Week Two

June 26
June 27
June 28
June 29
June 30
July 1
July 2





Great Falls, MT

Wednesday, June 26, 2002
Left the campground about 7:30am. The cool of the morning quickly evaporated and it became another very hot day. I was heading for Great Falls, MT. Took route 191 north to Harlowtown where I had a late breakfast at the Graves Hotel, an historic old hotel that had views of the surrounding range land. From there, I followed route 12 west toward White Sulphur Springs. Then, I headed north again on route 89 that took me through the Lewis and Clark National Forest. Another great road and wonderful scenery.

Arrived in Great Falls around 4pm. Stopped at a restaurant called Cattins that looked like it came out of the 60s.The PA system was punching out James Brown, The Supremes, Otis Redding, etc. I called Harry Mitchell and he said that a Super 8 was near his place and it had reasonable rates. It was cheaper than a few others I called. Went on over to it and Harry was waiting for me. He was a burly guy with large working hands. His round face was highlighted by friendly eyes and a warm and sincere smile. He's the type of person one feels quickly comfortable with. It's a "down to earth" kind of thing. He was dressed in overalls and cap, despite the heat. We went to a local bar where he ordered a draft and I a Pepsi. Figured a beer might make me sick or dizzy, or both. He enthusiastically told me about the Lewis and Clark Days that were beginning that evening at the local Civic Center. We exchanged some personal information about ourselves, our families and our occupations. After he gave me more info on the L&C celebration, he dropped me off at my motel. Later, I attended L&C Days beginning ceremonies and listened to a concert by the Great Falls Symphony. The first half of the program included music from the movies, like themes from "The Gladiators" and "The Patriot". During intermission I spoke with a number of re-enactors from the Lewis and Clark Expedition, which is frequently referred to as the Corps of Discovery. This alternate label is supposed to have come from President Thomas Jefferson. All of the re-enactors play a specific person from the expedition. It is their responsibility to know their character well. So, they all have done, and continue to do, extensive research about the various characters that they play. Some have played a certain character for a number of years. They undoubtedly appeared to me to thoroughly enjoy all aspects, including small details, of the L&C Days Celebration. Harry had told me earlier that "Great Falls is nuts about Lewis and Clark". The second half of the concert was devoted to music inspired by Native American music. "Bird Woman" and "Scalp Dance of The Teton Sioux" were exciting to hear because of their different melodies and rhythms. "Scalp Dance" was also interesting to me for two reasons. One was of their war-like reputation that was vividly illustrated in the L&C journal's description of their aggressive behavior that created a potential catastrophic crisis for the Corps which Lewis and Clark miraculously defused. Another was a dramatic painting of an actual "Scalp Dance" that was done in 1832 by George Catlin.

The Great Falls were a "sublime object" to Meriwether Lewis. He was greatly disappointed that, to him, his sketches and words did not do them justice. After the concert there was still enough light for a short ride out to the Falls. To me, they were something of a disappointment. The hydroelectric dams are a forceful intrusion on any spell of the sublime. Still, in the evening's long shadows and one's imagination, they could become quite grand. Sunset is a perfect time to view much of the western landscape. It seems that the yellow-orange glow of the light makes all the colors more rich and vibrant. This light and the far horizons must be one of the reasons why Montana is called "Big Sky Country". Rode 203 miles today.

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1 of 5 dams at Great Falls, MT

Thursday, June 27, 2002
I went out to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. It is located alongside the Missouri and near the falls and was only a few minutes from town. I thought that this must be the "top" interpretive center along the whole trail. It was overwhelming in the number of exhibits of actual artifacts and scholarly information. All Indian tribal names were listed at least twice - the English name or a combination of French-English and the Indian name. For instance the Nez Perce are the Nimiipuu. One of the most powerful displays was a life size dugout canoe on a crude wooden carriage being hauled up a very steep incline by straining members of the Corps. Prints of old photographs rounded out the exhibits. I was especially intrigued by the portraits of the Indians. Whether old, young, male or female, they all expressed such strong and determined character. I figured that they had to be to exist and flourish in such a harsh and beautiful country. Then again, maybe they had developed an "attitude" toward whites.

Returned to town around noon and stopped at Zandy's, a burger "joint" that seemed to be out of the fifties. Their sign's decoration reminded me of those big fins Cadillacs used to have.

I went out to Harry's place in the afternoon. He offered me the use of his washer and dryer since I had told him that I needed to do some laundry that day. I met his wife, Kay. She was very likable, just like Harry. But, while Harry is stocky and robust, Kay was thin and frail looking. However, I wouldn't bet that she was actually frail. To me, she seemed like a lady who knew how to get things done. While my laundry was being washed, I helped Harry attach the mower to his Sears Craftsman Riding Lawn Mower. There were a couple of large farm tractors near the barns but I don't think that they were being used anymore. He told me that he was the third generation on that dairy farm which, originally, encompassed 1600 acres. Now, there's only 800 and Harry has retired. The farm just couldn't turn a profit. Huge, megalith corporate farms have forced smaller, family-run, farms out of business. He told me about a farm in California that milks 50,000 cows. That's twice a day, everyday, even on Christmas and the 4th of July. He was deeply concerned about the ground water being contaminated with that much manure. He struck me as an individual who was deeply concerned about the environment.

Their farmhouse displayed quite a diverse art collection. They had some Western art. Harry liked C.M. Russell, the famous "cowboy" artist. But Kay loved Chinese art. They told me of their extended trip through China and Mongolia. Kay said that Mongolian geography was a lot like Montana. She even said that they had stayed in a yurt.

The Mitchells let me hang around the farm while they went into town for a L&C Days function. It was very hot, but I got some sketching done. I drew one of the architecturally unique barns and

 some of the horses they board. Some of the farm machinery was fun to draw also. I left when the sky was turning black and I could hear thunder.

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Harry and Kay's Farm

Old Truck on Harry and Kay's Farm

C.M Russell Museum

Great Falls, MT

Friday, June 28, 2002
Learned a lot about C. M. Russell today. He was a genuine cowboy turned artist. Or, maybe he was a cowboy who was also an artist. Whatever. What's important is what he expressed in his paintings, drawings, and sculpture came from the real thing. I could sense from his work, a profound love of those things. His rendering brought a bronze horse to life. His use of color showed me that he loved everything about his environment. I felt that some of his bronze horses rivaled some of Rodin's human figures.

All of the art was housed in the C.M. Russell Museum, a multi-level modern structure. Right next door were his house and log-cabin studio. What was unique was that the house and studio were not reconstructed next to the museum. It was the other way around. Not only was the museum built next to the house and studio, so was the neighborhood. When his house and studio were built, that surrounding land was vacant and well outside the city limits.

In the evening, I took a ride out onto the plains. Everything was golden. Watched a rainstorm 20 or 30 miles away. It made the distant mountains a beautiful shade of blue.

Rode back into town and discovered yet another Lewis and Clark Monument. A fun day.

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Sunset, Great Falls, MT

Saturday, June 29, 2002
I arrived at the Lewis and Clark Camp re-enactment around 7:30am. Lots of activity and things to draw. They all were dressed in authentic period clothes so there was plenty of buckskin, fringe, sashes, large belt buckles, felt and animal skin hats, etc. One of the re-enactors, Ron Ukrainetz, who was also an artist, showed me just how authentic their activities were. For example, he was using the animal's brains in tanning the hide. He told me that this was a perfected and common tanning technique of the period. I finished my sketches just as the crowds arrived. Great Falls really does love their Lewis and Clark.

This evening I had dinner with Harry and Kay. They treated me to a great steak dinner in a Mom and Pop kind of restaurant. The type of place that is becoming more rare to find. No pun intended.

After dinner, we went out to the L&C Interpretive Center to hear a lecture on L&C in Montana. There I met Dale and Brian who would be riding with us to Missoula. Dale had a Harley and Brian a Goldwing. Harry, I failed to mention, had a Honda Pacific Coast, "the most underrated motorcycle in America", so he says. My mount, for those keeping score, was a 1991 Honda ST 1100. The only other rider I did not meet was Jimmy "the Greek". All were looking forward to tomorrow's ride.

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Making the dugout canoe

 

Rifle Priming

 




My Riding Buddies, Harry (on right), Me (in center) and Jimmy (on Left)

Clarkston, WA

Sunday, June 30,2002
We all met at a gas station in Great Falls at 8:00am. Jimmy turned out to be Jim Ledakis, an old friend of Harry's. They have known each other since the second grade. We rode out of Great Falls, with Jimmy leading the way on his Kawasaki Voyager. After taking I-15 a bit, we got off and followed route 200 west. Gorgeous scenery all around and, of course, another great road. Flew past the Continental Divide at 5610 feet. Nothing but pine forests, mountain streams and meadows for the next 80 miles or so. Arrived in Missoula around noon. Had lunch at one of those combination gas station-restaurant-shopping places. Before leaving, Jimmy bought a package of black licorice. He said it helps you from getting drowsy. We said goodbye to Dale and Brian who were heading back to Great Falls. The rest of us continued west on route 12 into Idaho.

I had previously read about this stretch of highway and the Lolo Trail of L&C Expedition. Although they are close to each other, they are worlds apart. Highway 12 winds its way alongside the Lochsa River deep in the valleys of the mountains. It is a motorcyclist's dream. A wonderfully maintained road just chocked full of all types of curves for 77 miles! The Lolo Trail is ancient by comparison. It was used by various Indian tribes for centuries. The Nez Perce called it the "Road to Buffalo Country". They annually traveled this route to hunt and trade with the Plains Indians. The Salish used it to go west for salmon fishing and trading with the Coastal Indians. Throughout the 19th century, it continued to be used by miners, trappers, and settlers. Some parts received improvements, but most remained primitive. Today the Trail is known as the Lolo Motorway, Forest Road 500. The word "motorway" is definitely a misnomer since none of it is paved and most of it is rocky, narrow and without gas stations, stores, or developed water sources. I was surly going to spend some time here on my return journey. At this point, however, I was more focused on reaching the Pacific.

Harry and I lost Jimmy somewhere along route 12. I saw him turn off onto a trail and go into the forest. I figured it to be a "necessary" stop. I also figured that he would catch up. He didn't and Harry and I arrived in Clarkston, Washington without him. We were sitting on our bikes deciding what to do when he suddenly pulled in. He said that he had had a tough time trying to catch us. Harry actually thought that he had been ahead of us all the time because he had not seen him turn off. We all decided that we'd call it a day and got a room at the motel. We did 403 miles.

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Lochsa River in Bitterroot Mountains

Monday, July 1, 2002
We headed west on route 12. We separated in Waitsburg where route 124 branches off from 12. They were going to Pasco where Jimmy's daughter lived. I was heading south then west on route 12 to the Columbia River. Actually, Pasco is at the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers. But, I was excited to start my trip down the Columbia to the Pacific and planned to see that area, if time permitted, on the way back. But, at first, it was strange riding alone again. Had a lot of fun with those guys.

Eastern Washington was like a desert. Everything brown, barren and lifeless. Very few trees. Started seeing huge wheat fields and many electrical generation windmills. They were in lines that followed the meandering ridge tops of the brown hills. Got on route 14 near Plymouth, WA. It follows the Columbia all the way to Portland, OR. Route 14 is a two lane highway that is (do I need to say it anymore?) well maintained. On the southern side of the River, the Oregon side, is I-84 that carries a high volume of traffic, including many semis. Not nearly that much traffic on the north side. Route 14 also offers picturesque views, interpretive stops, and quaint little towns. The Columbia Gorge became quite deep near an area and town called The Dalles. Saw lots of wind surfers on the River where the wind picked up speed as it rushed through the gorge. The surfers moved quite fast and appeared like so many large insects on the water. Their transparent yellow and green sails looked like wings. Both sides of the River now was filled with green; mostly evergreens. At some point, in this area, I got my first glimpse of Mount Hood. A far, far away giant snow cone in all the heat.

Finally stopped in a very nice little town called Stevenson around 4:30pm. After checking in, rode the bike up one of the towns few streets. Kept turning onto other roads outside of town that kept going up. The roads wound up and up until I reached the top of the gorge. Saw some deer in a clearing and stopped to enjoy the panoramic view. And it was truly gorgeous. Tomorrow, I expect to see the ocean. Did 311 miles today.

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Columbia River, Eastern Washington

Pacific Ocean near Cape Disappointment

Tuesday, July 2, 2002
I covered the remaining 167 miles to the Pacific at a leisurely pace, arriving at Cape Disappointment at 1:00pm. It wasn't any kind of disappointment for me. It was a perfect day! Cooler temperatures and sunny skies! Stunning rain-forest scenery all around.

I took a mile and a half hike to see the Cape's light house and the Pacific. The temperature was cooler but I was heating up since the hiking trail followed many steep inclines. But, it was worth it. Asked someone to take my picture with the Pacific in the background.

I managed to get a campsite very near the beach at Fort Canby State Park. Most sites were full due to the July 4th holiday. I was able to get it for two nights. Nothing in the area was available for the fourth. But, I figured that I would be leaving on the fourth anyway. The site was great. I could hear the breakers on the beach. There was a thick row of short pine trees between my site and the beach which was good since it helped dissipate some of the wind's force. And it was windy. And cold. Not cool-cold. I welcomed it, at least at first, because of all the intense heat I had been experiencing.

After I set up my tent, I rode into Ilwaco (about 4 miles) to buy some food. A small grocery store had a salad bar to go and a little deli so I made myself a salad and got 3 pieces of fried chicken, a small potato salad, a V-8 juice, a cherry Pepsi, a water, 2 apples, and a pack of pudding snacks. I have started eating pudding as a late snack and also as part of a nutritious breakfast. Yum!

Later, I walked on the beach and tried calling my wife, Jane. But, my cell phone couldn't find any service. Had to ride about a mile and a quarter inland to find a signal. We talked about the kids, the pets, and how our day went. (One stipulation about letting me be away for this length of time, was a call from me every day, if possible.) I wished that she could be sharing this experience with me.

Became quite cool after the sun set. My little thermometer that was clipped to the inside of the tent showed 56 degrees.

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Light House at Cape Disappointment