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Old 10-16-2010, 12:36 PM   #1
MTrider16 OP
Ridin' in MT
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Joined: Oct 2006
Location: Eastern Montana
Oddometer: 1,796
Talking Mountains, Moose, and Miles: a Montanan's Alcan Highway Story

Friday, August 6, 2010 Ė Day 1 Ė ďLets get this party startedĒ

Obviously, I didnít get everything ready to go on Thursday night. So here its 7:30 am and I'm finishing some work on the motorcycle. Paul of Yellowstone Rec got the new front tire installed on the rim yesterday and Iíve now got the wheel installed. New synthetic oil and filter and the chain is cleaned and lubed. Now to get the rest of my stuff packed and hit the road.

So is it bad if you have to wash the panel so you can attach a decal? ;-) I donít want any of the Canadians to think Iím from places like Texas or California.

Iíve been asked how long Iíve been planning this trip. Back in 2005 when I bought my first bike after a long hiatus I had an idea that I wanted to travel to Alaska. That bike was a dual sport but not very good for long days of riding. A quick calculation had revealed that it was closer to Key West FL than Deadhorse AK. With only about two weeks of vacation time to work with and over 7000 miles to travel, my motorcycle would have to be good for 500 miles a day and dependable.

So I put the Alaska trip on hold for a little bit and I bought a road motorcycle and started learning to travel and camp on a motorcycle. By only bringing a tent and sleeping bag to the campsites and eating food along the route instead of the campsite, I could reduce the amount of gear I needed to bring with me. I also learned that finding camping sites is challenging, GPS maps are not that reliable, and a plan helps me when I have specific endpoints for the trip.

This map helped calculate the distances that I needed to travel each day, and where I would need to find campgrounds. By knowing pretty closely the route and mileage, I was able to adjust my route when I had slow days.

With that map and this cheat sheet, I would be able to keep track of the mileage that I needed to cover, and the endpoints I needed to get to.

In 2008, I started looking for a motorcycle that I felt could travel on the rough roads that I expected to encounter on my Alaska Trip. I figured a motorcycle like this would also work nicely on the back roads in Montana. Finally for the 2009 model year, BMW finally introduced the F800GS and I felt that this was the motorcycle I was looking for. With a 21Ē front wheel, longer suspension, 800cc engine, BMW reliability and 392 claimed dry weight, this seemed like an excellent motorcycle for longer travels on marginal roads. Now its 2010 and Iím getting ready for my trip.

Finally with all emails sent, the Spot Tracker updated, and the gear packed on the bike, I start off down hwy 200 for Lewistown. As Iíve said before, this isnít the most photogenic parts of Montana, so I didnít stop for many pictures. Besides my 9:30 start is a little later than I planned and I needed to keep moving. My first gas stop is in Jordon where I pick up a snack.

A little while later I see this gentleman on the side of the road. There was a larger section of grass burning and this little spot by the baler. I stopped to see if the rancher had seen it, and he had. A local volunteer fireman with a pickup and weed sprayer also stopped and started working on the larger flames. As I didnít have anything to really fight the fire, I stayed with the rancher and the baler, this little section seemed to want to smolder. It looked like the quick work by the VFD would keep this from getting out of hand.

I headed off down the highway. As I started to get closer to Grassrange, the temperatures picked up and I was seeing 92F on the bikes dash.

As I climb the mountains into Lewistown, the temperatures go down a bit. I navigated some construction and stopped at a gas station in Lewistown.

While Iím there getting some water and snacks, this Chevelle drives in. It looks straight out of Mad Max. The owner said it wasnít that fast, but was fun to drive around.

Travelling on to Great Falls, the winter wheat harvest is in full swing. Equipment and trucks are all around and all the farmers are busy. The temperature is going over 90 again.

Iím headed out of Great Falls on a short jaunt on I-15N. Several cars are moving slow and Iím passing some of the traffic when I realize that I just passed my exit for Hwy 89 to Browning. I look at the GPS and two exits up the interstate is a road that heads west and intersects with Hwy 89. I end up at Fairfield and it is time to get some gas, and take a break and cool down.

After a drink of water I head on to Browning, home of the Blackfeet Tribe. The road starts to wind through the foothills and after Browning I end up on this hill looking towards the mountains and East Glacier.

Yes, it is raining on the pass, and I would end up going through the rain. It would help cool me down after the warm day.

I had been talking with my sister earlier when I was planning this trip, and I was going to stay at her apartment this first night. A couple weeks ago, I was talking with my friend Jeremy, and his family and his brotherís family were getting together at Apgar Campground in West Glacier this weekend. So I shifted my plans a little and Terri and I met up with them at the campground and then Terri and I would go to Kalispell for the evening.

I drive in the park and around the loop for the group campsites and locate my friends. The welcome me to the campsite, and feed me some burgers and carrots, and most importantly water. Terri is just a few minutes behind me.

Here is the one shot I have of Jeremy, Lori and my sister. Sorry about the bad focus.

We walked out from the campground to MacDonald Lake. The sun was setting giving the clouds a slight pink tinge and the lake was becoming calm.

Jeremyís daughter Hanna is helping me frame this photo of the lake and the mountains.

Terri and I decided to get a quick picture in front of the lake. The kids were all enjoying wading in the lake and it wasn't as calm as when we first got to the beach. ;-)

We go back to the campground and sit at the picnic table and talk for awhile. Iím enjoying listening to the conversation and pretty soon Terri and Jeremy realize that Iím going to sleep. Terri and I head out and drive the 36 miles to Kalispell, fueling up my bike on the way.

Stats for Day 1: 591 miles, 13.4 gallons of fuel, 13 hours
'13 VFR1200D, '13 XVS950, '09 F800GS, 07 CRF250X
Riding roads in Montana - Big Sky Country
Mountains, Moose, and Miles: a Montanan's Alcan Highway Story
Continental Divide and More: the "No Dust" Tour of WY and MT
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