In 2015, I visited Montana for the first time and while riding many of the highways west of the Rockies, I totally fell in love with the state. Knowing how I felt, Cole Boehler, my Montana-based riding mentor, author, and friend, suggested that I read Ivan Doig’s work. Over the next year I read nearly every book he had written. Doig felt like a friend and I was very disappointed when I learned that he had recently died. Then, early in 2016, Cole died as well…drowned in the Jefferson River that flowed past the family’s cabin, in which I had stayed during my first Montana ride. I was deeply shaken by his death and I miss him still.
Among the riding guides Cole had authored was one titled Motorcycling Montana, and as I read the last of Doig’s books, I began planning a tour that took in every Montana town he had named in his books, connected by roads that Cole had described. That proved to cover the whole of Montana east of the Rockies and in mid-July 2017, when I embarked on the 5-week tour, I was riding in honor of two special men. I thought of the tour as a way of healing my sense of loss. It proved much more than that!
Ready to Ride
When I left Enterprise, OR on July 15, Jesse was loaded with 135 pounds of gear...the most I'd ever carried. Within an hour I would be navigating the Wallowa Mountain Loop...60 miles of narrow road with potholes and tight blind curves. It is the kind of road that doesn't forgive errors and I was nervous. But I made it without incident, and by the time I stopped in Cambridge, ID, I felt settled into my ride.