Friday, 24 October 2008.
Last day of training. This has been a really good time, but it's time to hit the road. Of course, the bike has 11,000 miles on it and I didn't get the 5,000 mile maintenance done so I definitely needed to get the 10,000 mile checkup. Luckily, the local Harley dealership is just a couple of blocks from the hotel. The printing company has a deal with the local cab company, so I got a free ride back when I dropped the bike off over lunch. When I told the guy what I needed, he immediately went to the back of the bike with a tread gauge. Turns out that the rear tires are only rated for about 8000 miles, and I only had 2/16" of tread left, so it was time to change the rear tire. Ouch. That was some funding I wasn't ready to spend. It beats sliding off the side of a mountain on a wet patch, though.
After the last class, I caught a ride back to the dealership (Teton Harley Davidson in Idaho Falls http://www.tetonhd.com/) and got ready to head out. I love that part of the maintenance package is washing and drying the bike. They had 2000 miles of bug guts to get off that wind screen. Better them than me! My original goal was to reach Missoula, Montana, by night fall. I did not leave the Harley dealer until almost 4:30, though, so that was out of the question. I decided just to hustle as far as I could as fast as I could (stopping for the occasional photo op) and just stop when it got dark.
My first stop was just over the state line of Idaho in Montana, just past the continental divide. It was SERIOUSLY cold by that point. Every guy in the gas station wore a huge cowboy hat and boots. They all looked at me like I might suddenly rob the place or burst into flames or something. I don't know if that was due to the abundance of black leather or the fact that I was riding a motorcycle in sub-40 degree weather. Didn't matter. The till-jockey was a good guy who asked me which way I was headed and gave me some good advice on how far I could get before dark and where to watch out for deer. He was right about the deer. I saw several herds just a few miles up the road where the highway crossed over a river and had one run across the road ahead of me at the next town where he told me to watch out. It really is always good to talk to the locals and not be a jerk at the gas station. It could save your life.
I saw a large red fox on the side of the road not long after the deer ran across. Then I saw something just as rare - another biker headed in the opposite direction. I hope I don't look like Nanook of the North as bad as he did, but I probably do. Of course I waved back as we passed. Bikers most always wave like that just because of the lifestyle choice of owning a bike. But when you see another guy as dumb as you out riding in the cold, you definitely share something profound (and a little frightening).
As the sun was going down it played gorgeous colors onto the clouds. My daughter loves colorful sunsets, so I pulled over once more to take some pictures of it before finishing the ride. I finally reached Butte, Montana, just after the sun went down and got a room. It had been a short ride and had been cold again, but it was a gorgeous day and there were great views with at least a couple more wildlife encounters. I got some sorely needed maintenance done on the bike, and I rode 238 miles and wound up with 2372 miles on the clock for this trip so far.