Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017
It's Wednesday and I'm happy to be within striking distance of Missoula for my oil change. I don't have to be there until 3pm so I take my time, stop for breakfast in Great Falls, a pretty good-sized city.
After Great Falls I'm getting into the mountains. Big, barren hills at first; a kind of combination plains-mountains. We go way up then come screaming down. I let Greta run over 100mph. Then we're into alpine country, the Rockies with their huge conifer trees. The temperature drops precipitously and it starts to rain. I stop at the pass over the Continental Divide to throw on the fleece and the rain gear, knowing it will be even colder on the way down. There are warning signs about forest fires at the pass. 30 miles later I've dropped a couple thousand feet of elevation and it's hot and sunny again. I stop in a town to strip off the layers and gas up. The town park is covered in little tents: a firefighters' camp. The air is thick with a smoky haze. I catch my breath a few times... it reminds me of the high-Andes passes when I was getting acclimated to the high altitude.
Missoula is a zoo. Vacationers everywhere. I was thinking of getting a motel but slight chance of finding one that isn't expensive. I find the BMW dealer and they take the bike right away. They ordered the wrong parts I called for -- two rubber hinges for one of the hard bags -- but miracle of miracles they have two of the right part in stock anyways. I ask them to diagnose the headlight problem. Just as I thought: the switch is fried. 150 bucks for a new one and it will have to be ordered. I'm moving on regardless, I'll figure it out later. I stop at REI to pick up a new pair of boots (my old ones are a sad-looking mess) and swing by the grocery store for food. Next up is find a campground. I look at an online map of the fires in the area and decide to go north where it looks a little more calm on that front. Up 93 then a left onto a road following the Clark Fork to stop at a campground on the river. I get a decent site, only 10 bucks. Water and vault toilets, no host.