Since Seattle, we’ve crawled over the Cascades in the freezing cold of the morning, driven across the rolling wheat fields of eastern Washington, seen the Grand Coulee Dam, passed into both Idaho and Montana, went swimming, and arrived in Missoula, MT.
It’s been tough on the road — we’ve been waking up at 5am, breaking camp by 6am, and riding for the better part of day (up to 12 hours sometimes). True, we stop a lot. The smallest tank of our bikes only gets about 150 miles per fill, so we stop for gas often. We’ll stop at anything we see on the way, such as a sandwich shop, a photo op, a swimming hole, or anything else that meets our fancy. We’ve managed, with doing this, to make some pretty good mileage still. We’ve done a few 300+ mile days, which on a bike is a lot harder than it seems. Mostly, we’ve been averaging just under 200 miles per day, including the days we stopped for the better part of it — like in Portland or Seattle.
Everyday we meet people for encounters either long or short. Up at Long Lake outside of Spokane, we met another one of these people. Dan had moved up from San Diego, CA to Spokane, WA to do some work for ABC media. Hearing that we were touring the region (after a long conversation about fishing and Pike), he told us to get out the map and showed us every route from Spokane to Wyoming, and everything in between. He outlined the next days’ route, from Spokane North to Sandpoint, ID for breakfast, to Clark Fork, ID for sandwiches from a Mennonite Deli, up Hwy 56 in Montana for a dip in the Bull River, and back down the 200 towards Missoula, through the Cabinet and Bitterroot mountain ranges. It was a truly beautiful ride, and reminded us of an earlier conversation.
This trip, as calculated as it seems sometimes, is really largely unplanned and whimsical. Each day we wake up with a general direction, East (maybe somewhat Southeast) at this time and have a general end destination, but it is in no way mandatory we reach it. Truly, we are following a little trail of advice across the country. Dan brought us to Missoula by way of the 200, and today we will go try to meet his friend who owns a fly shop down in Hamilton, MT. Before that, however, we followed the 2 from the Coulee Dam on the advice of some biker, the 20 through the Cascades because of a conversation back in San Francisco, and so on and so forth. We truly can’t wait to see where the trip takes us next — be it Idaho again, Wyoming, or Eastern Montana.
Here in Montana, a state that both scares the living hell out of us and intrigues us to no end, we plan to hop around from city to city looking for a ranch or something more interactive to tour. While we’ve had a great time riding and passing through the scenery, we’ve decided it is time to participate within it.
Yesterday, while taking a dip in the Bull River in northwestern Montana and eating our lunch, two of the truest bikers we had ever seen came peeling into the small little dirt patch we were parked in. Road dog (as he called himself) jumped off his red, in-line 4 cylinder Honda engine with Yamaha carburetors, Volkswagen air-filters, a Triumph oil tank, his custom seat and handlebars, and a Harley kickstand.He started looking around and screaming “Ohhhhaa V65! Zingga! Babbbby! 4 cylinders ain’t dead, no no no! Yeeeehaw!” We’d met a true biker. There was nothing in Road Dog’s soul more important than biking. Not even his own life.
His compatriot, Brother Bill, pulled up on his nearly stock Road King. Quiet and reserved, he was the antithesis of Road Dog’s explosive, live-wire attitude. While Road Dog became somewhat intimate in staring at, dissecting, criticizing and praising the three of our bikes, Brother Bill (don’t just call him, Bill, whatever you do), explained that they were living up in the Biker Church in Troy, Montana. They had no homes, as they had been living at the church for more than a year, but just P.O. Boxes to pick up their registration and insurance.
After a good half hour or more of conversation, the five of us saddled up and headed out. We agreed to ride out towards Thompson Falls on the 200 together. After a while of them following in our wake, they snaked their way to the front of the formation, gave one last peace sign and fist in the air, and took off.
As they pulled away and faded into the distance helmet-less, careless, and free, we wondered how these guys could actually revolve their lives around the bike. Sure, for the next two or three months these bikes are our lives, but that’s largely because they’re what carry all our gear and move us about. These bikes, Road Dog and Brother Bill, lived for nothing but their bikes. The bikes weren’t a tool to see the world, but rather the world was a tool to ride the bikes upon. I’m sure we will remember these guys for the rest of our trip and longer. Ride on, old boys, ride on.