PNW 2011 Trip – Day 3 Part 1

Aug 15, 2011 – I know it’s taken a long long time to get these posts up, but when we had the internet, I was too tired to write anything, and when I was not too tired we had no internet! Lame excuses I know, I should have just got it done.

Now when I first laid out the route for this trip, I was consciously trying to stay as far away from Interstates and freeways as possible. Instead I wanted to ride secondary highways and see smaller towns and hopefully some more rustic places to stay when we weren’t camping. The roads turned out to be everything I was hoping for, but there were two other aspects of the trip that I hadn’t considered – mountain passes and interesting people. Yes, I knew early on that Logan Pass on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway on Day 2 would be spectacular, but I hadn’t thought of any of the other passes that we’d be going over – never even looked at the maps to see what passes were there! So it was a bit of a surprise to find another spectacular pass today – Lolo Pass between Montana and Idaho.

Anyway, day 3 of the PNW trip found us waking up in Missoula at the Holiday Inn. Louise wasn’t hungry, but I was a bit so I snuck out and got a Latte and a muffin from the hotel lobby store. Both were very tasty! Then we started packing up the bikes.

Packing the bikes at the HI in Missoula, MT

Packing the bikes at the HI in Missoula, MT

The nice thing about this hotel was that we got a room on the ground floor just around the corner from the lobby, so getting the stuff out to the bikes was easy. In addition, the night before when we checked in and I asked where to park the bikes, I was told to just leave them where they were – right out in front of the lobby doors – that way the staff could keep an eye on them all night. I like hotels like that!

While we were packing the packing the bikes we noticed another VStrom parked right beside the doors.

Another VStrom - in Missoula

VStrom in Missoula

This VStrom was almost an exact match for Louise’s – same year, similar luggage mounts, Givi top case, black, and engine guards. If I recall it was also from Alberta! We didn’t meet the owner though.

It was about 10am when we pulled out of the hotel parking lot and got on our way out of Missoula. It’s actually quite a picturesque place with a major river running through the city, crossed by a few wide bridges. Past the bridges and farther away from the river, the highway out of town sported the usual big box stores and chain restaurants.

Our destination for today was Walla Walla, WA, but first we had to go over the Lolo Pass. There’s a little town called Lolo in western Montana, that’s where we split off of the highway and onto Highway 12, heading west into the mountains. It was a fairly short but twisty ride up to the summit of Lolo Pass, where a well maintained Visitor’s Center was located.

Lolo Pass Visitor's Center

Lolo Pass - 5225 ft

We stopped and the first thing I noticed was that the parking lot was mostly empty! In fact the motorbikes easily outnumbered the cars. This was a far cry from the previous day on the Going-to-the-Sun Highway at Logan Pass, where the parking lot was packed and the highway almost bumper to bumper.

The Lolo Pass parking lot

More motorcycles than cars!

We talked to a few folks – one older couple from Europe were driving around the west, eventually heading back to Calgary for a couple of days before flying back home. They asked us what they could do in Calgary and we suggested Heritage Park and the Calgary Tower. There was another couple on BMWs that Louise spoke with for a few minutes. They were from Chicago and were relatively new to motorcycling, but they had ridden a similar route from Chicago to Seattle on bicycles and decided to try it on motorcycles. We’d run into them again a little later.

A couple of guys were already in the parking lot when we rolled in and left just before we did. They were riding KLR650 bikes all on backcountry trails! No roads for them. They looked a little rough from more than a week on the trails.

Just as we got back on the bikes a guy on an older bike picked than specific time to come up and chat. He talked and talked and talked – just one of the few “characters” we’d meet on the road. I wish I had taken a picture of him so I could recall his bike and what he looked like.

Shortly after pulling back out on the road, we noticed a sign – Caution – Twisty Road – next 100 miles”. Excellent!!

Here’s an example of the twisties – and one of the first pics I took from the bike, holding my camera upside down to take the shot! (I rotated the pics in iPhoto before uploading them).

Twisties west of Lolo Pass, ID

Twisties west of Lolo Pass, ID

The highway down from Lolo Pass follows the Clearwater river and we stopped once just to take a couple of pictures …

Taking a pic of Ian taking a pic

Taking a pic of Ian taking a pic along the Clearwater River, ID

Taking a pic of Louise taking a pic of me

Taking a pic of Louise taking a pic of me stopped by the Clearwater River, ID

Continued in Part 2!

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