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Old 11-16-2009, 03:11 PM   #1
Jammin OP
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Joined: Jan 2006
Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
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Talking Jammin thru the Continental Divide



http://JamminCDR.blogspot.com

Here is my ride report for my motorcycle trip down the Continental Divide this past summer (north to south). Excuse some of the generalities as I’m also posting this on my website for my non-riding friends and family.


Below is an interactive Google Map of my riding route with select pictures posted with their location. Click to experience it:



If you’d just like to see all the pictures without the text, click here.

The ride report is pretty long, so grab a beverage and maybe throw on some good music and enjoy. Looking forward to your comments.


Story Behind The Trip

Riding the Continental Divide of the Americas, from the Canadian border to the Mexican border, solo on a motorcycle. That's the essence of this two week journey of man and connected machine rising and falling with the elevation changes of the Rocky Mountains and embracing the elements that are easily cutoff with urban life.

The Great Divide is the primary continental divide of the Americas and is defined by which way the water runs on either side of it, either draining into the Pacific Ocean or the Atlantic Ocean. There are exceptions defined by other hydrological divides with water draining into the Arctic Ocean and other bodies of water. The Great Divide runs along the spine of the Rocky Mountains and thus starts up in Alaska, running through Canada, America, Mexico, all the way down through the Andes of South America and ending at Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The "great" in its name comes from the great number of elevation changes and its great length. It came into being as plate tectonics slowly collided the massive Pacific plate into the numerous plates under the Americas and pushed up the land creating the Rockies, Andes and other mountain ranges along its route about a 100 million years ago.



Getting the opportunity to motorcycle down the Great Divide, one must give thanks to the many others who have toiled in plotting the route, as there isn't one single road but instead is a connection of numerous trails and roads. It begins with the hiking community in the 1960's and the US National Scenic Trails program that provides long distance trails through natural beauty for hiking, equestrianism and bicycling. The Continental Divide Trail is a 3,100 mile hiking route that can take upwards of 6 months to complete on foot and is still being fully defined. For those that don't have that much time, the Adventure Cycling Association has put together the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route that is different from the CDT, but crosses paths with it along the way. It's the longest and most challenging off-road bicycle route in the world and is highly regarded by bicyclists the world over. The route connects various national forest roads and takes about 3 months to complete.

For those of us that have discovered the joys of long distance motorcycling through remote lands, have been granted a boon by Mark Sampson when in 2005 he put together a GPS route based on the above mountain bike route and shared it freely on his website for all riders to enjoy. With motorized two-wheels, the route can be done leisurely in 2 weeks.

With my South America plans pushed back a bit, I was looking for a good 2 week off-road trip and initially thought of tackling the famous Trans-America Trail, but the time needed to successfully do that trip and the off-road expertise required in some sections pointed me to the more benign CDR route. Another factor in picking the CDR and its mild off-road routes was that I tore my right ACL in a skiing accident in Aspen, Colorado in January 2009 and had reconstructive surgery a month after with a minimum 6 month recovery period and wanted a trip that wouldn't put too much stress through the healing muscles and joints. I figured I would give myself as much time to recover as possible and squeeze in the trip before the end of the riding season through the high altitudes.

Just as on my trip to Alaska last year, I was looking forward to spending time in vast beautiful wildernesses and hoping to camp as much as possible. I love the idea of being as self-sustaining as you can be within your means and wanted to have the freedom of providing my own shelter, warm food, clean drinking water and electricity, which I achieved by carrying light-weight camping equipment, hydratable foods, a water filter and powering my electronics through the motorcycle. I would also be using this trip as a test run for all my gear before I embarked on a bigger trip.
__________________
J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

Trip Website: JamminGlobal.com
Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos

Jammin screwed with this post 11-16-2009 at 03:22 PM
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:12 PM   #2
Jammin OP
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The Route Plan

With the GPS route being made available by Mark Sampson, a majority of the route planning for this trip was taken care of. This would be a different kind of trip than my previous trips, as I would mainly be following the arrow of my GPS and trusting it to keep me on-track. Of course, knowing that many others had followed the same GPS route over the past 4 years and giving their approval to the riding community, makes a decision like this easy to make. Regardless, I studied the route in detail as I had to break it up into sections to make it fit onto my GPS unit, a Garmin 60Cx which can only make routes with 50 waypoints. Mark's routes come with a couple hundred waypoints.



Route and elevation map of the Continental Divide Ride.

The part I would have to plan on my own would be getting to the start of the route at the Montana/Canada border and getting back home from the New Mexico/Mexico border. With 10 days off from work, I planned a 17 day trip over Labor Day Weekend, giving me about 12 days on the actual CDR, doing between 200 and 300 miles a day on the route.

Starting in Montana, I would be winding my way down, then head through a small bit of Idaho on my way to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, then south through Colorado and finishing through New Mexico. The route has a varying character through each state, such as the remote forests of Montana, the high altitude desert of the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming, the high mountain passes of Colorado and the dry mud roads of New Mexico.

With time on my side, and the ability to camp wherever, I didn't set solid destinations for each day and was looking forward to this kind of freedom. On my previous trips with long distances to cover, I had to adhere to a schedule to make sure I could do what I planned. However, I planned to meet a riding friend of mine, Mike Perry and ride through the Colorado portion with him. He recently moved out to Denver and would be joining me for 3 days over the Labor Day Weekend.

The actual CDR starts on the west side of Glacier National Park at Roosville, Montana and ends at Antelope Wells, New Mexico. For the sake of saving some time, I would be starting on the eastern side of Glacier National Park and ending at Columbus, New Mexico as there are no vehicle importation facilites on the Mexican side of the border at Antelope Wells and I plan to cross over.



My trip route map, starting and ending in Chicago and going north to south down the Continental Divide.

Click here to download the CDR GPS route (BigDog's route) (Broken down to fit on Garmin 60Cx) (5.2 MB) or email Mark for the route at bigdogg@wildblue.net.
__________________
J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

Trip Website: JamminGlobal.com
Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos

Jammin screwed with this post 05-07-2010 at 06:40 PM
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:13 PM   #3
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About the Bike

This being a motorcycle trip, the bike is obviously a very important part of the trip and I need to make sure that the bike is capable of what I ask of it. To ensure this, I've modified the bike to better suit long distance adventure riding and have done the routine maintenance to reduce the chances of any breakdowns.

If you've read my Alaska trip, you'll know that I had a mechanical failure on my previous motorcycle and after having analyzed all possible reasons for the failure, I came to the decision that it wasn't an inherent design issue with the motorcycle but was due to a compounding number of external factors. With that in mind, I set about finding another used Suzuki DR650, as it still makes the most rational sense to me for a reliable cost-effective bike that is simple and robust. It hasn't fundamentally changed since 1996 because everything works really well.

After flying back from Alaska, I found just about the perfect bike a few hundred miles away in Detroit. She was a 1998 DR and setup perfectly for adventure touring by her owner for long distance motorcycling. Most of my motorcycling friends were shaking their heads at my decision and foretelling that she wouldn't last very long, especially since she already had about 20,000 miles on her clock. I figured that wasn't a big issue since there are many other healthy high mileage DRs out there. I showed the new bike to a couple veteran DR owners and with their approval on her modifications and conditions, purchased her and went about setting her up to my specifications.

Her name is sanDRina (sun-dree-nah) and I’m looking forward to a great relationship between man and machine.

The reason I chose the DR for long distance adventure touring:
- Dual-Sport Capability > meaning it can handle dirt and gravel roads as well as cruising on the highway.
- Tube Tires > easier to patch/repair a tube tire than to repair a tubeless tire like sport bikes.
- Spoked Rims > can absorb the shock of poor roads better than alloy rims.
- Expandable Gas Tank > this bike's design is such that the original gas tank (3.4 gallons) can be upgraded with a 4.9 gallon one or a massive 7.9 gallon tank, which I currently have.
- Air Cooled > the bike's engine is cooled by moving air and an oil cooler but with no water-cooling (radiator), meaning less parts to worry about failing.
- Carburetion > this bike is carbureted instead of fuel injected because it's easier to work on incase something goes wrong while traveling.



This is how sanDRina came from her previous owner.

Modifications To The Bike From Stock (as she came from previous owner)
- Aqualine Safari 7.9 gallon gas tank (to improve range to nearly 400 miles)
- Corbin aftermarket seat (to improve comfort)
- Mikuni Flat Slide TM40 Pumper Carb with K&N Air Filter (to improve performance and throttle response)
- Happy Trails Skid Plate (to protect the engine)
- Answer 1" Handle Bar (to improve handling and durability)
- Trail Tech Vapor Digital Speedometer with Tachometer (to improve monitoring)
- WER Steering Stabilizer (to improve handling)
- Kientech Fork Brace (to improve handling)
- Seal Savers fork boots (to protect dirt from damaging front suspension seals)
- Stiffer Progressive front and rear springs (to improve handling)
- Larry Roeseler Rear Shock Absorber (to improve handling)
- Stainless Steel Braided Brake Lines (to improve braking performance)
- Adjustable Chain Guide (to protect the chain)
- Acerbis Hand-guards (to protect the fingers and the levers)
- Acerbis Supermotard Front Fender (to improve aero drag and looks)
- LED Tail Light and Turn Signals (to improve the looks and reduce voltage draw)
- Secured Neutral Sending Switch (neutral gear indicator bolts that could come loose in the engine)
- Upgraded Engine Torque Limiter (to prevent starter gear train damage related to this model year)
- Upgraded Engine Base Gasket (factory paper gasket could lead to leaks)

Modifications Added Since Then
- Rear Luggage Rack (to improve usability)
- Happy Trails Luggage Rack with Pannier Set and Top Box (to secure and increase storage space)
- Symtec Heated Grips (to provide warmth to the fingers when it's cold)
- Centech AP-2 Fuse Box (to have better control of electronic add-ons)
- Eastern Beaver Headlight Relay Kit (to increase power to headlights)
- Voltminder Battery Voltage Monitor (to monitor battery health)
- Upper Chain Roller Removed (potential design flaw that could damage the frame)
- Aluminum Engine Side Case Protector (to increase engine protection)
- Rear Brake Master Cylinder Guard (to protect exposed components)
- Shortened Kick Stand and welded Larger Foot Plate (to improve stability when parked)
- Fabricated Highway Pegs (to reduce strain on legs)
- Fabricated Lexan Windshield (to improve comfort in terms of wind buffeting)
- Fabricated custom bike crutch to aid in tire repair
- Tool tube under engine and subframe (to increase carrying space)

Farkles (Functioning Sparkles: electronic add-ons)
- GPS: Garmin 60Cx with Touratech Locking Mount
- Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
- 12V Accessory plug: for running mini air compressor, heated vest and charging electronics

Maintenance done before the start of the trip
- New Oil and Oil Filter with Shell Rotella-T 15w-40 Synthetic
- Valve Clearance Check
- New EBC Front and Rear Brake Pads
- Bleeded Front and Rear Brake Fluid
- New RK 525XSO Chain
- New Front (14) and Rear (42) Sprockets
- New NGK CR-10E Spark Plugs
- New Kenda K270 50/50 Front and Rear Tires
- Cleaned and oiled K&N Air Filter
- New Absorbed Glass Mat Battery


And this is how she looks after a Jammin transformation :)

I've done all the above modifications and maintenance to improve my chances of how sanDRina will behave while we're out on the road. Some items will improve her performance, while others will add to my comfort and increase my usability. Not everything above is necessary before a motorcycle trip like this, but it gives me a better peace of mind, so that I can enjoy my journey more.
__________________
J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

Trip Website: JamminGlobal.com
Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos

Jammin screwed with this post 11-17-2009 at 08:43 PM
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:13 PM   #4
Jammin OP
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Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
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Packing List

Over the course of many motorcycle trips during the past four years, I've learned what to carry and what to leave behind, becoming an efficient packer. The two biggest factors in deciding what to take are weight and space. Weight is always an issue as a heavier bike is harder to handle, tougher to pick up if you drop it and reduces fuel mileage. Space is obviously limited on a motorcycle and items that pack small are preferable.

I prefer to run hard luggage instead of soft bags due to the increased weather protection and safety of belongings, which is not that much of an issue in developed countries, but Iím planning to head into some developing countries in the near future. Additional benefits of hard luggage include using them as camping stools and the ability to rivet additions features, such as spare tire-carrying mounts, etc. The downside of the aluminum luggage set is the added weight of the metal boxes as opposed to cloth saddle bags. Each box weighs about 10 lbs. However, to me the benefits out-weight these costs.

Along with clothes, tools, spares and food in the side panniers, I'm also taking along minimal camping equipment, a Digital SLR camera and other electronics in the top box.

Gear
Regarding riding gear, I follow the motorcycling ethos of ďAll The Gear, All The TimeĒ (ATGATT), meaning full protection of the whole body anytime Iím riding, even for a short distance. Sometimes wearing all the protective gear can be cumbersome, but if it helps me in surviving an accident, then itís worth the effort.

Motoport Riding Suit
Teknic Speedstar Summer Glove
Rev'It Celsius Winter Glove
Aerostich Triple-Digit Rain Glove Covers
Silk Glove Liners (x2)
Champion Insulated Glove Liners (x1)
Oxtar TCX Comp Boots (with torsional ankle protection)
Arai RX-7 Corsair Helmet


Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Jacket


Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Pants

Clothes
In terms of clothes, I'll primarily be wearing my Motoport Kevlar Riding Suit with base layers. For the body to be comfortable, it's all about layering. If it gets colder, I'll throw on the windproof and waterproof liners of the riding suit and if it gets still colder, I have a performance thermal set, which I use for skiing. In extreme cold, I also have an electric heated vest. On the other extreme, for really hot temperatures, I have a cooling vest that works on the principle of evaporative cooling. Besides changing out the base layers, I only require a few other clothes for the evenings and days off from riding.

Base Layer Tops (x3)
Base Layer Bottoms (synthetic x3, silk x1)
Bicycle Shorts (with padding)
Thermal Top
Thermal Bottom
Dry-Fit T-shirts (x1)
Regular T-shirts (x1)
Travel Pants (x1) (pants that zip-off into shorts)
Shorts for sleeping (x1)
Swim Trunks (for the hot springs)
Boxers (x2) for off-bike; on-bike itís commando under the base layers : )
Socks: Smart Wool (x1), Motorcycling Padded (x1), Silk (x2)
Neck Gaiter
Widder Heated Vest
Kidney Belt (to aid lower back support)
Sandals
Cooling Vest
Rain Liners
Camp Towel (quick drying)

Miscellaneous
Toiletries
Anti-Monkey Butt Powder (to reduce soreness of the posterior muscles)
Toilet Paper (small roll)
Sunblock
Eye Allergy Drops
Insect Repellent
Mosquito Net with Boonie Hat
Nail Cutter
First Aid Kit
Eye Glasses
Spare Contacts
Eye Shades

Camping
Catoma Twist 1-person Tent
GearGuide Light-weight Sleeping Bag
GearGuide Sleeping Pad
Coleman Exponent Xtreme Stove with Fuel
Food (various hydratable items such as couscous, miso soup and fish packets)

Electronics
Digital Camera: Canon SD400 5 MP
Digital SLR Camera: KonicaMinolta 5D 6 MP with zoom lenses, remote, tripod
GPS: Garmin 60Cx
Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
iPod nano with Etymotic ER-6i earphones
Chargers for all devices
3-into-1 Wall Socket
iPod Speakers with AA batteries
LED Head Lamp

Bike Related
Even with all the precautions taken before the trip regarding the bike itself, things can still go wrong and one must be prepared for various situations. I have the tools required to fix a flat tire, change a tire, quick weld any pieces that break and other miscellaneous tools for upkeep and repair. Not taking any chances with running our of spare tubes like on my Alaska trip, I carried 2 sets of tubes.

Spare Tubes (Front and Rear)
Tire Irons
Tire Pliers Bead Breaker
Tube Patch Kit
Bike Krtuch
Slime Air Compressor
Vice Grips (x2)
Socket Set
Epoxy Bond
JB Weld
Leatherman
Cruz Multi-purpose Tool
Clear Helmet Shield
Electrical Tape
Duct Tape on wrench
Spare Clutch Cable mounted next to current clutch cable
Spare Shift Lever
__________________
J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

Trip Website: JamminGlobal.com
Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:14 PM   #5
Jammin OP
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Joined: Jan 2006
Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
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Trip Preperation

For me, the journey begins when I'm fully committed to the trip. This can be a few months out or the night before. The year 2009 in my life was occupied with my knee injury and recovery. It's what set back a few big plans and all attention was focused on recovery and ensuring I could get back to the same physical fitness that I had before the injury. The first three months, after surgery in February, was devoted to letting the surgery wounds heal and to give time for the grafted tendon to take hold in the tunnels drilled in my bones (hamstring autograft). That was followed with three months of physical therapy through the summer. The good thing about this experience was knowing that every day was going to be better than the one before as recovery, with no complications, is an upward trend. Moving from immobility to two crutches, to a cane, to walking free and finally being able to jump was a challenging and eye-opening experience. I learned to greatly appreciate this bipedal mobility mechanism that we humans have been gifted with.

A month before being released by the doctor and my physical therapist, I was confident that I could do this trip. Yes, I would be risking re-injury as the graft can take upwards of a year to fully heal, but I couldn't let a whole riding season go by with no extended time on the road - my other home.

My preparations for my Alaska trip last year helped reduce prep time for this year as I had answered most of my gear questions already. Having already installed all my equipment on my previous bike, auDRey, the install was much quicker on the new gal, sanDRina. She got a fuse box for the electronics, headlight relay kit, heated grips, 12V DC power outlets and handle bar mounts for GPS and radar detector.

A few weeks before the departure date, I had a local motorcycle mechanic friend, Gus (Resurrection on CLSB), make some spacers for my luggage rack to help solve the cracked bolts that I was having on my Alaska trip. While there, he noticed a bump in my steering head bearings and luckily, the previous owner gave me some new bearings when I got the bike. I didn't notice it before, but after he pointed it out, it was bothering me during turns. After some fresh bearings, confidence was back in long turns.

The end of summer, getting close to the departure date, became quite busy for me with a cousin and his family visiting and me having to host my Indian high school class' 10 year reunion in New York City. Being a boarding school, it felt like no one had changed much in 10 years and we all still enjoyed each other's company. Kodai School definitely played a big part in how I turned out, having spent 10 years of my life there.

The week before leaving, I still had the task of painting the fairings as white was too plain and after a little deliberation, olive green was chosen as a mild pleasing color that would nicely blend in with all the wilderness and beyond.

One lesson I've learned repeatedly at the conclusion of my previous trips was that I sorely missed cooking while being out on the road. When I came back from Alaska, one of the first things I did was cook myself a nice chicken curry. It's definitely the Indian in me but also the foodie that I am. I enjoy food preparation and want to be involved with the food I consume. To try and do more of that on this trip, I settled on a simple recipe of couscous, fish, miso soup and mushrooms that would provide me with carbs, proteins and fiber that I would need daily. Obviously not having a refrigerator on the bike, the above ingredients were chosen due to them being available in dehydrated form or travel-friendly packs. I figured I could buy vegetables at towns I would be passing through. Having a small spice jar would help vary the flavors. Breakfast would be mainly instant oatmeal and lunch would be granola and protein bars. I planned for a few restaurant meals, but was trying to see how much I could provide for myself.

I'm surprised I didn't think about taking a water filter on my previous trips and probably spent too much on bottled water. This time, especially with more cooking planned in remote areas, I needed a sustainable clean water supply. Chemical treating is limited by the amount of chemicals you carry, plus the taste isn't pleasing and you're still drinking all the dead microorganisms. I wanted to find a solution that would be as close to being 100% effective against water borne viruses and bacteria. Yes, I would be only in the developed country of America with clean public drinking water, but I was planning on being away from civilization and needing to drink from streams. They might look all clear and pure if you ignore the possibility that there could be a dead moose upstream that you're water is running through. I saw the LifeSaver water purifier on TedTalks and decided it was the best solution for sustained clean water as it simply involved pushing water through 15 nanometer filter pores. With the smallest bacteria being 200 nm and the smallest viruses being 25 nm, there was no chance anything was getting through. The device is being used by military personnel and refugees the world over.

With food, water, shelter, security (in terms of bike reliability) covered, it was time to head out the door.
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J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

Trip Website: JamminGlobal.com
Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:14 PM   #6
Jammin OP
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Location: New Delhi - new 'home' for post RTW
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Day 1 / Friday, August 28, 2009

Staying awake till 2 am every night the week before still didn't allow me to finish all my tasks that I had planned for the trip and the night before leaving, after 3 am, I decided it was going to be an all-nighter.

One big task I had to get done was shaving my head. I was losing hair up top much too quickly for my age and concluded it was in my genes, seeing my maternal cousins' shiny heads. Better to embrace it rather than hide from it. I figured I would try the shaved look during my trip and if I liked it, it would stay.



My custom 1998 Suzuki DR650 Adventure, named sanDRina (pronounced sun-dree-nah). All set to go with a few hours to departure. My backrest is the pillion seat from my other bike, a GSX-R. She's setup with Safari 8 gallon gas tank, Corbin seat, flat-slide carb, steering dampener, stainless brake lines and Vapor electronic dash computer, Happy Trails full luggage system, shortened and wide plate kickstand, tool tubes, Lexan windshield, Centech fuse box, Symtec heated grips, 12V DC outlet, GPS, battery voltage monitor and radar detector.

I got going around 7 am in a misty rain and was aiming for Fargo, North Dakota like on my trip last year to Alaska. However, I knew fatigue would set in quick and I soon found myself taking frequent breaks to help keep my alertness up. I'm no stranger to sleep deprivation, having stayed awake for 55 hours during a high school camping trip in India, but there is only so much energy in the body and without recharging the batteries with sleep, Red Bull and other energy supplements can only help in short bursts.

I was getting close to Minneapolis near their Friday evening rush hour and knowing my low energy and focus levels, I figured it best to go around the city and avoid traffic. The roads north of the city proved enjoyable in the setting sun and helped keep my attention up. I made it to St. Cloud after 470 miles from home and checked into a cheap motel, and quickly hit the sack for a solid 10 hours of sleep.


Day 2 / Saturday, August 29, 2009

The original plan of taking two days of highways to get to the start of the CDR was stretched to three days, taking away from a day off planned in Yellowstone National Park. Better to be safe and enjoy the ride, then just be rushing to stay on some arbitrary schedule. I still needed to stay on schedule so that I could accomplish what I set out to do and get back in time to go back to work.

I got an early start at dawn and the temps didn't respond to the sun's new rays for at least a few hours into the day. 50 F ambient feels really cold when moving at 65 mph. I save the heated vest for much colder temps.

I set 65 mph as my own speed limit for the trip due to the tires I was on, Kenda K270's, which are a 50% street, 50% dirt tire, meaning the tire has deep knobbies for grip off-road and a softer compound than a regular street tire. This trip was going to be about half on the Interstate and half through national forest roads. I could've planned to change tires, but carrying both front and rear tires throughout the whole trip didn't seem to be worth it and at $80 for the set of K270's, which could last the whole trip, it seemed the simpler solution. To protect the knobbies on tarmac, lower top speed is required and more air pressure. I planned to diligently take care of the tires during the trip, lowering air pressure for off-road sections and then increasing air pressure for tarmac sections, with my mini air compressor running off the bike.

Coming from sportbike touring where we regularly cruised at 10-15 mph above the speed limit, and now having to cruise at 65 with the speed limits at 70 and 75 in these empty regions, you can imagine the frustration my right brain was having, which aims to maximize neural reward for the current situation. But my left brain was in control here, telling me to think about the big picture of the trip and learn from my past mistakes, such as when I left for my Mexico trip cruising on these same kind of tires at 85 mph and tearing off the knobbies a few hundred miles into the trip. Oops.

Going past Fargo on I-94, the feeling of being far away from civilization started to set in. As much as I feel that I'm a product on my times, this accelerated global society, the allure of cutting communication lines and support networks is still strong. I was looking forward to a fortnight of me and nature.

Even with all the good sleep I got the previous night, fatigue set in early and frequent breaks were needed. Much more sleep was needed to recharge the brain batteries. To keep my attention piqued, I was reading all the geological sign boards at rest stops and reflecting on the information as I rode by. They said the Sheyenne River was just a trickle of its past glacial glory when it was two miles wide and filled the whole valley that the interstate dipped down into. This was the same river that caused havoc to communities along its banks in the spring of 2009 when it flooded unprecedentedly due to heavy rains and melting snowing.

In the afternoon, my fatigue went away and I was back in good spirits, getting into the vibe of being on the road. As I neared the western end of North Dakota, I decided to take US-2 across Montana instead of MT-200 as I had done that road twice already in previous trips. I worked my way around the Roosevelt National Park through the badlands and enjoyed the always pleasing sight of vividly painted hillsides due to the various sedimentary layers.



I got past Minneapolis on the first day and this is towards the end of second day on ND-16 at the border between North Dakota and Montana, heading north to catch US-2 to go west across Montana.


Going through the Little Missouri National Grassland near the Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota and enjoying the colors of the various sediment layers.

Just after entering Montana, I crossed the Yellowstone River, flowing from the park about 500 miles to the south-west, on the Atlantic side of the Continental Divide. It would soon join the Missouri River and head down into the Gulf of Mexico.

I pulled into Sidney and didn't find any suitable campgrounds. Upon asking the city RV park owner if there was someplace scenic to camp at, he told me about a fishing access spot under a bridge further up the road. Outside the town of Culbertson, at the Missouri River, the fishing access spot was an ideal place to camp for the night. The signs clearly said no overnight camping allowed, I presume to dissuade RV campers and "officer, I don't read the English too well" :p

I setup camp with a great view of the river and embankment and was glad to hear not much traffic going across the bridge and what little that did was covered over with tunes from my iPod speakers, helping me create a sense of home. Here I was sleeping under a bridge for the first time and felt very much at home. I remember telling my friends at school that Iíd love to be that guy who had a Lamborghini Diablo and had to live under a bridge, because he couldnít afford anything else.

I would be sleeping in my new Catoma Twist tent that springs open into shape. Catoma has made tents for forest fire fighters and the military and recently expanded into consumer products. The Twist comprises of two sets of thin fiberglass poles that expand to create a one person shelter. I didn't buy the Twist primarily for its self-setup feature, but mainly because it was the cheapest, smallest packed, lightest one person, self-standing tent with a vestibule large enough to house my riding gear overnight. Having the tent go up in a second is surely a nice feature to have. It does take a little practice to wind it all back together, but it soon becomes easy.

I made my dinner of couscous with miso soup and chunk tuna and used water from the Missouri through my LifeSaver filter was glad to note all my gear was functioning as needed for the trip ahead. After enjoying the stars in the dark skies over the river, I was off to bed for another 10 hours of sleep.



Setting up camp for the night under a bridge by the Little Missouri river near the town of Culbertson in eastern Montana.


The sunset produced beautiful colors on the exposed rock surfaces.


Dinner for the night: 1/4 cup couscous with miso coup and chunk tuna. Not a bad meal and I had a spice jar to add some cayenne or garlic salt.


Going to bed as the sun set, trying to catch up on lost sleep in getting ready for the trip.


Day 3 / Sunday, August 30, 2009


The bridge under which I slept the night before.

Having completed 650 miles the previous day, I had about 500 miles left to the start of the CDR near Glacier National Park. The entire day would be on one single road, US Route 2, cutting across the western end of the Great Plains. US 2 is considered a scenic highway for the rural country it passes through and was envisioned as part of the old Roosevelt International Highway aiming to connect Portland, Maine with Portland Oregon, running across the northern boundary of the Continental US, and across southern Ontario. It's the northernmost east-west route across the US and is nicknamed the Highline for that. The Adventure Cycling Association, who is behind the CDR route I was going to take, has a 600 mile tour across Montana and North Dakota along US 2.

The route followed the gently flowing terrain and I excused the barren landscape as being labeled scenic in expectation of what lay ahead at the Rocky Mountains. I seem to have conquered my fatigue and was in the groove of the trip, listening to audio books and looking ahead to first sight of the Rockies.

I met a Canadian couple from British Columbia who were touring on two BMW F800GS' over three months across Canada and the US and were impressed with the idea of spending two weeks going down the Rocky Mountains through national forest roads.



Rolls of hay awaiting collection. A majority of the farmland out in the plains was devoted to hay, the primary feed for cattle.


Is this an attempt at road side art with rolls of hay...


While Montana might be known for its mountains, the eastern half of the state still comprises of the Great Plains, with flat, straight roads. A good time for audio books.


The winds howl across the big flats and upon reaching some raised land, provide a good spot for capturing the wind with these wind turbines.


Finally, at the end of the third day, my first sight of the Rockies, where I will spend the next 12 days or so deep inside the mountain range working my way south.

After crossing the Blackfeet Indian Reservation city of Browning, I finally climbed up into the Rocky Mountains and enjoyed seeing the elevation meter aspiring up, knowing it would go much higher through Colorado. To make the ride official for literary's sake, I went up to the border and snagged a picture before the border guards suspected something. From the US/Canada border, I was heading south to the US/Mexico border.


At the start of my Continental Divide Ride, the US/Canadian border on the eastern side of Glacier National Park. Turn around and let's head for the Mexican border.


Sheet metal art of maybe neighboring tribes across the 49th parallel displaying friendly border relations.


Heading back south to Aspenwood Campground near the eastern border of Glacier National Park.


I first thought these were wild horse, but the campground owner said they were open range privately owned horses.

I stayed at Aspenwood campground on the eastern edge of Glacier NP and got some advice to be on the lookout for cattle during my trip as this was all open range country. She also quipped that I was bound to run into black cows at night and white ones in the winter. I got a good site under some aspen trees and had the company of her numerous dogs through the evening. Dinner was the same as the previous night except dried shrimp was thrown in instead of fish. My mountaineering friend, Iryne, gave me tips on buying dried food from the Japanese supermarket that had worked well for her winter backpacking trips.


Sunset at Aspenwood Campground by the beaver pond.


And look at this cute little guy. The owner said she had quite a few friendly dogs running around the campground, chasing away any wildlife and cattle. This guy really enjoyed playing fetch with that stick and was very well behaved; look at how he's posing so nicely for this shot.


"I know, nice sunset, huh"


And then another one showed up. This guy was a bit more droopy-looking.


He was pretty aggressive with that stick.


Checking out the scene from across a small ditch.


Something smells good...
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:15 PM   #7
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Day 4 / Monday, August 31, 2009

The next morning I took advantage of the private shower rooms as I figured I would be roughing it from here on out on the trail. I was enjoying my new shaved head look and instead of letting it grow back by the time the trip ended, I decided it was here to stay. No more squished helmet hair.

It took two and a half hours to get going from waking up to getting on the road, with taking care of personal hygiene, cooking and eating breakfast of oatmeal, and packing everything back into my panniers. I quickly learnt on my Alaska trip that there's no faster way around this and just to accept it and enjoy the unhurried pace. When packing gear on a motorcycle, everything has its place and must be held securely to ensure it works when needed, such as easy access to the water bottle during the day. To hold items securely in place, they should be in slight compression with their neighboring items to ensure there's no rattling and moving around of gear as the motorcycle leans it way down the road.



The next morning, there were 5 dogs running around my site. A great way to wake up.


Aww, aren't they just so cute... They responded to my "sit" command right away.


This guy looked a bit older and was more mellow. Getting ready to boil some water for oatmeal.


"What'd you have for dinner last night?"


Don't even think about going in there. I didn't have to worry at all since these guys were all well-behaved.


There was a lot of sniffing going around, probably a morning ritual among these friends.


When I started with my oatmeal, I got all the other guys to sit and lie down, except this guy, who kept staring at me the whole time. I don't like to give dogs human food as it makes mooches out of pooches and besides the sweet isn't good for them.


On MT-49 going around Glacier National Park. I thought about going through the park but with major construction going on, it was estimated to be 3 hours to go through the park or 1 hour to go around it. I was here last year on my way to Alaska.

I thought about going through Glacier NP this time, but was warned of lengthy construction delays and thus went around on MT-49 and US-2, which skirts the southern perimeter of the park.

At Columbia Falls, I joined the CDR route as laid out by Mark Sampson. Expecting gravel roads right away from River Road, I lowered my air pressure only to see that there was quite a bit of tarmac with a little gravel here and there as the route wound through some sub-divisions and rural communities. Foothill Road was the first fun section and that quickly lead into Swan River Road taking me along Swan Lake, next to the much bigger Flathead Lake.

I was pleased how easily I accepted the nature of this ride in that I was simply following whichever direction the GPS was telling me to go, compared to my other trips where a destination was set for the day and I followed the twistiest route to get there. This was my first ride where the majority of time was going to be spent off-road and I was quickly getting in the groove of looking forward to the next off-road section while connecting on tarmac. Of course, common sense still has to prevail when following a GPS but I trusted the route based on user reviews.

I felt a sense of relief in not having to know exactly which roads I was supposed to take and know that they would be revealed as I came across them. On my previous trips, not having the luxury of time to be wayward, I've actually memorized the whole route to guarantee not getting lost. The allure of getting lost and exploring comes with the price of time. For this trip, having around 12 days on the 2,000 mile trail afforded me the time to go slow and get lost along the way, having to average only about 200 miles a day.



On the CDR trail on Foothill Rd, south of Columbia Falls. The trail went through some sub-division roads and a few gravel roads here and there.


Getting my first taste of the CDR on national forest roads, which is what the majority of the trail follows. These are well maintained gravel roads snaking through the forests, mainly used by wilderness fire-fighters, hunters and other recreational uses.


Feeling right at home among all this good nature. You have to ignore the fact that the highway is just a few miles away. This is near Swan Lake, east of Flathead Lake.

The real joy started as I got onto national forest roads around Swan Lake through the Mission mountain range. These are well kept single lane gravel roads intended for forest fire fighting, logging, mining, recreational hunting and access to remote areas. The allure of these roads compared to regular highways is the closeness of foliage to the road and the intimacy it creates with the surroundings. Of course, hiking through dense forests would top all this, but I'm talking about motorized transport. Regular roads lose this due to their requirement of shoulders and clearance for trucks.

I soon came across a road closed sign for bridge repair and hearing construction equipment in the distance, I figured getting through wouldn't be easy and after a spot of lunch, I set about trying to find a way around. I was again stumped by a road ending with a gate and overgrowth. It was time to throw in the towel and head back to the highway to go around. That's the beauty also of the CDR; the option to take regular highway if the route is blocked or impassable when wet. While the route goes through remote-feeling lands, the truth is, civilization, in terms of highways and towns, is right around the corner or just over those bushes.

Studying the route before the trip, I saw the GPS doing funny things around Cold Creek Road and I ran into a dead-end again as the road winded up on someone's private forest land with locked gates and no thoroughfare. Time to retreat to the highway again and I made my down MT-83 to Seeley Lake, a year-round recreation site. From there, I turned east onto Cottonwood Lakes Road through the Sawn mountain range heading to the town of Ovando. This was a pleasant ride with nice scenery of healthy green pines and good road conditions of hard-packed gravel.



Coming across a road closed sign. The route is there in my GPS but it's no guarantee that the road is open. After hearing thundering earth moving equipment off in the distance, I didn't bother scouting out the bridge for a possible passage.


That's me with my new baldness. I was losing too much hair and decided to embrace the inevitable baldness. Scalp stubble against a helmet liner is a funny feeling...


Trying to find a detour around the bridge but came across a gate with overgrowth across the track. Time to turn back and head to the highway to go around.


Back on the trail a bit further south, near Cedar Creek Campground. The trail ended in some private ranch and had to head back to the highway towards Seeley Lake.


The nice gravel, mud road of Seeley Lake Road heading towards Ovando.


This was a pleasant road and an enjoyable ride towards the end of the day.


Going around some calm lakes.

From the small town of Ovando on MT-200, the route to Helmville exits the forest and goes across farm land. Maybe because it's more heavily used, the road conditions were not desirable, consisting of washboard and quickly changing conditions from deep loose gravel back to mud. Washboard roads are as you can picture them; the road underneath gets washed away in rain to reveal a surface similar to an old laundry washing board and going across it at speed causes the bike to reverberate the quick undulations through the suspension right into your bones. She doesn't like it and I don't like it. Sustaining harsh vibrations can lead to suspension dampening (shock) failure and worn out bodily joints. One fix is to lower the air pressure so that the tires take up more dampening or reduce speed. With my load on the bike, I didn't want to reduce air pressures more than they were, about 25 psi in the rear and 22 in the front.

As I neared Helmville and MT-141, I saw a rain system moving south over me and my hopes of camping were rained out. I had planned to head to Camp Nelson as marked on the GPS, but the route was blocked by a locked gate and the rain pushed my decision to getting a motel for the night in Lincoln, having done 280 miles. As I pulled into town, the skies opened and the rain fell intensely with the motel owner confirming that it was going to be a cold night, near 40 F.



The not so fun road to Helmville from Ovando, which was a majority of washboard roads under the gravel. I was running around 20 psi in the tires for the off-road bits, but yet it wasn't enough to smooth out the roughness of the washboard. I was wary of running too low of pressure in the tires after I blew my tire on the Dalton Highway in Alaska the previous summer.


The road to Camp Nelson marked in the GPS was blocked by this gate and with threatening rain clouds all around, I decided to motel it in Lincoln.

With the intention of camping every night on this trip, I wasn't doing too good with two motel nights already. However, I wasn't trying to prove anything to anybody and as long as I could afford it, I figured motels were ok if it was going to be wet and cold. And besides, setting up camp in the rain and packing up wet gear is just going to extend the aggravation of being wet and cold. When asking the gas station attendant for motel recommendations, she quipped how she thought us bikers were a tougher breed than to be driven indoors just for some rain. Ouch. Sorry guys, not helping the biker image here, haha.

Carrying food for about sixteen days, I told myself not to bring back too much food at the end of the trip and thus ate my dinner that night with the feeling of not having access to restaurants. For this trip, I wanted to view civilization as an "out" only if something wasn't working on the trail, such as too much rain, chilling cold or lacking supplies. Staying in a motel, I felt I was using one of my "get me back to civilization" cards. How many I had of those would be determined as the trip went along.
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:15 PM   #8
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Day 5 / Tuesday, September 1, 2009

A bright, beautiful day lay ahead for the first day of mountain passes. South of Lincoln, the route heads up and over Stemple and Mullen pass, then going through the town of Rimini before emptying out at the town of Basin.



Heading south from Lincoln towards the first passes of the trip, Stemple and Mullen.


This is a pretty well kept road and is even traversable in winter because it's a mail route.

The road up to Stemple pass was nice and wide and well kept as it's also a rural mail route. The views of expansive pine trees was pleasing but I was deeply saddened by the extent of the dead pines due to the Mountain Pine Beetle. It’s an invasive insect that attacks and kills the pines by clogging their internal plumbing with a blue stain fungi that prevents the tree from circulating water and nutrients and over two weeks it slowly starves to death, turning its needles red. While nature is beautiful, she is also cruel and impersonal.

There is currently a severe outbreak in North America with over 2 million acres of dead tress in Wyoming and Colorado alone, projected to increase by half a million acres every year. The only sure way to stop its spread is through controlled burns of infected areas, however, people live in and around infected areas and burns aren't practical. Mild winters and warm summers help the beetles spread and as people are increasing their awareness of climate change, this destruction of vast amount of forests will affect each and every one of us as this ecosystem service is reduced in its capacity to help remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Vast amount of dead trees are also a mega forest fire waiting to happen. All though the summer of 2009 was considered moderate in terms of fire danger, worries are being raised about the near future with global temperatures expected to rise. One method to fight the fire danger is cutting down all the dead pines but then we have large areas of mountain sides with no trees leading to landslides, soil erosion, and one can imagine how bad this can get.

With that in mind, I was glad to be going through these forests before the situation gets even bleaker. I was taking frequent breaks and enjoyed the silence when the motor was off, reveling in the sounds of the forest. There was washboard here and there and the breaks were needed to relieve the jitteriness in my hands. The air pressure in the tires was also rising as it heated up over long sections of washboard and I periodically released air to keep the pressures stable.



Great views of open hill-sides as you slowly climb up.


It felt very peaceful to be motoring along and enjoying this closeness to nature.


The road was steep at times.


The red and green might make for a nice color contrast, even a good Christmas theme, but sadly, all that redness signifies death of pine trees succumbing to the Mountain Pine Beetle.


Near the peak at 6380 ft.

I didn't come across another human the whole morning yet felt completely at home as a product of nature herself. Cows are the closest mammalian contact I had through these remote regions and they definitely give you the look as though you're intruding on their space. The look they give as you ride by is also funny as their assessing if you're a threat or not and then they react at the last moment as though they've just seen you and then they bolt. They're good entertainment.


sanDRina running smoothly and in her element.


Riding through thickets of pine.


No matter how remote you might be, there're always cows. The end up being your only mammalian form of contact.


The road getting a little gnarly at times, but very fun to ride.


The closeness of the vegetation shows how rarely this road is used.


I took lots of breaks as it's slow going and I wanted to enjoy the pace.


A lovely natural arch across the road (sorry for the poor picture).


Nice colors from the morning sun's rays, but seeing so many reddened and dead pines was disturbing.


From the pass looking out towards ever further and bluer mountains.


Now this is getting into high country, rolling meadows at elevation. It might not be that high compared to Colorado, but it's vastness is impressive.


On one of the "long-cuts" that the GPS said I should do when a new short cut looked available. A few times along the route, being such remote roads, the map data in my GPS didn't match the route that I downloaded as roads can change and you have to decide between following the GPS route or your instinct on which way you're supposed to go.


A pretty rough out of the way track near the pass.


Signs mentioning that the public road was crossing across private land and you you're not allowed to go off-trail.


An intersection between two long trails through this high country. Heading towards Rimini across Hwy 12.


Looking back towards Mullen Pass.

Coming out of Priest Pass Road, the route crosses US-12 onto Rimini Road with a flat easy section heading to Rimini, a silver mining boom town in the mid-19th century located in the narrow Ten Mile Creek Valley. The town got its name from the character in Dante's Inferno, which used to play at an opera house in nearby Helena. These days, old mining cabins act as retreats for city dwellers.

Past Rimini, the route takes Basin Creek Road through Deerlodge National Forest and the Basin Creek Mine that sits on the Continental Divide down to the town of Basin on I-15. The thick forests were enjoyable but again the dead trees were ruining the moment. The riding was relatively easy with some areas of deep gravel here and there.

The Basin Creek Mine is an inactive open pit gold mine, and along with other abandoned mines in the area was put under the EPA's Superfund list in order to clean up and restore the environmental damage caused by mining activities in years past. The watershed was a main concern as this area supplies fresh water to the city of Helena and Basin. The issue with open pit gold mining is that cyanide and other harmful chemicals are used to leach the gold and careless environmental policies of the past resulted in polluted water systems, which taxpayers are now paying the bill to fix. I love capitalism for the best it brings out in humanity in terms of innovation and progress, but our previous implementation of it where it was simply, take, take, take out of the ecosystem with no regard for consequences is thankfully changing as awareness spreads of respect due to the environment.

The route comes out of the forest into the old mining town of Basin on Interstate 15. This whole area around Basin is known for its rich mineral veins and that's primarily due to a geological feature called the Boulder Batholith, which is a huge granite rock under the surface that is 10 miles deep and 100 miles wide spanning from Helena to Butte and formed about 80 million years ago as magma rose to the surface and cooled. As cracks appeared in this host rock, minerals rose from under the earth's crust and filled in, awaiting to be mined by man.

Along with its boom and bust mining fame, this area is also known for its archeological finds of Paleo-Indian artifacts in the surrounding hills, such as hunting spears. These early peoples, perhaps belonging to Clovis Culture, are believed to have migrated to North America about 13,000 years ago at the end of the last Ice Age, crossing over the Bering Land Bridge from Asia into Alaska and down the boundary of the retreating ice sheet into Montana and further south. Advances in dating techniques keep increasing the accuracy of these theories. The research into the first humans in North America is very interesting with findings of artifacts maybe dating back to 50,000 years ago from a site in South Carolina, which would throw a spanner in current models of human origins and the migration path out of Africa, which we all (non-Africans) belong to as evidenced in our common Haplogroup L3 genetic marker in our mitochondrial DNA. In the future, when human genome mapping becomes affordable to the individual, we’ll be able to see exactly where our genes originated from and it all points to Mother Africa.

This is the kind of stuff I'm listening to in my audio books and it's fascinating especially when you're back in the area trying to picture what it was like 10,000 years ago hunting for mammoths with spears and using our big brains to survive. I love the notion that each one of us is the result of a long line of successful ancestors, not just the ones you can remember, but all the humans that successfully procreated over millennia to result in you today.



Taking a lunch break south of Rimini.


The easy riding road heading towards Basin.


The only thing to really fail on this trip was my second tool tube that I zip-tied to my pannier frame. The forces must just be too much through that bracket.


Riding past deep blue lakes.


Coming across some deep loose gravel in the Basin Mining area; gaining lots of good off-road experience.


The afternoon sun producing beautiful shadows.


You can almost picture the forward advance of the pine beetle. Mild winters and warm summers help them spread.

From Basin, the route jumps on I-15 for about 30 miles down to Butte. The riding was still good on the freeway as it snaked through the narrow canyon south of Basin. In Butte, at a gas station, two loggers remarked, "you rode that little feller from Chicago!?" upon seeing my license plate. When I said I was riding down the Divide, then nodded in approval and were glad to see city slickers out here in the woods. They also helped with some directions to the nearest grocery store as I wanted to try adding fresh produce to my nightly cooking. I picked up some broccoli and corn and after scanning through a camping book, decided on Grasshopper Creek campground in Beaverhead National Forest, south of Wise River.

A short ways south of Butte, after some tarmac up into the forests and Thompson Park, the route takes Moose Creek Road to Highland Road for some nice high altitude riding before coming back down to the interstate. This was a pleasant ride in the late afternoon and zero traffic through the forests was much enjoyed. From the town of Divide, MT-43 runs along the scenic Big Hole River up to the town of Wise River. This area is considered one of the most scenic in Montana and is known for its fly fishing. From Wise River, the route heads south along National Forest Road 73, Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway, which runs in-between the Pioneer and Beaverhead Mountains. Being here near sunset threw beautiful colors across the landscape. The twisties were highly enjoyable and the DR performed flawlessly. The Kenda K270's are a bit squirrly at lean, but that's what you get with a compromise tire.



South of Butte, after a short Interstate jaunt, on Highland Rd heading west across Deerlodge National Forest back towards I-15.


The picturesque Highland Rd near Pipestone Pass.


Heading back down towards the valley and the Interstate off in the distance.


We seem to be doing too much of this today instead of multiplying, haha. Heading west from the Interstate towards Wise River.


The fun Big Hole Rd, MT-43 heading towards the town of Wise River.


Good twisting road.


Storm clouds gathering to the north, hoping they wouldn't follow me south as the day was nearing its end and I wanted to camp in the dry.


The twisting Pioneer Mountains Scenic Byway heading south of Wise River through the Beaverhead National Forest.


The setting sun on this high country at 7000 ft through the Pioneer Mountains.


The dark storm clouds following me south and the signs on the road warn off the danger up ahead...

While I was enjoying shifting my body weight through the corners, I was on the lookout for animals on the road around the corners, especially being dusk and around one such hillside, I came across a group of four black cows bolting away as fast as they could. This one girl who decided she couldn't get across the road before this threat (me) got to her, stopped and gave me a long hard look. I thought nothing of it at the moment and continued on.

I saw a sign for Elk Creek Hot Springs near my campground and decided to see if it was open and perhaps a better camping spot. The single track route took me up into the mountains with no hot springs in sight and dumped me back on the road a few miles back. With that being a dud, I was headed back to my original campsite. Just as I came flying around the same hillside as before, I told myself it would be funny if those same four cows were there and what do you know, there they were just about to make their way across the road thinking it was safe and this same alien threat was back again. That same girl who gave me the look was leading the pack and stopped and gave me that look again. I was cracking up in my helmet and waved to the girls as I went by, capping off a great day of riding about 210 miles with some laughs.



Beef on the run! It is quite amusing to see cattle bolt when they've finally decided I'm a threat. Look at the one on the right, she was bolting uphill to get to the other side of the road with her compadres.


I was waiting patiently taking pictures, but she decided to stop and take a good hard look at this threat. I took a detour and ended up going on a loop and...


came back around to the same patch of road with the same group of cows. They were just making their way back across the road to maybe some good grub. The one of the road must be the same one who gave me the look before. I was laughing away in my helmet.

Grasshopper Campground is a well-situated campsite along Grasshopper Creek with sites right next to the creek reminding me of camping trips in my middle school years in the mountains of southern India. I setup camp before some fast moving thunderclouds came through and was gracious to the hosts for providing free firewood from fallen trees in the area. At an elevation of 6,900 ft, it was going to be a cold night and I setup my cold temp sleeping arrangement, which consisted of putting my sleeping bag into a bag made up of two emergency space/aluminum blankets to reflect my body heat back to me through the night, an idea I got from ultra-light frugal backpackers.


Spending the night at Grasshopper Campground near the 7,800 ft divide.


My beautiful campsite near the tranquil Grasshopper creek that runs south for 50 miles passing through Bannack State Park.


The view reminded me of my camping days in school high up in the Palani Mountains of South India.


Easy access to water for all my cooking needs for the night.


Getting into the living rhythm of the trip. This is my 1 person Catoma Twist tent designed by a company that made fire fighting tents before marketing to consumers. Besides its ease of setup, I liked the large vestibule area, which allowed me to store all my gear for the night under dew and rain protection. I laid my jacket under my legs in the tent and the pants act as the entry mat into the tent.


I was using this trip to test all my gear for extreme conditions and this altitude at this time of year (late summer) meant cold nights in the high 30s. My lightweight down sleeping bag didn't provide enough warmth on the chilly nights last year to Alaska. So this year, I made a silk sleeping bag liner and enveloped myself in an aluminum space blanket bag to reflect my body heat back to me. I left the space blanket open enough to allow my perspiration to evaporate. And as it is widely known, layering is the key to regulating body temperature.

With a campfire roaring, I experimented making dinner with my alternative stove, a wood-fire chimney stove designed by similar backpackers. The concept was simple in that creating intake vents at the bottom and channeling fresh air through the fire and out an exhaust should ensure a high temperature sustained fire required for cooking and after struggling a bit to get a fire going inside the bean can, it worked as described. I controlled the amount of air going in by turning the stove into the wind or away. I soon had boiling water and dinner was made. Besides providing some entertainment, it also deposited lots of soot on my pots. Dinner that night was couscous with broccoli, sprinkled with cayenne pepper and albacore tuna, along with miso soup and corn on the cob. I slept with a full stomach knowing it would help keep me warm into the night.


Getting free firewood from the camp hosts.


Setting up a campfire, before the passing rains returned.


The progression of fire from lighting the tinder..


...to the kindling catching..


...to the fuel wood finally burning. Lighting a fire is a very satisfying feeling.


Having fun with my alternative cooking wood stove made from a can of black beans.


The design was taken from ultra-light backpackers who are designing sustainable natural solutions. I put a safety wire grate on top hoping to grill some meat at some point. The simple idea is to have an exhaust port, the v-shaped cut...


and intake ports on the opposite side at the bottom, so that the one way direction of the airflow provides constant oxygen for the fire to combust.


Boiling water for broccoli.


Being a windy night, I could control the strength of the flame by turning the stove's intake holes into the wind or out of.


Wasn't long before a rolling boil. Yes, one of the downsides is the soot on the pots from a wood fire.


Lightly cooking broccoli, before adding to...


Couscous and chunk tuna with broccoli.


Boiling water for miso soup.


Making some corn on the cob on the fiery coals. I was stuffed and slept warm and happy.
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Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos

Jammin screwed with this post 11-20-2009 at 08:12 PM
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:16 PM   #9
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Day 6 / Wednesday, September 2, 2009

It was a chilly night, but I slept comfortably and was glad to see my cold weather sleeping gear worked as planned. The silk sleeping bag liner I made, with stitching help from a friend, worked as expected as silk is a great natural insulator. The space blanket worked well but since it doesn't breathe too well, condensation formed on the inside surface.



Sun rising over Grasshopper Creek to begin a beautiful day.


Rushing water in the creek.

Being a rustic campground, there was no running water in the bathroom and it only consisted of a simple pit latrine. I used body wipes all over to at least keep myself hygienically clean and then dusted all over with Anti-Monkey Butt powder, which is talc with calamine that helps to reduce friction and acts as a sweat absorber.

Feeling fresh, I was looking forward to ending up in Yellowstone National Park at the end of the day. The temps were still quite low in the morning, hovering near 40 F as I made my way toward Bannack State Park, a well known site along the CDR route. Just before the turn off to Bannack, I saw a black wall moving towards me on the road and realized it was a herd of cattle being shepherded by two cowboys. Having fencing on both sides of the road, I just stopped and revved the engine a bit to part the black sea as it went around me.

Bannack is a well preserved ghost town these days and was once the capital of Montana Territory when gold was discovered in the mid 19th century. It serves as a local attraction with its sixty odd structures open to exploration.



A herd of cattle being shepherded by cowboys down Hwy 278. They parted and went around me.


The pavement ends just south of Bannack State Park


Cruising along on Old Bannack Road. All this area is famous for gold rushes in the 19th century.

The route got on gravel road just past Bannack and I was pleased to see how eager I was to get back on gravel after having been on pavement for the last 75 miles. I felt I was riding well and keeping myself in check as I did not want to re-injure my healing right knee. I was making good use of the rear brake, as using the front brake on lose surface would easily lead to a tip over.

The terrain was beautifully set in a dry, high country and the skies were a cloudless blue. I was making good time, cruising in 4th gear and was in the groove of the ride. After buzzing over washboard, deep gravel and other varying surfaces, I came up to the local summit at 8,000 ft and clicked a picture of the sign board indicating the history of this road, being a freight route during the gold rush era.

I knew I should've stopped and taken a break, but I got going right away and shifted into 2nd gear before getting on the descent of the hill. My tires got tracked into 3" deep mud ruts, caused by vehicles when the road was wet and I was losing control of the bike. Up until now, I made it a point to keep my right leg always up on the pegs to reduce any chance of hitting it on the ground if I needed to catch myself on lose surface. But the handle bar was shaking violently as the tires followed the rough contours of the mud rut with the bike picking up speed, aided by gravity on the steep descent and a higher gear than needed. The bike swung to the right and I had to kick the ground with my right leg to keep myself upright and just as I was thinking, "phew, that didn't hurt much" the bike swung to the left and I had to kick with the ground with my left leg to stay up. With both my legs down, I couldn't use the rear brake to slow down and saw that I was going more and more out of control. With nothing left to do, my instinct was to grab the front brake and she immediately went down to the left.

I came down on my chest without my helmet touching the ground or my upper body hurting, but my left ankle was pinched between the pannier and the ground. I couldn't free myself lose. I reached over my right side and turned the bike off, noting fuel spilling out of the carb. I looked back at my left foot and after realizing that nothing was broken, my first thought was "good choice on the boots," Oxtar TCX Comp motocross boots. The thick sole was the part being held down by the pannier and I read on the boot "Torsion Control System" and was glad to see my foot not being rotated by the force of my body. I was facing the ground but my foot was pointing forward along with the bike. I was thankful for the rigid plastic spines that restrict the rotational motion of the ankle on these kinds of boots.

Having stiffer aftermarket handle bars also paid their dividends as it didn't deform in the crash and was holding the bike up above me. I reached over my right and heaved the handle bars and the bike up enough to free my foot. Quickly standing up, I was glad to note things weren't worse than they were. I took off all my thermal layers and gear and sat down to catch my breath. This really was the middle of nowhere and there was very little chance of anybody else being coming down that road. I was very thankful that I hadn't broken my ankle as getting out of there wouldíve been quite a feat.

Next task was to stand sanDRina right side up. Tough girl; she was lifted in the air by the pannier with no apparent damage. I put her in first gear to prevent her rolling away down the slope and grabbed the top box and heaved and was surprised how easily she stood up. Maybe it was the adrenaline or the dynamics of the situation, but anywho, bike was upright and I wasn't feeling hurt anywhere. I let the fuel drain from the carb for a bit and then was glad to hear her fire right up. With running motorcycle, all was good.



Sign post at the summit.


I should've stopped and taken a break at the summit but I had the feeling to keep going and in doing so, I easily overlooked the upcoming downhill section and...


I had a spill as the front wheel got caught in a mud rut and being a dirt-noob I instinctively put both my feet down to catch myself and thus couldn't use the rear brake to slow down and hand to grab front grab resulting in the quick tip over. My left leg was caught under the pannier and my big motocross boots, Oxtar TCX prevented my ankle from being crushed.


I heaved the handlebar to free my leg and took some time to catch my breath.


Lifting the bike was pretty easy as the panniers helped in leveraging and after putting the bike in gear, one heave and she was up.


I was doing pretty good in off-road discipline and not wanting to bring any danger to my legs, but a little brain fade of not recognizing the risks of downhill ruts lead to this off.

I got going and noticed that shifting with my left ankle was proving quite painful as I probably sustained a slight sprain with all the twisting. I felt my energy draining and had to have one of my reserve Red Bulls. I always keep at least one on me for emergency situations.

While taking my break, I didn't let my pain cover up the beautiful setting that I was in on Medicine Lodge Road. Off in the distance, I observed a herd of pronghorn sprinting left and right just for the fun of it, it seemed. Oh, how I hoped I could run like that right then. I could just imagine bandits and other raw western figures as I rode through the narrow canyons in this high country.



My left ankle was hurting a bit but since I wasn't in excruciating pain, I popped some ibuprofen and continued towards Yellowstone.


Sign post indicating the road I was on, Medicine Lodge.


You can feel the old history that must've taken place in these remote lands.


Twisting and well maintained gavel roads.


Exposed rock faces of the Tendoy Mountains making my way towards the Interstate.

When I reached the interstate, my aim was to get to Yellowstone and try and stay on pavement to reduce the risk of further injury. I had planned for at least a day in the national park and now it seemed it was well timed to give me some downtime for the injury. I got off the CDR route as it looked like it was climbing up into the forests around Lima Reservoir heading to Red Rock Pass. Taking an extended break at Lima and after having studied the map for possible routes to Yellowstone, I asked the gas station attendant for her opinion and she said Route 509 from Monida heading to Henry's Lake was a "tire-poppin' kinda road" and I wasn't feeling too good about that option. But then she said she only sticks to pavement and that told me her opinion of gravel roads didn't count as she probably wasn't from around here. Through all my trips out west, I've found it funny that gas station attendants usually don't have any good info on what the nearby road conditions are like. Maybe I'm wrong in expecting them to be tourist ambassadors for their area.

Not wanting to make lengthy detours further south into Idaho, I tried out Route 509, Southside Centennial Road and after lowering my air pressures for the gravel, was happy to note that it wasn't a tire popping kind of road if you took care of your tires. I remember coming across a couple from Oklahoma up in Alaska last year who had just popped a tire on their RV on the Top of the World Highway who knew nothing about lowering air pressures for off-road conditions.

With shifting up gears hurting like crazy, I chose to stay in 2nd gear and just putzed along around 20-25 mph. The road was a bit washboardy in places, but overall an enjoyable ride due to the good views of Centennial Valley, which is a broad expansive wetland supplied by Red Rock River and defined by the Centennial Mountains to the south and the Gravelly Mountains to the north. The Nature Conservancy has deemed this area an important priority for the health of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem as it provides a corridor for grizzly bears and other wildlife that move between Yellowstone and the northern Rockies. The area hasn't changed much in the last century, retaining its large ranches, which are working with the conservancy to preserve the habitat.

Past the midway town of Lakeview, the road starts climbing back into forests and up to the Continental Divide at Red Rock Pass, on the border of Montana and Idaho. Besides the pain of shifting gears, getting on and off the bike was quite painful as I had to bear my whole body weight on my left ankle as I slid my right leg over the seat. I tried to mount the bike from the other side but couldn't make it work.



The abandoned ghost town of Monida near the Montana/Idaho border.


Taking a simpler route towards Yellowstone than the GPS route as I couldn't shift that easily with a throbbing ankle. Heading east on Hwy 509 towards Lakeview and Henry's Lake.


An intersection with routes heading back north for long distances through the mountains.


Coming from I-15 heading towards Lakeview.


Heading east towards Yellowstone.


At Red Rock Pass, my first marked sign of the Continental Divide, heading across the small finger of Idaho into Wyoming.

The route got back on pavement near Henrys Lake in the eastern tip of Idaho, and I soon entered Yellowstone from the west entrance. I had been avoiding passing through Yellowstone on my previous trips out west just for the fact that it's so crowded with tourists and probably over developed. I had planned to visit on my way back from Alaska last year, but that didn't work out, so here I was finally entering this majestic mother of all national parks in the world.

First impression was good with views of lodgepole pines in all directions and a nice ride along Madison River heading to the first campground at Madison junction, having ridden 250 miles that day. Yellowstone's size and infrastructure is impressive having a rough square footprint of 60 miles by 60 miles in the northwestern corner of Wyoming. There's an extensive road network within the park connecting all the major tourist sites and there's campgrounds throughout the park ranging from fully developed to primitive.



Entering on the west side of Yellowstone National Park.


Finally riding Yellowstone after avoiding her on previous trips out west due to the excuse of crowds. But the beauty of this place was calling.


The wonderful light of the setting sun on this high altitude (7-8000 ft) geological hotspot with geysers venting up ahead.


Sunlight reflecting on the clouds, on the way to Old Faithful.

After setting up camp, I went down the road to see Old Faithful go off in the evening, hoping there'd be fewer tourists around considering it's the most famous landmark in the park. On the way there, I saw my first bison/buffalo right next to the road along with everybody else who stopped to get up close for their pictures. They look tame, but signs posted all over the campground and the park brochures warned of visitors being charged by bison and getting deep gouges. I also saw a male elk with his beautiful huge antlers surrounding by a few females. Once again, all traffic stops whenever they see some wildlife and it's this traffic that's more hazardous than the animals.

Entering the Old Faithful complex, I was surprised at how well developed the area was with exit ramps and multiple buildings adjacent to a massive parking lot. It had a theme park feel to it, but I wasn't going to let that ruin the moment as I was here to see my first geyser erupt from the ground. She may not be the tallest or longest duration geyser, but she's known for being regular and easily accessible, which was a good thing since I wasn't up to walking too far from the bike to see a geyser with my injured ankle.

I got there just as the crowd was filtering away from the last eruption and she's known to go off every 90 +/- 10 minutes. In the parking lot, I got dressed for the cold weather, grabbed my SLR camera, tripod and stove with dinner items and headed for the viewing benches. It was a beautiful clear night and as I set about cooking dinner, I took in the stars slowly appearing with the fading sunlight. Dinner of salmon, couscous and miso soup was highly enjoyable and the thoughts of my crash earlier in the day were far from me.

As I took some long exposure shots with the SLR of the full moon and other stars, it was beautiful to think that I could capture some of the starlight that had been traveling for millions of years on my camera's sensor. There was nobody else around and I felt very much at home with the cosmos in full view.

With the time nearing for the next eruption, a few people came out of the lodge and their cabins to take in the sight. Along with a group of Japanese nearby, two young guys came up and after chatting a bit, they said they had ridden dirt bikes in Nicaragua and went backpacking in Colombia and Bolivia. They were from New York City and are currently going to business school at Stanford. They asked how I managed to do this Continental Divide Ride and that too solo and I pointed them to advrider.com to go and gain knowledge about doing something like this.

Five minutes before the full eruption, Old Faithful lets out a small burp to get her audience's attention and then all the hot water that's been filling up and building pressure underneath lets go in a beautiful show of Mother Natureís awesome power, shooting steam over a 100 ft high and lasting about two minutes. It was definitely worth it and I'm glad I came at night for a special showing, especially since the full moon behind me illuminated the steam. The two guys I was with said there was an even more impressive geyser just a quarter mile away, on a six hour interval, but there would be no more walking for a while.



I camped at Madison campground and figured seeing Old Faithful at night would be a nice experience and there should be less crowds than the daytime. Arriving at sun down at the end of an eruption, I setup my stove on the benches, had dinner and waited for the next eruption in around 90 minutes.


Looking back towards Old Faithful Lodge and the nearly Full Moon shining bright overhead. The bright spot next to the moon is Venus.


Fascinating to ponder that all that light is reflected from our home star, the Sun, presently below the horizon.


Capturing Ursa Major, or the Big Dipper constellation, with a super long exposure to allow as much of that star light to register on the digital sensors. As it's very prominent in the Northern Hemisphere, and has been for millions of years, these seven stars are important to all ancient myths and cultures. The importance in our time could be that the two furthest right stars point to Polaris, the northern star and can be used as a navigational aide.


A few minutes before the eruption, she lets out a little burp to alert her spectators.


And then all that compressed hot steam erupts to an average height of 140 ft and provides a natural entertaining event where one can respect the power of Earth's internal heat welling up to the surface and letting lose.


Slowing winding down from the peak. Old Faithful is not the tallest or longest duration geyser at Yellowstone, but it's the most regular. Having never seen a geyser eruption before, it was quite impressive.


The geyser activity at Yellowstone is an indication of the supervolcano that lies underneath the park. The volcano has erupted regularly every 600,000 years going back a few million years and it's been 640,000 years from the last eruption of the caldera.
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:16 PM   #10
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Day 7 / Thursday, September 3, 2009

I woke up with a throbbing left ankle and decided it was best to get it checked out at the clinic at Old Faithful. Taking the day nice and slow, and having some down time, sanDRina needed some attention as the elevation was rising and she was struggling a bit for air. I replaced the main jet in the carb with one suited for higher elevation and she was again purring nicely.

Packing up the campsite, I was running through options of what to do regarding the trip. If I couldn't shift for the next few days, I probably had to stay in place until the pain subsided and then probably head back home. I had ten days left for my trip and I could slowly make my way back east. I already achieved all the things I set out for this trip, regarding testing out all my gear in a dry run before the big trip down south, so there was something positive to take away.

However, I wasn't ready to throw in the towel just yet until all options were tried. If only there was a way I could shift up without using my left foot... I thought about old bikes and their "suicide shifters," a nick name given to hand shifters, where the operation was scary and lead to accidents. I needed some way to pull up on the shift lever, but wouldn't be able to use any of my hands since I needed them both to execute a shift: right hand controlling the throttle and left hand controlling the clutch lever. The only other leverable appendage attached to my torso was my neck and head and thus I arrived at the solution of tying a luggage strap to the shift lever and holding the other end with my teeth and yanking my head up in coordination with the clutch and throttle. I quickly got the hang of it and was thrilled to know that the trip could continue. Downshifting with the foot wasn't too painful, so as long as I didn't let go of the strap in my mouth, this was going to work out.



Looks a bit swollen, eh? Waking up to a throbbing left ankle. Figured best to get some medical attention at the clinic at Old Faithful.


Shifting up was proving very difficult and necessity being the mother of all invention, lead me to putting a luggage strap around the shifter and holding the other end in my mouth, clenched between my teeth, as my head was the only remaining leverable appendage attached to my torso. With both hands needed for a gear change; right for throttle, left for clutch, I quickly got the timing down on when to yank my head for a smooth gear change. Downshifting wasn't that much strain on the ankle.

The doctor at the Old Faithful Clinic was a nice young guy, and first he made sure no ligaments were torn in my left knee and then after being able to manipulate my left ankle without putting me in writhing pain, he concluded there were no fractures or broken bones and I probably just sustained some muscle and bone bruising from the impact and of course a sprain. He wrapped an Ace compression bandage around the ankle and prescribed 600mg strength ibuprofen for the next few days. He said it would be best if I could take pressure off the foot for the next few days and nodded in approval when I told him about my strap-shifting method and the fact that I could relax my foot on my highway pegs when I was on the bike. He said he didn't recommend a cast of any sorts as the current thinking in injuries is to try and get back to normal use as soon as possible because prolonged inactiveness could lead to physical therapy being needed as muscles atrophy, which Iím all too familiar with from my ACL surgery.

He noted that my boots looked like they prevented the injury from being more severe and wished more motorcycle riders would wear protective gear as he treats a lot of unprotected motorcycle riders, mainly on cruisers. I asked him what kind of other patients does he usually treat and he said besides the usual bison and elk goring, which visitors never seem to fully understand, they also get a high number of air lifts for heart attacks. He said off-the-record, September in the park is the season of newly-weds and nearly-deads, referring to elderly folk with weak hearts who want to see Yellowstone and the animals before it's too late. They underestimate the stress on their hearts of the high elevation of the park, above 7,000 ft, the excitement of geysers shooting off and all the huge wild animals, which sees the clinic handling regular heart failures and air-lifts. Having some doctors as close friends, I can attest to their weird sense of humor regarding patients. But he said he enjoys working here much better than in a city for the wide variety in cases. In a city, he said the majority of cases are drugs related, psychological and gun shot wounds. Out here, he gets heart failures, broken bones, twisted ankles, insect stings, animal gorings, burns from hot steam and other outdoor injuries. Whether it's right to think about patients that way or not, at least he enjoys his work and they're providing excellent medical facilities out here in the wilderness.

That little doctorís visit cost $300 but since I had already maxed out my out-of-pocket payments with my ACL surgery earlier in the year, it didn't cost me anything to get some peace of mind that there were no fractures and that I could continue my trip. Of course, I was going to be staying on pavement for the next day or two until I felt confident enough to venture off-road. I called up Bob (Lone Rider) from ADVrider, a veteran of the CDR and asked his advice on which sections of the route did he think I should avoid regarding the risk of having to put my foot down to catch myself in tricky sections. He said after Montana and Wyoming, the route through Colorado was much easier, but the northern section of New Mexico was quite rocky and the southern section could get muddy if it's been raining. I decided to skip the CDR through the Teton and Shoshone National Forest, just south of Yellowstone, which I read was some of the most scenic of the whole route as it climbed up into the Wind River Range and would join it again for the Great Divide Basin into Colorado.



Firehole Canyon heading towards Old Faithful.


Firehole Falls


First spotting of wild bison/buffalo. This is how close this guy was to the road.


Time to get rolling before he charges.


I had a doctor take a look at the ankle and he said nothing was broken and it was probably just a muscle bruise from the impact. Ace bandage and a couple prescription strength ibuprofen and I was on my way.

Feeling energized that I had a solution for my injury and a way to complete the trip, I set off around the park for some sight-seeing. I mainly wanted to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Mammoth Hot Springs. The drive around the big blue Yellowstone Lake was very picturesque and calming. The Continental Divide runs through the southwestern part of the park and typifies the hydrological feature as the Snake River and Yellowstone River both have their origins next to each other but on opposite sides of the divide with the Snake River running to the Pacific Ocean and the Yellowstone River down into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The Yellowstone Lake is on the eastern side of the divide and is the highest fresh water lake above 7,000 ft in North America. It formed during the last major eruption of the Yellowstone Supervolcano, 640,000 years ago.

The amazing thing about Yellowstone to me is not so much the wildlife or the geothermal features, but the fact that this whole area is a massive caldera - a cauldron shaped volcano coming from deep inside the earth. Its last eruption was 2,500 times larger than Mount St. Helens and the Yellowstone Supervolcano is still active as evidenced by all the geothermal activity. Half the world's geothermal features are in Yellowstone and the ground is constantly shifting under the park. Geologists are monitoring Yellowstone with an array of instruments including GPS sensors to measure if the ground is swelling above the molten magma of the caldera. They've observed a bulge developing under Yellowstone Lake and the trend year on year has been for increased activity throughout the park. They have evidence going back over the last 15 million years showing that the supervolcano goes off about every 600,000 years. So that implies that we're in the window of the next major eruption. Towards the end of 2008, a swarm of earthquakes was detected in the park, raising fears about the eruption. Simulations have been run to depict what would happen in the next eruption and how the fallout would spread and itís not going to be pretty.

Another cool fact about Yellowstone is that it's a hotspot volcano, just like the hotspot that created the chain of Hawaiian Islands. The hotspot is an opening through the earth's crust down into the mantle and as the tectonic plates move around on the surface of the earth, the hotspot remains stationary in relation to the earthís core, creating new volcanoes on the surface as it periodically erupts. The Yellowstone hotspot has been traced to appear moving northeast through the Snake River Valley to its current location under the Yellowstone park. In actuality, it's the North American plate that's moving south west with respect to the hotspot. Learning about geology, I'm just amazed at all the things that are happening under our feet as we go about scurrying around on the surface.



Crossing the divide south of Old Faithful, working my way around the park.


The expansive Yellowstone Lake, the largest freshwater lake above 7,000 ft in North America.


Capturing the stillness of the waters from the motion of the bike.


Bison enjoying being kings of the road. Dusk is definitely a good time to go for a drive around the park as wildlife are out in numbers.


Making their way across the road.


It wasn't safe yet to pass with them being so close to the road.


Heading down the bank.


Looking across the waters at family or maybe potential mates...

Heading north from the lake, the expansive Hayden Valley is a sure sight for catching herds of bison grazing in the wet marshlands. Coming around the corner and seeing hundreds of bison is an impressive sight. It's funny to see how the bison don't care about the cars on the road and will just stand there unhurriedly thinking about their next move. With all the trouble these animals have seen over the past centuries from being over-hunted to near extermination for the sake of cattle ranchers, it's nice to see them succeeding in Yellowstone.


Coming around the corner and seeing huge numbers of bison in Hayden Valley.


Impressive to see so much wildlife in one view. Bison were hunted to near extinction towards the end of the 19th century and have been slowly reintroduced. Today's herd in Yellowstone of 3,500 descended from 23 surviving bison.


These guys were slowly working their way up the hillside towards the road.


The lush valley attracting all the resident bison.


Papa bison trying to lead his group across the busy moving metallic obstacles.


Just letting out some steam.


A male bison with his lighter brown summer coat and his darker winter coat emerging, weighing close to a ton (2,000 lbs).

A little further north, I arrived at the stunning Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, a canyon cut by the Yellowstone River. The name of the park comes from the color of the exposed rocks here, which is caused by the iron rusting in the rhyolite lava rock as it cooked under hydrothermal activity, instead of sulphur, which is typically thought to produce yellow colors. With the sun setting, I was thankful for just the right light to make some pretty pictures. It's definitely not as big as the Grand Canyon down in Arizona, but impressive nonetheless at 900 ft deep and half a mile wide.

I got the last campsite at nearby Canyon Village and after a meal of couscous with shitake mushrooms and oysters with vegetables in olive oil, along with miso soup, I tucked in for another cold night at an elevation of 7,930 ft.



Following the Yellowstone River north from the lake towards Yellowstone Falls.


Heading towards Yellowstone Falls and the canyon.


The Lower Yellowstone Falls, at a height of 308 ft, twice that of Niagara.


The park got its name from its exposed yellow stone in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, which is caused by the iron rusting in the rhyolite lava rock as it cooked under hydrothermal activity, instead of sulfur, which is typically thought to produce yellow colors.


The deep hues of iron ore visible deep in the canyon. The Yellowstone River is continually eroding the canyon, which can be up to 1,200 ft deep.


Info board.


Aptly named Inspiration Point...


Down river view of the canyon from Inspiration Point.


Up river view of Lower Yellowstone Falls from Inspiration Point.


Map of the park at the camp office looking south towards the Grand Tetons.


Dinner with music: smoked oysters with couscous, re-hydrated shitake mushrooms and miso soup, along with water from my Lifesaver filter.
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:17 PM   #11
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Day 8 / Friday, September 4, 2009

Instead of fully closing myself and the sleeping bag inside the space blanket bag, I left the right side open to allow my body to breath and reduce the condensation that was happening overnight. I could feel the effect the blanket has as by morning I had a toasty left side and a chilly right side. Sleeping quarters are definitely tight and there's no room for rolling around and changing body positions through the night and I've slowly been training myself to sleep flat on my back with no rolling to the sides. Reduced movement was also required as the space blanket is pretty noisy; think of a candy bar wrapper. However, I was still getting good sleep and felt well-rested each morning.

Since I was sticking to tarmac for the next few days, I figured I could cover more ground and hence did a loop around the entire park in the morning before heading south to the start of the Great Divide Basin near Atlantic City.

The views heading up to Tower Falls were quite grand as the road crested up and over 9,000 ft. The landscape looked like many other places in the Rockies except for the steam coming up from geysers here and there.

From Tower Falls, the loop takes you west to the main entrance of the park near Mammoth Hot Springs. The geological features along the road make the ride interesting, such as columns of basalt lava that flooded the grounds before the last mega-eruption and canyons of volcaniclastic sandstone where the more porous sandstone wears away to reveal columns of harder lava underneath.



Heading north towards Tower Falls.


Looking east in the morning sun.


Fun mountain roads.


The thin shadows of lodgepole pine.


Expansive valley views looking towards Specimen Ridge.


Exposed columnar basalt lava rocks, near Tower Falls, which formed as huge floods of basalt from under the earth preceding the last mega-eruption.


Volcaniclastic sandstone canyon - the more porous sandstone erodes leaving behind the harder lava columns.

The stone archway entrance is pretty grand and it's quite fitting being the first national park in the world, back in 1872. Following America's lead, other countries started to set aside large areas of natural land for preservation as people began to see the value in doing so. Of course, the geothermal features were what set the Yellowstone area apart as a special place as people didn't understand what was causing these boiling ponds of mud and the rotten egg smell of all the sulfur along with the spectacular numerous geysers. It was feared as a kind of hell in the early years before geologists started to explore the park. And recently, with full understanding of what's going on under Yellowstone, this area has been made all the more special as a dynamic volcanic environment. To me, science and the knowledge it brings about only seems to enhance my appreciation of the natural world instead of detract from reverence for it.


At the northern main entrance to the park, which was the first national park in the world, established in 1872, giving credence to the concept of habitat conservation.


I've been as close as possible to the North Pole and now, time to head south 45 degrees of latitude to the equator.


A beautiful buck across the river.


Close up of the buck.

At the main developed area of the park, Mammoth Hot Springs, where the administrative offices are located, the grounds are shared with park residents who enjoy the shade of the buildings, namely elk. There are about 30,000 elk in the park and quite a few of them regularly enjoy sitting right next to the park offices on the manicured lawns and have grown accustomed to human presence, enjoying the benefits of no predators around. When they do show up, park rangers are always around to cordon off the area and keep the tourists in check from getting too close as the male elk wonít hesitate to gore an intruder to his harem of females. The animal kingdom is still generally male dominated and we Homo sapiens have evolved to where gender equality is becoming the norm around the world, albeit slowly in some places. This one male elk was watching over a harem of about 30 female elks. It's definitely fun to act like an animal at times :)

From the Upper Terrace Loop at Mammoth Hot Springs, I got a close look at cyanobacteria at the Canary Spring, so named due to the yellow bacteria thriving in the hot caustic water. Limestone is dissolved underground by superheated water and deposited at the surface of the hot spring as travertine. Different kinds of algae give rise to the colors of the travertine. This hot springs complex is the largest in the world of the kind that deposits calcium carbonate.



Area Closed near an administration building at Mammoth Hot Springs...


The resident elk resting in the shade. One male bull and his large harem of females. They've grown used to the human presence over the years and rangers are always around when the elk show up on the lawns.


Canary Spring area of Mammoth Hot Springs. Hot water is bringing up dissolved limestone and as the pressure reduces near the surface, it releases carbon dioxide and forms travertine, making up the terraces.


The Canary name for this spring coming from the yellow filamentous algae growing just under the water surface.


Caustic pools with thriving microorganisms.


Water flowing off the terrace edge resembling an eternity pool.


A long dead tree slowing being entombed by the travertine.


Bacteria giving color to the travertine.

Down the road is the Norris Geyser Basin that feeds the water to Mammoth Hot Springs. This is the hottest area of the park as it sits on top of three intersecting faults and is also a very dynamic area leading the water from the geysers to be acidic compared to being alkaline at other geysers around the park.

I took a short hike to checkout Steamboat Geyser as it's touted as being the tallest active geyser in the world. However, its major eruptions are quite erratic and can span 50 years between them. When I got there, she was continuously spewing out water a couple feet high. My ankle was getting better as it didn't hurt too much while hiking.



Heading south towards Norris Geyser Basin.


Looking out across the Porcelain Landscape at Norris Geyser Basin, shaped by hydrothermal activity. Click here for high resolution of the panorama.


Norris Info board.


Emerald Spring, looking green to our eyes as the sulfur and blue color due to minerals mix.


Emerald Spring info board.


Steamboat Geyser, the current tallest and largest geyser in the world, with eruptions reaching 300 ft, all though it doesn't happen too frequently and chances of witnessing it are low.


Steamboat Geyser info board.


She was constantly spewing out small spurts of hot water and steam.

A recent discovery by scientists is that of thermophiles, microorganisms that thrive in hot sulfuric environments, such as the hot springs in Yellowstone and near undersea volcanic vents. Discovering that life can exist in such extreme conditions pushed back the origin of life on Earth from 600 million years ago, as what was thought previously, to around 3.8 billions years ago, close to the formation of the planet at 4.6 billions years ago. This also had implications for finding life on other planets and moons, suggesting that life can arise quickly if the conditions are right, such as a heat source, some amino acids and a few chemicals.

Looking at the cyanobacteria in the hot springs, it's humbling to know that it took nearly 4 billion years for life to evolve from simple self-replicating RNA to this homo-sapien riding a motorcycle. Where is life going to go in the next billion years?...



Bison enjoying the warmth of the tarmac.


Soft shoulder... hard head.


The park ranger barreling down on the animal with siren blaring and lights flashing...


...driving the bull off the road, as we don't want to hold up our park guests.


Even around mid-day, bison were out in huge numbers. It really is a joy to see so much wildlife in their element.

Feeling satisfied after seeing all the major attractions at Yellowstone and getting self-confirmation of various processes in the natural world, I headed south, past the Grand Tetons towards southwest Wyoming.

After picking up a few groceries in Dubois, the ride to Fort Washakie on US-287 was very scenic and reminded me of southern Utah with lots of red rock cliffs. The setting sun threw some beautiful light on the landscape.



The Grand Tetons from Colter Bay.


Taking the paved route towards Lander, WY on US-287.


Crossing the divide.


Rocky vistas of the Teton National Forest.


Twisting road heading into Dubois.


Heading south towards Lander.


Riding the beautiful Red Rock Highway.


The red rock canyons reminding me of Capitol Reef in southern Utah.


Mr. Shadow, showing up as the sun sets on remote roads.


The clouds doing a dance around the setting sun.


Looking back towards the setting sun, near Atlantic City, WY.

I had hoped to make it to Sweetwater Camp past Atlantic City, but it got dark just before the town and I found myself on a downhill gravel road. I turned around and checked in to the rustic Atlantic City BLM campground.

My neighbors were a cowboy and his family with friends. I went over to say hello after setting up camp and Devin, the cook among them offered me some peach cobbler that he made using a Dutch oven. He introduced his wife Mary and their friends Craig and his wife, Karen. Craig was the real cowboy owning 500 acres of land in Cache Valley, Idaho, near Preston. They tended to about 500 Black Angus cattle and said I had just missed a great steak dinner. We got settled in around the fire and they shared about their life on the range. The property has been in Craig's family for over a century and it sounds like some fantastic land with lots of private rivers, seven natural reservoirs and his own water supply straight from the snow melt. Underground aquifers supply the whole ranch and he was quite proud of the fact that the water in his faucets saw daylight for the first time when he turned on the tap, describing how pure and untreated the water is.

I asked him about all the hay I had seen on my way here and he said they grow their own for cattle feed as they want to be all self-sufficient as possible. He described that the crop is alfalfa, which grows to about 5 ft tall and they can harvest it three times in a year or maybe even four some years. The interesting thing I learnt was that the protein content in the alfalfa increases with every cutting and I guess the price of the crop goes up accordingly. They tend to the cattle year-round and they said below -5 F in the winter when they're outside, it doesn't make a difference as the temperature drops to -40 F or even -60 F. Layering and bundling up is the key.

Besides Devin and his family that live a quarter mile away, they have no other neighbors and that's they way they like it. Coming up to this campground for a week in their trailers was their preferred vacation as they said they didn't like cities, or being in crowded places. They joked that this area around Atlantic City was the remotest region of the remotest state. Craig said he had been to Chicago once for some cattle business and it was just too much concrete for him. They also complained that more and more people were moving up towards them from Logan, Utah to escape urban sprawl.

Having so much land, they're trying to live as self-sustaining as possible and Devin recently got some hens and has been producing much better eggs than Craig said he could buy from the store. Devin's looking next to get a goat for milk. They said this was also to prepare for possible rough times ahead. I guess the economic collapse of 2008 has made more people aware of how vulnerable our societies really are the way they're currently structured.

I forgot the names of Devin's two kids, but the little girl was following her elder brother around and she stumbled a few times on the gravel and Devin said it was all right as she needed to learn to be tough. She didn't even cry; just got up and carried on with all smiles. Mary said watching TV wasn't part of their daily routine as the ranch dictated an early-to-bed, early-to-rise lifestyle. And being quite isolated, the kids were being home-schooled, with the state sending them a computer with internet and all the appropriate science experiments. She said being out on the ranch counted as field trip credits for the kids. It was very interesting to meet strong-blooded Americans living off-the-grid in today's ubiquitous high-tech society.

They said they were equally impressed to meet an Indian traveling deep into their country and Devin gave me a few pointers ahead of crossing the Great Divide Basin the next day. They invited me for a hearty breakfast the next morning and I couldn't refuse.

I tucked in for the night after a good 320 miles that day and a stomach full of peach cobbler.
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:17 PM   #12
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Day 9 / Saturday, September 5, 2009

The night wasn't as cold as expected and after packing up, I sat down for a nice hearty breakfast prepared by Devin of bacon, eggs, mashed potatoes and cantaloupe. Karen confirmed that they do eat a lot of potatoes, being from Idaho and all. Devin said there were three roads heading out across the Great Divide Basin and I should take care not to get lost as no one hardly ventures through there. I pointed to the GPS and said my goodbyes.



My camp neighbor, Devin and his kids inviting me for breakfast.


Saying my goodbyes after a nice evening and breakfast of talking about their rancher lives and sharing about India.

Atlantic City, for having such a grand name is currently a small rustic mining community in the hills near South Pass. It also had its hey day in the late 19th century and was formed due to a gold rush in the area. It gets its name from being the first city on the Atlantic side of the Continental Divide. These days, it's own for its Mercantile store, which was established in 1893 and still serves food and drink to the passing traveler.

This area is also famous, particularly, South Pass, for allowing the great migrations out west in the mid-19th century, such as the Oregon and Mormon trails to find a suitable level crossing of the Rockies instead of the rough terrain in Montana or further south in Colorado. Devin mentioned that there was a site in the basin dedicated to Mormons who had perished while trying to cross it, showing how tough this journey was for the migrants.

I was expecting to have a much easier time, but still stocked up on water and fuel, just in case anything happened on this high remote desert. The road into the basin starts off with about 30 miles of washboard and then smoothens out to hard-packed mud. From previous ride reports, I gleamed that this wouldn't be too tough of a section for riding with an injured foot and was glad to note what a pleasant ride it was. The road follows the gentle curves of the terrain and even with no trees around, as the constant wind restricts vegetation to small shrubs, I still felt very much in contact with the natural world, with no civilization present for at least a 50 mile radius.

The Great Divide Basin, formed by the Continental Divide splitting around this high elevation desert is endorheic, meaning water falling inside the basin can't drain to the oceans as it's circled by mountains and instead evaporates or seeps into the ground. It was formed due to a geological feature known as an anticline, where the ground is pushed up by tectonic forces and the edge of the sedimentary layers slope downward, with the oldest rock coming up at the center. Erosion from the mountains has filled in to create the flat basin over the eons, but pockets can form under the folds in the ground and allow oil and natural gas to collect. The one truck that I crossed in the basin was heading to a remote oil field as the basin is considered to harbor useful natural resources, such as oil and possibly uranium ore. As a sign of our times, there is currently debate on whether to extract the resources or preserve the basin as a national monument of wilderness area. I know we need the resources for our energy hungry lives, but we also need more wildernesses. The trick is trying to do both without any detrimental long-term impacts.

I stopped for frequent breaks along the way and enjoyed sitting in the silence by the road side and listening to the wind, imaging this same wind howling past early expeditions as they crossed into the open West. I saw numerous pronghorn running freely through the landscape and joined in as I cranked open the throttle a bit more.



Heading down into Atlantic City.


I wondered how it got such a grand name being so far away from the Atlantic Ocean and then read it was the first town on the Atlantic side of the Continental Divide and a famous mining town from the late 19th century.


The Atlantic City Mercantile store, in operation since 1893.


Heading up out of town onto the...


...road across the Great Divide Basin


Looking ahead at 150 miles across the basin, a high elevation desert.


It's actually a very nice, beautiful landscape with the single lane road adding intimacy to the bare surroundings.


I took frequent breaks to rest the bones and take in the beautiful silence with a harmony from the wind.


Being a geologic basin means it's cutoff on all sides by mountains, as the Continental Divide splits around it.


The yellow sage-brush by the side of the road were the only bright colors across the landscape. It smellt great.


Prong-horn sprinting off at great speeds across this open land.


The gentle-rolling terrain and good road condition made for a nice ride.


The hard packed mud road surface could soon be impassable when wet, but what a beautiful day it was today.


Taking a lunch break just sitting down in the brush there. The temps were very favorable.


Coming across civilization towards the south end of the basin. Oklahoma, that way.


Nearing the end of the basin.


Bah, tarmac might be more convenient, but it doesn't look natural.

The pavement started after about a 100 miles from Atlantic City and I rode the telling Mineral Exploration Road out of the basin to take US-287 into Rawlins and cross one of the networks of a great civilization, the Interstate.

After a hearty lunch of fried chicken at the gas station, it was onwards into Colorado, where I was going to meet up with my riding friend, Mike, who was coming up from Denver to join me for the next three days. Mike moved out to Denver last year from Chicago and before that, was in Louisiana. Being a skilled dirt-rider, I got his blessings before my first dual sport trip into Mexico and was hoping to pick up a few more skills.

I picked up Sage Creek Road south of Rawlins, which was a good broad gravel road, with washboard in places and the shrub landscape slowly morphed into forests of aspen and pine as part of the Medicine Bow National Forest. It was good to be riding among trees again. Near the intersection of Sage Creek and WY-70, is the famous Aspen Alley, a narrow corridor shrouded with tall aspens. Your voice echoes in there and it feels humbling to be right next to such tall trees. The white bark of the closely spaced trees gives the illusion of entering a sacred place, but the green tops bring you back down to earth. I was hoping to camp here for the night, but I had to keep going to meet up with Mike.

WY-70 was a nice remote twisty piece of tarmac heading to the Colorado border. The mountain views in the setting sun made the ride very enjoyable. Just north of the border, the route turns on Routt County Road 129, which had a road closed sign meant for winter, but wasn't fully obvious to me. While trying to see if I needed to re-route around here, a local trucker confirmed the road was indeed open and that sign was meant only for winter.

The well-graded gravel road criss-crossed back and forth across the state borders as it followed a valley heading east. Numerous farms and ranches dotted the valley and the sunlight as dusk painted a beautiful golden hue across the stunning landscape. I turned south into Routt National Forest and was hoping to run into Mike soon as daylight, she was a disappearing as I headed deeper into the forest.



South of Rawlins on Sage Creek Rd.


Entering Medicine Bow National Forest near the Colorado border.


That wretched Mountain Pine Beetle killing so many trees.


Some good elevation change.


The beautiful Aspen Alley, a corridor of closely spaced white-barked green-topped trees.


Now that they're dead, we might as well cut the pines down and use them.


So will this area be all Aspen trees then?


On WY-70 heading to the state border, a nice road with gentle corners.


The beautiful landscape of south-central Wyoming.


I didn't know if the bottom lines on the board meant the road was closed only in the winter. Some passing locals cleared the doubt.


Crossing back and forth across the border for the next few miles.


Passed lots of charming farms nestled in this narrow valley along the border. The rain clouds added to the lighting.


The setting sun adding warmth to the nice ride through this lush valley. Heading towards Hahns Peak off there in the distance.

About 20 miles south of the border, a bright noisy light was coming up at me and I high-fived Mike as we met up. He said he found a good place to camp for the night and we started setting up before darkness fell. It was a good spot with a view of Hahn's peak. Mike confirmed with the rangers that as long as we were about a 100 ft from the road, we could camp where ever we wanted. As the tents went up, I gathered firewood and Mike rounded up some stones to make a fire ring. Sitting on the panniers, around a crackling fire, eating dinner and seeing the full moon rise from behind a ridge was a great way to end another day of fantastic riding.


Entering Routt National Forest


It was getting late in the day and I would be camping in the forest as soon as I met my friend Mike coming the other way from Denver.


Being dusk, the cattle were out en masse. The campground owner in Montana joked about the hazards of cows saying that you'll likely run into black cows at night and white cows in winter.


Mike's XR650. He would be joining me for the next 3 days over Labor Day Weekend.
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:18 PM   #13
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Day 10 / Sunday, September 6, 2009

We got up to the beautiful sound of rain falling on the tents and not wanting to pack up in the wet, we waited it out for about an hour and it passed, with the sun breaking through right away. The pavement started within a few miles and we rode into Steamboat Springs to get some breakfast and dry out our gear. There was an hour wait for a local breakfast place, so Wendy's it was along with Starbucks for Mike. Having been in wilderness mode for the past five days, with no shower, I sure felt strange sitting among people drinking their cappuccinos. I had a shave and sink-shower at Wendy's and we were off back into the trail.



Packing up with Hahns Peak in view, after waiting an hour in our tents for the morning rain to end.


Heading south to Steamboat Springs.


Riding into Steamboat, where we dried our gear before heading off on the trail.


I'd like to come and ski here someday, to taste some of their famous champagne powder snow... mmm...

Heading around the picturesque Lake Catamount and Stagecoach State Park, the route climbed up to Lynx Pass near 9,000 ft. The next few days would be all about high elevation. Rain clouds were chasing us south and full rain gear was donned before the skies opened near the deep water crossing next to CO-134 and Gore Pass. I was weary of this two foot deep stream crossing in my research for this trip, mainly because my air box was drilled with holes on its sides by the previous owner for the required air intake for the flat slide carb. I hadn't had the time to get a new air box and try a different setup. This increased my risk of intaking water while crossing deep streams and besides, with my injured foot, I wouldn't be as capable of catching the bike if she started to fall over in the stream. The good thing was that there was a highway to easily detour around the stream. Mike also said he wasn't looking forward to riding with soaking boots for the rest of the day. As we regrouped, we went to check out the stream in pouring rain and she was gushing pretty fast. The approach and exit paths looked really slick and we agreed that there was no need to be heroes in attempting to cross. No time for pictures in the rain, so we turned around and took CO-134 to rejoin the trail towards Radium.

At that junction, a bunch of bikes were coming up north on the trail. I had a few words with the leader in the rain and got that he was leading a group from Mexico. We got going quickly as the trail head was clogging up with BMWs, KTMs, TransAlps and other kinds of bikes clearly not from America. It was tough to wave at the oncoming riders as we were negotiating riding downhill ruts in the rain as they were charging uphill to keep the momentum going. Customary nods and smiles were exchanged.

I was being extra careful as these kinds of roads were the toughest for me to ride through, but right foot on the rear brake and good clutch modulation saw me make it through with no pucker moments. I learnt my lesson of respecting downhill gravel sections. Mike waited up ahead after tricky sections to make sure I was doing fine.



Woot! All this pavement is killing my knobbies.


Nice dense foliage


Rain clouds up ahead. Riding around Lake Catamount.


Riding towards Lynx Pass through Routt National Forest. "Ok, all the green aspens get on the right side and the dead pines on the left side" :(


Putting on rain gear excepting to cross into rain up ahead.


It looked nice and clear up ahead but a black wall was closing in behind us and the deluge opened a few minutes later. This is the road leading to the deep water crossing, which we decided not to attempt in the heavy rain.


Taking a break after a hairy downhill rutted section in the rain, heading towards Radium. The sun breaking through after a passing storm.


The foot was doing better, but I was still strap-shifting to give it more time to heal.


Mike on his XR, heading down towards Radium.


Mike on his XR, heading down towards Radium.


Taking a break on the way to Radium.

After crossing the Colorado River at Radium, the route follows wide gravel county roads into Kremmling. We continued along the Colorado River looking for a nice spot for a break as we had been riding non-stop since Steamboat for about four hours. After an extended break where boots, socks, gloves and gear was dried in the sun, we continued towards Breckenridge.

Going around Williams Fork Reservoir, the route heads up to Ute Pass at 9,165 ft. Seeing dark clouds looming over the peak, I suited up for the rain but was surprised not to come across any. Mike told me that this was probably the weather phenomena known as Virga, where the precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground due to higher air pressures near the ground.



A short bit of pavement in the middle of the mountain heading towards Kremmling.


Heading down into Kremmling and looking ahead towards Williams Fork Reservoir.


Dark rain clouds surrounding Ute Pass and could you believe, we didn't get wet.


At Ute Pass, looking ahead towards Silverthorne and Dillon.

We headed past Silverthorne and Frisco towards the ski town of Breckenridge, where I skiied a few years back in the early season. Motorcycling and skiing have a lot in common: the aspect of travel, wearing protective gear, being energetic in the outdoors, dealing with the elements and feeling g-forces.

My original plan was to head past the town and camp in the woods near the trail, but with it being cold and wet again, we decided to motel it. A quick Google search on my Android phone pointed us towards the Fireside Inn, a skiing hostel run by a British couple. $73 for a double room was probably the cheapest we could get in this high class tourist destination. We could've backtracked to the highway for cheaper accommodations, but we figured it wasn't worth it and besides, hostels are more inviting for travelers than regular chain motels.

The Fireside Inn was converted from a house built in the 1870s and it had a bit of a quirky layout. The hosts said they had other bikers who were riding the CDR stay with them, along with hikers and runners. I didn't know people actually ran the CDR in a race. Riding bikes seems much saner than that.

I had a good half an hour steaming hot shower after going six days without one. My last shower was in Lincoln, Montana. There were options for showers in Yellowstone, but it wasn't convenient and after paying $20 for a campsite and then having to fork over another $4 for showering seemed too much for my frugal ways. The body wipes I was using every morning ensured that I was at least hygienically clean and slapping on sufficient talc powder to cover perspiration added to that clean feeling. I was definitely starting to scratch all over as even if my body was perhaps sufficiently hygiened, my clothes did not get cleaned and I'm sure the billions of dead skin cells that we lose every day were piling up in my three sets of base layers. The hostel hosts were gracious to do a full laundry load for me including all clothes, gear liners and sleeping bag. Feeling squeaky clean, we headed out to Giampietro, a pizzeria on the strip and enjoyed a few well-deserved Colorado beers and hearty supreme pizza.
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:19 PM   #14
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Day 11 / Monday, September 7, 2009

Seeing frost on our bike seats in the morning, we saw it was a good decision to sleep indoors last night. Winding up the back of Breckenridge, the route heads up to Boreas Pass at 11,500 ft. After serving as a route for the early gold rush in the 1860s, a narrow gauge train track was laid up and over the pass in the 1880s by Sidney Dillon from Union Pacific Railroad. He named the pass after the Ancient Greek god of the North Wind. After World War II, the Army Corp of Engineers remade the route for vehicular traffic and is popular today as an easy gravel pass road. At the end of the pavement, we saw locals getting ready to cycle, run and walk the pass.

Mike was having a good time and really enjoying being in the groove. He did a bit of work on his XR and was glad to see her performing nicely. Being close to Denver, he vowed to come back and find more roads like this.



While the ladies spent a cold night outside (frost on the seats), we bunked in a hostel in Breckenridge.


The Fireside Inn at Breckridge, where I took my first shower in 6 days since Lincoln, MT :)


Going through a rock pass right outside Breckenridge.


Fall colors beginning.


Looking west into the Breckenridge valley.


A beautiful morning ride up to Boreas Pass.


At Boreas Pass


At Boreas Pass


Mike, waiting up for me and taking in the awesome view. Note the pockets of color in the trees below.


Looking south past Como towards the high altitude plains we would be riding through.

Fall was starting to set in at these high altitudes and patches of colored trees were spotted. On the south side of the pass, the route crosses the historic mining town of Como, named by Italians who came to work the gold fields in the 19th century. From here, we would be riding through the geographic area called South Park, which is a high altitude intermontane grassland basin, with the route staying above 9,000 ft most of the way. It was formed as a wide faulted syncline, where the layers underneath have a downward-curving fold towards the center of the basin, between the Front Range and the Mosquito Range. As mentioned earlier, the layers under the Great Divide Basin go the other way, with an upward-curving fold forming an anticline. It all looks the same for us surface-dwelling creatures, but there is so much more going on under our feet and tires. The creator of the Comedy Central animated series of the same name grew up close to here and took inspiration from towns in the area to create his famous show.

The route flowed gently along the high altitude meadows and was a very peaceful ride. Besides your ever-present friendly bovines, there wasn't another soul for miles. After crossing a little stream and getting some water kicks, the route went through the quaint town of Harstel, labeled as the geometric center of Colorado. At the southern end of South Park, the route climbs up into the San Isabel National Forest, heading to Salida. Riding among closely spaced trees was welcomed after the grassland riding.



South of Como on Elkhorn Rd riding through South Park, a high altitude grassland. In remote places, you can always rely on bovine companionship.


Washboard road at times, but generally a nice high altitude ride. Road was above 9,000 ft heading to Harstel.


Big blue skies and clouds, hardly a boring view.


The road gently rolled around the high meadows.


Very peaceful riding.


Crossing a little stream


South of Hartsel, heading through the San Isabel National Forest towards Salida.


The change in scenery with close-by trees was welcome after all the open range riding.


Looking across the valley with Salida and Poncha Springs towards Marshall Pass.


Heading down into Salida.

South of Poncha Springs, the route heads up to Mt Ouray and Marshall Pass at 10,842 ft, which was part of the Denver & Rio Grande Transcontinental Route railroad that went from Denver to Salt Late City in the late 19th century. There were known for their high mountain railroad passes with their motto being, "Through The Rockies, Not Around Them." When the rails were lifted, they left behind nice mountain roads for us to enjoy these days. The road was easy riding with beautiful scenery. At the junction of Marshall Pass Road and US-50 is the notable Tomichi Creek Trading Post and Sargents, a good place to get an ice cream.


Heading up to Marshall Pass on Chaffee County Road 200.


Looking down on O'Haver Lake, a nice place to camp.


The road was well maintained and an easy ride.


Lots of dense forest riding.


Marshall Pass, 10,842 ft. This road was part of Denver & Rio Grande's narrow gauge train route in the late 19th century, heading west to Salt Lake City.


Looking south from Marshall Pass.


Heading down the west side of the pass towards Sargents.


Closely placed aspens make for some great riding.


Tomichi Creek Trading Post at Sargents, at the junction of Marshall Pass Road and US 50.

Regarding the quality of the GPS route, we were thankful that the actual tracks were included as sometimes the routing doesn't correctly follow the road, probably due to map inaccuracies. Mike continued following the tracks into Gunnison instead of turning off on the route at Doyleville. I guess when Mark Sampson plotted this route he detoured to Gunnison to get gas or something else. Having split up from Mike, I waited and then went to get him, as he turned around in Gunnison. Having only lost half an hour, we continued south towards Cochetopa Pass.

Once again, we saw a dark wall of clouds up ahead with heavy lightning and Mike reassured me that we wouldn't get wet. But I still stopped and donned all my rain gear, just in case and what do you know, we didn't get wet. Those virgas are quite amazing.



Heading south from Doyleville towards Cochetopa Pass. Looks like a nice sunny afternoon...


And then we see these dark wall of clouds with heavy lightning up ahead.


Again, we didn't get wet. Mike informed me of this Colorado weather phenomena known as Virga, where the precipitation evaporates before reaching the ground due to higher air pressures near the ground. I still stopped and put on all my rain gear... just in case.

I picked up the pace a bit heading up to pass, trying to beat the possible rain and was enjoying the ride. Mike caught up with me and after noting that there weren't any big towns up ahead, we decided to spend the night in the forest as we saw the rain wasn't going to come to us. It had been 215 miles from Breckenridge. We found a nice spot in a small canyon at 8,920 ft and after setting up the tents, we gathered firewood from under an old pine tree that looked like it hadn't been disturbed in a long time, with its discarded branches falling on top of older ones over time, making impressions in the soft ground. We also gathered lots of pine cones as they light up very fast as tinder.

The fast moving wind died down as the sun set and the fire came alive. We sat on the panniers and enjoyed a beautifully quiet evening, slowly waiting for dinner to be cooked on my wood stove. It works, but getting it going takes time and is involving, but it provided entertainment. As the evening wore on, we could see the shadow of the ridge behind us slowly creeping up as the full moon rose behind it. For some reason, I hadn't witnessed too many moon rises in the past and was soaking it in. It's amazing how much sun light was reflecting off the moon, lighting up our whole campsite.



Riding the historic Saguache - San Juan Toll Road commissioned by Otto Mears and other wealthy businessman in the late 19th century hoping to exploit silver mining possibilities in these mountains. The railroad route mentioned above robbed these roads of traffic.


Cochetopa Pass on the divide at 10,032 ft. It's a Ute Indian word meaning "pass of the buffalo." In the mid 19th century, expeditions were sent to find a route through here for the intercontinental railroad. After skirmishes with harsh winters and protective Native Americans, it was decided to go through Wyoming and the Great Divide Basin.


Setting up camp for the night, just east of Cochetopa Pass.


Getting a fire going before the sun completely set.


Nothing better than sitting around a fire after a nice day of riding through the forests and high mountains.


Fire with fallen branches from a pine tree that looked like it hadn't been disturbed in ages.


Watching the moon rise over the ridge.
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Old 11-16-2009, 03:19 PM   #15
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Day 12 / Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Waking up to a beautiful and chilly morning, we headed to the remote trading post at La Garita, near Del Norte for breakfast. The 30 miles to get there was an enjoyable ride up and over Carnero Pass at 10,166 ft. The town gets it name from the relatively unknown La Garita Caldera, a supervolcano nearby that has been billed as the most explosive event on Earth besides asteroid impacts, when it exploded about 25 millions years ago. The caldera is 22 by 47 miles wide and greatly impacted the geology of Colorado. Its vast size took scientists 30 years of research to reveal the story of the volcano.

We were the only patrons at the homey rustic restaurant and the old lady who ran the place was sitting at the next table cutting red skin potatoes for our breakfast. After seeing a program on TV in one of the motel rooms on tasty biscuits and gravy, I was craving for some and found it on the menu. It was delicious, but probably not the best food for off-road riding.



Waking up to a beautiful morning east of Cochetopa Pass.


Heading south towards Carnero Pass.


Riding through aspens in the morning is a nice feeling.


Heading south towards Carnero Pass.


Carnero Pass


Cutting through a rock pass east of Carnero Pass.


Heading towards La Garita for breakfast.


Breakfast at La Garita, a small convenience store with a restaurant and campground attached.


Biscuits and Gravy at La Garita. I was craving biscuits after seeing a cooking show in one of the motels. The potatoes were cut by the owner sitting at the next table with a bunch of regulars. Nice setting.

I indulged in a heavy breakfast, thinking the next bit of the trail was all pavement into Del Norte, but to my surprise, it quickly turned down onto a two-track jeep trail. With my left ankle still not feeling the best, I was a bit leery following Mike, but the first section was fun with the track following the undulating terrain and water puddles in the troughs. But after a while, the track emptied into a dried river bed with fine black sand, a terrain I'm not yet comfortable riding. Not having the skills to plow through there with full throttle, I puttered along trying to be as light as possible on the handle bar, yet having it snap repeatedly to the left and right. I was breathing heavily and wanted to be done with this section. I kept my right foot near the rear brake but had to dangle my left foot to catch the bike if she felt like going over. With shrubs growing right onto the trail, I didn't see a rock hidden under a shrub and banged my already injured left ankle against it, sending shivers of pain shooting up my spine. I tried to get up onto the surrounding solid ground, but couldn't negotiate a better path than the river bed. Having learnt the lesson of keeping the throttle pinned open instead of grabbing the brakes in tricky situations, I didn't take a spill and made it out of there alive.

Mike offered some consolation in saying even he too found that section quite difficult. Alright, I was now done with off-roading for the remainder of the trip. My foot was healing up pretty good, but I probably set it back a few notches with that whack and it looked like strap-shifting was here to stay for a few more days.

At Del Norte, Mike decided to turn around and start heading back up to Denver as he had to report back to work the next day. He had hoped to get to the southern end of Colorado, but with more rain clouds looming up ahead, the decision was easier to make. I enjoyed having Mike's company for the past two days and appreciated him waiting patiently for me along the way and giving some pointers.



Tackling the hardest part of the route for me right after a heavy breakfast. This little trail heading to Del Norte started out with some fun undulating two-track and then merged with a black sand river bed, which wasn't fun and I banged my sprained foot against a rock. That's it, no more off-road for the rest of the trip. Need to make it back home.


Mike wiping some sweat off as even he admitted that was a tough section of fine sand.

Even after saying I was sticking to pavement after the river bed run, I figured I would at least go up to Summitville on the route and then turn towards the highway. Having been told that the trail through northern New Mexico was quite rocky, I had already planned to avoid that section, much to my dismay as this was one section that I was really looking forward to for it's stunning scenery from other ride reports.

It was easy riding up into the Rio Grande National Forest on well-graded gravel roads as the elevation rose to the highest crossing of the CDR at Greyback Mountain and Indiana Pass, at 11, 959 ft. With dark clouds looming over and more to the south, I figured I should throw in the towel and take the highway to Chama, New Mexico.

The terrain near Summitville, consisting of high altitude meadows was made more memorable by the looming gray presence of rain clouds and the streaks of sunlight cutting through. I passed through the once open pit mine and saw the heavy foot of man treading destructively on this fragile earth. Summitville is another Superfund EPA site; a gold mine best known for the environmental damage done in the 1980s by its accidental leak of cyanide and other toxic chemicals into the Alamosa River, killing all aquatic life for 17 miles in the river, earning it the title of worst cyanide spill in American history. I know we need to extract resources from the earth to sustain our modern way of living but it looks like whenever things go bad, responsibility is lacking. Of the $150 million spent of taxpayerís money on the clean up, only $30 million was paid by the mining company before declaring bankruptcy. Riding through all this pristine wilderness and seeing the recklessness of our modern civilization emphasizes the need for greater respect for nature and not taking for granted this beautiful planet we inhabit.

As I descended down Pass Creek Road in the rain towards the highway, I was concentrating on being very smooth with the throttle and brakes as the road surface was turning slick. Coming out of the forest onto US-160, sanDRina and various parts of me were covered in a slick mud. I bid farewell to the off-road one last time and set into the groove of riding twisty pavement in the pouring rain up and over Wolf Creek Pass at 10,850 ft. I had ridden through here two years ago with some friends on a sport-touring ride heading to the Million Dollar Highway, on a tour around Colorado and Utah.



South of Del Norte, Mike turned around to start heading back to Denver and I continued south towards Summitville.


Entering the Rio Grande National Forest.


No more aspen trees, but evergreens also make for some nice riding.


At Greyback Mountain.


Greyback Mountain


The highest I got to on this trip, 11,959 ft at Greyback Mountain, Indiana Pass.


Is that virga or real rain?


High altitude riding past Summitville.


Deciding to head back to US 160 and take pavement to Chama, NM.


Riding through a good hour or so of rain soaked mud roads heading down from Summitville on Pass Creek Rd.


Following Pass Creek to the highway.


Done with the wet mud and finally on pavement.


Muddy boots.


A thin coat of wet mud on everything


Riding in the rain through Wolf Creek Pass heading towards Pagosa Springs.


Crossing into New Mexico and riding through more rain heading to Chama.

After warming up over a cup of hot soup at Pagosa Springs, it was onwards to the last state on the CDR, New Mexico. The views along US-84 were nice and the rain persisted all the way into Chama. This small, idyllic tourist town is set at the base of Cumbres Pass and is known for its still functional steam train plying the scenic Cumbres to Toltec Railroad, built in the 1880s.

The first five motels on the edge of town were all booked for the night and I luckily got the last room at the Foster Hotel, later finding out that this was the oldest commercial structure in town being built in 1881 to house travelers riding the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad. Different sections were added throughout the years and you definitely felt the age of the place in the rooms, but hey, that's character. The shower was basically a closest with a curtain, but the warm water felt great after all that chilly rain riding. The bartender said there were quite a few haunted rooms in the hotel and guests have encountered a few friendly spirits. Having gotten over my fear of ghosts long ago in childhood, I'd welcome some company. As I prepared dinner, I could hear the steam engine at the nearby terminus huffing and puffing and releasing its steam.
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J A Y on a 98 Suzuki DR650SE (sanDRina)

Trip Website: JamminGlobal.com
Current Ride Report: Global South | Past Trips: CDR '09, Alaska '08, Mexico '07 | YouTube Videos
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