We awoke at the Wise River Inn to a beautiful morning. The hotel stay had rejuvenated us, and we were excited to get rolling. We also got to talk to others riding the same trip. 3 Motorcyclists on KTM 450 dirt bikes were staying on one side of us, and 2 bicyclists on the other. There was a third bicyclist just down the way. Many of us shared stories, and wisdom from the trail…. Before we took off for the morning, I had to run 2 miles up the street to take pictures of the brush fire that had closed the road and delayed us yesterday. They said 400 acres burned before they put it out. As is true everywhere, the fireman were heroes. Some of them came to the restaurant last night to get showers, or dinner before heading home. They looked worn out, but content, and everyone in the place was thanking them for the work they did. The fire had spread from 10 acres to 400 in 10 minutes with some help from the wind. The U.S. Forest Service responded by calling out a bunch of men, and 3 helicopters, including one with 2 rotors that could carry 1500 gallons at a time. If the wind would have shifted, the fire could have consumed the town, or if it shifted the other way, it would have started up the mountain, taking out all the trees in Helena National Forest. To us, it was a unique sight. To the townsfolk, it was a potentially devastating scare. The farmers land was wiped out. I’m not sure what he will do with his cattle, or if he has insurance to cover something like this. It seems that his farm is going to be out-of-order for quite a while. Sage brush looks like it would take quite some time to grow back. A lightning strike had started the fire.
Time to Get Rolling
We left town on the black top, following a river through a canyon. More beautiful views, for certain. We turned up a dirt road into a mountain pass, and went up and over a few steep peaks. We saw a bicyclist this morning on a steep rocky climb, and shouted some words of encouragement as we rode by.
I was getting nervous about my rear tire. It was worn all the way down, and from what we had seen so far, there were not many towns in Montana. I decided to stop in Butte to see if we could get a new one. As luck would have it, we found a great shop run by a professional flat track racer named Matt Krsul, and his wife. He said he had been riding for 50 years, and now he opened his dream shop. There were lots of cool little touches, and you could tell this place was a real labor of love.
Matt and his team had a couple of street tires for me to choose from, great conversation, and very fast service. They knew what it meant to be taken off of a ride, and how badly we would want to be finishing up, so they jumped right on it for us. While we were waiting, we talked to some other Great Divide riders. There were 2 couples, and they were riding 2 up. They had a ton of gear packed on the bikes, and a wonderful enthusiasm.
Goodbye to Chaka
At this point is where we had to split up from Chaka. He needed to head to Missoula to catch a 7 AM flight back to Orange County, and his wife which he missed very much. The plan was for him to get a hotel in Missoula, and then park the car in the long-term parking at the airport so we could pick it up later. It was great having Chaka on this trip. He has a relaxed attitude, and an easygoing way that was nice to see every night. He had not camped before this trip, and he was a really good sport about it. It was also nice to spend time with this person that has been my friend for more than half my life. Since he lives in California, and I live in Ohio, we do not get to see each other too often. 2 weeks together was really a treat.
We were also losing our support vehicle at this point, so we needed to pack more gear onto the bikes for whatever we might encounter over the next couple of days. I was not excited about all of this new weight on the back of the Ducati.
To the North!
We made a few wrong turns getting out-of-town, but finally found the road we were to follow. It was an unmaintained cattle access road that ran right beside Interstate 15. Riding next to the Interstate was a constant reminder that we could be travelling at freeway speed, and also of how much fun it was not to travel at freeway speed. We saw great sights, went through an old tunnel,
and I got to test my new tire. I was really amazed that the street tire could accelerate on the dry dirt or rocks so well. It even did a good job of braking. I would have never thought this, and it makes all my worry about getting the Continental TKC 80’s in my earlier blog post seem pointless. In the future, I’ll be much more willing to take a street bike with a street tire on a dirt road, even if that road is 2500 miles long. I will still have to do more testing in the wet though.
We found the map from Butte to Lincoln very difficult to follow. We spent a good deal of time studying the map at every intersection, riding side trails for a couple of hundred yards just to look for trail markers, and discussion and reflection constantly. As there was getting to be more motorcycle and bicycle traffic, we also watched the trail closely for signs of others. In spite of all this, we still ended up lost. We spent so much time lost on this trip, that I decide to write another blog post about it. Read it here. As was usual when we got lost, we ended up in a beautiful place.
We came out of the trail onto a paved road. We had to ride about 20 miles into Lincoln, and luckily for me and my new tire, it was up and over a mountain pass, where the speed limit was 70. Of course I stopped for a picture on the way down, and Todd noticed that I had ridden my tire all the way to the edges. So it works in the dirt, and at knee dragging speeds too. Perfect! Thanks, Dunlop.
Road Closed…. Again
We stopped for gas in Lincoln, and were told that the road out-of-town was closed. Apparently, there had been a bad accident and it shut everything down. Amazing that we got stopped on the road 2 days in a row. We decided to have dinner a the Montanan, and wait it out. After dinner, we found a campsite, and laid down for a cold night’s rest.