In 2020, I did a road trip to Montana with my partner where we visited Yellowstone National Park for the first time. It was during the winter and it was gorgeous; I told myself that next summer, I would come back again—but on a motorcycle.
In May of 2021, I began planning, initially to go solo because planning with others can be challenging but it wasn’t until I booked my final accommodations that the reality of traveling across states alone sunk in. I started having doubts and fears and I ended up posting about my trip to my Instagram stories to see if anyone wanted to join me. Thankfully my good friends Michele and Evelyn, who I’ve ridden with on trips before, decided to come. I was absolutely stoked—and relieved.
Since getting the time off work wasn’t as easy, I wanted to make sure I could get the most out of the 2 week adventure. So, I filled as many bucket list things as I could. Now looking back at the itinerary… it was truly ambitious.
A sign from the universe
I started the day before sunrise, my stomach full of butterflies with nerves from the unknown which were amplified by doing this trip on two wheels. As I made my way to the gas station, I saw the clearest and brightest falling star in the distance—a sign from the universe.
I met my friend Michele at the gas station. We filled up our tanks and made last minute adjustments to our luggage. After a pow-wow and prayers, we hit the road by 6 a.m. The goal was to beat the heat as we rolled through the Mojave Desert and made our way up to Mammoth Lakes where we camped for the night. By the late morning, the temp warmed up quickly. Thankfully as we moved further up the U.S. Route 395, the weather cooled. The views were breathtaking and the scenery of the Sierra Nevada Mountains was absolutely stunning.
We made it to Mammoth Lakes, checked into our campground and grabbed a bite to eat in town. Later that evening, Evelyn arrived and we celebrated with a drink—not a bad start to our adventure.
Trusting your gut
The next morning, we saddled up and made our way to Yosemite National Park. The plan was to pass through the park and get in as much sightseeing as we could, ending our day in Sacramento. I started feeling a bit sick due to the changes in elevation, so we had to take a much longer break than anticipated. As soon as I was able to get acclimated, we continued our trek.
Once we got through to the main roads of the park I was blown away. It was my first time visiting the park and I was overwhelmed by the size.
It was a beautiful, warm afternoon and we took a dip in Tenaya Lake. My eyes lit up as soon as the lake revealed itself from the granite rocks. We parked our bikes close to the beach, changed into our bathing suits along the busy road and quickly immersed ourselves in the refreshing lake. We could have spent the entire day there, but we knew we still had a long road ahead of us so we dried off, changed, and got back on two wheels. We just had one last thing to do before and that was get a quick photo op next to the most iconic rock formation, the El Capitan.
The next 5 hours driving from Yosemite to Sacramento was wild—from hairpin turns down a dark mountain to a long stretch of nothing, we finally arrived at our hotel in Sacramento at midnight, but were greeted with not so great vibes from other hotel guests. We were all feeling uneasy, so we ended up getting another hotel about 2 miles further down where we felt much safer, along with our bikes. Lesson learned: safety first and no matter what, always go with your gut.
Extreme highs and lows
We were pretty much on the go every day until we got to Spokane, Washington. Some of the best moments from the 4 days were: catching a herd of elk on the side of the road as we ripped through the Redwood Highway and the Avenue of the Giants close to sunset, and camping under a clear, starry night in a canopy of massive redwoods.
Some lows include a bee crawling up my sleeve while I was riding, and enduring some of the hottest days of the summer and freezing temps as we made our way up the Oregon Coast.
I almost waved my white flag and wanted to call it quits. But having amazing friends by my side is what kept me pushing through some of the most challenging moments.
By the sixth day, riding morning to night, we were all feeling it. We made the decision to stay another night in Spokane in hopes the extra day would allow us to recoup. I even took myself to urgent care for pain, swelling, and numbness I was feeling in my left arm and hand.
Living my motorcyclist’s dream
After a full day off the bikes, a steroid shot, and some Tylenol, we were right back up on two wheels to our next destination: Glacier National Park.
We got a late start, and because the roads from Washington to Montana were filled with thick smoke from wildfires blanketing the West Coast, we made frequent stops to rest from the heat and to give our burning lungs a break.
We finally arrived at Glacier National Park close to sun down—I don’t think there’s a more perfect time to arrive. There weren’t too many cars on the road and the ride was magical.
We made our way to Going-to-the-Sun Road and the sights were indescribable—the backdrop of the cotton candy sky with a bit of haze behind the mountains and green valleys was like living a real life sci-fi fantasy. I’ve never seen anything more beautiful and was in tears as I rolled through, passing walls of glacier water and mountainous terrain.
This was a moment I’ve dreamt of, and how I imagine riding my motorcycle and getting to see the world. Nothing in this moment mattered. All the pain and exhaustion just went away. I didn’t want to leave and wished the moment would have lasted forever.
Returning to Yellowstone
I finally made it back to the park, like I set out to do, this time on two wheels. Summer in Yellowstone is a lot different than what I had experienced when I was there during the winter. The park is a lot busier, so getting around (even on a bike) took a lot of time and made waiting to see popular sights less enjoyable. We mainly ventured away from the more touristy areas, staying close to the lake and river.
One of the highlights of this visit was having wildlife come in and out of our campsite;on the morning of the last day, we had some bison just a few feet away from our tents—it was the best send off we could have asked for as we got ourselves ready to leave the park.
By this point in our trip, the exhaustion was real; I could barely talk anymore and was ready to get home. Regardless, I soaked up the views in Grand Teton National Park, and continued to count my blessings.
The unforgiving road
We stayed a night in Jackson Hole, Wyoming and the next morning I made a rookie mistake. When I was planning for this trip I knew there was a chance of some rain, so I made sure to pack rain gear. But since we were on our last few legs of the trip and it had been mostly dry (and hot), plus we were done camping, we shipped some things home to help lighten our load.
I had no idea what we had in store for us the next 10 hours of riding as we headed to Utah. Apparently Utah was in its monsoon season, and the moment we left Jackson Hole, we got poured on. We rode in heavy rain all the way until we arrived at our hotel in Provo at midnight: soaked, freezing, sore, and feeling all the emotions possible.
We left a lot of ourselves on the road that day, but our skin was tougher and we overcame a lot. Nothing could’ve stopped us and brought us down after the night we had. Luckily, our last stretch home was the easiest we had all trip long.
After some reflection, I realized that I definitely could’ve done the trip solo—but I still would rather share the experience with someone else. And as unforgiving as the road may be—and how beat up I felt at the end of it all—I still look forward to the next adventure on two wheels.