Day 3

Day three was drama day.

I had about 330 miles to get to East Glacier. I figured if I got an early start and didn't stop for anything, I should get there early afternoon. How do you think that went?

Well, I got packed up early enough. There were rain showers around. I kept waffling about putting my raingear on or not, in the end I threw it on and got down the road.

I had my day-by-day and turn-by-turn directions laid out on half pages to put in my tank bag. Not too far down the road, as I turned around to look at a dry gulch I just passed (so much for no stops), I saw a couple pages flutter down out of the bag and past my leg. The Velcro seal there is worn out, and it wasn't holding papers. So, I wandered back and forth recovering what I could.

And there in the ditch in a Ziploc bag was a Holy Bible, just laying there to be found. "Oh great, here comes my divine intervention and religious conversion as the Lord presents himself to me" I feared. I really didn't have time for such things, I wanted to get to Glacier early.

But I opened that bag to look inside the book, and inside the front cover was a sticker that started "Jewish Spies HERE! Photographing, collecting data on military, veterans, National Guard, students and civilians. You are on their RED list!". And there was a typed page of "What the Jews believe", which boiled down to they are apparently baby-eating fornicating devils. So, I was saved, this was not the divine intervention I had worried about. Just a bunch of deranged hate packaged very close to some loving spirituality. Ying and Yang. Evil and Good. Interesting stuff to chew on while riding down the road.

I put it back in the ditch for the next traveler.

Worst part of motorcycling is the inability to drink sufficient amounts of coffee while on the road. So at my first gas stop at a little place in the middle of Montana I got a cup. Inside were a few local ranchers sitting and chatting. What I noticed is they were talking about the world: New York City, the Olympics, the state of Central America, terrorism. Not really terrifically heady stuff, but a far cry more interesting than some of the we-see-each-every-day coffee klatch gossip about the neighbors and boredom. I kind of wanted them to notice me so I could join them for a while, but they were too smart for that and they ignored me so I went out with my coffee to pump gas.

Outside I found someone more my intellectual equal. This border collie mix comes up to have his head pet, but when I moved too fast he recoiled and slunk away. I called him a wimp, but he came back with a stick. And we played fetch and I told him stories and when I was busy he just hung out with me. I still kind of miss him, he's a good dog. But when I left I told another guy who arrived for gas that if he needed a friend he could have that one. And I think he might have taken me up on it.

I took a stop a Sleeping Buffalo Rock, just a little pull-off at a road crossing. I think I was going to put my rain gear off, but I ended up waiting out a rain cloud sitting inside. Sad that these landmarks aren't still sitting on top of their appointed hills. There were offerings left on top of them. I left a coin, hope that was appropriate.

After a bit more riding, rain gear off but a storm cell just hanging out to the south, I pulled a 180 to check out a dirt road going back into the grasslands. I was ready for a break. I kind of suspected it was BLM land, but even if it was private it wasn't marked. I crossed the cattle guard and headed out there.

The road looked fine. There were puddles that I went around, but the surface looked dry. Somewhere between a gravel and dirt road. I plowed through one puddle and about lost it. The mud just stuck to the tires, it stuck to my boot and pegs, it was all a slick mess.

So, this was not the type of adventure I was looking for. It was too slick. I took a break, took some pictures and figured I'd just stand on the pegs and pick my way out gingerly, and get to Glacier as early as I could.

I was a tad nervous about it, more in the back of my mind than the front, with just tinges of adrenaline. I was eyeing a deeper mud pit ahead when the back end slid out on a minor little wetness. And I'm not sure what happened from there. I corrected, over-corrected and was down.

I got the air knocked out of me. But I was up before I really knew if I was hurt or not. On inspection I was fine, both my knees had taken a good whack but basically that was it.

The bike I wasn't sure about, but no need to worry, I just needed to let my fate unveil itself to me. I unloaded the bike and stood it up. And it didn't look good. I know these bikes don't like being dropped on their left, the shifting rod tends to get pushed into the transmission and bend, and I wasn't going to go far without a transmission. And sure enough ...

So I pondered that a bit. Didn't look like I was going to see much of the Rockies, maybe next year. A flatbed to Missoula? A week or so waiting on parts? Would I go home on a repaired bike or a bus or a new bike (it's possible my marriage would survive that)? Either way, not the trip I had hoped for.

I grabbed the shift lever with my hand to give it a pull and see how the transmission felt, and damned if it didn't just rotate for me. Had it just rotated around, transmission unscathed? So I broke out the tools and removed and relocated the lever back to where it belonged. The transmission seemed to click through the gears OK.

I carried my gear down past the worst of the mud, then duck-walked the bike down and loaded up. I picked my way back to Rt 2. When I made it there I got off to check my load again and take another look at the bike. The next mile would tell me a lot about my transmission. But, I got back on and it wouldn't start.

Sigh. Then I then I realized the kickstand was down and all was well. Whew. I was a bit rattled and missing the small things.

Good news is the transmission was fine. Bad news was the bars were cocked to one side pretty bad. I wasn't decided on how far I'd be willing to ride like that, but I figured I'd take a stab at a fix. I didn't have all the tools I needed, so I limped to Malta, MT and parked in front of an auto parts store. I told the guy at the desk my story, said I might need to buy or borrow some tools, and I'd be back. First, I needed a proper breakfast.

I wasn't going to be any good with low blood sugar, and I did need to let the last of the adrenaline leave my body. I was OK, but just needed to settle before digging into the bike.

After some coffer and two over-easy and potatoes and bacon and toast and a cup-to-go I wandered back to the bike. I grabbed some pieces of stucco that had fallen off a house on the way. I asked the guy in the shop if I could borrow a bottle jack. I meant from the trunk of his car, but he pulled one off the wall and opened the box and handed me a new one. He was going to be cool.

I started by just removing the handlebars and loosening the risers to see if they had just shifted on the triple tree, but no joy. So, I put the stucco pieces under the kickstand to stand to the bike up some and jacked the right-front corner of the bike up until the wheel was just a half inch off the ground.

I was surprised how long I was alone working on the bike. I mean, a guy packed for travel taking apart his bike in front of an auto part store? That should draw guys like flies. Finally a guy came out of a laundromat across the street to see what was up, and he had a hex key I needed. Then a couple of guys in a work truck stopped by. They were out of Wisconsin and part of a crew that laid fiber optic cable. They were real upbeat and wanted to know how they could help. I said I needed a big wrench, they pulled out this big drawer of tools and I realized the worked on Cats and stuff. I told them I needed a small wrench.

We loosened the front wheel. The forks in the triple-tree and the top plate of the triple tree. I tugged on stuff and twisted stuff until it all seemed to be where it wanted to be, then we tightened everything back up. These guys were great. I told them about how I went down, and they just said yeah, we don't even go out in that stuff. We shut down for it, we call it gumbo. No advice or judgement, just: yup, that sucks. They helped but didn't want to twist any bolts themselves, not our bike they said. When it started raining they said no worries, we stand around in this stuff all the time. After a test ride and the bike seemed pretty straight and the handlebars pretty true, I said thanks. They said, no worries, sucks to deal with stuff like that alone. Top notch guys.

Half the reason I travel is to meet folks like that, they really are everywhere. Although you'd never know it from the news channels. I wouldn't mind running into them again.

I returned the bottle jack and chatted with that guy quite a while, he raced and I saw pictures of his car, and just stuff. Finally, I told him he had a real nice town there, and got back on the road.

I have to say, I'm almost happy the wreck happened. I almost enjoyed working on the bike with those guys, mostly in the rain. Adventure or Fun, it was in there somewhere and I was pretty glad for it. Wasn't going to get to Glacier early though. Some ways down the road I stopped again to take my raingear off. At this boarded up church, complete with squeaking gate. The Jesuit Sacred Heart Church cemetery on an Indian reservation, just east of Harlem, MT. I called home and agreed with wife that I was pretty far from home and to be careful. Then I checked out the cemetery. These are always fascinating to me. Christian with the crosses, but also traditional with mounds and gifts for the journey left behind.

The last couple, veterans buried with American flags for their journey ... about this time in the news some twat-waffle Chicago conservative radio ranter had warned our current President that "Real America" was going to come after him. These veterans, people-of-color, living "on the dole" on a reservation, buried with American flags in pride ... I do wonder if they count as "Real Americans" to that country-club wasp jerk. Oh, anyways, you can get a flavor of the thoughts in my helmet there.

I was going to stay at a hostel in East Glacier that night, a place above a bakery/pizza place called Brownies Bakery and Hostel. I called and warned them I might be in late. As I plowed ahead I finally got a glimpse of the Rockies, almost. There was a lot of storms over there. And sure enough I suited up and got positively pounded. A ton of rain, cold rain, and enough electricity in the air that I started wondering when it was just stupid to be on a bike.

But I made it, even before the bakery closed. They weren't selling beer because it was a Native American holiday season and we were on a reservation, but I had a flask.

I forget what I ate. I had a warm shower and hung my clothes to dry. I sat outside and listened to the rain and sipped some scotch, and when I got cold I came inside and sat with the other hostellers. Finally some conversation sparked up, primarily with some young interns doing some wildlife stuff, going into their college senior year without a plan. I was under a roof, survived the day unscathed, and all was well.