Glacier National Park 2001 – Day 2: The Spiral Highway & Lolo Pass

May 30

  • Clarkston, WA to Missoula, MT
  • 238 miles
  • Vince, Trev & Scott

Before hitting the open road, we locate the legendary Spiral Highway on the north edge of Clarkston and Lewiston. This road is spoken of in reverent whispers by many Northwest motorcyclists as something that must be experienced. 

After coming around a blind turn or two and narrowly avoiding cattle standing in the middle of the road, we quickly modify the name of the road to “The Spiral Highway of Death“. It features approximately 30 turns in only 10 miles of road while climbing 2,000 ft. and meanders all over the place while doing it. At first, as you are riding it, you think the engineer had to be either doing drugs or an avid motorcyclist, maybe both. But then you find out at the top that it was built for Model Ts that barely had any power. I read that the nasty, steep wagon trail that the Spiral Highway replaced was so bad that some of the cars of the day had to ascend it in reverse as that was the only gear that had the enough torque to manage it.

These days, modern cars and a proper highway bypass this relic but the informative sign at the top of the Spiral Highway, for some inscrutable reason, neglects to mention how this road has escaped obsolescence by turning into a destination for motorcyclists all over the Northwest. But that’s okay with us. It’s just us and the cattle and no cars to share it with.

We head East out of Lewiston on Highway 12, along the Clearwater River which was traveled by Lewis and Clark in canoes on their way to the Pacific Ocean. I imagine this is much more fun on motorcycles. Just sayin’. The fun really starts at a road sign that states “Winding Road Next 77 Miles”. This is as good as it gets, folks; 77 miles of high speed sweepers, great scenery, beautiful weather, few cars and a couple of buddies to ride with all the way up to Lolo Pass and then down the other side into Montana. The only way to improve it would be to learn that all the cops were on strike as you were passing this sign. Oh yeah, baby! We eat up every turn without earning some speeding tickets. Is this much fun legal? No, it’s not. Nothing stupid crazy on our part, just an exuberant use of our public roads. We are truly blessed this day. 

After dropping down out of the Bitterroots Mountains into Montana, we stop for gas. A man and woman pull in on a pair of BMW motorbikes. She has a nice figure that is sporting a form fitting leather riding suit and we gather around to get a good look at this babe as she is pulling off her full face helmet. We just about fall over when we see her white hair and realize this lovely lady is old enough to be our mom. They turn out to be very friendly people and their reflective vests are sporting a huge logo for the Christian Motorcycle Riders Association. Their slogan is “Riding for the Son”. How cool is that?

This inspires us to talk about starting our own religious riding group: The Christian Sport Bike Riders Association. Our slogan would be “We speed for Jesus!” and we wonder if the traffic court judge would buy the argument that the speeding ticket would be an infringement on our freedom of religious expression as guaranteed by the Bill of Rights. You know, like those Native Americans that legally take peyote as part of their spiritual practices. Hmmm… 

Meanwhile, our desert rats, Pork Chop and Pablo, are heading north into Montana after touring the Tetons and Yellowstone National Park and we rendezvous with them at a motel in Missoula that Inga arranged for us. (Thanks, Babe!) Now the post ride party really starts! We ask at the front desk where the locals eat and we are directed to a gambling, bar and steakhouse joint just across the road with a sign that says, “Liquor in the front, poker in the rear.” 

Go to Day 3: In Search of the Going to the Sun Road

Return to the Ride Summary

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