More rain today, but not all day. It took us several hours to ride out of the storm system over Grangeville, probably more like 100 miles than the 40 or 50 I predicted, but for the most part it was a light rain, and didn't cause us too much trouble.
I was a little worried pulling out of the hotel, rain and fog outside, fog in my helmet, and the road wasn't much to look at, just a not so well paved country road going through farmland. But it got better quickly, some speed took care of the fogged visor, and the road quickly started to descend into a nice river valley. The patch fog added some mystery to the views of the forested hills and river, and made for nice mellow riding, photos attached.
We gassed up in Kooskia, and the rain lightened up a bit as we got onto US12. I was excited to be on this road, and the signs saying "next gas 76 miles" and "winding road next 99 miles" had me smiling despite the weather. The first bit was along a wide flat river, with the river fog making a layer about fifteen feet above the water. The road follows the North bank of the river, and there are a couple of places where there are cables stretched across to cabins on the South bank, apparently there's limited access to that side.
The we saw one of the worst signs on a motorcycle trip, "loose gravel." They were even kind enough to annotate them with "motorcycles use extreme caution." We did, but since most of the gravel was on the shoulder, we pretty quickly picked up the pace again. ...only to be stopped at the end of a long line of cars and trucks for some road construction. The road was completely closed, actually blocked by a big pile of dirt dug from a trench crossing the roadway. We rode up near the front of the line and talked to the flag woman for a bit. She said it would only be about fifteen minutes, which seemed unlikely given the huge pile of dirt blocking the road, so we stopped the bikes and took a bunch of pictures and talked to the other people waiting. After just a few minutes we were told that they were going to clear the road so we could go through, and we watched the crew clear a lane in what seemed like record time. The backhoe operator was really cooking, he dropped down a couple of steel plates, moved a huge bin out of the way, and then cleared the way for a front end loader to move the big pile of dirt onto the other lane, and we were cleared to go. We gave the crew a big thumbs up as we rode past. They let our side go first, I think mainly because there was an oversize load (a big boat) waiting to come the other way, it looked too big to fit through the gap, but I'm sure the crew managed to get it through.
The next bit of road bore the marks of the roadwork for erosion control. They're digging trenches across the roadway to put in drainage pipes, and shoring up the river side of the shoulder with wire cages full of gravel. The trenches hadn't been fully repaved yet, so every couple of hundred yards we'd ride over a little gravel strip. Still no seriously loose gravel, but it was annoying. Then we got stopped again by another flag woman, this time to wait for a pilot vehicle. This took only a few minutes, and then we passed the finishing section where they were cleaning up the trenches and putting down asphalt.
One of the nice things about long construction stops though is that once you get through them, there's no traffic to deal with. (At least if you ride to the front of the line like we did.) So we really enjoyed the next 60 miles or so. The rain let up, more or less, and there were even a couple of patches of dry pavement. I wrung everything I could out of the dry bits, then waited for my friend to catch up when it got wet again.
One of the guys we talked to at a construction stop recommended The Lochsa Lodge
, so we stopped there for lunch. It was a welcome break, just getting out of our wet gear and into some hot coffee was fantastic, and the food was good too. We even picked up some souvenirs and gifts for the folks back home/
The sun was shining after lunch, so I switched back to my regular gloves and dug out my sunglasses and we took off enthusiastically. Five miles later, nearing the Montana border, they sky got really dark so I pulled over to switch back to my heavy gloves while my friend kept going. Just as I got back on the road he came on the radio and said it was pouring in Montana. Sure enough, just as we crossed over the state line the rain came down really hard, more rivers on the roadway and standing in the shower type stuff. Didn't last long though, and the ride down into Lolo was fine.
93 into Missoula is just a highway, we stopped in town for gas, and I needed to fix up my autocom. On my last long trip I routed the cable wrong and it got sliced open by the plastic under the seat, and shorted the microphone wire, at least intermittently. I did a patch job then and just twisted it around 'till it worked, then wrapped it up with electrical tape... at some point in this trip the patch stopped working so well, and I was getting a lot of crackling as the microphone cut in and out. So I did it right this time, cutting away enough insulation to see where the mic wire was exposed and putting some tape around it, then taping the whole thing up nice and tight. I got that done just as a big rain shower was coming in, and so we fled the scene and managed to avoid the rain.
We hit more construction on Hwy 93 not too long after getting off I-90. Serious construction this time, looks like they're turning it into a divided highway all the way up to Ravalli, and for only $16M Federal tax dollars, at least according to the "your taxes at work" sign we passed. Long line of cars and trucks, dirt and gravel, dusty stop-and-go riding... fun. It was really nice to get past that.
Hwy 93 goes North along the West edge of a truly impressive mountain range. The snowcapped peaks on the right challenged the thunderheads on the left for our attention. The thunderheads won when they opened up with a buckets of water tossed in your face rainstorm. I had to listen to the rain hitting my buddy's helmet in addition to mine, since it was loud enough to activate the VOX on his radio. There might have been a little bit of hail in there too, some of those raindrops actually hurt.
The rain stopped for good as we came up on Flathead Lake, and we had some nice views of the lake and surrounding area as we rode around it. It's really beautiful country up here, everything is incredibly green, the roads are good, the traffic is light, and people seem to keep their property neat and in good repair. You don't see to many cars up on blocks in the yard around here.
It was getting to be late afternoon and I was looking forward to being done for the day, so we pushed on and made it into West Glacier a little after 6. The original plan was to stay there for the night, then ride across Going-to-the-Sun road. But as we pulled into the park I saw a road sign that said the road was open to avalanche from the West, and to Jackson Overlook from the East. Uh oh. When we were planning the route they indicated it would open mid-June. We asked the park ranger and she said they'd had an avalanche, and the road was buried under 30 feet of snow. We looked into a couple of options for lodging around West Glacier, but none had WiFi, so we decided to press on and stay in East Glacier, and then head into the park as far as we could tomorrow.
US 2 curves around the South end of the park, and it's a nice ride all by itself. More river valley riding, the pavement isn't very good but the views make up for it. We came across a bunch of stopped cars and people taking pictures, turned out a mountain goat was showing off for the cameras, doing what mountain goats do, see photo. My gas reserve light came on right around then, still 40 miles from our stop, in our rush to be done for the day then get to our new destination both of us completely forgot about gas. I was down to the last little LCD bar when we got into town. It was 8 PM by then, so we went for the hotel first, but didn't see a gas station around anywhere. Asked the hotel manager and he says yeah, there's one of the far side of town, but they don't stay open all night.. only 'till 9PM. Oh, and the restaurants might be closing too. So we check in, after my friend clears the block on his AMEX card, and rather than unpack we went to gas up and get dinner.
Dinner tonight was at the only place still open, Serrano's Mexican Restaurant
. Being from California, I wasn't expecting much from a Mexican place in Montana, but the food was actually very good. It's also a backpacker's lodge, so they had plenty of vegetarian options. I had a chicken dish that was perfectly spiced, hot enough to feel in my mouth but not in my stomach. We've been really lucky with all of our food stops so far, I hope it keeps up.
East Glacier is an interesting place.
The main line of the Burlington Northern railroad runs through it alongside the highway. The side we're staying on is "crunchy" -- gravel roads, backpackers lodging, general stores. While looking for restaurants I rode under the tunnel to check out the other side, and it's literally the "other side of the tracks." Coming out of the tunnel you're presented with the Glacier Park Lodge
, an enormous western resort-style hotel, and I swear there were people playing croquet on the well manicured lawn when I rode by. It does look like a very nice place to stay, but we're already checked in to our little AAA-approved motel.
Google Maps says we're only 215 miles from Calgary, so we'll have plenty of time to poke around in Glacier National Park in the morning, and still arrive in Calgary to visit my friend's relatives in the early afternoon.