We’ve got some serious riding to do today, so we have all agreed to get up an hour earlier than usual, and meet at 7:00 am in the breakfast room of the BEST WESTERN White Oak Grand. I stoke the fires with fresh fruit and some yogurt, knowing that I’ll need long-lasting energy for the road ahead. We check out of our hotel rooms, and meet in the parking lot.
It’s my turn to ride the Tri Glide Ultra Classic trike today. I get some riding instruction, then take a quick spin around the parking lot to make sure that I have the basics of operation down before I hit the road. Riding a Tri Glide requires some adjustment from riding a two-wheeler. The hand controls are basically the same, with clutch on the left, throttle and front brake on the right. The right foot controls the rear brakes, and the left foot shifts. All normal up to there. The real difference comes with turning. On a two-wheeler, you initiate a turn with counter steering, pushing forward on the handlebars on the side where you want to turn. If you want to go left, give pressure on the left handgrip and the bike leans and turns to the left. On the Tri Glide, it’s the opposite. You steer a trike much like you steer a car. There’s no leaning. So, to turn left, you push on the right handgrip, turning the front wheel left — exactly the opposite of how you steer a two-wheeled motorcycle. You don’t have to worry about keeping your trike upright at a stop — in fact, you want to keep your feet on the running boards so that you don’t accidentally run over your own heels with the back wheels.
I find that I have a quick affinity for the trike. It fits me well, and I can keep my arm straight when turning, so that I can use my whole body to steer, instead of muscling the bars with my arms alone. I feel comfortable and safe in the saddle, and I immediately start to have some fun.
We head directly from the BEST WESTERN White Oak Grand toward Glacier National Park, one of the wonders of the National Park Service. Covering over 1,000,000 acres (1,583 square miles), the park is a beautiful monument to nature. The highlight might be the Going-to-the-Sun Road, a 50 mile-long road that traverses Logan’s Pass. The last time I was here, Logan’s Pass was snowed in, and we could only ride about 10 miles on the Going-to-the-Sun Road. This time, the road is open, and we take to the winding path along the cliffs.
Road crews are hard at work maintaining and repairing the road. Erosion and a tough winter take a toll on the narrow byway, and each summer is a race against time to maintain safe passage. I’m very glad to be on the Tri Glide in these conditions — gravel and loose sand doesn’t bother the trike the same way that it does a two-wheeler, and stop-and-go traffic is downright relaxing. I plug in my iPod to the Tri Glide’s stereo system, and before long, I’m blasting Xavier Cugat tunes into the glaciers.
A few miles from the top of Logan’s Pass, we encounter a dense bank of fog. The fog becomes so thick that I can barely see the motorcycle in front of me. We slow way down, and when we reach the Ranger Station at the top of the pass, we stop to regroup. Our original plan had been to ride across the Going-to-the-Sun Road from east to west, and then to reverse direction and ride again from west to east and then begin our return trip toward Idaho and Canada. Instead, we decide to reverse course here, and ride back down from Logan’s Pass to the east. It’s the prudent decision — but it means that I’m going to have to make a third trip to Glacier National Park in order to complete my passage along the entire 50 mile route. I won’t mind a bit.
We descend from the fog back into the sunlight, and wind our way back out of Glacier National Park. We stop for lunch at the Glacier Village Cafe, just outside of the gates of the park. The old-fashioned family restaurant could easily be a tourist trap, but it turns out to be a pleasant, friendly place with delicious comfort food. They push the huckleberry pie very hard, and several of my colleagues succumb to its lure. I allow myself a bite (or two). Delicious.
Gassed up and back on the road, I reluctantly give up the Tri Glide to another journalist, and saddle up on the Heritage Softail Classic. With its studded leather bags and detachable windshield, the Heritage is a very elegant, retro ride. I was very comfortable on board, though I find the handgrips to be a little too high for my taste. I would change out the bars right away if I bought a Heritage. That’s one of the great things about Harley-Davidson motorcycles — you can quickly and easily tailor them to your tastes and dimensions.
Everything looks great as we left Glacier National Park and head west toward Idaho. Then, the weather starts to turn. You can see weather happening miles and miles ahead of you when you are in Montana, and it looks like we are heading into a big storm. Bolts of lightning strike in the distance — one of the few non-freezing weather conditions that I will not contest on a motorcycle. We pull off into a parking lot to consider our options, and to give the group a chance to gear up for the rain. I don’t have to add any additional gear, because I am wearing my Harley-Davidson FXRG Jacket, FXRG Leather and Textile Overpants and FXRG Boots. From experience, I know that I can trust this gear to keep me dry and warm no matter how much rain I hit.
We decide to keep riding. We ride along the western shore of Flathead Lake on US 93, and then pick up US 28 to ride through the appropriately named Hog Heaven Range of mountains. US 28 takes us in a southwesterly direction through the mountains. The temperatures drop into the upper 50s, and we ride through intermittent light rain showers. I debate stopping to add a layer underneath my jacket, because I am a little chilly. But we’re making excellent time, and I don’t want to stop riding and inconvenience the group. If it gets uncomfortable, I will stop. For now, I’m just a little chilly.
At St. Regis, Montana, we pick up the interstate for the first time on our trip. I-90 will take us all the way into Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. If you have to ride the superslab, this is a nice stretch, with big sweeping curves and beautiful scenery in every direction. The rain lets up a bit, and I’m comfortably warm at freeway speeds. The Heritage tracks beautifully on the highway, and I’m able to keep up with the brisk pace set by our ride leader.
We make a brief photo stop at the little town of Wallace, Idaho. The quaint village of 1,000 holds the distinction that every building in downtown is on the National Registry of Historic Places, which caused I-90 to take a jog around town instead of through it. Wallace holds an annual Accordion Festival, a Huckleberry Festival and a classic car show. It seems like a really cool little town.
Once the bike photos have been snapped, we roll on into Coeur d’Alene and park at the BEST WESTERN PLUS Coeur d’Alene Inn. I stayed at this hotel on my last swing through the area, and I’m really glad to be back. The staff was particularly friendly and helpful, and the rooms were very comfortable and elegant, and they still are.
I meet up with my colleagues for dinner at the hotel’s Mulligans Grille and Bar. I’m craving steak again, and Mulligans does it up nicely, including a soup and salad bar to help me subdue my appetite. I bid my colleagues a pleasant evening, and retire to my room. I’ve discovered that Canadians will sit around talking after dinner for hours if you let them — and I’m exhausted!
Tomorrow, we cross the border again into the Great White North. One more day of riding, and this trip is complete. Too quickly, as always. I will treasure tomorrow — wonder which bike I will wind up riding?
Kilometers traveled: 570 (354 miles)
NEXT: COUER D’ALENE, ID TO KELOWNA, BC AND HOME AGAIN