first

Day 3 of our ride to Montana started early. I couldn’t wait to be up-and-about to check out ‘Big Sky Country’. An I’ll tell you, ‘Big Sky’ is exactly right. I felt like I was spared from falling into the wide open blue by some magical glue that kept me anchored to earth. I expected to be sucked skyward, a feeling akin to the awe I felt when I first witnessed the majesty of the Grand Canyon. The morning was incredible – not a cloud in the sky – just the golden glow of another stunning sunny day to ride.

While we didn’t make an exhaustive tour of Missoula, we did see enough to know we’d love to stay, but the road was calling, so we headed out. My passion to see Montana was triggered by a movie, ‘Last of the Dogmen’, starring Tom Berenger and Barbara Hershey. The story centers on a broken-down but skillful bounty hunter [Tom Berenger] who is hired by his estranged father-in-law [Kurtwood Smith] to hunt three armed escape convicts loose in Montana’s Oxbow Quadrangle. I was overwhelmed by the splendor of the mountains and resolved to make my way there. And dang, here we were right at the proverbial doorstep of the Oxbow. YeeeHawwwww!

It wasn’t until we arrived in Missoula and took a closer look at the map that we realized a town in Montana bore our family name – Rollins. So we HAD to get there and check it out. To get there, we took I-90 west to MT-93 north bound for Flathead Lake and Rollins. The ride was kind-of pretty, but unremarkable. Yet, the promise of viewing the ‘Dogmen’ mountains and our namesake was almost as motivating as the sheer pleasure of riding sky glue..

The jaunt to Rollins of fewer than 100 miles, took about 2 hours. Rollins is a quaint little lakeshore resort town with Post Office, gas station/convenience store and burger stand [just south of the town]. The later caught our attention, advertising ‘Buffalo Burgers’. So, we made a stop and frankly enjoyed our first and only ‘Buffalo Burger.’ We ask about the origins of the town and learned that a ferryman by the name of Rollins founded the settlement in the early 1900s. He ferried customers across Flathead Lake, the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi. In addition to tranquil splendor, the lake offers world-class fishing with rainbow, cutthroat, bull, lake, and brook trout, as well as arctic grayling, bass, perch, and pike. We didn’t have gear, but if you’re into fishing, Flathead sounds like a great place to spend a weekend or a week!

We left Rollins south, back down MT-93 roughly 11 miles and took a right onto MT-28. This was a very enjoyable ride. The road was old but solid with virtually no traffic. About an hour down 93, you’ll pass just east of a local hot spot, literally, Hot Springs, MT. We didn’t pause to the enjoy the springs, but were told it’s wonderfully relaxing.

MT-28 intersects MT-200. We took a left and then about 5 miles south, we took a right onto MT-135. Now, prepare yourself for one of the most beautiful rides of your life. MT-135 cuts through the mountains and runs alongside a gorgeous mountain river – and oh what beauty. The river is perfect for ‘tame’ tubing, and we observed watched a number of families inner tubing in the Montana sunshine. I’ll bet there’d be some good fishing there too. From time-to-time we’d pass a mountain resort, and I thought more than once, a family retreat here would be fabulous. I was disappointed when we left nature’s beauty and returned to the concrete reality of I-90 at St. Regis, MT.

St. Regis is a typical truck stop community. We gassed-up, enjoyed a snack and were on the freeway north for Coeur d’Alene, ID. The ride to Coeur d’Alene is 95 miles on I-90, which runs east and west across the United States from Chicago to Seattle. The stretch from St. Regis to Coeur d’Alene lopes through the Montana-Idaho mountains with stunning vistas and pine-laden mountain-scapes. What marvelous beauty. What humbling greatness.

Appearance of the placid resort waters of Coeur d’Alene Lake, the area’s keynote attraction; heralded our arrival to Coeur d’Alene. The city of over 50,000, is devoted primarily to tourism and enjoys a full complement of hotels, motels, restaurants and services. We stayed in a popular discount chain I’ll not mention nor recommend. In subsequent trips we’ve continued on to Post Falls, ID. – a smaller, but more inviting community. In Post Falls, there’s a cool 60’s restaurant – the Hot Rod Café. Bike night is Thursday from May through September. The Hot Rod menu features a great selection of burgers, sandwiches, appetizers, desserts and beverages. And the food is as great tasting as the atmosphere is fun.

That brings us to the end of the third day of our trip – a day of ‘Big Sky’ vistas and riding tranquility – the conclusion of Leg 3 of our BEST first ride to Montana.