IBR 2021 Day 2: Big Whale, Big Sky

Ashland OR – Glendive MT
Tuesday Jun 22, 2021
(1572 miles)

My nap on the picnic table lasted about 1.5 hours before I decided I was up. After a quick wash-up in the restrooms, I glanced at the group Spotwalla page and noted that some of my group photo comrades had passed me by in the night.  I wondered again what the southern riders had seen for a route, as I hadn’t really taken the time to compare any routes along the southern US – just hadn’t seemed like enough points for the mileage and time allotted. No matter, I was on track for my plan, and I merged back onto the deserted interstate.

This curvy stretch of I-5 in southern Oregon is actually a nice ride – when it’s daytime and I’m fully awake to enjoy the scenery and sweepers. As it was, I was still feeling fuzzy and kept my speed fairly reasonable. I wished for some coffee but settled for a 5Hour to fight any lingering sleep demons – I had a long way to go today. Temperatures were in the 50s (!), and I’d donned my heated jacket liner, keeping it dialed to low for most of the morning, just to ward off the chill. What a swing from that desert heat!

I exited onto OR 138 in Sutherlin to OR 38, a couple fun motorcycle-y routes that followed the Umpqua River as it meandered  toward the coast. As daylight broke in the heavy mist, I could make out the beauty of the forest and river scenery around me, while picking my spots to pass slow moving logging trucks and other early local traffic. I hit US 101 in Reedsport near the coast, and headed north through the woodsy Oregon Dunes National Rec Area. The mist was heavy enough to feel like light rain, so no real photo ops along this region, an area I’d always wanted to ride. I kept my head down against the wet and tried to make passes where I could, to keep my pace up.

Crossing the Suslaw River into Florence, I turned on a side street to reach the small park that was created in memory of an unusual event that had taken place here a few years back. The news video is worth a looksee, but basically a couple decades ago the state had to deal with the huge carcass of a sperm whale that had washed up on a nearby beach. The decision was made to use dynamite to break down the problem. This being the first attempt at such a maneuver, nobody knew how much to use and the results were…unexpected. The OR bonus had one of the bigger point values for all the rally-wide bonuses. From the rally book:

Sometimes innovation comes from learning what not to do.
Exploding Whale State Park sign

OR bonus

The two-up rally couple came riding in as I finished up, once again reminding me that I was far from being alone along my chosen route. I wondered where Marc was by now and whether I’d see him again up ahead. Yesterda, Ken had mentioned the names of some of the other hard-charging riders that were part of the leading pack on the NW circuit, and I had a feeling none of them would be stopping for long today. I figured I might end up leapfrogging some of the other group-photo folks today as they stopped for their own rest breaks.

OR 126 followed the Suslaw River back inland, with more beautiful river views as the sun slowly burned away the coastal mists of early morning. I wish now I’d had the willpower to stop for a couple photos, though I did manage a couple shots of Fern Ridge Lake on the straight approach into Eugene.

Fern Ridge Lake

I skirted around that city on the 569 loop road and back to a slightly busier I-5. Traffic wasn’t too bad through Salem, but got  heavier on the approach into Portland. I was wanting coffee desperately and needed a restroom as well by now. I made it north out of the city over the Columbia River, and pulled off the highway when I spotted a McDonalds sign in Mount Vista WA. The restroom was open, but the dining room closed for Covid, so I had to enjoy my coffee and McMuffin sitting out on the curb in the nice morning sunshine.

Feeling refreshed and semi-human, I refueled and continued north, dealing with increasingly heavier (but moving) traffic through Olympia and Tacoma. Exiting in Seattle over 330 miles from the previous bonus, I found my way to the Museum of Flight at the Boeing Field Airport.

As I pulled in around 11:00, I didn’t remember exactly what the photo would be, but saw a motorcycle parked a distance up ahead of the waypoint. I figured that must be the place, and pulled up to the rider with greetings, only to learn he was not in the rally, but a local rally fan or “hanger on” (in his parlance), here to watch riders come and go. I thanked him for showing his interest, but he’d lured me away from the bonus, and I turned my attention back to the task at hand.

OK, shit, what am I doing again? I pulled a u-ey back to the waypoint, then got off the bike to look at the rally book. I spotted the building I needed for the photo, but needed my motorcycle in the frame as well, so I duck-walked the bike backward about 100 feet until I was able to get my shot.

IBR 2021 Day 2:

WA bonus

Surrounded on all sides by pieces of aviation history you will find the original Boeing Factory Plant, circa 1916.

I was within the time window for the Leg 1 call-in bonus, CALL1, so I took care of that task next, leaving the required voicemail message while going off the small cheat note stuck into my tank bag window. I also took this opportunity to restock my tank bag with snacks, while chowing on some jerky. Multi-tasking!

Call-in bonuses are almost considered freebies or (if you’re the glass half-empty sort) you might consider them penalties for operating below minimum mental coherency. Riders are required to call into a voicemail system and leave a message with specific information:  name, rider number, current location, last bonus scored, and next bonus planned. This gives the rallymasters an idea of how/what their game pieces are doing out on the board. I think I managed to complete that first call-in correctly the first attempt, always a boost to the ego!

Call on Tuesday, June 22 2021, between 10:00AM and 10:00PM EASTERN DAYLIGHT TIME

Couer D'Alene LakeThere was a long stretch of riding ahead of me now, over 400 miles to the next bonus in Montana. I-90 is actually quite a nice ride through western Washington, with beautiful mountainsides close-up all around you, until you come down from elevation and cross the upper Columbia River and things flatten out, becoming a bit more monochrome.

I fueled up in Ritzville and continued on across the state and through Spokane into Idaho, where I-90 lights up once again, winding by beautiful Coeur D’Alene Lake, through a few national forests along a river and many many great high-speed sweepers, especially going up over Lookout Pass and crossing into Montana.

Couer D'Alene Lake

Couer D’Alene Lake

Enjoying the curves and scenery here, it’s fun to consider that this is the same road we New Englanders mostly know as the Mass Turnpike, which cuts straight and boring over the length of the Bay State, with traffic jams twice every weekday around Boston, and weekends around I-84. Fahkin shit, bro.

I spied another rider up ahead while climbing the pass. They were doing a good clip, so I didn’t catch up and discover it was Marc Beaulac until reaching the next bonus. There was a two-up couple there as well, making it a regular mob scene in downtown Superior, Montana! Nods and waves ensued but everyone was pretty much focused on their task after that long leg from Seattle. The MT bonus was on the front wall of a local business in this peaceful village, tucked in the Bitterroot Mountains alongside the Clark Fork river, just off the interstate. From the plaque:

This marker commemorates the placement of the first 25 bibles in November 1908 by the Gideons in the Superior Hotel, Superior (formerly Iron Mountain), Montana, then located on this spot.

Gideon bible marker

MT bonus

Knowing I’d soon be leaving the interstate system to cross the remainder of Montana, I made an early fuel stop in Missoula before splitting off from I-90. MT 200 is a gorgeous rural highway through stunning hilly grasslands and river valley views, tracing the Blackfoot River up past it’s source on the Continental Divide near Lincoln.

Montana route 200

With all the farms and grazing against mountainous backdrops, it brought to mind similarities with riding in the state of Vermont…a very HUGE Vermont. There is really just nothing out here for really long stretches and the speed limits are lovely for making good time. The differences were just as striking, however. Here you could be many dozens of miles from the nearest interstate and the only quick routes to get from A to B are isolated and hilly two-lane highways like this. In the east you’re almost never more than an hour or so away from an interstate, usually much closer. It’s just such beautiful BIG COUNTRY out here, and the sky feels like it could swallow you up with no traces left behind.

Montana route 200

Route 200 joins up with US 89 for a while to go through Great Falls, the only city of any real size I would pass through between Missoula and Bismarck (tomorrow). Near the town of Belt, US 89 splits south and I followed it along scenic Belt Creek, which is apparently a popular tubing and swimming hole for area residents. It was later in the afternoon, and I spotted a couple deer wading in the river shallows, reminding me to stay alert, as there was still a lot of riding left to do tonight.

valley entrance

Just north of Monarch, 89 drops down through a pretty little canyon, entering the Lewis and Clark National Forest lands. After cruising through the small village crossroads, there is a roadside pullout with a sign to mark the significance of the area as an important strategic location for Minuteman nuclear missile silos built back in the 50s.

The first missile went on-line during the Cuban Missile Crisis and served as a deterrent to Soviet plans.

Ace in the Hole sign

ACE bonus

Another rally rider whom I’d passed along 200 pulled in as I was finishing up and was having trouble with his flag in the wind. I offered to hold it for him but he politely declined. After restocking my tankbag snacks and wolfing a few fig newtons, I mounted up and headed back up 89 through Monarch and that pretty canyon. Turning on MT 427, I rode back up to route 200, completing my small side-loop off that highway.

It was twilight now and almost immediately a deer stepped right out of the tall grass into the road ahead of me. I grabbed all my brakes, but it wasn’t enough. Luckily, the deer completed his stroll out into the middle of the road, taking an extra fortunate step that allowed me to avoid plowing into it, still fully on my brakes. It looked casually over at me as I almost brushed past, as if to say “Wassup?” Holy shit, that was a close one.

After snapping a few shot of the amazing post-sunset clouds, I pulled in to refuel a short way down the highway in Stanford, thankful to get off the bike for a minute and shake off that deer encounter. Unfortunately, the evening’s deer sightings would continue well into the night, as I turned back onto 200 and picked up speed once again. The critters were everywhere, though all the deer I spotted were thankfully off the road, munching grass. Mentally, I struggled between keeping the speed down a bit, and the constant push to make time across these miles of nothingness to my waiting hotel. To some degree, you have to just put some faith in the odds, since a deer can literally walk out at any moment and trajectory, regardless of the speed you’re making.

sunset clouds in Montana

As the night wore on, the nothingness pressed in around me and my cocoon of auxiliary lighting provided a decent view of the road ahead, though not much else. I slowed for one wayward jackrabbit. I put on some music to sing along to and stay awake, and it seemed to me like the deer were all looking in my direction as I approached now. So maybe my terrible singing was driving the deer off the road? Who knows, but in the middle of nowhere MT at o’dark thirty, I kept on singing. 😀

If the darkness and deer weren’t stressful enough enough, I hit a very long construction zone with no pavement and some deep ridges of gravel to look out for in the glare of my headlights. My moving average dropped quite a bit here as I crept along for several miles, bearing in mind that keeping upright was more important than keeping to a schedule! Eventually, the pavement came back, as it always must and I was able to look a more forward than just the six feet ahead of me. The moon was doing a beautiful dance behind some clouds and after hemming and hawing, I finally brought the bike to a stop on the final stretch to Glendive along MT 200S, to try to get a photo. Didn’t come out that well, but gives you the idea.

MT 200S near Glendive

My current plan had me taking my full eight hour rest bonus tonight, since I’d be arriving after midnight on Wednesday morning, which was the day the rest had to begin. Pulling in to Glendive, I found an open station, confirmed they’d be open later, and filled up one tank to start my rest bonus. Crap, the receipt time was off by like 20 minutes!

rest receipt

contingency REST1 start receipt

I went inside in search of an accurate receipt. After dickering around with the clerk to make him understand what I needed, he finally confirmed that all the registers’ clocks were off. I tried the ATM and that turned out to be accurate, so I officially started my rest with that receipt at 01:46 (odo photo not necessary, but I took them throughout the rally with my phone for backup, JIC).

I headed for the nearby Comfort Inn and got myself checked in. After a shower, I started looking ahead to my next stretch of bonuses, which I had only planned ahead for timing as far as northern Wisconsin. I realized that taking my full rest now might not be the best move timing-wise, so I worked up an alternate plan giving me four hours rest this morning, and THEN taking my full 8 hours before midnight in Wisconsin. I’d document the minimum four hour rest as a contingency, just in case I somehow missed the window. I booked a hotel for the following night, then quickly hit the hay for a couple hours of shuteye.

map of todays route

7 comments on IBR 2021 Day 2: Big Whale, Big Sky

  1. That unpaved stretch in eastern MT during the wee hours was not fun. Fortunately there were 3 of us stretched out over several miles keeping tabs on each other.

    1. I went through right after dawn of Day 2, but there was a very long section with flag men, so daylight not necessarily an advantage.

      So glad I read this and heard about the ‘exploding whale’…

  2. Nothing like a Macca’s coffee and McMuffin to make you feel human again. (my go to choice when on the clock)

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