"Excuse me while I kiss the sky."
Ė Jimi Hendrix

TODAYíS ROUTE:
Williston, ND to Shelby, MT: US-2 West to CR-1804 to Fort Union Trading Post NHS to CR-327 towards Bainville, back on US-2 West through Wolf Point, Glasgow, Havre to Shelby. (
MAP)

THE DETAILS:
There is a good reason they call this place "Big Sky Country." They call it that BECAUSE IT IS. The sky envelops and surrounds you. Itís almost overbearing. Iím an ant on the endless fields of grain of Montana.

About 40 miles from Havre, a very fast BMW K1200RS whips by me, out of nowhere. I didnít even see it coming up behind, and the road is straight for miles. Iím doing about 70, so this guy is cruising. I havenít seen a BMW traveling in the same direction as me since I left New York, and here I am in the middle of Montana being passed by a kick-ass bike. I turn it up a notch and hang in there, whipping across the plain. As we approach the town of Chinook we slow up enough for me to get a look at his plate. Heís from California, and his license frame says "93 Iron Butt, 11 Days, 11,000 Miles." Thereís only one way this guy got that frame: heís the real deal, and he rides like it.

Thirty very fast miles later, we reach Havre and my new friend pulls into a gas station. We dismount and introduce ourselves. His name is Joseph Mandeville, and in 1993 he rode his BMW K1100RS 11,001 miles in 11 days, earning him 18th place. That year he also rode his bike 122,976 miles in 12 months, setting a record that has not been beat, and putting him in some very select company. There are only two other guys on record who have ever ridden over 100,000 miles in one year: Phil Mann (113,205 miles), and Mike Kneebone (107,501miles). Mann is riding in the Iron Butt right now, and Kneebone is running it. Heís the Rally Master and Chairman..

I didnít know it at the time we met, but Joe is a real legend. We exchange cards and he has to run. Heís in the middle of The 1999 Three Flags Classic: a Mexico to Canada rally that started in Nogales, Sonora on Friday and ends in Medicine Hat, Alberta on Monday!  The rally is held by the Southern California Motorcycling Association and it's become quite a popular event.  350 riders are running the rally and Joe is the vice-chairman and planned the route. If you want to read more, check out http://www.sc-ma.com/3flags.htm. When heís not on his motorcycle, Joe is a Workerís Compensation Judge for the State of California.

Have you ever seen bikers wave to each other while youíre driving your car? Motorcyclists, no matter what make or model they ride, share a common ground. And because of this bond, they carry respect for each other. After all, itís us against them: them being everyone else on the road. When you pass another rider, you wave to them. Itís just something we do. It may be just a flick of your hand, barely reaching off the handlebar, or it may be a full-blown "How Ya Doiní". But, if youíre not a jerk, you wave.

About 50 miles out of Shelby, my home for the night, I can see the Rocky Mountains building out of the plains. Theyíre over 100 miles away, but the land is so flat and the sky is so clear that I can see where Iíll be riding tomorrow. Twenty days have passed since I started this thing. School is over. Itís time to get serious.

THE DAILY TAKE:
Miles Today: 423.1
Total Miles: 7,103
Time on Motorcycle: 6 Hours 23 Minutes
States Visited today: 2 (ND, MT)
Total States Visited: 20
National Park Service Passport Stamps: 1
NPS Stamp totals: 53 Stamps, 16 States
Weather: Big Blue Sky

SEEN ON THE ROAD:
"Welcome to Wolf Point. Lewis and Clark slept here. Why donít you?" Ė sign approaching Wolf Point, Montana, on Route 2.

RANDOM PASSINGS:
Almost every morning I check out my tire pressure and oil level. This morning the tires need a little air, so I pull my bike over to the Amoco station conveniently located next door to my motel. As Iím checking the pressure, a fellow rider comes over to check out my bike. He and his friend are getting ready for a Sunday ride on their Honda Valkyries. Turns out the guy is the tech manager for the local cable operator, and yes they do have ESPN Classic. While we are chatting and checking out my GPS, a pickup truck backs into one of their bikes, knocks it over and then takes off! The damage is minimal (a broken mirror and turn signal) and a kind stranger has written down the pickupís plate number. But this is not a good way to start a ride!

 


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