Sunday, 19 August 2018

Yellowstone Ride Part 4 - Missoula, Montana to Idaho Falls, Idaho - 550 km

The road to Wisdom.

For those who are not aware of US geography, the state of Idaho is skinny at the top (it's called the panhandle) near Canada and gets wider as it goes south. As a result, we ended up go in and out of it during the trip.

The route from Missoula to Idaho Falls

Day four was a big day in terms of kilometerage (is that a word?) or mileage as we did well over 500km.  What better way to start at the day then a substantial breakfast? Well, the hotel had Costco muffins, cut in half, for breakfast and coffee with whitener. Not the best.

I don't know if it's an American thing or just a cheap American motel thing but every motel we went to did not have cream - they had whitener - you know, that Coffee Mate stuff that my parents thought was cool because astronauts could take it to the moon. I don[t know anyone that uses it except for, possibly, camping.  Luckily, most of the motels had cereal as well so I just used the cereal milk (which I think I got funny looks for doing!).

Anyway, after having our exciting half muffin (Dale had three halves), we got on highway 93 which was a good highway. It just got better as we gained elevation with really nice scenery. Unfortunately, it had twisty, edgy roads that were an absolute blast to ride but without any pullouts to take photos.

At the top of the elevation gain, there was a rest stop where we had a break. We spoke to a couple of locals and asked them the best route to Idaho Falls, They told us to take Highway 43 to Wisdom and then 278 down to Dillon where we would finally get the Interstate to Idaho Falls.

Folk art in Wisdom

Coffee stop in Wisdom
Highway 43 was another excellent route and we stopped in Wisdom for a coffee. The woman behind the counter of the coffee/gift/hunting shop was really nice. Her Dad had returned to his childhood town of Wisdom and, after she had gone t culinary school, decided to support her family for a couple of years while they got their business off the ground. I really enjoy how you hear different people's stories on trips like this.

Highway 278 t the Interstate was also a picturesque highway - highly recommended.

Just outside of Dillon
But then we got to the Interstate. It was windy - not just a bit breezy but super gusty - like trying to throw you off your bike gusty! All the way to Idaho Falls there were strong gusts. In one particularly nasty moment, we were in a construction zone and a motor home was behind me in a single lane. He was going close 0t 100 mph (160 kmh) and riding my butt in a 65 mph (100 kmh) zone. I had no where to go and the wind was constantly trying to shove me off of my bike!
Eerie evening in Idaho Falls
Eventually, we were blown into Idaho Falls and our motel.

We asked what was good to eat around the motel and were told that it was prime rib at the local bar. We ordered it and it came in about 10 minutes - not a particularly good sign for fine dining. It was quite chewy and required a fair bit of salt to make it palatable, but the baked potato was nice.

After the high of great scenery and riding and the low of the big blasting gusts of wind, we were pretty tired and, after a quiet beer, I fell into a dreamless sleep.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Yellowstone Ride - Day 3 - Spokane, Washington to Missoula, Montana - 350 km

The sun beaming on Wallace, Idaho.
After an OK breakfast in Spokane, we packed our stuff, checked out and headed up the road.

Today was a three state day - Washington to Idaho to Montana. There were a few different ways to go but we decided to take I-90 because we wanted to visit Wallace, Idaho. Luckily, the first half hour or so was on a secondary highway which was mostly pleasant although it was quite bumpy.

Taking the Interstate is always a difficult choice. The Interstate highways are meant to move people quickly and efficiently and are great if you are in a hurry or if you are in a car. They are the opposite of what you want to be on if you are on two wheels. Unfortunately, the only way to Wallace was on I-90 so we had no other choice.

Wallace has a long and chequered past and we were eager to explore this pioneer town. This excerpt whey our appetite for an interesting Western town:

"A mining community with a "work hard, play hard" attitude, Wallace became well-known for a permissive approach toward drinking, gambling and decriminalized prostitution. From 1884-1991, illegal yet regulated brothel-based sex work openly flourished because locals believed that sex work prevented rape and bolstered the economy, so long as it was regulated and confined to the northeastern part of town. Between 1940 and 1960, for example, an average of 30 to 60 women came into town to work in one of the five well-established brothels. The town currently continues to honor these historic roots, with its Oasis museum dedicated to the history of sex work: housed in a former brothel, curious tourists or nostalgic former patrons can tour the upstairs, which has been preserved as it was when the women left."

However, when we got there, instead of seeing something like Barkerville or Winthrop, it seemed more like a town that had assembled buildings to look like a pioneer town. I'm not saying this is what actually happened, but it did have that feeling. 

Perhaps we were there too early in the day but it didn't have that feeling of notoriety that we were expecting. Still, it was a welcome escape and we did have a good coffee on the main drag.  

Dale ponders another questionable decision

It was shortly after having Wallace that we began to notice all of the other motorcycle riders without any helmets. It was another smoking hot day and we were sorely tempted to join them but allowed our law abiding nature to take the high road. 

We arrived in Montana to the Brooks Street Motor Inn which was a rather old, slightly dilapidated motel but was actually located near some good places. It was also clean and it was cheap.

Our first stop was  Great Burn  Brewing where we were able to get a nice shady table outside.  I tried a flight and then followed that with two Rum Infused beers which definitely put me in a great mood. It was an amazing craft brewery and we really enjoyed our time there. 

After our beers, we stumbled over to Fiesta en Jalisco for an amazing Mexican food meal.  I had an asada burrito which was perfect. I find it is always quite hit and miss to find good Mexican food in Canada but is much more reliable in the US.

After that, we ended up in Cabela's so I could purchase a 'Cabela's Missoula, Montana' baseball hat and then went back to the room. 

Despite thundering down the Interstate, I ended up having a good end to the day and slept very well. 

Friday, 17 August 2018

Yellowstone Ride - Day 2 - Penticton to Spokane - 350 km

The American Okanogam 
After a lovely breakfast at Granny's of freshly baked scones and cut up fruit (a breakfast that would stand head and shoulders above anything else for the rest of the trip), we got on our bikes and headed south.

It was a very enjoyable ride - but it was already hot - and I eagerly joined Dale in his questionable decision to strap his jacket to his Honda rather than wear it. We headed down Highway 97 which is a scenic ride through Oliver and Osoyoos until we got to the US border at Oroville.

Day 2 route

I have had friendly border guards, I have had nasty border guards, and I have had bored border guards, but I have never had such a rude, mean spirited guard as the woman at the US border. She was abrupt with me, sarcastic and sounded angry - all things that added to my regular border crossing angst. Not only was she rude to me, my friend, Dale, had the same, negative experience.  I did, however, drop a wax covered ear plug on the ground in front of the guard when I took off my helmet and I left it there. Hah! Take that!

We rode past similar scenery and filled up at Tonasket in the American Okanogan. While we were there, we spoke to a state trooper. Dale asked him the best route to Spokane - most scenic and free of state troopers! He laughed and suggested Highway 155 and then Highway 2.

A rest stop on Highway 155
We turned onto Highway 155 in Omak. It was hot and sticky out but there was little traffic so we could get going nicely.

Highway 155 was very scenic, and went all the way to the Grand Coulee Dam. We stopped there and went to the excellent (and free) visitor's centre which told us the whole story about the dam. Although not as tall as the Hoover Dam, for example, the Grand Coulee Dam is almost 5 times wider and is lost to a mile wide!

I was surprised at how many places have been dammed on the Columbia River.

From there we made our way to Spokane. Highway 2 was pretty boring, especially after the previous leg, and Spokane itself was not that pretty either - at least the areas that we saw. There was a lot of concrete in terms of buildings and highway overpasses that were not attractive.

Our hotel (the Ramada Downtown) was in an area that had seen better times. Probably in the sixties or seventies, the freeway came through and altered the area. Although the hotel was a bit sketchy, it did have a pool which was greatly appreciated and we met a guy (Everett?) that was riding across the country on a 2006 BMW 1200. He had bought it second hand with 110, 000 miles on it!

One place that has been there since before the changes was Dick's Hamburgers. Looking at the sign, I read 'Dick's' and then 'Buy the Bagfull'. All I could think was 'Grab a bagful of Dick's'!

We did have dinner at Dick's. When we get off our bikes, the last thing we want to do at the day's destination is get on the bikes again. Well, Dick's was it for restaurants and I have to say that their burgers were some of the best. I had a Whammy (double cheese burger), onion rings, and a salted caramel shake.


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Yellowstone Ride - Day 1 - Maple Ridge to Penticton. - 360 km

Dale, outside of Princeton, makes a questionable decision...
Time to dust off the blog....

So after I had the 20, 000 service on my BMW C600 as well as new tires and new brake pads (all in, more than $2000!), I was ready for a new challenge. My friend, Dale, and I decided to head out to Yellowstone National Park in the US.

Trip Overview
The scooter was sounding and performing well after throwing all that money at it. We had booked our motels in advance and picked out a probable route. My top case was stuffed with clothes and under my seat were things like my rain gear, tools, and other riding essentials.

I met up with Dale at 8:15am and we headed out on the quieter number 7 highway. It was a hot ride but very enjoyable in terms of scenery. We've done this part a few times before so there weren't any real surprises waiting for us.

Maple Ridge to Penticton - Route 7, 3, 97
At Hope, we got on Highway 3, the Hope-Princeton, and made our way past Manning Park and Doug's Homestead (home of amazing beef jerky and pepperoni). We continued on, finally heading south on Highway 97 and rolled into Penticton in time for dinner.

It was on the Hope-Princeton that Dale made his first questionable decision of the trip. The temperature was well into the 30's - over 100° in the old Fahrenheit scale - and he decided to ride al fresco... well, maybe not quite, but certainly in his t-shirt.

And, I have to admit, after feeling extremely soggy and a bit punchy in the heat, I joined him.

We arrived in Penticton in time for dinner with Dale's mother-in-law (aka Granny).

La Frenz vineyard
First we had an excellent wine tasting at La Frenz winery in Penticton. Instead of the usual stand up at the bar style which is prevalent in most other wineries, we got to sit at a table, like we were going to a wine bar. This was a very comfortable way to try wines! We then went to Hillside for a tasting and despite having to stand up at the bar, we all really enjoyed their wines and each bought a bottle!

Wonderful food at the Hooded Merganser
After that we went to the Hooded Merganser for dinner - one of Penticton's fancier eating venues.  There was a bit of confusion over our table and we were finally seated outside with a beautiful view of the lake. I had the Arctic char which was an absolutely amazing meal. The timing of our meal was French style - unhurried - which I liked but we did feel, at times. that the server had forgotten we existed. View - A, Food - A, Service - C.

Tasty Penticton wines!
Appetite satiated and enough wine in my system, we headed back to Granny's and, after chatting a couple hours, headed to bed, anticipating new adventures the next day.

Monday, 21 August 2017

"THE ride!" Going to the Sun Scooter Trip - Day 3 - Libby Montana to Lethbridge, Alberta

400 km
View from the Goring to the Sun Road
Around ten years ago, I went with five other guys on a cycling trip where we started in Fernie, BC, rode to Alberta, down to Montana, through Glacier National Park, and then back up to BC again, ending back in Fernie. It was a fantastic ride and I wanted to see it again, but this time on my scooter.

After having a fairly nice breakfast at the hotel, I checked out and headed on the road.
First stop was Bad Rock Canyon. I absolutely loved this sign because the language on it is like it was written in the times of the Old West.
The photo of the canyon was ok but not as exciting as the sign.

Finally, I reached my trip destination - THE road - the Going to the Sun Road! After paying my $25 entrance fee for Glacier National Park ($5 cheaper than a car - whoopee), I entered the West part of the park.  I took several photos of Lake MacDonald - and have included a few of them here.

Well, all that gorgeous scenery worked up an appetite! 

I stopped at Lake MacDonald Lodge and, after squeezing my scooter between a couple of Harleys, I went into the lodge. I remembered, on our cycling trip ten years ago, we stopped at the lodge (I forget the reason) and ended up talking to some of the young people that worked there - I believe that there is a dorm building beside the lodge where summer workers,  usually students from all over the US, stay while they work there. I think they have a lot of fun, if you know what I mean!

The restaurant was wonderfully 'lodgy" inside, my elk burger was very tasty, the beer I had was refreshing, and the service was, well, rather indifferent.  I was really surprised with the lack of enthusiasm and friendliness that I experienced in many of the places I stopped at this trip. It was a stark contrast to my previous trips to the US. Perhaps a result of the new government?
There was a bit of haze in the air for most of this leg of the trip but it wasn't bad and didn't really detract from the beautiful scenery of this ride. It was as pretty and as breathtaking as when I took this road ten years ago. I stopped several times, drove fairly slowly, and had only one problem - as I rode past an overlook, a van pulled out without warning right in front of me! I was wearing all of my gear so I know that I was visible. I did say a mild curse at the driver (nothing too nasty as there might have been kids in the car) but I was mostly relieved that I hadn't hit him. The ABS did engage, though. 

As from before, here are some of the nicest photos from the Going to the Sun Road:

Luckily, today was a bit of a shorter distance ride as I stopped so many times to take photos and appreciate the wonderful views. I made my way across the border back into Canada after a 25 minute wait and headed up to Lethbridge, Alberta.

I stayed at the Ramada and it was fantastic! The room was very spacious, clear and comfortable - and cheap! It was the best room of the trip and was the best price as well!

 I was tired after all my touring so I went to the local Subway, ordered a foot long sandwich, grabbed a couple of beers, and headed back to the hotel for,  you guessed it, some Netflix. I do have to say that the girl at Subway (I think her name was Sierra), was very friendly and enthusiastic - I expected this kind of welcome in the US but was happy to see it at home in Canada.