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Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Great Montana Tour- Part 1

On Tuesday, I left for Idaho Falls and Troy's house. It was an easy, 4 hour ride.

On Wednesday, we traveled through West Yellowstone and through the west park entrance. There were four or five lines of cars about an 1/8th of a mile deep. It took us 20 minutes or so just to navigate up to where we would pay our additional government tithing of 25 dollars per motorcycle or 30 dollars per car. I have always been annoyed by the fact that at least 15% of my salary gets hijacked annually by the Federal Government and somehow you'd think that would entitle you to one free park visit of this real estate which you allegedly own. Not so.

At the very least, the fucking mob in Vegas used to buy our drinks and give us free rooms when we gambled. Maybe the mob should run Yellowstone instead of these criminals. We need some crooks with a sense of fair play.

I had forgotten what a zoo the park is. Imagine thousands of shitty drivers, many from foreign lands, driving on the wrong side of the road and slow, brandishing cameras and phones outside the windows of the car, and abruptly slamming on the brakes every time they see a chipmunk. This is Yellowstone.

Holy shit. I think Troy was ready to turn around and go home. He doesn't have the patience for this. Coming in a close second is- yours truly.

The park is still awesome. We skipped Old Faithful and went through the northern part of the park and Mammoth. We pulled into a parking lot on the way there to look at some roadside attraction and while we were walking through the parking lot- a crow had jumped into the bed of a pickup and snatched a sandwich out of someone's cooler. The sandwich was still in the baggie. I was shocked to actually see a sandwich in a baggie- although I have heard of people who use baggies for sandwiches. The crow dropped the goods on the roof of the truck and began pecking at it and trying to tear open the baggie. Some oriental types, with camera phones ever ready, were taking photos of the burglary and seemed very amused.

So we took some pictures there and headed up to the Mammoth area. The town of Mammoth is beautiful and sits just north of the giant Mammoth Hot Springs. There are elk wandering all over town, munching grass in various yards and doing elk things. We saw lots of buffalo and one good sized brown bear. Someone had run over a giant rock chuck in the middle of the road and squashed it- I remember this because I thought it would be pretty hilarious to put a picture of that in the Yellowstone wildlife section of this blog. However, had I attempted to stop and get that picture- there might very well have been two giant squashed bodies laying in the middle of the road.

I am having a difficult time trying to transfer pictures from my phone to this blog so I thought I'd wait to try it when I get home and the tech boss can help me out. (I need to download the app) I will just squash a bunch of photos with captions in here.

I have heard people say Beartooth Pass is awesome and beautiful. Let me say this. Words cannot capture Beartooth Pass. It is without a doubt- the most rugged, savage, hellacious place I have ever been to in the lower 48. It is windswept, rocky, snow drifts and mini glaciers everywhere, and I don't know how many bodies of water dot the mountain sides. The switchbacks have switchbacks on this pass and quite honestly- I got tired of stopping and taking pictures and doing so- is kind of dangerous. Troy said it reminded him of some of the terrain in the movie "Jeremiah Johnson." The pass is right at 11,000 feet. I have been on higher terrain in Colorado but not like this. Temperatures on Beartooth Pass mid-day yesterday had to be in the 40's with windchill. On the low ground near Red Lodge it was 85 degrees.

We spent the night in a campground near Red Lodge, Mt. It rained a little on us because this has become a part of our trips. We teased the shit out of our waitress Barb, at the Red Lodge Cafe. Almost everywhere we go there are "help wanted" signs. Every time I enter a business with that sign posted out front I walk in and announce, "I'm here for the job, when do I start and how much does it pay?"

Tonight we are spending the evening in Great Falls. We had a largely uneventful day blasting through the midsection of Montana. We didn't take any pictures. Tomorrow we are going to attack Glacier National Park and see what happens. We'll get some pictures and hopefully post them on the blog when I get back home on Sunday or Monday.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

When I Wore A Younger Man's Clothes- The Sunday Collage

Growing up was never really big on my personal list of goals and achievements. We all know people that seem mature beyond their years- old souls. People who always use sound judgement and frown on any devious behavior. Those mature types always bored the shit out of me. I can envision them now- playing shuffleboard and Gin Rummy (never for money) down at the rest home.

Last week, I was coming home from the gym and stopped at a stoplight next to some kid in a two door Acura. We were the only two vehicles at a stop light which goes straight up a hill for about 1/4 mile. The kid in the Acura looked my way- nodded his head up the street- and gave his throttle some gas. I was on Elvis the RoadKing. No way I thought- can this kid take my bike. That's when my youthful brain took over. The light changed. I hadn't fully committed to this endeavor but clearly the kid in the Acura had.

The kid found the hole shot and had me beat by 20 feet. I was stripping gears like mad yet I couldn't gain an inch on his car. After the obligatory 1/4 mile or so- I took my beating like a man and gave it up. Even with a better start I'm not sure I could have beat that Acura. Some of these kids in Boise have seriously fast cars. I don't know if they could beat our 1970's- GTOs and 'Cudas- but it is good to know that the spirit lives on. The fast cars today are far more civilized than ours were. Our muscle was thunderous. Today's muscle lurks under hoods with small, fuel injected engines and quiet mufflers. Getting whipped on Elvis or driving the 1.8 Elantra can be a humbling experience and to be honest- I'm not sure I can take it much longer.

My next car is gonna be one of those little Cadillacs with the big engines.

On Friday, I took Elvis to a wedding. Let me tell you a little something about this guy that I will think you'll find amusing. I am beginning to see that speed has become an emerging theme in this week's blog.

About 15 years ago, I had a late start out of Boise after helping to teach a class that went late one evening. The trip home from Boise is about 150 miles over some of the most desolate and vacant highways you will ever travel. In addition to driving through the desert, I also knew that the resident state cop in that area was on vacation. I had spoken to him the week earlier. He was a notorious ticket writer.

So I set my cruise control on 90 thinking that this would be an uneventful trip home. I was blasting through the desert around 1030 or 1100 P.M. Suddenly, I see lights in my rear view mirror. After stopping, I can see a brand new recruit and his field training boss from the neighboring Sheriff's Office come lurking- ever so cautiously- up the sides of my car. After asking for my license, the new kid says, "Do you know how fast you were going?" I said, "yup, I do." Well he says, I had you at 87. I told him that was odd because I had set my cruise control on 90 so it must have bled off a little. He was all fired up when he heard that but his boss wouldn't let him write the ticket. We spent about a half hour bullshitting in the middle of nowhere that night. It was during that conversation that I realized what a really good guy this new recruit was. About a year or two later, I hired him. It was one of the best things that I ever did. I would not have known anything about this kid really, had I not bent the law a little that evening. *Laughing as I write.

I told that story at his wedding on Friday. He was still pissed that he hadn't written that ticket. I cannot think of a better human being. He is a very caring, empathetic, "go the extra yard" kind of cop. People love the guy. He is also a straight arrow sort of human being- which means absent his boss that evening in the desert- I would have most certainly been issued a well deserved speeding ticket.

On Tuesday, the big motorcycle trip through Montana begins. I had three guys tell me they were interested in making the ride and I have not heard one peep out of them since. It's a five day trip through Yellowstone National Park and Red Lodge, Great Falls, Glacier National Park, Whitefish, Libby, and Butte. The weather is supposed to be perfect. My first leg will be east across the state to Troy's house in Idaho Falls.

The problem with retiring while I still have a few marbles left- is that most of my friends still have to work for a living and taking additional time off is hard. Such is this great, new economy. I've been making preparations all week long, putting on the traveling kit, new tires, new helmet just in case. But it looks like it's just going to be Troy and me- like Easy Rider- and Troy already told me he's gonna be Peter Fonda. It's Dennis Hopper for me. So while doing the last minute preparations, I was driving around town a lot last week.

My RoadKing is very loud. I have a two into one Rinehart muffler. The other day, I fired it up at the grocery store right next to some little kid getting into a Subaru. He immediately starting bawling and carrying on like he had been gut shot, his mother trying to console and quiet him down. I smirked just a little. He will probably grow up to be a cop who stops speeding motorcycles in the desert or one of those snobby BMW riders.

So I think I am going to do one of those running, travel blogs. Ya know the kind where you take pictures of stupid shit along the way, only I have a little bit better idea which I will "reveal" during the week. I have to try something to boost these sorry ass numbers on the blog. I am too old to attempt any sort of quality writing and that has never been my strong suit anyway.

So Happy Father's Day and first official day of summer. Please stay tuned this week. I'll try to bring you some funny stuff and post it during the trip.