Day Four


"The Dos and Don'ts of Motorcycle Touring,
According to W & G"

September 8, 2002

Great Falls, MT -
Helena, MT

177 miles

3:22 riding time

5 Passes Today
7 Passes To Date


Wow, what a day!

I know many of you are worried about hurting our feelings by asking for this, but we'll give it to you anyway:  If you want to skip all this  crap about our trip and go directly to the contest section click here.

Ok, anybody left?  Uh-oh—the silence is deafening.

A few of our faithful readers have asked for more meaty nuts and bolts discussions of motorcycles and motorcycle touring (basically, forget all the wussy local color crud), so ever eager to please, here we go.  By the way, as I like to say to my kids, "Do as I say, not as I do." 

I'll just run down the list in no particular order:

1.  DON'T document your travels on the internet.   Doing so will guarantee that you'll spend evenings holed up in cheap hotel rooms with your smelly riding partner, arguing about whether the plural of "Don't" should be spelled "Don'ts" or "Don't's".
2.  Especially DON'T think up ridiculous stage names for you and your riding buddy.  Doing so will start you down the slippery slope of spending untold sums on customized riding gear, business cards, website domain fees, and other associated paraphernalia, such as the brass plaques to the left (which we plan on securing to an unnamed pass, to be decided).  Not to mention, you might come up with names that just plain sound stupid.
3.  DON'T even think about touring on an overpriced, overweight, underpowered, unreliable BMW motorcycle.  Features like heated grips, hard-bags (on every model), center stands, complete toolkits with everything you need to plug a tire, and a sane riding position are VASTLY overrated.  No, what you need is something like an R1 or Gixxer-1000 with that extra 30-hp above 10K RPM, riding position by the Marquis de Sade, and race-track handling.  And don't forgetby riding a race replica, you're supporting your local chiropractor.
4.  DON'T wear earplugs, as you might forget to take them out after riding.  For reasons why this is a bad thing, consult the Contest #2 results below.
5.  DON'T even consider touring in Montana.  You'll get a serious case of agoraphobia in those wide open spaces and cell-phone coverage sucks.  (Gotta stay in touch with your broker, you know.)
6.  DO stay on the interstates and avoid the local two-lane roads and "goat trails."  If you get off the freeway, you'll have to meet and talk to people like full-time civil engineer and part-time short-order breakfast cook Diane whom we met at Silver Dollar Bar and Grill, out in the middle of nowhere between Rogers Pass and Helena.  (By the way, be sure to check out the Silver Dollar's "shoes on the ceiling", and L-shaped pool table further down the page.)
7.  DO plan on "iron-butt" 500+ mile days.  Doing shorter days will make you the subject of ridicule and scorn with your gnarly biker buds at the biker bar every Thursday night.
8.  DON'T bring rain gear.  If you do, it rains; if you don't, it doesn't.
9.  DON'T think up some corny "theme" for a ride, such as riding all the hard-surface Continental Divide passes between Canada and Mexico.  Theme rides are passé.  Everybody is doing them.  Follow Bronson's leadjust wing it.

10.  DON'T use Aerostich gore-text riding gear, especially in hi-viz puke yellow.  Go with leathers which will be pleasantly colder-than-hell at any temperature below 68 degrees, and pleasantly hotter-than-hell at any temperature above 72 degrees.  And using Aerostich gear may result in the following scenario:  You hang your Roadcrafter jacket from a handlebar mirror which results in the front zipper touching the exhaust pipe of your BMW R-twin I told you not to buy.  This results in melted zipper teeth, requiring you to ride half a day with your jacket unzipped and flapping wildly in the breeze until you figure out that you can cut the few offending teeth out and still get the zipper to work..
11.  DON'T use longer-life sport touring rubber like Dunlop D220's.  No, you need race track rubber out there when you're dragging your knee pucks.  And you'll enjoy your time spent hanging around podunk motorcycle shops in the middle-of-nowhere while they scratch and bend your rims levering on a tire that has been sitting on their shelf for a couple years.  And all this will only cost you $300 for a $100 tire.
12.  DON'T tour in September after Labor Day.  You'll get too lonely out there, riding for 30-minutes or longer without meeting another car.
13.  DO speed when going through your National Parks.  With the budget cuts, they don't have money to haul the trash, let alone police the roads.
14.  DON'T use electrical riding gear.  Remember the unconfirmed reports that sleeping under an electric blanket will age you prematurely?  Well, look at Giz!  Enough said.

15.  DON'T use Mobil 1 15W-50 synthetic oil in that BMW motorcycle I told you not to buy.  No, instead use essentially the same oil in a different bottle marked "Mobil 1 Motorcycle Oil" but costs twice as much.  Different marketing and distribution channels cost differently, you know.
16.  DON'T pay the slightest attention to fuel range when you select your touring motorcycle.  On the interstates you're going to be riding, there are gas stations every exit.  Furthermore, you'll miss the adrenaline rush of having the low-fuel light come on like it did for me today, still 45-miles from the nearest gas station.
17.  DON'T look for heated grips when selecting your touring motorcycle.  You're probably not going anyplace that is really cold, like the spot we visited today just west of Rogers Pass, where it got to 70 degrees below zero the year after the Whiz and Giz were born, coldest ever in the Continental U.S.
18.  DON'T get up early in the morning and ride at dawn.  It is much better to ride in the afternoon when it is hottest, the air is turbulent, and the traffic is heaviest.
19.  DON'T ride on any gravel roads.  You'll scratch up your beautiful paintwork, get your bike all dirty, and be forced to buy a dirt bike and learn how to control a motorcycle when traction is non-optimal.
20.  And finally, DON'T where a helmet in states where you can get away without wearing one.  You haven't seen helmet hair until you see the way my hair is going to look at the end of this tour.

Well, that was exhausting coming up with so much important information!  But I can't leave you today without giving you some more images from today's great ride. 

Today was a short day, but we "bagged" five passes (two were on backwoods gravel roads).  And we enjoyed one of those magical Montana fall days where the skies were crystalline blue, traffic was essentially non-existent, and we rode some of the finest twisty motorcycle roads I've ever experienced.

Mullan Pass is big with model railway buffs as there is a major train pass there.  There is a switching yard right at the pass and I watched as three large freight trains rumbled past me and into a long tunnel.  The train tunnel essentially goes underground from where I'm standing.  No, Giz wasn't with me as he took my advice listed above about gravel roads. Priest Pass is very remote and I had to climb a very rough and narrow jeep trail to get to it.  I met some real life cowboys herding cattle near the pass; I was going to give them our card, but they looked pretty busy and horses don't like motorcycles.
Rogers Pass.  Funny how they used Arial as a font on the road sign way before PC's became popular.  It's a real mystery. MacDonalds Pass.  The early settlers actually used Mullan and Priest Passes before MacDonalds Pass was opened.
L-Shaped pool table at Silver Dollar Bar and Grill 15-miles N of Helena.  Neither Giz nor I had ever seen a non-rectangular pool table before. The ceiling of the Silver Dollar Bar and Grill.  Some cells had shoes/boots; others had ranch branding symbols.  We forgot to ask Diane about this.  Diane, are you there?  Let us know the origin of this tradition.

And remember Gizmo's incident with the deer yesterday?  Well, we're in Montana now and everyone knows that Montana is THE place to find dinosaurs.

Dino just about had Gizmo, but when I snapped the picture, Dino looked back to see what made the noise.  This allowed Gizmo to effect an escape.

Keep the shiny side up, as we are obviously doing.  Today was a "10"!

The results for Contest #2 are in, and the judges' decisions are final:

The Whizmo and Gizmo "Top Ten" Side Benefits of Wearing Earplugs While OFF the Motorcycle

#1 You can use them as shaft supports for that old "fake arrow through the head" look. Very cool at the Steve Martin look-alike convention.  (Congrats to Terry Swain)
#2 Can quickly be redeployed as nose plugs when your riding partner exercises Side Benefit #10.  (Mike Paull)
#3 You can completely, and with abandon, whistle or sing God-awful tunes like "Radar Love" or "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" or EVEN (and it's really reaching for this one) "King of the Road" without worrying AT ALL about what those other guys who are pumping gas or ordering lunch or pissing next to you might say.  (Glenda Revelle)
#4 Allows you to release coffee on the roadside freely, with abandon, and without hesitation, as you won't hear the six busloads\of nubile high-school girls churning up the pass in low gear on their way to the cheerleading nationals. (Mike Paull)
#5 It allows great fun pantomiming with <insert annoying soliciter name here> knocking at front door.   (Dan Newell)
#6 The Anna Nicole Smith show makes sense.  (Thomas Brady)
#7 Ability to snore with wild abandon while never being awaked by the snores of the guy in the other bed.  (Marty Levin, Joe Ozinski)
#8 You can ignore Whizmo (or Gizmo) with plausible deniability.   (Mike Koss)
#9 You only have to deal with the annoying voices inside your head, instead of having to deal with the ones outside your head.  (Stephen Parris)
#10 You can break wind with abandon (hey, YOU can't hear it!)  (Whizmo)

There were some great entries that didn't make the cut but profuse thanks to all of you who submitted an entry:  Patty Smith, Mani Krishnamurthy, Steve Gross, Mike Koss, Susan Davis, Stephen Marra, Stephen Parris, Mike Paull, David Gross, Glenda Revelle, Terry Swain, Jan Betts, Peter Ellis, Joe Ozinski, Marty Levin, Caryn Condon, Thomas Brady, Allan Gold, Dan Newell, Susan Grove, Mark Sutton, and Ty Bailie.

New Contest! New Contest! New Contest!

It's time for a new contest, #3 in a seemingly never-ending series  ... Music From The Road!

We had so much fun hearing your suggestions about travelin' music that we thought we'd turn the tables on you.  We've put together some popular songs about ... The Road.  Your job is simple - just give us the name of the song and the artist!  What could be simpler?  Of course, in order to fit the music into a reasonable amount of download time, and to avoid copyright infringement issues, we had to kind of shorten the songs ... you'll see what we mean.  We would suggest that you save the file to your machine so you can listen to it several hundred times without using our expensive web bandwidth.

Here are the rules for Contest #3:

  1. Provide the name of the song, and the artist.  Accuracy counts.
  2. You have 3 lifelines from family members and pop music experts.  Use them wisely.
  3. The earliest correct response is the winner.  And no whining from you West Coast folks about people in other time zones having an advantage.  You should wake up earlier anyway. 
  4. With your entry, please tell us where in the world you are.  We'd like to get a sense of our global reach.

OK, click here to hear Contest #3, Music From The Road!.  Then, click here to tell us your answers!  It's that simple!

And finally ...

We were somewhat remiss with Contest #1 in not mentioning all of our fine cultured readers who submitted entries, often with abandon. A gigantic W&G thanks and tip of the hat to Bruce Williams (with the first reply 22 minutes after posting!), Thomas Brady, Bob Seidensticker, Terry Swain, Mani Krishnamurthy, Adam Rauch, Glenda Revelle, Jeri Pollyea, Joe Ozinski, Jamie Engen (I do need to hear the tune 'Gizmo Escapes!), Charlie Derk, Steve Ellis ('Cry of the Wild Goose'?), TJ Brady, Lloyd Gardner, Kenn Engstrom, Bill Garrard, Marty Levin, Terry Afdem, Patty Smith, Dan Hytry, Tom Boyle, Dave Gross, Jan Betts, Ty Bailie, Gartha Ferrand, Larry Smith, Mike Koss, Bill Achenbach, Caryn Condon, Stephen Marra, Robert Eiffert, Dave Farrell (yodeling?), Chris Banitch, Stephen Parris ('Hall of the Mountain King'!  Yeah!), and Tom Grove.  Whew.