Unfortunately for Wayne & Zina (who were probably still sleeping on San Diego time), I’m a morning person. On motorcycle trips, I like nothing better than getting on the road when the sun is still rising. Lola is not a morning dog, but will usually get up and shake off the sleep if I start clanking the food bowl around.
I tried to quietly creep around without making too much noise. Large legs and gangly arms can be a hindrance however, and between the muffled curses as I tripped over equipment, or the loud sigh of a camp-mattress being rolled up I had woken everyone up.
Coffee is a morning ritual to many people. To others its a required step in the starting process, like choke plungers on a carburetor, or pre-heating a boiler. The latter is true for Zina and I, while Wayne prefers water or a granola bar. After some caffeine saturation, we packed everything up and hit the road for an early start.
The route started off on a narrow, paved county road, which wound through a check board of ranch land, and the Kootenai National Forest.
Quite often as we motored along, chipmunks and other small animals would burst from the vegetation lining the roadside in a suicide dash across the road in front of us. Sometimes she’d see one when we stopped, and as soon as the motor turned off, she’d burst from the sidecar in search-and-destroy mode.
In a matter of minutes, we had crossed over US-93, and into the Flathead national forest. The dirt began as a nicely groomed, wide straight road with some gravel mixed in. Smooooth.
As we turned up Grave Creek, the road broke into first sized rocks for a brief stretch which rattled things up nicely. Also the first test of the Duro HF307 tires with less-than-ideal traction, which they passed quite well.
Some of the local flora (Fireweed) is in full bloom along the side of the trail, providing some contrasting colors along the predominantly green landscape.
Clear mountain streams with brilliantly clear water ran along drainages and slopes throughout the route. In terms of scenic beauty, the first day on the dirt did not disappoint.
The road here, is great fun. Lined with lodgepole pine trees and well maintained, it curls through the mountains and peaks like a roller coaster. Happy times.
The Ural hammered out a steady, soft rhythm at 40mph, the random "Plink!" of gravel bouncing off metal fenders acting as cymbals for the road beat. Happy times.
The only major imperfection on this section of road, is potholes. 4-8 inches deep in places, and up to 2 feet wide, avoiding them on the Ural wasn't easy, and sometimes impossible. I had to make split-second steering input, and decide on who was going to take the hit, myself or Lola.
We met our first cyclists on the road too. The guy on the Surly fat-bike I recognized from a member on Soviet Steeds who ran into him while riding the New Mexico portion of the route in June. Second only to hikers, the bicyclists of this route are the real tough guys. We motorcyclists are just loud tourists.
Rounding a bend on a beautiful section of road, we come across…
Red Meadow Lake Campground. One of the most beautiful campgrounds I have ever seen. Hindsight being 20/20, I’d have loved to spend a night there on the way up to the border.
Three spots right on the lake, and nobody there. Too bad it was only mid-day, as this would have been a fantastic place to camp for the day.
“This is going to be captioned poorly, isn’t it?”
Wayne said in reference to the photo above at Red Meadow Lake. Feel free to make up your own. My favorite so far is: “How’d you get the beans over the frank?”
We descended off Grave Creek road, and down towards Whitefish, where we met this couple who had just started the route. They sold their business before leaving on this trip, and were in great spirits. Notice that cloud billowing up behind us?
I’d seen this BBQ restaurant (Piggyback BBQ) on the way up to Roosville, and read about it in some of my research on the route. We decided to stop in for some lunch, and to review the rest of the route for resupply options.
Lunch was good, and one of the other patrons even donated a tray of pulled-pork for the dogs. Zina craftily squared the bulk of it away in a ziplock to mix in with their dinners.
The billowing clouds finally developed into small storms, forcing us under a shade canopy for most of our meal.
Pulling out of the parking lot after our meal, I noticed Zina’s rear wheel looked like it was running low. I honked the horn and pointed it out, which ended up with us under this apartment parking structure. I asked one of the residents if they would object to mild curse words and the clang of tire irons on asphalt as we fixed our flat. “Everyone is at work, it’d be no problem”
And so Zina and Wayne got busy swapping out the tube. While going through these steps, a small gathering of young residents started to form. One guy on a balcony smoking a doobie, soon turned into three, and then five. While I couldn’t understand what was being said between the gesticulating and laughing, it didn’t seem malicious.
In addition to providing scissor-jack services for the DRZ’s, I’m the designated security attaché. Wayne & Zina are carrying bear-spray, and I am carrying my Glock 29. Not that any of us were worried about this small doobie-lovin’ crew, living on the mean streets of Whitefish Montana. They appeared to be having a good time in life, and thats all anyone really wants.
We hit the pavement for 20 miles or so out of Whitefish, towards Bigfork where we would pick up the dirt again.
We stopped at a country store for provisions, where we ran into a group of like-minded riders doing the trip in the other direction. A veritable Suzuki festival it would seem, as the “DR” platform seems to the be bike of choice. They did not have kind words regarding the trails in New Mexico, didn’t calm the growing apprehension I had for those sections.
Smooth and fast, with sweeping corners and relatively good line of sight, the dirt roads past Bigfork are amazing.
The recent passing rain showers dampened the road enough to keep the dust down. For once I could ride behind them without eating spoonfuls of talcum powder.
The trail narrowed down to a two track, winding over the rolling hills, backdropped with impressive peaks. Not another soul on these roads allows the quiet whispers of the forest to stir up primal emotions in the soul. I was really living in the core of what I wanted to get out of this trip, on day 1!
We found lay-by off the road that was relatively flat and set up camp for the night. While a nice spot in the lower elevation, the dampness from the days rolling showers brought out the best in the mosquitos. The Simon and Lola team wandered around exploring our camp, covering every vertical surface with pee while we built a small fire from wet branches to deter some of the bugs.
Zina and Wayne cooked up their signature ramen/chicken dish, while I made a can of chili over rice. Sounds of stories shared together echoed amidst a soundtrack of crickets, peepers, and occasional flatulence from our BBQ lunch.
Day one on the trip left us feeling great as a team for the coming days. Considering none of us have ever done an multi-day ride with one another, the symmetry in styles and attitude is amazing. As night fell, sleep came easy to dogs and humans alike.
Days Mileage: 156 miles
Total Mileage: 1,318 miles