5th, Gardiner, MT, Stop: July 20th, Marblemount, WA
Distance: 4251 km (2642 miles), Total Distance: 13857 km [Map]
We finally left Montana after an extended stay and headed
north west for Seattle and Vancouver Island, were more fellow Tiger owners
were receiving us as old friends. A landmark was achieved when we saw
the Pacific ocean, and another when we turned south in Canada.
Getting our buttocks tested in the
mountains north of Yellowstone NP. From time to time we needed a brake,
in spite of all the motorcycle miles we had behind us.
After two more days in the Yellowstone park, one of them marking the
first 10 000 km of the trip, we headed west again. Although, almost
as normal when leaving a place we had stayed for a long time,
we made a small detour which of course wasn't small at all. After
seven hours of riding we were in Livingston, just half an hour
from the ranch we started from.
We stayed two nights at the Slip and Slide Ranch, a small horse
and cattle ranch by the main road from Livingston to Yellowstone.
The first morning we went for a three hour horseback ride. My
experience with horses was a similar ride in Spain two years ago
and a day long ride in Colombia nine years ago. Bente had her
teenager experience - lots of Norwegian teenagers work with horses
for a while - and went along on the Spain ride two years ago.
No problem, though, since our backs and buttocks should be well
prepared after tens of thousands of motorcycle kilometers. We
set off with Heather, a 24 year old woman married to the man who
would eventually take over the farm when Franklin retired. She
guided people like us in the summer besides training horses and
guided hunting parties in the winter.
The first part of the trip we climbed up into the mountains,
and we fell easy into the rhythm of the horses. From time to time
I caught myself trying to avoid rocks in my path by pulling the
ropes, a habit completely useless when dealing with a four legged
animal, but hard to avoid since I still had my mind set for riding
a bike. Bente had a couple of laughs behind me, and soon I let
the horse go its own way. After two hours I started to realize
that the horse actually moves all the time, not only forward but
sideways to. My lower back had by now gotten pretty stiff. The
last part of the trip went downhill, and for a long time, making
both my knees and Bente's hurt because of the saddle construction
which tries to twist your feet inwards. We were quite happy when
the trip was over and we could finally stretch out and walk away,
pretending to be relaxed while backs and knees screamed to get
into a horizontal position. The fantastic scenery we rode through
made the pain easy to bear though.
One of the many geysers in Yellowstone unloads.
Franklin, the owner of the farm, who lived on the ranch with his wife,
his son and wife and his father in law, disturbed our peaceful
barbecue on the last night, burning down irrigation channels just
outside the garden fence. He took a break and chatted for a while,
telling me that yes, it was him in the photograph I had seen hanging
on the wall. The shot was taken in 1952, and included his father,
him and the head of a grizzly bear his father had shot. It was
from a local newspaper, saying his father had tracked down a grizzly
bear which had killed more than $7500 worth of cattle. In 1952
that would have financed a house, so they were allowed to hunt
down and kill the bear.
These days, he said, they introduced new species of wolf to the
area, to preserve the number of wolves in the state. City slickers
from Washington who had no idea about farming and who themselves
didn't sacrifice a dollar to maintain the number of wild animals,
made laws that introduced foreign wolves into farmland. He lost
a lot of cattle each year because of the new initiative, but never
received any of the promised compensation, since it was too difficult
to prove that a wolf was to blame. He had tried, though. One summer
he spent thirty two days in the saddle trying to catch a wolf
in the act, to no avail. If he shot one of the beasts, it would
cost him $100 000 in fine and up to ten years in prison. It was
hard not to sympathize with him.
Luxury motorcycle travel. The brand
new trailer had a cooler and you can hang your dress or suit inside
when you stop for a rest. We met the two Wingers at the Beartooth
Pass and chatted for a while. I can understand why people do this,
since most of the Wingers we met were aged 50 and more.
Over 11900 feet towards the sky
Franklin said good-bye and reminded us that there was no way we could
leave Montana without going over the Bear Tooth Pass, a 11 900
feet or approximately 4000 meter pass on Yellowstone's north eastern
entrance. He convinced us and we left the ranch in the early morning
after two nights of relaxed life in a very stylish little place
overlooking the Paradise Valley. At the gas station in Gardiner,
two Gold Wingers with trailers - by this time we were completely
astounded to how many of these vehicles browsed the North American
roads - pulled over, and Bente asked casually, "Hi guys",
pointed at the trailer and said, "so I take it your camping?"
I recognized the tone of her voice. The Wingers didn't and said,
"Oh no, we're staying in motels and hotels". I laughed
Later, when we were at the top of the Bear Tooth Pass, another
couple on a Wing who had just left the week long Gold Wing rally
in Billings, answered the same question, "Oh yes, we're camping
all right". They were also towing a trailer which they purchased
in the rally at the small price of $4000. "We UPS'ed our
camping gear over here before we left". I had problems keeping
a straight face. Naturally, when you don't have a trailer you
send all your gear over with an express freight company. They
were really nice people but we were just getting speechless from
all the excessive travelling we'd seen. Wingers towing a trailer
By now we had seen Gold Wings with support wheels. At first I
believed it was a trike, but something was wrong. The wheels were
of the correct size, but there was no drive shaft and the original
bags were still in place, which was kind of weird since the lids
would be obstructed by the extra wheels when opened. I looked
under the bike and to my astonishment the original back wheel
was still in place. What do you call a bike like that? It's not
a trike. Maybe a frike. We'd seen RV's towing cars. A special
towing arrangement attaches to the front wheels and allows the
car to be towed without anyone in it. RV's the size of public
buses towed street cars, utility vehicles and sometimes, to our
disbelieves, a van or even a Gold Wing. You go on a holiday in
your RV - your extended home - and carry along your eight passenger
van. And the worst part is that many of these people were on a
two week holiday. RV's, RV's towing cars, Gold Wings and Harleys
dominated the roads, and as for the Harleys, by now we had decided
to stop saluting and rather leave the initiative to them. We were
getting tired of the arrogant attitudes we met, so we abandoned
the practice of saluting every bike on the road.
A Tiger and a chic in the Montana sunset.
The Bear Tooth Pass was worth the extra 400 km we had to do that day.
On the top the landscape is unforgiving and wind blown. You can see into
eternity and the roads turn in and out of valleys with such a speed that
it's a real pleasure to ride them. Along the northern down slope we met
a dual sport motorcycle with aluminum boxes. I saluted him and engaged
my brakes, just to see if he stopped. This was the first fully packed
up dual sport rider we had met, and I soon regretted not braking and waving
harder, because he disappeared around the corner and out of our life just
By six o'clock we had barely passed Livingston again, after a long and
rough shortcut on a gravel road. The road started nice and evenly surfaced,
changed into loose gravel with big rocks and finally went dirt. The rains
and the big trucks that had gone there before us made the deep tracks
difficult to navigate, and the heat made it worse. After sixty tiring
kilometers we hit the I-90 again, the interstate that had accompanied
us since Boston.
Clif Brown and his '99 Tiger. The design is different, the bike
is improved technically and Clif was very happy with it, something
he never hesitated to show with a major wheelie.
Across a continent
The next few days we passed through north western Montana, into Idaho
and then Washington. On our way towards Helena, state capital of Montana,
we stopped at the very small village of Helmsville, located in the middle
of nowhere. At the combined bar and gas station one of the few guests
answered like this when asked how many lived there, "Let's see. Karen!",
she yelled towards the back of the bar, "did you count how many we
were the last time you updated the phone book?". "I think it
was 33, but I believe that was before Frank moved out", was the answer.
A big fire many many years ago made people run, and reduced the numbers
from thousands to tens. From Helmsville we drove into one of the most
beautiful sunsets on the trip, reaching Helena after dark.
When we came to Wenatchee, or Wenatsjoo as we called it - either one
of us said "bless you" when the other said the town's name,
we only found expensive motels and decided to push on. In Dryder, a small
sign said "Welcome to Valley Cottage Motel", and we turned of
the highway into a little and very empty motel with an owner that struck
me as a brother of Norman Bates, the slightly bothered motel owner in
Hitchcock's Psycho. Small cabins were spread out on his property and the
price was right after some bargaining from his side. Bente protested
when he said the price was $35, so he quickly replied, "What about
$25, I'm easy". She smiled and accepted the price. We were allowed
into his kitchen to check our e-mail and watched his kids trying to make
the most out of a chemical set Norman had given them.
We called Clif Brown in the morning, one of the Tiger owners who had
invited us when coming through Seattle. He was ready for us and to make
the short ride to his place longer to allow him to get home from work,
we took a loop into the woods around Index, a small town along route 2
to the Pacific. The road was graveled and enjoyable. Along the road dozens
of other graveled roads joined and took of into the mountains. Index itself
was a small mining and logging village with a few hundred people. We stayed
for lunch and then headed for the ocean.
It was a landmark on our journey to see the Pacific ocean in Everett,
a little town almost incorporated into Seattle which was growing very
fast, eating up the smaller towns around. We didn't realize how much we
had missed the smells and sights of open sea until we again could fill
our nostrils with the salty odors that we used to live next to. While
we shared an ice cream and drank a Latte, a popular espresso and
milk coffee drink in Washington, I also remembered that this was actually
the first time in my life I saw the Pacific ocean. Many years of working
on seismic ships around the world and travelling on my spare time had
never carried me to the biggest ocean on our planet. Bente had seen it
before in California, but both of us loved it just as much. It will be
our companion for the next ten, eleven months, so we better like it.
We stayed three nights with Clif, Melissa and her son Hans. The second
day in Seattle the bike was serviced at I-90 Motorsports, and to my disappointment,
the DAR-syndrom - the Dreaded Alternator Rattle, a infamous metallic sound
from the alternator, had returned, despite the job Norm did back in Detroit.
I asked them to check it again, but when I came to get the bike, they
told me that nothing could be found. Clif and me picked out the alternator
back in his garage and to my surprise there was no sign of the unit being
taken off. When we looked at it we found that the spline was worn down
and caused the drive plate to move. We had probably found the cause and
a small dose of epoxy on the spline seemed to do the trick.
While the bike was serviced we spent the day in Seattle center, drinking
Lattes and browsing the stores. Later in the day Bente prepared
our favorite dinner for the Browns, a Pasta Lomados, created by a Swede
when Bente worked in the Canary Islands and now served by a Norwegian.
The next day went by to update our homepage and relax in the cosy garden
of the Browns. Clif decided to go along with us up to Vancouver Island
to Ken Minnion's place on Thursday, about 300 km of riding and three hours
on a ferry. When we left his house in the morning the electronic engineer
in his early forties took off with a wheelie the height of a small house.
"Whoops, got a little carried away there", was his sardonic
comment. It's always good to see youthful spirit in people, and Clif admitted
that wheelies and airborne jumps was his little weakness when on the road.
We had some of the same background, although different. He had also worked
in the seismic business back in the seventies, going in and out of deserts
in the middle east, trying to avoid land mines while mapping the subsurface.
He travelled in his work for many years but finally settled down to raise
British Columbia - a sample
The ride north to Canada went on some nice and twisty roads along the
Pacific coast, and it was fun to have company for once. After the ferry
ride to Vancouver Island Clif tried to photograph Bente and me while moving
at 120 km/h, a not so successful stunt. He couldn't keep his eye on the
subject of his pictures, and because the digital camera he was using had
a fair amount of delay from he pushed the shutter until the photo was
actually captured, most of the shots were of his own bike - or so it seemed
through a haze of unsharpness. We both laughed when browsing through the
Ken, his wife Daphne, their kids Jeffrey and Theresa, Coal the dog and
Sabre the cat where waving at us when we pulled up the driveway
in Campbell River. After a short introduction - it was the first
time Clif met Ken as well, we parked the two Tigers in the garage
next to Ken's own Tiger and sat down at the dinner table. The
night passed quickly with war stories from the road and two active
kids joining in on whatever topic was discussed. In the morning
we went for a little side trip to Gold River, 110 kilometers straight
west of Campbell River. According to a book about good motorcycle
roads in British Columbia, this road rated number four - a pretty
high rating in one of the better motorcycle areas in this part
of the world. Ken took Jeffrey with him, so all in all we were
five people on three Tigers, Ken's 1995, our 1998 and Clif's 1999
model. The road twisted it's way into the dense forest, along
Upper Campbell Lake and further out to Gold River, which lies
by one of the fjords coming in from the west coast.
The trip was very enjoyable, and if we had not travelled with
passengers, we would definitely have taken the parallel gravel
road. This road goes alongside the paved road almost the entire
way and was built to accommodate logging trucks too wide to travel
on regular roads. It was well kept and looked like a lot of fun,
especially since there was no traffic there whatsoever. Clif later
told us about another photographic stunt he made on these roads.
He was last in the pack and decided to have another try at catching
us on film while doing about 100 km/h on twisty roads. His camera
was around his neck and using the throttlemeister to keep up the
speed, he lifted the camera with his right hand and shot photo
after photo. Unfortunately we were just coming around a corner
at the end of his session, and in front of him we were braking
hard to avoid congested traffic. Clif did the only thing he could,
bottomed out the rear brake pedal, causing the back wheel to lock
and slide sideways, camera still in hand. He quickly let go of
the camera and managed in a strange way to straighten the bike
up again before disaster struck.
Trying out a new mean of travel and splashing with expertise for
We said good-bye to Clif at the end of the round-trip to Gold River and
promised to keep in touch. Loads of work were waiting for him
so he had to make a hasty return. Back at the house we went for
a walk in the woods with Ken and Daphne, and I used the occasion
to get more information about the island. Vancouver Island is
about 450 km long and hosts a huge rain forest, snow capped mountains,
ski resorts and a lot of game, including mountain lions - about
80 % of the cougars in North America have their home on this island
and from time to time they attack people, only last year a kid
was badly hurt in a school yard, and it also hosts black bear,
elk and deer.
In the rivers there is an abundance of fish, including five different
types of salmon and lots of trout. The ocean that surrounds the
island hosts a number of whales, sea lion, sharks and huge fish.
The west coast is as rugged and wind blown as the east coast is
calm and lush. Wildlife protection programs have managed to reduce
the logging to preserve life in the rivers - huge silt deposits
caused by erosion have taken it's toll on the numbers of salmon
and trout, and today you cannot use hooks with barbs in many of
the rivers. Ken had hiked and fished on large portions of the
island during the six years he had lived there, and he loved the
nature surrounding him.
Bill and Bente resting after a "hard" trip down the river.
After a Saturday picnic at one of the lakes, where we swam and paddled
the Minnion family kayak, we prepared for the most decadent but
efficient fishing trip in our life. Ken's friend Bill ran Bill's
Belly Boat Charters, and Ken had arranged a short day trip for
us that Sunday. We were going on a three to four hour pontoon
boat trip down the Salmon river on the northern part of the island.
The boat had two pontoons and a seat in the middle with a carrier
for fishing rods and a place to stow away food and whatever you
carry along. Two oars delivered the propulsion.
When I saw the boat I thought to myself what a lazy way of fishing,
and it was. But it had a huge advantage compared to any other
means of getting to the fishing grounds. With it we could access
every little corner of the river, and if it got too shallow, which
was when the oars struck rocks, all we had to do was step into
the waters with our waders and pull the light vehicle along. Bill
was an ex navy boatswain and ex fisherman, now converted to guide
after the recession in the fishing industry. With his long curly
red hair, a braid on one side, beard and dark but always happy
voice, he made the perfect picture for a Canadian outbacker, ending
every sentence with "ay..". We thoroughly enjoyed the
relaxing trip down the river. It included a couple of small white
water sections, but nothing any experienced rafter would call
a challenge. Just the right amount of lazy adventure for a couple
of city slickers like ourselves. There's no doubt about it, even
with all the right gear including waders, hats and fisherman's
vests, we still looked like two big city visitors.
Ken Minnion, our guide and host on Vancouver island, with his '95
Tiger. Why is he kissing the elk? We never found out.....
As every other host along our way, we left Ken and his family
a little more stacked up on tools and small necessities. Our maps
were filled with Ken's recommended sights and roads, and we headed
for mainland British Columbia. After three ferries along the Sunshine
Coast, we turned inland just north of Vancouver along the Sea
to Sky Highway. The highway wound its way towards the mountains
and the landscape changed for every new top we passed. At Whistler,
the hottest alpine resort in Canada where there was a never ending
series of expensive cabins and holiday homes, the nature were
as alpine as it gets. Over the pass the landscape changed to semi
desert and wind blown and dusty villages appeared every hour,
in between there was nothing.
We stopped in Lilloet for the night, after braking a principle
I had carried with me for a number of years. We ate burgers at
McDonalds. It was my first ever, and unfortunately it will not
be the last. It's cheap and not to lousy. I only stayed away from
it because I have always hated chain food - not always come to
think of it, but at least for the last ten years. Well, since
the barrier was broken, why not accept it as part of life, since
it is the fastest way to get a quick meal. Lilloet was a small
town surrounded by a Indian reservation, which was quite obvious
since more than half the people we saw were Indians. While Bente
checked the price and room at the most central hotel in town,
I sat on the bike as usual.
Out from the combined hotel and liquor store came an old Indian
in jeans, cowboy boots and a feather dangling from his hat. He
entered his pick up truck, where more feathers and bear tooth,
or whatever teeth they were, hang from the rear view mirror. After
starting the truck he looked at me and stopped again, exited his
car and walked over. "Park the bike angular to the curb.
If not the cops will come over and harass you." I thanked
him and turned the bike the "right" way, not certain
about his theory but why not please him. Two minutes later the
police passed me, casting a casual stare in my direction. Tailing
them was the same Indian, and when he passed me he gave the thumb
up and smiled from ear to ear. Bente exited the hotel and we went
to check out the alternatives in the area.
We soon decided the hotel was the best choice, so we returned,
and once again I parked alongside the curb in conflict with the
warnings I'd been given. A few minutes later the guy passed me
for the second time - what was he doing, cruising the streets
of Lilloet, and this time his nod was reserved and a disappointing
expression said all that was needed about my parking. After he
left silence took over, a silence that was only disturbed by a
sign on a post creaking in the wind. With the semi desert mountain
background the scene could have been taken from a dozen movies
from the American backyard country.
A quick snack along the road.
The next day we changed plans every hour and finally decided to head
south east to Vernon. When we pulled of the highway we realized
we were leaving the northern most point of our entire journey
and would for the next eight to ten months go south. "JiiiiHAAA,
vamos a Mexico", we shouted in a chorus, getting more and
more childish as the trip progressed.
With an intercom and a lot of hours in the saddle, there is no
denying that we can be pretty foolish and play the most ridiculous
games when the hours are getting long. We make new lyrics to old
tunes, new tunes to old lyrics and mix old tunes into the most
strange and silly songs ever sung. I make small poems not worth
writing down, and when I sing Bente often asks if the intercom
has a false tune in it. Bente has a voice. I have not. That's
one of the facts of life, but it does not stop me from using it
when only the two of us can hear it. At other times we connect
the radio to the intercom to break the monotony of the long days,
and sometimes Bente sings one of the songs she remember the lyrics
of. When she does I either shut up or sing along very very low.
All in all we manage to keep ourselves busy out there and rarely
have either complained about getting bored - maybe because when
we do we pull over and stop.
In Vernon we finally found a youth hostel to stay in, and what a change
it was from the motels. In eight weeks of travel we had yet to
meet another long term traveler in any of the motels we stayed
at. Of course we didn't, they don't stay in motels, they use the
chain of hostels around USA and Canada. This particular hostel
was a converted old mansion with plenty of space, a big lounge,
communal kitchen and a combination of dorms and double rooms.
Looking around the premises while waiting for the staff to return
from a trip to town, I said to Bente that the place reminded me
of the backpacker hostels we stayed at in Australia a few years
ago. I had just finished the sentence when a young man came walking
over saying, "G'day mate". He was from eastern Australia
and worked for the time being in the hostel as part of his long
term journey. The other people we met from the staff were from
France, Germany and Uruguay, and the guests were from all over
as well. The atmosphere of the place was wonderful and we quickly
decided to stay two nights.
There was a second reason for abandoning our plans to go to the
east part of BC and rather head south west towards Seattle again
two days later. The rear tyre on Rocinante was by now almost worn
down completely. I had believed I could extend the life a little
longer, but the heat of the day before had taken it's toll on
the rubber. New tyres were waiting for us in Seattle, so we were
much better off to stay and go for a relaxing day by the lake,
than head east away from Seattle and end up driving on slicks
in a few days.
The northern Cascades in Washington in the late afternoon light.
When we headed south two days later, we got the first real heat test
so far on the trip. As the day grew older the temperature raised
to a peak of 38º Celsius, around 100º Fahrenheit. The
riding pants were strapped on top of the panniers and the jackets
adjusted to full ventilation. It was very warm, but none of us
felt we had any problems.
We went south through the valley and entered USA again on a narrow
back road. One custom officer was present at the little border
station, and all he did was browse our passports and wish us a
good trip south. We were in one of the warmest valleys of our
leg, and when we spotted a lake and lunch tables under the trees,
it took us about four minutes to stop, undress and get into shorts
and bikini and dive in the refreshing water. We paused for an
hour and then headed west over the scenic northern passage of
the Cascade Mountains. We stopped in Marblemount for the night.
And who we met there can be read in the next chapter.
We saw lots of elk, once more than
thirty in a pack by the road, sometimes lone males feeding in the
Catching ... nothing, although a
couple came almost out of the water before I lost them. And they were
big - oh yes, just huge fish. You know...
Tangling while trying to learn the
skills of fly fishing. Bill was helping me the best he could, but
I guess I needed more than the half hour practice I had.
A more decadent way of travelling
down the rivers is hard to find. But it definitely was a good way
to get to the best spots.