Day 7
June 12th 2006
Motel 6                                                                                           
Helena, Montana 

At last it was time to get back on the road.  I was anxious to get back out there to ride the Rockies, visit the Palouse, and get back in my tent.

I loaded the 1300 just after dawn, and was soon ready to ride out.  The Concours was still idle.  "Where is that joker?"  I wondered.

I followed U.S. 12 out of the city and within a few miles cleared civilization and riding toward Macdonald's Pass.  Weather was still cloudy and cool,  Heather Tesch (dang she is FINE) of the Weather Channel said only scattered rain today, and live radar indicated no wet stuff anywhere on my planned route.
Pass the honky tonks on the west side of town I took the 1300.  My mood was much better leaving Helena then entering.  Weather  can really be a downer on a motorcycle tour.

A fresh deer kill lined the road, a bold reminder to be on the lookout.  Glad someone got him before I came along.

All along the road shoulders of Montana you see white crosses placed by the state to mark the spot where a fatality occurred  I find the practice sobering and a good way to remind folks to be careful.  I probably saw 50 in total on my time on U.S. 12 the last 2 days.

These are common on Montana highways
The highway began to work its way to the Continental Divide and fog began to roll in.  Temp began to drop, but I was ok with just the sweatshirt under and sport gloves.

The fog grew thicker the higher I went.  I dropped to 3rd gear on the rolling curves.  Both PIAAs were still working-thankfully.

The Rocky Mountains have methodically punished me the last 2 days.  Rain, wind, fog, and cold.  I've grown to know them pretty well over the years.  I can read their clouds and peaks and know what to expect.  On this day I could see thick clouds sticking to the summits, moving in circle fashion, telling me the currents were transforming the air pressure.

I concluded if I could get to the west side of this awesome mountain range things might get better.
At Macdonal Pass I eased to the side to document my crossing of the divide, something I always note when on tour.  I took a few pictures and fired the Honda back up for the downhill run.
​The marker at Macdonald Pass
Down I came out of the fog and wind.  The temp began to rise and soon I could see blue sky.  What a great site after the last few days.  The green mountains were beautiful and the riding was once again fun.  I passed creeping RVs as I motored west.

The Fork River was full and fast.

Down in the valley I went to I-90 West.  I was entering the freeway and a fast moving 18 wheeler was not moving over for me, a car had him trapped.  I turned for a head check to get a better feel for his speed and just how far back he was, sometimes mirrors can be misleading, when my life is on the line I'm going to be sure-why I'm accident free after all these miles.  This is a tricky maneuver because you have to keep looking ahead to make sure you don't come up on something as you accelerate, at the same time checking your rear.  I came back forward to see how much merge lane I had left, if I see he's NOT going to let me in, I'm going to have to let him pass and come in behind, so I have to time it so as not to run out of road.

The driver saw me, flashed his lights that he was expecting me, and I came in.  Say what you want about 18 wheel drivers, but I find most of them professional.  If you look like you know what you're doing, they'll do the same.  Act crazy and you're going to be treated accordingly.

I noticed lots of Easterners on I-90.  Mini vans from New York, and RV from Maine, and a sports car from Michigan.  I-90 is one of their main connectors to the west.

I had a nice tailwind, and the 1300 just seemed to hum along.  I love both my bikes, each give me a unique experience.  BMW and Honda each have their interpretation of what a sport tourer should be, and both hit the mark.

For the first time in many miles I was on the interstate.  My mind drifted to all sorts of stuff.  I was happy and content.  I was doing what I loved, with no problems anywhere in my life.  I submitted myself to my doctor for a full work up last Feb.  The fire department use to do that for me every January so I thought it a good idea to keep going, but now I'm 50 and have new tests that have to be run.  "I want ya to give me everything the book says do for a 50 year old man."  "EVERYTHING?"  "yeah."  "Well alright."  I had the prostrate check (that sucks) both digital and PSA, EKG, blood work, those were fire department checks, but this time I had to do a colon thing.  You can put that right up there with a root canal for least favorite.  All my numbers came back better than perfect.  Being healthy takes work, and I was glad to see it pay off.  At the age of 50 I'm better than I've been.

I value my health above all things, without it I couldn't do all that I do.  I'm not fanatical, but vigilant.  Even when I'm training hard, I take one day a week and relax my diet.

The sun was warm, and the riding good to Missoula, where I came down off I-90 for my morning break.  I took a exit under construction, weaved through the orange cones and found my way into a Conoco con store, playing 80s music on the speakers.   I topped off the tank, got the ST out of the way, and went inside to a booth in the still closed deli portion of the store.

I took my sandwich box out, bought Mountain Dew and chips (the baked kind) and found a nice booth.  I called home, checked email, and chatted with Peter M.  It was almost an hour break by the time I did all that.  Peter Menard asked-"whats goin on?"

  "Not much I'm on vacation."

  "So how does a guy retired go on vacation?  You gotta have a job to do that."

I returned to the road but took the St. Regis exit to look around.  I went a few miles from the interstate to get a glimpse of what I was missing.  I-90 is basically the only east-west road that goes anywhere in this part of the state.
​This Montana valley is near Regis
In Regis Itook a break.  Dennis Ryan and I stopped here in 2002, on our way south out of Polsan.  I was sitting on the porch eating a caramel when I saw an RV towing a 2005 red RT (like mine).  I went over to speak to him.
"yeah on our way to British Columbia"

I told him I had an RT at home.

The man had moved from Florida a few years ago.

"Don't it get cold here?"

"well yeah, but that's ok, we just wanted out of Florida, place is goin to hell in hand basket."

"That's what I hear"

​This RT was on the way to British Columbia
Back on I-90 I swept down out of the mountains into Idaho.  The long sweeping curves of I-90 were fun.  I zoomed by RVs and 18 wheelers.  No one could run with me as I leaned the ST at 90 mph in the sweepers.  The road was empty behind me, so I used both lanes, taking the tangents, and looking ahead at the exit points.  The Honda held steady, and I heeled it with confidence.  I didn't ever recall it handling this well.  

Across the Idaho Panhandle I rode, and soon found a Shari's Bar and Grille in Coeur d' Alene and came in for something to eat.  I ordered grilled Salmon and returned messages, and put a few notes in the axim.
Two ladies sitting behind me asked-

"so where south are you from?"

"Alabama, and how'd ya know?"

"we heard you talking to the waitress"

After lunch I left the city on U.S. 95 South.  It was congested and and not a good ride.  They should remove the scenic destination from the atlas.

Several cars pulling boats locked everyone down.

I topped the tank off at the Indian Casino on the reservation.  There are so many places to gamble now days I don't see how it could be fun.  The west is saturated with Indian gambling.

Somehow I missed the road I needed for Washington, so stopped in THE store in Tensed for directions.  "You need to go back north for a few miles, you missed it," a short lady with a round face said.  " I dunno how I missed it, I called myself lookin for the sign."

I rode back north and found SR 60 on the second try and turned for Washington, and soon found myself in the idyllic and pastoral land called the Palouse.  I was last here in 2002 and been trying to come back ever since.  I love the area and the way of life.  The farms remind me of the Heartland.  Wheat fields cultivated on hillsides, and large farm tracts.

In Teoka I saw a Coca Cola sign painted on a building and thought it worthy of a picture because you don't see it much anymore.
​In Teoka, Washington
SR 27 was my next route, the same Dennis Ryan and I used in 2002.  I was close to Steptoe State Park, a 4,000 foot butte, jutting up in the farmland.  The quiet 1300  blended into the Palouse landscape, as I rode to the park.
In Farmington I stopped at a small grocery for something to drink.  I sat outside on a bench facing the highway.  I was getting back on the Honda when a young local man came up to me.

"long way from home"

"yeah I am"

"my wife and I are from Arkansas"

"Really?," in a matter of fact tone, I really didn't know what else to say.

"so how long ya lived here?"

"About 15 years"  Because he was southern, I didn't have to repeat myself.  Most of his southern accent had evaporated, but every now and then a world would slip out in his native dialect.

Across the street was the library so I strolled over to use the PC. 

"the desktops are over there, just sign this."

I complied and checked my web site and my checking account.  No need for email, I can do that from my phone.
​The library in Farmington
A long rider can see the Steptoe Butte many miles away, as it rises 4,000 above the farmland.  The small road to the top has improved from my last visit.  I guess the state got tired of all the letters and finally went and fixed it.
​Steptoe Butte
The are no rails guarding the long drop offs if you fail to make one of the many curves.  I was good today and made it without incident up the tricky hillside.

"What a great view," was my thought upon reaching the top.  The summit is home to some kind of radio antennas, but nothing else.  "I bet sunset here is a work of beauty."
​Taking life easy on Steptoe Butte
I looked out at the vast expanse of the Palouse, how the land flowed and ebb over the curvatures of the earth.   I took pictures and captured some video.  I first came here with Dennis Ryan, and felt his presence on this day. 

So much of this day reminded me of the ride in 2002.  Thirty minutes later, I knew I had to get back on the road, so loaded up.

The ride through the wheat fields to Colfax was special.   I stopped and chatted with 2 farmers who were waiting for a water truck by their farm implements
​I stopped to chat with these Palouse farmers
"so what ya'll doin?"

"waiting for a water truck to come out of town"  I didn't ask why they needed so much water.  

"Live in that house yonder?"

"no about 10 miles west"

"you own all the land here north for 10 miles?"

"yes, but just on the east side"

In Alabama if a guy owns 500 acres, he's big time.  He spoke of the hardships of farming, and life in the Palouse.
"well good talking to ya, I better get going"

"good to meet ya, have a safe ride."

Colfax, Washington is in the heart of the Palouse so I stopped at the local high school when I came by.  It was late afternoon when I pulled to the side parking lot.  I watched a Little League baseball team getting ready for tonight's game.  The coaches mowed grass on riding mowers and the boys raked and painted lines.  I remember those days well.  

I saw 2 students leave the school from the side entrance, for the heck of it I walked in to look around.  In the hallway I found the school's trophy case where they stored awards from things such as obscure basketball tournaments 20 years ago.  "Region 5 Christmas Tournament 2nd place 1981."  Pictures of ballplayers that went on to play college ball were posted on the opposite wall.  If they did that in Prattville, they would cover the entire wall.
​The trophy case at Colfax High School
The school was a source of public pride.  It was here people came together to pull for the local boys against whoever.  It looked like a good place to get a education.  It was clean, and the kids had pride.  What else could you ask?

I took SR 26 to Dusty and then went to SR 127 and had more good riding.  The late afternoon sun was shining on the green hills and I was nearing the end of my ride.  I left 127 for U.S. 12, the same highway I started out on this morning.  I took the round about way to get here for sure.

I recalled 12 as a nice road and was looking forward to riding it again.  The road was smooth as it curved around the hills.  My shadow moved across the as the sun shifted behind me when the curves came at me or straightened out.

The riding was excellent as I leaned the 1300 among the hills.  Rolling past quaint farms and grazing cows.  What its all about brothers.
​Only when you leave the interstate, can you find scenes
like this.  

A tractor was ambling along pulling a implement I wasn't familiar with.  I had no idea what its function was.
I came through Dayton and saw the gas station Dennis and I stopped at.  On that day a crazy girl cornered him asking all kinds of questions.  (click here for that story)  

It was getting late, so I looked for a place to eat.  I saw a couple cafes but was going to have to come back after I set up camp.

Lewis and Clark State Park came into view and I went in to pay my fees.  A female ranger was sweeping the entrance when I came in.

"I need a place to put my tent"

"11 dollars"

We exchanged small talk then I  asked if there was a vending machine nearby, I wanted something to drink. 
"not any, but you can have one of my Pepsi's"

"aw you're too sweet, I bet you do that for ALL the Long Riders"


"Oh so I'm special?"

"Just go set up your tent" she said blushing.

After setting up my tent, I went back into Dayton for something to eat.  The place was shut down tight at 8pm.  I saw a Subway sign joined with a small grocery store, so I went there.  There was nothing else.

"No we don't have any tables, the closest thing we have is that bench in the entrance," as she pointed it out.  Many think my life is glorious, especially on the road.  "I wish they could see me now,"  as I sat there on a bench in front of a grocery store eating supper.  It was like eating in the Wal Mart foyer.

A sign hung on the bulletin wall.  "Carlos Jr will walk your dog at 5pm" and gave a phone number.

I finished my sandwich and stopped by the ATM.  I was on the way back to the campground when I saw a lady walking 2 BIG dogs.  I guess she didn't call Carlos.  On returning I cleaned the screen and went for a shower.  I put notes in for tomorrow and worked on my journal.

I took a shower for 50 cents.  All the change I had.  The unit had a 3 minute timer, well ok, but the first minute is wasted waiting on the water to get hot.  I was in the middle of washing my hair when the hot water stopped flowing.  I had to rinse my hair with cold.  I was pissed.

Later that night, about 1:30am the campers from hell arrived, and woke me up.  The park had 40 empty sites and these people picked one across from me.  Sleep was impossible as young kids ran up and down screaming.  These people built a bonfire at 3am!  I didn't get any sleep so just layed there.  I vowed paybacks were hell and promised I would wake them up with the ST when I left out at 6:30 am. Worst night of my whole career.