* August 11, morning, Kalispell, MT, 1,725 miles: after leaving Libby yesterday and a lengthy visit with Terra at her mocha shop, I had probably my best ride thus far. It turns out Terra’s husband is from Oakridge, OR and they also have a nice Finnish last name of Niemi (Patrick, Stefan and Devin - bet you knew him?). I went north from Libby on Hwy 567 towards Yaak (yes, Yaak), per the suggestion of some bicycle riders earlier. As the sign states, it was winding indeed. The pavement was rather rough though and I was glad I had the longer boingers of Barney. I bike of lesser suspenders would not have fared so well.
Gair: got your message and thanks heaps for the kind offer - you rock. I do not plan on using that offer though!
Clearly the Sturgis Rally is over. The endless throng of chrome and blaring pipes going the other direction has sailed by me for the last few days. What an odd lot (a high percentage of Harley riders). Motorbike purists always wave, but the large percentage of Harley types don’t unless they see you with ape hanger bars also. I never wave to Harley types unless they wave first - I don’t buy into the poser image attitude (sorry Rick S.). That image has cost real motorcyclists too many rights and scares non-motorcyclists. Some day I must own a nice Harley and I will ride around with quiet pipes, a full-face helmet and bright riding gear, with a sticker that says “Loud Pipes Suck!”.
Okay, off my rant. In Montana they post a white cross on the side of the highway whenever there has been a traffic fatality. They are everywhere and rather foreboding. I see those and reign in my enthusiasm for going fast. Speaking of fast, MT has a 70mph speed limit - everywhere. The roads are mostly all wide and fast and people haul! I’ll be rolling along, when suddenly there’s a car on my rear from out of nowhere. I let them by and they vanish quickly in the distance. Oh, I’m now in black/grizzly bear and moose country. I’ve been keeping an ever watchful eye for critters launching onto the road. I scared off a buck yesterday. Everyone has been so friendly off the beaten path. People just wave out of the blue when walking or driving by - a nice change from the metro. And what’s with all the metal shadow fixtures? You’ve seen them - the cowboy propped against a wall with his hat tipped down. They were everywhere in Eastern Washington and Idaho, and still a smattering of them in Montana.
I eventually pulled into Yaak - we’re talking small here. Check out the pic of the school. And do you suppose kids in Yaak really hate their school? I wonder if their mascot is a - yak? The road from Yaak to Lake Kancamusa was nothing short of epic and by far the best road yet! Though the rains chased me all day, and occasionally peppered my face shield, it was still a thrilling road. The ‘chicken strip’ on my Dunlops was pretty thin - even all loaded up! Speaking of lakes, since hitting Idaho, there are lakes everywhere! No, really! Absolutely breathtaking country. Upon stopping at Lake Kancamusa and checking my maps, I met the lovely Anna who stopped and asked if I needed directions. We had a long conversation about what were the best roads, so I took her suggestion of going south on the west side of the lake - it was a good call. I then motored on into Kalispell, snagged a hotel, a shower and some dinner. Am planning on hitting Glacier Park today, but want the clouds to clear, since last time I went through there (with Tony and Kevin about 15 years ago), it was raining like the proverbial cow peeing on a flat rock, so didn’t really see much.
Bike Talk: Have I said I love my Beemer? It’s so smooth, comfortable and simple. Even though those crazy Germans over engineered many parts and must have been on crack when they designed the handlebar switches, it’s such a great scooter. Since the boxer engine was based off an airplane motor (hence the BMW logo - a propeller), it has a relaxing drone as I puttsy down the highway. There are caveats though, like the pathetic excuse of a rear brake. Even though it’s a drum, it should still work better. Maybe I’ll install some aftermarket pads later and see if things improve. (And you’re right, JD, it’s an anti-lock brake!) The front brake rocks now since I installed the EBC rotor and Galfer pads! Everything is a one or two finger affair. Other wimpy things on Barney is the flexi-flyer frame, and the PITA gas tank flap. But I need to be realistic - it’s 16 years old, so considering that - it’s a sweetheart. An ugly looking sweetheart, but still a sweetheart nonetheless. Her ugly looks also double as a theft deterrent - nobody would want to steal her!
Things that work for a road bike trip: my Garmin 60cx GPS has made life so much easier! Example: I pulled into Kalispell last night, did a quick search for lodging, phoned about 10 different hotels, found the cheapest one, made a reservation, then auto routed right to it - nice. I wish I also had the topo maps with me though, but don’t.
---My sheepskin seat cover that I’ve had for 25 years continues to be invaluable for long rides - don’t leave home without one. It also doubles as a pillow.
---The dry bags I got on sale at Joe’s are perfect. You can stuff in all your items, they’re rugged, brightly colored and of course rain proof.
---My MP3 player with the Etymolic earbuds, per Dale‘s suggestion. It’s nice to be able to actually hear a radio show or your fav tunes while motoring down the tarmac, without having to crank it up dangerously loud.
---The Tourmaster three-season riding gear has been great, although the jacket could use even more venting. It’s pretty darned rain proof too!
---Strapping: I started out the trip using two motorcycle tie downs for securing the two dry bags, which worked well. I added insurance by purchasing two, large bungee chords. It’s easy, quick and everything stays put.
---Flip-Up Helmet: It makes things so much more easier and efficient! Since I’m taking a large assortment of photos, I just quickly stop, flip up the front, snap the pic, flip it back down and take off again. Plus you can quickly walk into a store if needed without always having to take it off and on.
---Camping Equipment: my new tent packs small, goes up and down in just a few minutes, and the new sleeping bag is cozy. Thanks JD for letting me borrow your Thermarest!
---Laptop Computer: a coworker, Eric, gave me the suggestion of the new EEE PC by Asus. It has worked out awesome, although the keyboard is pretty cramped for a fast, ham-fisted touch typist like me. I have to hit the backspace key a lot, but I’m getting used to it. So if there are typos, that’s probably the reason. It’s so small, it fits easily into my tank bag, runs Windows XP and the wireless works flawlessly. It supposedly has some anti-vibration features also. It’s still working strong, so seems to be a good design.
---Guitar: go ahead and laugh that I brought a guitar, but it’s good for the soul, as any guitarist will agree. My Washburn Rover guitar has been an excellent choice with its very small size, full-scale neck, hardshell case and decent sound. It blows my Martin Backpacker guitar away. It has spent the entire trip so far with an island-sized dry bag propped on top of it, plus spent a few hours in the rain. The guitar still is relatively in tune when I pull it out, plus it’s fairly cheap to replace should something happen to it.
---Lemon Pledge Furniture Polish: This stuff is the cure all for face shields, wind shields, mirrors, guages and even a quick shine on the tank. It makes face shields crystal clear and like new, since it fills up scratches, plus allows rain to run off quickly should you encounter a storm. Hey, and it makes everything smell lemon fresh!
Oh, finally got a hold of the RV park where I camped Saturday night and he said not to worry about payment. It pays to be honest (except at the border). Okay, loading up and heading to Glacier Park. The sun’s finally coming out and it looks beautiful up that way. No idea where I’ll be tonight. I have a bud who lives in Great Falls and I might head that direction, although the prospect of driving across the boring plains is not enticing.
PS: don't know why the GPS maps are missing the town names on the bottom half of the pic - must be a bug. I've added the Google Earth equivalent.