Hi everyone, I’ve been following this forum for a while and always enjoyed reading about other riders’ trips and adventures. Although I’m an experienced traveler, I am a new rider and taking on a “long distance” motorcycle trip was quite challenging, but with the advice of friends as well as countless tips from this form, I was able to organize and experience a solo adventure that I will never forget. In May / June of 2018 I rode my Triumph Tiger 800XCx from Winnipeg, Canada to Los Angeles, California, on to Seattle Washington, then Vancouver, BC and eventually back to my (then) home in the Canadian Prairies. The trip was 24 days, from June 16 to June 8, 2018. I rode more than 10,300 km (6,400 miles) through 9 States and 4 provinces: Manitoba, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California, Oregon, Washington, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan. My actual route: As a result I’ve decided to share this trip with everyone here in the hopes that I inspire others that are thinking of doing something similar. I hope you’ll be patient with my many photos and hopefully accurate recollections. I will split it in two parts. Part 1 covering my trip from Winnipeg to Los Angeles and Part 2 the return trip via Seattle, Vancouver BC and the Canadian Rockies. I’ve always wanted an adventure bike and honestly, my dream bike was the BMW R1200GSA, but that was a little too pricey for my taste, so I decided to buy the BMW F800GS. I visited a number of dealers in different cities and although I liked the “Beamer”, it was a bit too tall for me (176 cm / 5’9”) and I would’ve had to lower it a bit. Also, it didn’t have cruise control and all the luggage, etc. were extra. While at a dealership in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan I also saw the Tiger 800XCx. That was going to be my 2nd choice, after seeing it at a dealer, earlier in the year, near Oxford UK. In the end the Tiger 800 made a lot more sense and it came with all the extras “included”. Cruise control, heated grips (added on for free), side and top cases, WP suspension, engine crash plate, crash bars, etc. Also it fit perfectly for my height and the “triple” engine was amazing. On top of that, I loved its look and instantly fell in love with it. I just had to have. The day I picked up my brand new Triumph Tiger 800XCx, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan (April 2018) Back to the trip... Originally I was going to do a shorter trip, to Utah, about 10 – 14 days, then fly to Europe and meet with my wife and daughter, who spent 4 weeks there visiting family. In the end my wife suggested that it would be pointless to fly to Europe for 1 week and in her words “Don’t stress, just enjoy your trip and we’ll go to Europe together another time”. The truth is, we travel a lot. Last year in Feb we spent 10 days in Oxford UK and before that I went to Australia, Ireland, Germany, Austria etc. It helps when we (“more or less”) fly for free. My job gives me that perk so we take advantage of it as much as we can. Second week of May the girls flew to Europe for some well-deserved R&R after which I turned my undivided attention to planning out the details of the trip... sort of... Even though I still had a week until I would leave on my trip, I actually had to work 4 of those days, which left me with just enough time for last minute plans and purchases. I spent the 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th of May flying all over Central and Western Canada. I finished my pairing in Calgary, after which dead-headed back home to Winnipeg, extremely eager to get on with my adventure. Last day at the office, prior to the trip: Last leg before vacation time. I took this pic in Castlegar, BC. Remember this place, because it will come up again toward the end of the report: The next two days at home, I bought a sleeping mattress, portable stove, portable coffee press and some other small camping supplies. I experimented with a few packing options, focusing on the bikes weight and balance. I tried to bring as little as possible, but that’s something everyone has an opinion on. Considering I was going to spend the next 24 days on this trip, I had to pack accordingly. I had a tank bag, two side cases, one top case, and a large yellow dry bag. Here’s what put in each: Tank bag: passport, wallet, phone, ear plugs, small photo camera, sun glasses, gum, etc. Top case: clothes (jeans, tshirts, shirts, undergarments, socks, etc), my iPad mini, chargers. Left side case: motorcycle clothes, rain gear, motorcycle cover, alarm, some basic bike tools Right case: camping cooking gear, shoes, toiletries, and some miscellaneous stuff Dry bag: tent, inflatable mattress, sleeping bag, sleeping pillow and a tarp. The three side cases / top case each had a maximum load of 5 kgs (11 lbs), which I didn’t think it was much. The dry bag seemed huge, but it was very light. I decided to compromise volume / space for comfort. Half that dry bag was occupied by the mattress, which was an awesome 10cm (4 inches) thick. It was so comfortable that I didn’t know the difference between my bed at home and my bed on the road. The general bike set up, minus the straps: Wed. May 16, 2018 – Winnipeg MB, Canada to Fargo, North Dakota The adventure begins: On the morning of Wednesday, May 16th,, 2018 I woke up super excited, just like a kid on Christmas morning. I had everything ready from the night before, so after eating a quick breakfast, showering and making sure everything in our apartment was left in order. I took the elevator to the underground parkade, where I loaded my Triumph with the three cases, dry bag and tank bag. I also attached an inflatable Air Hawk “seat” to the saddle, which proved an arse saver on the long trip. The goal that day was to ride from Winnipeg, Manitoba to Fargo, North Dakota, where I had my first appointment for an initial oil change / service at Legendary Motorsports. I was happy that the weather cooperated. Although a bit chilly, it was very sunny and almost no wind . This was the only day that I would be pressed for time, since I had to make it to the dealership by 2pm. I rode about 115 km from my home to the United States border in Emerson MB / Pembina, ND. At the border, the officer asked me where I was going and how long I’d be in the USA. He was quite impressed to hear that I would plan to ride all the way to Los Angeles. After checking my documents he wished me a safe ride and I started my US portion of trip. I changed my odometer from KMs to miles and started riding toward Grand Forks, the first major city before my destination. Welcome to North Dakota, Unites States of America: By the time I arrived in Fargo, the temperature was almost 30*C (86*F). It was extremely hot, but I was quite stubborn to remove my gear. I’m very adamant about riding with full gear on. Having worked as an air ambulance pilot for many years, I’ve witnessed first hand what improper / no gear can do to a human body. Unless I’d pass out from heat, I’d wear my boots, pants, strike vest, jacket, helmet and gloves. After a 2 hour stop at the dealer, the oil change / service was complete I stopped at the grocery store where I bought a few things to eat and a 6 pack of beer. I then rode to Lindenwood Park in Fargo, on the banks of the Red River (North Dakota / Minnesota border), where I would spend my first night of the trip; camping. I set up my tent, mattress, bag and got my bike ready for its first night outdoors. An awesome phone APP that came in very hand was the WeatherBUG app. I used it quite often, in conjunction to some aviation weather sites to stay on top of the weather forecast and avoid any issues. The forecast that night called for intermittent rain with a possible thunderstorm. Not ideal but I was prepared. Tent / bike at night in Fargo, ND: The campsite in Fargo: Thurs. May 17, 2018 – Fargo, North Dakota to Madison, South Dakota I woke up the next morning with the sound of raindrops hitting my tent / tarp. “Crap” I thought. “Oh well, it’s an adventure”. Once the rain stopped, I quickly packed up my things, loaded them on the bike and decided to leave Fargo ASAP. A big thunderstorm was coming that way and I had no intention of being caught up in it. I briefly stopped to get some breakfast and buy a SIM card for my phone, so I wouldn’t have to pay the absurd roaming charges my Canadian provider would charge me in the US. It even came with a nice ND number and free international minutes. I managed to get a quick call with the wife and kid in Europe and then started heading South on Interstate 29, toward Sioux Falls, trying to dodge the monster cell I was mentioning earlier. Entering South Dakota: Once I was sure I’d be clear of the weather, I got off the highway and started riding the roads of rural America. I may be one of the few people that actually enjoy the Prairies. The endless farmland, with its farms, equipment, pick-up trucks, etc has a beauty about them. I loved every second of it. I continued toward Watertown, where I stopped to buy a small can of chain lube and then continued on toward the first “major destination”: South Dakota Badlands. The American Midwest: Of course, I was still a long way from there, so doing it in one day was out of the question. The goal today is to ride as much as I can, while enjoying the beautiful weather, because once again, the evening would bring thunderstorms and hail. I rode South toward Arlington SD and eventually made it to Madison, SD. Camping was going to be out of the question tonight. It was calling for severe weather. I decided to play it safe and get a motel for the night. I ended up at the local Super 8, with a nice ground floor room. I was able to park my bike under the entrance roof the motel, where it would be protected from the hail. As I was enjoying my beer in my hotel room, watching TV the much anticipated thunderstorm and hail started coming down like mad. I was very glad I made this decision and well worth the $60USD I paid for the room. Fri. May 18, 2018 – Madison, South Dakota to Badlands National Park By morning, the next day, the most of weather systems were gone and the forecast for the day was going to be mostly sunny with a slight chance of rain. I packed the bike and started heading West on Highway 34, passing through the towns of Howard, Rosewell, Woonsocket and Fort Thompson. The ride was simply stunning and I enjoyed every minute of it. Highway 34: Woonsocket, SD, where I stopped for a quick break and lunch: At Fort Thompson I took route 47 and got on the Interstate 90, riding West until route 240 toward Badlands National Park. I arrived there midafternoon to sky full of puffy cumulus clouds, the sun lighting up patches of the park. After I paid the fee, I rode through it as slowly as I possibly could, taking in every sight, smell and view. I stopped often to take photos and enjoy the geological marvel that lay before me. I met a few people along the way, including fellow motorcycle rider, bicycle touring adventurers (another hobby of mine), and lots of people with RVs or just doing a good ol’ fashion “American Roadtrip”. I stopped the main park office which was closed by now. A park ranger told me that I could camp in the park, but I’d have to leave cash in an envelope... at that point I decided I’d keep going. Although I wanted to stay I realized I didn’t have any US Dollars with me. I wasn’t in a hurry to get any, since I figured I could pay everything with my credit card. You could, but not after hours. Instead I decided to leave the park and go to a nearby KOA campground. There was one just outside the park, with lots of good amenities. It turns out it was pretty quiet, so I got a site close to the main building to get good connection to the internet. I wanted to Skype with my wife and little girl in Europe. Entering Badlands National Park: Badlands National Park: Badlands National Park: Badlands National Park: That afternoon I unpacked my tent, set up my mattress, sleeping bag, etc and used my portable stove for the first time. I made some boiled bratwursts with cheese, mustard and of course, beer. I retired to my tent, checked my messages, watched a few episodes of Star Trek and fell asleep. Day 3 was fantastic. If this was a taste of things to come, this trip would be far above and beyond what I expected. My 10 cm / 4 inch Thermarest MondoKing 3D. I highly recommend it, if you’re not too concerned about its bulkiness. It’s actually quite light in weight. Sat. May 19, 2018 – Badlands National Park to Mount Rushmore, South Dakota I woke up the next morning, took a “nice” cold shower and called my girls in Europe. After chatting with them I slowly started packing up my camping gear and loading it back on the bike. This was probably the “worst” part of the trip; the packing / unpacking / packing thing. It took me about an hour every time from putting back the tent, disinflating the mattress, strapping the dry bag on the bike, dressing up in my gear. etc. None the less, it was fun. I had my BOSE wireless speaker, so I put on some good tunes, had coffee and made the best of it. I After leaving the KOA campground, I started heading toward Rapid City, South Dakota via the backroads. It got a bit chilly, so I had to wear my mask and add the under layers of my riding gear. I had a slight scare at one point, almost running out of gas, but just in the nick of time, a gas station pooped up and the day was saved. I didn’t stop in Rapid City, but continued on to Mount Rushmore, hoping to get there before it was too dark. I did stop an hour or so, for lunch, in Keystone, SD, an old town from the days of American Exploration. I really enjoyed it there and that’s where I met some fellow riders from Canada on a weeklong trip to South Dakota. Leaving the Badlands area: Keystone, South Dakota: That afternoon I arrived at Mount Rushmore under an overcast sky. I purchased the tickets for the National Memorial. As a European, having lived in Canada most of my life, I’ve always been fascinated with the might and grandeur of United States of America. They sure know how to make things “BIG” and the stone sculptures of President(s) George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln is awe inspiring. You can’t help but try to imagine what these men were like; men that shaped America and as a result the modern world. You’ll hear me say this often in this report “I highly recommend it”. Well simply put: I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. Mount Rushmore National Memorial: After taking in the sites of the Memorial, I mad my way back to the bike and decided to find a place to call it a night. By this time, it was getting chilly. The forecast would be a low of +4*C (40*F), which is not exactly comfortable in a tent. None the less, I was not going to spend my money on hotel, so I decided to camp. When I arrived at the KOA Mount Rushmore I found out that they had heated cabins available for about $15 more than the campsite. It was a no brainer. Why would I “freeze” when I could have a nice comforting good night sleep. I opted for the cabin and off I went. By now I started getting into a routine: unload the bike, crack open a beer, unpack, dress in some comfortable jogging pants, cook food and find an activity to do. It was getting dark so I just drank my beer, listened to music and chatted up with some nice folks that were in the adjacent cabin. I called it a night pretty late, a little tired, but extremely satisfied of yet another awesome day. Inside the cabin: Trying to cook some chilly and having a “few” cold IPAs: Sun. May 20, 2018 – Mount Rushmore, South Dakota to Fort Collins, Colorado The next morning I woke up, surprisingly late. I made some breakfast, eggs, beans and coffee. I packed up the Tiger and off I went, riding through the phenomenal Black Hills National Forrest. The cabin and the Tiger: I stopped in Custer SD for lunch, but mostly spent my day riding, taking photos and takin in the sites. I left South Dakota and entered Wyoming, a wild and barren landscape, compared to the lush green views of the Black Hills had to offer. For dinner, I stopped in a small town in Wyoming, having a burger, fries and a diet Coke (typical junk food) but I didn’t have much choice. The place was a “biker” dive bar, its washroom filled with cutouts of old nudie magazines from the 80s. It was awesome. The old lady bartender was quite nice and as I was her only client at the time, she took the time to chat with me about her life and a little bit about mine. She was working two jobs and taking care of two children she took in after their mom overdosed on drugs and passed away. A pretty sad story, but at the same time, one that shows the generosity and kindness of every day Americans. I gave her a nice tip (probably the largest tip I ever gave anyone) and left. Leaving the Black Hills, SD. The flat land is Wyoming: Dressing up for the cold evening temperature, lingering slightly above freezing. The heated grips were now worth “their weight in gold”: I kept riding that day and oddly enough made it into Fort Collins, Colorado. The altitude and the proximity of the Rocky Mountains was starting to take their toll on the temperature. It got quite chilly in the evening, with temperatures not too much above freezing. One again I ended up at the local KOA. By the time I set up my tent, it was already dark. I was exhausted. This time, without eating or having even a beer I passed out and slept till next morning. Mon. May 21, 2018 – Fort Collins, Colorado to Estes Park, Colorado (the long way) I woke up in the morning absolutely freezing. I dressed a bit warmer and somehow fell back asleep. I guess the constant riding over the last days have taken up their toll on me. I just wanted to sleep... That I did, but eventually I had to get up and vacate my camping spot. I got out of my tent and I was greeted by a stunning view of the lake adjacent to where I’ve set up my camp area. Freezing my arse off. Note the BMW tuque : My campsite: Nice view of the lake: After breakfast, a quick shower, packing and so on, it was afternoon already. I wasn’t in the mood to ride to much today, so I decided to stick around the area. Someone recommended that I go to Estes Park and spend a night there. I looked it up online and ended up doing exactly that. I set up on my bike and headed South toward Denver, without actually getting there and at Longmont, Colorado I headed West to Lyons and kept on route 36 all the way to Estes Park. The road was amazing. It was my first time riding a motorcycle in the mountains and the “twisties” were amazing. The traffic was someone busy, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I really got a feel for how well the Tiger 800XCx handles. One thing about me, I hate speeding, even more so on a motorcycle. For me it’s about the trip and the sights. I stayed on the speed limit and I never once had to worry about cops or being pulled over. Why? because I didn’t break the law. Pretty straight forward. I made to Estes Park in the afternoon and drove to the center street, parked the bike and went for a nice stroll. It was full of tourists. I could only imagine how this place is in July or August. It must be packed. Entering Estes Park, Colorado: Stunning view of the Rocky Mountains: Stunning view of the Rocky Mountains: After taking in the sights, a lot of which reminded me of Banff, Alberta, Canada. I went to the grocery store where I picked up some food and what I thought was Bud Light Lime. To my disappointment, I found out too late that it was actually can size margaritas. How the hell could I make such a mistake? Oh well, booze is booze. I wasn’t going back to return it. It was pretty hot this day, in contrast to the previous evening when I was freezing, so a cooler was okay. I set up my tent and met up for drinks with a cool lady and her stepson, doing a bike trip across America, from the East Coast to Vegas. Estes Park, being a fairly touristy place, I ended up meeting lots of cool people. There was a group of young ladies doing a road trip to California and a couple of cool dudes from Israel, also on a long (car) road trip across the US. All of us ended up partying and having a good time. Before going to bed I “barricaded” myself in for the night, as a large thunderstorm was brewing to the South of us. It ended up passing by us. We heard the thunder and saw the lightning, but no rain came.