When I was sixteen years old (a very long time ago), during a vacation at my grandparents’ native island, I saw a motorcycle parked by the sea promenade that made my heart beat a little faster. I didn’t own a motorcycle back then, not even a scooter, and I ended up not owning one until 2013, but for some reason that bike caught my attention, it was love at first sight. Exactly a year ago that relationship was sealed and a signature at a Honda dealership made the CRF 1000L Africa Twin mine. I was dreaming of long trips on and off road. I was dreaming of throwing my tent and sleeping bag on that bike and discovering the world… or at the very least my corner of the world… it’s a start.
The preparation started with the installation of a pannier rack and a pair of Lone Rider MotoBags (I’ll write a review when I get around) and waiting for some nice weather to come my way. Montana has been very wet so far this summer but I finally had an opening of a few nice days and promised myself not to waste it. Having time off in summer is such a rare occasion that I have to make the most and best of it. The destination for my camping trip was going to be, of course, my former home, and still favorite place in America: Jackson Hole, Wyoming. 220 miles each way was a good start, and good fresh material for my YouTube channel about Motorcycle & Photography, which I recently started.
With the bike packed to the rim weighing close to 600 lbs (270 Kg) I left home and headed down toward the Big Sky Canyon, the most scenic way to Jackson Hole. At first I was having some safety concern about a guy like me (I’m 5’6” / 167cm tall) on a bike that big and that heavy, but those worries moved more and more toward the back of my mind as the miles passed under my tires. Summer being what it is, I encountered a bit of traffic and I had to stop a few times for road construction. The first stop was a bit nasty, not only because of being stuck in a long line of cars for a long time, but when we started moving again, following the pilot car, I had to pass through an unpaved part of road that was very soft and had deep grooves which made my wheels wobble and threw me a bit off balance. I handled it the best I could and got out of it without dropping the bike. Dropping the bike is always my biggest fear, I can pick it up without bags but there’s no way I can pick it up with all the extra weight. I know because I tried before leaving the house, my neighbor had to step in to help me stand it up.
I arrived at West Yellowstone to make a hydration stop, and took the time to check my gear and make sure nothing was loose before continuing by entering Yellowstone National Park from the West Gate. Riding through Yellowstone is always such a pleasure for the sheer beauty of the place. Rivers, lakes, mountains, geyser, the usual bison herd and so much green everywhere. When, as a kid, I read Donald Duck’s comics and his picnics with Huey, Dewey, and Louie, this is the place I pictured. Passing through the Little Firehole River canyon to shoot some video I soon after arrived at Old Faithful geyser. When I stepped off the bike the eruption had already started and was about to end. Bummer, I couldn’t wait an hour and a half for the next one. On top of that the Old Faithful Inn (oldest park lodge in the US, and the world, where I worked during the Centennial anniversary) was also closed for the season. I was hoping to shoot some video inside.
My next stop along the way was at the West Thumb Geyser Basin where I strolled around and shot a few video clips narrating what I was seeing. Through neverending forests, wide lake bodies, waterfalls and ever-present breathtaking scenery I arrived in Jackson.
Traffic wasn’t bad and that made a hugely positive difference. I went to see my friend Scott in his office and waited for him to get out of work to ride up to the place that I picked for camping. The road up Curtis Canyon is not exactly what I’d call a beginner unpaved road for anyone with little motorcycle experience of that kind: grooves, ridges, holes, washboard and steepness. I started looking for a spot to set the tent. The rules have changed since last time I was there when you could claim any unoccupied spot, now every spot is numbered and, luckily still free, but in my opinion overburdened with bureaucracy: a spot that could easily hold 5 tents far away from each other now is deemed viable for one tent only. I ended up going almost to the summit while it was getting dark, let’s say I was not a… pun intended… happy camper, but I finally found a spot with a view that made me forget the troubles, and set up the tent while Scott grilled some elk steaks. Now that’s what I call a Western dinner and a happy camper. Thank you Scott. I didn’t go to bed until around 1am, trying to do some night photography in total darkness, and at 5am I was already up setting up my camera for sunrise shots.