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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by LoneStar, Jun 22, 2016.
This continues to deliver!
Great trip report! Wonderful trip!
Loving this! Bravo!
Amazing isn't it ? New Mexico is called the land of enchantment, but Montana is the place God would choose to take a break because most of his most brilliant creations abide here. Anytime you choose to talk with him is easy as its a local call.
You guys are just beginning the journey in this magnificent land of the NEZ PERCE, FLAT HEAD & CROW take your time & soak it all in, this the place dreams are made of.
Great ride report - I'm really enjoying this. Your balance of story and photos is great, and I really wish I had your eye for pictures!
I rode my 700GS on a short trip from California to Colorado (and back) earlier this summer. Very impressed with the capabilities of the bike.
Thank you. Thank you.
This has been such great fun so far...hope your 'Adventure' continues for a long time!
Outstanding images and report. Must have been a hoot hangin' out with the Dutch.
Yeah those guys were a lot of fun to be around. Would have been fun to ride a few days with them
Ah, the Dutch...
But whose itty bitty socks are those? Lol
Thank you so much for crafting the pics and text of your adventure so well. It is very engaging... I felt like I was eagerly flipping the pages of a book! You have done such a great job of taking us along for the ride. Thanks! Good luck!
Early morning is the time I try to get caught up on writing the events of the previous day, and this morning I had a good chair in the quiet lobby. It wasn't long before an older gentleman with his riding gear began loading the lone Goldwing we'd seen in front of the hotel the night before. He asked about our bikes and the conversation started, followed shortly by the desk clerk joining in. I gave up on writing and the conversation turned to the Coeur d' Alene area, where the rider lived and he listed several routes to take. The desk clerk, a lady named Ronie, also had lived in the region and told us to camp at Prichard Tavern near where she'd grown up in Wallace, Idaho.
The older rider wished me well and headed out for Yellowstone. I packed up the laptop and Ronie asked if I'd seen the light at sunset the night before. I shared with her our experience and she said she was amazed at the sunset that night, having never seen anything like it. Kim came down and we asked about breakfast in the town. She suggested we ride a couple miles down the road to a cafe in Nevada City.
We headed out only to find it closed so we returned to find a spot for some food and a tour of the old town. We walked until the sun got our attention in a bad way and we loaded up for the Anaconda area.
The town is a well preserved living museum full of interesting folks, items buildings and stories and well worth stopping in if you are going through the area.
We'd planned to head to the Bitterroot Valley by way of Dillon and the Big Hole, but we'd made a decision a few days before to change our route on the trip. Alaska had not been in the mix due to leaving later from Texas than planned, but after talking with a few travelers we decided to trim some time here and there and go for it. I figured if we save a day or two here and there we can get a bit further into the largest state before the weather turns us south.
From Virginia City we made Twin Bridges easily, grabbed some groceries then cut across on a heavily graveled dirt road, the heat, dust and smell of sagebrush our only companions on the long, talcum powder trail.
The day passed, with only a break along the river for lunch before rolling on to Anaconda and past, eventually ending up at Georgetown Lake for camping. The camp host warned us that they'd chased out an orphan bear cub earlier in the day right at our campsite and to be sure we got all our bear temptations out of the area.
The night passed bear free thankfully...
The next morning we headed for Philipsburg and breakfast, exploring a series of old mine buildings in nearby Granite. Kim and I ignored the No Trespassing signs and tentatively wandered through a couple of the structures which looked as if they'd collapse at any moment.
I shot a couple of pics of The Butterfly in one and as we looked at the ceiling there came the sound of snapping wood... We both stopped and turned to look out a window when suddenly a large yearling mule deer came bolting through the door at a full run. Kim screamed simultaneously at the surprise, which made the deer begin doing the springbok type bounding as he rocketed right past us. Kim was bounding as well, only backwards into me almost knocking me down.
After the shock wore off we both died laughing at the event and we weren't sure which of the three were more surprised. The snapping wood sounds had been the deer breaking branches but it damn sure got our attention in an old building.
We wandered out to spot the deer high up in the ruins of the mine, apparently lost and stuck there having run up the cliffside in fear. He ran back and forth unsure where to go until finally scampering over some rubble.
Once again the heat got us moving for Skalkaho Pass, a beautiful pass road that cuts across the Bitterroot mountains into Hamilton. The road works up high with stunning views and sheer drops as well as thick forest on all sides. On the Hamilton slope side we stopped for a respite in the cool air of the falls before continuing back down for the town of Hamilton.
Two years previous, I'd met a bounty hunter in Hamilton when passing through for Texas and wanted to swing in and say hello again.
Luckily he was in his office and we got the chance to talk a while, his office festooned with images of Eastwood, Wayne, Confederate flags and more interesting collections of things than you can imagine. He showed us his artistic side, a workshop where he covered elk and bison skulls in turquoise. He was proud to tel the story of his recent acceptance into a very exclusive gallery in Jackson Hole, cracking Kim and I up with a feigned hoity-toity Cape Cod accent. In my initial visit to his office there had been loaded handguns and shotguns within arms reach everywhere, but this time there were less.
After shaking hands and saying goodbyes we headed out to find some shade in the late afternoon heat and to try to find a dive in Missoula for the night.
The courthouse lawn offered a bit o' shade
America's Best Vagrant Inn
After a break to reset in Missoula, we left the cheap motel as fast as we could and headed west for Idaho. I'd picked up two Sena 10C headsets to replace the Cardo units we've used the last couple of years and was pleasantly surprised that the video quality of the cameras was better than expected. After years of dealing with all the GoPro mounts and battery issues I was happy to have the 10C's as helmet cams.
I'd heard of Coeur d' Alene from various people over the years and felt the need to see it in person. It so happened that our time in Virginia City had connected us with the two folks who'd lived in the region and we headed west for Prichard Tavern, Idaho, on the recommendation of it being a good place to camp.
Interstate 90 from Missoula was fast with high headwinds and by the time we hit St. Regis the pummeling was a bit irritating
We planned to ride the St. Joe Scenic Byway into Idaho from St. Regis, Montana, but it was getting late in the day and I didn't think we'd have time to make the entire loop and get back up to Prichard so we punted and headed up MT 200 for Thompson Falls, yet another beautiful ride along the Clark Fork River, wide and slow as it cut the valley.
At Thompson Falls we headed west on 471, winding up over a pass amidst forests and setting sunshine patches. As the temperature dropped in the fading light we almost missed the turn for Prichard Tavern, pulling sharply left onto the dirt road loop and parking in front.
The old tavern had a couple of customers and the bartender said camping would be $10 for the night, a deal as tired as we were. The owner was out back about to water the tent sites, so it was good to catch him just before he hit the water handle.
I asked about any need for bear bags and he laughed, saying there were none near there. We were the sole campers that evening, the last customers leaving about 9. The owner had spent some time talking with us, discussing his retirement from a life in Honolulu and the restoration of the old tavern, built in 1890 or so. He said the history of the area and the tavern included a dispute between Wyatt Earp and the tavern owner, Prichard, over a mining claim.
As we sat in the evening on the rear porch making a pot of Ramen noodles, one of the cooks came out of the kitchen to admire our backpacking stove. Alan said he'd never seen a compact stove and thought they'd be great for his fishing trips. As he walked away I told Kim I thought Alan needed a stove, so I grabbed the spare I'd brought and a fuel canister. Alan eventually came back out for a smoke after closing the kitchen and we presented him with the kit. He was quite shocked and thrilled, telling us to wait and disappearing around the corner with his new present. About 20 minutes later he returned with three frozen trout he'd caught the day before, a couple of koozies and matchbooks from the Golden Beaver Saloon where he worked as a second job. He was very excited and we were as well, having just been discussing a hunger for some fresh fish from a mountain stream. Alan sat and talked a bit about living in an area with no cell or internet as well as his desire to retire to Lake Texoma on the Texas-Oklahoma border to fish for shad and stripers. I told him he was in a much better spot currently in my opinion. He laughed but said it was his dream.
Shortly after Alan left, the tavern owner brought out a big basket of fried chicken necks and gizzards, telling us to eat as much as we could as they were shutting down the restaurant and his wife had just fried up the remaining chicken for us. We weren't hungry but still managed to scarf them down in the dark.
The next day started with blue skies and sunshine as we headed southwest for I-90 and Lake Coeur d' Alene. The road from Prichard Tavern towards I-90 was a nice ride, followed by the pleasant surprise of the town of Wallace. It was a place of character and charm, having expected to find something else. The hotel manager in Virginia City, Ronie, had told us she'd grown up there and we were glad we'd ridden through, twice in fact to take it in.
At the gas station a couple on a Harley rode in, the woman walking up and talking to us about motorcycles and riding, excited to know we'd come from Texas and telling us the "Testicle Festival" was happening in Missoula and they were heading that way for the weekend. She wished us well and we headed out onto I-90 where the headwinds were again strong, slapping us upside da' head until we reached 97 on the east side of Lake Coeur d'Alene. The region and homes on the pretty road seemed more at home in upstate New York than in Idaho, but with the road and lake were beautiful.
We stopped for gas at a general store, two brand new KLR's parked in front. As we walked in two guys at an outside table spoke up and asked us about the bikes. They were from Spokane and we talked a while. They recommended we see the town of Coeur d'Alene as they said it was very cool. Inside the store the smell of homemade gourmet pizza shattered our wills and we grabbed one, sitting outside in Adirondack chairs with a great view of the lake.
After pizza, we headed for St. Maries and the St. Joe River Scenic Byway. Having asked about the road, we'd been told both that it was nice, smooth and paved as well as a truck driver who warned us it was steep, rough and unmaintained. Since it was late the previous day we had blown off the idea at the time.
From St. Maries we headed west-ish on the St. Joe River Road, going for miles in interesting landscape, eventually the road getting tight and twisty. The log trucks were in full bloom, roaring past at high speeds and taking the curves wide. Kim was nervous and wisely so, and I commented on how bad it would be to be on the receiving end of one tipping over. It was just a couple of miles further down the road that there sat a big pile of broken wood and bark on the roadside, huge scraping scars in the asphalt testimony of a recently rolled logging truck. The road and ride went on for miles and miles through the tight canyon with great curves and scenes of the river. We stopped along the way for a few pics and a short break at a small general store.
The day was getting late as we finally hit dirt road at the Montana line for the final stretch back into St. Regis. The Scenic Byway was really a great road and a motorcyclists dream - twists, turns and almost no vehicles for about 70 miles or so.
From St, Regis we headed back for Highway 200 towards Thompson Falls, looking for a camping spot or a cheap motel. We stopped at the Quinn Hot Springs to inquire, but they didn't offer camping and rooms were almost $300. One of the staff said there was a sister motel in Plains that should have a room for us much cheaper. We saddled up again, fatigue showing in each of us after the very long day. We rolled into Plains as the sun set, only to find the motel locked and sign on the door. I made multiple calls to the number and waited while Kim rode to the other end of town to see if anything was available.
While waiting at the motel, a truck pulled up and two firefighters got out. It was then I realized we were screwed. I'd seen the smoke of a forest fire ahead and realized that all the rooms in the area were probably taken by fire crews. Eventually the night clerk returned and told me there were no vacancies anywhere in the area. Kim rolled up and told me in the headset she'd found nothing, so I asked him if we could put up a tent behind the place. He said emphatically no, but then hesitated and said that the Fairgrounds allowed camping. Once again we got on the bikes and found the fairgrounds, a small house with lights on apparently housing the attendant and wife.
I knocked on the door and when the man answered I explained our situation. He nicely responded that I could pay them $10 for camping, or we could just go a block away to the river and camp on the grass in the city park. He wanted to know all about our trip and when I finished the 5 minute spiel we rode back to the park, only to see a huge sign saying "No Overnight Camping!"
It was hard to trust whether the man was telling us the truth that it was ok or if he simply didn't know they had changed the rules, but the river was beautiful, we were exhausted and starving and neither of us could face riding anymore. I found a protected spot that was a bit hidden, but the park had a lot of folks still there so we made dinner at a picnic table and did a stealth unloading of the bikes. As it got darker most of the folks dwindled away save for a few teens swimming near our chosen spot.
Finally it seemed time to put up the tent in the dark and get everything ready, being careful to not draw attention. The last three teens finally got cold in the water and left and we relaxed a bit, until a moment later we saw two LED headlamps crossing the bridge towards us. We sat in the dark and watched as the two lights became teens on bicycles, literally pulling over directly above us and shouting loudly "Blood!"., "Blood!" It was weird sitting in the dark like two kids hiding while headlamps flashed above us, eventually landing on our tent and us, the two teens suddenly whispering loudly "There's people camping there! There's campers!"
The bikes pedaled off and we finished getting set up, not knowing if the kids were going to call the cops or what. At any rate I no longer cared and prepared to go to bed. As we finished getting gear stowed we saw a single light crossing the long bridge and again it stopped directly above us. We sat in silence and watched as the headlamp flashed all around us eventually hitting the tent and pausing for a long look. By this time it seemed the local teens had decided we were fodder and Kim yelled out loudly at the headlight focused on our tent "Can we help you?" The voice responded back "I'm a bicyclist looking for a camping spot"
Relieved to not have to deal with another teen we happily helped him down the bank and pointed him to the park. He'd ridden in from Idaho and didn't get to Plains until almost midnight. Things finally settled down and we got some sleep.
Ha! that's a great story.
The suns warmth woke me up early, crawling out on my hands and knees to see the mist rising from the river. Kim slept on while I watched a grandfather and little boy walking along the river bank in the early light. I needed coffee but we'd used up the water the night before. As I pulled out the water filter to snag some water from the river, the late night bicyclist emerged from his makeshift tent of shower curtain draped over the bars, scratching his head and staggering off for the bathroom.
Our paths crossed again as I returned from the river. He was riding from Idaho to Missoula to attend a bachelor party, some 75 miles away he said. I watched as he packed up for the long ride and headed away for a long, hot day while I made coffee.
The Butterfly emerged shortly after and we began packing up, waiting for the tent fly to dry in the sun from the moisture collected from the river in the night. The Quinn Hot Springs we'd stopped at the day before sounded good so we rode back a few miles to relax in the hot waters.
The springs were nice but I felt out of place in my gear and long hair as it was manicured and sterile, mainly populated by older folks who looked more at home in a country club than a place in Montana. A couple of hours in the hot water pools and sun had us both relaxed to the point of being goofy when we hit the road again.
Since it was a short day we made for Troy, finding a good camping spot near the river and getting set up early enough to excitedly cook our meal of fresh trout. To make the best use of our cooking time and charcoal, we grilled a steak and potatoes along with some garlic and onions. Like kids in a candy shop we feasted that evening and had plenty of leftovers for a few meals the next day or two.
3 fresh trout - yummay
oh, and veggies...
and steak for dessert
We got a slow start the next morning but a good breakfast helped start the day:
Leftover steak, garlic onions and butter...
For our eggs, avocados and tortillas (toasted on the backpacker stove)
(Apologies for all the food pics but I was starving when I posted this )
It was sunny as we headed east of Troy to Kootenai Falls, even with the drought and low water volume they were roaring magnificently. We clambered around and enjoyed the sight, playing a bit in the water and trying not to fall into the roaring falls like a stupid tourist.
It was hot as we hiked back up up to the swinging bridge for the wobbly walk across the Kootenai river chasm. On the other side we watched as three folks started over, the first guy reversing in terror after having stepped out onto the bridge. The other two continued on and when they were across I started with Kim ahead. My size and weight got a bad rhythm going and we were swaying like crazy with Kim spinning around to accuse me of trying to make it happen. When I finally got to the steps where the lone man still stood, I gave him a smile and wave, but his eyes flickered back and forth still absorbed in fear from the moment he'd looked down.
As we walked back on the path to the parking lot, we were passed by a woman in Harley type attire who continued on into the lot, stopping briefly at my bike, then Kim's, before walking around behind a van. I watched as she shot a cell phone pic of another R1200GS. As I mentioned her to Kim, she suddenly rode out of the lot with a wave on the 1200 she'd shot a picture of, her bandana, black leather boots and black muscle shirt looking a bit out of place on the adventure bike.
A young couple were driving this badass bus
From the falls we backtracked to the Ancient Cedars, a remarkable forest of massive cedar trees replete with ferns, moss and babbling brooks. It truly is a beautiful place and one can feel a real sense that you are walking in a very ancient place. If we'd seen fairies and leprechauns I wouldn't have been surprised. The cedar grove hidden in a canyon amongst millions of acres of pine forests is a real treat, as if set aside in a time warp from a previous age. The base of these trees are easily 10-15 wide. On the way back out we discovered a huge hoodoo garden in the dry river bed, adding couple of our own to the hundreds in and along the riverbed.
Two previous trips to Montana had not allowed me the time to do it, but today was the day to take Hwy 508 through the northwest corner of the state to Yaak and then to Eureka. At the gas station that morning in Troy we'd filled up by a grizzled guy with a beat up truck and large white wolf-like dog. The guy was such a character I really wanted to get a shot of him and his truck, but he seemed skittish and a bit paranoid, seeming to sense my interest and driving out quickly, his long beard blown by the wind through his window. As I stood filling my bike, another guy came over and said "Wow, you guys rode all the way here from Texas?" When I mentioned running up to Yaak that afternoon, he chuckled and said there were more Witness Protection people living up there than anywhere. As he and I talked a very old man walked over and bent down to read our plates, shaking his head and walking away.
From the Cedars we backtracked through Troy and headed towards Hwy 508 just a couple of miles from the Idaho border, taking time to ride past the turn and see if we could get a picture of a "Welcome to Idaho" sign. Our previous ride into Idaho was on backroads and we needed to get a picture of ourselves with the state sign - silly but we started doing selfies at the state signs and now it's become a necessity
From the border we hit 508 north in the lengthening shadows, following the Yaak river's twists and bends. Yet another beautiful highway in Montana. As we rolled along Kim said that so far, Montana had stolen her heart and I had to agree. We have ridden so many miles in such graceful and elegant beauty, with lush forests and gorgeous lakes and so few people it's hard not to fall in love.
As we flew along following the curves of the river, I suddenly got a whiff of a strong chemical odor, that continued for a ways. It was vaguely familiar and I realized it was bear spray, having experienced some of it earlier in Silver Gate. Sure enough I began to tear up and my throat got scratchy followed by deep coughing and minor burning in my chest. Kim had ridden through it as well but didn't get the same effect. It was a couple or three miles down the road before I felt better, wondering if someone by the river had had to use the spray on a grizzly or if they had just fired a can for fun.
We stopped in Yaak for a few photos and a butt break, but then continued on for Rexford and Eureka as the day slipped away. The road got narrower and more fun past Yaak, definitely in grizzly territory and fully expecting to see one somewhere on the way. Kim and I both were using our Sena 10C's frequently, trying to capture the scenery, always a frustration when trying to convey the beauty. The woods were so thick it was hard to imagine anything being able to move through it, the woods thinning only as we got higher and into an area of past forest fire. The views were amazing at the top as we exited woods briefly allowing a view of the mountains bathed in gold from the setting sun.
The road wound slowly down to a great view of Koocanusa Lake, an unexpected jewel at the end of the day. The bridge across was really a treat, so open and long. At the far end a couple on Harleys sat watching the sunset from a parking area. It was late in the day but we stopped for a few pics and Kim spoke to the couple while I tried to capture fading colors. They were from Eureka and said we should try to get a motel there since it was getting dark. They left and we followed shortly after, the lady's warning of deer on the roadway ringing in our ears.
It was pitch dark when we arrived, only to find the few motels fully booked of course, but a lady at one of them said they had a single RV slot left behind their motel, which was all we needed for the night. Watching the stars, the satellites and a few bullet-fast meteors from our backs in the dark was a great way to end a long day.
I've been silently following, and the report and pictures are outstanding, but seeing the bridge picture above I had to go ahead and jump in ........, absolutely awesome!