The back-story to this story is that recently, my youngest brother threw out an offer to trade a family heirloom that he had, for my beloved Nighthawk. In retrospect, I selfishly poo-pooed the idea because frankly, the motorcycle was worth more financially than the heirloom, so I pretty much dismissed the notion altogether without even the courtesy of a response. Fact is, I’d been having so much fun on the bike, & I was very very proud of it. Then when I was on my “Return to POISON!” ride, I had an epiphany…
See, my brother has been very sick off & on for the last 6 years. During that time, as he told me of the hardships of dealing with the illness & treatment, I felt such grief for being so helpless & not able to do anything for him. He has soldiered on through it, though. For being the runt of the family, he is absolutely the strongest!!
So the epiphany… I was rolling along on the way home from the POISON! ride, thinking about him. I remembered all the times I said that I’d give anything to be able to help him somehow other than just offering love & moral support. Then all of a sudden, it struck me that if he had this bike, maybe it might lift his spirit if he could look forward to riding home at the end of the work day, or go on weekend cruises next to his favorite trout streams. I thought, “I’m gonna give him this bike!”
I finished the ride with a plan in place, putting the wheels in motion for the ride up to Helena, Montana to deliver the Nighthawk. As soon as I got home, I couldn’t wait to call & tell him, and we settled on Labor Day Weekend to make it happen. He was stunned, and I was stoked!!
On launch day, I took the long way, up US93 through Idaho & into Montana, for a grand total of just under 700 miles one-way.
I left on Thursday, wanting to make Hamilton, MT by the end of the day. I knew up front that would be rather ambitious, given my cruising speed, time lost taking pictures, gas stops, etc. If I made it, that would give me some time to poke around Missoula for a little bit before meeting some friends from grade school for dinner. (Most of us haven’t been together as a group since 8th
grade in 1978!) Had I started on time, I might’ve made it, but one delay led to another, & pretty soon I was 3 hours behind -- before I even opened the garage door.
Once I finally got going, the slog up to Twin Falls was the most boring part of the trip; mostly because of familiarity with everything along the way.
So why not try to take some selfies to relieve the boredom?
Had to get a picture of my Honda at HD Summit.
The odd structure behind is a bazillion dollar deer crossing. Sadly, the man-made deer migration passages (there are 2 of them between Wells & Jackpot, plus another one over I-80 between Wells & Wendover on the Utah border) have done nothing to mitigate the annual vehicle-vs.-deer slaughter on US93, but that’s another story.
Since it was on the way, I took a slight detour on the north end of Twin Falls to snap a picture of the Snake River Canyon bridge. I’d venture to guess that this Best-Buy parking lot offers the best scenic view of any Best-Buy anywhere.
A few miles east you can see the dirt ramp at the site of Evel Knievel’s Snake River Canyon jump attempt from almost exactly 40 years ago.
And then a few more miles north of Twin Falls is where the really enjoyable part of the trip started. I topped off the tank in Shoshone & continued north. After a few miles though, I didn’t see the names of any of the towns where I’d planned stops on the mileage signs. I think I went about 15 miles or so before deciding that a U-turn back to Shoshone would be cheap insurance just to check my bearings. I had no GPS, and the only paper maps were the ones I printed from the Streets & Trips routing software. A real road map would show that I could have just continued north a few miles & cut east to hook back up with 93. Oh well, no big loss, other than a few more minutes’ delay.
The road between Carey & Arco is amazing. It’s known as the Peaks to Craters Scenic Byway. So named for the mountain passes on the north end, and the lunar-like landscape near the Craters of the Moon National Monument. I didn’t stop to visit this time, but snapped a few pics of the area along the way.
Some whoop-de-do's north of Carey...
There was a turnout with some info kiosks, & from what I remember, these 2 volcanoes are responsible for how the landscape appears today.
At Arco, the road hooks from a northeast to a northwest track, paralleling a majestic mountain range just east of the highway. I’m thinkin’ this is what the “Peaks” part of the byway is named for. I kept looking for a great spot to take just the right shot, but regrettably, I let too many go by. If you’re ever in the area though, this is a must-do ride. To say that the views of the mountains around were stunning -- well, that would be a gross understatement.
The road crosses the Big Lost River in many places. That’s another number of pictures I missed, thinking a better spot might be up the road. The river was *so* lost in fact, that it was bone dry. By late afternoon, that thought struck me as funny. What can I say, I’m easily amused.
Late afternoon found me in Challis. At a gas stop, I went over the maps again & allowed myself to think that Hamilton by nightfall was still doable. So I continued on, now on the Salmon River Scenic Byway, up toward the charming town of Salmon, ID. This is another incredible stretch of road. Someday I’d love to come back & spend all weekend around here, fishing & taking in some of the local color.
Rolling into town, I didn’t want to spend too much time there, still thinking I could make Hamilton. The gas station there had a Burger King on-site, and as much as I despise fast food, I elected to partake rather than killing time with a sit-down meal. Mistake. Not that I got sick or anything, I just felt kinda blah. By then, it was well into the evening, but still some time before sunset, but I just wasn't diggin’ the Hamilton vibe anymore at that point.
I found a little mom & pop motel just up the street. It was perfect! Cheap, motorcycle-friendly (secure parking & complimentary bug rags), clean & comfy, & there was good grub within a block in either direction. Had I not indulged in the disgusting BK fare a few minutes earlier, I could’ve had some grub at the pub just a few steps away. Oh well. At least there was a beer store practically right next door.
In the morning, I killed a little time waiting for the temp to warm up a bit before heading out. First, breakfast down the street.
Then I waited for the Honda motorcycle/ATV shop around the corner to open up. I was really hoping they’d have some gloves in stock, because mine were killing my hands. One of the seams on my own right glove was wearing my skin painfully raw & I was about to the point where I’d rather ride without. But, to keep the bugs from stinging too bad at highway speed, I bought a pair of MX gloves that turned out to be fairly comfortable. The owner was kind enough to let me lube the chain free of charge as well. I’m liking this town!
As much as I would’ve liked to stay another day or two, I checked out & headed up the road. Not too far out of Salmon, I ran across a cattle crossing.
It was pretty chaotic because the cowboys apparently weren’t able to keep the cows & calves heading in a particular direction. They kept heading back & forth across the highway & got danger-close. I eventually turned off the motor so as not to spook anybody & sat real still until they all got by.
Slaloming through the cowpies at speed for the next couple miles up the road added a unique & fun element. On a side note, I once hit a fresh, steamy green cowpie on the FJR in Colorado on a timed ride. I was literally cleaning crap out of the nooks & crannies of the bike for months after that. I digress…
Heading out of Salmon and up into the mountains that morning was one of the best rides of my life! The winding mountain road for miles on end was just incredible. A few more shots along the Salmon River Byway…
There were a couple of minor traffic jams along the way. On this one, I wasn’t sure what was going on. From a distance, I thought it might be a rescue operation on the steep mountainside.
Turns out that a crew was laying chainlink fencing down to keep bits of the mountain from falling onto the highway. With more no-passing-zones than not, it took quite a while before the traffic spread out enough to enjoy some highway solitude.
The next traffic jam was due to getting stuck behind a stripe painter trudging along at 25 MPH for the better part of 20 miles without pulling out to let traffic by.
Then came Lost Trail Pass. Oh. My. Goodness!
The road on either side of the Idaho/Montana line was ridiculously fun. One hairpin turn after another!
Montana! Although I now proudly call Nevada home, I always love coming back to the land of my roots.
Big Sky Country indeed!
When I was a kid, there was at least a little space between the towns south of Missoula. Now, you can hardly tell where one town ends & the other begins. Even so, the views of the Bitterroot Mountains are still as captivating as ever.
I rolled into Lolo, which is just 8 miles south of Missoula. I decided to grab lunch here, rather than ride all over creation in Missoula trying to find somewhere to eat. I’ve been away from there too long to know what’s good & where to find it. So this place was right along the main drag in Lolo…
I opted for the soup & salad lunch -- not too heavy, but seemingly enough to tide me over to dinner with my grade-school pals. Little did I know… Homemade chicken noodle soup (damn near as good as Grandma’s), a huge fresh-made garden salad, and a homemade bun that wouldn’t even fit in the soup bowl. I bet the butter was homemade too. *Homer gurgle*
Here is where the meltdown happened. I waddled out to the bike, geared up, jumped on, turned the key… nuthin. Zip zero zilch nada. This had happened a number of times recently, but with increasing frequency. Usually a key jiggle would work, but failing that, jiggling the wire bundle under the headlight *just so* would do the trick. I jiggled for the better part of three hours in 90° heat, and I had pretty much the whole front end of the bike disassembled right there in the parking lot, to no effect. The bike just gave up altogether, & I was pretty frazzled myself.
Meanwhile, my wife was en route from Elko to Helena in her car. The original plan was for us to meet in at my brother’s place in Helena on Friday, and we would travel back home together that weekend after the bike was delivered. Fortunately, she hadn’t made Butte yet, so a diversion over to Missoula wouldn’t be too far out of the way. I secured the bike in the parking lot, and lugged all my gear a few blocks up the road to the Day’s Inn. I had stayed here a few years before while attending a motorcycle tourers’ gathering, and the owner actually remembered me! On the previous visit, his wife fed me some authentic Indian food and they showed me pictures of their lives in India before they came to the States. I felt right at home there with their gracious hospitality.
My old pal from school picked me up in Lolo & we headed into town to meet up & have dinner with a handful of our old friends. Hours of fun & laughter & “…remember when…?!” ensued. Hope we can do that again soon!
My wife got to town just as we all broke away from dinner, and we made arrangements to pick up a U-Haul the next morning. Walking onto this property gave me a sad, humiliating sense of being defeated.
We got the bike loaded with no drama, thanks to the help of a breakfast patron who saw us from inside the restaurant where the bike died. We had picked up some straps at the Cabella’s store in Missoula, but they didn’t have the good ratcheting type straps. Rather, we were stuck with some kind of friction-lock doo-hickies, but they *looked* like they would work fine enough. With 4 tie-down points, what could go wrong?
I backed into my brother’s driveway, rolled up the door on the back of the U-haul, and …
I never ever heard or felt it tip over. The straps slipped and allowed enough slack for the bike to succumb to gravity somewhere along the way, probably over MacDonald Pass. Believe it or not, there was NO DAMAGE. Lots of gas leaked out of the tank, which had to be cleaned out before we took the truck back, but there was no noticeable damage at all.
The silver lining in all this is that thanks to a forum member, we diagnosed the problem as a short in the ignition. We disassembled the ignition cylinder, to find that the solder blob on the lead wire had broken free, leaving the end of the wire more or less flapping in the breeze. That’s why jiggling had previously worked, by getting just enough contact to make the ignition do its thing, but after the blob was gone… nuthin. We tried to re-solder it, but long story short, there was too much damage to the points plate to make the repair permanent. So began the search for parts. Luckily, I found a good (hopefully) ignition cylinder on ebay & ordered it. Spendy as all git-out, but I think it’ll do the trick. Cross your fingers with us.