boating and fishing) and the nearby Yellowtail Dam.  It a small place but they did have a gas station.

We continued on toward the dam but when we were about halfway up the hill we encountered a barricade.  It was like this the last time I was here, probably about 15 years ago, and even though I’d looked online and saw some indication that they might be allowing visitors, I guess not.  But scenery is pretty good.

Keith knew how to get to the marina above the dam so he led us up that way.  It’s about 10 miles and the road has lots of curves and cattle roaming on it.  We arrived at the marina and parked above the boat ramp.  Being post-season and a weekday, it wasn’t very crowed, in fact, not crowded at all.

We sat in a nice picnic shelter and had our lunch.  Afterwards, we walked around the grounds.  In the photo below, the dam is just around the far corner on the left.

It was time get going and we headed back up the hill.  I kept my eye out for a place to pull over that would give us a view of the dam and I didn’t find one so just pulled to the side of the road.

On the way out we checked out a few roads near the afterbay and took a look at the campground.  Camping there is about boating and all the sites are parallel to one another in a long line.

We headed back out and took Hwy 313 to Hardin, a nice ride past miles and miles of farmland.  In Hardin we turned west on Old Hardin Road, Hwy 87, and took road that back toward Billings.  When we got to Pryor Road we stopped for a break.

We took the twisty roads to Lockwood and then crossed the Yellowstone Rive into Billings, weaving our way through the industrial part of town and then up 27th.  We stopped and topped up our tanks, said our goodbyes, and then went our separate ways.

When I got home the trip counter said we’d done 217 miles.  A most excellent day.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

A ride to Bridger

September 3, 2023

I felt that I needed a break from one of my ongoing audio-related projects and since tomorrow is supposed to be rainy, I got the bike out, grabbed my sketchbook, and headed to Bridger.  There is a really interesting park there that I talked bout on this ride back on June 2, 2022.  I thought I’d sit there for a while and do some sketches.

The ride there was uneventful and, considering that it’s a holiday weekend, there were very few vehicles on the road, so the ride there, about 55 miles, was smooth.  However, as soon as I parked at the park and got my helmet off I felt a raindrop, and then another one, and another one followed by a guest of wind and a heavy downpour.  Dang!  I got my helmet back on and headed north to outrun the storm.  Here’s a photo from that previous ride.

I stopped at the city park in Fromberg and it wasn’t long before the weather caught up with me there.

I suppose that I could have waited it out but it’s supposed to get serious in and a bunch in Billings so I just headed back and figured I’d come back on another day.

It was about 100 miles round trip and any ride is a good ride.

Friday, September 1, 2023

A Quick Ride to a Minuteman Missile Silo

September 1, 2023

In what seems like a previous lifetime, about 50 years ago, I’d been forced into involuntary servitude and found myself, among other places, as security guard on a U.S. Army nuclear missile site near Wackernheim, Germany.  There I spent 14 months working 24 hours on followed by 24 hours off, repeat.  It was, thankfully I guess, as boring as can be.  The missiles were Nike/Hercs and the site was one of the first put in under NATO and, as such, rather primitive in that it was all above ground.  The missiles were stored in 3 “barns,” large warehouses, scattered about our 55 acre site cut into a German forest, surrounded by a double row of fencing and 4 guard towers.  When the Nike program was deactivated in 1979, the site was dismantled and let to return to nature.  Here is an aerial view of it today.  The barns were located where those square pads appear:

According to the reviews of the area on Google maps, it’s now a nature preserve and an artist built a lookout hill and stairs that were dedicated to peace.  The hill is located at the blue point above.  I picked up a couple photos from the reviews shown below.

So what does this have to do with FJR Adventures?  Well, Montana is one of the main locations for the Minuteman ICBMs which are stored in a variety of places across this part of the country.  These are stored in underground silos that are barely detectable from nearby roads but clearly viewable with satellite imagery.  And they are no secret as numerous web site discuss their locations.

I was shooting pool with friends yesterday and our host, Keith, who rides a Gold Wing and was on the recent group ride, asked if I had a ride planned.  I didn’t but after a few minutes we decided to do one today. He came over a bit before 9am and we discussed several options, trying to keep it at or around 3 hours due to his schedule.  We thought that the Pryor/St. Xavier, Hardin loop would be good but there is a large wildfire burning in that area so that’s out.  Natural Bridge south of Big Timber would be awesome but we really didn’t have the time.  Riding to Hysham out and back to see the Yucca Theater might be possible and the remaining one would be to Harlowton and back.  We both favored the latter and it would work for me because I’d been wanting to check out the Minuteman site 7 miles north of town.

Off we went with Keith in the lead.  A beautiful and cool morning with only a slight breeze.  We went out Hwy 3 and passed through Acton, Broadview, and Lavina before turning west on Hwy 12 which took us to Harlowton.  Keith pulled into Ray’s for gas, a place that was really busy.  I told him I’d meet him at the Rest Area next door.

We headed north on Hwy 191 for 7 miles and pulled over.  This is the missile site in the background.

Here’s a view from Google Maps. The silo is covered by a pentagon shaped cap.

Looking north toward the wind farm.

We rode north another 3 miles and pulled into what amounts to a visitors center for the wind farm company.  It’s really just 3 panels that discuss what they do there.  It was plenty breezy but nothing like the strong winds I’ve experienced here in the past.

Hear a panoramic video.

And that was it.  I led on the way back and we separated at Zimmerman and Hwy 3.  I stopped for gas before heading home, finishing up a 202.3 mile ride.

Friday, August 25, 2023

The Beartooth/Cooke City/Chief Joseph Loop

August 25, 2023

With summer slipping away I wanted to do this loop again before weather makes it more challenging.  I contacted the guys I’ve ridden with and they were unavailable so, of course, I went anyway.

The day started at 5:30am with a 5-mile run on the west end of town with my friend Shelley as part of My Run Billings project.  Here’s a view:

I keep a blog for that project which can be found here: My Run Billings Project

After a shower, a trip to the hot tub, and breakfast, I threw a few items, like a lunch, in the side cases of the bike and was ready to hit the road about 9:45am.  

It was pretty nice out so a t-shirt under my mesh jacket was all I needed.

I did the usual route west out of town: Grand to the Canyon Creek Battle Memorial and then south to Laurel.  From there I cruised on Hwy 212 to Red Lodge.  Traffic was pretty light and from Rockvale I just followed another motorcycle, which I think was a Kawasaki.  In Red Lodge I took a few photos.

From there it was up the Beartooth Hwy.  

I stopped along the way for these photos.

 The Vista Point, a good place to stop and get a sweatshirt on and chat with some other bikers.

This guy was dressing for fast.

I stopped on the way to the top for these photos.

I made a quick stop at the top for the usual photo opportunity.

I was glad that I had my sweatshirt on as it was a bit chilly on top. I rode down the other side:

I stopped next to a lake.

I passed the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway turn and headed to Cooke City.

Pilot Peak always makes a nice backdrop.

I went to Cooke City for gas.

I headed back the way I came but instead of going back up the pass, I turned on the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway and rode through Sunlight Basin.  Very few cars out today.  I stopped along the way and had my lunch surrounded by this scenery.

Just a few miles ahead I encountered a cattle crossing.

Another few miles ahead I encountered some construction.  The wait was short.

I got stuck behind some slow moving cars so I pulled over to give them some space.

I got to the top, Dead Indian lookout.

Here is looking down on the road I just climbed.

I found some more slow cars and pulled over again.  Time for a photo or two.

The road connects up to Hwy 120 and I traveled north through Badger Basin.  This is one long stretch of highway.  I crossed the state line and a bit later stopped in Belfry to turn off my dashcam.  It was warm and I was tempted to check out the bar but decided against it.

I made a quick stop in Bridger to adjust my earplugs.

I arrived home a bit after 5pm, after over 7 hours on the road.  Another great ride of 284.5 miles.

Yellowtail Dam

September 15, 2023 With beautiful weather and nothing pressing on my calendar, its a perfect day for a ride.  I’ve been wanting to do a ride...