Day 18
June 30th, 2005
Great Falls, Montana

A beeping watch at 5:15am sounded like someone pounding pots and pans in my quiet room.  I rolled over groping for it, finding it behind the telephone.  It stung my senses before I could turn the annoying noise off.  "Dang, didn't I just get in the bed?"

I had to get moving, a 700 plus day was waiting for me, but I was looking forward to it.  I was sure it was going to be a interesting day on the road and it was.

It took a couple of trips to load the 1300, I placed a rock in the hallway exit so I wouldn't have to swipe the card each time coming or going.  I was loaded and ready to go in 15 minutes.  A quick check of the air pressure found each tire down 3-5 pounds.  "I'll have to take care of it, long day coming up.  Tires wear out quick enough with the correct air, no need to help them along."

With the 1300 loaded I double hit the starter and fired the 1300 up.  The lights were shining on the motel wall, and it was then I noticed I had NO headlight.  "Dam what happened to my light?"  I still had the PIAA's, which drowned out the headlight anyway, but still I needed my headlamp.  "I ain't gonna unload the bike now to find the problem, I'll work on it when it get to wherever I'm going."  Which meant I wouldn't be able to ride into the night.  "I'll HAVE to call it a day before the sun goes down. "

I was wondering if we did something wrong wiring the accessories, but I didn't think that was possible.  If so, why does it appear now and not earlier?  I suspected when I doubled clutched the starter it overloaded the fuse.  The PIAAs run 100% of the time and the extra pull coupled with the multiple start kicked it. ( I was right).
I left the motel and went to an Exxon con store down the street to top off the gas tank in preparation for the long run across the Montana prairie.  I knew how lonely it was going to be, and wanted to be ready.  I brought the tires up to proper inflation and took off in the morning dark.  The sun was still 30 minutes away.

Temp gauge read 46 degrees.  I could feel the coolness of mountain air rushing from behind me.  I brought the screen up, and fired up the heated grips.  I had a sweatshirt under the Roadcrafter, and leather gloves.  I was a little cool, but took comfort the temp would begin rising soon.   Not a cloud was in the morning sky.

SR 200 is a throwback to the old days.  Why I wanted to ride it.  Several mountain ranges border the route as it travels east, the mountains just don't want to let go it seems.  The route ties together many small outposts.  Places where you find only a few houses, a saloon, and a couple of barns.  If it had a motel it was considered a thriving community.

A brilliant sunrise was taking place and I had a armchair view.  Luckily, it was not in my direct line of sight.  The air was cool when I went down in the low spots and it chilled me.  Thirty miles from Great Falls, I had to stop to switch to lined gloves.
​The morning sun tinted these Montana buttes.  SR 200
east of Great Falls, Montana.

What a beautiful morning.  I had the highway to myself, and the green luster of Montana looked extra special in the soft tint only a morning sun can bring.  I had a tailwind, and the Honda was extra quiet.  With the screen up, wind noise was gone, it was so quiet I could hear the drone of the tires on the asphalt in a sweet hum.  I looked at the engine temp gauge, it was on 3 bars, same as it was in Phoenix on a 112 degree day.  "How does this bike do it?"  I asked.

A jack rabbit darted from the shoulder, but today was not his day, the pointed edge of the lower fairing got him, I could feel the silght "thud" in the bars, sorry, but at 90 mph I was in no position to take evasive action.  A few miles after that, a dead deer was sprawled in the west bound lane.  Probably the work of one of 18 wheelers I met earlier.   When the highway dipped down to a low spot it was a good indication I was about to pass a water body, with a little foliage that could obscure my view of the bream.  I slowed down and checked everything as best I could, looking for the deer that was going to bolt at the last minute.   I was more scared of deer this trip than anything else.  I've never seen it this bad.

The landscape grew brighter and brighter as the sun rose in the sky.  I was singing songs and thinking about life in general.  The song "Detroit City" came to mind.  A story of a homesick southern boy trying to get home after a long absence.  "Last night I went to sleep in Detroit City, and dreamed about those cotton fields and home," 
SR 200 hurtled me east in a time tunnel like fashion.  A whole lot of nothing was out here, and the occasional farmhouse looked like out of place in the great expanse.

I finally made it to Lewiston, but didn't stop.  This was a day I needed to knock down the miles, and resisted the urge to stop for peanut butter and jelly.  The city of 5,000 was positively cosmopolitan compared to the places I'd been passing through all morning.  I stretched my legs while stopped at the traffic lights and kept moving.

East of Lewiston the highway was even more open, but I found plenty to keep my eyes entertained.  The land seemed to fold, and painted rocks, badlands and cliffs were painted in an array of colors.  It was anything but boring and the fact I could cruise as fast as I wanted, made it even more interesting.

It was only mid morning when I arrived in Jordan, a little more than halfway across Montana.  For a state named after mountain, it has a lot of prairie and flatland.  The east stands in stark contrast to the west, but all of it beautiful.   I had already put down over 200 non stop miles, and was ahead of schedule. 

Jordan is a clump of houses and old businesses, most of which closed down long ago.  The Fellman Motel sits in the middle of town, and had a few cars in the parking lot outside of the room's door.  The motel was old, about 10 rooms, that I swear probably had TVs sitting on concrete blocks.  
​Not much was going on in Jordan, Montana
A con store appeared and I went in to top the gas tank, and eat a sandwich.  After the filling the tank, I took the 1300 to the side so not to be in the way.

Inside a few locals were speaking with the clerk, a middle aged woman with a fly swatter, that she wielded with a deft that would make Barry Bonds envious.  Shelves were well stocked, and the cooler was in the rear.  An open wall to a small cafe was off to the side.  After paying for my drink I went there to find a table to relax.
The peanut butter and jelly tasted extra good after the long morning ride.  I checked the Motorola for a signal, and as expected, had none.  I was putting a few notes in the Axim, when a man and young lady came in.  He was 70sh and wore denim from head to toe.  "Dad I'm gonna pick up a few things,' the lady said.  He sat down beside me-

"Is that your motorcycle outside with the Alabama tags?"

I'm seldom without conversation.  People are not threatened by a lone Long Rider.  Especially one my age.  This is why I love doing what I do.  Sticking to backroads and small towns, it is fascinating and fun.  I've noticed when I am with a partner, I am not quizzed, and I usually have to start a chat if that is what I seek.  But alone, far from home, everyone wants to know your story.  They want to know where you've been, where you're going, to try and pierce the mystery and charisma of riding a motorcycle across the land.  To know the meaning of freedom, which is thick in Montana.

"Yes sir, that'd be me."  He leaned forward and pushed back his hat. "Back in the 50s I rode a Triumph from Nebraska to Texas.  The most fun thing I ever had in my life.  I was just back from Korea, and bought a bike just because I could.  I think about that trip all the time."

"That was quite a ride back then."

"Yeah I'd ride for an hour, fix it for 3, ride a hour, fix it for 3.

"So how come you never did it again?  And thanks for you service to our country, I appreciate it."

"Long story, but you know how it goes. Got married, kids, job, living just got in the way."

"so how long ya been on the road?  

"This trip about 2.5 weeks, working my way back home, but if ya wanna really know, about 5 years.  I ain't no spring chicken myself, so gotta do it while I can.  Sure has been fun, and nothing like it."

"Yeah it sounds like it."  His daughter stuck her head in, "Ready?"  "Yeah right behind ya."  He looked to me, "Have a good trip."


Clouds appeared on the distant horizon, and I wasn't sure if rain loomed ahead.  
Near Circle I went to SR 200S, constructed for the sole purpose to connect this portion of Montana with I-94.  I wanted to stay on 200, but I couldn't, it would bring me into North Dakota too far north, I made a mental note to return soon to ride 200 across North Dakota. I knew I did not have far to go to the interstate and that made me sad.  The last 50 miles to I-94 passed much too quickly.  
Circle, Montana
In Glendive I reluctantly took I-94 East.  The clouds were a little thicker and kind of depressed me, after so many days of bright sun and skies it seemed odd.  

After crossing into North Dakota I became chilled.  Temps were in the 50s.  I won't feel daytime 50s in Alabama till Christmas. 

I-94 is for people who equate travel with getting the miles down behind them.  If that is you, then I-94 will make your day.  More or less flat, a straight line for a thousand miles across the Plains.  Be my guest.

I wasn't on I-94 30 minutes when I had to have some relief.  I kept seeing signs for the small towns that were close by.  Exits seemed to call out for me, like barkers at a state fair.  " Exit here and see great things, nice towns and people, and interesting back roads."  I had all I could take, and I needed to top the gas tank anyway.  I took the Beach, North Dakota exit, and filled the tank.  The road pointing toward the town looked promising so after I filled up, I went down it looking for something to eat.

People like to name stuff just the opposite of what reality is.  Like calling a big guy "Tiny."  I imagine Beach came across the name the same way.  It is thousands of miles from any beach, so it sounded like a good name.

I idled through the village, looking for a cafe, and found one with a DQ.  It was 12:30pm, back on Central Time, now all my clocks are correct, and I can call home without factoring in time zones.  I put my order in for a small hamburger and sat down.

At last I had a signal and called Freestyle.  "I dunno Free, I ain't gotta headlight."  "Check the fuse?"  "Not yet but will, put a post on the ST site for any ideas in case that ain't it, I'll call ya back this afternoon."  I called my checking count to see if my pension check had posted.  It had.  My check was right on schedule, in fact a day early.  Nice, I love it when they pay me to ride.

Old ladies from the Beach Garden Club were conducting their local meeting and I listened in.  "We need someone to bring cookware to the community center.  Things like pots and pans, utensils, can openers, and anything else you have lying around."

After lunch I went back to I-94 and took a few pictures of Sentinel Butte, and the land that surrounds Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
​Sentinel Butte, North Dakota
In Belfield I gassed up and left I-94 for U.S. 85 north, I couldn't take it anymore, and if it slowed me down I didn't care.  I took the route to hook back up with SR 200 near Killdeer.  Immediately my mood changed, and wouldn't you know it, the sun came out.  A good sign.  

The grasses and Plains, mile after mile after mile.  Miles.  The nice wind was still at my tail and it pushed the 1300 along like a schooner.  My mind drifted so much, I found it hard to concentrate.  I came through Dunn Center and stopped to have a look around.  Like most towns on the Plains, the towns are not directly on the highway, but a quarter mile north or south.  I veered off and went in to see what was happening in the hamlet.
The message board outside city hall had a note the Dun Center class of 1948 was having a reunion of sorts and gave a number to call.
​The note read the class of 1948 was having a open house
on July 3rd, Dunn Center City Hall.

Across the street, a place called, "Alice's Restaraunt" looked to be the the hotspot.  A few cars were parked out front but I didn't see any people.
Alice's Restaurant, Dunn Center.  Not to be confused 
with the "other" in California.

​The grain elevators of Dunn Center.
A silent grain tower rose up from the land, the tallest thing for many miles.  "Well nuttin goin on this end of town, I'll ride a few blocks over."  That was as far as I could go; a few blocks all that it took to leave the city limits  A children's playground caught my attention, when I came by.  The grass was high, and the slide looked rusty.  I wondered, "when was the last time a child's laughter brightened this sad place?"  
  ​It had been a long time since this playground had seen
 children.  It was sad, if ever a town needed playful
kids having fun on a summer's day, Dunn Center did.
I wished for someone to chat with, but alas, not a person could be seen. 

A sign near the highway read.  " Tractor Pull Last Saturday in July."  It looked like the big day was not far away.
My time in Dunn Center was short, I had miles to go before my day would be complete.  

A huge bucking cowboy sign is on a hilltop overlooking the highway.  I had to work for the picture because no safe shoulder presented itself.  I had to stop in the road and take the picture when I was sure it was safe.
​I passed this Bronco Billy display on SR 200 near Beulah.
I went by a field of yellow flowers and it reminded me of the UK and I was curious if they might be same crop.  It was nice.

Highways are not boring in itself, boredom lies with the traveler's lack of perception and failure to explore deeply enough.  Out here on these fields, I was not bored.  I found questions needing to be asked all around me.  "Why does that windmill not spin?  Did wild buffalo roam through here long ago?  "Do these folks never tire of the wind?"   What must it be like to only have 5-6 hours of daylight in December and January?  On and on it went.

I spotted 2 deer in a 50 mile span.  Both were sprinting wildly across a field.  They were a safe distance a way.  I was enjoying what was probably going to be my last day on back roads.  Fargo is still over 1000 miles to Nashville and Uncle Phil.  I wanted to be there on the 2nd to spend some time with my friend, and enjoy my last night on the road with good company at the Loveless Cafe to celebrate the end of my tour.  I wanted to reach Fargo today, and split the last 2 days into 650 and 350 mile segments to reach the Music City.  From there an easy half day's ride in.

Beulah, North Dakota found me eating a muffin and taking a long break.  The female clerk that rang me up had more tattoos then Denis Rodman, I was afraid to say anything other thank you and yes m'am.  A Concours owner spoke to me outside near the 1300.  He told me he was longing for a Honda ST 1300.  "If had a bike like that, I'd be on my way."  I gave him my card and asked him to sign my guest book.

The towns kept coming as I moved east.  Golden Valley, Zap, Hazen, and Washburn, all came and went.  I took U.S. 83 south in Washburn, and turned back east again on SR 36.  I crossed the Missouri River near the city, and thought about Lewis and Clark.

Onward across the featureless yonder I kept pushing the Honda, passing the occasional farmer in a pick up like a Stealth fighter.  I brought the screen down a little and felt the wind on my face.  It was good riding.
A long forgotten homestead sat empty near the highway.  I pulled in to check it out.  A wood frame house grown over with weeds, stood under a tree.  I strolled the area.  An old barn was collapsing on itself, and the steps leading up the side door had all but been taken over by high grass.   I took a few pictures and moved on east.
​Gone with the Wind, on the Great Plains of North Dakota
The gas gauge was on 2 bars but I didn't know for how long.  The next bar drops off I'll be on reserve with the light flashing.  If it just went to 2 bars, I'm ok, but if not, I might be in trouble.

I stopped in Robinson to change to leather sport gloves, and to check the vents on the Roadcrafter.  I was in the parking lot of a small park, and across the highway a school house stared at me.
 ​Robinson, North Dakota school house.
The sun was moving behind me, and I went by a series of small, shallow lakes.  The road twisted between them, nothing drastic, but if you're not paying attention you might wind up swimming.   I made it through ok, and kept one eye on the gas gauge.

"I'll gas up next station I see."  But none came.  I came into a outpost and left the highway for a closer look.  Only 1 station and it was long closed.  When I left, my light was flashing and I was on reserve.   I felt ok, because I'm good for about 100 more miles.

Still, to stretch my fuel, I trimmed the screen down lower for a slicker profile, and backed off from 90 mph to 70.
The last few towns on 36 had NO gas stations and by the time I arrived at U.S. 281, I was worried, but relaxed when I saw the sign with the distance to Jamestown.  I knew I had enough gas to make it.

It was late afternoon when I hit Jamestown.  The route brought me through town, and I found a suitable con store to fill up.  I took in 6.7 gallons.  Most of any fill up on this tour, about 1 gallon from empty, or another 45-50 miles.

I was feeling good, but had to call it a day because of the headlight.  I could have easily made Fargo.  The trip meter was showing 756 miles for the day so far.  Most of it back roads.  I had another 200 or so left in the tank(mine).  One thing about being 50 pounds lighter, it makes everything you do easier.  My back was not stiff, and despite the fact I was on a stock seat my butt was ok.  My blood flow is 100% greater than last year, and as a result my body is being fed a rich mix of oxygen and nutrients.  My diet is better and I have more energy being devoted to riding, then digesting high fat meals.  Heck, I was feeling I had just left Great Falls a few miles ago.
After curving back around town, I found a Motel 8 near I-94, and set the stand in front of the office after a 762 mile day, but it didn't feel like it.  "Dang I coulda made Fargo easily with a headlight."

My 47 dollar room was upstairs in a corner, I had suite!  I threw my stuff down and went downstairs to clean up the 1300 and to see about the headlight.  What I really wanted to do was run 5 miles, but I had NO shoes.  Instead I pulled the seat and panel from the 1300 and checked the first fuse.  The first 10 amp marked 'headlamp" was ok.  "Dang I thought for sure that was it."   Then I noticed another 10 amp in the other box marked "headlamp."  "I guess this joker has TWO."  I pulled it and sure enough, it was blown like a ballon.  I put the spare in and never looked back.

I debugged the front end and went upstairs for a shower.  

Folks, not much is going on in Jamestown, North Dakota.  I took a nice stroll across the street to a Applebee's where I had chicken parma and dialed my usual phone calls.

Debbie was excited to hear I was on schedule and would be home on the 3rd.  I sent my son a phone pic of 2 guys sitting at a bar slumped over.  I guess they had a hard day.

When I returned to the room I called Uncle Phil and together we looked at the maps.  "I see ya put the miles down today."  "Yeah I turned it up a notch, but still a little short of Fargo, but I'll make it.  I'd like to get to Rockford, Illinois by tomorrow night." 

"If you stay on the interstates won't be a problem.  I'll ride out and meet ya on Saturday, probably somewhere around Paducah."

I jotted down the routes and slid the paper in my map pocket.  East to St Paul then south.  Not too complicated.  Weather guessers said the weather would be excellent.  I stayed up kind of late watching TV and clicking channels.  It was fun.