The most beautiful ride in America.
WORDS Gregory George Moore IMAGES Jenny Linquist
When we left New Hampshire for our Westbound journey in the summer of 2015 I was somehow only vaguely aware of the Beartooth Highway. Then when our gracious and patient tour guide Becca Skinner revealed to us our destination, the significance somehow escaped me. Probably not a very good "moto-jounalist" thing to admit, but radical honesty is a thing these days, and I have the memory of a goldfish. It wasn't until photographer and fellow traveler Jenny Linquist mentioned something about Pirsig writing about the pass did I sense a fleeting recollection of where I'd heard about it.
Full disclosure: I was completely unaware that at the time Pirsig was still alive and just so happened to live in Bozeman, MT, right near the smoke-filled strip mall we'd just come from the day before. I dug Bozeman. It's a hip little mountain city with ambition. After realizing that I was an ignorant dolt, to some far greater degree than I was willing to admit at the time, we set off from Rosebud Canyon towards Wyoming to experience one of the most storied roads in all of American motorcycling.
"In the high country of the mind one has to become adjusted to the thinner air of uncertainty..." —Robert Pirsig
There are few places in the world where this sentiment rings truer. Not simply because Pirsig travels the fabled road in his seminal work "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," but I challenge anyone to ride the pass and not have a near spiritual experience where you must face the overwhelming uncertainty of existence, the undeniable beauty of it, of our insignificance alongside our inescapable self-importance, and ultimately, of awe and wonder.
The Highway has earned the right to be called a highway in every sense of the word. It's a truly breathtaking stretch of road that's rooted in Americana and woven into the fabric of motorcycle culture. And even though I'd only become fully aware of its significance a few days prior to experiencing it, I'd have been okay If we had turned around there and headed home. The trip would have been worth it.
If you ever get the chance take the trip over the 10,947 ft above sea level pass, do it. It's worth every oxygen starved breath.
This article was originally featured in Issue 022 of Iron & Air