So my last motorcycle post ended with me telling you guys where exactly Henry and I went on our great-American-two-wheeled-adventure. If only re-telling a story could be as simple as just stating the basics. I wish I could actually just take you guys all there, give you direct insight into my brain, kind of like the pensieve in Harry Potter. Unfortunately, I’m still waiting on my acceptance letter from Hogwarts, so can’t invite you to review my memories, so I shall begin to share them with you via written words and hope that they will take you somewhere else, as if we were using a pensieve.
The day that we left Bozeman was an absolute mess. Both Henry and I were feeling excruciating pains from the night before. Having a huge night on the town with all of our new closest friends to celebrate the time that we’d all experienced before going our own ways before having to take off on a motorcycle for several hours the following day turned out not to be such a great idea. On top of that, I also had a 7am alarm set for a room inspection. The last time I would ever step foot in my humble Bozeman abode again. Once you also factor in good-byes, packing and time limits, it makes for a very emotional, tiring day.
We’d hoped to be out of Bozeman by no later than 2pm, but due to finding packing the motorbike really difficult, we didn’t end up leaving until close to 4pm. We were only riding to Great Falls (approximately 3 hours north) so we figured leaving a little bit late wasn’t a big deal. Boy, what a mistake that was!
Having failed in practice packing the bike, we’d also failed in riding the bike with extra weight on it. We wobbled out of Bozeman, becoming the victims of several confused stares and headed onto the I90. We’d driven on the highway several times before in a car, so we never realised how bad the wind was on that stretch of road. What should’ve only taken 30 minutes by car took us almost and hour and a half on the bike. Not only was poor Henry getting used to riding the motorbike with all of this added weight on it, he was also fighting against the crazy winds that were trying so hard to tip us over in all directions!
The relief we both felt when we finally made it to the I15 Helena exit can’t be put into words. We were both exhausted from that first stretch of the ride, getting off of the tunnel-winded highway and onto open plains was like a godsend. We stopped at a small gas station just outside of Helena to have a quick drink and buy some more duct tape (did I mention that everything was attached to the bike with duct tape and rope – we had it down to an art). We finished our drinks off fairly quickly and applied more duct tape to our few belongings and realised that it was almost 5:30! Shit! We were still 2.5 hours away from Great Falls via car; we didn’t even want to think how much time would be added because of the bike. Luckily the weather that day was really nice; we’d left Bozeman wearing just our protective gear over our t-shirts.
Realising how struck for time we were we quickly skulled the last of our drinks, mounted the bike and zoomed off, down the long, winding Montanan highway.
The next 40 minutes of the ride was all smooth sailing. We’d driven through Helena and were nearing the Mountainous National Park part of the highway. We were in awe at the sight of the mountains that we’d be riding through, such magnificent beauty we’d landed ourselves in! Although, the moment the mountains came into sight, the warmth from the sun disappeared. It was freezing! We quickly pulled off the highway and emptied our backpacks of all the warm clothing we’d stuffed in there. Luckily there were no friends about then to take photo’s of us looking absolutely ridiculous as we both looked like mini HR Puff ‘n’ Stuffs hopping onto the bike with all of our winter gear on. We continued riding through Helena’s great mountain range; the bike was struggling in the high altitude, but we had no other option but to keep on going. Mind you, I did have family friends in Helena who could’ve come to save our sorry asses, but we both had intact pride (and had already paid for one nights accommodation in Great Falls and were in no position to let that slide).
We eventually made it to the other side of the mountains and were happy that the road ahead seemed straight and flat. Having done the drive between Great Falls and Helena a lot over the last couple of years I was happy because I knew we were only about 30 minutes away from a warm room, cosy bed and a delivered dinner because I sure as hell was not going outside again that night!
By this point in time it had grown dark and night-time was all we could see along the dimly lit highway. Somewhere around this time, Henry took a wrong turn. I hadn’t noticed that he’d taking any turns; I’d been too busy caught in a hungover/what-the-hell-am-I-doing daydream. I had noticed that it seemed to be taking us forever to get from the Northern side of the pass to Great Falls. I also realised that I didn’t recognise my surroundings, but just passed that as being the dark playing with my mind. It wasn’t until we drove past a sign that said ‘Augusta ahead’ that I realised that we weren’t where we needed to be. I tapped Henry on the back and he pulled over – we communicated by a very particular tapping ‘Morse code’ whilst on the bike as we couldn’t afford to buy headpiece’s.
I remember asking Henry where exactly we were, to which he exasperatedly responded that we’d be there soon and we needed to hurry because we were running low on fuel.
For anyone who knows the roads of Montana well, you’d know that Augusta is not where you want to be at 8:30pm on a bitterly cold early spring evening on a motorbike. We made it to the Choteau turn off and pulled to the right, finally on a straight road to Great Falls! I still have no idea how we ended up taking the wrong turn.
About half way to Great Falls from the turn off the weather took another spin and was now absolutely freezing. Both Henry and I were so cold we’d gone numb, but wanting to get to Great Falls as quick as possible, we ignored how numb we were and continued riding. Until that is, the motorcycle’s engine cut out and we were left stranded on the side of an empty road, in the dark, numb from cold with no petrol in the engine. We were both so tired and irritated that we didn’t even speak at first. We just kind of stood, dumbfounded. Henry said he could set up the tent and we could just sleep on the side of the road. Furious, I snapped and said ‘No! We are going to the hotel!’
Henry passed me a torch and he started un-taping the jerry can. It was at this point a car slowly ambled up the long driveway that we were at the end of. A kind lady asked us if we needed any help. Stupid us replied ‘No thanks, we’re fine, just re-filling our tank.’ The lady drove off.
Once Henry had re-filled the engine and re-taped the now empty jerry can back onto the side of the bike, we got out some hand warmers from our make-do tank bag and slipped them down our shirts. Whilst they didn’t warm our bodies up completely, it was a comfort that motivated us to make it to Great Falls (I enjoyed the hand warmer a little too much and ended up with a burn on my chest – oops).
The most annoying thing about the motorbike running out of fuel when it did was the fact that we could see the glow of Great Falls not too far ahead of us. It was so close yet so far away! When we finally made it into the once distant glow of Great Falls, a blanket of happiness encompassed the both of us as we ‘wooped’ and high-fived each other down the highway and to the front door of the hotel we had booked a room at.
Much to our surprise, the lady at reception didn’t greet us with an odd look as we entered the building looking like we’d just walked from Alaska. She was very kind and understood that we wanted to get to our room and warm up. We opened the door to the King Suite we’d booked for the night and were ecstatic. We blasted the heating and I jumped in the shower. I had been so cold that my whole body was red and it took about 5 minutes of just standing under the water for me to warm up.
Once Henry and I were all cozied up and not numb anymore, we had pizza delivered to our room; we devoured it in the comfort of our king bed and fell asleep almost instantly.
We had survived Day 1.