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!
Lake Frances, Valier
I pitched my tent on the evening of July 27 with no inkling that the next day would markedly change my Montana adventure. When I rode back into my campsite the following evening, it was with an injured leg and a near crippling deficit of confidence. I had crashed Jesse in deep gravel during a ride to the Sweet Grass Hills--which I never made it to. I was in a lot of pain and so fearful that getting back on Jesse the next morning required a strongly set jaw. It would be eight days before I could manage pitching a tent again.