Continental Divide 2007 (Mexico to Canada - the Hard Way)

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by RxRick, Jul 25, 2007.

  1. RxRick

    RxRick Seeker of Trout

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2006
    Oddometer:
    333
    Location:
    Long Beach, California
    Prologue:
    It seems like I've been planning this ride forever. I put it on the calendar last summer and I started prepping for it in January (which is barely enough time, BTW). In that time, plans changed, I had three riding partners come and go and in the end it was just me and a guy I'd never met and a set of bicycle maps. But what the hell - it's an adventure, right?

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    And so it was that I left my comfy little home in Long Beach, California, on June 29th for Wickenburg, Arizona - my wife and daughter smiling and waving as I departed (don't feel too sorry for them - they were going to Europe while I was away). My friends Scott and Patti Colbath had agreed to let me use their place in Wickenburg as a sort of base of operations. The trip out there was uneventful, but hot.

    It wasn't just hot, it was "I-think-my-eyebrows-are-on-fire" hot.

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    Ain't it the truth... (leaving Hope, Arizona)

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    Around Wickenburg-

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    Scott took me on a nice ride Sunday, July 1st, up to Yarnell and over to Prescott for breakfast. Our saddle time was limited by the heat - we left his place at 0600 and returned around noon. When we got back it was 111 degrees. In the shade.

    So finally Monday morning came. I packed up my shiny clean motorcycle and lit out for Patagonia, Arizona, where I was to meet up with my partner, Dick Ohnstad (OldGypsy).

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    By 0800, it was already 94 degrees.

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    I stopped in Indio for breakfast. Ever have Subway for breakfast? It's pretty darned good.

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    While I was eating, this little guy came over and climbed on my boot. I thought he might run up my leg. He looked like a cross between a kangaroo rat and a chipmunk.

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    You may notice that a lot of my attention (and photos) center around critters. I love all manner of critters.

    The trip to Patagonia was uneventful. Just a lot of hot pavement.

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    I stopped at the Honda dealer in Tuscon (while it was 110) to pick up an innertube. We had used my spare rear tube to fix a flat on Scott's bike the day before.

    I got to Dick's at about 1230. We went over the route, looked at maps, had a nice dinner and went to bed early. They have nice sunsets down there.

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    Next up - Day 1.

    --RxRick
    --Long Beach, California
    #1
  2. RxRick

    RxRick Seeker of Trout

    Joined:
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    Oddometer:
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    Long Beach, California
    Finally - Tuesday, July 3rd was here. We were packed up and on the road by 0530. We had originally talked about going to Lordsburg, NM, then making the down-and-back run to Antelope Wells. But since Dick lives 19 miles from the border (at Nogales) and since it was going to be 110 degrees that day, we decided to just head for the high country as soon as possible. We would pick up the CDT in Silver City, New Mexico. The ride to Silver City was hot and boring.

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    We got gas in Silver City. I was not a happy camper in the heat.

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    The weather plays a role in any trip of this size, and this was no exception. It didn't help that we left at the start of one of the worst heat waves in many years. I should have bought more water.

    The trail here was fun - a lot of steep switchbacks and loose rocks. We came across a stream and used it to wet down our shirts.

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    Now, Dick would never make a big deal about this, but I feel I should mention it. My riding partner is 70 years old. I'm sure there are other 70-year-olds out there riding around, but I don't know very many that would take on a ride like this. I hope I'm still doing stuff like this 18 years from now.

    We took a break at a small lake. Partly because there was shade and partly because there was a herd of cattle in our way.

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    They eventually moved on and we went about our business.

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    We probably pressed on harder than we should have. We took the wrong fork at a three-way intersection and quickly found ourselves wallowing in a deep vat of powdery, talc-like dust. Dick did a nice faceplant and I almost did. After extricating himself from the bike, he said "Well, at least it was a soft landing".

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    We got back on the correct trail and continued on. It was around here that we saw a sign that said "Caution - Dangerous Wolves in Vicinity" (or something like that). Very curious. Are wolves really dangerous?

    We stopped again later for a short break under the only available shade.

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    Our first antelope. Those suckers are hard to photograph...

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    This guy must really like his privacy.

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    We got gas in Old Horse Springs and I found a faucet around back to refill my Camelbak. We finally made camp about 20 miles south of Pie Town.

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    We had eaten a nice breakfast at Dick's before we left, which was good because we didn't get another proper meal for almost 36 hours. We were both out by 9pm. We did 403 miles on the day after 13.5 hours in the saddle.

    I was awakened at around 0130 by something making noise outside. I figured it was a deer or maybe even cattle as this was all open range. I rolled over on my back and was admiring the bright moon overhead. It was maybe three-quarters full as I looked through the mesh ceiling of my tent. Just then a wolf let go with a howl right outside my tent. He might have been a few yards away but it sounded like it was inside my tent. Other wolves followed suit down the line - each more distant than the last.

    After the initial shock wore off, a huge grin creased my face.

    O.K., this is cool.

    Day 2 follows.

    --RxRick
    --Long Beach, California
    #2
  3. Hardrocker

    Hardrocker Keep ur feet on the pegs

    Joined:
    Aug 30, 2005
    Oddometer:
    462
    Location:
    Black Hills
    Neat report! I am looking forward to your next installment. Dick is really quite the guy. :clap

    Having the wolves near your camp was a great treat, just as long as they are well-fed. :D

    In Alaska they are more concerned about wolves in contact with the tourists than they are about the grizzlies. When we were up there a few years ago, at the entrance to Denali, they would not allow tent camping in the area because of wolf packs.
    #3
  4. GB

    GB . Administrator

    Joined:
    Aug 16, 2002
    Oddometer:
    57,517
    Location:
    Toronto
    Excellent start!! the "hard way"? That's the FUN way!! :thumb

    Touratech will have a DVD on just such a ride...
    #4
  5. dirty ol man

    dirty ol man Ridin' Fool

    Joined:
    Sep 23, 2005
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    WMass
    :lurk Okay Rick, I'm ready for more please...only six more days and I head out for the Trail! Congrats on the ride...now post up! Ride on...:ricky
    #5
  6. WaywardSon

    WaywardSon Long timer

    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2006
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Somewhere East of Omaha....
    Looking forward to this one...I am sure you are looking forward to making some progress North. Got to cool off some. Thanks for taking the time to post the report & pics.
    #6
  7. TomN

    TomN Long timer

    Joined:
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    Chalfont, PA
    More! More! :clap
    #7
  8. FXRocket

    FXRocket Phoneticide Squad

    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2007
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    Location:
    Hoosier
    Wow. That looks like fun, maybe a good september voyage? I would toss that thermometer away, I would feel hotter just because it tells me too.. :lurk
    #8
  9. RxRick

    RxRick Seeker of Trout

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2006
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Long Beach, California
    I got up around 0530 and Dick was up soon after. We could hear the wolves down the road and they had apparently caught something. Hopefully it was a deer or antelope and not someone's livestock. That's what got them into trouble in the first place.

    We got into Pie Town quickly, expecting to eat breakfast. Unfortunately, it was July 4th and there was not a soul to be found.

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    The Pie-O-Neer was closed, as was the Daily Pie Cafe.

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    I found another faucet to fill the Camelbak. While I was doing that, a guy came out of the back of the Daily Pie Cafe and asked if we needed anything. I was tempted to say "Yeah, some bacon and eggs would be nice", but I told him we were fine. It was his holiday, after all. We pressed on another 30 miles to Highway 117.

    Your best friend on a dusty road - Mr. Crosswind.

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    Here you can take pavement or dirt into Grants. We took the pavement mostly because I wanted to see the red sandstone bluffs and La Ventana National Monument. It was a good choice.

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    We finally got into Grants and got some food. This place was quite good, even if they can't spell "truckers".

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    At this point we took a small detour off the CDT as Dick wanted to see the Chaco Indian ruins and museum, so I followed him down some washboarded road to the middle of nowhere.

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    NOTE: The bicycle map contains an error here. They show the "Chaco Culture Nat'l Historic Park" as being in Pueblo Pintado - it's not. It's 10-12 miles northwest of there.

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    Yep, it's still hot.

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    I'm not normally into this stuff, but it was pretty cool. Especially considering they were doing this stuff 1,000 years ago.

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    We headed off in the general direction of Pueblo Pintado and were quickly surrounded by thunderstorms.

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    We were pretty lucky and mananged to miss most of the main downpours. This how I like my thunderstorms - in the rearview mirror.

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    But then we ran out of luck. I put the camera away, obviously, as we got hammered by wind and rain. Then I noticed the rain was making an awful lot of noise on my helmet and it was really hurting my knuckles. Hail - great. We don't get weather like this in SoCal. We limped into Cuba, NM, wet and cold and the first thing we saw was a sign for a motel. It took about three milliseconds to make that decision - we grabbed a room.

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    At least my bike was clean again.

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    As we were unloading, another equally soggy biker pulled in on a KLR. He was doing the same ride, but solo. His name is Joe ("BluRoad") from Madison, Wisconsin and he came into the cafe across the street as we were finishing dinner. His bike had shed a bolt from the footpeg/centerstand and he was asking about shops. I had a small collection of spare nuts and bolts and one of them fit. After talking for a bit, we asked if he wanted to join us on the trek. We were a threesome from that point on.

    Next up - Day 3 and some rough northern New Mexico roads.

    --RxRick
    #9
  10. RMac

    RMac Cheese!

    Joined:
    Aug 23, 2004
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    Location:
    Stumptown
    :lurk

    Loved your story about the wolf howling outside the tent. Nothing in the world quite as primordial as a wolf's howl. I too would have enjoyed it, as soon as I cleaned up my pants.:lol3
    #10
  11. woodrow

    woodrow Yep - It's Me

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2003
    Oddometer:
    77
    Location:
    Colorado Springs
    :clap Great report so far!!!!!!!!
    #11
  12. tbirdsp

    tbirdsp REMF

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2002
    Oddometer:
    8,789
    Location:
    Nebraska
    Damn Rick, I guess we need to get going on our ride report too:D
    It was great meeting you and the other guys in Radium, CO. I wish we had more time to BS, but we needed to get to Silverthorne so we could score our free condo stay. It was worth it too, shower, beer, pizza, homemade biscuits and gravy and eggs the next morning.:clap
    #12
  13. Idahosam

    Idahosam Set Adrift

    Joined:
    May 23, 2006
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Back in the Saddle
    Great Report going there, BTW I too can relate to the heat as I too was was riding my trip over the 4th of July week, it was 102 degrees in Wallace Idaho.
    #13
  14. BluRoad

    BluRoad as in blue highways

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2007
    Oddometer:
    475
    Location:
    Antioch IL
    This is where I come in...all the way from southern Wisconsin. I headed the KLR southwest from the Madison area on June 26, and it was hot. The concept of hot will be a recurring theme for the next three weeks. I dodged t-storms across IA, MO, KS, OK and NM, but never got wet till Cuba NM. The battery lost its electrons in Dodge City, and I spent the morning dealing with that. Arrived in Antelope Wells at 4:25pm, June 30 and got a few photos. 102 degrees. I headed north right into an afternoon t-storm. Still dodging the rain portion, I braved some awesome crosswinds and chatted with a couple Border Patrol agents in Hachita while we waited for a shower to clear to the north. Onward to Silver City and the Motel 6. Next day is beautiful off-pavement where I flushed a herd of elk in the narrow area between the Gila and Leopold wilderness areas. Made Pie Town (everything closed up, of course) at 6:30pm. West on 60 to Quemado for a $35 dollar room (and worth exactly that). The next 3 days were spent visiting my parents in Overgaard AZ, about 150 detour west. Fast forward to July 4 finds me back in Pie Town (everything closed up, of course) at noon. At this point I'm about 5 hours behind rxRick and Dick, unknown to all. My trip to Cuba is a copy of theirs (even ate at the same place in Grants) and rolled into Cuba in a downpour to the same welcoming "Motel" sign.
    #14
  15. kpie

    kpie Been here awhile

    Joined:
    Feb 20, 2007
    Oddometer:
    154
    Location:
    Pleasant Grove, Utah
    Sounds like a blast! Keep it Comin':clap
    #15
  16. RxRick

    RxRick Seeker of Trout

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2006
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Long Beach, California
    Thursday, July 5th, we had breakfast at the diner across from the motel. The newly-formed threesome was on the road by 0800. That's Joe - the newest member of the group.

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    The forest service road that lead east and then north out of Cuba was some of the finest riding I've ever done. The rain the night before made the forest smell sweet and of course there was no dust.

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    At one point somebody said "It just doesn't get much better than this". Too bad it didn't stay that way. The road got rocky, rutted and and downright mean in places as went along through the day.

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    There were the occaisional nice sections and the views were amazing.

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    Dick hits the deck. He got his front tire into a rut while leaning into a turn and went down - hard. I thought he might have been toast but he's a tough old bird. He soldiered onward.

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    The fall had bent his shift lever against the case. While they worked on prying the lever back out with a tire iron, I gave my bike a quick inspection after all that rough road. I found that a bolt in my luggage rack had sheared off in the subframe. A little creative bailing wire did the trick.

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    As we rolled through Abiquiu, Dick said something about gas. Neither I nor Joe paid him any heed and we just rolled on through. That was a mistake.

    We plowed on down the road through El Rito, Vallecitos and on toward Horca. The road was pretty rough at times. One 30 mile section took two hours to get through.

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    The views were still pretty great, though.

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    Even the short paved sections were beautiful.

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    We were at almost 11,000 feet here and it was still almost 70 degrees.

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    Now, where I come from, this isn't called a road - it's called a rock slide. This section was tedious.

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    Into Colorado we go.

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    Colorado is just like New Mexico except with rivers and better roads.

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    It was around here somewhere that one of us had the brilliant idea to (finally) look at the maps and figure out where our next gas stop was. It turned out our destination - Platoro, Colorado - didn't have any. This was a problem. We didn't have enough to get back. A friend of mine had lent me his GPS a few days before the trip. I was planning to use it on the highway on the way home (it didn't have the CDT programmed in). I was mostly just using it as an altimeter and trip odometer, but I also figured out how to use it to find a gas station. It turned out we were about to cross a highway (17), and if we detoured 20 miles east to the town of Antonito, there was supposedly gas there. So that's what we did.

    We also found a great little restaurant there called Dutch Mill. The chicken enchiladas were a treat. When we came out, it was starting to rain again. So we just got three singles at the Narrow Gauge Railroad Inn at the edge of town. It was a long 224 miles today.

    Tomorrow - on to Poncha Springs.

    --RxRick
    #16
  17. RxRick

    RxRick Seeker of Trout

    Joined:
    Apr 25, 2006
    Oddometer:
    333
    Location:
    Long Beach, California
    I had been hoping for a day free of crashes, breakdowns and any other form of mayhem. We finally got it. Just a nice day in Colorado.

    We had breakfast at the cafe next to the motel and were on the road by 0830. Almost every road followed a river of some sort.

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    Indiana Pass - 11,900 feet.

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    We stopped at a NAPA in Del Norte to pick up a few nuts and bolts that the KLRs had flung off. I teased them mercilessly about their bike's tendency to shed parts, but sadly, they got the last laugh.

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    The ride from Del Norte to Sargents was great.

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    There's a farm that raises white elk. Who knew?

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    We had dinner in Sargents (so-so) and then took off down the road to Mears Junction. There was a sign that said the road was washed out, but we took a look anyway. It was washed out. There was a way around, but it required a death-defying drop into a turn which, if you missed, was a disaster. You ended up in a deep, muddy crevasse with a stream at the bottom. The risk vs. benefit evaluation just didn't add up. We went back to highway 50 and took that to Poncha Springs. It started raining pretty hard so, once again, we grabbed three rooms at the Poncha Inn.

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    That night we all did some maintenance on our bikes. Cleaned air filters, adjusted chains, BS'd with another (drunk) biker, etc., then hit the sack. 263 miles on the day.

    Next up - day 5, and more KLR problems.

    --RxRick
    #17
  18. GillaFunk

    GillaFunk I use profanities

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2005
    Oddometer:
    4,208
    Location:
    Penngrove, California (Sonoma County)
    ok....next summer I am 100% Riding the CDT. These pics and reprt are KILLING ME.

    Damn good show!
    #18
  19. tbirdsp

    tbirdsp REMF

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2002
    Oddometer:
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    Location:
    Nebraska
    At least you were going downhill:D We did it uphill in a thunderstorm.

    Shortly before that section we ran into an honest-to-goodness cowboy leading some horses. Frank asked him if the lightning spooked the animals, cowboy says "no, it kills 'em dead!":eek1 :lol3
    I was kinda in a hurry to get outa there after that.
    #19
  20. wachs

    wachs just passin' through

    Joined:
    May 24, 2005
    Oddometer:
    4,925
    Location:
    Tumalo, Oregon
    Excellent tale - looking forward to the next installment. Lattilla? how beautiful was that? Lived in Taos for a few years and we liked that area.
    #20