July 30, 2010 GMT
Return To Montana Ranch (Washington, Idaho, Montana)

US customs confiscated an orange even though it had been grown in the USA when I re-entered from Canada. They then had to go into the back office to use a different computer to verify my British registered bike. An almost fruitless search was made of all my luggage before I gained entry into the land of the free by which time there was a long queue of traffic waiting their turn to be processed.

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Garmin Got Me Lost In Washington State

The main road (Hwy 20) went down the west side of the Pend Oreille River through Washington State but I took the dirt road to the east of the river. I had entered the route onto the GPS and it was clearly marked on my map but Garmin took me onto ever narrowing roads with a number of unmarked railway track crossings on narrow forest tracks. Garmin had me riding on the gravel ballast alongside the rail track for 250 yards with barely enough room for a train to pass if one had come by and I had seen two whilst crossing the tracks. I eventually decided Garmin was lost and retraced my route and settled for the main road south. We both enjoyed the adventure but I have less faith in Garminís navigational skills now although he probably makes fewer mistakes than I do overall.

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What To Do With Snowmobiles In Summer? Race Them Across Water!

It was a swelteringly hot day as I stopped for fuel in Ione, Washington State. There was lots of activity going on in the local lakeside park which turned out to be a snowmobile race being run across the lake. Competitors left in pairs and if they both made it across the fastest was deemed the winner. Riders returned back across the lake in between races and recovering sunken snowmobiles. Almost half sank either during the race or on trying to return across the lake.

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Snowmobile Race Across A Lake

The only modifications to the snowmobiles was blocking up cooling vents and fitting a float attached by a length of rope to aid the divers and recovery boat in locating the snowmobile in the unfortunate event of it sinking.

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They Are Both Afloat So Far

I spoke with the rider of a recovered snowmobile with its headlights full of water as he was removing the spark plugs. He said they would usually run again once the engines were cranked to pump the ingested water out through the sparkplug holes and refitting the plugs. It would take up to half an hour to recover a snowmobile during which time racing and returning back across the lake was suspended allowing plenty of opportunity to seek some shade before the next race started.

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Returning From A Successful Run And Showboating With A Wheelie

The BBC Top Gear motoring program once did a feature where they attempted to ride a snowmobile across a lake. I donít know whether they started the craze or snowmobile owners were determined to find a summer use for their machines. I guess riders can only try lake crossing in organised competitions with the recovery equipment on hand to rescue snowmobiles from the bottom of the lake if they donĎt make it.

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Drowned Snowmobile

At a National Forest Campground just west of Lolo Pass and the continental divide I met Stuart Murr and his two toddlers. They, with Mum were cycling from St. Augustine in Florida to Seaside, Oregon with the toddlers riding in trailers behind the cycles. An amazing family adventure. Their blog is www.murrbike.com if you want to check it out.

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Highway 12 Follows the Clearwater River In Idaho

I also met Ron who told me about the Lolo Motorway. I was heading for Lolo Pass because I wanted to see where Lewis and Clark, the explorers who were the first Westerners to travel through what is now the western USA to the Pacific coast crossed the continental divide. I was going to go to the Lolo Pass visitors centre on Hwy 12 and hoped I would be able to see their original trail by walking from the visitors centre if that was possible. Ron told me that I could take a rough dirt track off Hwy 12 up to the summit ridge where I could join the Lolo Motorway, another rough dirt road that follows the original Lewis and Clark route. This would eventually bring me back to Hwy 12. Taking the Lolo Motorway meant missing the next petrol station which I had intended visiting but I thought I had just enough fuel for the detour.

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Lolo Motorway, Idaho

After days of hot, dry weather I packed the tent up in light drizzle and headed for the dirt track that would take me up to the Lolo Motorway. The tracks were ok apart from a couple of rocky bits on a steep downhill section where I had to inch down on the front brake as it was too steep and rocky to rely on using first gear to control the speed. The rain got heavier once on the ridge which meant the views werenít as clear but looking down on misty clouds in the valleys was atmospheric. Rain getting on my visor or my glasses if I lifted the visor reduced visibility which was tricky with so many rocks and occasional loose gravel to watch out for on a road which dropped steeply down the hillside from the edge of the track.

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View From Lolo Motorway

I eventually found my way back to Hwy 12 and continued on to the next filling station rather than backtracking west to the nearest one. I had done 442 miles since the last refuelling and the bike has a theoretical range of 450 miles. A bit of a close call although the actual range is probably more than 450 miles as there is always a bit more fuel than I expect left in the tank.

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Indian Post Office Lake, A Sacred Nez Perce Native American Site On Lolo Motorway

The next scheduled stop was to be Great Falls, Montana, another Lewis and Clark destination. On their expedition they were travelling up the Missouri River in a fleet of boats when they encountered a stretch of river with five waterfalls and they had to portage the boats and all their supplies and equipment overland for 18 miles. It took almost a month to get everything transported overland. I hoped to see the waterfalls and the riverbanks in as near the same condition as Lewis and Clark had in 1805. I was to be disappointed. Three of the waterfalls have hydro electric dams towering above them including the largest which gave itís name to the town of Great Falls. One of the waterfalls, Colter Falls is now submerged as the river level has risen due to the dams.

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Great Falls Dwarfed By Hydro Electric Dam

From Great Falls I returned to the ranch in Montana where I spent the winter. I had seen it when the land was yellow in the autumn and when it was white with snow through the winter and now it is green and full of livestock.

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Montana Ranch Now

The first thing I did was thoroughly clean the bike of the accumulated dust and grime from the Alaskan trip.

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Montana Ranch In The Winter

Posted by ianmoor@tiscali.co.uk at July 30, 2010 05:36 AM GMT

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