Glacier National Park – part 1

Flathead LakeI headed out early, knowing I had miles to burn. I had been over the initial part of the route a couple of weeks ago on my Idaho-Montana ride, but I did stop and take some pictures along the way to supplement the ones I took earlier and to make up for some I should have taken. I did take a picture at Paradise, MT. I was on MT-200 for a while and then took a right turn onto MT-28 – if you remember my earlier post about the decision I made at the MT-200 and MT-28 intersection. At Flathead Lake (which was much larger than I expected) I took MT-93 towards Kalispell.

MT-93 towards Kalispell seemed to be to be a guided tour towards northern Montana with the mountains to the west and the east forming a funnel leading towards Kalispell. As I went through town, I saw a Harley dealer having a cookout and since there were a number of bikes there I decided to stop. It was an opportunity to get a soda and walk around a bit to shake off the aches of the road. I headed on through town and took MT-2 which I thought would get me to MT-40. I got to Coram and stubbornly knew this couldn’t be right as I had not seen MT-40. Going west on MT-2 (the wrong way), I eventually came to the intersection of MT-93 and MT-40. Whitefish was to the north and I should nat have been that far west. I stopped at a gas station on the southeast corner of MT-93 and MT-40 and looked at a map. OK, Magellan, you should have just continued east on MT-2 throuh Coram and the next town would have bee West Glacier. I got back on the Dyna and headed east, more than a little irritated at my apparent lack of navigation skills. Finally, I got to the west entrance of Glacier National Park. I paid my $12 entrance fee and went into the park. Little did I know what the Going To The Sun Road had for me.

The first clue should have been the almost indescribable colors of the water in Lake McDonald. Crystal clear at the edge, showing the gold, silver, and copper colored stones, gradually changing to a deep aquamarine blue that could have come straight from the Caribbean. Absolutely stunning. However, I needed a thesaurus because the word stunning would quickly be overwhelmed by the sights around every turn. What word do you use when stunning or breathtaking just isn’t enough? There were a couple of places that allowed a picture of the mountains reflected in Lake McDonald and looking at the pictures now it almost seems artificial, but it wasn’t. This was as real as it gets.

Glacier National Park – planning

I knew this was going to be a long ride, but everything I had seen and read about Glacier National Park told me that it would be well worth the trip. I also knew that I had called every hotel in the area trying to find a room for Saturday night so that I could stay reasonably close to the park. My fallback plan was to stay in Kalispell, MT. I finally called some dear friends of mine that owned a home in the area and they suggested that I call Mountain Pine Inn in East Glacier, MT. My friends knew the owners and thought they just might have a room available. And I lucked out – even after I told them that Fran and Jane said hello, they STILL had a room for me.

OK, trip planning complete: motorcycle, clothes, toiletries, camera, film, leathers, helmet, a vague idea of how to get there, cash, and a good weather forecast. I just hate starting a ride in the rain.

Biking in the Idaho Panhandle – part 2

FH000019Since I already had the bike today, I was able to be on the road by 6:15am – a much cooler time of the day. Today my trip was 350+ miles or so, in a loop from Coeur d’Alene through St. Regis, MT, Plains, MT, Paradise, MT, Noxon, MT, Sandpoint, ID and back with a few side trips thrown in for good measure.

The departure was great, cool enough for the occasional shiver in while in the shadows but a welcome change from yesterday. I told myself that I would long for a shiver later in the day and to just accept it as a gift. I stopped at a couple of turnouts along I-90 to take some pictures, just couldn’t pass them by. It was a really scenic ride through Fourth of July Pass and Lookout Pass, you just don’t see that kind of terrain in northern Illinois. Tractor-trailers inching down the east side of the pass at 20-25 mph is just not a common sight in the flatlands of Illinois. There were a couple of lakes along the south side of I-90 with mountains in the background that just begged for pictures so I reluctantly accomodated them. Hopefully they will turn out.

My first stop since leaving Coeur d’Alene was in Wallace, ID. I decided that I needed a cup of coffee since my last coffee was in the hotel lobby as I was leaving. A small, sleepy on Sunday morning kind of town, I found the Briggs Hotel and got a cup of coffee. I took it outside and sat at a table on the sidewalk relaxing and watching things wake up. I could be at home in a place like that. The coffee cup was empty and it was time to saddle up and get going.

The next stop was in St. Regis, MT at the MT-135 exit. Time for fuel and a stretch. I met a couple of bikers from Washington, they were headed for Colorado, then New Mexico and finally Arizona. Quite the adventure, I’m sure. I headed north on MT-135 looking for MT-200. From the signs I was on 135 for about 20 miles or so, nice scenery, elevation changes, and the river (at least initially) was on the right. I made some pictures along the way. Got to MT-200 and turned west. Fairly soon after turning west I was in paradise. Paradise, MT to be specific. The town looked to be easy to miss, but I guess Paradise is only for those folks paying attention. The next town was Plains, and just before town was MT-28 that heads towards Glacier National Park. I stopped at that intersection and seriously considered turning on 28. Ultimately, I chose to skip Glacier and continued on 200. Several reasons, primarily distance, heat, and time. I may rent again the next weekend I’m out here and if I do will probably head to Glacier on Saturday, stay the night, go through the park and return on Sunday. Much more reasonable riding schedule and I wouldn’t feel rushed if I did it that way. From all accounts, Glacier is worth taking the time.

The Clark Fork river is really nice on the south side of 200. On the north the terrain rises quickly and there was a turnout describing a trail from the 19th century and continuing to describe the Thompson Falls mountain sheep herd. I didn’t see one but didn’t really expect to given the heat. I did see a warning sign the likes of which will never be necessary in Illinois – “Watch for Big-Horn Sheep”. As you get closer to Thompson Falls the Clark Fork widens and appears to slow down. Past Thompson Falls towards Noxon the reservoir is much larger than I thought it would be. You can go to the lower side of the dam and see the resulting water flow on towards Lake Pend Oreille.

I’m a little confused about the river’s name. Signs called it “Clark Fork” out by Plains, but as I got closer to Sandpoint, the signs were calling it “Bull River”. Maybe I missed something.

I stopped and read the signs describing the glaciers and melting that created the lake, very interesting. The volume of water that must have flowed when the ice dams melted would be breathtaking to witness. On northwestward around the lake to Sandpoint, and the intersection with 95. The temperature seemed to rise 20 degrees or more from the lakeshore temperature, the ride south on 95 was brutally hot. The news had the temps topping out at 105 and I believe it. I was glad to get back and relax in some cool air in the hotel.

I still have to get pictures developed (taken using my trusty Rollei 35 TE). I’ll post an album when I get them back.

Biking in the Idaho Panhandle – part 1

Lake Coeur d'AleneWell, I picked up the HD Fatboy at Shumate’s in Spokane and headed east on I-90. It was later in the day than I had wanted to get started (and hotter too) so I decided on the shorter ride around Lake Coeur d’Alene. I was thinking of going past the hotel to leave a couple of items, but the traffic on 95 north from I-90 changed my mind and I just got back on I-90 east. East for a ways, then I-90 turns southerly along the eastern side of the lake. A really nice ride with the lake on the right, changes in elevation give you different perspectives as you move around.

I got off I-90 at ID-97, towards Harrison. The ride on ID-97 is much closer to the lake and more twisty; you see much more of the homes and people from that road. It was HOT. By the time I was on ID-97 it was at least 97 – no joke. Even with your own generated 20-30 mph wind it was still HOT. I stopped in Harrison and found some ice water and a really good mint ice cream sandwich. I sat on a shady bench on the sidewalk and ate and drank and watched people come and go from the town beach. There were a few bikers on the road, and if they were as warm as I was they were hoping for some shade. Continuing on ID-97 I turned right on ID-3 towards St. Maries, where I took ID-5 west. On 5, I went through the Coeur d’Alene Indian Reservation. In Plummer I took 95 north back towards Coeur d’Alene and the cool temps in the hotel.

A few side trips and look-sees added a few miles, plus the miles from Spokane to get started – I wound up riding about 210 miles today.

Biking in Idaho – planning

I’m renting an HD the weekend of July 22nd and I’ve been asking some other bikers about suggested rides, places to go, places not to be missed, and I’ve distilled their suggestions down to a couple of routes.   One is basically directly east out of Coeur d’Alene, around Lake Fernan, ultimately winding up back on I-90 –  I don’t have a exact route on this one yet.   The second is the trip around Lake Coeur d’Alene.   This should be a really nice, scenic ride and will probably take me 5-6 hours to do.   If I was just riding and not stopping to take pictures, etc. it would take 2-3 hours or so.   I’m not in a hurry on either of these rides, that’s the point.

More parts arrive

While I was away on business, UPS must have thought Christmas came early. I received black powdercoated handlebars, black replacement grips, GPS mounting hardware, a sun shield for the GPS, a document stash tube, and a helmet bag. Most of this translates into work to do, but in the long run the updates should be well worth it.

I’m going to replace the handlebars, grips, and risers. Mark gave me a set of riser blocks off his Retro and I’m going to remove my Neo bars and risers. I intend to run the wiring through the bars, and replace the grips with all-black HD grips. The GPS mount will require some drilling and tapping so that the mount is clean, but it should be fairly simple.

The document stash tube will mount below the headlight on the front of the lower triple tree. It’s intended to hold registration and insurance papers so that I don’t forget them if I leave the saddlebags at home.

Bike show prep

After I got the headlight shell and air cleaner cover home I put them on, of course.   Tom at Black Magic Customs did a great job on both parts.   The red stripes on the headlight shell are horizontal which isn’t easy to determine by just looking at the shell off the bike.

With it all assembled, it needed cleaning and waxing to get ready for the bike show sponsored by Black Magic Customs during Sandwich Freedom Days.   The show is Sunday, July 2nd at 12 noon in the Hideout parking lot.   I washed it and used my dog drier to remove the majority of the water.   They are selling dog driers for twice the price and calling them motorcycle driers.   Oh, well, it does do a good job.   After waxing and polishing I decided to head the 3 miles up to the show.   Some very nice bikes, but I tend to favor the old-school bobbers over the latest choppers.   There were some really nice examples of both styles.

I headed home early as it started looking like rain.   The motorcycle washing and waxing gods must have been on my side because it rained 5 minutes AFTER I parked the bike in the garage.   OK, maybe it was just dumb luck.   Since I’m leaving on a business trip in a couple of days anyway, I just covered it up in the garage.

Home again, home again

I got back home from Colorado today, landing at O’Hare at about noon.   On the way home I picked up the dogs and stopped by Black Magic Customs.   The headlight shell and the air cleaner cover were ready and they looked great.   I put them in the truck and went to the post office, then finally home.   It’s good to be home.

Biking in Colorado – part 2

Sawatch Range valleyOn Sunday, I decided to ride up to Steamboat Springs. Remembering that it can be a little chilly, I left a bit later today, around 8:30am. East on Highway 6, then north on Highway 131. There was a sign that I noticed and really enjoyed seeing – it said “Open Range next 5 miles”. I immediately thought of the western Open Range with Kevin Costner, a movie I really liked.

The initial part of the ride was similar to yesterday’s ride, but then it leveled out. At least, it was more level than most of yesterday’s ride, anyway. The turns were more sweeping, and the terrain was more open. I started wondering about fuel, and after passing through Toponas, I turned around and went back to fill up. There wasn’t much traffic and I didn’t relish pushing a bike around because I was too stupid to get gas when I could. Topped off, and back on the road headed north.

There was a lot of empty road on this trip, and I like the space. A mechanical problem could be a difficult problem to solve, but the Hawk GT just kept running great. The flattops came up fairly quickly and the Finger Rock was an interesting formation. Signs of civilization came up at Oak Creek and then Steamboat Springs. I decided to have lunch at Tequila’s – it was great. There was a nice view looking south towards the ski slopes.

I headed back and you definitely notice different things along the same route but from a different direction. I came upon two VTXs heading south out of Steamboat Springs and they were wasting no time. There was some construction just south of town, but other than that the roads were great. I was kind of sad to see Toponas come up, because that meant that my trip was nearing the end. I chose to let the VTXs go on, and I filled up again and continued south. When I got back to Wolcott, at Highway 6 and Highway 131, the VTXs were sitting there at the Yacht Club bar and grill. I met the lady riding one of them and they have been on quite the trip from Arizona up through Nevada, down through Colorado, New Mexico, and home. I’ll make a trip like that someday.

A great time riding, on a different bike than I usually ride, in a part of the country I have not ridden through before. I hope this will not be the last time for any of those things.

Biking in Colorado – part 1

Minturn - Eagle RiverI borrowed a bike for the weekend so that I could see some of Colorado from a motorcycle. The bike was a Honda 650 GT Hawk, a v-twin sport bike. It is quite different than the other bikes I ride, the two biggest differences are the footpeg placement (more under the seat than on my cruisers) and the handlebars (a more forward-leaning riding position). My wrists weren’t used to it, but given more time it would seem more natural. I really noticed the difference when braking.

The ride itself was nothing short of spectacular. I left Eagle at about 7am, headed east on US 6. Brrrrr. When you’re in the shadow of the mountains, it’s COLD. I had to stop and put earplugs in, I seem to forget them fairly often. I made it to Minturn, and stopped at Harry’s Bump and Grind. The coffee was hot and the scones were right out of the oven. Just what I needed to warm up and start the picture-taking. The trip to Leadville was one stunning panorama after another. I stopped and took a picture at the Tenessee Pass Continental Divide sign. On to Leadville, then on south towards route 82. I stopped in Twin Lakes and topped off the gas, and a gentleman on a Harley dresser was doing the same thing. He had just come over Independence pass and said it was cold up there. I thought – great. I had just warmed up and now it’s going to get cold again. Oh, well, the views are worth it.

The trip from Twin Lakes to the top of Independence Pass was as good if not more picturesque than the trip from Minturn to Leadville. Wow. Still snow on the ground up there, and a fair amount of it. The trip down the western side of the pass was, you guessed it, stunning. However, I had shot three rolls of film on the way up to Independence Pass and had no film for the trip down the western side. On through Aspen, then stopped for pizza at Redstone Pizza in Basalt. On north to Glenwood Springs, then east on I-70. I have never seen anything like I-70 east of Glenwood Springs. Humbling. The engineering it took to get that road shoehorned in along the river is amazing, and it looks it.

I got off I-70 at Gypsum and took US 6 back to Eagle. The ride was about 215 miles total, every foot of it was worth the time. I hope the pictures turn out – if they do I will select a few and post them here.