Saturday, September 30


One of my favorite books and possibly the first inspiration for this kind of trip was Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig. He lived in, and part of the book takes place in Bozeman, Montana, so I wanted to go there, to get a sense of what kind of place it is. It's a nice big town now, but Pirsig wrote Zen in the 70's and the events in it were earlier so it doesn't really tell me much about where he lived, but at least I can say I was there. I did check out a Honda shop there for new cold weather gloves, since I lost one of mine yesterday, but they didn't have any. I also asked the mechanic about adjusting my carburetor for high altitudes, but he confirmed what I suspected, that it wasn't worth it (because when I got back to low altitude, if I didn't change it back immediately it would damage the engine, while at high altitude it would burn more gas and not get as much power but wouldn't do any damage). I'm not sure I understand the principle behind it exactly. It has to do with the air-fuel ratio: at higher altitude there's less air per fuel, so it needs more fuel (a "richer" mixture) to get the same combustion; if I adjusted the air screws in the carburetor it would put in more air per fuel, burning a better mix at high altitude but a "lean" mix at lower altitudes, which damages the engine. I initially thought I could give it more choke to have the same effect, but I think that actually does the opposite - putting in more fuel for less air, making it richer but not more powerful. Anyway, I'll leave it as is; I only get 35 mpg here but when I'm out of the mountains it'll go back to normal.

From Bozeman I drove 130 miles to Missoula, the next major city on route 90. A gas station in the middle of nowhere saved me from running out of gas along the way again. I was pretty tired so I thought I'd get a beer and relax for a bit, but then I saw a Starbucks cross the street and decided to satisfy my inner yuppie and energize instead.

The further west I get, the more interesting looks my Massachussetts license plate gets. I wonder what looks it'll get in San Francisco...