Goin’ to Montana for a demo ride

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by ScottFree, Aug 6, 2019.

  1. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    ...dental floss optional.

    Having sold my R1200GS (sorry, it’s not you; it’s me), I’m auditioning possible replacements. High on the list of “smaller, lighter, simpler, cheaper” is the Royal Enfield Himalayan. Bike looks good on paper, and I enjoyed a short (all pavement) demo ride... but how to tell if it’s the right choice as an ADV bike?

    Turns out there’s a guy in Red Lodge, Montana, who rents the Himma for a very reasonable price. And so, a plan: ride to Red Lodge, ride around in the mountains in Himmas for a few days, ride home. Even if the Himalayan disappoints, it’s an excuse for a trip!

    So we departed the Chicago area on Monday, August 5th. Here we go!
    #1
  2. BillUA

    BillUA Las Vegas, NV

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    In!
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  3. sasho

    sasho Dual Personality

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    :lurk
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  4. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Monday: though I ride through the Valley of Uncanniness...

    Our destination was Carroll, Iowa, on US 30 most of the way across the state. Since my riding buddy (hereafter referred to as RB) lives near US 30 in Illinois, navigation was pretty simple... which gave me time to think about the nature of roads.

    In Illinois, US 30 knows what it is: paralleled by two interstates (80 and 88), it’s a lightly-used two-lane that goes through a few small towns, stops for a few other secondary highways, and passes a lot of places where things used to be. An abandoned motel, failed gas station, forever-closed restaurant, shut-down and reclaimed WW II ammo plant (now identifiable only by a former water tower and earthen bunkers where explosives were stored)... about the only open business was a strip club advertising truck parking.

    Once across the Mississippi River into Iowa, on a rather nice suspension bridge...

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    This all changes. Most of 30 in Iowa is a four lane (and the state’s busily working on the remaining two lane stretches).

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    With four lanes, a 65 limit, but also at-grade intersections, speed zones, occasional two lane sections and lots of construction, it lands in the “uncanny valley,” almost as stressful as I-80 but not as fast.

    West of Boone, which is home of a nice brewery, 30 finally settles down and becomes a proper Lincoln Highway. And after that, we were in for the night.
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  5. Cal

    Cal Long timer

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    Glad I opened this report, this seems like the perfect way to test ride a Himalayan and Montana is close.
    #5
  6. tgtav8tor

    tgtav8tor tgtav8tor

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    Your title caught my eye, as I live in Billings and have a place in Red Lodge (life-long skier with two kids on the race team). The Beartooths are my playground. Do yourself a favor and ride a well sorted out Dr650. I bought one 5 yrs ago from another inmate for $3700, complete with a TM40 carb, FMF exhaust, IMS 4.9gal tank, reworked suspension, Corbin seat, and a set of Dirtbags Rangers. That bike is head and shoulders above anything Enfield could produce. I typically ride at 75mph to get from Billings to the base of the Beartooth pass, run away from nearly everyone on my way over the pass, then can negotiate all but the most gnarly ORV trails accessible from Hwy212, and average about 50mpg. The versatility/reliability is just amazing. I've owned dedicated dirt bikes and two R100gs', and as I much as I love Airheads, the DR is simply a better all-around bike. Similar deals can be found on ADV with regularity. Have a great time, be sure to ride the Hwy 212/Chief Joseph pass loop.
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  7. Deflave Sr.

    Deflave Sr. Been here awhile

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    Scott,

    Apologies if you already know the area but try and run up Hellroaring road during your test period. Fun road and fairly well maintained with a fair number of switchbacks.

    Also be sure and eat at the Grizzly Bar in Roscoe. If you hit the brewery in Red Lodge I highly recommend Bent Nail.

    Carter's in Shabbona used to be a five star gun shop if you have time to hit it on your way home.

    Thank you for posting this. Looking forward to the story.
    #7
  8. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Tuesday: Sail the Seven Seats and Kicking Nebraska’s Ash

    Since we decided to take it relatively easy, this day was all flatlands, western Iowa and eastern Nebraska. Luckily it wasn’t all flat; there’s a section of Iowa called the Loess Hills.

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    Well, it looked less flat before the GoPro flattened it out.

    Once across the mighty Missouri River on a nice old cheese-grater truss bridge...

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    ...it was time for Nebraska (tourism motto: “It’s Not For Everybody.” I’m not making this up), which greeted us with a couple construction zones. Must be summer.

    In the tiny town of Royal (population 83), I did a double take and then a ride around the block to confirm what I’d seen:

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    Yes, that’s a seven-seater KZ750 twin. Probably hasn’t run in years, but it accomplished its purpose, getting a couple travelers to stop and maybe have lunch or a beverage. It worked (heck, it was lunchtime anyway). And the roast beef and mashed potatoes were enough that we didn’t need dinner.

    We swung up this way because some 25 years ago I’d heard about the newly opened Ashfall State Park, where they were unearthing skeletons of animals buried by an eruption of the volcano that’s now under Yellowstone Park (and Red Lodge). It is a pretty nice place if you’re into 11 million year old bones.

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    Mostly horses and rhinos, with some “saver-tooth deer.” Bambi’s badass cousin, I guess.

    After that, more miles to Valentine. Notice how flat it still is...

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    And that’s it for the second day. On to Casper, Wyoming, where we hope to finally see mountains...
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  9. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Note to self: if you’re counting on your GoPro to catch those scenic road pictures, be sure to wipe off the lens at each stop...

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    Most of yesterday’s GoPro shots were just close-ups of this splatted bug...
    #9
  10. jredford

    jredford Ninja Racer

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  11. RedDogAlberta

    RedDogAlberta High Plains Drifter

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    Love Montana and it’s so close. I’m in.
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  12. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Wednesday: Bridges to Buttes...

    Valentine, Nebraska, is the beginning of the “Bridges to Buttes Byway.” Notice it’s not called the “Bridges to Buttes Scenic Byway.” Nebraska is nothing if not self-honest.

    The “Bridges” in question are over the Niobrara River in Valentine. I showed you one of them yesterday, a railroad trestle that’s now a bicycle path. There are also two road bridges: the one currently carrying US 20 (a fairly generic highway span) and the “Bryan Bridge,” named for a Nebraska governor.

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    The Bryan Bridge is significant because it’s the only one of its kind in the country, an “arched cantilever truss connected in the center with a single pin.” Hey, I’m an engineer, things like this are cool to me (don’t get me started about the bridge at Lansing, Iowa).

    The “Buttes” are found as you approach the Wyoming border.

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    The 150 or so miles in between built like a grand opera, from pool-table flat to rolling sand hills to actual mountainous scenery. In the cool of the morning, droning along at an effortless 65, it was actually pretty pleasant.

    Of course, since this is Sturgis week, we saw a lot of other Harleys, many in their natural environment.

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    We were holding our speed to the posted 65 because we wanted to get into the proper frame of mind for the 24-horsepower bikes we’ll soon be riding.

    Thanks to the time change, we hit the Wyoming line (203 miles) at noon, and discovered the speed limit on the two lane roads was 70. This made us wonder what it would be on the unavoidable stretch of interstate between Douglas and Casper.

    After lunch in Lusk (where the restaurant was packed with Sturgis-bound bikers), we finally got a glimpse of mountains from a construction zone just outside of Orin.

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    Yep. Definitely not flat.

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    But wait, there’s more...
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  13. Norty01

    Norty01 RIDERCOACH (RETIRED!)

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    Enjoying this adventure!
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  14. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    ...to Bridge (singular) to Brewery

    At Orin, we were pushed onto I-25, where we learned the speed limit was 80. We also learned that a fair fraction of drivers weren’t going that fast, so it wasn’t that bad.

    After seeing human bridge-building expertise at Valentine, it was only fair that we check out Mother Nature’s engineering, at the Ayres Natural Bridge county park. She does a good job.

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    There’s a “mini-trail” to the top of the bridge. It’s more a scramble up the rock that gave my nine-month-old plastic hip a proper workout. I don’t think I’ll mention this to my orthopedist. But the view from up top was pretty neat.

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    From there, a quick thirty miles to the motel in Casper, made more interesting by a pop-up storm.

    Recalling the important safety advice to drink and don’t drive (isn’t English wonderful; juggle the word order and change the entire meaning), we walked down to the Frontier Brewery. Decent beer, a trivia contest that we elected to just watch (the chemistry teacher in me must note that an ion is not a subatomic particle, though), and an odd self service tap system.

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    Convenient, but I’d rather chat about beer with a knowledgeable bartender than interact with a screen and wonder what the “Pour My Beer” software company is doing with the knowledge of how much of what beer I tapped, and when...

    And then, back to the motel to tap out a ride report on this iPhone. Tomorrow, through Wind River Canyon, Chief Joseph Highway, the first of maybe three rides over Bear Tooth Pass, and into Red Lodge...

    ...where the Himalayans await...
    #14
  15. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    It occurs to me that I haven’t introduced the bikes that are taking this trip. So here they are:

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    On the left, the RB’s 2007 Ultra; on the right, my 2004 Road King, “Lobelia’s Daughter.” (“Lobelia” is the name revealed to me by my1990 FLHS Electra-Glide Sport back in 1996; when I picked up a used ‘90 FLHTC Classic in ‘06, it was quickly dubbed “Lobelia’s Sister”; and when I bought this 2004 FLHRI Road King in 2013, it seemed rather obvious she was the Sport’s daughter).

    Strange thought on the way to the brewery:

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    No wonder Simon and Garfunkel couldn’t find America—they were looking for it on the New Jersey Turnpike, and all the time it was right there in downtown Casper!

    And finally...

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    Damn those wind turbine blades are big!
    #15
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  16. LogHouseBikers

    LogHouseBikers Been here awhile Supporter

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    We need tear-offs for the go-pro! BTW... following your report.
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  17. CCitis

    CCitis Been here awhile

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    Nice! Yes, I was scrolling reading your report... saw a glimpse of a headlight of what looked to be a cruiser in one picture but was wondering what kind of bikes you are on. So is the plan to demo the bike only? No chance of buying? How will you get the hogs home?
    #17
  18. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    We will ride the Harleys home. Rocky Mountain Motos doesn’t sell bikes; he just rents them. We’re renting for three days to ride the bikes on a variety of roads and determine whether we want to buy Himmas over the winter. There are at least four RE dealers in the Chicago area.
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  19. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    0D4FBF8E-D4B5-4A80-A8A7-D702295B7F69.jpeg

    Mission accomplished! Too many great beers at this place! Fun fact: Red Lodge Ales opened in 1998, one year after my last visit.

    Great day today. 340 miles, Hell’s Half Acre, Wind River Canyon, Chief Joseph Highway, Bear Tooth Pass (last two with some casual water). Full report when I’m back at the inn and can use their wi-fi to upload pix.
    #19
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  20. ScottFree

    ScottFree Been here awhile

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    Just a quick summary of Friday; picking up the Himmas in an hour and a half...

    Casper to Shoshoni: mostly flattish and largely straight. Stopped at “Hell’s Half Acre,” which is really about half a square mile (see? It’s not just our kids who can’t do math, it’s us and our parents and grandparents) of Dakota-style badlands with nifty color banding.

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    Guy said the movie “Starship Troopers” was shot here. He also says the “park” (a gravel lot with the remains of concrete foundations, surrounded by a seven foot chain link fence topped with barbed wire) is the former site of the local no-tell motel.

    Shoshoni to Thermopolis was a spectacular ride through Wind River Canyon.

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    I first came through here in 1988, after dark. All I could see was signs telling me how old the rocks were. Much prettier in daylight.

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    Following a quick blast up to Cody and an “artisanal” gas station sandwich (“best before September 14”), we headed up Chief Joseph Highway... and into the rain.

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    Beautiful view from the high point, where the rain let up. We did have sprinkles and wet roads down the spectacular switchbacks.

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    Right turn on 212, over Bear Tooth Pass, also in intermittent drizzle and wet roads. I’ve ridden this a few times before, never noticed this waterfall.

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    Following that, down the hill into Red Lodge. That’s all for now; heading out to pick up the Himalayans!
    #20