My laptop has finally given up the ghost, so I’ll post with borrowed equipment until I get a replacement. Today I made 413 miles.
The weather report – Chilly, sunny, overcast, cold, partly sunny, nice. I did ride over some wet roads again. The roads would have been wetter except that I intercepted a number of droplets as they fell.
I was up early, packed, and went down to the lobby for the usual continental breakfast at the Super 8. There I met a retired military man, who was very outgoing. Int eh course of our conversation he ask, “Who’s going to b our next President?” I successfully side-stepped that question. He talked on and it became evident that he was stuck in time about 20 years ago, when Reagan was President. He talked a lot about Reagan’s programs. Then he asked, “Do they still have the thing where, if you are on welfare, you have to go to work and get off welfare?”
The desk clerk piped up, “Yes, in Montana they do.” She explained that she had been on welfare and after a year she had to look for a job with the state employment agency. If you can’t find a job in Montana, you are assigned to a company to work. She worked at a law firm as a receptionist. She did other things for them as well, and after 2 weeks was ordering supplies and doing other things for the firm. The firm wanted to hire her, but after 13 months, they had a cutback and couldn’t keep her. She was able to find another job on her own.
The military man mumbled something, but I asked her, “Did the system work for you?” She answered, “Yes, it worked for me.” I could see she was trying to conceal her emotional response.
That would be the end of the story, except that when I checked out, she asked, “Are you really leaving us?” That’s a question you hear a lot when checking out of a motel, but the way in which she said it was not typical. I could see she was grateful “the system” had worked for her and that I had taken the time to ask. I saw the person behind the label, “welfare recipient.” I hadn’t intended to go to breakfast and engage in a political debate or to the clerk tell her story, but I’m glad I did.
It was cold when I got on the bike and I was eager to get to the mountains, but I first had to wait in line to get out of the parking lot. There was road construction and traffic was being escorted by a lead pickup truck with a sign, “Follow Me.”
Now in Montana they don’t tear up one side of the road so traffic can use the remaining lane. They tear up the whole thing, put down gravel and dirt, and let traffic drive over the sub-base. On a bike it’s quite an experience as you get thrown about from rut to rut. They there is dust. Construction trucks come at you in the adjacent lane and throw up clouds of dust. You can’t see through them. You just have to hold the bars steady and hope you come out the other side OK. Nothing, however, provide more unwanted excitement than the two yellow diamond signs in quick succession, “Bump” and “Loose Gravel.” You hit a bump and dive into loose gravel. You keep on the throttle and bounce from side to side. It’s a ride that makes going over a metal grate bridge seem like riding on a piece of satin.
Once I cleared the construction I could look up and watch the mountains 35 miles away. Every time I approach the Rockies I get almost as excited as I did in 1959, when my dad pointed out the mountains as we approached Denver. At first I didn’t see them then. I was looking down near the horizon. When I looked up a bit higher I could finally perceive them. They were much bigger than I had expected.
I watched the mountains of Glacier National Park with a similar anticipation. The difference was, I had never ridden a motorcycle over them. Clouds naturally form over mountains. They conspire with the mountains to shroud their mysteries, yet reveal just enough of their sharp edges and snow patches to lure you with great desire to touch them at their surface and experience all that they are.
As the elevation rose it got much colder and I had to put on my electric jacket and turn it up. The railroad runs along side the road and I passed a freight on its way up. I waited for the train at the Continental Divide and took a video as it passed.
There was a small park at the divide. It turns out the railroad was built first and the Theodore Roosevelt Highway (US-2) was built later. Before the highway was put in, automobiles were loaded on trains and transported over the summit.
I needn’t have worried about the road over the mountains. The speed limit was 70 mph and most of the curves could be taken at that speed. I had expected more difficult curves.
Once I got to Idaho and eastern Washington I was amazed at the large, flat areas between the mountain ranges. There are lots of large towns and plenty of traffic. I ended the day in Colville, WA. There’s an interesting sculpture at the main intersection in downtown Colville.