Continental Divide and Idaho Ride 2013

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Lycan1, Jul 27, 2013.

  1. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Once again I went looking for adventure, and it was going to be different than the previous year in many ways. When you have an epic adventure it can be hard to follow up year after year without upping the ante both in cost and length. I considered this years adventure as a toned down, budget conscience project. I wanted to plan less and be more open for “adventure”, leaving more to chance. That being said, I did plot out the track as detailed as possible using local rider’s advice as well as tracks from Big Dog and Cannonshot of ADV Rider. When it came to food I was content to mix Restaurant and cook-at camp meals. This was not so much to save pack weight, or money, but I actually like to cook at a campsite. The idea of camping for all 14 nights was again, a personal preference, both for its flexibility and atmosphere. Like all things related to an adventure, they don’t always go as you would like. This year, due to circumstances beyond the control of the participants, there was a late in the game pull-out. So the smaller than last year group became even smaller, down to only two. I was determined to go, and would have gone alone had it come to that, but was glad of the company. The original routing north of the border had to be dumbed down for the same reasons that caused the group to shrink, weather related damage. Most of the original route had become impassable due to countless wash-outs along its length so highway haulin’ became Day 1.

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    After a breakfast send-off by two other riders, from my favorite southeast Calgary morning restaurant, Cora’s, we set out. The goal today was to get to the Eureka Montana Area. It was a wet and cool start to the ride, which was par for the course considering resent events around Calgary. Rain gear was packed away a few hours south of town and the weather was beautiful after that. The border crossing was quick and easy, although I did wonder for a few minutes after Ian disappeared behind me. I had found a interesting Eureka restaurant when doing my initial research and so we headed in town to find the Cafe Jax . It is a nice place if you are passing through Eureka MT. After missing the liquor store by 5 minutes, we headed down tobacco road and toward Polebridge. The road was amazing once we crossed the highway south of town and the ride in the late afternoon light was inspiring. We pushed on to Polebridge and the iconic Mercantile store, ending up at the North Fork Hostel, just blocks away, for the night. Oliver, the owner, was an interesting guy and has an amazing history.

    Pictures from Day 1

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    #1
  2. Ryder Patrol

    Ryder Patrol Adventurer

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    Subscribed. Looking forward to seeing where you went Lee. I have a trip to Idaho planned for mid August. It has become my favourite place to ride.
    #2
  3. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    I am and have always been an early riser, and anyone who knows me, or has travelled with me, knows this. Thankfully Ian is similar in this respect and we always got an early start to the trails. Running early has the advantage of good light for photos and cool air, on what was an otherwise very hot trip. Temperatures in the high 80’s and mid 90’s was the norm, and neither I, nor my ride like it too hot. It can be a challenge finding food that early in the morning, but we had the Polebridge Bakery this morning. They had great coffee and sublime fresh baking, albeit a bit pricey.

    Day 2 would end up being a too-long day considering the terrain, and I have learned a lot on this trip on how to tailor the ride based on what the track consists of. I also learned a lesson about Google maps and Satellite images and their reliability, or lack there of.

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    506 km.

    After a wonderful breakfast of a Huckleberry Bear-Claw (still hot) and rich dark roast coffee, we set off toward Whitefish Montana. We zig zagged south east along Big Dog’s track with a few modifications of my own thrown in. The heat of the day became intense but the scenery along this day’s track was so beautiful and varied, that the heat could be overlooked for awhile. Today’s ride stared with a beautiful run into the mountains and past a great camp site at Upper Whitefish lake. The section south of Whitefish was easy and as the day progressed we found the riding became more challenging including a section of freshly dug up track near Empire Mill. It had been slow going and the day was fast slipping into dusk. Once we reached Highway 12 we decided to head into Helena a grab a hotel rather than push any further. The next day, ironically, we discovered a nice campsite less than 5 miles further along the track.

    Pictures from Day 2:

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    #3
  4. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Thanks, I can see why Idaho would be a favorite, it really is amazing. Both Ian and myself commented on how West-Coast some areas looked. I could have done with a little less heat though.
    #4
  5. IanInCalgary

    IanInCalgary Been here awhile

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    The original route to the border included some trails I'd not been on before so I was a bit disappointed we slabbed it most of the way to the border.

    I've ridden with Lee enough that he knows I don't go over 100 kph as I don't have a windscreen to hide behind. Even so, it was a fast ride to Eureka.

    Lee went through customs first; I was asked 2 or 3 questions and released right away but I didn't see Lee. Oh well, I parked the bike in the shade and had a brief bio break. I figured if Lee wanted to bake in the sun he picked a good day for it. When we stopped for dinner the temperature on the screen across the road said x4 F (part of the screen was hidden from view). We never did see what the x was but it was probably 9. 94F is OK when moving but not when stopped for long.

    Ian
    #5
  6. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

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    Hey Lycan1 and Ian,
    I'm sure this will be a nice ride---so I'm in !!!!

    And I can't thank you enough for the Kettle Valley railroad info you gave me 2 years ago that made me and Dingweeds trip to Alaska--------------very special !!!!

    BigDog
    #6
  7. IanInCalgary

    IanInCalgary Been here awhile

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    We broke a few adventure riding rules on this day.

    We stopped for dinner and the service was a bit slow. I checked my watch when we received our dinners and it was 6:00. We should have called it a day and had a nice relaxing evening in a local campground. Instead, we relied on "questionable local intel" a term we became very familiar with on this trip. A KTM 990 rider was talking to Lee and said, "Oh yeah, it's gravel to xxx, but it's fast gravel."

    Well, it was gravel (and some dirt), and it was fast for a short stretch. We ended up riding for a few hours and got to the point where we considered cowboy camping because the deer were about to become a problem. But we pressed on and sipped (rather than drank in) some of the scenery and sights. The sun was just setting when we got a hotel in Helena.

    It was a 500+ km day which was too much. Lesson learned.

    Ian
    #7
  8. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Right back at you!

    Your tracks for the divide section made my planning so much easier. I diverged from your track a few times as you will see from the postings but very few times. We stayed at Warm River (inappropriately named I might add) before heading across Grassy Lake road (very nice). That was the end of our Divide ride before turning north.

    Your reports and their detail helped me, and I thank you.
    #8
  9. Bob

    Bob Formerly H20Pumper

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    Nice pics.
    #9
  10. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Teaser Video. The Audio at the beginning is quiet, so turn it up if you want to hear it. Be sure to turn it down after or my Identification bit at the end will blow you away ;)

    <iframe width="1280" height="720" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/U6CUEVjv0tU" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>
    #10
  11. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Day 3 started with a hotel breakfast and repack of the tents that were much dryer after a night of hanging over the furniture. We ran back to the point on highway 12 where the track crossed and carried on south, after a chain lubing session. The route ran into a nice dark, cool canyon as it headed south, with a few creatures running across, just to see if we were paying attention. I saw a wolf clear the trail further along in a single flying leap. It was an impressive animal. The track took us over a nice variety of road surface from fast gravel to rutted dirt and rock before reaching Basin, MT. As we rolled up in front of the post office a quad, sporting a bearded, weathered man, and a dog. The dog dismounted first and the man warned, “Watch it he’ll take off your leg”. He stood up and as if to make this point, swung his wooden left leg over the quad and stepped down. We chatted for a while and confirmed that the route out of town was opposite to what Google maps had told me, what a shock.

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    431 km for the day

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    The next section was a great mix of nearly quad track and good gravel into Butte, along which I saw my first CDT sign. Coming down toward the I-90 there were a few corners that almost got both of us, for me at least, due to rubber-necking the scenery. After a refuel and visit to a bike shop we carried on to Bannack Ghost town via Wise River and Polaris. I had seen this on a large number of reports but HAD to see for myself. I think it is the history and the remoteness (in the day) that make it so fascinating. You could almost hear the horses and the clink of spurs along the boardwalks. I had an idea about that, but my mind works in an unusual manner, or maybe it was the heat. After a tour of the town, self guided and ill-informed (I speak for myself here).

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    We Carried on south on really fast gravel (wink, wink). Café Canvas showed from Big Dogs report near the junction of 324, which we would cross again heading into Idaho days later, you are a brave soul Big Dog, stopping there, with its curb appeal. South on Medicine Lodge road to Lima proved slow going in places, and the heat was oppressive. We went through a nice canyon section (and it clouded over briefly) as we got close to I-15 and Lima.

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    I had heard good things about the little motel across from Ralph’s Exxon and the only Café in town. Camping was cheap and everything you need is close, but being a city boy used to some level of luxury, that’s the best I can say. We did meet another group of ADV’ers doing the CDT (bicycle) trail. John, John, and Gary, KLR 650, GS 800, F 650 GS Dakar, and a chase vehicle (Van and trailer) with one of the John’s wives as driver. They were doing it the hard way from their accounts and they illustrated the complexities of a group dynamic very well (as it would turn out). I have always found that groups work best with at least 4 and up to 6 where similarities in machines, abilities, and expectations mesh fairly closely. Differences tend to be resolved by committee with these number, rather than smaller groups, by compromise (on one or the other to varying degree). They had had a tough day on an inappropriate trail for the equipment involved, despite all being experienced and accomplished enduro riders. They were not young guys and the day had taken a toll, although the enthusiasm was still very evident. We talked and exchanged information, riding the same direction the following day. If you stop in Lima, and camp, take ear plugs, as it sits next the Interstate and close to a main rail line with level (uncontrolled) crossings. This to, would become a recurrence along the voyage.
    #11
  12. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Thanks Bob!
    #12
  13. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Day 4: After the morning Greasy Spoon experience (lube innerds, lube chain), remember, only game in town, or “best food in town” they say, Oh Baby…. On the bright side the young waitress, with the sniffles, from dinner the evening before, was not working the morning shift. Gary joined us for breakfast and was as bright and enthusiastic as the night before. He was frustrated that his Zumo (220 ?) would not except tracks, wirelessly from our “Montanas”, but wanted to swap email address before hitting the trail.

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    280 km for the day. (for me)

    It was cloudy, but would not rain for a couple of hours and not for long. Today’s track was very easy but still quite scenic. We hit a snag when there was a locked gate on one section. The go around was easy, and we decided to back-tract from the other end to see how close to the closure we could get. We met up with the group of 3 again several times on this last section, the Johns together, and Gary on his own, running ahead. We then carried on after another re-route and another closed section south of Henry’s Lake down Fish Creek road. The south end (Robinson Creek road) turned out to be paved, but was very abandoned looking with grass growing through the pavement and somewhat overgrown ditches. It could have passed for a Hollywood apocalypse movie set. We hit Ashton, Flagg Ranch road and went back into Ashton for food before running up to Warm River Campground. A note concerning “Warm” River, 50 degrees F. does not warm, make. It was a nice camp spot, missing only showers, having to use the “refreshing” river as a substitute, which would also happen numerous times on the trip. Ian talked to the John that was leading the other group, in Ashton. It turns out, Gary had had a difference of opinion and had quit the trip (since we had seen them a couple of hours before), showing how fragile group relations can be, in trying or long trips. Ian had some mechanical (chain) issues and once settled in at camp, ran back into Ashton to deal with them. Dinner was a cook-at-camp-site affair that night.

    Pictures for the day:

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    #13
  14. BigDogAdventures

    BigDogAdventures Fart Letter

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    I guess you haven't heard---------you guys were lucky to see Bannack--since you went thru a flood damn near took the town.
    I've heard it took almost all the boardwalks---and one building for sure.
    It is now closed to the public. What a shame.

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    #14
  15. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    287 Km. for the day (not including 20 more to run back and forth into Big Sky for Dinner).

    Day 5: We rode into Ashton yet again for breakfast and fuel. The name of the restaurant escapes me (only one open early), but it was a big barn red place just west of the rail line. One little old lady watched us pull in and &#8220;gear-off&#8221; before going inside. She met us at the door and demonstrated her flair for exaggeration; &#8220;I watched you guys for 10 minutes, getting off your bikes, I have never seen anyone take so long&#8221;. Then after making sure we were not Liberals, allowed us passage to the taxidermists heaven that was our morning respite. The coffee was in the usual style of &#8220;shave your tongue after drinking&#8221; that so much of the mid western US enjoys&#8230; yech! The food was OK, and didn't make either of us sick, so that was a bonus. Heading back east along Ashton/ Flagg Ranch road to Grassy Lake road across the southern most edge of Yellowstone was beautiful. I use &#8220;beautiful&#8221; a lot in describing the scenery along the route, and it truly was, (I could go drag the Thesaurus out if you like), but take my word for it, you will feel the same over used sentiment if you follow this track. Grassy lake &#8220;road&#8221; would not be a nice place to drag the camper with the mini van, or your Electra-Glide, but it was a nice road to travel with dual sports. Like so many of the paths taken, it would be much less fun if it was raining, due to the make up of many sections of the track. After that inspiring ride, Yellowstone traffic and crowds was a drag. I really only wanted to see the West side of the park due to my having to rush past/ through Yellowstone last year. I wanted to see Old faithful and whatever I could near by. The heat was vicious by the time we passed the south gate and set a fast pace as a result. We go to the sea of humanity around the Geyser and took a few touristy shots for posterity. We took the short walk in all our gear around Old Faithful to see (to me) the more interesting, and colourful, hot pools. We had a short shuffle through the gift shop, and cafeteria, and big lodge (nice) before we rode into the crushing heat of the day again. Despite the heat we stopped for a few nice pictures before hitting the town of West Yellowstone to fuel and cool for a short while. I walked into the Exxon, GPS in hand to ask for intel on camp spots north of town along 191. I approached an older employee to hear him say rather sarcastically, &#8220;Oh good, I always enjoy seeing someone walk in with their GPS in hand; I know I&#8217;m in for a story&#8221;. &#8220;No story&#8221; I replied,&#8221; I just would like to know where any decent campgrounds within an hour heading north on 191 are&#8221;. He was helpful and directed me to Red Cliff campground not far south of Big Sky. The drive along the way was quick and a treat for the eyes, despite ominous thunderheads building in our chosen direction. It was completely overcast by the time we arrived at the camp and set up under very large trees. We ran into Big Sky for dinner, having left my west facing tent fly open to cool things down. As we sat in the pub having dinner those ominous clouds became a serious storm and unleashed fury on the town. People outside were running for cover as the winds whipped the rain in torrents, and all I could think was, I hope that the tents weren't being drenched. After about an hour it was over and we returned to the camp to find very little rain had made it into our tents, thankfully! Due to the voracious nature of the local flying pests, we both hit the tents early just to be out of the bloodsuckers reach.

    Pictures for the Day;

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    #15
  16. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Wow, we had heard, but had no idea it was that dramatic! I do feel fortunate to have seen it, now more than ever!
    #16
  17. IanInCalgary

    IanInCalgary Been here awhile

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    After my third tank of gas, (and the first tank of premium) after crossing into the U.S. my bike started running badly especially at high speed going up hills. It cut out badly and the original chain was slapping even more than usual.

    In a shotgun approach to solving the problem I put carb cleaner in the gas for a few tanks, then replaced the chain in Ashton. Since I don't carry a chain breaker, and Lee had only a chain press for connecting a chain I left it up to the bike shop to install the new chain. PMS (they get a lot of ribbing about the name) installed the chain. Although I was grateful they were able to get the chain installed quickly, it was cut 2 links too short. DRZs have a snail chain adjuster that goes from 0 to 7. With stock sprockets, the correct tension is about 5. They had it set at -0.2!! Although I've not tried it yet, I doubt I can get the rear wheel off without disconnecting the master link. The chain (Polar x-ring) is the smoothest-running chain I've ever had with no chain slap after the initial lube was worn off.

    It turns out the majority of my problems were jetting. I thought a CV carb would self-compensate over a very broad range of elevations. Not so! My problems occurred above 1,900 m (most riding around Calgary is below 1,500 m). I accepted things as they were but have since realized most of my high elevation issues could have been eliminated, or reduced, by removing the air box side cover to help lean it out. The engine on my bike is stone-stock. All I've done is the Loctite fixes. The jetting issues were not a problem at normal trail riding speed.

    Ian
    #17
  18. IanInCalgary

    IanInCalgary Been here awhile

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    The trail we took to Yellowstone was dirt rather than gravel. No dust to speak of, and oodles of fun. It was a welcome change from some of the dusty gravel roads.

    Lee and I had fun with the GoPro with me chasing after him (at a rather stately pace). I hope the video is post-worthy!

    We ran into very little on-coming traffic for the entire trip (no pun intended) which was a good thing. As Lee indicated earlier, we were both rubbernecking and not paying enough attention to the road at times so ended up flat-tracking around a few corners. The concern was never about sliding out - it was dealing with an oncoming car.

    I hadn't adjusted my rear spring preload before we left (it is a pain to do on a DRZ) so my front end plowed around corners. As a result I had a death grip on the bars most of the time from the constant sliding. It got to the point where I wasn't sure if I could continue due to the cramping in my forearms. I eventually raised the forks as much as I could (about 3/4") which made a big difference.

    Ian
    #18
  19. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    491 km (not planned that way)

    Day 6: The tents (or Flys at least) were wet from the night, and a little more rain in the night. It would be the last time we would deal with rain this trip. The river was a muddy torrent this day, so I was glad I had washed up the night before with &#8220;cowboy bathing&#8221; in clear water the afternoon prior. After early morning packing up, stopping for fuel and getting (or understanding) directions badly we ran back into Big Sky, then back out to the highway to find the restaurant in question, called the Bugaboo, described as &#8220;the best breakfast in town&#8221;. Thankfully this time it was actually really good, if somewhat too noisy for Ian&#8217;s tastes. Maybe it is due to failing hearing (been married for a long time, so it might be learned skill) but I didn't mind the sound level.

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    After breakfast and some contrary intel regarding today&#8217;s chosen route over Jack Creek road, we headed up to Moonlight resort, up above the clouds (in more ways than one). We talked to the lovely Michelle Everett of Guest services who said, &#8220;Oh I doubt it, you have to be a member or a guest of a member to travel that private road, but I&#8217;ll call Jen and check for you&#8221;. According to Jen Clayton the road can be traveled by BMWs, Mercedes, and other fine automobiles such as Range Rovers, which have no serious impact on the local wildlife or adjacent properties. Motorcycles however are forbidden in order to protect the delicate species along the way. Rather than argue with a 1% er over such a logical and well thought out policy (private is private), we took a pavement alternative that was 3 to 4 times the distance around to Ennis. If you make the &#8220;mistake&#8221; of crossing that road just say you are a guest of Ms. Jen Clayton, I can provide her direct phone number if required ;)

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    Once back on track in Ennis, we headed to Virginia City, a total throw back (but operating) of a town. I loved the main street, and took a few pictures, then had a snack before carrying onward. About 2 miles west along 287 we turned onto an entertaining road called Williams Creek rd. It would get a little soft from being graded (while we were going across) but once down the other side firmed up nicely. I had planned a track to Dillon with the help of Google maps (first mistake) and when the track turned between a ranchers shop and house site I didn&#8217;t give it much though (or stop to check with said rancher) (second mistake). It was a cool track that looks like something straight out of a Western. A few miles in we stopped to take pictures. Ian stayed behind to shoot a few of me climbing a hill. I rounded the top of the hill and gassed it, glancing back after a minute or two to see if Ian was following. Instead of Ian, was the Rancher on a quad, really giving it his all to catch me, so I stopped to see what his hurry was? After a second of talking to him and explaining why I drove past his place to get here, his mood improved, realizing we meant no harm. Apparently Google is about 40 years out of date on that road, and we would run into locked gates before we reached Dillon. I made nice with the rancher (who appeared unarmed) and said I would be right behind him on the way out, and was. That man can ride, and we made good time back to the actual road that led to Dillon.

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    After that little misadventure we had an easy ride to Dillon and a bit of Highway to the Clark Reservoir, then across our original path south to Lemhi Pass and into Idaho. That is part of the Lewis and Clark Byway and a spectacular (see I didn't use beautiful this time) trail over to highway 28 at Tendoy. Somewhere in the last stretch to Salmon Idaho we stopped to help a damsel in distress change one of her worn out tires on her SUV. I had spotted her in my mirror sitting beside the front passenger tire in the shade looking beat. It didn't take long to get her fixed up and rolling before finishing the run to salmon. We ate at the &#8220;Junkyard Café&#8221; on the main strip before meeting one of the colourful locals at the campground in town. It was another long day, but would have been MUCH shorter had we been driving environmentally sensitive high end cars (tee hee).

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    #19
  20. Lycan1

    Lycan1 Grizzly herder

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    Hump Day (Day Seven):

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    374 km for the day

    Why is it most early morning diners serve lousy food? The only place open early looked OK but was disappointing at best. After parking behind a faithful NRA man (car all stickered up, with the likes of &#8221;the second amendment, America&#8217;s Original Homeland Defense!&#8221; No offense to any of our southern neighbors, I have nothing against guns, just some of the people allowed to handle them. I truly hope the woman living in a tent at the camp ground wasn&#8217;t one of them. She had explained how next year or in a year and a half the US would be under Martial law and &#8220;people like her would be in cages&#8221; (I didn&#8217;t ask for clarification about what kind of &#8220;people&#8221; she was). Apparently the communists running America now were going to shut down everything and put people into block housing and cages. I was really bummed since I was going to head south again next year. She wanted to move to Australia, good luck with that.

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    We took the nicely designed highway (I was going to say beautiful, but stopped myself, whew!) to NorthFork, stopping to get topped right up and check with professionals about the route (Forestry services). Liking what we were told, we carried on, turning north at Spring Creek road. We gained serious altitude before crossing briefly back into Montana to go up and around Painted Rocks Lake on unexpected pavement. Next we ran up and over Magruder corridor road back into Idaho with another stretch of (in the middle of nowhere) pavement. We lunched at the viewpoint up top before finishing the run to Elk City. The &#8220;questionable&#8221; local intel would have consequences this time (for Ian) when we ate at the &#8220;best place in town&#8221; Bar with no beer (not that I would have had one anyway) and camping is 6 or 7 miles out of town, and &#8220;has a toilet and everything&#8221;. This spot turned out to be a tiny outhouse amongst the trees that only I managed to spot. Ian stopped to talk to a guy with a chainsaw in the woods (brave man, since I am sure I could hear distant banjo music) and received somewhat better info. Another 10 miles and one big ass descent later and we found a bit better camping. The river (warmer than Warm River, barely) still had to serve as &#8220;caveman&#8221;/ cowboy bath. I pictured looking up after washing my hair,and balancing on a rock to see a grizzly standing in the shallow water in front of me, or worse a cast member of Deliverance! No such horror was to occur. Sadly for Ian another type of horror was brewing and by morning it was kicking his ass.

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