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West portal of GN Ry's Cascade Tunnel.

The Fine Art of Motorcycle Touring


A Motorcycle Story

by C. C. Crow

Subject: Got Any Air?
Date: 8/07/00 09:54:40 PM Pacific Daylight Time
From: Killerkrow
To: rooti@square.nut

So, in our last episode, I had just describing finding a big fat 12D (3") galvanized (nothing but the best for my motorcycle!) box nail shoved through the bottom tread and out the side wall of my tire at 7:30 p.m. at the eastern edge of Glacier National Park. Basically, I'm screwed. My nice camp out at Two Medicines Lake is scraped. My day chasing trains over Marias Pass is doomed. And a whole bunch of other fun stuff has turned to crap. What are my options here, in East Glacier, Montana? You know way back when everyone thought the earth was flat? Well, I'm over that edge here. The guys from the lodge suggest there's not much hope in town. The lodge maintenance garage might have compressed air. Best bet is to go to Browning, twelve miles east. I decide to walk back down to the gas station at the edge of town, check them out. There's nothing there. Not even mandatory convenience store, just credit card slots. I ask the guys at the Volunteer Fire Department and they confirm the facts. There's nothing left in town. The general store reconfirms this. Something about the winters being hard on compressors. Best bet is Browning in the morning. So, where do I camp? There's a mountaineer's hut beside the Mexican cafe, $10 to share a tiny bunk cabin, but they are full up. I learn there's a campground way over and down and then another two short blocks east and two more south, by the school. I walk down and check it out. Ten bucks a night, grassy, picnic tables- that'll do fine.

I walk back to get my bike. The tire is half low. Good enough to ride slowly over to the camp.

The wind is blowing like heck. But a fence and some low trees blocks it. I shouldn't have but I put the bike up on the center stand on a gravely spot in the grass. It's sort of teetering but I'm aware of it and think I can manage it. Taking one saddle bag of and then the other, a little too much tug and over she goes. Great Clint, just great. The day is just perfect now, I shout at myself. You idiot. I quickly pull the rest of the crap off racing against the spilling gas and leaking cold water from the cooler. With the stuff out of the way next is the clean and jerk, you have to oof the four hundred pound bike back up on her feet, hopefully without pulling my back out. The winds howling harder now. I realize how tired I am. But at least I'm not really way out in the middle of no where. Just close. I sip (okay, gulp) a rum and coke as I put the tent up in the waning light. One good thing happens, a freight train rumbles across the steel trestle just across the way. So there is some entertainment In this one horse town.

BNSF freight train crosses the trestle in East Glacier, Montana

In the morning I drive the bike back over across the street and park it in front of an abandoned gas station. Thump. thump, thump. I probably shouldn't have for several reasons. Like the tire was now completely flat despite my attempts to re-inflate it with my tiny hand pump. And it is in full view in this location, both good and bad I suppose. And I didn't have the owner's permission. I figured the place was practically abandoned, maybe some junk was stored in it but that was about it. There were no signs of much activity. A dusty sun bleached upholstered chair sat to one side with a plastic milk bottle crate foot stool was about it. The draw was the flat concrete and the availability of certain ramping items like small wood planks in order to prop the bike up so I could remove the rear tire and leave it suspended without the fear of it easily tailing over. So this was the place.

Broken down motorcycle display, East Glacier, Montana, July 2000.

With the tire in hand I rolled it across the street and down towards the eastern edge of town thumbing at the few cars going towards Browning. Certainly one would give a poor lowly biker a lift towards salvation. Not the first, second or third fancy SUV. Nor the motor home with Max and Irene. A couple more camper types with too full loads. The opportunities weren't too plentiful. Had I made a mistake in assuming that it would be easy, taking my time rather then hurrying this morning to catch the morning work crowd. Crowd? There's no rush hour in East Glacier.

A small car stops. Funny, I though my best chance was going to be a local in a pickup on a quick chore to Browning. Instead it was a lawyer breaking his rule against picking up hitchhikers (I have the same rule myself) but he thought I looked woeful enough to trust. He hadn't even noticed the motorcycle tire. He didn't know the tire place I was describing but correctly interpreted the directions I was dyslexing and he took me right too Murray's Tire Center. With a great thanks he rushed off to a court date in Great Falls he was already late to. Inside I was greeted by an honestly cheery native American. Browning is in the center of the Black Foot Indian reservation. I showed him my tire and he only shook his head, saying no way could they repair it. Not even a temporary patch which was my weakest hope to at least get me to the nearest bike shop. The liability was just too great. (They'd be hearing from the guy who'd just dropped me off.) Maybe I could ask at the body shop. They might do it.

Concrete teepee in Browning, Montana

So I walked a few blocks over to the body shop and I asked but they too refused, and suggested I try the tire shop. I was really screwed now. The tire wouldn't even inflate with the compressed air now. The nearest bike shop was Kilispell, 100 miles to the west. Or maybe Great Falls. It was going to be a long day. Or should I say days? So, first thing is to line a new tire up. My ace in the hole was that my brother Phil and his wife were out visiting from the east. And they were on their way to meet me Tuesday noon in West Glacier Park. If I couldn't find one nearby perhaps they could on their way, in Seattle or Spokane.

I called the bike shop in Kalispell, Penco, a Yamaha dealer. There are no BMW shops, except tar a good one in Missoula that I have actually bought several tires from, conveniently, on road trips. I was pretty happy with the Dunlop 491, the second or third one I'd run on. A balance of good handling with good mileage. The good news was Penco actually showed one on the computer list however they couldn't find it. They "turned the place upside down" looking for it. But they had a IRC brand that would fit. IRC? I'd never heard of it, but in a pinch, yeah, I think I was in such, it would have to do, unless my brother could happen upon a Dunlop. I had them set the IRC aside and I told them I would see them in the morning. Somehow.

After the phone calls I set out to return to my camp. As the first few cars whizzed by it dawned upon me that Kalispell wasn't really all that far away. Just in the distance was the train bridge that I had stopped by to take photos of a freight twisting up the hill the day before. Amtrak passed this way each day! I'd always wanted to take a train ride over Marias Pass! Here was my chance. A golden opportunity. What a great idea. A local walked over to me and inquired about my tire. Indeed, it was a conversation piece. They especially liked seeing the big giant nail. Yep, they all agreed, that was a nasty one. And I sure wasn't in the best place for that to happen. I asked about the train and sure enough it passed right over there each day but you must catch it in East Glacier. I guess it's the summer location and Browning is the winter stop, or maybe a flag stop. I was excited now. This adventure was going to be fun despite it's ugliness.

Next time, we go for a train ride.

  Next Part - Three  




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