2015 BMW National Trip

By Harry Costello – 

Just something to share my ride to the 2015 Nationals in Billings.

I’ll spare the reader the minutia and stick to the high points. Suffice it to say I ride 500/700 miles a day on the slabs and usually 400/500 on secondary roads, the trip was 7,200 miles long, I left on July 5th and was home on August 2, I stayed in motels six nights and at a relative’s three nights the rest was in a tent. I ate enough to stay alive nothing memorable except for a pizza in Crested Butte, CO. I lost five pounds on the ride (good thing).

I slabbed it to St. Louis then used a combination of slab and secondary roads to pick up RT160 in Southwest Missouri. Rode 160 about 800 miles West then small back roads North through the Gunnison and into Paonia, CO (site of Top of the Rockies Rally). Along the way I was impressed with how desolate RT160 was, especially in Colorado. And yes I’ve ridden RT50 through Nevada . In Kansas I was checking the map in my tank bag and when I looked up I was slapped in the face with a robin sized bird, bad for the bird as I saw it tumbling down the road in my mirrors and good for me that I had my face shield down. I camped on the summit of Cardova Pass (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cordova_Pass_(Colorado)) only $4 but required an eight mile ride over a very steep dirt and gravel road. Going up was bad but after a night of rain and hail coming down on the muddy road was worse, then I encountered the cattle.

TOR was good as usual, nice little town with a few good places to eat. Finally took the tour of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP and did a few passes of RT92 (North wall of the Gunnison) with some riders that knew how to use a twisty road. Sad to say that the road was (is) inhabited with Kamikaze Chipmunks that run across the road as you approach; I think I reduced the population by at least a dozen. We took the dirt/gravel road from Paonia over Kebler Pass to Crested Butte (local short cut – and watch out for cattle) to get some pizza at The Secret Stash. In the opinion of four Jersey boys it was as good as any pizza you can get in Jersey and that’s a huge compliment as anyone that has tried to find good pizza West of the Delaware can tell you. Four nights at TOR and it’s was time to move on.

I noticed an interesting road (RT141) West of Montrose that no one seemed to know about. The map showed it as a scenic road so I had to see it. I rode down The Million Dollar Highway (RT550) toward Durango and cut West at Ouray. Going North the 120 miles to Grand Junction I was rewarded with miles upon miles of spectacular views and no traffic. Seemed it was an uranium mining area and the ground was tinted various shades of blue, green and orange. Continuing North I camped with the bugs in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area.

Next day it was North thru Jackson Hole, the Grand Tetons, in the Southern gate of Yellowstone and out the East gate toward Cody, WY. Caught up with some folks from the Black Diamond BMW club and camped a few days in the Shoshone National Forest and also checked out some museums and points of interest in Cody.

Moving on to Billings it was across the Chief Joseph Highway, not too tight but mostly sweepers with a great view. Later we hit the Beartooth and spent most of the afternoon scaring ourselves on the twisties . Arrived in Billings late afternoon on Wednesday.

Standard Nationals stuff, looked at the vendors, bought some stuff I didn’t need, listened to some good entertainment, drank some beer and met a bunch of people that I haven’t seen for a while. In Jersey Shore tradition I showed up on Friday afternoon to pull my shift at the registration table (where were you guys) and my efforts were rewarded with being the proud recipient of one of the early prototypes of the Roger Trendowski throttle control system. It served me well on those 12/14 hour days on the way home. During the rally I did get another chance to challenge the Beartooth and had a friend convince me I really should go to Nova Scotia this fall.


After the rally we split up, some going West a few North into Canada, one to Sturgis (to rub shoulders with the great unwashed) and I went back South. I went back across the Beartooth to the North entrance to Yellowstone. One night in Yellowstone at an overpriced crowed campground and then I went to a campground in the grand Tetons only 10 miles South of the South Gate that was only $4 a night and a nice site.

One night it rained and in the morning the temps were in the high 20’s, I had to warm up a rag in my exhaust to melt the ice on my saddlebag locks. I rode back into the park the next two days and rode all the roads on the tourist map and a few that weren’t on the map but showed up on the GPS. I didn’t hit any of the infamous roadblocks that I couldn’t get around on a bike, although I might have pissed a few folks off by riding down the center line while a few hundred people were taking pictures of a tired old buffalo sleeping by the road. In two days I got to see all the tourist stuff and also saw a bunch of animals, including a ton of buffalo that came charging down my side of the road.

Leaving Yellowstone I headed Southeast over some very rural roads to Evergreen, CO and ended up on the doorstep of my in-laws where I stayed for a couple of days. While there I checked out a few local museums, the site of Buffalo Bill’s grave and the infamous Little Bear Bar.

Heading home I jumped on Rt70 through Denver then hit the dreaded Rt36 East bound. Not as bad as I expected, the speed limit was only 10 MPH slower than RT70 most of the time and there were things to see. I couldn’t pass the ball of sisal twine and the geographic center of the 48 states was an extra bonus. Secondary roads to Indy and then the grind on the slab to home.


The bike ran perfect the entire 7,200 trip not using any oil and even giving 10%+ better gas mileage at the higher altitudes. The Michelin PR4s worked well, as expected, and still have a decent amount of rubber on them. All the rain/hail/ice was at night except for a brief morning downpour in Kansas on the way home.

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