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The Squaw Magnet in Oregon



It's been an interesting few days since I left Helena on Monday. Stopped in East Helena and did an oil change myself in the parking lot of a custom shop as the owner didn't want to touch the bike. Based on the misfire problem I had in Great Falls, I bought a set of spark plug wires as a backup, as well. Then, I headed out to a place called Three Forks to see the headwaters of the Missouri River. Beautiful spot. And so peaceful. I can imagine Lewis and Clark feeling very satisfied in reaching this spot after following this great river for over 15 months. From there, they headed up the Jefferson River until it ran into the Beaverhead which they followed until it was no longer navigable. They stopped in a place they called Camp Fortunate and bartered with the Shoshone Indians for horses so they could cross the Rockies. Camp Fortunate is now underwater but I camped as close to it as I could Monday night on the banks of Clark Canyon Reservoir. It got very cold that night and I needed the jump starter in the sidecar to start the bike the next morning. Now, for the first time on the ride, I was no longer following the Missouri or one of it's tributaries. I crossed the Continental Divide and followed the Bitterroot River up the west side of the divide until I got to Lolo. Here, there is a state park called Traveler's Rest which claims to be the only spot on the entire Lewis and Clark trail where there is direct evidence of the exact spot that they stayed. What is that evidence? Well, they found a button and a glob of lead but, apparently, the clincher was pellets of mercury. At that time, mercury was used as a laxative and Lewis prescribed it for just about every ailment. So, basically, the only place on the Lewis and Clark trail where they were known to have stayed is identified by where they took a dump. From here, I followed Lolo Creek about 25 miles to Lolo Hot Springs where they were also known to have stayed. Those 25 miles were covered in what was the most intense head wind I've ever ridden in. Must have been a little too much for the Squaw Magnet. After I made camp, I rode over to check out the springs and discovered that the bike was now firing on only one cylinder. I put the new spark plug wires on but it made no difference. Removing the rear spark plug, I discovered that it was badly fouled. I put a new spark plug in and the bike fired on both cylinders but still ran poorly. That night was the coldest of the entire trip, getting down to 28 degrees. Definitely chilly inside my tent. The next morning, I had to use the jump starter again. I got a couple of miles down the road and the rear cylinder stopped firing once more. I hobbled back to the Hot Springs and placed a call to my towing service only to find out that they had cancelled my coverage for what they claimed were too many tows. I've been expecting this for awhile as I definitely have cost them more than I've paid them but, to do it in the middle of a ride without warning, bothers me. Anyway, I was on my own now so I called a tower in Missoula to come and get me. While I was waiting, the owner of the resort offered to give me a ride to the Harley dealership in Missoula if I thought I could fix the bike myself. It occured to me that, if both the wires and the spark plugs were new, that the problem had to be the coil. I put a brand new Accel coil on the bike before the ride so it was hard to believe this was the problem but that's what the evidence suggested. Anyway, I took the owner up on his offer, cancelled the tow, and took a ride into Missoula, about 35 miles away, for a new coil. Luckily, the Harley dealership in Missoula had one in stock so I purchased it and we drove back to the resort. While we were driving, I discovered from the owner that a direct descendant of a member of the Lewis and Clark party had been in the bar just the night before. I had been so busy staring at my fouled spark plug while drinking my beer that I hadn't noticed. Damn, I would have loved the opportunity to talk with him. Once we got back to the bike, I removed the old coil and was amazed to find a hole in one of the spark plug wire terminals. The internal insulation material had melted, poured through the hole, and re-solidified. Damn, that's a new one one me. So much for the Accel Lifetime Warranty. I connected the new coil, started the bike, and was relieved to see that it was once again firing on both cylinders. Said my thanks and goodbyes to the people at the resort and headed out on the road out of the Rockies. It was now 3:30PM and I was running late or I would have stopped to get a picture of the sign that said "Winding Road Next 77 Miles". Actually, that's just the windiest portion. From Lolo down to the plains is actually about 125 miles of beautiful riding. The road follows the Clearwater River down to Lewiston, ID where it empties into the Snake. One can easily see from this ride why Lewis and Clark emerged on the Weippe Prairie near starved to death after trudging through the snow filled mountains for 11 days. The only spot I did stop for a picture was a place called Canoe Camp where Lewis and Clark spent 6 days making dugout canoes so they could get back on the water. I was going to pitch my tent at Hell's Gate State Park on the Snake just outside of Lewiston but I got such a late start because of the coil that I got a motel room in Clarkston, WA instead. This morning, I was relieved to find that the bike no longer needed the jump starter to fire up. Guess trying to start the bike on one cylinder in freezing temperatures is just a little more than the battery was designed for. Today, I rode to Pasco, WA where I got a picture of the confluence of the Snake and Columbia Rivers, then followed the Columbia to The Dalles, OR where I'm holed up in a motel that finally has wireless internet access. I also have cell phone coverage for the first time in over two weeks so it looks like I'm back in civilization again. Tomorrow, I continue following the Columbia until it empties into the Pacific at Astoria. Here, Lewis and Clark constructed Fort Clatsop where they spent the winter of 1805-6 before starting their journey back to St. Louis. I will spend Saturday there also just touring around the area before reluctantly saying goodbye to the Lewis and Clark trail and heading home. If the bike holds up, I will be back in my own bed next Tuesday. Following the Lewis and Clark trail all the way from St. Louis has been an unforgettable experience. Normally, at this stage in one on my Iron Butt Tours, I'm more than ready to go home but I find myself wishing there were even more trail to follow. Guess all good things must come to an end, though. It's been a hell of a ride. Talk to you later.


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