Tuesday, June 24, 2014

81 miles to Billings

I should just make it without another stop for gas. Good place to stay the night. They have a Comfort Inn next door to a Denny's restaurant. Good WiFi so I can load this stuff up to the internet.
Don't pass Billings without making a quick stop to see Pompei's Pillar. It's a few miles east on the Interstate and is a National Historic site. The Lewis and Clark expedition is recognized here with Clark's signature scratched into the stone. Don't try this yourself, it's against the law to do it now.

Next stop is Big Timber near the Crazy Mountains

The legend is that they used to be called The Crazy Woman Mountains. There's a good story there, if you can find someone to tell it to you.

Supposedly a wagon train was going through the area and was attacked by Indians. One woman escaped and ran up into the mountains where she roamed alone for years. The Indians' thought she was a spirit of some kind and left her alone. Or, so the story goes. Ask someone at the restaurant, maybe they can tell you. Good gas stop and they have a great Hot Beef Sandwich.

Lois and I visited the Big Timber Senior Citizen Center for lunch one day years ago. They start lunch with dessert and laughingly point out that, "you should always start out with the good stuff, in case you don't make it through to the stuff that's good for you." That's probably true about most things in life. Anyway, a good laugh can't hurt anyone. At least that's the way those Big Timber folks see it.

Manhattan dead ahead.

A city called Manhattan in the middle of Montana. Who woulda thought.

They have people here who still carve ducks and other flying things out of real wood. They used to do it to help hunters lure the real thing into their gun sights. Now it's called art and they sell it to rich folks from back east. I'll have to pull in to Bozeman for gas and to have a short walk around. Too old for these "Iron Butt Rides." Have to take a break once in awhile. Good thing I have to stop for gas every 80 miles or so.

Ever visited the Museum of the Rockies at Bozeman? Fantastic displays and that Jack Horner guy who helped make that dinosaur movie a few years ago works here. It's a good stop if you decide to visit Montana. Takes awhile to get there though. When you're crossing Montana you're always a long way from anywhere.

Nearing Three Forks and Wheat Montana

Nearing Three Forks now and that means a quick stop for gas and of course a visit to Wheat Montana Farms Bakery and Deli for one of their delicious rolls and a good hot cup of coffee. If you're traveling through this area you just have to make this stop before you cross those steel Cattle Guard pipes in the on ramp, and zip into the Right Lane of I-94.

Three Forks is where the Missouri River gets it's start. The Jefferson, Gallatin and Madison rivers come together and the Big Muddy begins it's long twisting route to St. Louis. It's always sort of a thrill to cross that first bridge over the Jefferson and think about Lewis and Clark making that first trip through these parts so long ago. Great view of the mountains to the south. A little misty over that way. Hope it doesn't rain.

A slight head wind makes the side car pull me a little to the right. Other sidecarists will understand that. The sidecar sort of drags on the motorcycle so you get a little pull to the right. One expert says there are only two things you can do about it.
1. Install a steering damper, or
2. Do a lot of push ups so you can wrestle it back to a straight line.

A wind blowing across the highway can exacerbate that little problem, but it's not a biggy. The point is not to get from point A to point B. It's THE RIDE! The ride is the thing. It's not like getting on one of those behemoth Gold Wings, Kawai's or Harley's equipped with Navigation screen, GPS, Stereo, Bluetooth and every other electronic marvel known to man. This little Honda is barebones. Doesn't even have a Tach. You actually have to listen to the engine sound to know when to shift.

It's called riding a motorcycle.

 It's a barebones way to travel, but fits just right for an old guy. It's like riding in the Good Ol' Days. (They were good, weren't they?)


Approaching Townsend now. They like to call themselves The First Town on the Missouri River. And of course they are. The Mighty Mo flows North here on it's way to Helena, Great Falls, Fort Benton and then to the Fort Peck Dam.

I know the dam town well because my wife, Lois, wrote a book called Fifty Cents an Hour, The Builders and Boomtowns of the Fort Peck Dam. Good book. You can read it on Kindle.

She's gone now, after a journey of several years through an insidious illness called Alzheimer's Disease. I have found that learning to live alone is a lot easier when you have a sidecar. The Preacher told me that sounded like a sermon to him. Over 9,000 miles on the rig in the first four months and as the story says, "miles to go before I sleep."

Heading east on Hwy 12

I'm leaving a beautiful place called Helena, Montana and heading east.
 Highway 12 runs through some ranchland and follows the BNSF railroad track east and south through Winston, MT. Busy place this morning. Two pick ups and a car at the grocery store gas station. Slowed to 50 mph for some construction. MHP says fines double in construction zones.

Off to the right there must be a hundred antelope in the field. Cool. They usually stay off the highway, it's the deer you have to worry about. I've hit five. (deer that is) Four in cars and one on a motorcycle. Whatta ride that last one was.

My present rig, Honda Shadow 750 is purring along at a good rate. The side car carries everything I need. Water, spare can of gas, the Frog Suit and camping gear for the day I get caught out in the boonies after dark. I don't like to ride after the sun goes down. Prefer to get off the road by mid afternoon.