Day Eighteen by Dave Schultheis
Thursday, August 14, 2003 - Ashland, Montana
Although the mattress was quite worn, I slept reasonably well. I woke up around 5:30 a.m. to truck traffic along U.S. 212 through Ashland. I got up and dressed, packed and loaded the bike.
Upon leaving this morning, it was _still_ 62 miles to Interstate 90, then over 500 miles across Montana, then 69 miles across Idaho and a bunch more miles across Washington. I decided to adopt the attitude that I was "up to the task."
With engine started at 6:25 a.m. Mountain Time, 65 degrees, and new lucky green shirt on, I went across the street for Mountain Dew, and was on the road at 6:30 a.m.
On U.S. 212, there was some open space, then the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation, then the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, watch out for that deer!, then sunshine, then drift smoke from fires that were burning to the south. During this period it was possible to feel great temperature variations while riding; some warmth and some coolness.
Finally, at 7:40 a.m., 76 degrees, I merged onto northbound Interstate 90 at mile 510 (!). Small casinos along the highway were calling my name, but I chose to ignore them. In just a few miles I passed through the community known as Crow Agency MT.
At 8:15 a.m., 82 degrees, I pulled into a rest area near mile 482 for hydration, checked the map and noted it was another 25 miles to Billings. I needed a few small items, so I would be looking for a Wal-Mart store near the highway, but it was a big state, so I needed to keep moving, and not waste time.
At nine o'clock, it was a cool 79 degrees with a breeze as I took exit 446 and stopped at a Conoco Station in Billings for gasoline. There was no Sprint PCS service.
As I left the gas station and stopped for a traffic signal, something seemed wrong, and I quickly noticed that I was leaking gasoline. For the first time since I've had the Road King, I did not twist the gas cap closed until it snapped. So it took a moment to pull over and quickly wipe the excess gasoline off the tank and engine parts (!), then I got back onto I-90.
There was some construction mixed with beautiful sights along the highway, and I took exit 304 in Bozeman at 11:15 a.m., 83 degrees, and stopped in the shade at an Exxon Station. I had managed another personal best, 140 miles seated - no stops for rest, photos or fuel. It was warm enough to remove and stow my lucky green shirt. I tried Sprint PCS again, but there was no service.
As I continued, I calculated from road signs and the map that it would be 225 miles from my last fuel stop in Billings until I got into Butte. I knew I would be cutting it very close, but wanted to give it a try.
However, somewhere near Homestake Pass, there were some uphill curves, and I could feel the bike hesitating slightly, so I pulled over at a parking area at 12:30 p.m. and added the spare fuel from my REI fuel bottle. I'd made it 211 miles on a tank of gasoline, another record for me. It was 82 degrees.
About 10 miles later, at 12:55 p.m., 86 degrees, I pulled into a Conoco Station in Butte, filled the tank and the fuel bottle (labeled 22 ounces, it took 0.2 gallon), and noted two interesting things about Butte.
At each offramp from the highway, there were big buckets of flowers with signs saying "Welcome to Butte." And there were yellow ribbons on utility poles with the names of Butte residents serving in the armed forces.
Just down the street from the gas station was a Wendy's, and of course the bike wanted to go there. I parked in the shade and went inside. I noted that there was a big yellow thing parked in a parking place outside, with two yellow helmets hanging from it, so I _almost_ stopped at the entry door and shouted out for all Slugs to sound off, but I did not see Wolfpup and Ms. Mouse in the dining room, so I did not do so.
I got my food and immediately adjourned to the outside to stand and eat in the shade. A few minutes later the couple riding the big yellow thing (sorry, Honda GL1800 Gold Wing) came out and we chatted for a few minutes, then they left.
One of the female employees of Wendy's came out to clean some windows, and just when I thought she was going to tell me to "move it," she came over and admired the (dented and dirty) Road King and was very sweet about it.
Another local resident stopped to admire the bike and we got talking about gambling; I did not know that Montana was a gambling state, except on the (native American) reservations. She said that they have a few places that have various machines, but no gaming tables.
It was 88 degrees as I continued west on I-90, through lots of smoke and then some construction. I made it to 3:00 p.m. before I needed another rest near mile 147, where it was 94 degrees. The rest area had some green grass, the first I'd seen in a while. I noted it wasn't much farther to Missoula. I talked to a woman trucker with a Scottie named Monopoly and a retriever whose name I didn't get.
Back on the highway, I rode another hour and then pulled into an Exxon Station in Missoula for fuel, where it was 95 degrees and there was a smoky haze over the city from the fires.
I rode another hour and stopped at a rest area, where it was 100 degrees and smoky, and I talked to another female trucker with a tiny dog.
As I continued west, the smoke cleared, the sun came shining through, and of course it was hot.
At 6:05 p.m. Mountain Time I stopped at the state line for an Idaho photo, right in the middle of a construction zone (!) and (mentally) turned the clock back to 5:05 p.m.; as per the sign, we were back on Pacific Time.
I spent the next 40 minutes thinking while riding. I was _so_ tired! I was tired of riding 12 hours a day. I was tired of construction zones, orange barrels, flashing strobe lights and 45 mile per hour signs. I was tired of sore butt syndrome, wind noise and rough roads. I was _so_ tired.
At 5:45 p.m. I stopped at a Conoco Station in Pinehurst ID, exit 45, where it was 95 degrees, and bought some drinking water, then checked the Idaho map. As wide as Montana had been, Idaho was only 69 miles across, so I would be entering Washington soon and was hoping I could find a motel soon after.
I continued west on I-90 for about an hour and stopped for fuel at a Texaco Station in Post Falls ID, just west of Coeur d'Alene, where it was 95 degrees.
The next stop was only 6 miles down the highway, where I took a Washington State photo. The sign was in the divider and wasn't very large, so I would be looking for a better photo somewhere else.
Soon after the state line there was a sign that said "Helmets Required," and other signs at freeway on-ramps with a red line through a hitchhiker's thumb. No worry here, I was packed too full for passengers.
A few miles down the road I found a good-size community which had a Wal-Mart, Staples and Walgreens. I'd love to regale you with the back-and-forth riding, but suffice to say I got some LPCs processed, got some colored markers and some lotion, and got the heck outta Dodge, I mean Veradale WA, about 8:35 p.m.
It was late in the day, and getting dark, and I recall passing many lakes along the side of the highway.
Somewhere out there, in the dark, I pulled off the highway and stopped at a Holiday Inn Express, but the lowest rate the could give me was $89 because there was a car show in town. I checked another place, but the parking lot was also full, so I kept moving.
Somewhere around 9:00 p.m. I got into Spokane, where there was far too much traffic, and somehow lucked into the Thunderbird Inn. Actually, I could see the sign from the freeway, so I took exit 280B (?) and it was somewhat of a challenge to actually find the property on city streets. But it was a good find.
Front desk clerk Karl was busier than a one-armed paperhanger with incoming phone calls, and the motel was nearly full, but when I asked about Room 112, which had an empty parking place directly in front, he said he'd give it to me at the "corporate rate" of $55. He warned me that it was a "former smoking room" that had been converted to non-smoking, so if I was bothered by the smell, he would _try_ to move me. I did detect a faint small of smoke in the room. However, due to the parking place in front, and the late hour, and my tiredness, I decided that it would be just fine.
Clerk Karl "nice bike"d me, charged my credit card, and gave me the key. I rode over to the room and unloaded. It was 84 degrees.
This place had evidently been a "Best Western" until recently, but was now a "Best Value" property. It was a nice room with a King-size bed, desk, table with chairs, La-Z-boy chair (!), big television set, two telephones, clock-radio, iron and ironing board. In the bathroom there was a nice shower head, heat lamp and a working exhaust fan. (Far too many places don't have working fans and the mirror fogs.)
I discovered that Sprint PCS worked, and that I had a voicemail message, so I returned the call. After hanging up my jacket, I set off walking downtown, and called my mother on the cellular phone to see how she was doing.
I found a hamburger joint a few blocks away, then a 7-11 Store, where I got some milk for tonight and Mountain Dew for tomorrow. I called Dave Clements while walking back to the motel, and left a message on his voice mail. I was pleased and impressed that Sprint had a good solid signal in Spokane.
When I got back to the motel I turned on CNN to watch Larry King, but this was the night that power had failed over a large section of the eastern United States, so there was wall-to-wall coverage of that. I took a shower, watched more outage coverage, caught up with my notes, checked the map for tomorrow's travel, then went to bed around 11:00 p.m.
Miles for the day = 675. Miles for the trip = 6000. Another interesting coincidence.
Tomorrow: a day-long ride across the State of Washington, and a whole passel of net scum at the end of the day.
lara County, California, USA