Friday, July 23, 2010

I'll Be Your Huckleberry...

So I continued north to Flathead Lake, Montana. What a gorgeous place! It was so pretty here – especially when you climb up to the highway rise just before you see the size of this monster lake. This has got to be one of the nicest lakes… I thought… I could live here. I found myself saying that a lot throughout Montana. I didn’t say that in Idaho. Don’t get me wrong… Idaho has spuds and stuff, but it just didn’t feel the same way. On top of that, Montana lets you drink. They have packaged their booze in handy to-go caring cases, the great selections of beer started reappearing on the shelves… they didn’t have special stores to go for beer. It was everywhere, so where cork screws. So was the wine. They also cover everything in chocolate! I also noted that we came across an espresso store that sold guns! Now there is a new way to look at coffee! So strong it can blow your lip off? There were cherries and huckleberries growing everywhere. Now, I always thought huckleberries were a phony made-up fruit referenced in cartoons, but no… my mistake. Montana is Huckleberry Country! Everything is huckleberry… huckleberry pies, pancakes, syrup, cheesecakes… and you guessed it huckleberry liqueur.

Huckleberry Syrup on my pancakes. I also had Huckleberry Cheesecake and Huckleberry Ice Cream! I really really like huckleberries!

We rolled into Glacier National Park at the end of a long day, and a staff member of Glacier had the steaks ready, along with his secret recipe of Huckleberry Lemonade… it was wonderful (although it was a good thing we walked to his place)! The next day was work at the park, but it is a beautiful place and it was fun meeting with all the good folks there at headquarters. The following morning we traveled the Going to the Sun Highway, and it was spectacular. We stopped at the McDonald Lodge and admired all the dead animals nailed to the wall, and the continued all the way to the Logan Pass Visitor Center. I was surprised at the amount of people visiting. Most of our parks in Alaska (except for Denali) tend to not be crowded with visitors. I could see that it was a challenge to keep the road open, surely it closes for the winter. (Can one you fine Glacier folks put my mind at ease and confirm that road is closed in the winter?) We slipped out the East end of Glacier and headed south.

Glacier National Park was wonderful! If you haven't been there, check it out! It's even better by motorcycle.

After crossing the Continental Divide, the landscape became less dramatic, and more of the rolling hills type variety. Don’t get me wrong, it was gorgeous in a different way. I kept thinking I was in a Robert Redford movie – I couldn’t decide if it was A River Runs through It, or the Horse Whisperer. Either way, the scenery was very peaceful, and after leaving the crowds behind I was back to roads where only 6 cars pass you an hour. Montana bugs are something to deal with! They take two wipes to clean off the helmet face shield, and I have bug slim from one end to the other on my jacket an pants.

Need I say more?

The smell of pine, and the coolness in the air changed to the sweet smell of hayfields. I found myself wondering why they call this the “Big Sky” state… is there sky bigger than say … Idaho’s? I’m no sky expert, but I couldn’t tell the difference.

I told you they cover everything with chocolate in Montana!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Did you know Idaho gals like their spuds LARGE?

Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho

Square – Everything is SQUARE in Idaho.

We had ice-cream doled out to us with a square ice cream scooper (which was messy since the cones were still round – imagine that!) We had coffee in downtown Lava Hot Springs at the Wagon Wheel and they brought square mugs. Hmm… we drove out of square-ville and headed north to the potato capitol of the world – Blackfoot, Idaho.

Not far from Poke-a-fellow is this interesting little town that really takes the potato to heart. They have signs all over town, large spuds scattered everywhere for tourists to pose up against while pictures are taken, lots of fresh spuds to taste, and don’t forget the POTATO MUSEUM. Well, I nearly fell off my bike. Surely I would learn something new here. I made an immediate bee-line off the freeway to check it out.

Things I learned at the Idaho Potato Museum:

Guinness Book largest chip on display has a crack in it…

You can make clothes out of burlap potato sacks…

Marilyn Monroe dressed in Idaho potato burlap…

They made themes for Mr. Potato head that I wasn’t aware of growing up…

And finally… there are no french fries served in Australia! It’s true… check out the migration path of the potato out in the image!

We left Potato-ville and headed towards Salmon, entering the Atomic Valley. Now that sounds scary enough. It certainly felt like there was strange shit going on out there. And then the wind blew! My god did the wind blow. This had to be by far the windiest stretch of road I have done. I even slowed down to 55 mph. When we stopped for a break we noticed that the wind would travel across our water bottles and play a tune… I thought that was amusing… anything to keep from falling asleep I suppose. The atomic windy barren landscape finally gave way to rolling hills.

We then crossed into two major forest areas. As I looked around and saw no trees, I pondered whether I really understood what lands the forest service manages… maybe I have a limited view of that Federal agency. Eventually we reached the town of Challis, ID – where the drive finally began to support the effort in seeing it. It was gorgeous from Challis all the way to Glacier NP, Montana. Definitely a must see if you have never seen this part of the country. The road follows the Salmon River, which apparently has salmon that have traveled 900 miles inland (We actually saw a guy with a fish that would measure up even by Alaskan standards). We spent the night short of Salmon, since we were too tired from the beating we got in nuclear valley.

Don't forget to all come back now....

Michael chuckling at the size of butter on that thing!

I’ve been off the grid – Montana worse than Alaska!

Sorry for not keeping up to date. It appears that both Montana and Idaho are filled with deep holes that prevent you from communication using modern devices. Last Friday I rode out of Salt Lake with trusty Zuma (GPS) leading the way. Now Jaz in Alaska says Zuma/Zumo is from the Raven Trickster Clan, so I am going to adopt her saying from now on, because it is true. Wanting to take the scenic less traveled off-the beaten track method, Zuma assured me that I could ride from Eden, UT. to Logan UT. via Paradise. Well you can, but the road is dirt. Now I don’t have any issues with dirt, but I have issues with steep switchbacks that have hairpin turns where the corners are about 7 inches of deep sand. This coupled with the extra weight I am carrying (see the previous post that demonstrates the size of the government laptop in my saddle bags), and it was a NO F***ING WAY call! Now I hear you saying… “Wait, if she wants to ride to the tip of South America, and is scardy-cat of a little sand, she better throw in her towel now” gripe…. But the bottom line is that I didn’t want to dump my purdy white $$$$$$ BMW motorcycle just yet. I just watched her roll over on 10,000 miles… and that road (goat trail) had disaster written all over it for Helley. I named my motorcycle, her name is Helley… on account that she always wants to turn around and make a bee-line for Hell’s Backbone Grill in Boulder, UT. (if you don’t know what I’m talking about and you live in Utah, give it up).

So after deciding that there was no way we were going to take that particular scenic route, we turned back to the country store in Eden, where the proprietor assured us that was the only way… So this meant backtracking to Ogden, which meant what was the shortest route back. We found (with the help of a couple of local teenagers, the North Ogden Canyon Road out of Liberty, which was paved.

Soon we crossed into Idaho, the land of farm equipment too wide for a highway lane (Wide-loads are always ahead in Idaho), and probably the single most interesting road sign I have yet seen. I was tempted to put white X marks over the eyes….
Idaho gets my vote for most interesting road signs...

We ended up in Lava Hot Springs, in a campground with no services because the town was filled with weekenders. Lava is an interesting town, the town hasn't changes much since the 70s (as most of this part of Idaho), and most of the town walks around in swimsuits and have towels draped around their necks. This is on account of the hot springs located right in downtown Main Street.

After Pizza, Beer, and Ice Cream (served with a square scoop), we sat in the hot tubs for about 30 minutes, and skanked a shower (since our pitiful campsite had no services) for our bucks. We slept well in the tent. Stay tuned - the next day finds us in the World Potato Capitol – Blackfoot, Idaho where we visit Spud Museum and dine on fresh potatoes.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Motorcycles in lots of pieces.. But back together again...

Janna's is the only place to get coffee here!

I spent the whole day working in Tooele, Utah; Quaint little town with a Taco Bell and one coffee shop. You laugh, but some of the towns in Alaska have neither. The coffee shop, Janna’s Java, actually dished out a fairly decent cup. It sits on the corner in a little pink shack that only allows drive through.

I resorted to automatic drip coffee today, the Folgers variety. Two pots later I was pacing the room while making various business calls to both the East and West coast. I think I wore out a spot in the rug.

Michael and Gene made it safely to Utah. Patty and Jaz have re-crossed the nation and are currently holed up in Alliance, Nebraska. They are splitting up tomorrow, Patty heading north to Montana, Jaz heading south to San Francisco. It does not appear that I will connect with those gals on this trip on account of motorcycle repair/upgrades causing departure delays.

My bike is in a lot of pieces. I am having an extra set of lights (on account of a bad experience near Shiprock, NM) to light up the road better. Electrical upgrades to provide a charging system for all the apple paraphernalia, heated clothing (don’t laugh it gets cold in the North), a couple of switches, shock boots, and larger cases/luggage (to carry the heavy and large-sized government issued laptop) are some of the upgrades.

The government laptop and computer equipment is soo big... I hope I can fit it all in my saddle bag...

Hoping to leave for Montana tomorrow morning...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Idaho the land of farmers…

where men are men and sheep are happy.... and there are some pretty decent roads less traveled!

I traveled this last weekend from Salt Lake City, Utah to Burley, ID on mostly back roads. I figured with the exception of about 30 miles, it was nearly freeway free. Julie traveled from Boise to Burley and reported the same thing; about 3o miles was required on the freeway (the rest can be done by country roads). Julie did mention that she got off the beaten track and turned around and ended up having to knock on a farm house door for directions (she got an invite for fresh homemade pie by the elderly couple – who felt sorry for her because she has Alaska plates and they thought she was really lost) – getting lost without Zuma leading the way is very easy. Many country roads do not have signage.

I did have potatoes for breakfast in Burley. I assume they were grown locally grown. They put a lot on my plate (a mountain) and they were cooked just right. Folks in the small town restaurant stared like they never saw two gurls with helmets (either that or it was Sunday and we weren’t dressed like everyone else…). At any rate, we could certainly feel the disapproving glares… it’s not the first time, and probably not the last.

I went for the ride, and the company, and Sunday had us having a relaxing picnic by the shores of the Snake River. I was hoping to be able to go skinny dipping, but the river was to deep and wide, and pretty mucky looking. Not like some of those rivers in the Hill Country near Texas. No skinny dipping today!

We said good bye and we each headed out in different directions. I allowed Zuma to lead me deep into the country, I passed an absolutly wonderful town called Albion Valley which I highly recommend spending a weekend in. It looked like a yuppie oasis in the middle of cattle town. Aside from Annie’s Saloon, there was a wonderful welcoming cafĂ© (Sage Mountain Grill) and a hotel (Marsh Creek Inn) that looked pretty decent. This place certainly had potential. If I was not in a hurry to beat the rain and dark back to SLC, I would have tried this town for a cappuccino. My guess is they would know you don’t try to put a lid on one!

The town gave way to rolling hillsides and rocky outcrops scattered here and there. Apparently this place is known for its rocks. They have rock trails, and city’s of rocks and many public areas dedicated to the special rocks they grow in this part of the country. I kept driving.

The clouds got uglier, and just about the time I crossed back into Utah, I ran into some rain storms. It was hot, so I took the opportunity to take off my jacket and enjoy the down pour on the side of the road. I found a big rock (surprise – Utah has them too), and proceeded to get drenched in the warm showers. I ate a bag of Muncho Chips (they do not sell these in Alaska)! That brought back memories. I used to eat them all the time when I was in high school. I got back on my road and enjoyed the coolness my wet clothes and 60 miles an hour created when combined.

A good country road can be rated by its smells, the scenery, how many cars pass you per hour (the fewer the better), and the small communities you wind through. This drive had it all. I think I averaged about 1 car every 15 minutes. The last leg of the road, I did not pass a single car in over 45 minutes. I gave this road a 7 on the scale.

Eventually I ended up taking highway 83 as it winds past Golden Spike National Historic Site. I did not stop here because I have been there before, instead I kept to the main road. I passed what used to be called Morton-Thiokol. You remember them don’t you? How would it be to forever be labeled the company responsible for the space shuttle Challenger crash due to a faulty “O” ring?
Pretty bad I guess; they have changed the name of their outfit to ATK (but are still owned by Thiokol) to sound not so bad? Sort of like changing your name from Kentucky Fried Chicken to KFC? At any rate, ATK is still happily producing space parts in Utah at their very large and interesting compound – hopefully no faulty parts.

Blind Chihuahua Scriptorium – Conflicts in Capitalism

The compound is really kind of scary looking. It spreads for miles with lots of buildings which look suspiciously close to underground bunkers that store dangerous stuff. They look spaced out enough to dampen the effect – say one should blow – and they are very much separated from what appear to be the main buildings and processing plants. Amongst the bunker-like buildings there were a ton of cows grazing… or perhaps Morton Thio-kows. I had an image of cows being launched into space and mooing as it was occurring. I think it may have been to hot and I was starting to feel the effects. I wonder if these thigh-kows are genetically engineered to produce better tasting meat/milk? The grass they were nibbling on was certainly greener!

I made it back to Salt Lake City by dark. Whew! I can certainly say… I sampled no class in Idaho, but suspect Albion Valley needs a second chance!

Patty and Jaz left New York, and according to the GPS are in the Chicago area. Michael and Gene got lost in the desert, and Gene ran out of gas (Harley’s don’t get as good gas mileage as BMW’s). This resulted in a 70 mile RT voyage for Michael to track down gas and bring back to Gene. They ended up finally making it to Carson City, NV. They made it to Eureka last and should be in Salt Lake City late tomorrow.

I am hoping to take off to Montana on Thursday morning, depending on repairs/additions to my motorcycle. I have a meeting set for Monday with staff at Glacier National Park!

If Patty and Jaz are a little slower, I am hoping to connect with them at that point.

No more fautly rings, but tasty thigh-kows to grill!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Screams Like a Gurl?

After putting in some hard work on my project, I decided to reward myself with a drive to Idaho (I know I know… some of you are saying that is a punishment, but after being in the city for nearly a week I needed out). It was way too damn hot to go south, so north it is. I headed out of Salt Lake City, with the goal of Burley, Idaho.

Burley was not too far. Something I could do to stretch my legs a little. Boise was too far. I asked Julie if she wanted to split the difference (she lives in Boise), and she was game.

So anyways… it took me 2 *&W^$^@ hours to get to Ogden, UT. That is not very far! Road construction, heat, traffic… it was horrible. I decided to dump the freeway and let Zuma (my GPS) guide me. She took me through Farmingon on country roads and I was able to skirt the gridlock emerging in North Ogden without being on the freeway. If I had stayed on the freeway, it probably would have taken another hour.

It got real close and personal today on the road. I rounded the corner near Willard Bay and drove into a swarm of bugs (knats?). They covered my helmet shield and smacked all over my body. Ewwwe…! Then, I passed what must have been cattle feed houses in Idaho, and the smell was sooo horrible, I thought I was going to puck in my helmet. Eww! Not all the smells were bad; fresh rain, sage brush, and the general smell of the countryside made it wonderful. The scenery in Idaho, even from the freeway gave me just what I needed.

When I drove down from Alaska this last April (in a truck), I saw some wildlife, but nothing really darted in front of the truck, with one exception; birds. While driving past Dease Lake, British Colombia, I drove into a small flock of birds and I heard the thump as at least one hit the grill. I felt so horrible because I killed something. I refuse to look and made Julie look. She plucked the poor unfortunate soul from the truck and then proceeded to poke at me verbally about the murder I committed. At one point she asked me what kind of bird I thought it had been, I responded it was a “stupid bird”.

I bring this up because last night, while going about 80 miles an hour I hit a fairly large bird on my motorcycle. Now let me tell you this is an experience in scaring the crap out of you. It came out of nowhere, a variety of the “stupid bird” species. I hit it with my right handlebar, blinker assembly and nearly chopped it in half. There were bird guts everywhere. Eww! I pulled off the side of the road and took a look at the situation…. Ewww! I danced around a little in the emergency lane, upset I had killed another creature. I wonderied if the gods of the universe were teaching me or sending me a message. Two birds in 4 months? At least it died quickly. I sighed. I didn’t cry this time when I killed it.

Okay. Its dead, get over it. It was stuck to my motorcycle and it appeared to be beheaded (I have to start calling the bird “it” to maintain detachment.. notice?). So whose going to pluck the carcass off my bike? No one was around, and this carcass was messy and gross. I scanned the desert for a stick… that’s what gurls do… we don’t touch things like that with out bare hands! Stick found, I poked at it. Hoping it would fall off in one large piece… no luck. This resulted in another series of dancing and wiggling in the emergency lane, with a few shudders and interesting noises added in for effect. Carcass still stuck. More poking. It appeared one of the wings was wrapped around… sighing. I finally wiggled it lose and it fell to the ground with a loud “thump”. This of course caused me to launch back like it was going to get me! More dancing in the emergency lane took place, AND I screamed like a gurl – one loud Ewwwwwww! I evaluated the possibility of throwing up – not needed. I mounted my bike (avoided looking down) and pressed on. Welcome to Idaho.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Illy's Where Are You?

Garmin GPS Device
Coffee Scoop
Thin light weight underwear - Tops and Bottoms

These are the things I forgot to pack for my adventure. I left them in Alaska. Now, you say... she can live without her coffee scoop and underwear... but the GPS device? How in the world will she keep from getting lost? Well, let me tell you, even though my Garmin consistently LIES to me (her name is Zuma), and she irritates me with her impatient voice "Recalculating".... (I know I can here her sighing when I don't follow her instructions exactly).... we have a relationship going on. Sort of a HATE - HATE thing. I need her. Who else will interrupt my Itunes music with TURN RIGHT 500 Feet, Turn RIGHT 400 FEET, Turn RIGHT 300 FEET...

Why do I need her you say? Because she leads me to roads not on any maps (this can be a bad thing), but for the most part she is good to me. She tends to fib a little around the perimeters of larger cities, and once she led me to the top of the Sandia Peak (mountain outside Albuquerque, NM) claiming boldly the road down the back side was paved (NOT). She helps me figure out which unnamed country roads allow me to get back once I have explored the roads less traveled.

So I had her FED Ex'd to me. She arrived today.
Now I need to go buy some underwear and a coffee scoop.

As I work and pack here in Salt Lake City, I have been exploring my other hobby... finding the perfect dry cappuccino (skim milk, white fluffy cap). No one has topped Illy's in Washington DC. Sigh. I bombed in Anchorage, Alaska, although Sean at city market made a decent attempt. I bombed in Seward, AK - Resurrection Art didn't cut it.

I am sitting at High Point in West Jordan, Utah. He made me a great foamy latte, but not a decent cap to be found. Also bombed in Utah with Beans and Brew, Barnes and Nobles at South Towne Mall. What I need is a classy place.... is there class in Utah?

Tomorrow I will head to downtown Salt Lake City, near the University of Utah. Perhaps I will find class there? No Illy's though. I did a search of Utah, and the only Illy's to be found is in Park City, Utah. Perhaps a road trip is on order.

Michael and Gene are now both safely in Seattle. Michael needed to replace his rear tire after coming down from Alaska. BMW of Seattle accommodated. Jaz and Patty are still in Vermont. I had the dates wrong for the Women's Rally, it is still going on. Jaz and Patty have hooked up with out good friend Ruth too! Check out:

I am going to head to Idaho this weekend. Nothing like some spuds with my coffee... I'll let you know if there is class in Idaho.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Coffee Scented Underwear?

So, TSA wanting to ensure I wasn't packing explosives(?), took the liberty of opening one of my bags of coffee... now they did seal it back up... sort of. All my clothes smells like coffee now. But this is okay! There are worse things to smell of...

I landed in Utah earlier today, and right when I got to my mother's house, a plate of hot steaming homeade tamales was placed in front of me. This is going to be a tough patch, I need to run 15 miles to equalize the damage I did tonight.

I unpacked most of my gear and books. Tomorrow at 5AM I shall go pick up my motorcycle. My bike is out in storage in Toole, Utah. I will also spend some time finding an internet provide that I can take on the road and have reliable connectivity. How can you work on the road without interent connectivity. I will say... an ingenious charging system is being added to my motorcycle that will charge laptops, Iphones, and anything else I need charged. I can go for days in a campground without electricity... if I can get a good sattelite internet connection, I am rocking!

Email checking, reading, and getting office setup tomorrow are the rest of the tasks... boring, but at least I am getting there!

Michael, having been stranded in Ketchikan, AK (due to septic problems of the Alaska State Ferry), is now back on the road and made it past Prince George last night. He hopes to roll into Vancouver tomorrow. It appears he may be having a little engine problems, but hopefully nothing serious. With luck he will be in Seattle soon. Two more folks, Gene and Ron, are leaving Utah tomorrow morning to meet Michael in Seattle. They hope to do coastal explorations and then be back in Utah around the 13th.

Jaz and Patty must be on there way to New York by now, the Women's Rally in Vermont was for the holiday... check out their blog links off my page.

I am working and planning, and researching here in Utah for the next few days. I won't be hitting the road until next week.

Ride on!

Judy K.

Am I Really Packed?

What does one need to pack to be on the road for 3 months? I have 3 bags to check, but 1.5 is work related books, files and computers. That means I am wearing the same clothes over and over and over... well you get the point.

I always say you only need 3 outfits: 1 to wear, one that is drying out from the day before, and 1 set of dry clothes in case the unexpected happens...

You can make everything else up!

So the Alaskan has two 2.5 pounds of fresh ground Triese blend from Kaladi Brothers... Hope it lasts! World (or at least amerika...) here I come!

Are you ready?