Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Ride Through The Smoky Mountains of Montana

The Smoky Mountains are supposed to be located in the deep south, but this year Montana could very well hold the top spot for smoke.
Fires in the Great Northwest have spread a blanket of smoke from Oregon's west coast to the eastern plains of Montana.

Our ride was only 120 miles south from Helena, Montana's Capital City to Historic Virginia City.
Despite the smoke the ride was pleasant. Warm, very little wind, clear skies overhead, but with the fabled Rocky Mountains shrouded with a dense gray smoke.
The environmental folks at the state offices were warning elderly people of the dangers of exertion combined with the particulates in the air.
We rode anyway, Grace and I, down I-15 to Boulder and than through the back roads of Montana to Cardwell.
This was much the same ride daughter Linda and I had taken to Wheat Montana Farms Deli in Three Forks only a week and a half earlier.
This time we turned south at Cardwell and traveled through the lush fields along the Jefferson River, passing the cut off to the Lewis and Clark Caverns Jefferson Island and the small communities of Harrison, Norris, McAllister and Elois.
The old gold mining town of Virginia City combines many century old buildings left over from the boom town of the gold mining era with splendid new houses and buildings of more recent vintage.

The center of the city has become a tourist mecca where visitors can dine in old style restaurants, visit old time saloons, and of course have their picture taken in period costumes of a century ago.

From the shop where huge churns were in the act of making fresh ice cream, to the candy store where the candy maker was pulling Taffy in to long strings Virginia City lives up to it's fame as a place where tourists can join in the fun of living in the atmosphere of the Old West.

We turned away from the city and headed for Quake Lake, the lake that was created when a mountain disturbed by an earthquake, collapsed into the river creating a huge dam and a new lake.

As we rode on toward the lake the mountains rose through the smoke of a thousand fires in an ethereal display of sun, smoke and clouds.
IN all of my years living in Big Sky Country I have never seen forest fire smoke so dense and covering such huge areas.

From the coasts of Oregon, through Washington and Idaho lightening storms had triggered so many fires that forestry officials had called in support from neighboring states and even from Canada.

As a last resort they were now calling for volunteer fire fighters
from residents of these same states.

The smoke which clouded the mountains caused breathing problems for many and gave tourists a view of Montana very few had ever seen.
With the sun shining through a thin cloud cover the mountains were bathed in a strange ethereal glow of light filtered through the dense smoke.

As we moved closer to Earthquake
Lake the two lane highway began to twist and turn following the path of the Madison river.

The earthquake and massive mountain slide which formed the lake took place on August 17, 1959.
28 people lost their lives in the earthquake and resulting landslide in which an entire mountain side broke free and slid into the river.
The result was the formation of Earthquake Lake which is commonly called by it's shorter name, Quake Lake.

The night was filled with terror and death as campers along the shores of Hebgen Lake tried to flee the rising waters and falling rock.

Within a month the new lake was nearly full and the Corps of Engineers in an unprecedented emergency quickly built a spillway in the rock which had formed the natural dam.
The spillway kept the new dam safe from erosion of water going over the top and gave the new lake a tool with which to control the lake water level.
The river shoreline ride was great as the road wound it's way between the mountain and the river.
This is a great ride and many bikers were making use of it.
Among the bikers we visited with along the way was vintage bike builder Ken Matz from K & M Vintage Motorcycles.
His Email address could only belong to a dedicated classic biker.
Ken will buy, sell, or trade for American Classic bikes and can bring an old bike back into near new condition.
Fun folks to visit as we journey through the back roads of Montana.

We met two Iron Butt riders, a lady masseuse from California who carried her small dog on a piece of padded leather fastened on to the gas tank of her Boulevard 800, and several other riders passing through the state.
Everyone commented on the thick smoke but none of the bikers seemed to care too much, having learned long ago that The Ride Is The Thing!
As one of them put it, "Anytime you're pounding out miles on a long ride is a good time."
Have to agree with them on that one.
It was getting on toward 6PM as we pulled in to the parking lot at Wheat Montana Deli in Three Forks.
The Pulled Pork sandwich made the stop more than worthwhile.
As we talked about the ride and being an Iron Butt Association member a biker sitting on a nearby bench looked up and said, "Hey I'm Iron Butt too. Made my ride in Florida."
The ensuing conversation was of course about the IBA and that first Saddlesore 1000 mile ride.
No matter how many more Iron Butt rides you do, the first one is the one we remember and talk about most.
The sandwich, pickle and potato chips were filling, the conversation was good and the highway home didn't seem nearly as long now.
It was a good day.

Planning is underway for my September 30th SS1000 mile ride to San Jose, California, the October 50cc Quest ride from San Diego, CA to Jacksonville, FL.
Can this soon to be 81 year old biker also complete a Bun Burner Gold from Las Cruces, NM to Jacksonville as part of that coast to coast ride?
Maybe, maybe not.
The only sure thing is that we will try it on for size.
More about that later.
In the meantime, watch for me.
I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Smoke In The Valley - We Took The Car

I was planning a ride through Western Montana with Grace riding the sidecar.
It looked great but the smoke filled valley made me opt for the car instead.
The smoke was lying heavy across the valley and air quality reports were saying the elderly should remain inside today.
There are fires all around us and the Oregon, Washington fires are contributing to our bad air days.

We both wanted to visit the small city of Phillipsburg, Montana, primarily to see what many believe is the largest candy store between the Twin Cities and Seattle, WA.
We took US 12 to I-90, then dropped off the Interstate and onto MT1.
The two lane Montana 1 highway carried us through some beautiful, but smoke filled, valleys and into Phillipsburg. First stop was the Doe Brothers restaurant.

 This unique old fashioned restaurant had a full menu and even has a Malt Bar like an old time malt shop.

The primary reason for visiting this beautiful small town was the Sweet Palace Candy Store. Rows of candy of every variety, color and description were lined up on both walls. A young man was the official greeter and his main job was to offer free samples of their home made taffy.
Grace filled a bag with a variety of fruit flavored candy and I headed for the Fudge counter.
Linda had sent me on a mission to bring back at least one box of Huckleberry Fudge.
The free sample gave us every reason to believe her choice was good.

I added a box of Maple Nut fudge for good measure and our candy search was coming to an end. This is one store a person could spend hours in and still not see everything.

Once out of the candy store we had to take a walk down Main Street and see the old buildings which have been restored to create the Old Time atmosphere the community is noted for.

 Leaving Phillipsburg we drove south on MT1 and found a great Bikers Highway with twists and turns and beautiful cliffs.

We were protected from the drop off on the right side of the car by heavy concrete barriers, while on the left side of the road cliffs rose high into the air until reaching the tree line of the mountain.
Miles of narrow two lane highway, twisting and turning through the scenic vistas will draw me back for a bike ride through the twisties.

 A few more miles and we turned a corner to find the choppy waters of Lake George running for miles beside the highway.
A few brave souls had fishing boats in the water.

This is a beautiful drive through Montana mountain country.
Many large houses lined the hillside above the lake.

The smoke from all the fires burning in the state had drifted into the valley and limited vision in some directions.

We slowed down and pulled off the road to watch as Fire Fighters from as far away as Canada and South Dakota moved down the highways, headed for their assignment.
These men and women were coming in from out of state to give some relief to the exhausted people who have been climbing steep hillsides trying to reach the hot spots in the fires.
Several signs were seen on area roadways, saying Thanks Fire Fighters.
I'm sure the expressions of gratitude and support mean a lot to the bone weary men and women who have been manning the fire lines for many days.

Moving onto I-90 at Anaconda we headed for Deer Lodge and the famous Old Prison Cow ice cream stand which, while dishing out great ice cream cones is also raising money for the Old Prison Museum and heritage center.

Grace posed for an obligatory photo op with the prisoner who sat ready and waiting by the entrance to the museum.

With both the Old Prison Museum and the Old Car museum located in the same building it will require another visit to Deer Lodge for sure.

 There is no end to the photo ops presented in the Deer Lodge Old Prison complex.

That looks like a biker peering through Prison Guard cut out.

This has been a great Day Trip through some beautiful Montana countryside and has taken us into a couple of communities, off the regular tourist byways.

There is so much to do in both Phillipsburg and Deer Lodge that we will most certainly have to visit the area again in the near future.
The next trip will be aboard the Honda VTX 1300.
I am looking forward to that ride through the mountains to Lake George and beyond.
Grace and I had a good time and I hope you have enjoyed it too.

Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Linda and I did a 180 Mile RTE - Ride To Eat

It was such a good idea.
Go to Wheat Montana Farms Deli and Bakery at Three Forks, Montana for lunch.
After all, it's only 90 miles away and what's 90 miles to Iron Butt Riders?

It was a little cool, only 55 degrees on the thermometer.
7:30AM I sent a quick text to Linda.
"It's cloudy and cool, do you still want to go?"
The answer, of course, was "Darn Right!"
So by 10:30 when it had warmed up to almost 60 degrees, Linda in the sidecar and the Honda VTX 1300 giving off a nice soft rumble we were off to Three Forks.
Riding my age we made a short trip out of the first leg of the trip on I-15 to Boulder.
The guys in that Lennox Air conditioning truck were waving and giving us a thumbs up as we pulled off at the Boulder exit.
People love seeing that sidecar cruising the Interstate.
After a quick stop for gas we moved on to MT 68 a really neat 35 mile ride through some Montana back country to Cardwell, MT.

 Here we joined I-90 for the last 18 miles to Three Forks.

This is real Montana country and the first five miles is all up hill.
Semi trucks and RV's are right laners through the pass and the VTX 1300 leaves them in the dust.
This is a pretty mountain area and there is lots to see.

The higher elevation makes it even cooler, but the piece of foam Linda put by the windshield keeps the wind down some and, after all, the coolness doesn't really matter.
The RIDES the thing!

What a great morning ride through the back roads of Montana.

The first half of the trip is almost over and we see the signs announcing the Wheat Montana Farms exit.
There are usually several bikers in the parking lot of the Deli and Bakery, but with today's cool cloudy weather we see only two other bikes, both of them Goldwings,  and the riders are bundled up for the ride.
The place is bustling though, with lots of tourists, including the couple from Lewiston who said they had driven through some pretty good rain on their way down.

Linda said, "Get whatever you want, I'm buying."
Hey, this is getting better all the time.
Wheat Montana Farms Bakery and Deli is known far and wide for their great sandwiches and the monster sized Turkey-cheese version did not disappoint.

It's fun to watch the tourists as they have a sandwich and then shop for the wheat and bread Wheat Montana Farms is known for.

With the construction on US 287 complete the ride north to Townsend doesn't take long.

The Eustice fire which has burned over 9,000 acres is barely visible as we move past Toston.

The fire which has occupied several hundred fire fighters has cooled off with the rain and cool temperatures give the fire crews some respite.

A quick stop for gas in Townsend and we are on the last leg of our cool and cloudy Montana morning RTE.

A good ride and some scenic Montana vistas to pass through.
Good ride Linda and thanks for the great turkey sandwich.
It was well worth the travel.

Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.
 Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist

Monday, August 10, 2015

SXSW Means South By South West - I Want To Be On The Program With My Author Daughter Joni and Her Daughter Jerusha

Special Shout Out to all Right Lane America Readers 

SXSW  is a huge media event held in Austin Texas in March of 2016.

I would like to be on the program:

With My Author Daughter Joni Rodgers and Her Editor Daughter Jerusha Rodgers.

Together we would present a Three Generational Panel Discussion on how people can expand their career path and opportunities.
As you might guess, it would focus on some of the Wild and Crazy career choices we have made.
And you will guess of course that I will be talking about my career as an octogenarian Iron Butt Rider and Long Distance Motorcycle Cross Country author, entertainer, raconteur and adventurer.
We'll discuss my latest book, Discovering Life After Alzheimer's - The 26,000 Mile Ride.

I might also discuss the days when I flew my 1947 Aeronca Champ Airplane with the stick between my knees while I hung out the window and did Television film of the Mississippi River at flood stage.

YOU could help us get a spot on the program, by voting for us on the SXSW Panel Picker web site.

Also see

Rabid Badger Editing

MtSky Press

Thanks Right Lane America followers for your help in getting this formidable trio a Panel Discussion position at what could be the largest all Media Conference in the country in 2016.

May your ride be long and may all your roads be wide.
Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist

We Got Air! - Off Roading On A Montana Mountain

It was a different kind of ride for a Long Distance Biker when the Painter's, Grace, Greg and Janelle, Jentry and Hadley left Willow Lodge and chased each other into the High Country of the Rocky Mountain Front.
Jentry showed us how easy it is to FLY.
We got air and he made it look easy.

The trip through the mountains began at the family camp grounds, Willow Lodge, where family members spend most weekends enjoying the quiet of a serene mountain meadow.

The tranquility came to an end with the twist of a starter button on the Polaris RZR four wheelers.
These machines could travel and the drivers knew the back roads through the hills.

Greg piloted his new four passenger model with Janelle, Grace and I as passengers.
Jentry and his girl friend Hadley traded off driving duties.
She used her skills as a Ballerina Dancer and Barrel Racing cowgirl to fly their rig through the twists and turns of the mountain trails.
                                                            The scenery was fantastic as the trails wound through the high country forests and the machines allowed us into areas not often seen by tourists.

The ride started with bright sunshine but as clouds began moving in became even more beautiful as the gulches and ravines filled with shadows of the clouds.

As we drove out of the tree line onto the ridges the panorama of mountains stretching off into the far distance was beautiful. The Bob Marshall Wilderness was visible from the High Country hillsides.

This area looked familiar. It was Mount Belmont where we built Kicker FM 104 back in 1989. Roger will well remember that hill since we climbed it so many time carrying equipment from the Great Divide Ski area parking lot to the top of Belmont.

Where have all those years gone?
They were exciting times in the broadcasting business. Some times better than others.

Exploring the back country on these modern day steeds you come across strange looking things constructed for some purpose by someone in the distant past. What is this anyway?
Why was it built high on the mountain and far from the roads of today?

The remains of an old mill appeared out of the trees. It was reported to have a railroad track running across the top where rail cars come to dump the ore extracted from mines far above.

Late afternoon brought lengthening shadows and the Montana mountain explorers had a long slow ride back to Willow Lodge.

It was a happy crew who had enjoyed a fun filled and exciting day in the Back Country.

What a great day.
 Enjoyed by all.

After a great Pasta and salad dinner it was time to bring an end to a beautiful day in the mountains of Montana.

  A farewell to Willow Lodge.

A thirty mile drive brought us back to Helena and brought an end to a day in the country.

Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.
Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

RTE - LCRMC Ride To Eat at O'Malley's Tavern at Canyon Ferry

Members of The Last Chance Riders Motorcycle Club rode 20 miles east to O'Malley's Tavern for their regular club meeting on August 4th. Great Ride - Great Food - Great Meeting.
Gathering in the parking lot of Perkins Restaurant in Helena the group of riders then set out for the colorful ride to Canyon Ferry Lake.
The evening was beautiful with partly cloudy skies and only a slight chance of rain in the forecast.
Over twenty riders from throughout the Helena area enjoyed the outdoor deck at the restaurant.
The food service was very good and mealtime conversations at each table centered on the latest rides and adventures of the various members.

I enjoyed the Fish & Chips on the menu. They proved to be well worth the ride. Others enjoyed burgers and fries, Chicken Strips and steaks.

Jon Chacopolus got the meeting underway and Bob Walker reported on the clubs finances and then began a sales pitch for the last remaining Tee shirts the club had sold in the past. Two remained from the clubs original order and despite the fact that they were both XXL in size, he quickly sold them

The meeting part of the evening was short and everyone moved outside to kick some tires and share stories about their ride.

The ride back to Helena through the beautiful night sky was great.
Canyon Ferry Lake showed little activity. Only a couple of sail boats on the far side.

The Canyon Ferry Lake Marina had many sail boats docked and ready for a cruise.

A lone Osprey was seen watching over the young in a large nest along the road.

There was smoke in the valley as I topped the last rise before dropping down into the city.
Forest fires in Glacier National Park, Washington and California are all sending smoke our way.
With very little wind the smoke was settling into the valley.

All in all, a short but pleasant ride for a summer evening and the good company of many motorcycle enthusiasts. 

More rides coming up with a planned ride to Three Forks, Montana for lunch at the Wheat Montana Farms Deli. Always a good place to visit and a pleasant ride from Helena to Boulder on I-15, than off on State Highway 68 for a ride through some beautiful Montana countryside.

Planning is underway for my ride south to California in late September.
After visiting with daughter Janis and her family in San Jose I will head south to San Diego for my first attempt at the cross country ride from San Diego, California to Jacksonville, Florida.
The 2,400 mile trek has to be completed in 50 hours to count as an Iron Butt 50cc Quest ride..
Can the Honda VTX 1300 complete with Sidecar and pulling a tent trailer carry me clear across the United States from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast in 50 hours of Ground Pounding? 
We'll find out during the first week in October.
It should be a grand ride and an epic adventure.

I'm looking forward to meeting in person Shareef AsSidiq who has volunteered to be my Start Witness in San Diego. 
Reef, as he is called by his fellow Long Distance Riders, recently completed an IBA 48-10 ride during which he visited all 48 contiguous states. The ride has to be completed in ten days or less. 
He and his fellow rider, Smiley Smith finished in Nine Days and one hour.
This despite the fact that Shareef hit a deer in North Dakota near the Wyoming border.
He kept the bike upright, escaped serious injury and finished the ride he had set out to accomplish.
Fantastic stamina and courage to fight through the problems and still finish a day early.
I hope I can exhibit the same strength on my cross country endeavor.

Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America.

Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist