Saturday, June 30, 2012

Out of the frying pan, into the wild fire

Almost a year since last year's ride, David and enjoyed a Mexican meal and a Scottish ale at Bogart's in Red Lodge -- this time with Daniel. We camped in the back yard of the Alpine motel, a very accommodating place just a few blocks from the downtown strip of gift shops, restaurants, pubs, souvenir dealers and outfitters. The cut-rate camping fee included breakfast.

I spent some time at the local Ace Hardware, picking up some camping essentials, and Daniel and I bought caps to protect our delicate skulls when unhelmeted.

We met Chris and Dale, two Harley riders from Hawaii who were staying at the local hotel. Everyone agreed to meet after breakfast and ride the Beartooth again -- from east to west this time. We passed Chris and Dale amidst the bison-strewn valleys and didn't see them again.

On the Yellowstone side of the Beartooth near Cooke City, the distinctive spire rises above the valley.

F/8 and be there: instant postcard!
After we crossed the northern Yellowstone and exited the park through Mammoth Hot Springs, we aimed to spend the night in Butte, Montana. We spent the afternoon battling heavy winds and watching two wild fires on the horizon, one of which got closer and closer. 
As Montana Hwy. 2 got closer to the fire, we noticed the smoke made the sun  glow red overhead.
Daniel and I stopped for gasoline and a drink at a general store/casino as the fire colored the sky. "It's not really as close as it seems," the cashier said.
An elk read the paper over Daniel's shoulder.

The local news was disturbing, but the fire reports from Colorado Springs and Boulder were even more alarming.
After spending the night in Butte, we departed for the Canadian border on a pleasant back road through the rolling hills. The wind began to build from the west as we stopped in the small town of Ovando, Mont. to refuel. Another rider, David, was there already on his vintage BMW R/100. He said the bike had done more than 150,000 miles -- mostly between Helena and Butte -- and he'd never had the cylinders off.
Just as we's filled our tanks, the wind redoubled and there was a spattering of rain as a front came rolling through. The weather report included hail. So, we decided to have lunch at the local cafe across the square from the general store where we gassed up. The power went out, but they had a gas stove. I had a great Reuben sandwich and we waited for the smoke to clear. 
The flags on the Ovando town square showed the force of the front.
A family enjoying a vacation outing on ATV four-wheelers joined us in the restaurant for lunch, then bundled up in plastic and took off as soon as the wind tapered off.
Flanman's Suzuki "Wee," as the DL650 V-Strom is nicknamed, seen from the second-floor balcony of the Butte Motel 6, shows off her shapely lines. The big yellow duffel bag holds the tent, sleeping bag, tarp and poles, air mattress, hatchet, clothesline and other camping gear. The side cases hold tools, stove, dishes, gloves, outerwear, gaiters, etc. The topcase carries clothes, computer, miscellaneous charges, maps, toilet kit, rubber sandles and anything I might need to have handy. The tank bag hold a flashlight, multi-tool, knife, chargers for the cell phone and helmet headset, a plastic "foot" to keep the kick stand from digging into soft ground, camera, maps, sunglasses, etc.

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