WanderlustBy Sam Lepore
(Click map for full size)
Kooskia to Bozeman
Subject: Wanderlust 21 - Bozeman, Montana
Date: Wed, 23 Jun 1999 23:16:27 -0700

"I always wanted to see Montana."
- The Captain of the Russian submarine Red October, played by Sam Neil.

        First, some belated follow up from my previous musings. Despite some inventive suggestions about the rock piles I saw in Oregon, no one provided as precise an answer as Michael Hunt (repeated here for the benefit of those not on the LDR list). Strange, though, that he commented they are also in Idaho but my immediate observation was they weren't ...

        "They are called 'stone bucks' or 'stone buck' for the singular.
        They are usually used in rocky ground where it can be difficult
        to set a fence post.  Some use them as the corner marker for
        a section (1sq. mi.).  They also come in square, rectangular
        and triangular form.
        You will also find them in Idaho and other states w/more than
        their fair share of rocks."

And my call for long distance "last gas" brought this from Bob Hole.

        "I saw a next gas sign east of Tonopah, NV, saying next gas 91 miles."

        Now picking up where I left off in Kooskia - I have always been driven by curiosity, and I am still a most curious fellow (no matter how you interpret that :). If ignorance is bliss, why aren't I happy? I seem to question everything that does not need questioning. Kooskia, for example. I asked at the gas station, what does it mean. "No idea", said the woman. "Been here a dozen years and no one ever asked that. I do know it is a Nez (Perce) word, though, and it is pronounced koo-SKY-ah, not koosk-ee-uh."
        This morning at breakfast in the Rivers Cafe (hint hint), I asked the waitress/manager/owner. She gave me gave me a look like I had just asked her why does she breathe air. She said "I've been here 40 years and I have never thought to ask that question." Ignorance is not bliss when you realize you were ignorant of your ignorance.
        The man in the first booth never looked up and never stopped shoveling eggs. "Koo-shky-yeh means 'where the rivers meet'."
        "No", says a woman at the counter. "It means 'two waters together'!"
        By which time I had paid my bill and was leaving. Two minutes ago in the Rivers Cafe (hint) the subject had never been discussed and now there was an etymological argument of the finer points of Nez. By the way, Koo-whatever is at the confluence of the (South) Clearwater and the (Middle) Clearwater. Clear?

        Motorcyclists are often chased by dogs. Some dogs even do it for fun. As I started up Route 12, I was fun chased by a horse. Traffic was slow, about 30. We rounded a bend that ran close to a fence. The horse probably saw my headlight, then he took a couple steps toward the fence and started running along side me. He wasn't spooked, and he didn't turn away - he kept up for about 100 yards. Wow, talk about iron horse. This was a long distance STrider!
        It was a good day for a ride (what day isn't?) The smoky mists were steaming out of the trees and cascading over the cold air above the rushing water. Combined with the spray from the many rapids, it made a fine layer of natures whipped cream swirled over the open spaces. In some places the mist was thick enough to drip. In San Francisco will call this "fog fall", but even though it was cold enough for me to plug in and turn on the electric jacket, it wasn't enough to make the road slick.
        And there, around the first bend north of Lovell was THE SIGN. The sign most often photographed by motorcycle travelers. Yellow sign. Big letters. "Winding Road next 77 miles". Can't help but smile when you know it is for real. The pavement is clean and smooth the whole way. There are plenty of passing zones. There are few driveways or other distractions. What a nice way to spend an hour ... err, an hour and a quarter ... err, an hour and thirty five minutes if you believe in the speed limit (50).

        OK, next "rock pile" question! To make a writing note, I stopped in a paved pullout area just past THE SIGN. Painted on the ground in those official huge stencil letters only DOT uses was the admonition DONT ... BE ... A ... GUBERIF. Man, I looked at that like it was a 7th grade essay test. Guberif. Yeah, that's how it was spelled. "You might be a guberif ...?" OK, Mr. Idaho, what the $#@% is a guberif? (I am not making this up - go look for yourself!)

        Two hours, or ten days? US12 follows the Locsha River along what we now call the Lewis and Clark Trail. Almost 200 years ago they came this very way, and I am relieved to say that the other side of the river still looks like it could have then. Rugged. Original. Too rough for foot traffic. I thought about them floating in their boats as I floated along the pavement. On a good day traveling upstream they could make 10 miles. The 100 miles to the top of the pass took them 10 days. It took me less than two hours.
        How fast is too fast? Not too fast to travel, but too fast to see what you are passing. Our mode of transportation today would stun Lewis and Clark. But we travel at just about the limit for still being able to "see" where we are. Will travelers 200 years from now think the same as they step out of the beam transporter? A bullet train gets there fast, but what do you see of the flowers along the way? I could go faster ... but I choose not to. I hope we never get automatic vehicle controls "for better service" such that we can't go as 'fast' as we want.

        My day for playful animal chases. A no-horn sheep munching at the edge of the road was startled by the bike bursting out of the forest curve. (It would have been a big-horn, but it was a female.) It leapt up the rocky incline and started running parallel to the road. I slowed to match it's speed. Being up on the ledge, it could not jump in my way, and I wasn't close enough to spook it. From my thoughts of "speed" above, can you imagine running at 25 mph over rocks that appear to have no flat surfaces. The sheep was effortless, graceful, and amazing.

        The top of Lolo Pass is the Montana border. When did Montana become a gambling everywhere state? Later I would see "casinos" in supermarkets, gas stations, and even a pharmacy (risk your aspirin money and get a bigger headache?), but some of them must have been in a rush when the law changed. The first sign past the border was for Lucky Diamond Casino - NEXT RIHGT.
        All my motorcycle friends know of the other recent legal change in Montana ... there is a speed limit now. For a while, there was no set limit because of a challenge to the former law which was: "Reasonable and Prudent". The challenge was not successful, but the R&P law was ruled unconstitutionally vague. Now the limit is 70. 70 on 4-lanes, 70 on 2-lanes. 70 in driveways ... but rest assured R&P is still the practice anywhere off the Interstate. I would be rolling along at a Reasonable 70 on some backroad and a pickup would Prudently pass me, again and again.
        Passing through Helena reminded me of my last visit there 20 years ago. While we were gassing up the van, a drunk spied the Massachusetts plates, then wobbled over to Rebecca and said "Shay shumpin to me in Massashushits". Not being one to take advantage, she tried to explain we all spoke English ... but I don't think he understood the language. I always thought the best answer would have been to look him squarely in the unfocused crossed eyes and say "cranberry bog". Forget official state symbols ... say something to me in - hmmm, California: Duuude.
        My tires have not tasted Interstate pavement since California, duuude, but finally there is no other choice. So it's off again with the truck fumes and the fuming families in minivans as I race off to meet Duner in Bozeman.

FuelPlus 369 miles, 5:48 hours, 62 mph
Koo-whatever US12 MT200 MT141 US12 US287 Indian205 I90 Bozeman

Sam Lepore, San Francisco
Wanderlust Rider

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