Day Four - September 6, 1997
Havre, Montana - Williston, North Dakota
First, let me say that today was brilliant. Everything is falling into place, our planning has paid off very nicely, the roads are great, the bikes are great, and we are very happy. Our bodies seem to have become convinced that we're serious about this motorcycling thing, so the aches and pains seem to have simply vanished today.
Because we're feeling so great, we're making an extra special trip report today. I want to go back and fill in some images from the last two days, so this message is going to be longer than usual.
You remember on Day 2 (Kalispell) when I told you that we played golf. Well, Mark brought his camera along but we didn't get the image downloaded in time for the day's report. Here's me hitting out of a tough lie:
A special request - we're enjoying all of the great feedback from folks we're sending these reports to. If you do send us some mail, please make sure that you don't include the original message - we're using a slow modem to send and receive, and our connections are usually poor. We're happy to hear from you, but we don't need to see the original mail again. Thanks.
And now, today's report.
We got an early start today, off and running by 7:30am. We were heading straight into the sun, but that didn't matter. We were happy to get out of the motel. Our room was directly above "Lucky Lil's Casino". Unlike Las Vegas, casinos in Havre apparently close down at midnight or so. When we loaded up the bikes in the morning, we were carrying our luggage right past the locked entrance to the casino. The smell of smoke coming from that room (about the size of a coffee shop) was overwhelming. I wonder if they use smoke machines to create the ambiance?
The loading of the bikes has become a ritual in the morning. Each bag has to be attached the bike in a specific order, secured and lashed in place before the next one. We each have four major bags, and we do them two at a time. A rhythm has emerged to this ritual that keeps us silently progressing towards our moment of departure. The final stage is the donning of the riding suits, which signifies it's time to ignite the ceremonial sparkplugs.
As we continued east along highway 2, we noticed that just about every retail establishment in Montana has the word "casino" appended to it. You got your quickmart-casinos. You got your gas station-casinos. You got your motel-casinos. Even the Chinese restaurant we ate at last night was also a casino. We didn't see any church-casinos, but they were probably a block or two off the highway.
After the encounters the last few days with beetles and butterflies, I thought I had pretty much seen the range of insect attacks that were possible. Whenever we stop for gas, bees swarm around the windshields and headlights, scavenging the remains of the smashed fellow-insect world. I guess bees are like vultures. What I didn't know about bees is how tenacious they are. We were driving along when I got smacked on the neck by another insect. It's happened so many times that I didn't think anything of it. A few seconds later ... OWWW! I was stung! I reach up with my left hand to try to remove the drill bit that this guy installed in my neck, but apparently he was gone, and all that was left was this incredible sting. I'm going 65mph, left hand to right neck, wondering what happens next. We had planned a stop in about 35 miles, so I decided to tough it out, although what I really wanted to do was stop and look in the mirror at the bullet hole in my neck. After a few minutes the pain subsided enough that I knew I wouldn't be the cause of a headline like "Bee Kills Biker on Bitchin' Black Bike", so when we did stop, I did find a little red lump, no gaping wound. I don't know what I would have done differently, so I guess it's just part of the experience.
We agree that these two-lane roads are just magnificent. Very little traffic, lots of great scenery, and quaint towns with unusual names like Malta, where the eastbound and westbound trains of Amtrak's Empire Builder lines pass each other. Other towns along this stretch of 2 include Dunkirk, Kremlin, Zurich, Harlem and Tapico. Apparently, these towns were named by marketing dweebs for the railroads when they were trying to lure northern and eastern Europeans to come homestead the land and settle the Great Northern route.
One of Mark's missions on this trip is take pictures of water towers. Every time we see a water tower in Moscow or Zurich, we pull off the highway and navigate back to a spot where he can snap a shot. Here's a picture of Mark taking a picture of a water tower:
One of my missions on this trip is to develop some ideas about using cool electronics on motorcycles. I have mounted a moving map GPS display between the handlebars that shows our route and position, with ETA to our next waypoint, as well as our estimated final arrival time for the day. This is very cool, and many of you know I've been playing with this technology for years. This is definitely the best incarnation I've had working yet. This shot shows what I see in front of me while I'm riding. You can't see the detail of the GPS display (I'll include that another day) but you can get a general sense of what the road ahead looks like from the driver's perspective.
Today's question has to do with license plates.
Mark is beginning to complain about helmet hair. I solved that problem by getting a buzz cut.
Tomorrow we leave from Williston, crossing North Dakota, and we'll stay the night in Grand Forks.
Keeping the rubber side down,