Outward Bound -- Day 7

Date: Thursday July 24, 1997
Route: Williston, ND to Havre, MT


Once again, I've been extremely lucky with the weather. The huge thunderhead I mentioned in Day 6 stayed east of me, but another storm that was waiting in the wings hit us around 2:00AM. Actually it was pretty bad; lots of wind, rain, and lightning. I say I was lucky because it happened while I was safe in my tent, and everything was dry by the time I woke up. Buy the time I was actually on the road, I had bright sunshine.

The northern US is experiencing something of a hot spell. The temperature at my campsite was already in the high seventies by the time I was done packing. I actually rode the first few miles in shirt sleeves and no helmet just to cool off. Just outside of Williston, I donned my full leather and fiberglass brain armor, properly prepared to attack the day's miles.

Technological Question:

What the devil are helmets made out of, anyway? Fiberglass or some funkadelic super-polymer never-decay-in-this-geologic-era plastic. I just realized that I don't know.

Now, may we please have a moment of silence for the hundreds of dragonflies who died trying to dive-bomb my windshield. Usually, I couldn't care less about dead bugs, but these guys eat mosquitos, so they're personal friends of mine. Silence please.

Your message now resumes.

One of the churches along US2 in northern Montana has taken it upon themselves to mark the site of every US2 traffic fatality with a small white cross. Man alive! They should start calling this stretch the Death Road, or Cemetery Lane, or something. In some regions, there had to be a couple of crosses every 1/4 mile. Incredible.

Editor's Note:

Carol Mandera later informed me that the crosses are put in place by the State Police, not a church. My mistake.

One of the "Adopt-a-highway" let's-advertise-who-picks-up-the-litter signs listed "Qwik Erect Construction" as the featured company. Honestly! No, I'm not kidding, I'm serious. I mean, did these guys really think long and hard (ouch) about this company name before selecting it? Enough said.

One of the features along US2 in Montana is the Fort Peck Dam. I hadn't see it before, so I assumed that it was a big chunk of concrete like Hoover Dam. As it turned out, I was driving next to the down river side of it for a few miles and never new it was a dam. To me, this was just another ridge line. When I crested the top of it and saw miles and miles of Fort Peck Lake on the other side, I was understandably surprised. The marker says that Fort Peck Dam is the "biggest earthen dam in the world." I, for one, am a bit nervous about a several-hundred-square-mile lake being held back by a glorified pile of dirt. In any case, I was properly impressed and moved on to Glasgow for lunch

I stopped for gas before lunch and my conversation with the station attendant (remember Day 2?) brings up another . . .

Philosophical Question:

Why are people so desparate to talk to Harley riders that they will lie to impress you? This guy wanted to tell me about his "good buddy's" '69 Softail. I queried if this was a old Hydra-Glide, an old hardtail, or something (anything but a Softail). I also explained that Softail's only came out in the eighties. Mr. Gas Pumper stuck to his story and I let him.

Today's nutritious lunch comes from the Glasgow Dairy Queen. Chili Cheese Dog, fries, and a small bucket of Dr. Pepper. Dessert consisted of a small cone with the ice cream dipped in that cool red coating-like stuff (is there a technical term for this substance?). This will no doubt give me cancer when I'm 80, but it seemed worth it at the time.

Now onto another . . . (the crowd yells, Oh No!)

Philosophical Note:

Every now and again, you see another human being that is unusually pleasant to look at. I'm not talking about a Baywatch or skin mag type of female; I'm talking about the next-door type. Such a woman made an appearance at the Glasgow Dairy Queen today. Neither she or her boyfriend could be a day over 20. She had shoulder length brown hair (straight) and wore a cute blue and white checkered sun dress. This dress was not revealing at all, but did seem to match her next-door looks very nicely. The total effect was that, at this specific place and time, this woman totally embodied the concepts of youth, grace, and (most importantly) approachable beauty. I couldn't help but be reminded of a young Audry Hepburn. A glance around the room revealed that every male eye in the place was seriously target-locked on this pretty young thing. Their order came up and the PYT and the boyfriend left. They climbed into a pickup truck that was towing a speedboat. They drove off toward the resevoir, with the PYT sitting right in the middle of the front seat, next to her guy.

Ain't that sweet . . .

I chalked up the experience to yet another one of mother nature's little serindipitous diversions, like the mule deer and buckhorn antelope I saw earlier that day, and continued to munch on my fries.

After 27 miles of oil & gravel, and several much more enjoyable miles of railroad watching (a Burlington-Northern/Santa-Fe mainline parallels US2), I arrived in today's destination: Havre (pronounced Have-er, apparently). This store has alot of what most motorcycle tourists need, gas, food, a campground. The only problem is that this campground has no shade (remember the part about the heat wave?). I had arrived a good four hours before sunset, so shade was an absolute must-have campground feature.

I spotted a sign for a hotel advertising the "lowest rates guarenteed" and decided to check it out. The hotel was clean, convenient, and run by an East Indian family. The owner asked me if I wanted a first-floor room (Yes, thank you), and if I wanted to take the bike in the room with me (Well, er, actually, yeah!). He gave me a key and told me that somebody would be by in a few minutes with a throw-rug to park the bike on.

Major victory!

Now I'm writing in air-conditioned comfort. I'm munching away at my frozen pizza (this unit also has a kitchenette), and guzzling a pack of wine coolers (can't explain, just didn't feel like beer). As soon as I can find a good movie on HBO, I'll dig into the freezer and retrieve my ice cream. The Cruiser sits two feet from my bed with most of the gear already packed up. All this convenience for less than $30. I could have done much worse.

Tomorrow, it's off to the first few low mountain passes and Carol's place in Helena.