Monday, June 3, 2013

DAY Eleven - Refuge from the storm

Awoke Sunday morning in Billings, Montana thinking about mounting the tire I got from Reiter's late Saturday. Cannot go any further with the tires I have plus I was due for an oil change.

Kelly doesn't mount tires on Sundays. Sorry, big guy. Don't think they make a Ural in your size.

Redcat to the rescue.

After we removed both tires. Bottom one was the spare, top was pusher for last 1000km.

Jim aka Redcat invited me over to his home in Billings. Said he had a shop where I could do the maintenance on Da'mit. The Ural community of Foilheads is a very supportive group of riders. Willing to share tips, ideas, advice and today, shop space.

Jim and his wife Carrie welcomed me and the wrenching ensued. Changed the engine, transmission and final drive fluids. Then mounted the tire from Reiter's. While there mounted the extra tire I have been carrying under the sidecar. With two fresh treads mounted, am ready to tackle the Alcan Highway. But first I have to get out of Montana and across Alberta.

Redcat and Carrie with their 2010 Gear Up in Woodlawn camo. Thank you Jim for the use of your shop and thank you Carrie for the Lasagna lunch. The cats didn't bother me afterall.

We looked at the weather radar, then the road map and plotted a route to miss the storm cells still hanging on in Montana. Headed north on Rt 87. Funny thing about weather, just when you think you can out smart it, it changes directions and finds you.

Resting in the shade in central Montana.

Riding north was fine but then turned west toward Grass Range. Could see the dark clouds ahead getting closer. Okay, a little rain won't be too bad. The horizon kept getting darker and darker. Doesn't look good! Near the Elk Creek, pulled over to decide whether to stop or continue into the face of it. A motorcyclist coming from the other direction pulled over to talk. Said it was pouring down in buckets further ahead. Hmmmm....

What's a "little" water? Won't hurt me. Rode two more ridges and suddenly lighting lite up the sky. I may be crazy and am no fool. Rain is one thing, but lighting...... and I am off the road asap. Remembered seeing a ranch house a few miles back. Turned around and hightailed it.

As I pulled up to the house Lyle came out to see what I wanted. Lyle is about my age, but with a full head of grey hair. After explaining the ride I was on, I asked if I could sleep in his barn or one of thge out buildings tonight as a large storm was headed out our way. Lyle answers with a draw only a rancher can make sound sincere, "Shoot, we got a spare bedroom. Come on in." Inside I meet Edie, his wife, Edie's brother Kurt and his wife Karen, who had just stopped in to visit.

A few minutes later the storm front reaches their ranch. The water poured down, followed by hail.

Storm front arrives.

Pebble sized hail fell in such volume as to start clogging drains and downspouts. They all commented that they normally don't get storms like this. In the first hour, they got two inches of rain. They were worried about culverts washing out.

Edie suddenly disappears, only to reappear outside in the rain and hail with a hard cowboy hat and yellow rain slicker. She was unclogging the drains. Later she said she was worried the water would back up and flood the basement. Hail was building up to over a foot deep on top of the drain.

Edie frantically moving hail...

These Montana ranch women are a hardy bunch. She commented that Saturday she had been setting fence posts and how much easier it was in the rain soaked ground.

We could see hail piling up on the hill sides. Across the road, two waterfalls developed from the run off. Cars were pulling off in front of their home, waiting for the storm to let up.

The rain did finally let up so Kurt and his wife decide they would make a run for it. Their ranch is 35 miles away to the north. They called later to say they only got rain, no hail up there.

Lyle had suffered an accident on the ranch several years ago that affected his balance, walking and speech. Said today was the first time in two years he had been on a horse. Recuperating is slow process as we age.

After a supper of pizza and coffee, we retired for the night. I could not hear anything in the downstairs bedroom. The next morning Edie commented she couldn't sleep as that it had rained off and on all night. The rain gauge was showing just over four inches from this storm cell. Said they will get a storm like this every seven or eight years.

Am so glad I decided to get off the road and seek shelter. Am so blessed that Lyle and Edie extended a warm welcome into their home for a wet adventure rider. Another reason to ride alone. If I was riding in a group, how many people would open their home to them??

Edie and Lyle on their Elk Creek Ranch, Montana

Thank you Jim, Carrie, Lyle and Edie for keeping me safe and making my ride more interesting and adventuous.

If ever you lose faith in your fellowman, just ride out across our great country on a Ural. You will meet the honest, hard-working folks with sun-burnt faces, rough callouses on their hands that say grace before every meal.






  1. Great story and what a storm ! I agree with you, majority of people are great honest folks.

  2. Good call running from the storm, that one would have been a bear to deal with outside on your rig! Great that you found such nice folks to offer shelter to a stranger like that....

  3. Very glad you decided to seek shelter and found such a nice couple to provide it for you. Hoping for better weather in Canada!

  4. Fellow Ural Texan here,
    I was wondering if you are allowed to do the trip "North to South", this way you could scout the trip on your way up, and leave when the weather was best. You know, do the hard part first.
    Maybe the Iron Butt rules don't allow that.
    Great trip report so far, good luck.

  5. Jerry, you start on either end. Because of the weather, is best to ride north in the early summer and ride south in the late summer/fall.