Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The Banjo, The Motorcycle, Me & Montana

The banjo has always been a favorite instrument for me and the motorcycle has always been the preferred method travel.
It's all come together in this month of June as I played my way across the great state of Montana.
The June schedule was beginning to fill up as I took the banjo and guitar to The Springs Retirement Home in Butte, Montana on June 1st.
It was a great ride over Boulder Hill and through the canyons on I-15.
The Springs was a fun place and I played and sang for a wonderful audience.
A week later on June 8th The banjo and I visited the Aspen View Assisted Living Center in Billings.
This was a fun ride. A little brisk in the 48 degree weather but a quick stop at the Wheat Montana Farms Deli in Three Forks got me warmed up.
The ride across Montana on the Interstate was smooth and easy.
The sun took care of the cool morning temps and I arrived at Aspen View with plenty of time to set the tent up so residents could look over the Old Guys traveling rig.
Many took pictures.
Lois' Uncle Harry and Aunt Sharon had offered to put me up for the night and sent me on the way the next morning with a good breakfast and some hot coffee.
The banjo case and it's worn out appearance was often commented on when I carried it into the Senior Centers around the country.
It has traveled well, but as I carried it into the Aspen View the handle broke off and the whole thing fell to the floor.

I tried to repair the broken end with wire and duct tape but to no avail. 
The next time I picked it up the entire handle broke loose again it ended up on the floor. I purchased a new handle and this time the repair should hold.

The ride westward across the state was great with only a few sprinkles to wet the road.
The obligatory stop for coffee at Wheat Montana in Three Forks provide a short time of relaxation and an opportunity to share stories with other visitors who wanted to know about the sidecar and trailer. Many questions and many other bikers who want to visit. 
 At Columbus, MT I was filling up on gas when a young biker raced up to the pumps began filling his tank and shouted over, "are you doing an Iron Butt ride?"
I told him no, I was doing a Flower Sniffing ride back home.
He said he was from Malta, MT in the far North East section of the state and had been on the road for 8 hours. He was doing his first Iron Butt Bun Burner Gold, 1500 miles in 24 hours.
He struggled to get the required gas receipt and 15 minutes later when I left the McDonalds across the street from the station he was still fighting the gas pump for a receipt.
Thirty miles down the road he passed me and was trying to make up lost time.
As every Iron Butt rider knows, the gas stops can hurt your chances of success if they aren't carefully planned and carried out. I hope he made it.

The Helena Farmers Market is like a Saturday Morning Fun Fest.
It began with the idea that I could sell my three books and Lois' history of the Fort Peck Dam, Fifty Cents and Hour-The Builders and Boomtowns of the Fort Peck Dam as hundreds of people walked through market.
To add to the fun I got the banjo out and played and sang through the four hours from 9 to 1.
As people walked by, paused and listened to a song, they would reach for the wallet or purse and drop a dollar bill into the open banjo case.
I was a BUSKAR!

In Europe street entertainers are called Buskars and busking can be, for many, a full time job.
Saturday mornings at the Helena Farmers Market is a fun time. Everyone is relaxed and enjoying the food, the treats and the offerings of vendors who market made in Montana products.

Busking provides gas money for the free programs I do at Senior Centers all across the state and  in other states.
Often when I get a call from a Senior Center, Retirement Home or Assisted Living Center asking about the programs, they ask, what the charge is for the program.
When I tell them the program is free with no charge for anything they ask, "How can you afford to do the programs free?"
I tell them about Busking and selling books as a way to pay the way for the rides across the country.

They always laugh when I say, "If I charge for the program it becomes work, when I give them away free it becomes fun."

My new Father's Day helmet from daughter Linda fits well and provides more protection from wind noise and any accident that might befall me as I ride across the state.

The old one was, I have to admit, becoming quite worn out. The manufaturers often point out that any helmet over five years old should be replaced. My old one had been worn for nearly ten years so I suppose it was time for a change. All the same, it is hard to part with the old one which has become so comfortable and has been partner to hundreds of long and short motorcycle rides all across America.

My most recent ride was the longest of the month. I left Helena at 6:45AM on June 21st to deliver ten of Lois' books to the Phillips County Historical Society in Malta, MT.
It was to be a 350 mile ride to Malta where I would deliver the books and then do a program at the Hi Line Retirement Home.
I had sent an Email to old friends Renee and Chuck Worley who live in Wolf Point, MT.
Lois and I had visited with them many times and they had come to the Fort Peck Dam Interpretive Center for our programs.
Along with Ted and Norma they came to the Retirement Home to hear yet another program and for a good visit over a cup of coffee afterwards.
The banjo and guitar program were fun and the residents of the retirement home laughed and sang along on some of the old songs.
The visit with Renee, Chuck, Norma and Ted was an added benefit of the ride.
About 4PM in the afternoon reports of storms moving in from the North West changed my plans.
I had planned on spending the night in Malta and taking a nice relaxing ride home the next day.
With wind and rain moving in I opted to head for home.
It was a crazy ride.
As I left Malta a huge and very ominous black cloud could be see to the North and I headed west at a good clip to avoid it.
After a half hour of hard riding I spotted sunshine on the road ahead and thought, "I made it, I'm out from under the cloud and away from the storm"
The very second I rode into the sunshine a gust of wind nearly blew me off the road.
Highway 2 across the northern reaches of Montana is a two lane road and not too wide.
When I stopped for gas in Havre, a hundred miles later, an employee said there were reported to be fifty mile an hour wind gusts associated with the storm and there had been damage on buildings in it's path.  The wind kept blowing for the entire hundred mile ride to Havre.
As I turned south toward Great Falls the wind stayed with me, only now it was coming at me as a strong cross wind instead of the headwind I had been facing.
Well, regardless, it was a great ride with a few obstacles to overcome, but a great ride anyway.
And a great month it has been with many good rides, many fun programs and tons of fun at the Farmers Market. Busking and selling books is fun indeed.
July will have it's own rides and it's own events, so a fun month is coming up.
The big July event will be the Sidney Montana Sunrise Festival which is a big street fair and also an Authors Showcase where Montana Authors gather to show their books to an appreciative audience of READERS!
It was a great time last year and should be equally as much fun this year.
I contacted The Lodge Retirement Home in Sidney and told them I would be there for the festival and would be happy to do a program for them while I was visiting Sidney.
I will do a program for them the night before so it should be a fun time indeed.
Fun times in the rear view mirror and more fun times ahead as I look through the windshield of the Honda.
Be Fantastic everybody.
Watch for me, I'll be in the Right Lane America
Del "Lonnie" Lonnquist
What the calendar looked like:
HelenaFarmers Market - Every Saturday
9am - 1pm
Billings Sweetwater 4/27

Helena - Touchmark  5/6

Helena - Hunters Pointe  5/11

Whitefish - The Springs  5/18

Bozeman - The Lodge  5/26

Butte - The Springs  6/1

Billings -  Aspen View  6/8

Malta MT - Hi Line Retirement Center 6/21

Malta, MT - Phillips Co. Hist. Society 6/21

Sidney MTThe Lodge7/83:00pm
Sidney, MT  Sunrise Festival 
Authors Showcase
July 9 All Day
Aug. 8 to 18 - 48 States in 10 days
The Iron Butt Association  48x10
8/8 to 8/18

Iron Butt Association SS 1000-1
1000 Miles in 24 Hours 
Helena -Burnsville, MN
Iron Butt Association SS 1000-1
1000 Miles in 24 Hours
Helena - San Jose, CA
San Jose, CA to San Diego, CAFlower sniffing ride - Highway 110/5 - 10/9
San Diego, CA to Houston, TX
10/9 - 10/15
Houston, TX to Lake Mary, FL
10/24 - 11/2