Tag Archives: Great Falls

Lewis & Clark and D.E.E.R. v. Harleys

We passed an interesting night at the Town House Inns & Casino – Great Falls. Jim and I believe that every girl’s baseball team in the age range twelve to sixteen was there. The sounds and action didn’t slow down until at least ten, but then the parents took over.

Up at seven, I was pleased to see not a single cloud in the sky. It was cold but clear. I stuffed all my foul weather gear, including boots, in my dry bag. Once completely packed and strapped down, I couldn’t find my dark glasses. They are in my foul weather jacket, the very first item in the bottom of the dry bag. I will not unpack, besides the glasses are scratched.

A stop at Big Sky Harley-Davidson solved my problem. I bought glasses from the clearance table.

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We spent over two hours at the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail Interpretive Center. From the observation area you can see one of the five waterfalls that the Corps of Discovery had to portage. They pulled canoes, boats, and all their equipment overland for eighteen miles to get around the falls.

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This gives one an idea of what they had to do to portage. The expedition carried tons of equipment. As a military unit they had to carry ammunition. Captain Clark came up with a unique method. He used lead to make ten inch canisters that he filled with gun powder and sealed with bees wax. If boats capsized, the canisters went to the bottom where they could be recovered. Everything else was swept downstream.

They had a hands on exhibition with a docent who explained about Indian weapons and those used by the expedition. One interesting item was a bullet mold. Jim said, “I saw one just like that being used in a movie, The Patriot.” The docent picked up a mold that was hundreds of years old and said, “This is the mold they used in the movie.”

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Our next stop was Choteau (Show-Toe) at the Log Cabin Café where they serve an excellent three bean soup. Even better was the sour cream raisin pie.

Choteau is part of the Rocky Mountain Front. “The Rocky Mountain Front forms the seam between the wild lands and wilderness of the Lewis and Clark National Forest and the foothills and the plains domesticated by area ranchers and farmers.” The area is sparsely populated.

Leaving Choteau Jim let me pass him and take the lead. This surprised me. He almost always leads. I think the reason has to do with cruise control. The lead bike can set any speed desired and relax. Harley’s never seem to mesh when on cruise control. The second bike has to change speed every mile or so.

I set my speed at 75 MPH, relaxed and put my feet up on the highway pegs. I went about three miles before turning off cruise control and put my feet on the floorboards. I had a premonition. Less than a minute later I saw movement on my right. A D.E.E.R. came in to sight. The buck jumped a fence that was maybe fifteen feet from the roadway. It landed and made a left turn toward the road about fifty feet in front of me. I stood on the brakes while telling myself, Don’t lose it, Don’t skid, Don’t go down.

The buck turned back to a parallel path, I eased off the brakes. It turned back in an instant. The dang thing was about ten feet from me as I went by.

Jim came upon the D.E.E.R. and had a similar experience. The buck jumped over the fence and back into the field and then jumped back and ran across the road in front of him.

My heart was beating so hard it seemed I could hear and feel it. I pulled off the road and stopped. Jim pulled up next to me. When my heart returned to normal, I looked at Jim and pointed down the road. I said, “Go ahead.”

Jim said, “No, you can lead, I’m not.”

I think he wanted me to run interference.

As a reminder and for those new to our motorcycle adventures:

D – Dangerous
E – Evil
E – Everywhere
R – Rodent

Deer are a rider’s worst nightmare. Except for automobiles, deer have killed more motorcyclists than anything else.

A half hour later I was negotiating some very tricky gravel when another D.E.E.R. appeared. Fortunately this one was standing about a hundred yards off the roadway.

Over the next fifty miles we were treated to some easy riding as the Rocky Mountain Front provided some astonishing scenery.

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The road seems to go on forever. The Rocky Mountains are coming into view on the horizon.

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The snow covered Rockies rise above the plains, almost as a skyscraper rises from a sidewalk. The sight is unbelievably beautiful.

We are spending the night at the Dancing Bears Inn, East Glacier Park, Montana.

I wanted to ride the Going-To-The-Sun Road from East to West this year. It is the only road through Glacier National Park. We rode it West to East last year. The road is closed due to snow. The upside is that we’ll be able to take US 2 which skirts the southern boundaries of the park.

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Really Bad Weather Can’t Kill a Good Ride (Well Almost)

When in doubt, put on all your foul weather gear. The sky above Missoula appeared to be clearing, but to be on the safe side we checked the newspaper, the weather channel, and weather.com. The forecast called for intermittent thunder showers.

I put on my foul weather gear but didn’t prepare for the cold. All I wore under the coat was a T-Shirt. Although I wore water-proof gauntlets, I neglected to slip on my official Harley Davidson glove liners.

Shortly after we passed through Bonner, MT I feared that I would be reporting, Oh, Hum another day of great riding, just a different river. That thought changed with a yellow warning sign, Watch for Big Horn Sheep. We didn’t see any Big Horns but we sure looked.

Jim N of Bonner 2

About twenty minutes into the ride I took this shot of Jim on Montana 200. We still held out hope for a dry ride. Before I had the camera back in my coat pocket it began to sprinkle.

For the next fifty miles the rain steadily increased in intensity. Rain alone doesn’t normally faze us, we are water-proofed. This rain had partners, wind and cold. As we climbed, the temperature dropped into the low forties. You are probably asking, “Why didn’t the fools stop and put on warmer clothes and glove liners?”

The answer is easy. There was no place to stop under cover.

We were in this weather for about an hour. A few times we had to slow significantly in order to see the road way.

If you think we are tough, we are, but not like a long distance bike rider we passed. His attire included a soft cap, a short sleeved shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes. He had to be in agony.

The community of Lincoln is halfway to Great Falls. We stopped there to get out of the rain long enough to warm up, and to don additional layers of clothes.

Inside the café, I dropped my coat and helmet and hustled to the bathroom where I held my shaking hands under warm water. Returning to the booth, I got a hot coffee. Jim grinned and pointed out the window. The rain had stopped.

Not sure if the weather Gods were toying with us, we added layers before resuming our trek.

All was good. The next eighty miles to Great Falls was warmer and dry.

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Great Falls is touted as the gateway from the mountains to the Great Plains. Shortly after leaving Lincoln, we began to see the transition.

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Jim is happy to be warm and dry.

The 165 miles we rode today felt more like 400. During lunch we started calling for a room. We learned that there were multiple baseball and soccer tournaments in town. All rooms were booked.

A few years ago Mike Foster and I had a similar problem in Idaho. We rode six hundred miles in twelve hours before arriving in Pocatello around midnight. Every room in town was booked for an American Legion Little League Baseball tournament. A friendly clerk called around and found one room. It was forty miles back the way we had come. Another person heard the news and headed for his car. We raced back and arrived at the Bates Motel at two in the morning. No pavement, no linens, and scary, but we took it.

This time we were luckier. From where we sat, Jim spied a Town House Inn. He called. “You are lucky, we have a cancellation.”

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Day 6 – Coram, MT to Great Falls, MT – 212 Miles – 8.4.2012

Sundance RV did not have coffee so back down the road we went. The first place we saw was a huge rafting center, store, and restaurant. Pulling in we should have noticed there was one car in the lot. Oh, well, coffee was only a minute away.

Inside there was no one in sight. We went through the souvenir store to the restaurant, it looked great but with no one in sight. I hollered; “Hello”. We walked through the restaurant, store, and into a gift shop. We found a guy with a cup of coffee chatting with an elderly lady.

He was the owner; “I don’t open the restaurant until lunch.”

We got back on the bikes and headed to the West Entrance to Glacier Park. We stopped at the West Glacier Restaurant. We enjoyed excellent coffee and food at reasonable prices. Two Russian couples were at the next table. They were riding from Seattle to New Jersey.

We entered the Park using our National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Passes which are sold to those over 62 for $10. The passes are good for life. I’ve purchased three because I keep forgetting mine.

It is 50 miles from the West Entrance to the East Exit. It was a great ride. Motorcycles are the only way to truly enjoy the Ride to the Sun Road. We had been warned that because of road construction it could take all day. That is probably true on weekdays; after all there are only two seasons in Montana, Winter and Road Repair. We went through on a Saturday. There were no work crews but miles of construction zones complete with warning signs.

Motorcycles Proceed with Extreme Caution.

Our one delay, five minutes at a red light where a landslide was being repaired with only room for one way traffic.

As much as we raved about the Northern Cascades, they don’t hold a candle to Glacier Park.

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Glaciers carved these valleys.

2 ½ hours after entering the park, we exited via East Gate.

Despite all the warnings about wildlife the only thing I saw was a grouse jump in front of a jeep. Unbelievably it wasn’t killed. It ran back out between the front and rear tires, sans tail feathers. It left a pile of feathers in the roadway.

JAK says that he saw a young brown bear. His story is that the bear began to cross the roadway about five miles west of East Gate, saw the motorcycle, and jumped back into the woods. JAK hit the brakes and pointed to the road side. I saw his brake lights and him pointing. This wasn’t the only “invisible” critter that JAK saw.

After leaving the park, it wasn’t much more than a half hour before we hit the plains. What a letdown after all the beautiful scenery we had been experiencing.

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Our last 90 miles was pretty much like this. Pulling into Great Falls we headed to Motel 6. “Sorry we are booked up.”

I asked; “Do you know of any motels with vacancies?”

“Everywhere is pretty much sold out, but I think there is one room at the Super 8.”

JAK and I experience de j’vue. We head for the Super 8. Across the lot is a Best Western. I look at JAK and say; “What the heck, let’s check.”

JAK waited outside while I went inside. I got in line for the one agent working. Another agent opened, as I move to his position, I hear the first agent tell the couple who had been in front of me; “I’m sorry we don’t have any rooms.” Crap!

My agent said; “Let me check.” He plays with the computer; “One with a king, and one with two queens.”

Life can throw you a bone at times. This was one of those times.

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