Mission to Montana


Chuck has arrived here in Bigfork a few days ago. He actually trailered his Harley Davidson and BMW up here from Florida. Okay, I know what you’re saying, "He trailered a BMW?" Yeah, I know, but this was the only way Chuck could work out all his riding plans. After we return from Alaska, Chuck is going to ride the Harley to Sturgis and then head down to Tijuana for the 3 Flags Classic, a 2,800 mile, 4 day rally up to Edmonton. Frankly, if I had the option of riding a Harley to Sturgis I’d leave behind the BMW too. But I figure after riding the bike to Prudhoe Bay and the top of North America, my chances of getting the crap beaten out of me in Sturgis will be reduced. That is at least if I don’t clean the bike after I ride the Dalton Highway.

We’ve still got some preparations to finish before we head north, and we’ve only got two days left. After months of planning we’re rushing to get everything done. There are still a few bits of gear to procure so we head down to Missoula with a final checklist. Fortunately for us there is a BMW dealer there, Smith & Jones Coachworks. I’ve had a hard time getting hold of a spare throttle cable, but lucky me, they have one in stock. And Chuck can’t seem to locate the spare key for his top case, but they have that too. Good thing Chuck drove out here, because after four days on the bike, it is kind of nice to drive somewhere. The 90 minute ride to Missoula also give us a chance to review the route plan and make a few more motel reservations. We hear the Alaska Highway can be pretty crowded in the summer.

Back at Larry’s we clean up the bikes and I decide to change my oil. I’m not sure how wise this decision is, as it takes a long time to remove the crash bars and sump guard, but I get a good opportunity to learn more about the motorcycle. We also install a Fat Foot on Chuck’s sidestand, as I have already done to my bike. The Fat Foot is simply a small square piece of diamond-plate aluminum which gets bolted onto the bottom of the side stand, increasing the footprint to double its original size. Considering all the gravel and dirt we’ll be parking on, the Fat Foot is mandatory equipment.

One bit of equipment we decide to leave behind is our bike to bike communication gear. Thinking it would be a good thing to be able to talk to each other from within our helmets ("Chuck, look out for that bear I just passed!") we purchased two full Autocom systems a couple of months ago. The Autocom allows you to speak clearly with a passenger and also plug in a CB or FRS radio for bike to bike communication. You can also add a Walkman or MP3 player for music listening. The Autocom equipment is very good stuff and they are clearly the leader in this field. But it takes some time to properly set up everything and we haven’t had the time. For one thing, it would take a couple of hours just to fit the earphones into Chuck’s new helmet properly. But the biggest problem we have are the Cobra CB radios we bought. They just aren’t powerful enough with the stock antennas, and mounting an external antenna at this point is simply not possible. Looking back, we should have bought FRS radios instead. We scrape the Autocoms for now and will stick to hand signals. Good thing Chuck is a pilot!

Another gear issue is my BMW heated vest. It just doesn’t seem to be working as well as it should. This isn’t much of a problem down here in Montana, but I may just need a little heat on the North Slope of the Brooks Range, beyond the Arctic Circle. I’ve been thinking about buying a Aerostitch Darien Unobtainium anyway, so this is my chance. The Unobtainium is actually a heated fleece jacket, so my arms will be kept warm also. It is reversible and actually makes a nice bomber jacket to wear around when off the bike. When stuffed in its self-storage pocket it even makes a great camping pillow. This one jacket will replace three separate pieces of gear. I called Aerostich from Livingston and placed an order. When it arrives in Big Fork the next day at Larry’s, Chuck likes it so much he orders one too.

After two non-stop days the bike are ready, the gear is packed, and we are ready to go. It seems we’ve brought just about everything we could ever need, but we like to be prepared. Click Here to see a list of all my gear.

A very special big time heap of gratitude to Larry Ashcraft. Not only does Larry have an absolutely gorgeous home in a spectacular location, but without his help and generosity we would have had a difficult time working everything out. Thank you Larry!