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Highway 93 goes through Lolo north to Missoula, or south through Darby and Chief Joseph Pass. We go south. There is a lot of traffic until just after Darby, but it still beats taking l-90. Life does not exist along the free(?)ways, for it is illegal. While in Darby, we gas up. The next gas stop is Sula, then Wisdom or Jackson, MT. Carpets roll up at dark, so BE PREPARED!
There is good food in Wisdom, an Art Gallery, and a custom Hatmaker shop. To watch a hat being made from scratch is really something! The people in Wisdom are very friendly and welcoming. We make it to Jackson by late afternoon and get a room at the Jackson Hot Springs Lodge. From there, we go across the street to Rose's Cantina for dinner and a cold one. Tim, the owner, is a biker that gives you an honest, good drink for your money and makes THE BEST salsa. He also has the best jukebox in Montana. It is usually off, that way you can hear yourself talk.
We start to talk with a couple of local ranchers who happen to be drunk. Well, one of these good-OLE-boys asks me "What year is it?" So, I tell him it's 1997. He asks again, and I tell him again! He doesn't believe me. Then he tells me, "No, no, it's got to be a 1947!" I reply, "Oh-the bike! Why, it's a 1928." Now his jaw is on the floor. He can't believe that I rode it ALL THE WAY from Seattle. I told him that I couldn't afford a trailer, so I had to ride him! I also told him that since I couldn't afford a new bike, I had to ride an old used one. He wanted to know if I'd had any trouble with it along the way. I told him, "Oh yeah, every day. I keep on having to put gas in it!"
Just then, a blonde gal walks up the steps and into the bar. I knew she was special. I went inside, sat down next to her and we started to B.S. I had my dark specs on, so I dropped them down so she could see my eyes and told her that I was coming "out of the closet." "I'd just found out that I was a lesbian!" She is now in Seattle. She is my wife and angel. Her name is Debi. I told her I would see her on the return trip. I did, and the rest is history, all good.
DAY FOUR: We stopped about a mile out of town that morning and I said, "Ain't it great being a biker!" All my friends could think to say was, "Don't know how you do it." This is a short day. It is now about 100 miles to Virginia City. We've now traveled 850 miles with no trouble. We take highway 278 from Jackson to Dillon. About 20 miles out of Dillon is the ghost town of Bannack. It was the first territorial capital for the state of Montana. It is only about 3 miles off the main highway and well worth a look-see.
History is important. As you climb Badger Pass, from the Bannack turnoff, look at the rock formation ahead of you and on the left side of the road. You will see "Squirrel Rock", as it resembles a squirrel eating a nut. When you drop down from Badger Pass, you will see Dillon and the Tobacco Root Mountains. As we ride slowly through Dillon, I spotted an old buddy of mine. He was giving us the "hairy eyeball look", that only a cop can do. So, we just kept on moving. Next stop, Twin Bridges, for the best chicken at a convenient gas stop. We then take highway 287, which goes through Sheridan and on to Virginia City. When we get there, we head over to The Bale of Hay Saloon for a cold one.
We had not even sat down when I hear a V-twin pull in. Out I go. Well, I'll be dipped in cow pucky! It's Bingo from Bellingham! He is in the film we did called "Going Places-Biking the Black Hills". He rides one of those new OHV Harley's, but that doesn't make him a bad guy. No, not at all! It means he rides new junk, and we get to ride old used junk! Why, our old bikes have about 156 years behind them. So, even though his bike is new, we allow him to ride with us.
Virginia City is plum full of bikes, old and new. We have came here to meet up with our friends that live here. We have been riding together for almost twenty years. We find out that sane have already left for Sturgis. Oh well, we find Pigger, Charlie Bear and a few more of the boys and go over to Pigger's for a meal that can't be beat. He is a damn good gourmet cook. Then it's back to the bar, which is why we did not get on the road the next day until 1pm.
DAY FlVE: All is good this day, blue sky and warm Plus, it will be a short ride. There are only four of us. After gassing up in Ennis, we head for JD's HD shop in Belgrade, which is not far from Bozeman. Now it's decision time Go through "Jellystone" with every motorhome in the world, or do a short bit of 1-90? We take l-90. Then to Peter Fonda's, who is expecting us for dinner and to stay for the night. Was that, "stay the night", or "stay up all night"?
DAY SIX: We did manage to get a good early start, before noon. This day we have to do a bit more of I-90, but it's only to Absorke. We get off that damn I-90. It's not a bad section to ride. Then we take a back road into Red Lodge and spot a NAPA store open, and it's Sunday! We stop to buy some "710" for the bikes. If you don't know what "710" is, ask an Indian rider or turn this page upside down.
Full of BS and gas, we continue on until its decision time again. Do we go up Beartooth Pass, or go the short way to Wyoming? We take the 12,000 ft Beartooth Pass and newly paved Chief Joseph Road. The JD pulls this Pass in high gear with only two down shifts, beating the others to the top by about five minutes. I was able to do that because, the JD only weighs about 370 pounds and I can reach down and adjust the fuel mix for the change in altitude. I am still down on my power, but I don't have a black cloud behind me nor is the motor doing the "too rich mixture" thing. I wait for the others, then down we go to the turnoff to Chief Joseph Road. Another steep climb awaits us.
We stop to take a break for a little rest. Then I hear the sounds of 3 HD's. One of the ride's yells, "Hey Asshole!" It's my Friend Tom who lives half a mile from me. Talk about chance encounters! Plus, he has with him the guy that I bought my 1944 Indian from in 1978. ONLY IN AMERICA! I check my pants to see if all is ok! Back to the road.
Wow, this is pure riding nirvana. Again, the JD beats the others to the hp. One fellow rider, who had not retourqued his head bolts before starting the trip, cooked a new top end trying to catch old grandpa going up one mean hill. They were all loose on both cylinders, one sticking up half an inch. I got him running again, but it had piston slap. I told him that it would still get him to Sturgis, but he was pissed and blamed me for his trouble even though I never worked on his bike. He left on it and would not speak to me for three days.
You are responsible for your preparing your bike for a trip and should not place blame on others for your own mistakes or laziness. Through the years I've accumulated about a million miles on a bike. I've always had extra cash with me so if I did incur severe problems, I would be able to buy a cheap truck to get the bike home. If alone and in need of assistance be patient. Eventually, someone will always come along and offer to help you. You should know your bike and be capable of doing minor repairs. Always carry spares! You and your bike depend on each other.
So, here we sit. It's 18 miles to Cody, Wyoming. We get lucky and find a bar with gas and camping. After a grade 2 meal it was off to make camp on a piece of lumpy ground with a steady caravan of trucks going to and from same nearby construction site. Sleep didn't actually come until about 7am.
DAY SEVEN: I now tell Bingo that we are not any closer to Sturgis than we were the day before. He wanted to know why, so I told him that we had just made a big circle. He got a bit pissed about that fact and decided to go north to Billings by way of I- 90 because we were going so slowly. Now it’s just Cookie and myself. We take the back way into Sheridan, WY. As we ride through town, we see Bingo at a gas station Yep! It's much quicker to take the highway! We ride up and over the Bighorn Mts. Once again, old grandpa got to the top first. Cookie told me that he was doing 85 mph trying to catch me. THE BEST PART? Passing Evo's uphill to 10,000 ft on my 1928 JD.
We gas up and take the old road to Gillette, WY. We stayed on the two laners as long as we could, then taking l-90 for the remaining 40 miles to Sturgis. Finally there, I went straight to Pearl Hoel's house where I have stayed since 1982. Her husband, Pappy Hoel, originally started the Party with other Indian riders in 1938. This is where the boys mentioned in the history books stay. In the garage were about ten of them, including Jim Davis, Bobby Hill, Bill Tuman, Ernie Beckman, and Dick Klamfoth, the whole "Indian Wrecking Crew". They had never seen me on any bike that wasn't an Indian. What else is there?
I got off the '28 Harley and said, "I know you all won't believe this coming from my lips, being a hard core Indian rider for thirty years. I've toured on Indians, Guzzi's, BMWs, and even a Kawasaki. But, this old J model is by far THE MOST comfy and reliable bike I've ever ridden. It has good power, light, and gas mileage. Other than having to put gas and oil in it, adjusting the primary chain and giving the inlet valve rockers and forks a shot of grease each day. It was 100% trouble free. Nothing broke or fell off. "Yep, Harley made one fine machine back in 1928!" All American made. I even have real HD spark plugs the ones that the "hucksters" want $50 for. I have a good stash that I paid $1 each for at Otto Draggers HD shop years ago. Upstairs, at Draggers, there was a whole inventory of "days- gone-by". Up there, time stood still and you got lost in it. Too bad the rich have ruined my hobby. Ride 'em now, since you can't when you're dead!