The open road: 2010 summer trip day 15

Day 15: Helena, MT to Weiser, ID — ~445 miles

After two weeks on the road, it was finally time to rejoin with the family and see the kiddos whom I was missing so dearly. Valerie had driven from San Jose to my parents the day before in order to meet us when we arrived today.



[click to go to an interactive map]

Heading west on US-12, the forests had been ravaged by beetle kill. One “good” fire will clean up the mess and enable new growth to start the forest cycle over again.

Beetle Kill — One little bug does so much damage.

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/8.0, 1/125sec, 25mm focal L. @68 MPH, ~25mi from prev photo, map

I-90/US-12 — Heading toward Missoula.

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/8.0, 1/320sec, 18mm focal L. @75 MPH, ~50mi from prev photo, map

This guy cracks me up. I wish I knew how far he’s going, but, there wasn’t much in those parts, which leads me to think he’s going the distance. What a thoroughly challenging way to travel as the only rest you get is by stopping and getting off — no coasting, even on the downhill.

Minimalist — Why do you need all those extra wheels?

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/8.0, 1/200sec, 18mm focal L. @61 MPH, ~37mi from prev photo, map

My home state — of my youth, anyway.

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/500sec, 46mm focal L. @33 MPH, ~25mi from prev photo, map

Lolo Pass often ends up in the best motorcycle roads lists and such, so, I had high hopes. Trouble with high hopes: it’s usually a recipe for a let down.

The famed Lolo Pass — The highlight of the return trip home.

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/400sec, 24mm focal L., ~771ft from prev photo, map

Heading down

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/640sec, 18mm focal L. @55 MPH, ~4.1mi from prev photo, map

Now, don’t get me wrong, I most certainly enjoyed riding this stretch of US-12. But, the road is too easy to go really fast on; it’s not so twisty to really slow you down, yet, it’s far to busy (and patrolled) to cut loose. Add to the fact that much of the ride follows a river, and thus, has a high likelihood of encountering a forest rat of the hoofed kind. It sorta begs to ridden at a prudent pace.

Ohhh, yes please!

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/800sec, 27mm focal L., ~6.9mi from prev photo, map

US-12 — Following the Lochsa River

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/400sec, 29mm focal L. @63 MPH, ~15mi from prev photo, map

The scenery, however, was just fantastic: from mountains, to lazy rivers, to sheer canyon walls, to forests — it had it all. Definitely worth going out of our way for, but, it’d prolly barely make the bottom of my “best motorcycle road” list for the trip. Certainly not on my “all time” list.

US-12 — Tastly little slaloms

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/320sec, 70mm focal L. @66 MPH, ~25mi from prev photo, map

Nice driveway to the Paradise Ranch — Over the Clearwater River (middle fork)

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/160sec, 27mm focal L. @49 MPH, ~15mi from prev photo, map

ID-13 — Heading south toward Grangeville

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/320sec, 27mm focal L. @64 MPH, ~15mi from prev photo, map

On a per-mile-basis, I thought ID-13 was better than Lolo. Harpster grade is a nice technical section of solid twisties to play on. The pavement was very solid and reassuring.

ID-13 — Harpster Grade was very fun

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/500sec, 24mm focal L. @57 MPH, ~3.2mi from prev photo, map

ID-13 — Harpster Grade

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/500sec, 22mm focal L. @42 MPH, ~0.5mi from prev photo, map

ID-13

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/5.6, 1/640sec, 18mm focal L. @62 MPH, ~2.9mi from prev photo, map

US-95 White Bird Grade

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/7.1, 1/250sec, 44mm focal L. @73 MPH, ~14mi from prev photo, map

Connecting with US-95 at Grangeville, we joined up with a route that I spent 5 years of my youth driving to and from college during most of the major holidays. Back then, it was in my bitch’n Camaro and this was the first time doing so on a motorcycle. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t have a bike back then — I’ve definitely mellowed with age.

This one particular corner has always been a favorite: a constant radius, 180˚ sweeper that just begs to be played with. I couldn’t *NOT* take a picture, but, then, Dad wasn’t exactly dragging his cylinder head around it either.

US-95 — Round the big corner

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/7.1, 1/200sec, 56mm focal L. @72 MPH, ~14mi from prev photo, map

US-95 — The newly finished bridge

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/10.0, 1/200sec, 18mm focal L. @62 MPH, ~13mi from prev photo, map

Nearing the home of my youth, the grain harvest was in full swing and the rest of the crops were approaching maturity. It’s an incredibly busy time of year for the farmers, but, I sorta miss those long days driving combine, carefully steering to keep the header loaded to capacity without leaving any errant strays behind. Countless hours watching the reel gently bat the grain stalks across the sickle and onto the auger to be pushed into the thresher, and thus, started a long journey from our field and ultimately ended as nourishment in peoples’ bellies. I always wondered how far those grain kernels would go, and if they’d become bread, or cereal, or livestock feed.

Time for harvest — The sights and smells of my youth

Nikon D70, ISO 500, ƒ/4.5, 1/2000sec, 70mm focal L. @50 MPH, ~88mi from prev photo, map

In any case, those last few miles out of town are so comfortingly familiar after a long journey. Only a couple of new houses have been built outside of town since we first moved in the mid-eighties. The annual rotation of crops from one field to another subtly toy with my recollection of what has otherwise been left unchanged by time.

Seeing the smiles of my three daughters and lovely bride upon arrival filled a void that the previous weeks of adventure would never compare to. It cemented that guilty feeling that’d festered for a week’s time telling me I’d been gone too long for this trip.

Stella can’t help but be captivating — She takes after her mother, after all.

Nikon D200, ISO 640, ƒ/2.8, 1/125sec, 40mm focal L.

Nephew Henry was having his first birthday party the next day. He was born while my dad and I were on the road home from the same trip the prior year.

Henry’s anxious to get this party started!

Nikon D200, ISO 400, ƒ/2.8, 1/80sec, 24mm focal L.

Maia practices being a brakeman

Nikon D200, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/500sec, 24mm focal L.

We tried to get photo’s of the cousins. Kid wrangling is always a laugh. It’s nigh impossible to get all of them to be there smiling, cute selves at the same instance in time. Below is my favorite because it’s actually a fairly true representation of character. Left to right, Maia mischievously giggling, Henry being cute and charming as ever, Elise finding something inappropriate to put in her mouth, and Stella, copying whatever naughty behavior someone else doing by finding a rock of her own.

One out of four

Nikon D200, ISO 100, ƒ/2.8, 1/320sec, 24mm focal L.

After 2 weeks on the road, spending a week with family was very much needed by all. My long suffering wife was finally relieved of being a single mom, only after driving alone for 700 miles with three squirrelly girls cramped up in their car seats, each one of them vying for her attention. She’s an amazing woman and I have to count my lucky stars that she puts up with a dolt like me.

Continue to the final ride home.

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