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Skert's NorthWest Passage

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(C) Copyright 2004 by Carol Youorski. All rights reserved.


Skert's NorthWest Passage

July 7, 2004

I left Atlanta at 5 am with the thoughts of riding until sun down, and getting through Atlanta with little delay was the first miracle of my trip. Some dark thoughts were running around in my head about leaving for 2 weeks, not working, money, you know the thoughts, we all have them some time or another. Before I knew it 300 miles had slipped by and it was time to get gas, and then the next. Time was flying by like the miles. The closer to Kansas City the more I realized I would be able to make it to Moon Marble Company on the West side of Kansas City in Bonner Springs before they closed at 5pm. Wow, what a treat of a lifetime watching Bruce make marbles, thrilled to buy some original ones and add a lot more jewels to my windows at home. I had the bulk of them sent home and told the kids to open the package when it arrives. What a fun way to give gifts to my children while traveling. Bruce Breslow had a room full of kids of all ages mesmerized and I was one of them. We had a nice talk while I ate my power bar dinner and guzzled my gator aide. The whole staff was impressed with the miles covered and to be covered.

Excitement led me on and once again the miles flew by. Salina, KS and a bed beckoned me. A thousand mile day and still ready to ride, but the folks at Moon Marble told me the best place to stay would be Salina. A nice Mom and Pop place was found where my bike would be in front of my room, food was close by and so was a cold beer. The weather channel gave the facts of how severe the storms were up the road. Dorothy must be having the time of her life again on the way to Oz. Feelings of irritation that I hadn’t ridden another 100 miles were conflicting with relief to be out the nasty weather, reminded me of a horrible storm I got caught in out in Montana several years ago that had me sobbing in my helmet wondering if death would occur on my motorcycle or under it on the side of the road. This girl should have been satisfied that my ride through Kansas was a cool one.

July 8, 2004

Next morning I found my bike cover had blown to Oz in the night, but no rain and a beautiful morning to ride to Colorado, still kicking myself a little about being a candy butt and not riding on to Hayes, 100 miles down the road. Why do we do this to ourselves? In the distance there was something on the opposite side of the road that I could not identify until upon it, an 18 wheeler lying on its side, hazard lights blinking strong with no one around. What is up with this? Where are the tow trucks, the ambulances, the police, and the driver for crying out loud? My first thought was to call the situation in to 911, but then saw an 18 wheeler going past the downed truck, confident he would handle his side of the road. Less than a mile down the road there was another big truck, this time lying in the median, no one around. I was spooked, to say the least. Finally in the distance there were flashing lights, state patrol and wreckers. I am going to stop even though the officer was waving me through. “Do you know there are 2 more 18 wheelers east of us”? He said, yes, the storm last night blew them over. OK! Inadvertently I had avoided sure terror by dumb luck and common sense. Tears came to my eyes and where whipped away in the wind while thinking dark thoughts about what would have happened to me if I had tried that extra 100 miles. GET OVER IT! There was no choice left to me.

Finally the heat and traffic of Denver had me ready to meander on some pretty dotted roads, and the expressway riding would soon be over for a week. My plan was to pick up 24 down to 84 that would take me over Independence pass. Hwy 24 turned into a gravel road and still feeling the effect of my off road riding experience in Charleston, SC and a spill that left me with two broken ribs, I was not happy, but did it. At 84 the sweet little 2 lane took me over one of the highest pass’s I would travel in this trip and some wonderful memories from times past. The miles of the last two days, about 1600 in 36 hours began to take there toll and had me dreaming of a nice little cabin looking out at the river and mountains. Maybe in Aspen I could find my dream cabin, how naďve. Upon arriving in Aspen my horror was evident in my irritation. Oh my God, what has happened to this sweet little mountain town? It was hot and the traffic was horrible. I was beyond ready to stop, mostly due to my disappointment, but tired none the less. How could this beautiful little two lane road going over Independence Pass turn into Buckhead, Atlanta GA?

An info sign about 15 miles down the road said motel next right and drew me in into a gas station and asked about the place. Yes, she said you can park in front of your room. The lady in the motel office asked me if I had a reservation. Who needs a reservation in the middle of nowhere? First and last time anyone asked me that and began to wonder where this road had led me. It was not nowhere, but a suburb of Aspen.

Once settled in my room, I cleaned my bike a little and went to find some beer. The fellow at the little beer store was a Beemer rider and welcomed me to Basalt, He told me a great restaurant was just across the street and enjoy. I was hungry so took my maps to scout out the next days meandering ride to Paonia. “Dinner won’t be served for another hour”, they said. What? It is 6:30pm! Not here they said. Uh oh, time changed a few miles back; it was only 4:30 Mt. time. Ok, I have beer, my maps and a river directly behind me. What more could a girl want?

Suddenly, while sitting there studying my maps my name rang out, SKERT! This was a voice known to me, not just someone who recognized my skirt, but someone who really knew me. Low and behold my friend Nick from Athens, GA who two weeks before I had pictures of leaving there and heading out for CO and no address, was giving me the hug of a lifetime.

He said look me up when you come out this way. How would I ever find him? But there he was. I screamed and jumped into his arms and he swung me around like a ballerina in front of everyone. “What are you doing here” I asked him? I work here, how did you find me? What a riot this was. I was so bummed out about not finding my little cabin on the river, but who do I find instead, but Nick? A good talking to myself about letting life work it out for you instead of trying to second guess it all the time was in order. Ok, I hear you!

Nick was my waiter that night and served me the best food of the house, we then made plans to have breakfast and ride together in the morning.

I found a nice restaurant for breakfast that was really a bar in this quaint town of Basalt, CO. It seemed no other place was open at 7am, when in reality it was 5am. I was still having trouble with the time difference and would for most of the trip. I rode on over to Carbondale to find Nick and have coffee at the Java Hut.

It was so nice not having to make miles today and just sit around with friends. People where coming and going, seemed everyone knew everyone and Nick was right in the middle of them. A lady minister was sitting outside with her dog telling stories to all who would listen. The smoking and dog crowd could almost always be found outside in these towns. Soon a camper goes by and Nick said you are in for a treat now. He called the camper the tin Tee Pee. A man with a white cowboy hat shows up, everyone saying “good morning T Ray”. His hand was leather, strong and gentle when we shook. He looked me in the eye and wished me a good day. We all drank coffee and Nick asked T Ray to play some music for us. He got out his guitar, tuned a little and proceeded to sing straight to my heart. Of course anyone else who listened felt the same way I did. I couldn’t keep the silly grin off my face while listening to him, his words so clear, strong and true. You could hear his pain, sorrow, happiness and love in those words. He was comfortable traveling around in his Tin Tee Pee, singing for a living, albeit a meager one, but all his own. Rich men envy his peace within himself and his lack of desire to make more and more money for happiness. He sang to my heart and soul, a cowboy singing his living, happy with life, rich with contentment. We walked over to his home and he showed me his art. He could make plenty of money by his art alone, but chose his music to live by. He told me of his shattered dreams from earlier days in TN and heard some of his saga of the life that brought the lines in his face. He had Hal Ketchum’s signature on his guitar and would soon be heading out to Nashville to see about selling some of his words, not looking for an agent to dress him up and make millions with, but to play music and share his gentleness with others. I gave him every possible way to keep in touch with me, but he had no cell phone, address or way to be contacted with. I can only hope he will show up in my yard with his home to play for me again. T Ray Becker, singer and song writer was in my heart and would always be there.

“Just sitting here watching the world go by.” T Ray sang, “I could have a real good time on a country road with the full moon on high”. If you will allow life into your heart you will always be in love, my new motto.

Nick was ready to head back over to Basalt and a nice little ride on Frying Pan Road, so T Ray got a long totally wrapped up embrace good bye, a kiss and his promise to come see me.

Nick and I rode a wonderful road called Frying Pan Road, meandering along side a beautiful river that went through Basalt, CO. The same river I sat by while meeting up with Nick again at the place he worked.

Nick went on back to work and I headed out to Paonia and over McClure Pass. Wow what a beautiful ride. I had a little time to let Basalt, Nick and T Ray sink into my heart and feel the powerful pull of serendipity in life. I was on vacation and letting adventure take over. Ride for adventure and let it sweep you away. I was already gone.

I arrived in downtown Paonia and quickly remembered where to go and register. Bob and Annie Clement found me immediately and directed me to our campsite. I love those two, what a tribute they are to love and marriage.

It wasn’t long before I met the folks camped around me. The one who stood out the most was Michael Gray, a former fireman from Paonia. He was all ready to play softball on the Beemer side for a change.

The Kermit Chair Company trusted me to sell their chairs so Bob took me over in a side car to pick them up and set up with Helen 2Wheels. She actually ended up selling just as many or more than I did, all gone by the end of the rally. It was hard to hang around to sell while I wanted to rally. Helen was ready to kick me out of her booth on several occasions.

I fell in love in the hills of CO again. There must be some magic in those mountains. Michael Gray took me up to his old house and shared stories of his life of giving himself away to everyone, but himself. I wanted to comfort him, but he must take that ride on his own.

Dennis Kristoff, a friend from GA and I made plans to head out for Spokane together until one of us wanted to do something else. I gave a wave good bye to Michael, Bob and Annie with sadness in my heart, but excitement for the adventure ahead. Our plan was to ride the dotted roads most of the way. You all know this girl likes the expressways, but for a change the back roads in Colorado, Montana and Idaho where calling to me. We saw some beautiful vistas and were good riding partners, but we already knew that from GA. In another life Dennis lived in a monastery for a year searching for his soul and his demeanor was always so calming, that is until he got on his motorcycle and had any vehicle in front of him. Attack was what it looked like to me. Knowing attack pretty well myself, but usually saving it for the express way and fast heavy traffic, left me a bit uncomfortable. Meander was my goal, not attacking traffic in my usual manor.

We made it to Yellowstone that evening and stayed at Jackson Lake Lodge. It was a neat motel that looked like a log cabin motel, and we could park in front of our room. We had a bottle of wine and talked some heavy soul talk. One thing Dennis said was “your soul has a line to reach out to others, like a string on a balloon.” I have taken that to heart.

The food at the lodge was great and we took advantage of the resort atmosphere.

Next morning we went to see Old Faithful blow, then jumped on the bikes to try to get thru Yellowstone before traffic started to back up. Dennis made some passes that not even I would do and we were stopped toward to end of Yellowstone by the park police. After that, our riding was a wee bit more sober and done by the rules, a blessing in disguise for my inner piece.

You know how it is to ride with someone, you both have to be ready to stop at the same time and we all know that just doesn’t work unless someone gives one way or the other. Dennis was in a funk after his ticket, one that I thought was going to land him in jail. Riding with his foul mood on my vacation was not part of my plans and after eating some food and a heart to heart talk things got better.

We did the Beartooth Pass and both of us were passed by a blue Mini. You go man! Then found some beautiful back roads in Montana that were a peaceful as could be found.

We checked the map and started looking for a place to camp. I was not going to carry 50 pounds of camping gear all over CO and MT and not use it, not to mention my rod and reel attached to it all. We found a place called Potosi Hot Springs that seemed to be not too far off our route, stopped in a town called Harrison, MT and asked about the camp. The young man behind the counter told us the camp ground was a ways down a dirt road. I asked of the condition of this dirt road, remembering my broken ribs and he said they were solid unless it rained, no rain in the forecast so we said let’s go. I chose Potosi on the map in honor of our Fallen Leaf rally each year in Potosi MO and I could pronounce it.

I did my push pull argument in my head for almost the whole way, standing on my pegs and desperately trying to read the dusty gravel road, while planning that I would set up camp while Dennis rode back into Pony for food. By the time we got to the camp, it was 7PM Mt. time. Morris Clark was the custodian of the camp grounds and was right there when we got off our bikes. We asked about the town and getting supplies, but he said everything shuts down at 7. Oh no, my worst fears have come to reality, no food and we are miles from no where. I was tired and hungry and it would be dark soon and feeling way too tired to go back 8 miles down the dirt road in the dark to find a motel that Morris said wasn’t even there. I had coffee, there was fresh water and had at least 5 protein bars that we could live off. Ok, we’ll stay. While we were setting up camp, any time someone came by I begged for food. Only 2 people came by, Morris and a fellow in a camper and his motorcycle for fun. Morris brought us some fire wood and Dennis went to hunt for mushrooms to cook. Not having found any, the fellow with the motorcycle said if we paid for it he would give us a large can of chicken soup and a small can of carrots. Here’s the money, but do you have anything besides carrots? I really did keep my mouth shut and was very grateful. I got the tent set up then went to try to fish for dinner. My brother would be embarrassed at the wasted lessons he has given me over the years. Not even a bite, but I had fun.

Morris came by and brought us a pot of wild rice with some pink flowers in it. He said pick more of these, they are high in protein. We had a feast out of nothing. Unbeknownst to Dennis I had 3 beers in a cooler strapped to my pack that where still cold. I waited until we had eaten and had a nice fire going before surprising him. What a camp fire that was. We had to start it with my little stove because my lighter was nowhere to be found.

Morris went into great detail on how to catch the little river trout, telling me to go down stream about 100 yards where a tree had fallen over the river, a pool had formed in front of it and the fish loved it. He said crawl over to it behind the standing trees because the fish could see 20 feet and would not bite if they saw me. I did just that, mud all over my riding pants, but caught 6 fish, four got away due to my own stupidity, but all in all having a great time. I brought my small catch back to camp to show Dennis before releasing them. This girl didn’t have a clue how to clean fish and there really weren’t enough to cook for our breakfast. We ended up eating our left over dinner for breakfast and what an incredible feast it was again. There are miracles behind every tree and just waiting for me to let go and let it happen.

In the middle of the night when woken up by my internal 4 am alarm, I was overcome with sheer panic when there was a wall blocking my way out of the tent. Panic has never overcome me like that in my memory. Claustrophobia is not something that happens to me, so this was something brand new. I woke poor Dennis who only had his clothes to sleep in, crawled over him and opened the tent door. My head stayed outside the tent door the rest of the night.

The next morning after a 39 degree night, Morris explained to Dennis and me how to get to the Potosi Hot Springs. “Go over the log bridge and when you get to the fence that says “Please close gate” go through and follow the trail to the corralled off area”, there you go. We found heaven on the side of the mountain overlooking her front yard.

The water was so wonderfully warm after a cold night, at least cold to this GA girl. We stayed there over and hour. As soon as we got out letting the arid air dry us a snake slithered across the pool. He was just waiting for us to leave his pool. I sure am glad he waited. It was nature at her best. On our walk back we came upon another snake shedding her skin along with babies. The skin is on my hat of course.

Our bikes were already packed and we meandered our way to Missoula and Lolo Pass. What a road that is, spectacular at every curve and many of those came at us. We spent the night at Lolo Hot Springs and had more soul to soul talks. The next day we leisurely started out on Hwy 12 and wonderful views of the river and curves in perfect harmony. I kept thinking I’d like to stop and fish that river some, but Dennis was behind me and was determined to be in Spokane that night. Suddenly a glint of the sun on the river pulled me right over to it.

After telling Dennis the river was calling me, he decided to go on and I promptly put on my skirt, got my rod and reel together and spent the next two hours having the time of my life. Off went my boots and socks and a dip of my toes in the Lochsa River.

Did I catch anything? No, but yes I did as a matter of fact. Another fantastic adventure and one that won’t ever find me saying, “I wish I had stopped at that river to fish”. A Pileated Woodpecker kept me company as my gear was safely strapped back on the bike and headed up the road for Spokane, calculating that I could be there by 5pm if I boogied. All that changed when my attention was grabbed by a sign for Kohls horseback outfitters. I made a deal with myself that if the road was paved I'd go check it out, but if it was gravel I would bail. Paved it was and rode all the way up to the paddock, barns and cabins. There was a big red headed cowboy working on a trailer and I asked if they gave trail rides for one? He said sure. I promptly dropped my bike in the paddock and had to get the guide, Robin Kohl to help me pick it up. Do you think he believed me when I said I was an experienced horse back rider? It was fun helping him get the horses ready and he seemed to relax a little with my handling of the horse he gave me to ride, Late. She wasn’t one for me to guide, but she was sure footed and followed Robin and his mule well. Once we got up onto the narrow trail a sure footed horse was more important than a spirited one.

It was breath taking scenery and this girl was as happy as one could get thousands of feet above the river that my bare toes had just been in.

Once we came off the mountain I helped Robin undo the tack then spent a comfortable time watching the horses roll in the dust, just another part of the ride.

Now it was hot and the afternoon was marching along. About 6 miles down the road, a couple of sweet looking cabins at a place called Three Rivers Camp resort and cold beer sign beckoned me. I really didn’t have to be anywhere today, not really, so I pulled in and got the last cabin. Within 10 minutes my feet where bare again and sitting along side the Lochsa River, “sitting here watching the world go by” content with my spontaneity. I met Graeme who was riding his bicycle across the Northwest. Graeme will be coming through Atlanta soon in an RV so we can continue our conversation that started by the hot pool at 3 Rivers.

I also met Daniel Garrison a fellow K12 rider who is a professor at Northwestern University, just a casual conversation in a restaurant by several tables of people, none of us knowing the other, but brother and sister because we all were on bikes. Those are the folks I spent the evening with and will never forget.

Finally the road to Spokane was in front of me, no more stops, just a beautiful ride through the wheat fields of Idaho. By the time my trip was over I will have ridden through the vegetables of the US for next year.

On the way into the rally site Paul and Trish Taylor pull up next to me and we rode into the gate together. It was typical rally mode. I went hunting for the vendor gate as Brush Fire was paying my way into the rally. Russ Mowry, the pin striper for our bikes had invited me to join him for the rally. I found the Kermit Chair Co., Lee and Tom and gave them their money from Paonia rally. Met up with Bob Foster, Mike and Martha Trautman from the Charleston, SC rally where I broke my ribs in a fall to Harris Todd’s house down a sandy road. Martha was kind enough to allow me to use her RT for the dropped bike demo. Made new friends and reacquainted myself with long lost ones. I danced up a storm on Saturday afternoon with Chris Lawson, and did we dance. We amazed ourselves and everyone else when we said we hadn’t danced together for 5 years. Russ even came down to dance even though he was still on a cane from an incredible accident that occurred May of this year.

I asked Russ how his helicopter job went that might bring him down South. He looked at me a bit strange then handed me some newspaper clipping. On May 4th he was flying a news copter when he lost his rear tail rotor. He managed to bring the helicopter toward a building top to avoid the crowded streets then crashed into a building and onto the roof top. All survived and Russ is still painting our bikes and enjoying the life he has. I hardly ever left his side and was generally a nuisance to him while he worked. Bumped into him while he painted, hung my laundry in his booth and made sure he ate food while he worked.

Tim and Sherry, the Happy Trails folk’s were next store and introduced me to Perri Capell, a writer who has inspired me to write more, renewed contacts with Iron Butt riders, dance partners and promised to keep in better touch with all. I am still amazed at the wonders around every sign post, at all the people out there to help others and to make you a friend. Someone said it was hot out there, and I guess it was, but not as hot as Atlanta, GA today and this was vacation so hot was never an issue with me, at least not until riding out in Wyoming and South Dakota. That was hot, 109 degrees and no shade, miserable riding weather.

I rode 5,738 miles in 14 days. Slabbed a big section of it, meandered a ways and slept out under the stars, stayed in some beautiful resorts and some funky Mom and Pop places along the way. What a vacation this was that rejuvenated my inner soul.

Unusual sites were abundant: five 18 wheelers on their side, one in TN, three on there way to OZ in Kansas and one dumped over in a curve on Lolo pass. I saw one hazardous materials truck with a huge canister on the bed sporting incredible hooks and locks, some of the hooks where as large as my tire. Thank goodness he was upright. I saw an 18 wheeler with his rear break on fire and signaled for him to check his rear tire and had 3 big truck tires burst in front of me.

Saw a cool trailer and flirted with the guy on several passes.

Had one eagle fly over Dennis and I while letting lose an incredible poop, missed us and rode above another one while on my trail ride in Idaho. A coyote zipped across the road early in the morning in Yellowstone and numerous deer right along side the road in many states. Yeah, that woke me up and a few times brought tears to my eyes with the realization of the danger. On the Lolo pass we saw a few female moose, huge I know, not near as big as the daddy moose. I was treated to a West Coast humming bird outside the window in a restaurant while eating my breakfast and enjoyed the Magpies playing fly-by with me on the roads.

Trips like these awaken something deep in my soul and give me such a peace about life now and to come. Let the adventure bring excitement to your heart, let the tires sing to you and experience the road as only made possible by your two wheels.

If you wonder why the dates stop after getting to Colorado, it’s because there where no dates to me anymore, just vacation and adventure. Fourteen days flew by and as much as my heart wanted to stay in Idaho, Montana and Colorado, humidity was such a welcome relief from all the dryness and my children where all my arms where looking for.