Tag Archives: Great Plains

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.

2013-06-14 11.01.30

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

Happy JAK 6.14.13

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 7 – Great Falls, MT to Hardin, MT (Little Big Horn Battlefield) – 310 Miles – 8.5.2012

We slept in and then cleaned the bikes at a coin operated car wash. They were filthy. We should have known better.

We began on Montana 200, to US 191, and then East on I-90. It was not a fun day. We hit over twenty miles of road construction. Thank goodness it was Sunday, there were no work crews. Weekdays, we would have spent hours stopped for construction.

Blog Day 7 - 1

This section wasn’t too bad, with only a 6 miles stretch of gravel and lots of dust. Somewhere along this stretch my cruise control lever fell off.

About halfway to Billings, Montana we gassed up and got some traffic advice. “191 is the long way to Billings. Montana 3 is shorter but you will hit at least 19 miles of road construction. It’s pretty rough going.” We went the long way.

JAK was famished but there wasn’t a restaurant where we gassed up. It was about 40 miles to a food stop. I was my turn to lead.

We were on the Great Plains, several times we saw antelope. Unlike deer, they stay away from the roadway, generally at least 50 yards back. We saw buffalo, a few hundred yards off the roadway. At first I thought they were cattle. But then, the “tell” came. There was dust rising around a couple of them, heavy dust clouds. Buffalo roll in the dirt. You never see that with cattle. I took a closer look and yes it was buffalo, between 150 and maybe 200.

I saw one D.E.E.R. all day and it was road kill. JAK noticed a solitary fawn across the roadway.

About an hour after we got on I-90, JAK began giving me the middle-finger gesture. We soon pulled off and had a great lunch. When queried about his obscene signals, he said; “You A.H., you passed at least two places where we could have eaten.”

I wasn’t impressed. “Your problem, not mine. You could have pulled off.”

After noon the temperature exceeded 100 making for an uncomfortable ride. 3:00 p.m. and dehydrated we came upon a roadside rest and pulled in. Fate played an unpleasant joke on us. The restrooms were out of order and all water had been shut down. Deprived of the water we needed made us all the more thirsty.

Blog Day 7 - 2

Dead center in this image is the temperature gauge. You can see it is over 100 at 4:23 p.m.

In the first picture you see haze in the background, smoke. It got worse the further east we went. At our motel in Hardin, Montana, the owners, Alan & Marie, told us, “You’re lucky you called earlier to get a room.” That sounded familiar.

I asked Alan, “Why?”

He said, “In addition to the vacation people and bikers, there are hundreds of fire fighters in town. Every motel in town is full. It’s been one fire after another all summer.”

Alan suggested the 4 Aces Lounge for dinner. It was about a mile from the motel. I skipped wearing a helmet, not required in Montana, for the short ride. I’ve become a helmet guy since a slight misadventure in Oregon years ago. I went down hard, six fractures, an hour lying in a ditch before the first emergency vehicle showed, and then a helicopter medevac with lots of morphine. Riding bareheaded felt great. JAK always nags and insists I wear a helmet. Guess what, JAK rode back helmetless. I’ve never seen him without a helmet. I wish I had had my camera it would have been great to share such an image with all our biker buds, and his wife.

We were about 15 miles from the Little Big Horn Battlefield Monument. The plan was to spend a half day there and then ride east to South Dakota. A telephone call changed our plans. JAK’s wife Sue had an accident. She was at her computer enjoying HOT coffee when she spilled it on her keyboard, herself, and the floor. She jumped up, hit the slippery floor, and fell. Landing on her elbow, it broke. Her arm in a sling, she wouldn’t know the doctors decision until she saw an orthopedist the following morning. The decision was surgery.

JAK would flat track it to Roseville, California on I-80. He endured miserable summertime riding conditions.

Talking with Sue, my wife Cathy, JAK, and text messages from my daughters, convinced me to continue. JAK has ridden across country alone three times and enjoyed every minute of it. If I went back with JAK I’d only slow him down. This was likely my last opportunity to make a long solo ride. So after visiting the Battlefield Monument, JAK headed home.

I decided to continue on to Sturgis, South Dakota.

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Filed under A Great Ride - 2012, Motorcycle