"The One That Got Away"
Kalispell, MT -
5:54 riding time
2 Passes Today
Yesterday we lost an hour somewhere in Montana as we crossed into the Mountain Time Zone. Losing an hour isn't any fun, because it means you get to the motel an hour later than you expected, and you have to wake up an hour earlier the next morning. So it would be fair to say that the double whammy of a lost hour should be enough of an imposition for a day. When we awoke to find it raining this morning, we were not happy. But we're equipped to deal with wet riding conditions, so we bravely suit up in our most waterproof gear and off we roll.
Riding in the rain requires more energy. You're constantly thinking about how much slicker the road surface might be, or the obscured vision of the drivers around you. Big trucks throw showers of wet road grime your way. I find myself gripping the handlebars with more tension, and that tension works its way into my neck and shoulders. Eventually it feels like I'm welded into position. I try to relax, but there's that next slick spot just around the corner. Fortunately, within an hour or two, the rain has lightened to a drizzle and eventually the weather starts clearing.
This morning at about 8am I experienced the closest encounter I've ever had on a motorcycle. As touring motorcyclists, we're pretty conservative in most matters. This means that we always ride in daylight, we try to avoid heavily-traveled routes, and even though we enjoy spirited riding, we're not purposefully out on the edge looking for trouble. I'd like to think that this means we're less prone to situations that could be deadly, but as Whizmo says in his MSF classes, "You can only manage the risk, you can't eliminate it."
Normally, I ride at the back of our two-man convoy, with the Whiz blazing the path. This is something that has emerged as a comfortable and natural pattern over the years. It means that sometimes I see things that Whiz doesn't see. Like this morning. We're riding on the edge of the Glacier National Park on Highway 2, one of our all-time favorite highways. I notice some movement in the ditch to our right as Whiz flies by. The movement becomes a deer, which is clearly startled by our mounts. It bounds back and forth, then across the road from right to left immediately in front of me. This all happens in the blink of an eye, there's no time to think about it. My front end misses the deer's tail end by not more than six inches. In my mind it's all playing out in slow motion, but my physical reflexes barely have a chance to respond. I just about had the front brake lever gripped as it was already over. I didn't panic, I didn't do anything stupid, I just kept riding ... with my eyes and mouth wide open. For me, the lesson learned is I need to do a better job of scanning heavily wooded areas. And maybe trade in some of last year's bear bells for some of those deer whistles.
Anyway ... the day got better, and Whiz had his own encounter with some local color.
As the day began to clear, we crossed Marias Pass, our first pass of many to come along the Divide. The Whiz plans to document each and every pass-crossing with a photo. Notice the folksy weeds in the foreground. Hopefully we won't have any snowdrifts along the way!
Our second pass destination of the day was Logan Pass, which is inside Glacier National Park. In order to get there, we skirted the park around the south, then entered the park from the east side, which was less than 20 miles from the pass. The plan was to zip into the park, up to the pass, get the shot, then head for Canada. It almost went that way.
We went all the way through the park in 1997 during our trip to Michigan. GNP is populated with these weird-looking bus-car-jitney-trams that shuttle tourists through the park. These Truman-era carriages are very attractive when they're parked, but they're slooooow on the road. The highest speed limit anywhere in the park is 45mph, and these buggies manage to eke out 25. Gotta let the customers take the snapshots!
So obviously we want to get up to wet, rainy and cold Logan Pass, get the shot, get back down to the better weather below, all while dodging these lumbering red beasts. Normally, it costs $10 per vehicle to get into the park, but Whiz charmed the gate attendant by saying "We're just going up to Logan Pass, and we'll be really quick!" She actually let us in without paying. But karma has a way of catching up, doesn't it?
Let me just cut to the chase - Whizmo needs to take Italian lessons. Fortunately, it was a Federal Park speeding violation, so it doesn't go on driving records. The Park Ranger was a nice enough gal and they even take credit cards!
Park Ranger and Whizmo, gnarly
Hey, only $38 (net) to bag Logan Pass!
We finally did get up to Logan Pass, where we enjoyed 100% humidity, 25mph winds, and temperatures in the low 40's. Then we quickly backtracked down the mountain while carefully staying within the legal limits, and headed towards the Canadian border.
As we started out southern trek, things began looking up. A rainbow crossed our path, letting us know that all would be well the rest of the day.
The rest of the day reminded us of why Montana is fondly known as Big Sky country. The vistas are just enormous. You can often see the road tapering away for miles.
We had a late lunch in Choteau at the Circle N Cafe, where Jeremiah works. I conned him into posing with a W&G card. Just down the street was the Dinosaur Ice Cream Parlor, but the internet beckoned ... no ice cream today.
Tomorrow we head for Helena. Hopefully we won't need any Italian lessons.
The entries so far to Contest #2 (Earplugs Off the Bike) are real rib-ticklers; the creativity of our readers never ceases to amaze us. We'll keep it open another day for late entries, but call it closed when we write tomorrow's report. (Yes, we do arbitrarily decide when to close contests, so you never know - better get them in early to be sure.)