Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Cruising the Canadian Prairies and Back - Final

Williston is very near the border so I was soon in Montana after my usual early motel breakfast. It was overcast and threatening rain this morning as I traveled west on Highway 200.  In fact, it had rained a bit the night before.  The first cache of the morning was at a small cemetery and again the mosquitoes were so bad that the only gear I removed was one glove. I stopped for about a dozen caches that day and found all but two.

As I pulled into a gas station/convenience store in Circle, MT, a work van I had recently passed pulled ahead of me in the parking lot and the driver got out and walked back to me.  He was an avid motorcyclist about 60 years old and was interested in my bike and began telling me about his and some of his trips.  Besides getting gas my reason for stopping here was that there was a geocache beneath the foot of a big dinosaur in a lot next to the store.  I took my new friend over with me and he found his first geocache.  He owned a business that serviced boilers stationed out of Great Falls.  He gave me his card and invited me to stay with him the next time I was in Great Falls.  Those Montana folks are about as friendly as the Canadians.

Red Granery - a DNF
Rather than traveling directly to Great Falls from Lewistown on Highway 87 I opted to take Highway 80 which loops north up to Fort Benton.  I had traveled 87 on a previous trip so I welcomed the chance to use a new route.  It was a fun motorcycle road to travel and I stopped in Ft Benton to get a couple of caches and some gas.  It had gotten quite hot by this time.  I did get on 87 here which goes southwest to Great Falls.  I got behind a couple of cars that wanted to go fast so I enjoyed the trip behind the cop shield.

I had booked reservations at the Quality Inn in Great Falls which turned out to be downtown.  However, I couldn’t find it.  The Econolodge was where my GPS said the Quality Inn should be.  I stopped nearby and asked someone and was told that the Econolodge was the Quality Inn.  The motel was run by Japanese Americans and when I mentioned that I hadn’t seen their sign they said it was hard to see because of the trees.  Later I went out and looked and the only thing the trees partially obscured was the Econolodge sign.  They totally ignored the fact that obviously this had very recently been the Econolodge.  The only thing that said Quality Inn was the bill.  They also had my reservation for the following night.  Nevertheless I did get a ground floor on the end of the building but it was apparently too far from the network server to get WIFI. Otherwise the accommodations were fine.

As usual, after checking in I went out to get some nearby caches.  In the process I found a fantastic place to eat about 3 blocks from the motel.  It was called The Pizza Baron and I had a grilled chicken/bacon foldover which was out of this world.  I was also able to eat out on the sidewalk which was very pleasant.

I got my usual early start after breakfast and headed southwest on Highway 200 toward Missoula.  As you get closer to Missoula the highway becomes more twisty and hilly, great for motorcycling.  I stopped for several caches along the way but the best was in a tube under a bridge across a beautiful river.  It was called Blackfoot Garden.

As I was returning to my bike parked on the road shoulder from a cache out in the woods I noticed the back tire looked a little flat.  Upon inspection I saw it was worn down to the steel belt and had only 10 pounds of pressure.  I had just checked the pressure the night before and added a couple pounds of air bringing them up to 40 psi.  When a motorcycle tire loses pressure the rubber will disappear very quickly on the highway.  I couldn’t find a nail in it so I got out my little electric pump and put it back up to 40 psi.  Fortunately I was only about 10 miles out of Missoula.  I cautiously got back on the road at a considerably slower speed.  I soon merged onto the Interstate where I immediately hit road construction.  It was the first time in my life I was glad to be in road construction.  The speed was slowed to 45 mph for some distance which suited me just fine. 

About the first business I saw when I turned on to Reserve Avenue (the busiest street in Montana) in Missoula was a Triumph motorcycle shop.  Unfortunately the cheapest tire they had in my size cost $230.  I normally buy a complete set on sale for less than $200.  One of the salesmen gave me the phone numbers of a couple other shops which I called.  I found a tire for $135 at a Honda/Yamaha shop between Missoula and Lolo which was right on my way.  It was during the lunch hour and they were short handed but they agreed to lend me tools so I could remove the wheel myself.  I did have one embarrassing incident.  As I was maneuvering my bike between another bike and a piece of machinery I totally forgot about my saddle bags which stick out like a pregnant cow.  One of the bags hit the piece of machinery and down I went.  It was my first spill on that bike but no damage was done to it or me.

Historic Lochsa Ranger Station
I ate my sardine lunch there while they were mounting my tire and then I was back on the road.  With a new tire it is advisable to take the first 50 to 100 miles easy on the curves to remove the slick from the tire left by the mold.  That was kind of a bummer as I was going down Highway 12 and the Lolo Pass.  I did take it easy gradually taking the curves more aggressively until I felt the tire was good.  It was extremely hot so I had taken off my jacket and bungeed it to my tailbag.  I don’t like forfeiting the protection of the jacket but it was just too hot.

With the exception of being very hot the ride down the Lochsa River was very nice.  As the tire problem had thrown me a couple of hours behind schedule I only stopped for a couple of geocaches.  One was the Historic Lochsa Ranger Station which was pretty neat.  I stopped for gas in Kamiah and it was 97 degrees.  I got home before 5:00 p.m. having traveled 2,609 miles in 6 days (435 miles/day average) and logging 59 geocaches in 4 provinces, 4 states and 3 time zones.  It was a very pleasant trip, tire problem not withstanding.   M/W


Chris said...

That old Lochsa station is cool. Back in the early '40's, while he was just out of high school and before he went in the service, my dad manned a lookout, Mocus Point, on the Lochsa district. Beautiful country. If you'd like a little history, try this link. My dad is referenced part way down on the paragraphs. http://idaholookouts.weebly.com/mocus-point.html

Kathy said...

Thanks for the link. We'll check it out.