Yost travels to 17 national parks, returns to Claremore for Homecoming
Dorothy Wilmon Cummins Special to the Progress
Ron Yost is a man in love. He’s in love with the United States and thinks its citizens should see America first. He practices what he preaches. His most recent journey to see America took him to 17 national parks, traveling 8,123 miles in an eight-week period. He left Claremore on May 3 and returned July 1.
Traveling solo, he rode his Gold Wing 1800 with a motor trike kit attachment. He towed a trailer with 600 pounds of gear, plus his food and water supply.
His wife Sandra usually travels with him, but not this time. Understandably, she prefers camping trips with their fifth wheel. Ron met Sandra (Mann) when he moved to Claremore from Catoosa for his senior year in high school. His class of 1963 celebrates their 50th reunion this week.
Yost said his motorcycle was photographed “at least 500 times.”
“Every time I pulled into a campsite or stopped for gas, people came to take pictures.”
When he pulled into a parking space to photograph Bryce Canyon, bus loads of Korean tourists were already there, and they swarmed around him. One gestured about a photograph, and Ron first thought he was asking permission to drive the motorcycle. The answer to that would have been a “no”.
Then Ron realized he just wanted to sit on the motorcycle and have his picture taken and he was happy to agree. Then all of the Koreans in the group wanted the same and Ron Yost spent more than an hour at that photo op site.
During his two-month adventure, he spent just four nights in a motel, waiting for needed parts. Every other night he camped in a state or national park.
Claremore residents will also know Ron as the R of H n R Marine, which he and his dad, Harold, owned and operated for 26 years. Ron is dad to daughters Kimberly and Toni. His artistic granddaughter Mallory gave him a send off by painting the Okie Hobo logo on his rig before he departed.
The hardest day of his journey was the first. He rode all the way to Clayton, NM — 475 miles from home. He was excited about getting started on the trip, he said. The second hardest was the last day, when he again rode 475 miles, from Clayton to Claremore because he was ready to be home.
His first planned destination was Red River, N.M., but just before reaching there, he got sidetracked by a pretty Cimarrron Canyon park and stopped for the night. It was there that he had his first bear encounter.
The park host told him to put his ice chest with food inside his tent because of a bear problem, assuring him that the bear had not been inside anyone’s tent. Not wanting to be the first to share tent space with that bear, Ron sprinkled hot pepper powder at the entrance and kept his filet knife handy, just in case the bear came through the only tent opening and he had to cut another opening to escape. About four in the morning, Ron heard the bear sniffing around outside the tent. Fortunately, the bear got his nose into the pepper and commenced to cough, gag and sneeze. The bear departed without disturbing anything.
After that stay, Ron went to Taos, then over mountains to Farmington where he encountered snow, sleet and rain. “I loved it all,” he said. “It’s part of riding a motorcycle.”
He chose to travel back roads as much as possible, only using the major highways when he had to in order to reach his next destination. “The back roads — it’s the only way to see America,” he said.
After Farmington he went to Four Corners and into Utah and across the desert. He found a trading post “in the middle of nowhere” that was like time travel back into the 1800s. He later learned that it was located on Native American tribal lands.
When he reached Sequoyah National Park, he circled to locate his campsite. His site was surrounded by other campers and they had pulled all the picnic tables together and were sitting down to eat. Ron greeted them and joked that he was glad he hadn’t missed supper. The entire group encouraged him to join them, but he said he was just kidding and went about putting up his tent. Within minutes, one of the campers appeared with a loaded plate of food. When she saw his tent lacked a table, she insisted on him joining her group for the meal.
“They just took me in like I was part of the family,” he said.
His new Hispanic family members were from all across California, and they fed him for the three days and four nights of his stay. Even if he left the campsite, he would find a prepared meal waiting when he returned.
The Claremore camper was appreciative, having discovered “I didn’t like my own cooking.”
He lost 23 pounds during the trip, and he learned about “getting by on less.” He said he could cook and eat his meal with just one pan and one utensil, which meant less to wash. That mattered, he said, when he had to transport his water for drinking, cooking and cleaning up.
As he traveled, he realized that “people are good and they are good to each other”. He said he never pulled over to stretch his legs that somebody didn’t stop and ask if he needed help.
He had another bear encounter at Yosemite, one of his favorite spots. His campsite neighbors were a bunch of school teachers and their third and fourth grade students, about 150 of them.
Ron said that even though the children and their adult leaders tried to be extra careful about food, there were enough spills to attract a black bear. Late at night, Ron heard him trying to get into one of the stoves and yelled to scare him off. The bear sauntered away and Ron pulled on his pants and stepped outside the tent to get a picture, only to come face to face with that bear.
The encounter ended well because “we scared each other,” he said. He and the bear hurried in opposite directions.
During his travels, Ron also met up with some scrawny little coyotes. He observed them long enough to discover that they stayed alive in the desert because they stood near the road and begged for handouts. He also encountered a blind raccoon, which led him to a fun night of singing and sharing a jug of vodka with a Russian born camper traveling to Alaska.
One of the things he learned was to expand his vocabulary to include several other words to substitute with “beautiful” when describing national parks. He thought all parks beautiful, uniquely so. He even saw the beauty of desolate Death Valley although “it was so hot I had to take my helmet off.”
Ron decided if he had to name favorites they are Yosemite for its sheer size — “breathtaking,” and Crater Lake in Oregon for the clear, beautiful pure water. He also loved Glacier National Park.
Back home in Claremore, Ron Yost insists that Americans who spend a lot of money visiting other countries before seeing their own “should be fined.”