WanderlustBy Sam Lepore

Subject: WanderNorth 12 - Waitsburg, Washington
Date: Thu, 14 Jun 2001 23:55:23 -0700

    Moose drool for breakfast.

    While cruising Missoula for breakfast, I found a coffee shop in the corner of a sporting goods store. It used to be unusual for businesses of different purpose to mix, but now it seems normal. I never did tell you about the "Oil, Lube, and Latte" found in Needles ... but that's another story. Anyway, this "world grounds" corner had a sign in the window that caught my eye: Today's special flavor - Kaffe Montana Moose Drool. How can anyone pass that up?
    Moose drool is a very strong blend of beans which they were happy to describe, but it was hot and brown and good in the chill morning air. It went well with the blackberry cream cheese croissant hiding in the corner of the display case. Isn't 'roughing it' in Montana wonderful?
    Ok, remember I've been "out there" - way out there for a few days now. I haven't even seen a marked parking space for a week let alone thought of a parking meter. So when I angled up to the curb and went into the coffee shop, I never noticed the signs. Half an hour or so later I came out and saw this bright yellow tag stuck in the seat of the bike. Oh phuf. A parking notice. Ok ... flip it over, let's see the damage:
    YOU HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN! for overparking
    Missoula Downtown Welcomes It's Out-Of-Town Visitors
    Courtesy Parking For 2 Hours
    (signed by an officer, with my plate number and the time)

    Someone hold me - I think I'm gonna faint! This is just too damn reasonable.

    A couple of readers have asked me what kind of radar detection I use in my travels. Only the back of my eyeballs. I don't use a detector because I don't speed, even when I go over the posted limit. When I think the signs are set too low and the road warrants it, I will maintain 5-10 over, and I've never been stopped. Ever wonder why police (in most areas) give that leeway? I can answer for California and I suspect it is similar elsewhere. California law requires a speed survey to be taken for a road (other than freeways) every 5 years (with certain exceptions). The speed limit is then set at 85% of the average maximum from the survey. So for the sake of argument say the average is 60. The limit should be 51 but will likely be rounded to 50. If I stay 5-10 over, I will still be under the "excessive speed", which would be more than the average.
    Just don't pass a cop while using this formula ... I did that once and the look on his face was remarkable. Of course it did help that he was going what he thought was exactly the speed limit according to his uncalibrated speedometer and I pointed to my GPS showing precisely 55 mph.

    Traveling through lower Canada I saw several places where there were signs "Animal Reflectors", but I never understood what they meant. A few miles out of Missoula on MT200 a sign said Deer Reflector Test Section. There I saw the same reflectors I saw in Canada ... red rectangular plastic prisms similar to truck edge markers, mounted on stalks every 50 feet or so along both sides of the road. How are these supposed to work? Do they shine a particular color that deer notice, or are they to acclimatize our eyes to a color that will contrast with reflected deer eyes, or are they to provide an 'interference pattern' so when something steps between the poles it breaks the continuity we come to expect from regularly spaced reflections ... ? I don't know, but Canada seems to have taken it seriously. I'll have to look into this.

Post Story Addendum: A reader sent me a reference to how they work. They create red beams from vehicle headlights. The specific color is one highly noticeable to animals. The beams move across the landscape as though 'something is there' and the animals avoid stepping into them. See: http://www.usroads.com/journals/rmj/9708/rm970801.htm
    Is gravel road rage more "dirty"?

    MT200 does indeed turn out to be a fine road. Following the Clark Fork along its valley beside the Cabinet Mountains, it parallels the ragged Montana-Idaho border. Not a 'great' motorcycle road, but a good one ... except for the 5 miles of serious dirt and gravel due to construction on the south end.
    Through the gravel section I stayed back about 1/4 mile behind the motor home ahead of me to let the dust drift away. A FedEx delivery van was following me. Speeds varied from a crawl through the rough spots to 35 mph (the posted limit) on packed dirt. When we were about 1/2 mile from rejoining the pavement, the van suddenly accelerated and passed me. It stayed in the left track for the entire 1/2 mile, even after passing the RV. I didn't mind being passed, but when he pulled across the center debris, he kicked up a lot of loose gravel and I had to brake as hard as I could to avoid flying rocks big enough to do serious pain. Not a way to win friends ... but I let it go. Really, I did.
    About 20 miles later, I came into a small town, slowed for the speed limit changes, and was accelerating past the town limit when the same van came zooming out a dirt side road and spit dirt and gravel all over the road in front of me.
    Another 10 miles down the road the van was parked in front of a store. I pulled up behind, but well away. The driver was just coming out from making a delivery.
    Me, with a disarming smile: "Hi there, how you doing today?"
    Him: "Purty good."
    "Hey, got something I'd like you to consider ..." I picked up a handful of dirt and small rocks and sprayed the side of his van. They made a lot of noise but no damage. Then my voice was not as pleasant "... think about how much gravel you kick up the next time you pass someone in a construction zone."
    He raised his fists and came at me. "You son of a ..."
    I did not move. I stared at him. Hard.
    He paused. I stared. Hard.
    "Lucky for you I'm on a tight schedule" he said as he walked back to his van. Then he offered some comments on my mother's character as he (of course) spun out of the lot. Obviously he did not know the woman ... she was much tougher than he claimed.

    No weird signs today ... unless you count the Welcome To Idaho border. That sign has mountains drawn above the letters, trees to the side, and a paved road with a yellow stripe taking up most of the center. You'd think most of Idaho was paved from this representation and the irony is Idaho probably has less pavement per square whatever than any other state. Look at a map. There just aren't that many roads through the center of the wilderness. Seemed a strange 'welcome'.
    Then there was the license plate of the Sandpoint Police Department cruiser: SPD 3 right above 'Famous Potatoes'. (pronounce it)

    Route 200 ends at Lake Pend Oreille, in my opinion as picturesque as the inlets of Alaska. The mountains around the lake form a natural bowl which is just lovely. A historical marker explains that an ice dam formed here during the last ice age and caused a lake 1,000 feet deep to back up 200 miles to Missoula. When it broke, the valley was scoured in the rush. Such was/is often the case in Alaska, too.
    US95 south from Sandpoint is too much like a freeway, so I randomly peeled off to follow some small roads. The map gave me the opportunity to ride through the town of Opportunity, so there I went. And it led me to where the Ugly Stick is buried in Washington. East Spokane Valley is an abomination of unconstrained urban sprawl. After so much beauty, this ugly is appalling. The kindest thing I can say is the road out is worth taking. WA27 is a pleasure that flits and wags through farm country down the state border. This is a great road when you're not in a hurry (because it doesn't really go anywhere except through tiny towns) and a good road when you are in a hurry (no traffic, excellent surface, clean sight lines). 'Scenic' is in the eye of the traveler.
    One town I didn't take the time to visit (10 miles off my path) will leave me wondering ... is there a Starbucks in Starbuck, Washington. I doubt it.

    Finally, I pulled up to a small motel and saw a motorcycle near the office. It belongs to the motel owner. It can best be described as a BMHD. It started life as a BMW R75, but his friends only ride and work on Harleys. Over time they added various Harley parts: windshield, headlights, floor boards, seat, saddlebags, even a Harley muffler. (His words:) Because all these things didn't really fit, his friends welded them on. Now when he goes on a ride, his is the only bike that doesn't drop parts.

401 miles
Missoula MT/ID200 US95 ID53/WA290 WA27 Dry Creek Rd. US195 WA26 WA127 US12 Waitsburg
Sam Lepore, San Francisco

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