The Beartooth Pass, part of US Highway 312, connects Red Lodge, Montana, to Yellowstone National Park creating a squiggly asphalt line sixty miles through some of the most rugged and beautiful landscape the USA has to offer. It is consistently ranked in the top ten best drives in America, and often number one by motorcycle publications. It is a Scenic Byways “All American Road,” meaning that just driving it is a destination in itself.
This nearly perfect collection of curves and peaks starts just an hour from my home base of Billings, Montana, so I’ve driven it a lot. I’ve driven the Pass at night. I’ve been caught in surprise snowstorms. I know every curve in the road and many of the trails that leave the road behind for the glaciated summits and lake-jeweled valleys. So, I’m kind of bored of it, right?
Um, no. But, after so many experiences on the Pass, including seeing massive wildfires blacken mountainsides and being chased by mountain goats trying to drink my pee, not much surprises me about the Beartooth Highway anymore.
It’s pretty late in the year for a post like this, but that’s the way it works, sometimes.
2016 started out with a bang (or maybe a roar) with a trip to see the 58th running of the Daytona 500. From there, I went west enjoying desert storms and mountains wildflowers. While I hit a lot of places I’d seen before, I was able to explore those places more deeply. I also made it all the way to the opposite coast and saw the magic of the sun setting over the Puget Sound. It was a pretty good year, and I’m looking forward having the adventures that will go into next year’s retrospective!
On the NASCAR racing circuit, the Daytona 500 is the biggest event of the season. With well over 100,000 fans cheering their drivers on, it’s one of the rowdiest parties on Earth.
Here are four reasons it may also be the ultimate American experience.
1. Booze is heritage, not just an after-effect
Many (if not most) sports associate themselves with alcohol and a rebellious nature, but NASCAR alone owes its very existence to moonshine and out-driving law enforcement. When NASCAR started in 1948, most of the drivers like “Reckless” Roy Hall and “Lightning” Lloyd Seay had learned how to drive fast outrunning IRS agents on southern backroads during prohibition. Race day at Daytona International Speedway reveals that alcohol is just as important to racing now as it was then. Not only are several of the race teams sponsored by beer and whiskey companies, but flags with beer logos flutter off of RVs parked on the infield like medieval banners marking dominions. Hours before the race, coolers and grills are hoisted onto the sheetmetal roofs of those RVs. Fans sit back in lawn chairs cracking cold ones and bantering back and forth until the race starts. If you walk by one of these RV parties wearing the t-shirt of the group’s favorite driver, it’s almost a guarantee that they’ll offer to toss a can down to you. Even if the beer isn’t “your brand” it’s in your best interest to take it. Continue reading “4 Reasons the Daytona 500 is the Ultimate American Experience”
A cabin stands in a field, just off the highway. Its doors and windows are gone, and sunlight filters through gaps in the thick timbers. Its roof sags under its own weight. Behind the cabin, Montana’s Tobacco Root Mountains rise like a painted backdrop. Brown foothills dusted with pine trees give way to jagged gray peaks in the distance. The road and a barbed-wire fence are the only other human structures in sight. Continue reading Trucks Like Tree Rings