Sunday, June 19, 2011

Day 2 - Denver to Great Falls, Montana

Day 2 - Denver to Great Falls, Montana

13 hours saddle time
756 miles today
1,610 miles total

I suppose the best I can say about today's ride is that it was an uneventful (albeit long) day in the saddle.  I'm sure there are more scenic routes than the concrete slabs I took to get here.  But while I'm outbound and still in the States, I'm just trying to get as far north as I can as soon as possible. Wyoming and Montana are two states in which I've never ridden, so I suppose that's an added bonus. I know; I'm reaching.  Denver to Billings was pretty dull and I spent the entire time dodging rain and hail.  the Billings to Great Falls leg was really cool.  The route was primarily two-lane split country roads with rolling hills and a mountain background.  I never got rained on hard.  It was always just enough to make the roads slick and keep me on my toes.  The skies were dark and ominous on three sides of me and I could see the dark streaks of rainfall in the distance ahead of me.  Every rider can relate to this: There always seemed to be a gap in the rain streaks and I found myself hoping that somehow my route would take me through that gap.  I was fortunate to only get light sprinkles.  Navigating the terrain into Great Falls was especially enjoyable.  The turns were not so tight and twisty that I had to concentrate on them intently.  They were smooth and sweeping enough to keep me interested and enthused.

I stopped for lunch and gas in Sheridan, Wyoming. There, I ran into a family from Oklahoma.  Several hours later, I was gassing up again near Harlowtown and heard a young girl's voice say "hey mom, there's Shrug!"  They were also on their way to Great Falls.  They honked as they passed me while I was stopped to take the elevator pic and then again when we met up at a traffic light in Great Falls.

While stopped in Billings to don my rain suit, I parked Hester under a gas station awning next to a pair of Harleys; a Sportster and a Fat Bob.  The riders were kids.  By that, I mean compared to the average Harley rider, these guys were babies.  Most boys their age ride crotch rockets.  They came out of the station to say hello to me and marveled over the fact that I was way up here from Texas.  One was wearing a Steve Miller Band t-shirt.  That, and the bike he rode made me think he probably had really cool parents.  They watched me suiting up and asked if I was going to ride in the rain.  I told them I was heading to Alaska and that a little rain was probably nothing compared to what I potentially face on the way up.  I asked if they were local and they nodded.  I asked them why they were on bikes when this weather was threatening all day.  They both nodded their heads towards two cute young girls and smiled.  Ahh youth!

I'm spending another evening in a hotel tonight, cashing in more Hilton frequent guest points. I have something like moon rock status in the Hilton program and free nights are a nice reward for living out of a suitcase for 90% of the year. I find it ironic that the "reward" for living in a hotel is more nights in a hotel.  Nevertheless, I'm living out of a saddle roll tonight, which is quite different from what will be my typical Alaskapade accommodations.  A soft mattress, cable TV, a hot tub, and an Internet connection to upload this entry are all excellent benefits. Still, it's a hassle unloading the bike after a long ride because of theft concerns and then loading it back up again before dawn. To add to the frustration, nothing seems to fit back on the bike the way it came off. Every morning is a whole new packing experience.  I suspect my packing prowess will improve as the days pass.
I'm still holding to my plan to dial down the pace once I hit Canada. I had planned on riding as far as Jasper, Alberta tomorrow to stay with a Harley Forums buddy who generously invited me to crash at his place for a night. Now, I've decided to stop somewhere near Canmore, Alberta and camp out for the first time on this trip.  Canmore lies on the southern edge of the Canadian Rockies and is said to offer some of the most scenic views in all of Alberta.  Stopping there will make for a shorter day of riding, which will give me time to find a spot to camp with some daylight left to set up and maybe see some local sites.  It will also give me more time to enjoy the ride through the mountains the next day and still see my friend in Jasper.

All that sounds great, but I have to clear Canadian customs first. I'm told it can be quite a hassle and the time I'll spend there is completely subject to the whim of the Customs agents at the Chief Mountain border crossing.  I plan on being at the gate at 7:00am when they open with my passport and a cooperative disposition. I'm leaving my TSA mindset at home.

Next stop:  Somewhere in Alberta, Canada.