One warm Saturday in June, a group of Tenacious Dames decided to make the ride up the Beartooth Pass to Cooke City for lunch. We met in the morning and it was decided that I would lead the group of seven women up the mountain. Everybody was excited as it was the first time any of us had been up since the scenic byway opened for the season on Memorial Day.
If you have never had the opportunity to ride the Beartooth Pass, I would highly recommend that you put it on your bucket list. It is open every year from Memorial Day to roughly Labor Day depending upon weather, as snow storms will cause the pass to be sporadically closed even in the summer. The views are nothing short of spectacular and the road is generally well maintained and it connects to the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway, which is perhaps my favorite place to ride.
We started from Laurel and headed up the mountain, enjoying the warm weather, the rumble of bikes, and the comradery that comes through riding together. We stopped at vista point to look out over the valley and Hellroaring Plateau on the other side, a view that never gets old, no matter how many times you stop.
The ride was peaceful and relaxing all the way across top of the world and past the turn off for the Chief Joseph Highway. Past that point the forest closes in fairly tight to the road, and the road itself settles into a series of gentle sweepers as you descend into Cooke City.
We had maybe five or six miles to go to get to town. I looked down into my left mirror as I came out of a sweeper to the left to make sure I could still see the six bikes behind me. I determined that I had not lost anyone and brought my eyes back to the road just in time to see a whole lot of hair and eyeballs headed my way from the right side of the road. What is that? What IS that? Is that a BEAR? THAT IS AN EFFING BEAR!!! All I could do at that point, as it cleared the trees near the side of the road at a dead run, on course to collide with my bike, was to twist the throttle. I made it past the bear, but at this point, it changed course and started to chase my bike. It quickly decided that it wasn’t going to catch me and turned broadside in the road in front of the bike behind me. All I could do was watch and pray. Oh crap oh crap oh crap. Connie locked up her brakes in order to avoid colliding with what had to have been a very confused bear at this point. She swears she was within five feet of it and that she could have counted every hair on the left side of its body. By now the bear had decided to hell with this and took off across the road and up the hill.
We continued on our way. Connie came tearing up beside me with wide eyes and mouthed “Holy sh*t!” before fading back to her position behind me to the right. At lunch we all joked about who was in charge of spare underwear. As it turns out, one of the girls missed witnessing most of the ordeal because she got something in her eye several miles prior and had been riding with only one eye open throughout.
The rest of the day was filled with an incredible scenic ride with some women that I am proud to call my friends and wind sisters. Everyone made it home safely and with a great story to tell. Well…everyone, except Lori, who had her eyes closed while the bear played Frogger with our bikes. (Just kidding Lori! We still love you!)