Motorcycle Tour of the USA

The author meets more subscribers and completes his motorcycle tour through the heart of our country.

| December 1993/January 1994

motorcycle tour - Old Faithful

I suppress my natural clautrophobia and thrust myself into the crush of humanity at Yellowstone Park's Old Faithful.


This is part two of a travel essay begun in "A Visit to MOTHER Readers Across the Country

By now the throbbing, hollow notes of the Norton are comfortably familiar. They reverberate off the sheer walls of a canyon in northern Colorado, where I am putting the Norton through its paces. With the amplification it becomes obvious why they called these bikes "Snortin' Nortons." The big twin-cylinder smokes and burbles its way through the turns, the G-forces pushing me deeper into the seat. Every bike has its road and today the Norton seems to have found hers.

Most of the people I have met on this cross-country motorcycle tour have been kindred spirits, environmentally aware, practicing low-impact lifestyles. But every now and then I'd come across characters who were diametrically opposed to that way of thinking. The farther west I traveled, the more clearly the lines were drawn between environmentalists and their counterparts. While environmentalism is more of an intellectual argument in the East (where land and much wildlife were decimated long ago), old-timers in the West still remember a wolf howl splitting the night or finding a grizzly track beside a mountain stream. Here the fight over management of public lands, forests, and wildlife is being waged with all the passion and rage of a civil war.

The Norton expels me from the bosom of the Colorado mountains and onto the high plains of southern Wyoming, scaring a few deer and pronghorn in the process. The pronghorn, with its dark racing stripes and splendid crown of horns, is the fastest mammal in North America and can sustain speeds of more than 40 mph for up to 30 minutes. I toy with the idea of giving them a blast of the bike's horn just to witness that perfect acceleration, but they look too bored to care.

The farther I ride in the direction of Yellowstone National Park, the more I am joined on the road by rental cars, campers, and buslike motor homes. By the time I reach Jackson, construction on the highway leading to the Park has turned the traffic into a smoke-belching throng, several miles long. The flagwoman kindly waves me and a guy on a Harley to the front of the line to avoid eating the dust of a hundred Winnebagos.

Yellowstone — once the playground of thousands of bison, elk, grizzlies, and wolves — is now a zoo of people who cruise the main road on bicycles, motorcycles, cars, trucks, trailers, buses, motor homes, anything that rolls. The speed limit in the park is 45 mph, as kids and parents and grandparents press noses to windows to catch an air-conditioned glimpse of some of the Earth's most spectacular scenery.

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