The Misadventures of Ian Heller

Make No Little Plans.


2016 Bike Tour

One Third Through

Somewhere on a remote backroad between Billings and Helena, MT, I reached 2,000 miles for this trip. The time was precisely three days after I left home.

There was so little traffic that I simply pulled to the side of the road, took pictures from several angles and rode off again a few minutes later. No other vehicles came by during this documenting of an historic occasion.

About 40 miles outside of Billings, I passed through the tiny burg called Lavina; I had to pull over and snap a couple of shots, posted here.

After Lavina, I didn’t pass by a town or even a gas station for 150 miles and felt a little anxiety towards the end, given my Thursday goof. But I made it to Townsend, MT, where I refueled the bike and then pressed on to Helena, where I am refueling myself at the Dive Bakery. 

Now I’m off to Missoula and will look for a back road through the mountains — it’s nice to be off the interstate after so many miles on it between Georgia and Montana.

I think I’ll gas up again, though. Just to be safe. 


Picnic in Montana With Penny’s Family

imagePenny’s mom, Helen, whom I call “Shorty,” arranged a celebratory picnic when I arrived in Billings, MT today around 6:15. A large contingent of relatives showed up for a delicious dinner of steak, Shorty’s famous potato salad (there’s none better) and fresh vegetables from her garden. It was an amazing meal followed by a special, gluten free rhubarb crumble she made just for me. I had thirds.

Tomorrow I have a relatively short ride through Helena, MT, around Flathead Lake and onto Missoula; just 385 miles or so. I sure hope the rest of the trip goes as well as it has so far. The thunderstorm here tonight arrived about two hours too late to affect my ride. Weather’s good for tomorrow…I hope.


Baggers Can’t Be Choosers

imageAfter checking with three hotels in Chamberlain, SD, I learned that arriving at 11PM without a reservation is a bad idea as you get close to the tourist areas around the Black Hills.

Fortunately, the Bel Aire Mot(el) had a room for the low price of $55 — and worth that much. The nice desk clerk (who had a strong Jamaican accent, oddly), got out of bed to rent me a room. His good nature is behind the humor in the sign, I assume.

I was grateful for a place to sleep but recommend accommodations that have been remodeled since the 70’s if you can find them.


The Kindness of Strangers, Even When You’re Stupid

I’m sitting in Casey’s General Store (gas station, etc.) in Grain Valley, MO for the second time in an hour. I got stuck in a 5 mile traffic jam (road construction) and I ran out of gas.

My observation is that Grain Valley has a lot of grain and not much valley — but is home to a wonderful woman named Kate who, while returning from her neighbor’s funeral, stopped and gave me a ride two miles to a gas station (Casey’s). Kate steadfastly refused the $20 I tried to give her for her inconvenience.

Casey’s doesn’t sell gas cans. So, I bought a jug of windshield washer, emptied into the sink, blew out the inside with the hand dryer in the men’s room, filled it with premium and walked two miles back along the interstate to slake the thirst of my stricken machine.

And back to Casey’s to fill ‘er up the rest of the way.

Long story behind running out of gas. That’s for another day. Right now, I tip my helmet to Kate and hit the road again.image



Day 1 of 12 – Atlanta to St. Louis

image.jpegStarted off with a bang — 586 miles from our house to the posh Super 8 in St. Charles MO. I decided to push on through St. Louis after yesterday’s experience with Atlanta traffic. I left the house at 2:30 but it was still very busy and the temp hit 100 degrees. Most of the day’s ride was between 95 and 100 and then when the sun went down, the  coolness of the night inspired me to a 100 miles farther than I’d planned.

Bike’s running great, gear is working well, and I’m ready to ride — today from St. Charles to Sioux Falls SD if I follow the original plan. But that’s the same distance I rode yesterday when I left at 2PM and I’m leaving at 8AM this maybe further if I’m inspired again.

Thanks to the fabulous Penny Lee Heller for taking this pic as I rolled out of our garage.


My Great Cross Country Motorcycle Tour

On Wednesday, July 13th, 2016, I’ll be starting off on a 6,000 mile motorcycle ride. In 12 days, I’ll ride from Atlanta GA to British Columbia and back again — with about 1,000 miles of touring occurring in BC and Alberta.

About 5,000 miles of this riding will be alone — from Georgia to Idaho outbound and then from Kelowna BC on the way back. I’ll meet up with a half dozen other riders in Sandpoint ID on July 18th, most of whom had the good sense to ship their bikes or rent a machine in Seattle.

I’m excited and a little nervous. I doubt I’ve ever ridden more than 1,000 miles in one trip, so this is a big (and likely foolish) step. However, I’m very well-equipped, I’ve got a bike that’s called a “Victory Cross Country Tour,” and I’m fit.

No telling what I’ll see and feel over the next couple of weeks. In any case, it will be an adventure.


The Cross Country Tour Route Plan

It’s the night before the big ride. Six thousand miles (exactly, somehow) in 12 days, meaning 500 miles per day on average and 104 hours in the saddle.

I’ll depart the Atlanta area tomorrow (Wed, Jul 13, 2016) around 2PM and should make it to Mt. Vernon, IL around 9PM. I pick up an hour riding into Central Time — which I appreciate on the way West but losing three hours on the way home is putting a lot of pressure on the end of the trip.

I’m excited and a little nervous. Which, I suppose, is exactly how you should feel just prior to a grand adventure. Or misadventure. My next post will be from the road!

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