Doug Grosjean's
Alaska Trip Report

June 1999

 
Day 22; Saturday, June 19th, 1999
Start: Havre, Montana
End: Glendive, Montana
435 Miles



In the morning I'm ready to go fairly early, having left everything attached to the bike in the parking lot. Havre, Montana seems like the kind of place where you could probably get away with that.

I grab breakfast at a restaurant a couple blocks down the main drag, gas up, and head east on Rte. 2. It's another nice day, no rain, but it's warming up quickly.

Eastern Montana is more of the same, ie, rolling grasslands where you can see forever. Some Indian reservations, small towns scattered along Rte. 2. A set of railroad tracks parallels much of Rte. 2 through Montana, and periodically a fast freight appears from out of nowhere and then disappears again.

And now it's just plain hot out...

I continue across northern Montana, stopping in roadside rests to drink lukewarm water. One small town is having a rodeo., another a car wash. Still another, Nashua I think, has a historical museum with a paddlewheel ferryboat on display, in use until relatively recently on a nearby river, with a large chain and sprocket driving the paddlewheel. Neat!

Rte. 2 in the eastern half of Montana has the worst construction of the entire trip, with deep gravel, some dirt (glad it's dry), and extremely bad washboarding. Much, much worse than the Dempster, but without the flats. I worry a bit about the soft rims on the BMW as my vision blurs momentarily from the pounding - yuck!

Aside from the heat, the riding is pleasant, with my mind wandering as I look at the scenery. I procrastinate on lunch, and eventually it's early evening and I'm very, very hungry; as in "My stomach really hurts!" type of hungry.

I pull off Rte. 2 in Williston, North Dakota; and cruise down the main drag looking for somewhere to eat. There’s a BMW K75S parked outside one of the shops, but nothing that looks like a restaurant. Thinking that maybe there's a little storefront cafe that I missed, I do a U-turn to check it all out a second time. This time the owner of the K75 is standing next to it, and he flags me down; I pull over.

He asks where I'm coming from, and if he can buy me a beer. I ask “Where’s a good place to eat?” We introduce ourselves; he's Joe Whalen - owner of DIA, Dakota Internet Access, the local Internet service provider in Williston, North Dakota.

We walk over to the bar across the street, I have a pop - but it turns out there's no food available at the bar. Shoot! We talk a bit - about riding, about the Internet, about the LDR list, my vest project, Alaska, small business, local ISP’s vs. AOL. Great conversation, but my stomach is growling loudly now and it's more than a little embarrassing...

Suddenly Joe's face lights up, could I wait a bit longer on supper, and would I mind heading back west a little bit? I ask why. Well, in Glendive, MT, there's an all-u-can-eat hog roast going on tonight at the fairgrounds, sponsored by Montana ABATE; with a live band, lots of Harleys, some other bikes too, and camping - probably real cheap. I ask how far. Joe says about 100 miles. Hmm. OK.

We return to DIA, Joe loans me a computer to check my e-mail while he logs onto Mapquest to print out some directions for me. About the time that I'm done e-mailing news home, Joe has the directions printed out for me. Perfect!

He tells me to be careful, that there's some severe weather forecast for the area, but that it may miss Glendive. Or it may not. We exchange business cards, good-byes, and handshakes; then I'm off to gas up before heading to Glendive.

The route Joe has sent me on to Glendive is marked scenic on most maps. It's Rte. 85 south, Rte. 200 west back into Montana, then Rte. 16 south along the Yellowstone River through scenery much like the badlands of South Dakota. Beautiful! Since Rte. 200 connects two points of little importance, it's extremely unlikely that I'd have ever headed down it myself, no reason to. Another lucky break, I'm definitely glad to be on this road!

I go in and out of light rain a few times, the miles pass quickly in spite of the hunger pangs.

I find the fairgrounds, but there's a hitch - you have to either be a member of ABATE to get in, or you have to join ABATE. For those that don't know, ABATE stands for "American Bikers Aiming Towards Education". Mostly Harley, mostly concerned with making sure that those who ride, decide. I don't care about politics either way, but I don't dislike Harleys, so I ask how much for the band, the camping, the beer, the party, and the food? Answer - $23. $15 for ABATE membership, $8 for the party. My stomach talks me into opening my wallet, while my brain is helping to close the deal with thoughts like "$23 for all that is really a good deal!" What the heck, I'm in......

And that's how this BMW rider became a card-carrying member of Montana ABATE.

I find the food, it's next to the band, and then wander around looking at the bikes while eating. It's mostly Harleys, but there is also a Gold Wing, some Japanese V-twins, and an older air-cooled flat-twin BMW. Not so bad. I don't exactly fit in here, though. Nobody else seems to have a month's worth of gear bungeed onto the back of their bike.

As I finish eating, a Harley rider comes over to me, welcomes me, shakes my hand with a very firm grip, and asks where in the Hell I came from with all that stuff on the bike. I reply "Alaska". He gets a strange look on his face, and asks where I started from, I reply "Ohio". The look gets stranger, as he's still shaking my hand he asks how did I hear about their little party? With a perfectly straight face, I explain: "Well, it's the damnedest thing. I was talking with some locals up in Alaska, and when they found out I was from Ohio, they asked if I'd be going through Glendive on my way home, because they heard there was a really great party going on in Glendive on the 19th...."

The Harley guy looks me straight in the eye, still shaking my hand, bursts out laughing and says: "You're so full of shit - Welcome!!! Have a great time!" I pause, then tell him the real story about Joe Whalen sending me his way. He wanders off, beer in hand, with a big grin, chuckling to himself and shaking his head.

I wander around, looking at the bikes, talking with the riders. There's maybe 30 bikes there, and many are custom Harleys but nobody seems to have a problem with the Japanese V-twins being there too. Word seems to spread fast about where I came from, and eventually I'm answering a lot of questions about Alaska and the far north, showing the pictures from the trip, and having people's eyes pop open wide when I explain that the crash in the mud was 300 miles off pavement.

I talk about the vest a little bit there, too, but the general reaction is "What would you ever do with it?". If I have to explain, you wouldn't understand...

The band ranges from good to mediocre, some songs they do a very good job on and others, well..... They do play loud, though.

After a while, I set up my tent in front of one of the buildings on the fairground. Once I'm done, the lightning begins - but it's far away, can't even hear it, up in the clouds to the west. Big lightning, lighting up the entire cloud bank in the distance, going on and on. Several of us are there watching it, while listening to the band and talking; laughing and cheering when there's a particularly bright lightning bolt. It's a great show!

Eventually, I'm really whipped. But I'm well fed, I've had good company to talk motorcycles with; I’m happy and content. I go to bed, but the band plays on and on and on, very loudly, the tent walls block nothing, neither do earplugs; the music just goes on and on, and on, and on, and on.....


Doug Grosjean
Pemberville, Ohio