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Day 6
June 10th, 2007
KOA Campground
Polson, Montana

A light rain was falling when the alarm went off, but I was already awake.  I slipped out of my tent and gazed at the surrounding mountains with clouds around their mid sections and fog at the top.  I had secured my stuff well, so everything but my tent was dry.  The rain was light but steady, but I didn't know what the situation was south or west of me.

My plan today was to ride south through Missoula, into Idaho, and camp in the Sawtooths, but if the weather is bad down there, I'll have to do something else. A alternate ride, or lay over a day in Polson to see if things improve tomorrow.

I kind of felt like Gen. Eisenhower on the eve of D-Day, with the lives of a million men , and the hope of the free world at stake, he had to make a decision to go based on the weather reports of couple of weather guessers.  He makes the wrong call, and the fleet get plastered by weather and Germans, I make the wrong call, I have a long wet ride to Idaho at worst.  I can't imagine the weight he felt on his shoulders that evening.

Having learned my lesson last year about starting in bad weather with no advance recon, I was not going anywhere till I knew what the situation was.  In 2006 I took off from Billings in rain, and rode right into a storm that pounded me for 245 miles.  It was cold and wet.  My worst riding day ever.  "Not gonn repeat THAT mistake today."  So I called my old reliable buddy back east-Peter Menard.  It was Sunday morning and 8am back in Pennsylvania.  "That joker better be up, if NOT I'm gonna force him to make a move."  He answered on the 2nd ring.

"hey bro, its rainin like a big dog here, tell me whats goin on in Montana and Idaho today."

He went to his study to get online.  " ohhhhhh not good, lot of rain in Montana and Idaho.  Where are you now?"

"Polson, wanting to ride south through Missoula and east of Boise."

"noway bro, its raining where you're at, all the way to Boise.  Some of it heavy.  If you ride west, you'll break out of it Idaho-Washington, but if you go south you'll never escape it."

"Not rainin anywhere in Washington?"

"No, the system is moving slowly to the east, and the forecast is for more rain in Boise tomorrow, you know how systems bump up in the mountains."

"Yeah that makes laying over in Polson a bad call, not gonna be any better tomorrow."

"ok thanks, I'll make decision shortly."

Washington was 200 miles away, and the first 100 will be on 2 lane SR 200, if I decide on that option.  "Not raining all that hard, at least I'll be proactive and not sitting around, and knowing it will get better if I keep riding west makes a big difference to."

With my atlas and Motel 6 book I looked at cities in south Washington.  "There, Richland has a unit."  I put the address of the motel in the Zumo and let it auto route me.  When the weather is bad I just ride.  It takes a lot of the fun out of it.  "Today will just be a day to get me past this system, I'll get back on track tomorrow."

With the ST loaded I dropped into gear and followed the long driveway out of the campground to U.S. 93 where I went south.  The rain was slow and steady as I splashed through the streets of Polson.  Not much was going on at 7am on a Sunday morning.  I gassed up at Shell con store and buttoned down for the long wet ride through the mountains to Washington.

Just south of the city I ran into construction, I feared the surface would be muddy and cause problems, but that was nice the case.  The torn up road was packed down hard.  I was 5 cars from the front so I went to the front of line near the flag lady.  "I hope you don't mind, but being stuck behind traffic on a dirt road is not good on a bike."  "No its ok, gives me someone to talk to."

Soon the pilot truck returned and I followed it for a mile to the other side of the zone.

The GPS directed me to turn right on SR 200, a direction that would take me into mountains
.
The route followed the Flathead River and matched it twist for twist for many miles.  The rain soaked surface made any leaning impossible, so I behaved.  I thought back to last years  ride on U.S. 12 on a similar day, but on this occasion the rain was not as hard, nor the temp as cold.

























 
"The route followed the Flathead River and matched it twist 
for twist for many miles." 

I pretty much had the highway to myself on this Sunday morning so just took things easy.  I knew the GPS was taking me to St. Regis, a small outpost on the banks of I-90.

After arriving in Polson the day before, I'd been thinking about Dennis Ryan and the ride we made in this area in 2002.  That day we rode up from Yellowstone, and spent the night in the same KOA.  Many of the roads from here to Crater Lake will be from that ride, in fact tomorrow's ride will be a carbon copy.

I lost Dennis in 2003 from heart complications.  He was a good friend, and true riding companion.  I shared a lot with him those few days on the road in 2002.  Good times.  You can read more about that ride here, and about Dennis here.

As I made my way to Regis and I-70, I saw the place on 200 near the bridge where we stopped for a few pictures and a chat.  That ride was now 5 years ago, where does the time go?

His presence seemed to be in the mountains around me, and the road in front.  What a great rider he was- smooth, instinctive, and smart.  I was missing him.



























                                                  Swirling clouds on SR 200


The 1300 seemed to understand these were not the conditions for leaning, nor was I in the mood.  I wanted to think about other things today, and the apex of the next curve and the correct entry point was not on the list.  I went on auto pilot, thinking back to the ride of that day, and how it related to the ride today.

The water sprayed behind me, and the fairing and screen of the 1300 parted the water the way a airplane does a cloud bank.  

At a lonely turnout on the river bank I pulled the Honda from the highway for a few pictures.  The water rushed passed me, and the regal mountains around me made me forget the day was not sunny and clear, but in reality was really not that bad.  "I'll be breaking out of this in a little while, and I'll regret not taking a picture or two."  I was putting away my camera gear when a nice man in a sedan with Washington plates, came in to see if I was ok.  "Hey, everything ok?"  "Yes, I was just taking a few pictures, I appreciate you checking."  "No problem, you'll break out of this if you keep heading west, I left Spokane this morning and it was sunny and dry there."   "Thanks for that news sir."





























                                                           Flathead River

When the Zumo pointed me to SR 135 I knew I-90 was not far off.

I skipped taking a break in St. Regis, the first time I'd ever done so.  On every previous ride through here I stopped, (about 4 times, including a Prelude trip in 2000) but today I wanted to keep moving west to break out of the bad weather.

As far as interstates go, I-90 west out of Montana is a nice ride.  Good elevation, and nice wide curves.  The Honda chugged the long ascent to Idaho without even trying hard.  I tabbed the view on the Zumo to check the elevation-4,000 feet and climbing.

I knew the road well; a steep climb to the state line, and then a long harrowing descent down.  Moving into the mountains the rain finally stopped and the skies looked better ahead.  At Lookout Pass, the temp was high 40s, foggy, with a light rain.  I met a few east bound HD riders dressed in vests and jeans, that told me where they came from the weather was good;  but where they were going it was going to be woefully inadequate, and they didn't to have anything else packed.  "Man, those jokers are in for a rude awakening in a few miles."

The roadbed made a few sharp turns and kept rolling downhill, and soon I had a long line of sight west to blue skies!  "YEAH!  Ole Peter knows how to read a satellite image!"  My spirits were as high as the mountains.  I went to the map view on the GPS, I'd turn south just west of Spokane, coming in on the back side of the front.  "I'll make it to Richland no problem," and be in position to arrive at Crater Lake the next day as planned. 

I'd figure out my route this evening.

I-90 is built over the top of Kellog, Idaho, like a New York City subway, I thought that was kind of odd.

The sun was out in Coeur d' Alene when I stopped at a IHOP off the interstate.  I'd forgotten today was Sunday and the post church crowd was pouring in to the area's restaurants.   I was dismounting the 1300 when I saw a car with FIVE folks pull in and start for the doorway.  I skipped my normal routine and bolted for the door to get ahead.  The maneuver paid off, when I was seated almost immediately in the busy restaurant. 
 
Looking for something different, I had chocolate chip pancakes.  They were excellent, as was the service by a blonde and petite young lady, that wanted to travel east one day.  "I think New York City would fun."  "Baby, I'm sure it is, but it ain't nothing like Coeur d' Alene.  You walk to your car  each night unattended when you work the late shift or get out of class late?"  "Yeah."  A blonde, blue eyed young lady or any for that matter prolly better not do that in NYC."

Coeur d' Alene is a nice city, and if I was ever planning to move to a cold climate, I'd put it on my list.  It is scenic, clean, low crime, and 99.8% are good people.

The flapjacks were excellent, and I left Emily a 4 dollar tip to help her get to NYC someday.  I had a brain lapse and went back to I-90, forgetting to gas up at the con store across the street.  I noticed when I cleared the ramps,  I was on 2 bars, but saw no need to ride on and have to stop again, so I took the next exit before I built up any momentum. 

Now comes some real excitement.

The Exxon had a well stocked candy shelf and after finishing with the pumps, I bought a pack of Twizzlers, cherry to be exact.  I was standing on the curb when a green, Chevy shot in next to the dumpster, and a short, stocky boy got out running and shouting, "GET OUTTA THE WAY!  GETTA OUTTA THE WAY!  SHE'S GONNA BLOW!  ITS GONNA GO BLOW!"  I threw my candy down and ran with him behind him a tree, I had no idea what was going blow up but when some joker comes running at you in a panic yelling it's going to blow up you don't ask questions.  I was in the fire department 26 years, I'll take them at their word, ask questions later.  Two guys pumping gas saw us and took off, nozzles still in the tanks of their cars.

Out of breath but safe. I looked to the young lad of about 16 and said,  DAYUM! WHATS GONNA BLOW??"  "MY CAR, I SMELLED GAS UNDER THE HOOD AND INSIDE."  "IS THAT ALL THIS IS?"  I've been to a car fire or 2 in my day, never seen one actually explode, but folks watch stuff on tv and movies, and think cars explode when they catch on fire.  I calmed the boy down, and said, "Look its alright, I'll go check it,"  "NO stay back, it could go any second!"  "RELAX, even if it does catch a spark, not gonna blow up."  I walked over to the car, and sure enough a strong gas odor hit me.  I pulled the hood and found gas leaking around the FI.  "Must be a messed up hose or something, I'm guessing it was spewing gas while you were going down the road, just leave the ignition off and have someone come get it."  "Is is it ok?"  "Yeah, just don't let anyone smoke around it."   "Call your daddy and tell him where you're at, let him take it from there."  "Ok." 
 
The 2 guys pumping gas at the islands walked over.  "Man y'all scared the crap outta us.  I thought a car bomber had pulled in."  "I'm sorry but I saw the kid running at me hollering  it was gonna blow, so I took off and ran with him.  I guess I shoulda checked to see if had anything strapped to his chest before doing that."  That made the skinny guy with a tie on laugh.

Everything was over in about 5 minutes. 

My pulse back down, I loaded up on the 1300 and told the kid bye.  "Good Luck son, remember to stop anybody from getting near it with a cigarette."  I got back on I-90 west, and a short ride later rolled through Spokane.

Traffic in Spokane was moderate.  I was traveling behind a SUV at a safe distance, when something flew out from the vehicle.  I recognized it as some kind of wood trim, the kind used on home interiors.  I saw the wood fly up from the road bed as the SUV ran over it, flipping it back at me at 75 mph.  The debris glanced off the ST 1300 somewhere in the front.  "Dang, I hope my headlight ain't busted."  From the saddle I could see to small scratches on the left edge of the Plexiglas but nothing else.  I exited to check things and all was well.

Out of Spokane I-90 takes a hard turn south, bordering one of my favorite areas of the country-the Palouse.  I was there last year and felt no need to revisit on this trip.  I was heading to a motel and if kept moving would arrive in Richland early enough to run.

A heavy cloud barrier was still off to the east, the Sawtooths were getting drenched for sure.  What a miserable ride that would have been.  This route is far less scenic but dry.

I rode non stop down I-90 to U.S. 395 to Richland.  The zumo dutifully guided me through the exits to the Motel, and I was setting the stand in front of the office after a 368 mile day.  I was off the road early again, and pondered on how to spend the free time. 
 
The Motel 6 was neat and clean, and after checking in I went out for a 4 mile run around what looked to be a industrial park.  The run was better then yesterday's but not by much.  When I finished, I bought a Mountain Dew and cleaned the screen of the ST.  I was rubbing and shining the Honda in a affectionate way.  It is truly a great motorcycle, and I love riding it.  Mine doesn't look a mile over 10k.  It bothers me when it gets dirty.  I made a mental note to check the PSI when the tires cooled, but I had no confidence I'd be able to remember.

Going back to my room I noticed a red Land Rover in the parking lot packed with books, papers, and boxes.  There was just enough room for a driver, and nothing else.  Damndest thing I'd ever seen.


























                                               Talk about needing to clean up.


While clicking channels in my room my phone rang.  It was David McGilvary, one of my oldest and closest friends.  We worked at the pickle plant all those many summers ago.  A retired major from the Montgomery Police Department, he now works for a private company in medical fraud.  "Man you're so awesome, when you retired you did it right.  Young, full adventure, and not just ticking off years, you're making them count."  "Well yeah, I hada plan."  "I remember listening to your stories of riding sitting on those pickle barrels, we were all of 18 years old, and now you're DOING IT."  "Yeah I am, and not even I could dream of doing it on the level I'm doing it."  "Call me when you get back, I called Big Ed and he told me you were on trip."  "Lets plan on a big cookout on the 4th to celebrate my return, dang, not seen ya in 6 months."

One of my retirement goals was staying in contact with those that mean so much to me.  Family and friends.  I'm glad to say I've accomplished that.  David is one of those I go out of the way for.  He knew me way back when, and that goes for something in my book.

When I was running I noticed a Chinese buffet down the street, so I after a shower I gathered my electronic toys to keep me company, and made the short walk. The food was good and like all Chinese places, exceptional service.  Without my riding gear, I was just one of the crowd, and no one thought me interesting enough to chat with, so I had plenty of time to journal, edit pictures, and return messages.  I had long conversations with Debbie and Chris.  

I also had a good chuckle when I thought back to the kid at the con store telling every one to duck and run.

Afternoons like this why I prefer solo long riding.  I can eat where ever I want, run, work on my journal, and spend time with my family.  I spend a lot of time alone, but I very seldom feel lonely, don't have time.  

Between my journal, pictures, and messages I have little spare time, so when I returned to the room it was good I had some free time to watch tv, so my time in Richland was nice.  With the tv on Fox News I turned the Zumo on and with my old fashioned atlas, plotted the course to Crater Lake.
I was several hundred miles away from the Sawtooths so the route I had from there to Crater was no good.  Creating a custom route without my PC was going to more difficult, but doable.  I'd have to use the via point system.  If I auto routed, I was going to miss the best riding.  I decided to repeat the ride Dennis and I made out of Pendleton back in 2002.  That was a great ride and certainly worth repeating.  I created a route to Madras and from there I'd auto route.  I was looking forward to it. 

Weather was going to be perfect.  Full of anticipation, I hit the lights and drifted to sleep.



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