Saturday August 21, 2010 – Day 16 – “Montana!!!”
I got up fairly early, but then decided to get breakfast. With packing and all, I think it was closer to 10:00 before I got on the road.
There is a little ski hill in the Bears Paw Mountains south of Havre and the road is paved out to it.
There was a creek running along the road. I don’t think you could take a bad picture of the trees and creek here.
Here’s where the bike was parked. It was a beautiful road to ride.
I had turned off the main road and was looping past a small school called Warrick. Then the route angled north past Cleveland, MT.
Finally I stopped at this memorial. This is at the Bear Paw Battle Field, the place that Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce surrendered to Gen. Miles after their long running engagement with the army. This September battle ends the long summer of flight of the non-treaty Nez Perce as they looked for a place of refuge. The survivors were held in Oklahoma for seven years until they returned to the reservation in Idaho.
From the battle field I backtracked south through the mountains and headed towards the Missouri river. There are gas wells through these hills with the accompanying compression sites. The roads have the meandering feel of a combination of ranch and natural gas field.
Continuing south the Missouri River breaks open in front of me, and the road starts to meander through the valleys towards the river.
According to my topo map, it is about a 1000 feet elevation from the bench north of the river to the river bank. It is rugged country.
Here the road drops down to the river bank.
The McClellan/Stafford ferry is a simple affair. Just a barge with a small motor to drive the hydraulics for the winch and the ramps. I drive on and the operator comes and takes me across the river.
Here is a picture of the ferry and operators house from where I parked on the south bank.
Hours of operation and weight limits. The Montana road map says it is operational from April to October and gives a phone number to call.
As I was driving up from the river, these two rams were by this water hole getting a drink.
“Time is tickin' away, tick tick tickin' away
Right now is the time that we gotta get with it
The gift that He's given ain't just an exhibit”
The road from the ferry ends up at Winifred and I fill up with gas. All the touring around the countryside this morning has taken some time and it is later in the day. I decide to keep heading south and pick up Hwy 200 across to Glendive. Here is the intersection of the cut across road from Hilger to ghost town of Maiden.
It is a beautiful little valley, and I can bypass Lewistown.
“All the money in the world
Can never stop the hands of time
And a wasted day in your life
Is more than a crime”
There are thunderstorms crossing the plains in front of me, and the wind is fierce at times. I stop in at Winnett and find out that I have missed the worst of the wind.
This little café has some really good homemade pies. I decide on a piece of raspberry. I talk a little with the owner. She is a good egg and enjoys this business out in prairies of central Montana. When I ask her how long she has had this bar/café, she mentions that she wishes she hadn’t waited so long to start, it has been too short.
The sun is setting as I get close to Glendive.
“You got a gift and you best start using it
Cause if you don't you're gonna wind up losing it
Get busy like a school boy makin' an "A"
Cause time my brother is tickin' away”
This little DC Talk song echos through my head as I ride up to my home.
Here’s a quick self portrait at the end of the trip.
A few bugs died on the windshield.
Another tire is about worn out.
So here are a few FAQ’s I get.
Q. Would you do it again?
A. Yes. Now that I’ve been to the end of the road and back I will try to stop along the way and explore a little more.
Q. How did the bike work?
A. It was good. The smaller 800 is good for the gravel roads, but a little low on power and speed for the long stretches. It is a nice compromise for this trip.
Q. Could anyone make this trip?
A. Yes, the Alcan is paved and I would be willing to take my car to Fairbanks, but skip some of the gravel roads. Hey, if a scooter can make it…
It is a long road, so be prepared. There aren’t a lot of services so you will need to compromise and improvise if you have problems. The gas stops along the Alcan are about every 50 miles, which is pretty easy for most travelers. If you need gas, stop and fill up, don’t wait. At Dawson Creek in Alberta, the visitor center has brochures with the mileage for the gas stops and campgrounds. Tires that are steel belted for gravel roads are recommended because of the construction.
Stats for Day 16: 444 miles, 12.5 gallons of fuel, 10.2 hours
Some people like fuel mileage and mileage data for planning, so here is my spreadsheet with all the fuel stops.