Offering sweepers, twisties, and scenic views, HWY-86 winds between Baldy Mountain, Ross Peak, and Grassy Mountain along creeks coming down off the hills.
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The cozy Belgrade home of Robin’s long time friends, Adam and Nikki, makes for a slow start. Exhaustion from this trip (not to mention last night’s beer) is dragging us down. We demolish a light breakfast, painstakingly get our gear packed and wish a fond farewell before heading to Bozeman. There we investigate Nova Café, a delightful location along the bustling yet open environment that is Main Street. Robin and I both crush protein shakes to keep us in motion all the way to today’s stopping point: Miles City, Montana.
Planning a route to keep off the I-90 slab, we head north out of town and catch HWY-86, Bridger Canyon Road. Offering up sweepers, twisties, and scenic views, HWY-86 winds it’s way between Baldy Mountain, Ross Peak and Grassy Mountain along the various creeks coming down off the hills. It’s a great stretch of road and just what we need to build energy for the rest of today’s ride.
HWY-86 lands us on US-89, where we stop to take pictures. The scenic Montana landscape features grasslands that are settled into mountains on the horizon. Continuing north on US-89 up to HWY-294, we see signs for construction that warn motorcyclists to take another route. We choose to “not understand” (disregard) these signs and continue on.
The road turns out to be fine. It’s well paved and full of fun corners that wind east through the rolling, rocky terrain. Not once do we encounter any construction until we hit US-12, where we’re queued up, single file, on loose gravel. Traffic is being flagged around the construction in small packs. We gingerly negotiate the half mile of “road” before reaching tarmac and blazing east.
Our basic plan is to take US-12 all the way home if not at least to Minneapolis. The further east we go, the flatter and less interesting things become. This morning’s canyon twisties are replaced with an ever flattening grassland along the plains. We stop and visit a few quaint towns for gas and a much needed stretch. I’m excited by the opportunity to enjoy licorice flavored ice cream that’s being offered up in Harlowton (don’t judge me). The town of Roundup is also pleasant and appropriately cowboy themed. Otherwise, the stretch is uneventful. We do battle some winds along the way but nothing too bad, especially after what we met in southern Idaho.
As the sun begins to set, we arrive at Forsyth, Montana where US-12 blends into I-90. Our hopes of skirting the slab via Cartersville Road are broken when we find out it becomes dirt just outside of town. We decide to jump onto the expressway and continue to Miles City.
Our original plan is to stay at Big Sky Campground which is located on the edge of Miles City. Upon arrival, however, we find that it’s more of an RV destination with limited accommodations. A quick smartphone search reveals a nearby KOA. They offer numerous amenities: store, fire pits/wood, showers, pool … even old school phone booths. We reserve our plot and get set up.
Despite Robin’s initial hesitation to camp, the evening goes really well. We buy a six pack of banquet beer from the camp store (the best they have, trust me) and order pizza delivery (is this what they call “glamping”?). A nice young lady, pregnant, traveling solo, stays in one of the cabins nearby. The company’s nice but she soon retreats to bed for an early start.
We settle down to a peaceful and quite night. The only disturbance settles quickly (two friends rolling in after hours set up next to us). Robin doesn’t wake up. It’s a great ending to an adventurous day of fun and spirited riding. Here’s hoping tomorrow brings more of the same.
Ready for more? Day Fourteen: Miles City To Lemmon
What’s Your Favorite Sport Touring Motorcycle Route From Belgrade To Miles City?
There are limited twisty, scenic travel options connecting the two. Which roads do you prefer and why? Where do you like to stop along the way? Your input is invited. Post an article!