Day 2 – Cambridge Idaho to Lolo Montana – 280 miles
I’d set my alarm for 8, but wake up at 7:30 and decide extra ride time is better than an extra half hour of sleep.
It takes me a ridiculously long hour and a half to get ready and get everything back on the bike. I check so many things twice, three times, still worried I’ve forgotten something because it would have been on Mike’s to-do list. Yes, I oiled the chain, yes I checked tires, yes I removed the brake lock … It feels weird and a little scary. If I forget something it’s all on me. I finally quit waffling and saddle up.
I like to travel a bit before I stop for breakfast, usually about an hour down the road, but I was really hungry and in need of a caffeine fix so I started looking for options early on.
Pulling into New Meadows I saw the nicely restored Pacific and Idaho Northern Railroad Depot and decided to stop and check it out.
Walking around the structure, I could smell bacon cooking and suddenly I was more interested in food than in history. Just a few blocks down the road was the cozy Granite Mountain Cafe and a seat right at the big front windows.
The coffee was hot and the breakfast was excellent, they have french toast made with inch-thick slabs of challah bread, it’s amazing (and I’m really glad the waitress talked me into just the single slice, it was huge!)
I was back on the road an hour later, and made the miles fly by pretty quickly. Just outside of Pollock I came upon what I thought was a regular construction zone. Nope. Side of hill let loose, but hey, it only covered one lane so they kept the other one open and let us pick our way through the debris and hope the high scalers don’t drop anything big on top of us.
Riggins is a neat little town tucked into a tight canyon, we’d stayed here in years past, but I didn’t have an excuse to stop this time, so no photos.
I did stop a few miles later where the scenery opens up and the road becomes a ribbon of big sweeping corners mimicking the bends and curves of the river flowing beside it.
After a fuel stop in Grangeville I turn off of Route 13 onto 12 and begin to gain elevation towards Lolo Pass. Following the Lochsa river, 12 is shaded with lodgepole and birch and has a frustratingly slow speed limit, but there’s no traffic at all and it’s a gorgeous day so I take it easy and try to stay (sort of) legal.
This is one of those “motorcyclists need to ride this” kind of roads that is talked about in every book and online forum. Past rides have been over long weekends with the resulting traffic and feeling that you’re basically in a herd of two-wheeled beasts following a path that others have chosen for you. But it’s such a fun path we kept going back.
Now, on a late-season ride in the middle of the week, I see how fantastic this road can really be, and I’m thankful again that Mike had the foresight to save all our money so we could retire early. Of course any time I think about how Mike thought ahead and planned for the future, but only got to reap the rewards of that planning for 3 years, it’s a punch to the gut. At the same time I’m so glad we didn’t put all of our dreams on hold until retirement, we had a lifetime of adventures together.
This road has enough history to keep my mind on good things though, the Corps of Discovery came through here in 1805, and the many storyboards along the route give me snippets of their travels.
Lewis and Clark, Peter Skene Ogden, John Day, these early wanderers touched so many places that I love. The East Coast has its Rockefellers and Vanderbuilts, those of us on the left coast have a bunch of crazy men and women willing to walk thousands of miles through the worst conditions and the most difficult terrain just to see what’s out here. And I’m just rolling along on my high-tech internal combustion contraption wearing completely waterproof clothing and if things get chilly I can plug in my heated liner. I have maps, communication, and music at my fingertips. I carry a library full of books on a slim device that’s smaller than a child’s picture book. Life is good.
Life gets even better when I roll into Lochsa Lodge for a late lunch. This grand log structure is the second, the first lodge was built in 1929 and survived until fire destroyed it in 2001. The new building is gorgeous, and always warmly welcoming.
I feel very safe here – not just because they require masks, but also because I’m literally the only customer inside the dining room! There are a few people sitting outside at tables, so it’s not a ghost town, but I get this huge space all to myself!
The view from my table isn’t too bad either.
I order a salad (yes, I eat a lot of salads when I’m traveling, no I’m not health-conscious, just too lazy to make good salads at home!) and eat slowly, enjoying the view and the quiet.
I’ve been there about a half hour when a couple of guys wearing riding gear come in, nod at me, and head out to the deck. I’m really enjoying my salad until I see what they’ve ordered — the homemade berry cobbler with ice cream! Argh! I know I can’t cram that in on top of a full lunch, they’d have to roll me into a room after I was done, so I sit and stew in my jealousy.
After lunch I head out to the deck to tell those guys their dining selection is just plain mean and evil. They laugh and say “Yes, and it’s delicious also!” We chat a bit, they’ve just ridden up from Missoula for a quick evening scoot. They look a bit startled when I tell them where I’m from. We talk rides, history, bikes, roads, all the basic stuff that motorcyclists have in common. This is one of the best things about riding, if you feel like being social you’re pretty much guaranteed a nice chat with anyone else in riding gear.
It’s getting later, so we all decide it’s time to head out before the deer come out to play. They ask if I’d like to tag along with them to Lolo and I readily agree. We’re all on adventure bikes, so I figure we’ll be decently well matched, and we are. As we ride over the crest of the pass and drop down the other side we’re in Montana and the speed is suddenly 65. Yahooo! We pass some slower traffic, and I end up in the middle, the lead guy is running a perfect pace, faster than I would go solo, but still very comfortably within my skill level. The miles are gone in the blink of an eye and we roll into Lolo with huge smiles on our faces, we stop and chat for a minute then wave goodbye. I don’t even remember their names, but gosh that was fun!
Here’s something else that I really miss about riding with Mike. He would take photos as we were riding. I have thousands of fantastic action images of our adventures. He really was the best riding partner, a guy who could read a map AND take action shots!
I gas up the bike and do a search for a place to stay, unfortunately there’s really nothing after Lolo until Salmon, which would put me deep into darkness. So, I guess I’m stopping here!
I do a quick search and get a room at the Day’s Inn. As I roll up to the office I realize there’s another adventure bike parked there already. Inside I meet Ismail, the owner of the KTM out front, a big bold funny fellow originally from Turkey. Of course we chat and he’s totally surprised that I’m riding solo, but thinks it’s the best idea ever and I should just sell all the bikes and take off to South America because who needs riding buddies, right??
Yeah Ismail, I’ll get right on that.
I pull everything off my bike and get settled in my room. I’m not really hungry enough for dinner, but there is a DQ across the street and ice cream sounds good. So, dinner is a hot fudge sundae which I obtain by walking through the drive through because of course that’s all that is open. I tell the gal I could make vroom vroom noises and pretend I have a steering wheel in front of me, she says that’s okay, she’ll let me slide just this once.
So it’s off to an early bedtime with the alarm set for 7am. Sorry, no pictures of the hotel, but I think you can probably visualize what the Lolo Montana Day’s Inn looks like!