Wednesday, July 31, 2019

HWY 2 - Day 8 - Shelby, MT - Kalispell, MT
Met Anthony and Alex this morning as I was saddling up in Shelby.  Black Barons from South Africa.  Harley riders.
They had picked up rental bikes in San Francisco.  Ridden up the coast.  Headed east on HWY 2.  Were on their way to Sturgis and points beyond for the next three weeks.  Shared road stories.  Even touched on world politics.  The world is a small place these days.  New brothers together.
Air was cool and fresh.  So cool it felt good wearing most of the clothing I had packed for the trip.  Cut Bank is popularly known as the coldest city in the US...mostly thanks to the presence of a US Weather Service monitoring station.  But then again...who is to question a 27 foot-tall pengiun making a weather statement.
Twenty-two miles west of Cut Bank, a much abused monument along HWY 2 points out the most northerly point reached by Lewis and Clark on their cross-country expedition.  On July 23, 1806 Lewis searching for the headwaters of the Marias River made it to this spot he called Camp Disappointment before turning back because of bad weather.  Couldn't help but think how Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce had saved the lives of Lewis and Clark's entire expedition during one long winter when they were without food and shelter.
It's hard heading west on HWY 2 to believe that, despite having covered nearly 2,000 miles of undulating Pine and Prairie Plains I was yet to see and reach the mountains.  Cresting a hill suddenly there they were...the rugged Rocky Mountains.
Parking my trusty Sportster took a moment to breathe in the fresh mountain air.  A major realization hit me hard right between the eyes.  All bikers name their motorcycles.  Why was I still calling my bike a Sportster?  How impersonal.  Had I not the past few days experienced some difficult road conditions...yet handled them with confidence and style on the Sportster. This bike has to be one of the funnest Harley's I have ever ridden.  Not named yet?  What have I been thinking?  Suddenly standing along the road it came to me.  Ol' Sport.  Yes, it's a friendly term of endearment used between equals, like buddy or the decidedly more modern... dude.  Ol' Sport and me from this moment on heading down the road together...just a couple of cool dudes.
HWY 2 runs along the southern border of Glacier National Park.  Traffic turning into the Park was congested and bumper to bumper.  But Ol' Sport and I spent the rest of the day pressing and leaning into the twisty turns along the Flathead River on HWY 2.   A beautiful ride together into Kalispell, MT.  

Kickstand down Kalispell, MT 210 Miles.

Be strong, be safe, Talon and Ol' Sport

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

HWY 2 - Day 7 - Malta, MT - Shelby, MT
Stopped at the Hitchin' Post Cafe in Malta this morning lookin' for a two calendar breakfast.  Steph welcomed me in, greeted me with a smile, served up a real road trip breakfast, and kept my coffee cup full.  Place just simply put a big smile on my face.  Real Montana small town folks.
Out on HWY 2 had a light wind from the east gently pushing me down the road.  Sun warming my back, smooth road.  Outside of Harlem,  on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation made a quick u-turn as an old abandon boarded up pink church caught my eye.  In 1840, a wandering Jesuit priest named Pierre-Jean DeSmet arrived at the Three Forks of the Missouri River and was greeted by bands of Salish, Nez Perce and Shoshoni people. The St. Mary Mission was constructed.  The church was commonly recognized as the first permanent European settlement in Montana.  A 128-year history of The Pink Church at Fort Belknap concluded in 2015. 
At Chinook detoured south on HWY 240 called the Nez Perce trail for 18 miles.  Headed to Bear Paw Battlefield.  In September of 1877 Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce was striving to lead his people to Canada to escape and keep their freedom.  In a surprise attack at dawn on September 30, 400 US  Army troops laid siege to the Nez Perce camp.
Bear Paw was still and quiet when I arrived.  The area has not changed since that fateful day.  Written on a plaque overlooking the battlefield... "Far from our beautiful homeland, upon this quiet terrain of our Earth Mother, the spirits now forever bear silent witness to our people's painful and tragic encounter with Manifest Destiny.  This is a place of mourning, not just for memorializing a past, but as a place for letting go of what might have been.  Nations consecrate other battlefields in memory of lives lost, so too, may each of us now consecrate this place on behalf of our ancestors' exhausted bid for freedom."
After five days of battle, at 2 PM on October 5 Chief Joseph declared to the Nez Perce Camp his decision to end the fighting is to save his people.  Handing over his rife at this rock he stated briefly and simply.  "Our chiefs are dead, the little children are freezing to death.  My people have no blankets, no food...I want to have time to look for my children and see how many I can find...Hear me, my chiefs, I am tired.  My heart is sick and sad.  From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more, forever."  This date in history effectively marked the end of the Indian Wars of the Plains.
Back on HWY 2 three distinctive buttes on the horizon are called collectively the Sweet Grass Hills. West Butte, the closest and highest, rises 3,000 feet above the plains.  Together these three buttes make this range the most prominent in north central Montana.  Some of Blackfeet’s oldest stories and traditions involve these hills. According to Blackfeet tradition, Old Man made the Sweet Grass Hills with rocks he carried with him after creating the earth.
Needed an ice cream.  East of Shelby found a real "hand dipped" double scoop ice cream cone.  The cone was filled all the way to the bottom with cold, creamy smooth, chocolate ice cream.  Making sure to put the "Sugar Shack Diner" on my list of places to return to.

Kickstand down Shelby, MT. - 255 Miles.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Monday, July 29, 2019

HWY 2 - Day 6 - Williston, ND - Malta, MT
Just west of Williston this morning atop the banks at the confluence of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers stopped at the Fort Union Trading Post.  The trading post was once the largest and busiest outpost on the upper Missouri River.
In 1804, Lewis and Clark visited the site, which they called "a judicious position for the purpose of trade".  Twenty-five years later John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company established an outpost here.  Linked by steamboat with St Louis some 1,800 miles away, the trading post reigned over the northern plains.  The post was abandoned as the fur trade declined in the 1850's.
Leaving the trading post and heading west the Fort Peck Reservation stretches for nearly 100 mile along HWY 2.  Today it is home to 6.800 Assiniboine and Yanktonai Sioux, but much of the area is owned by non-natives as a result of the unscrupulous land dealings encouraged by the 1887 Dawes Act.  The landscape here becomes gentle rolling hills  with horses standing proud.
Suddenly rising up over a low hill ancient creatures appeared along the highway.  Looking again, more appeared.
Grazing, rising on rocks, roaming and controlling the landscape.  It was a sudden blur along the road.  There...then gone.  Maybe it was a glare off my handle bars...I dared to turn around and check.  Maybe too many bumps in the road had shaken my imagination.
HWY 2 through the Milk River Valley today was the two laner you always dream of riding.  No wind, no traffic, blue skies, two lanes smooth as silk. 
The highway unfolded under my tires carrying me across the landscape to a never ending horizon.  Two other riders pass by taking in the moment of the road.  Just doesn't get any better on two wheels.
Stopped at Sleeping Buffalo Rock ten miles west of Saco.  A nearby wind-swept ridge overlooking the Cree Crossing on the Milk River was the original resting place of this ancient weather-worn effigy. There the boulder sat as the leader of a herd of reclining buffalo envisioned in an outcrop of granite. Incised markings made in the distant past define its horns, eyes, backbone, and ribs. Since late prehistoric times, native peoples of the Northern Plains have revered the Sleeping Buffalo’s spiritual power. Oral traditions reveal that it was well known to the Cree, Chippewa, Sioux, Assiniboine, and Gros Ventre as well as the more distant Blackfeet, Crow, and Northern Cheyenne. Stories passed from generation to generation tell how the “herd” fooled more than one buffalo-hunting party.
I gently placed an offering of tobacco in the ancient incised horns of the buffalo.   This timeless rock continues to figure prominently in traditional Native ceremonies. It provides a link to ancestral peoples of the high plains and the long ago time when, as one elder put it, “The power of the prairie was the buffalo.”
I thanked the Grandfathers for a safe journey.  For a life filled with joy and peace.

Kickstand down Malta, MT 270 Miles.

be strong, be safe, Talon

Sunday, July 28, 2019

HWY 2 Day 5 - Rugby, ND - Williston, ND
On the west end of Rugby passed by the Northern Lights sculpture this morning.  Talking to a local last night was told the city wanted to build a monument to the town.  Had the bright idea to build a sculpture which could light up the norther sky.  Built the sculpture, fired up the lights...didn't have much affect.  So much for a bright idea.
The other big landmark in Rugby is a stone cairn marking the actual geographical center of North America.  Met a family traveling from Texas.  Shared a smile and wave.  Never know who you might meet at the exact center spot of North America.
HWY 2 twists up and through a hundred miles of gentle hills residuals of the great Ice Age glaciers.  Along the way old villages whiz by.  Huge grin elevators along the road look more like spacecraft engines.
Beautiful Sunday morning.  Had the road all to myself.  Began to think how smooth the road felt.  Like sailing over the landscape at 65 mph. Suddenly no signs...quick as a blink...was sliding first right...then left...then right again on loose gravel covered with oil.  It was a Sunday morning moment with the Sportster.  Closed the throttle, held the bars straight.  Found a line with a bit less gravel.  After a mile finally a orange sign.  "Loose rocks and fresh oil for next 20 miles."  Long 20 miles.  Sportster rode like a solid pony.  Gave the tank a warm pat at the end of the 20.  We were one.
Stopped in Stanley looking for the 1902 Rexall Drug Store that was listed in the road books as still serving whirl-a-whip at an old fashion soda fountain.  As Bob Dylan said so well..."the times they are a changin' ".
Forty miles east of Williston HWY 2 crosses the Bakken Formation.  The Bakken Formation is a rock unit from the Late Devonian to Early Mississippian age occupying about 200,000 square miles of the subsurface of the Williston Basin, underlying parts of Montana, North Dakota, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The formation was initially described by geologist J.W. Nordquist in 1953.  Here the plains give way to man camps, oil platforms, pump sites, with orange plumes of flaring dotting the landscape.  Energy for America.

Williston, ND once was a classic, just big enough, one movie theater town. It has a long history as boom or bust.  Once know for wheat growing, today it is a hub for oil-pumping industries.

Kickstand down Williston.  230 miles.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Saturday, July 27, 2019

HWY 2 - Day 4 Fosston, MN - Rugby, ND
Slept good last night in the tiny town of Fosston, MN.  Fosston holds one of two stoplights on this 100 mile stretch of US HWY 2.  The town also marks the sudden switch between the Great Plains and the Great North Woods.  The town motto is appropriate..."Fosston, Where the Plains Meet the Pines".
Heading west HWY 2 passes through once prairie lands now cultivated into fields of sugar beets, sunflowers, and wheat.  The local sugar beet industry pulls in a billion dollars a year.  The northern Great Plains is the birthplace of Cream of Wheat cereal.
It was a good day to ride.  Just ride...clear the head...quiet the white noise...feel the wind on your knees...the sun on your back.  No semi's, few cars, other bikers simply experiencing the freedom of the road.  As the miles passed under my tires I couldn't help but think about how less is more.  How being on the open road can fulfill so much in our lives.  Met local folks at each gas stop today.  Took time to share stories.  Learned from them first hand about their lives, their part of this special country.  Can't put a dollar value on that kind of experience.
Made s short stop in Devils Lake, ND.  Sent a text to a friend to let him know I was traveling through.  He and his son met me at the local McDonalds.  His son made a special sign to welcome me to Devils Lake.  Never alone on the road.  Always meeting someone with a special smile.
Only carry a few extra clothes with me when I ride.  Less is more.  Needed to do some laundry tonight.  What more could you ask for.  Wash your underwear and socks, lift weights, and get fit all at the same time.  Doesn't get any better.

Kickstand down Rugby, ND 228 Miles.  Geographical Center of North America. More about that in the morning.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Friday, July 26, 2019

HWY 2 - Day 3 - South Range, WI -Fosston, MN 

Jolted out of deep sleep early this morning with loud claps of thunder and  bright flashes of lightning bouncing off the walls of my room.  Here in the U.P they call it "Lake Effect".  Looking out the window easy to define "LE" as a wet cold day ahead.  There is an adage when you ride a motorcycle about weather..."as soon as you suit up the rain will stop".  Suited up with full rain gear before leaving the motel. Rain stopped shortly down the road.
Sky was gray, low ceiling, so much moisture in the air water drops were forming on my goggles.  Light felt soft and peaceful.  I call it quiet light.  Good time to ride and think.  Started thinking about the bike and what I had experience on it in only a few days on the road.  Riding a Sportster.  Basic bike Harley has made for years and years. Nothing fancy.  A solid, classic, great running motorcycle.  Traveling with a sissy bar and duffle bag.  Ala...Bronson.. if you remember that TV Series in the seventies.
Just on the road.  Feeling it, knowing it, experiencing it.  As I rode along began to realize how many folks had commented on the "bitchin" bike.  At gas stations, stop lights, parking lots...same words..."bitchin bike..where you headed"?  No need to question it.  Less is more.  On this bike it's all about the ride.
Pull into Grand Rapids, MN.  Need to find a grocery store.  Need some fresh fruit.  Lookin' for a banana.  Off to the side of the local grocery store was a small booth with Harley's parked all around.  Met Jerry hocking' hot dogs and soft drinks supporting A.B.A.T.E. (American Bikers for Awareness, Training and Education).  Got a dog and a coke and a great conversation with Jerry.  He was riding' a Sportster with 52,000 miles on it.  Only thing he had done was buy tires.  We shared Sportster stories.
Melisa joined the conversation and asked if we could do a "selfie" with my bike.  Before I knew it there were more requests.  "Bitchin Bike" was the word of the day.  Was invited to spend a day or two with the locals to ride together and share their part of the country.  Sorry I had to put some miles on down the road.  Plan to hang out longer next time.
Headed west on HWY 2 out of Grand Rapids.  Lake country.  Fishing country.  BIG fishing country.  This place was called the BIG FISH.

Kickstand down in Fosston, MN.  230 Miles.  Never a lonely moment when you are on a Sportster.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Thursday, July 25, 2019

HWY 2 - Day 2 - Crystal Falls, MI to South Range, WI
Morning seemed to come quickly after the encounter with Bigfoot yesterday.  Had to think...maybe it was all just a dream?  Time to get on the road.  Needed the time to clear my thoughts.  Leaving Crystal Falls HWY 2 west turns into a classic two laner.  Few cars.  The road was mine.  Wind on my back.  Surrounded by green.  Blue sky dotted with a few puffy white clouds.  Just doesn't get any better.
Pulled into the old main street of Ironwood MI.  Ironwood is the western most U.P town.  Population 6,800.  In it's payday it was the center of the Gogebic Range iron mining district. The area is now about a fifth of what is was during the 1920's peak.  The center of Ironwood is easy to miss.  Rode slowly through town looking for Joe's Pasty Shop.
Joe's has been serving pasties since 1946.  Holds the claim of being the very first pasty shop in the U.P.  Walking in it was easy to see the place has not changed in over 70 years.  Finish on the counter has been rubbed off from customers enjoying pasties over the years.  Met Mary.  With a smile she quickly asked "Traditional or Cornish".  The Cornish was the quintessential miner food.  It was introduced 100-odd years ago by the immigrant Cornish miners.  The Cornish is beef, potatoes, onions, and rutabagas.  She served one up hot from the oven. Quickly decided Joe's was definitely a four calendar cafe.
All over town the sides of buildings are covered with murals and tributes to the miners of the community.
The faces and names are real.  Felt as if it would be easy to reach out and shake hands with the individuals who worked the iron mines to produce steel for the building of America.
In a small hillside park just south of downtown is a 52 foot high statue of Hiawatha, the fictional hero of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's famous poem.  A tribute to the beginning history of our country.
HWY 2 continues to wind through forests and meadows.  Entering Wisconsin passed through the Bad River Reservation.  1,800 descendants of the original Ojibwa Loon Clan who settled near the delta live here today.  Lake Superior filled the horizon.

Kickstand down tonight South Range, WI  220 miles.  The beauty and history of this stunning land fills my thoughts tonight.

be strong, be safe, Carlan

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

HWY 2 - Day 1 - St Ignace, MI to Crystal Falls, MI
Left St Ignace this morning  as the sun was breaking the horizon of Lake Michigan.  HWY 2, dubbed the Great Northern, in memory of the pioneer railroad, is truly the most stunning and unforgettable, not to mention the longest, of all the great transcontinental two laners.  The day would take me along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, into and out of Wisconsin, an opportunity to fully experience the "Lake Effect",  eating a pasty for the first time, and coming face to face with Bigfoot.
The Mackinac Bridge  at St Ingance is what locals like to call the "Eighth Wonder of the World".  It is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world at 7.400 feet (with its approaches, the total length is over five miles).  Total length of wire in main cables is 42,000 miles.
Sand dunes, grasses, waves, never ending horizon.  For a moment it seemed as if I could be standing along an ocean shore.
Signs along the road for pasties  Jack's Pasty, Mary's Pasty, Bill's Pasty.  Best pasty in the UP. (That's upper peninsula)  Had to have one.  Stopped at Dobber's Pasties in Escanaba.  Taylor handed me a hot out of the oven with gravy meat pasty.  Shared the history of the pasty with me.  When the iron mines were in full operation in the UP the miners wife's would put together the dinner left overs in a dough pie.  Bake until perfectly crisp crust.  Still a main stay in the area.  They bake hundreds of pasties a day at Dobbers.  It was a four calendar experience. 
Big miner with a pick beside the road.  Got my attention.  Iron Mountain mine.  Began mining in last 1800's. Ore was transported by rail to the Great Lakes, loaded on steamers, shipped across the lake, ending up in the iron foundries in PA.  
Near Crystal Falls movement in the woods along the side of the road caught my attention.  Could it be Bigfoot.  Definitely well know for sightings in the area.
Hit the brakes, pulled to the side of the road in a spray of gravel.  Yes, it was Bigfoot.  What was that on his head?  A cap?  Was that what I thought it was?  Cap with Harley logo?  Should I try to make contact with a fellow biker?  He WAS wearing a biker vest.
Pulled into the Bigfoot Hideway Motel in Crystal Falls. He followed me to the parking lot.  He pointed to my bike.  Let me tell you, when Bigfoot points you respond.
Before I knew it...Bigfoot was in the saddle.  He was a Biker Bigfoot at heart...and the grin on his face said it all as he patted the tank with a loving hand.

Kickstand down Crystal Falls, MI  230 miles. Enjoying a moment with a new biker buddy on HWY 2.

be strong, be safe, Carlan