Day 5                                                                             
June 9th, 2007                                                       
Private Campground                                               
Malta, Montana

The last train blew by my tent around 4:30am, waking me for the 6th or 7th time.  Sleep was impossible to come by.  "No need to fall back asleep only to get blasted awake in another hour," so I bailed out.

The days are long this time of year, I'm guessing 16-18 hours of sun easily.  That was good because I was pulling stakes up at 4:45am.  "Between the skeeters and trains, I dunno what's worse, so I'm bolting."

I took a glance at the tent with the 2 BIG folks and a large dog inside and wondered what it might smell like in there.  I didn't see anyone take a shower before going to bed.  "Prolly why all the skeeters are dogging me, they can't get close over there."

With the sun rising in the east I loaded the ST and hit the road.  I shot across the street to a Conoco con store for gas.  A young, tall, male clerk with high water jeans, came out to read the pumps while I was pumping gas.  He had just opened the place up. 

 "I just turned the pumps on." 

 "Good cause I'm getting outta here.  What's the deal with this town and trains?"

 A main line comes through here." 

"No kidding, I didn't sleep a wink all night, but glad I was up to date on my malaria shots." 

"Yeah mosquitoes are bad in eastern Montana grasslands this time of year." 

 "Brother I never saw anything like it, I feel like I'm a quart low on plasma."

There is no place like Montana, I've always loved riding it.  Big, roomy, with mountains in the west, grasslands in the east, something for everyone.  No one crowds you, and lots of good steakhouses.

No custom route today, I'm auto routed to Polson quickest way.  Which just happens to be U.S. 2 to Flathead Lake.  Route I would've picked anyway.
​When someone asks why I do it.  I  tell them about
beautiful late spring mornings like this one.  The morning
sun tints the grasslands in a way only a Long Rider notices.

I was quickly away from Malta on U.S. 2 West and on the road early.  A beautiful morning full of sun and cool temps.  I was still wearing the leather sport gloves, and the vents were still closed on the Roadcrafter.  Outside temp was a nice 52 degrees.

My 1300 was as steady as ever I aimed it west on the laser straight highway,  Today is Saturday, on a long tour I usually take Saturdays off, or schedule a easy ride of 300 miles or so.  This is my day to run, wash clothes, and get the news.  But mostly it is my day to go to church.  The last few years I felt like I need to take care of my spiritual side while on the road.  God gives me so much in my life, and doesn't ask much in return, but going to church is one.  Laying out on Sundays just because I was on the road seemed kind of lame so I'm trying to do better.  It takes a little planning, but not difficult.  Google will find any Catholic Church for me, in any town.  I found the one and only in Polson easily enough and  put the address with the mass schedule in the zumo 2 months ago, now it will take me right there this evening when I'm ready.  

If I didn't make it in time today, I'd have to go the Sunday service.

I also had to get a battery for my phone.  My DC phone charger drains AA nicad batteries quickly, and all 4 were dead, with no place to recharge them.  I fully charged my phone in Roseau, and within 2 hours it was out of juice, so I knew something was wrong.  

One of the POIs on my list is all Wal Mart Supercenters, I went to the menu and the first unit on the list was in Harve, right on my way.

I saw 3 does in 2 separate incidents.  Each time they were in a threatening position, but I was prepared for whatever was on their minds.  None made any moves for the highway when I eased by.

The riding on U.S. 2 west was cool and quiet.  I came into a small community with a right curve on the outskirts, nothing unusual about it, but it has killed 7 people over the years.  Montana marks every road fatality with a white cross on a red stick, and this one looked a Christmas tree.  I stopped and went back to it, in a kind of morbid fascination, but just couldn't figure out why it was so dangerous.  I still don't know.

​The morning sun rises on this dangerous curve on U.S. 2
U.S. 2 must be a very risky road. From North Dakota to Polson, I probably saw 300 such memorials, maybe 2-3 every mile or so..  The road is mostly straight, not much traffic, if there's a reason for such a high number I don't know it.   I noticed it last year on U.S. 12 to the south, but not near as bad as this highway.

I ran a few miles with a black SUV in front of me to take out any deer that may come along.  I did this for 40 miles, or till I grew tired of looking at the back of the tailgate and took it.  It was later in the morning and I felt a little better they may be starting to bed down.  

A nice, but uneventful ride put me in Harve by 9am.  The supercenter is located right on the highway so finding it was no problem.  I was a little worried about leaving my things unattended while I went inside, so I brought the zumo in with me.  I parked on the curb and told the cart people to chase off anyone standing around.  But this is Montana, not New Jersey, I wasn't really worried about it.  The people out here, and on the Plains have never been anything but helpful in all my rides across their home territory.

I went back to the electronics area of the less then busy store.  No clerks were close by.  A quick check of the phone accessories revealed NO battery.  "Well they might keep them locked somewhere", so I went searching for some help. A looooong walk to hardware found probably the ONLY clerk in the store.

"look here I need some help in electronics"  I told him I was looking for a battery for a Motorola Razor.  He had no idea if the store had them, and if they did, on where to look.

"Hold on I'll get someone over there"  He was nice enough and helpful.


Went back over there and waited, and waited, and waited.  No one showed up.  I went to the clerk. "Hey no one ever showed up!  Go up there and get em outta the dang break room."

He went off somewhere and 5 minutes later a manager showed up to help me.  I guess this time of day they don't have a electronics person on duty.

After 20 minutes of hanging around waiting for help, I asked the manager if they had phone batteries.  "No we don't stock them."  "That's ALL I needed to know, it took 20 minutes for me to find that out.  Y'all gotta do something around here.  You know, I know you gotta boss, and if this is the way you run your store, they ain't gonna fire the clerk, they're gonna fire YOU."  "I'm sorry, how can I make it better?"  "If you sell THE phone, at least carry batteries for the units, tell em THAT."

I was pissed, I just lost 30 minutes of valuable riding on a beautiful morning fooling with mediocrity.  I really hate mediocre because you have to put up with it so much in this world.

I was glad to get back on the Honda and RIDE.  "I'll hafta to find a dealer ahead, all I know to do."
West out of Harve the riding was good on the "High-Line."  The wind was better, and  for the first time in many miles I had the screen halfway instead of the cover position. What little topographical relief there was came from creeks notching the tablelands. Cottonwoods, like cattle, stuck to them to get out of the wind. 
Six westbound Harleys were in the distance, and I closed on them in hundreds of feet every few seconds.  As I got closer I couldn't tell if a couple of them were pulling trailers or on trikes.  When I shot around I saw it was the latter.  I don't think they ever saw me till I was on them.
Somewhere on U.S. 2.  I guess Montana has a problem
with Meth labs.

After the supercenter fiasco I rode hard and fast, digesting the 150 miles or so from Harve in one big gulp.  By mid morning I was in Shelby, a fair sized city on the banks of of I-15 (there are NO big cities in Montana, so all things are relevant.)  I was sure there was a wireless dealer in town, just didn't know where it was. Riding through the business district, I scanned both sides, but failed to see any.  I checked with a con store for a phone book.  "I need to borry y'alls phone book for a minute sweetie." "Here ya go."  I had no idea where to begin.  I looked under wireless, then cellular in the yellow pages but no luck.

"Can I help you?" The clerk asked.

"Yeah I'm looking for a cellular dealer"

"Back on Main Street, if you're east bound it will be on the left side down from the hardware store."
"Thanks I dunno how I missed it."

I rode back to the store, only to find it closed and not opening till 10am.  "Well I'll just ride down to the con store and work on my journal and check messages, but my phone is almost dead."  Debbie was running errands when I called and I told her about my plight.  "Nah off the road right now waiting on this Verizon dealer to open up."  I called my brother, then made a few notes, completing that I went down the street to the dealer.

Now begins one of the all time funny experiences in the pages of a Long Riders journey.

A young, but big girl, with thick bushy hair, had just opened when I came in.  "Look here I need a battery for this phone," as I held up the Razor.  "I can charge it all night and it dies in a hour." 

"Yeah, probably the battery, we have those right here,"  as she pulled one off the wall behind her. 

"That'll be 39.95." 

"Geezus!  Do what?  I can buy the phone for 49.95?  Look right here in y'all's case, 49.95." 

"Lemme see, I'll check the price again."  She looked it up on the inventory, "yeah thats right, ain't it crazy?" 

"Well just sell me the phone.  I'm not gonna buy the battery when for 10 dollars more I can also get the latest version of Razor." 

"I dunno if I can do that." 

"Why not?" 

"Never had anyone buy a phone just to get the battery." 

"You mean to tell me no one in this town realized y'all were selling batteries at the same price as the phone??" 

"Look, let me call my boss."  Five minutes later she came back.  "I can't sell ya a phone just so you can have the battery."  I laughed out loud. 

"You're kiddin?" 

"No the boss said not to be selling phones unless you plan to talk on them."

  I was hysterical, and now even the girl was laughing.  "That's what he said?"

  "That's what he said.  He thinks you might take the phone to Alabama, and not a customer of ours."

  "Well that precisely what I was gonna do.  Take it home and  have ATT turn it on for me with my sim card inside.  Soon as I stop laughing lemme talk to your boss, and explain to him its NOT a puppy but a PHONE.  I didn't know you had to fill out adoption papers to buy a phone from y'all.  I promise I'll treat my phone good, if you sell it to me baby."

By now the girl was laughing really hard, "look I don't make the rules, and I need my job, I have no good reason why I can't sell ya the phone other then the boss said not to, and he was serious."  

"Ok, ok, look I don't have time to battle this, I'll take the battery, but y'all ain't doin me right."

  She took my old battery out, and said, "yeah its gone, when you rub your finger across the back and feel these bubbles its done for."

  "Well put my new battery in baby and let me get on the road,' with a smile on my face. 

"Ok here ya go, just let it run down all the way before you recharge it.  Probably why your first battery died prematurely." 

"I'll remember that." 

Then she said, "You're too funny."

Laughing, I got back on the Honda parked outside on Main Street, and took off west.  I've been in some funny situations, but that cell phone dealer in Shelby is in the top 3.

I decided to skip a formal lunch, in lieu of riding.  I burned a lot time trying to resolve my phone dilemma, and I wanted to arrive in Polson early enough to have a leisurely afternoon.  "I'll just grab a fig bar at the next gas stop."  It was a great day and I just wanted to ride and have fun being on the road.

At last the Rocky Mountains came into view.  Their snow capped peaks poking up through the clouds.  My ride across the Plains was completed, and it felt good.  For the first time in a couple of days I saw clouds.  Fronts have a tendency to bump up against the mountains, and make the pass over slowly.  I wasn't surprised when I saw them.

Coming off the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains.  This
view always inspires me.

Not long after Shelby I entered the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and like all such places it was depressing.  I can't pretend to understand the Indian plight, and I've made friends with a few over the miles from several tribes.  I know they resent what has happened, but I don't know what can be done about it now, 150 years later.  No one wants to take away their heritage and customs, but if they are going to improve their situation, they are going to have to come to grips with many things, and I'll let it go at that.
​The bird over head took one look at Browning, and finding
no place worth lighting, kept on going.  So did I.

Browning looked like a salvage yard; it was full of old cars, rusting washing machines, and piles of rubbish in front of every dilapidated house.  "Doesn't anyone pick up the trash around here?"  The 1300 picked its way through the rubble to a  con store near the East entrance of Glacier.  I filled the tank and found my fig bars.  The store was busy with tourist on their way in or out of the great park.

I was sitting on a rocking chair on the wood porch, when a GL 1800 pulled to the pumps with trailer in tow.  The couple was from Alaska, on the way home from a ride to Virginia.  Together we shared a nice break from the road.

"yeah I came through the same system you had in Minnesota, only further south.  I put the GL in a U Haul for 200 miles to get to the other side."

I noticed after he filled up he jotted the numbers down.  Apparently he was one of those jokers that just liked to keep track of such things, so I asked-

"so what kind of mpg do ya get riddin 2 up and pullin a trailer?"

"Don't ask its awful"  I'd been a lot better off in a Civic."

"yeah but near as much fun"

The GL returned to the road while I hung around another 20 minutes.

U.S. 2 skirted Glacier to the south, and after checking the Zumo, I learned I was at 6,00or so feet.  Frequent checks with signs in the mountains told me the GPS was dead on accurate with elevation, usually with 15-30 feet of what the sign said, and who knows, I believe the geological survey to be less reliable then the satellites, so it could be the sign that was off 20 feet.

Temps begin to drop on U.S. 2 as I rode higher up the mountains.  The day was mostly cloudy now.  It felt like I was trapped in the mountain valleys.  I rode on to Polson minding my own business.

I had to battle several construction zones on U.S. 2.  These were dirt and gravel road sections.  "Well the GL made it through, so I guess I can,"  but the ST really hates anything to do with no pavement.  I made it without incident.

Long lines of vehicles tried to bog me down, but they soon found out I was NO ordinary traveler, I was a long rider on a high tech motorcycle, and as such they were no match for me when I wanted to come around.
Finally the GPS directed me to leave U.S. 2 for SR 206 and then 35, a nice ride along the shores of Flathead Lake.  Too much lake traffic to be fun, but it did take me to Polson.  

I stopped for a few pictures, but mostly I wanted to arrive at the nice KOA I know to be there.  Dennis Ryan I camped there in 2002.  A nice place. The route brought me in the south side of town, and I had to work my way to the north side to where the KOA is located.
​A peaceful looking Flathead Lake.
Clouds were caked in the mountains around me and looked as it it might rain.  

I made it to the campground and spent the extra 2 bucks to cop a site in the tent village.  These sites had covered tables, water, electricity, and thick grass.  They're nice.

I finished the day with 407 miles.

A middle aged lady registered me, and told me she had people in Luverne, Alabama.  She asked where that was in relation to Prattville.  "About 60 miles south," I said.

When camp was set up I noted I still had 2 hours before time for church.  So I cleaned the ST's screen, put a load of laundry on, and went for a run.  I ran 3 stiff and sluggish miles along the highway with the lake and mountains in full view.  Not even they could quell my lethargic run.  "I feel bad, I gotta eat better, but hard on the road."
​One of the nicest campgrounds in the country.  KOA Polson

I struggled back up the long driveway, glad to finish.  Picked up a gatorade from the camp store,  put my clothes in the dryer, and took a shower.  Mass was at 6pm.  I was glad to get off the road a little early on this day.
When it came time for church I looked up the address in the recently found file and went right to the church, located 3 miles away.  It was pleasant ride back into town.

The service was good.  I sat in a pew near the middle behind a large Catholic family with 6 kids.

A sports bar grill lies across the street from the campground and upon my return I proceeded to make the long walk down to the highway.  Inside the grill they had hightop tables and booths.  The place was busy, and not wishing to take a booth just for me I sat at the bar, and was hit with a observation.  Pubs in the UK are circular, so you can look at other folks, but here you only get to look at yourself in a mirror.  I told the lady bartender I was having chicken strips.  I got out the Axim and caught up on my journaling.  I called Debbie and asked if it had rained yet back home, she said it hadn't.  I spoke to Chris but only for a moment, he was out with friends.
A couple next to me, waiting for a table struck up a conversation.  He was a robust kind of guy, with a gravely voice-

"so what's it like ridin across the country from place to place?"

"Ain't nothing like it, I find it addictive.  I love riding, nothing is like a motorcycle, and riding it to far off places was a boyhood dream of mine"

His lady stuck her head in, "Don't be gettin ANY ideas."

Right away I knew who dominated the relationship.  He doesn't do ANYTHING without checking with her FIRST.  Victim of Oprah.  That lady has put more guys testicles on the shelf then anything before or since.  I make no apologies for being old school.  I'm my own man, and I taught my son to be the same.  "Treat your lady with respect, be kind to her, but when you gotta check with her before you can take a crap, then I dunno.   Some men need that, but not me."  Can you imagine Tony Soprano watching Oprah?

The walk back to the tent was nice.  I turned my collar to the cool mountain air, and thought about the day.  I'm a very lucky man.  On the way in I stopped and picked up my clothes out of the dryer.

It had been a nice afternoon in Polson, as I settled in for the night.  I was glad I went to church to show my gratefulness at having such a wonderful day and life.

Tired from no sleep the night before, I went to bed early.  A light rain came in from the mountains and its soothing drops lulled me like a metronome.  I can't remember ever sleeping better in my tent.