We got back last night after a really nice trip. I will add photos in a couple of days.
It was wicked hot everywhere we went, but we avoided the rain. Hydration was key to avoid cramps and crabbiness.
Hwy 2 across North Dakota and Wyoming was a new road for me, despite living in northern Minnesota / Wisconsin for many years. I had read about 2 in RoadRunner magazine a couple of years ago and I had a similar experience to the author- decent roads with little traffic. Seeing all the new construction due to the oil boom was interesting. There were lots and lots of temporary homes and trailers. Since we had the wife units in tow we did not bomb the 1,100 mile ride in one day. The heat would have made it too much. ND is boring until the western quarter. MT is pretty with its rolling hills.
We stayed just south of East Glacier Park Village at Bison Creek Ranch http://www.bisoncreekranch.com/
This place was family owned, close to the park, and relatively inexpensive. I did not enjoy the long, loose gravel driveway or the lack of AC, but everything else was fine. The four of us had an A frame cabin. They have AWESOME food in their small restaurant. We never eat at the same place twice when traveling (new experiences, etc), but we had dinner there three times!
Glacier Map Linkage: http://www.nps.gov/common/commonspot/customcf/apps/maps/showmap.cfm?alphacode=glac&parkname=Glacier
After arriving Kent and I road the Two Medicine Lake spur without the women. It was nice to ride the bikes with all our gear weighing them down. We found the park service rented electric boats on Two Medicine Lake and planned to return on our last day.
Tuesday we did Going To The Sun Road from east to west. Great views and smooth roads. Hwy 49 and 89 brought us to the road. These are hilly, twisty, and a lot of fun (guardrails are for the weak). My spouse and I had the same old argument about big lean angles and speed. She usually lets me play for a little while before returning to slow mode, but not this day. 89 had some patchwork with choppy surfaces.
On GTTSR one must be disciplined in photo taking- every new view seemed more picture worthy than the last. The water was almost turquoise like a Caribbean beach and the mountain views were spectacular. At the top (Logan Pass) we played in the snow and did a short hike. Dropping down the west side we ran into big traffic delays due to construction. We sat for half an hour as the road was flagged for one way traffic. Luckily I found a shady spot to sit.
On Wednesday we rode a clockwise loop around the park perimeter in BC and Alberta (west on 2, north on 93, north/east on 3, south on 6 / 17, south on 89 /49). Most of the roads were smooth and wide with high speed gentle sweepers. There were great views of the park unobstructed by trees or sharp elevation changes. It was a long ride, but easy. We stopped for lunch in Fernie BC- what a cool little town. We saw a female moose but it was too far away to photograph. I have seen lots of moose on fishing trips, but it was a first for my wife and she was happy about it. On our return I went slower on 89/49, but again found it was too fast for my passenger. I have a hard time judging her comfort level on the bike. Sometimes fast is cool and other times it is not. I respect the fact that she crashed (as a passenger) years ago and I understand it is tough to be a passenger.
Thursday was relaxing. We slowly road back to Two Medicine and rented an electric boat. We boated to the dock on the far side of the lake and hiked around for a bit. We met a nice couple from Billings MT that used to live near us. They were paddling a 17 foot Kevlar Wenonah Spirit II, one of my favorite canoes. It had an aluminum outrigger brace made by a guy I know in Iron Mountain MN (Spring Creek Outfitters). Small world. After returning the boat we rode the Many Glacier spur road, only to be stopped for a grizzly on the road. By the time we got our cameras out he was gone. The Many Glacier road is beat to hell and required low speed. We did the hike around Swiftcurrent Lake with the spur trail to Lake Josephine.
Friday we headed out. After hearing from the canoe couple about the low summer humidity and mild(er) winter temps in Billings, we decided to check it out. Kent and I are planning to move after retirement so we visit prospective communities. We hit mile after mile of nasty construction. A local told us there was stimulus money being spent on the roads. The crews were all from out of state and the roads chosen seemed haphazard. You would be skipping along at 80 MPH on a super smooth road only to be delayed for 20 minutes in the middle of nowhere (and in the hot sun) for a 10 miles section of shale like gravel. Most every road we took cautioned motorcyclists to find an alternate route. That made no sense since every road had a section of construction.
I started to get nervous about my back tire. I was on my first Metzeler Z-8 Interact. I liked the Z-6, but it had no wear mark on the center. The jagged construction surfaces, heat (102 degrees at one point), and extra weight were wearing the tire early and causing cupping. I had ordered a new rear, but it arrived at my work after we had left. I assumed I could get 6K out of the tire since other ST1300 riders got 7 or more (a friend with an FJR got 10K out of a Z-6). After construction zones I commonly swerve the bike around a little to shake off anything construction tar or junk. Kent later told me I was leaving black marks in the pavement during those swerves.
Between Billings and Fargo we were on the freeway with little construction. I checked the tire wear and pressure on each stop. Late Saturday afternoon east of Bismarck ND we braked for lunch. The rear tire center was just getting to the wear bar but I was flaking tire on the left side. Interacts have a hard center and softer sides. Just off the hard center on the left side I had three or four small bits of steel cord showing. This was at 5,200 miles. I should have realized the hard riding I did in Arkansas combined with the weight and heat of this trip was extra wear. The jagged construction zones only made things worse. Did I mention it was late on a Saturday?
Calling around Bismarck it was clear I would not get a tire hung. Even if they did have my size, no one was open and tomorrow was Sunday. We gingerly rode to Bismarck and found a hotel. I tried a trick a GS friend of mine used twice in Alaska when his final drive failed (yes, twice failed). He bought an old truck to put his bike in, figuring he could sell it back home and lose less money than by renting. He is still driving one of those old trucks. I found nothing decent so I tried to rent a small U-Haul pick up truck. No dice. The smallest one in the area was a 10 foot box truck. So I ordered one on-line and we headed out to a BBQ joint to eat and drink.
On Sunday morning I found the 10 foot box truck was gone, but they rented me a 14 footer for the same rate. I did not trust the wimpy tie downs in the box so I rented a ramp trailer. So off we went into the harsh ND crosswind with an empty 14 foot gas truck pulling a trailer full of ST. The AC was nice. We got 5.6 MPG until MN, then it went way up (no wind). I dropped the bike off at my buddy's place where we change our own tires.
Overall it was a great trip. I learned a few things:
1. Order tires long before you need them.
2. Mount tires long before the old ones wear out.
3. Take a car if traveling with the wife. Her idea of motorcycle fun is not mine.
4. Spend more time off the bike hiking.
5. Go in the cool spring, despite scheduling conflicts.