Day 17
June 29th, 2005
Joseph, Oregon

My riding today will be a little more focused, a little more deliberate.  Oh, I was still going to have fun, but Debbie wanted me to start home, and that was what I intended to do.

I had originally planned a low mileage day north to the Palouse.  One of the most geographically unique areas in the country.  I adore the rolling hills of green wheat there, and the villages that dot the valleys and river banks.  I'll have to skip that, because one the primary objectives is riding Montana 200 east to North Dakota, and once crossing, keep riding it to the Mississippi River.  I can't do both, so I let the Palouse go, besides, not like I haven't been there.  
My aging mother, in failing health, was also missing me, so yes, it is time to head for  home.  There will be other tours for the Palouse, River Headwaters, and Great River Road.  My new plan will still allow me to ride 200, and portions of the River Road, just not all I wanted.  

To accomplish these goals, I was going to have to turn it up on the mileage for the next couple of days.  I was only asked to come home early, not RIGHT NOW, so I don't have to resort to the slab yet.  Connecting a bunch of interstates back to Alabama, would kill my spirit.  There would be no adventure in that, no sense of wandering, you would always know what lied ahead; the same stuff you just left behind.  No Seneca, Oregon awaits you down the road, no cafe with a farmer named Big Daddy, no challenging banked curves, no desolate run outs alone with your thoughts.

Before turning east, I had to ride a few more miles north to Idaho, to position myself for the run up Lolo Pass on U.S. 12.  One of the most famous motorcycle roads in the country.

I stayed with the lined gloves I ended with yesterday.

After looking at the map, and consulting with Uncle Phil last night, I felt like I had a good strategy.  "You can ride the routes you had planned, once out of the mountains any route west-east is going to be fast.  You need to get to Fargo by tomorrow night to have a shot of getting home by the 3rd."  "How ya know?"  "Cause I'm looking at the mapping software right now."

Joseph was still closed down when I finished loading the 1300.  It was 5:30am.  My gauge was on 2 bars, so rode onto the next town.  I didn't feel like hanging around waiting on a place to open.  I was going to have to sink or swim with Enterprise, a small town, a few miles north.  Enterprise would be THE limit, not a thing was on the map when you leave it for Washington.

I cursed how tough it was to get a early start in these places, I guess I should have topped off the night before.
I found the same situation in Enterprise, and settled on one that just had a guy unlock the door.  YES.  "You'll have to hold on, I gotta run a tape, take 10 minutes."  Finally he cleared me to swipe the card and I filled up.
Temps were in the high 40s with cloudy skies.  

With everything taken care off, I was off to Washington at a fast clip.   The quiet running 1300 had his way, popping over hills, and cutting  through timberland.   The carving was good and the riding fun.

After a nice ride through the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, I stopped for a photo op at the Joseph Canyon Overlook.  Nice.  Opposing slopes looked far away, and I had a powerful sense of life.  A feeling that has been with me since leaving Arnold.  For the last 2 weeks, I've had the good fortune to witness so many beautiful places and people.  Sometimes we are so busy living, that we forget the true essence of what it means to live on high octane.
​Joseph Canyon Overlook
I didn't have much advance recon on SR 3, so I was mesmerized by the way it flowed down out of Oregon to Washington.  Near the state line it was dropping hundreds of feet by the mile.   Curving and twisting among the mountains, I worked the 1300, on a glorious mountain ride.  
​Because so many have asked, the location of the road
on the intro page- Washington SR 129.

 was not moving fast when I stopped for a panicking deer.  The beast was trapped by a 600 foot drop off, and a straight up bluff.  I saw it bouncing between both trying to escape.  I came to a full stop.   The doe ran in a large circle to build up enough momentum to climb the bluff.  Up it went, kicking rocks and dust behind, but it was too steep and too long, and it dropped back down.  She went to the other side but the drop was too high, so it ran along the shoulder till she saw a path down, leapt off, and was gone.  An amazing display of athleticism. 
A pick up truck behind me saw what was going on and held patiently.

In Washington SR 3 morphs into SR 129.  I was now entering Lewis and Clark Country.  Everywhere, memorials, historical markers, and landmarks note the expedition.  Now days, many mark the Corp of Discovery expedition as the end of civilization.  I don't ascribe to that theory, and will let it go at that.

The riding continued to be good.  I had to pass a few photo ops over the miles because I had passed an RV and 4 cars.  I didn't want to give my place back to them by stopping.  The road was too good to be choked down by a bunch of slow pokes.

Clarkston, Idaho has a HUGE paper mill almost in the middle of town.  I come from a paper mill town and know the odor.  I picked up the scent long before I eyed the mill.  

After finding U.S. 12 I went in a Flying J Truck stop for my morning break.  The miles had been good, and now it was time to relax a little.  I prepared a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and while I ate charged up my camera batteries.  I had a long chat with Debbie and Chris, and ordered a new pair of running shoes.  For a guy without a job, I was busy.

Time for more riding so I got back on the road.  My sandwich was good, and the day still young, and I was never in a better mood.  But how does one get in a foul one on a tour like this?

U.S. 12 has been on my list for a long time, but now it was time to scratch it off.  Any highway that cuts a path through the Montana Mountains has to be good.  The road lived up to the billing.  

The highway is busy near Missoula and Lewiston, but in between the riding is varied and exciting.  
​U.S. 12 near the Nez Perc Reservation
The route sweeps across the Nez Perce Reservation and turns east into the forest near Kamiah.  I can't remember a more scenic ride.  U.S. 12 dances around the mountains as it follows the Lochsa River.  The water looked fast and bubbling as it swept down out of the high country.  I was only a few feet from it.  Some of the turns in the low spots were sweepers, others were tight as it went up in elevation.

Clouds gathered around several peaks, and a misty rain fell intermittently while I was in the mountains.  
​   "Clouds gathered around several peaks"
The ride among the mountains was proving to be one of the best.  I had to keep my speed down on the wet road, but the surface was good, and traffic was not a problem.
​Everyone takes this picture, so I thought I'd add mine 
to the collection.

I was astonished when I came behind a large SUV bus, with a 05 1300, no panniers, mounted on the rear bumper.  I wondered what kind of system it was to hold 700 pounds. 

The gas bar was down to 2 and a sign noted services were ahead.  A right turn brought me off the highway to a small store with several cabins.  A FJR sat in the mist outside a quiet cabin.  I guess the owner was sleeping in on this less than perfect riding day.  Although I had been in and out a light mist since the Indian Reservation, it could have been much worse.  I filled the 1300 and got back on the muddy road to the highway, glad it was only a short distance to pavement.
​Along the banks of Lochsa, the path of Lewis and Clark
It seemed I was in Idaho a long time, and U.S. 12 kept going deeper in the wilderness heading for the Bitterroots and Lolo Pass.  At last the road turned grinding steep as I made the last few miles to Lolo.  A large interpretative center is located at the top, I like such things so turned off to learn a few things about this magnificent land. 

Mountains passes are pretty much the same they have always been.  At first they were used by animals following their instincts, later Indians and settlers, and now me.

I dropped down from Lolo and the temp began to rise, and the sun broke out. Miles of long downhill followed, and the tourist traps and white water rafting places grew more numerous.

I came into Missoula looking for some late lunch.  The city was busy, and it was hard to follow U.S. 12.  The route went by the University of Montana-Missoula campus, a hospital, and several shopping centers.  Like all college campuses it was pointless to have a car, because you couldn't park it anywhere.

A McDonald's near I-90 looked as good as anything so I took it.  I ordered 2 small hamburgers and called Uncle Phil.  It was almost 3 pm and I had just put down 250 miles of rugged mountain riding.  Not a bad day.

"Where ya at?"

"Missoula, been in the mountains over 250 miles."  It had been my hope I could get east of Great Falls by day's end,  "You could do it, but that'd be a grind,"  I hear Uncle Phil remark.  I said,  "Nah that ain't gonna happen, I'm gonna shoot for Great Falls, and try to make it up tomorrow.  "The problem is, I don't see how you can go a little east of Great Falls, because its all or nothing.  If you don't stop, you're committed for at least another 150 miles."  I kept that thought in mind when I made the call to end the day in Great Falls.  Still, I had to get there, so got underway.

I spotted a Honda Shop on the way out of town, and came in for Honda Spray Polish.  I do my best to keep my bike looking nice on tour, it makes the cleaning job easier when I get home.  I skipped the Plexus, the Kawachem was doing a adequate job.
​I ride the Honda cross country with a air of confidence.
You are never far from support and one of these.

From Missoula I went to SR 200 east, something I'd been wanting to do for a long time.  On the map it looked like fun, and it was.  All the mountain riding the last few days had been good, but I was ready for something different. 

The mountains were less imposing now as I steadily came down from elevation.  Farmland was replacing hills, and pastures full of cattle and hay were common.  For the first time in a number of tours I was sleepy in the saddle.  When I get sleepy I don't resist, a guy can get hurt that way.  A boat launching on the Blackfoot River materialized and I went to it to find a place for a nap.  A picnic table worked just fine and the burbling sound of water knocked me out pretty quick.  I napped about 15 minutes.  
​When I get sleepy I don't resist.  I took a nap on the 
table in the background.  Relaxing.

Everyone should visit Montana, it is so wild and rugged, and offers a great feeling of open space and freedom.  
The next 40 miles were ok, but a little too much traffic, considering you were in Montana.

My butt was sore by the time I arrived in Lincoln, and I was looking around seeing how the Old West was doing, looking for a place to park my bones, and drink a Dew.  I found a saloon looking place on a out of the way side street.  "They'll have a TV, and a place to sit."  Soon I was going to be starting a long passage across the High Plains, and I wanted to reflect on that, so I stopped.

The day was warm and the only the screen door was closed.  A shattered pool cue lay in one corner,  a empty room was to one side with a small neon light glowing, the kind that would drive you crazy if you stayed in there too long.  Half of the 10 or so patrons turned to look at me when I came in.  "Dang man, why'd I stop HERE?"  A TV was on, but the only info it was going to give me was the CMT Top Twenty for the week.

To say the place looked "rough" was a understatement.  Why these folks were in here in the middle of the afternoon I didn't know.  Perhaps they worked shift, or the cowboys were off for a few days, who knows.
 I found a bar stool at a high table, and set my helmet and coat down.  A bar maid come over. 

"What ya drinkin?" 

"Diet Coke."  "Diet Coke?" 

"Yes m'am."

A sharp faced lady, pretty 10 years ago, with hips packed in too tight jeans, paraded around the bar.  She was sitting at a table with 2 other ladies and a cowboy.  My eyes left the TV when I heard a commotion by the pool table where 5 guys were playing pool or waiting their turn.  "I SAID I WAS IN THE NEXT GAME!"   "WELL STEP OUTSIDE, I GOTTA GAME FOR YA, ITS CALLED BEAT YOUR ASS."  Cooler heads prevailed adn things settled down.  I didn't know if they were serious or not.

The lady walked by my table several times, working the area before she stopped.  Immediately I sensed trouble.  "You're not from around here."  "No, m'am I'm not, just passing through, tryin to get to Great Falls today, but headin back to Alabama."  She looked outside to the parking lot at the 1300,  "nice bike, but I'm the Harley type myself."   "Nice bikes also, but my motorcycle is specifically made for what I do."  She left and went back to her table.  I couldn't hear, but it looked like she had a stern conversation with the cowboy.

Next thing I know, the cowboy is standing by my table.  "The lady says you are staring at her, and made comments."   I looked from the TV and thought, "damn I'm gonna get in a bar fight at MY age?" 

"Not true, don't know the woman, no offense, don't care to."

  This guy is almost half my age, and still has a way to go to know women. 

"She sent you over, just to see if you'd come.  This is how much I'm interested; in about 2 minutes I'm gearing back up and back on the road." 

"Well she did say you were hitting on her."

 Look, just keep talking to me, and then go back and tell her I was properly scolded, and you took care of it, but I'll give ya this advice, if ya stay with her ya gonna be fightin everyday."

At one time this female garnered a lot of attention and men routinely dueled in the streets for her, presently, that is no longer true, but she has a young cowboy under the spell.  I'd say he was at least 10 years younger.  I rose up from the high bar table with my stuff.  I knew this incident was going nowhere, cause this guy's heart is not in it, and besides, no amount of provocation was going to get ME in a fight.   I looked to him,  and he stepped out of the way, "later," and went outside to the Honda.

In all my travels, the nearest thing to a confrontation I'd ever had.  It was kind of exciting.  I've been bestowed a great gift, one that has served me well, that being no temper.  In the face of people screaming and yelling at me, I've always been able to remain calm and collective, allowing me to out think those who go emotional.  Never been in jail or trouble with the law, something happens I have my say, and walk off.  Don't break or throw anything either.  My dad was that way.

The song of SR 200 is a lonely one.   I was still a few hours from Great Falls, but dark does not come around these parts till very late.  I pushed the Honda to 95 mph and belted the prairie miles down hard, making sure they could not rise up to try me again.

The road moved up as I approached Roger's Pass.  The temp and wind dropped and increased, and it began to rain.  Not like the light sprinkles back in Idaho, but a steady rain.  I knew once I crossed the pass the High Plains would be stretched out before me, and the sun would be out, so I didn't hesitate to press on.   I went over the pass and through a few curves, and the sun broke out.  Out before the Plains beckoned me.  From here I could see clouds moving across the land, and blue sky.  IT was a nice view.
​Rolling across the land I had this view of  Montana. 
I was at last out of the mountains.

Down out of the mountains I jetted, passing a fast moving Coca Cola truck.

The intersection of U.S. 287 and SR 200 is a dangerous place.  I counted no less than 5 crosses at the crossroads.
​The intersection of SR 200 and U.S. 287
All the miles in the mountains had me eager for the long run outs, to cruise the Honda at 95 with nothing to slow me down, not even the wind, as a nice one pushed me, it was fun.
I met a convoy of 3 west bound trucks, noses in the wind, hammers on the floor, their cabs filled with CB chatter, and country music.  The mountains would slow them down but the Great Plains were behind them, and that's all that mattered.
SR 200 looking east to Great Falls.  High speed nirvana
It was a nice late afternoon ride into Great Falls.  Near I-15 I stopped to check a few notes and saw a RT and FJR come in from the interstate looking or gas.  They were from Minnesota.

The sign read if you want SR 200, join I-15 into Great Falls.  I did and started looking for a place to stay.  I'm short of where I wanted to be, but I don't know what is east on 200.  It was already 8pm, and it might be hard to find a place further east.  I saw the Motel 6 and went to it.

I went inside after 496 miles.  Setting up 2 big days to make it home by the 4th.  "SIXTY-BUCKS?"  For a Motel 6??  "Yeah, the same guy owns all the motels you can see, this was the last he bought."  "Well somebody needs to call Washington, and let em know about his monopoly, cause this ain't right."

All doors were inside facing, and on top of that I was upstairs.  I unloaded and cleaned the 13 with all the new polish I'd picked up.

A nice long shower followed, and after I was cleaned up I called home, and my son.  I was walking across the street to a diner called Elmers, thinking about things.   It was a good thing I didn't spend much money on the way out here, because the next couple of days I was going to be in motels.  Riding solo across country, staying in motels every night, gets pretty expensive, very quickly.  But I was looking at 2 consecutive 700 mile days to get to Nashville by the 2nd, which means I'll be getting off the road late.

Judging by the less then enthusiastic crowd at Elmer's, I'll predict it will be out of business the next I come through here.

In the diner I spoke to Uncle Phil who was on his computer helping me with strategy.  "Look, Fargo is over 1000 miles to Nashville, and 700 miles from where ya at now." 

"I'm gonna try for Fargo tomorrow." 

"Well you're gonna HAVE to spend some time on the slab, 200 is not only going to be slower, but it is going to take you north."  I looked at the atlas, "yeah I know, I'll just pick a west-east route across North Dakota that parallels I-90, I can't ride 90 across North Dakota, I'd lose my sanity."

Supper was some healthy grilled salmon and rice.  "So ya got it all figured out?"  "Well baby, I dunno, but I have a big day in the morning, bring my check sweetie."

On the way back to the room I stopped for a muffin and a Mountain Dew.  In the room I made a final call on the routes for tomorrow.  I'll run 200 east almost to North Dakota, then drop south to I-90, when I get into North Dakota I'll link a couple of state routes east.  I'd come back to I-90 the last 100 miles to Fargo.

I enjoyed the TV the next hour and set my watch for 5:30am, I wanted to be on the road by 6am.