Kalispell, MT. Population, 26,000. Like me, you may have never heard of this small town just 34 miles south of Glacier National Park. It’s known as a hub town for the park, but it is so much more. After spending a week in the area on a Shamrock Tour®, I will never forget this place.
We flew into the Glacier Park International Airport and ordered a $20 Lyft to our hotel downtown. Uber was $75, just as a side note. The prices are so varied because there are only a handful of drivers in Kalispell. The historic Sherman Lodge has recently been renovated and it felt like we were the first guests. We found the elevator and pushed the button to the third floor. A sluggish lift took us up and the doors opened to reveal a kitchen. Confused and thinking we were in someone’s private room, we checked the number again and then slowly walked in. It was clean and empty with no sign of life. Could it be true? We scored the penthouse downtown. This was going to be a great week! I highly recommend renting the Sherman Loft when you are here.
We grabbed our helmets and jackets and ordered a Lyft to get to the dealership. To our surprise, we got the same driver. We all laughed as we hopped in his car and almost felt like locals by recognizing someone so soon.
Penco Power Products is the chillest motorcycle dealer I’ve ever been to. We met our contact Wade and instantly picked up on his quick wit and genuine happiness. It’s so refreshing meeting people who love their jobs.
Wade rolled out a fresh Yamaha Ténéré complete with factory luggage, a centerstand, and a skid plate. The other bike was a Yamaha Tracer 9 GT. They were two really fun machines to explore the roads around Kalispell for the next week. Wade recommended trying the Atomic Tacos food truck and, since it was only a block from our hotel, it was a no-brainer. The tacos were great—even the bees liked them, as the nearby full bee trap proved.
Day 1: Flathead Lake Loop
Just south of Kalispell is Flathead Lake—the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. The plan was to circumnavigate its 185-mile shoreline. This would be a good shakedown ride where we could get used to the bikes and get a feel for the area. Just 22 miles in, we came across Bigfork. It’s a cute, trendy little harbor town where the Swan River meets Flathead Lake. Right in the center of the town is Pocketstone Cafe. It looked like a perfect place for breakfast and with the line extending out the door, through the deck, and onto the sidewalk, it was probably the spot to go. Yet, we didn’t want to wait an hour to be seated as we were too eager to ride. Luckily, just down the street was Split Rock Restaurant, which filled our stomachs well and we were on our way.
Motorcycles & Gear
Helmet: Shoei Neotec II, Schuberth C4
Jacket & Pants: Tourmaster Advanced, REV-IT! Sand Urban
Boots: Sidi Adventure 2, HD Vista Ridge
Gloves: Racer Rally, Indian Deerskin
Luggage: Factory panniers on both bikes, Mosko Moto Nomax Tank Bag, Nelson-Rigg Hurricane Dry Duffle
The blue sky was in full force and I had the classic blissful feeling I always get on the first day of a trip. We passed a section of woods that had burned in a forest fire years before. The black charred bark at the base of the pine trees was in stark contrast to the fresh greenery of the undergrowth. It was a reminder of the fire season cycle that is ever present out west.
August is usually the most fiery month, but this year the season was late. Now, in mid-September, there was a big fire to the west. The forecast showed smoke and diminishing air quality throughout our trip. Off in the distance, we could see the mountains far away—that would not be the case for the whole trip.