Western Montana has some of the finest scenery and least-traveled roads in the lower 48 states, or anywhere else for that matter. Formed by the jagged Rocky Mountains and separated north to south by the massive Continental Divide, Montana is ruggedly beautiful. For eons, the relentless forces of nature have torn, uplifted and eroded the land. Volcanoes have spewed molten lava, glaciers have carved the verdant valleys, and wind and water have sculpted the terrain to create the breathtaking landscape we see today.
Many folks on tight vacation schedules favor flying in, renting a motorcycle, riding a tour loop and returning home from the same point. Our Western Montana adventure lends itself to just such a plan. We flew in to Missoula's airport and stayed the first night at the Holiday Inn Downtown. The Inn provides customers with a courtesy airport shuttle, and later we were met by Mike Berger from Adventure Motorcycle, who provided the rental bike for our trip, a Suzuki DL650 V-Strom, which is a large, roomy machine that belies its moderate displacement. The low-mileage bike, in mint condition, was ready to go with a full tank of gas. It even had an aftermarket Sargent seat, making the ride cushier than stock and more accommodating for shorter riders.
Dinner at the Holiday Inn's Riverbend Restaurant allowed us to relax and unwind right beside the lovely Clark Fork River, which runs right through town to the delight of kayakers and those using the walking and biking trails beside it. All of the streams and rivers in Western Montana flow down the west side of the Continental Divide to the Pacific Ocean. On the way to the sea, these waterways provide wonderful fishing, boating and swimming opportunities, so bring your rod, reel and bathing suit. Some marinas also have boats for rent, if that's your preference.