Continental Divide Trail, Colorado to Canada, July 2007

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by murgatroid42, Aug 7, 2007.

  1. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    Five of us (StmbtDave, Jim (a lurker), Failo (Mark), Cap, and myself) started out to ride half of the Adventure Cyclist Continental Divide Trail from Steamboat Springs, CO, to the Canadian border at Rooseville, MT. There are several CDT ride reports already on ADVRider, but this one is about our trip of 1200+ miles of the trail. I hope you like the pictures. :D

    We planned to take 6 days to ride the mostly-dirt trail to Canada, then ride slab for 3 to 4 days to get back home. That meant we had to ride just over 200 miles per day on the way up. We rode from Fort Collins, CO to Steamboat Springs the day before (Thursday July 26) through the Poudre Canyon (no pics, sorry). Three of us camped in an RV park outside the city. It rained almost all night, and Cap got a flat tire that night. But it was the start of the adventure.

    I’m not a great dirt rider, so I wondered the day before if I even could do this ride. Only a few of the sections were very hard, but 6 days of dirt riding challenged me.
    #1
  2. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    After trying to dry out our equipment and packing, we left the 7-11 in Steamboat Springs Friday morning 7/27 and quickly picked up the Trail. The ride seems like a blur now, the roads and scenery were sensory overload, so it is hard for me to remember the exact locations where I took most of my pictures. I’ll put down what I think, and let others correct me. :wink:

    Here we are at an interesting rock formation, probably volcanic, we found shortly out of Steamboat.
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    Shortly afterwards, we came to the spectacular “Aspen Alley”. The high branches arched over the road, appearing exactly like a European Gothic Cathedral except it was over a mile long.
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    The road turned to sand for about 3 miles afterwards, which was was an early test and slowed us down a little.

    We made it to Rawlings, WY, before pushing further into the Great Divide Basin by early afternoon. Cap and Mark decided to return home, so the three of us left (StmbtDave, Jim, and myself) continued on the trail.

    The Great Divide Basin was the most desolate part of the ride, but for me it was one of the most enjoyable. The road was hard clay, but could be impassible when wet. It rained in the previous days, and we chased showers while we ride through it. The road had several sections of slippery mud, but we all made it. It was here that I realized I could keep up the pace set by the others, and might actually be able to complete the ride. I learned a lot about riding here by following Dave and Jim’s tracks. When their tracks became dark, the road would get muddy and the bike would wiggle. I rode behind the one with the lightest tracks.

    The Basin has its own beauty, in a stark, barren way.
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    It is truly the middle of nowhere, but very historic. The Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, and trail to California all crossed within miles of each other here 150 years ago. How they ever made it in covered wagons, I don’t know. The pioneers were a hardy, determined bunch.

    There was a double rainbow. Unfortunately, this pic only captured the bottom part.
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    Atlantic City was a small town with no gas. The only store was a restaurant/bar that was smaller than the top level of my house. As we arrived there, we met Simon and Lisa Thomas, who are riding the world. Short summary: 4 years, 57 countries. His BMW GS final drive broke near Silverton, CO, and the bike was sent to Northern Colorado BMW for repairs a few weeks ago. That’s 10 miles from my house. It’s a small world, but was even smaller when they asked us we ever heard of ADVRider. :lol3 Dave and Jim went back after we set up camp outside of town to talk with them, I was tired and stayed at the campsite.

    From the left, Simon, Dave, Lisa, and Jim.
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    #2
  3. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    The second day was sunny and bright, as we headed northwest towards the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. The road was open, wide, and fast, but covered with loose, dry, slippery dirt and light gravel.
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    Jim is an excellent rider. He can ride that KLR like Ricky Carmichael in the dirt or Rossi in the twisties, but he just stopped and just dropped his bike, which fell into Dave’s and tipping it over. I really shouldn’t post this, because Jim helped me to pick up my bike when I crashed on 3 separate occasions, and bailed me out of a tough spot, but, hey, this is ADVRider, the rules are to take pictures first. :lol3
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    A pair of bald eagles nesting on top of a power pole
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    Jim on the left, Dave on the right.
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    Obligatory Teton picture. Of course, the photo looks like crap compared to being there.
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    We spent the night between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, in an overpriced cabin. But it was great to take a shower and rinse my clothes. The people who say wicking shirts and shorts dry out overnight are liars, however. :bluduh
    #3
  4. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    The next morning, 40 miles of tight dirt road took us from the between the parks to the other side of the Tetons in Idaho. Once in Idaho, the scenery immediately changed to wide, flat, green plains with fields growing potatoes (it’s Idaho, duh), and other crops. Here is the backside of the Tetons:
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    The next section was a “Rails to Trails”, where an old railroad bed was converted to motorized trails. We went through an old railroad tunnel.
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    Riding through the tunnel was scary. It was pitch black, long, and bumpy. I could only see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, and ride towards it, not knowing if I was going to scrape a wall or dump the bike in an unseen rut. But we made it through with no problems.

    The next section should have been called “Rails to Death”, 20 miles of narrow 2 tracks filled with several inches of sand and small-pitched gravel. I hate riding in loose stuff. 15 months ago I crashed twice in a half mile riding in less sand than this. I sold my XR650L and almost gave up riding. But I got a new bike, and tried again. It only took me 15 miles to crash this time. :oscar I tried to avoid being swatted by the bushes growing on the side, moved my front wheel into the middle ridge, lost it coming back, and dumped the bike on the outside of the track. Jim looked in his mirror said he saw “too much green” from my bike, so he came back and helped me put the bike on the trail. I was exhausted, but after a break (thanks, guys, for letting me cool down), I made it the rest of the way.
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    We finally made it out of the sand and into good, open roads. Everyone else takes a pic at the Red Mountain Pass sign, so here is mine.
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    Dave on the open roads through Montana
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    This “freight road” looked interesting, but was not on the CDT. Next time I would like to ride it. Getting freight from cities like Salt Lake to Bannack, MT, must have been very difficult in the 1860’s, and I want to see the roads that moved large amounts of food and supplies by horse and wagon.
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    Along the way to Bannack, we met another group of ADVRiders from Tennessee who were riding from north to south. I didn’t get a picture of them :doh but Worker Ant was among the riders. I hope you are doing OK on your way to Mexico.

    We camped at the Bannack State Park. No water, but there was an outhouse nearby, and it was a nice spot.
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    #4
  5. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    We camped just around the corner from the Bannack ghost town. Our $12 camping fee also allowed us to tour the town the next day, so we spent an hour touring the town. It was worth the diversion. Bannack was a thriving mining town in the 1860’s, but had a very turbulent and violent history. It operated until about 1940, and the last residents left about 1970, when it became a well-preserved park. I won’t go into the full and interesting history, but it is definitely worth stopping and exploring.
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    We rode easy roads until Dave wanted to see the infamous Fleecer Ridge. Everything on the maps tells one to avoid this Hill of Death, but he wanted to see it. He talked to a local, who said he rode up it on a dirt bike. Dave asked: “Was it a dirt bike, or a bike loaded with all our stuff?” The local just laughed. Hint: When the locals laugh, don’t do it.

    Here is a picture from the bottom. Again, the picture is crap. It looks like a gentle hill, but it is really almost vertical, 12+ stories straight up. Unless you’re one of the ADVRider demigods, don’t even think about going up it. Dave said he would not attempt it even on his unloaded KTM EXC450.
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    The short section getting to Fleecer Ridge was a tough, small dual track, with water, dips, rocks, and ruts. Again, the picture does not show how hard it was.
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    We were then back onto wide open, dusty roads. We crossed the Divide again, and took a detour to go up to the fire tower. The tower is the very small bump to the left of the peak in the picture below. The sign said the tower was 3 miles further, but the road seemed longer, was a very steep, rocky uphill. I bailed out of this off-the-trail detour and Dave and Jim continued towards the top. Unfortunately, the road was blocked just at the tree line, just out of the rocks where the road would open up.
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    After this side trip, we went through Butte, MT and a short ride on pavement. Outside of Butte was another Rails to Death, oops, I meant Rails to Trails section. After the Idaho sandy section, I dreaded the next part, but I thought this is Montana instead of Idaho, so the roads will probably be different. They were. Here is the mandatory tunnel picture:
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    The tunnel was shorter, the dirt smoother, and it was not as dark and scary to ride as the previous one. The next 10 miles of trails afterwards was a variety of conditions. It was mostly smooth, but there were rocks, ruts, holes, some loose stuff every tenth of a mile. It was more like an obstacle course, it was a road that was trying to bite you. But the problems were mostly mental, so it was an entertaining learning experience, and kept me alert. I tried to follow Dave and Jim’s tracks and let them encounter the obstacles first. :D

    We camped outside of Rimini MT for the night. Rimini looked a lot like Bannack, except that there were still a few people living there. Our campsite was near an outhouse and there was a water pump nearby. Perfect, especially since it cost us $7 a night total to camp there.
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    We feasted on Mountain Home freeze-dried meals (they are pretty good, actually), and some liquid refreshment. But this was our fourth day on the road, and only drank a third of that Scotch bottle, so we were not partying at all. Scotch makes me tired in the morning, so I didn’t drink much on the ride.
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    #5
  6. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    The next day started with open roads.
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    Notice the haze in the background? It’s not fog, it’s smoke from fires in the mountains. At the time I am writing this, there are many more fires that are throughout the areas we rode on the last 2 days on the Trail. The whole area was very dry, dusty, and had record temperatures, so the fire danger is extreme. I hope everything turns out OK. Some more smoke:
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    My speedometer suddenly stopped working. The pickup spun on the axle, and the cable wrapped around the wheel. : We stopped for a quick repair, and I ran the rest of the ride with no speedometer or odometer. :bluduh. But it was a minor incident in the grand scheme of things.
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    We spent the night north of Sealy Lake, at Holland Lake, if I remember correctly. Here’s a picture of the lake. Montana is gorgeous.
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    #6
  7. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    Only one more day to go!! The roads were relatively smooth, but so dry that a fine, white, talcum-powder dust hung in the air for over a half mile after the lead bike. We rode a 50 mile section of dirt, followed by a short pavement section through Whitefish, then 100 miles of dirt to within 20 miles of the border. I was choking on dust for that entire 150 miles. The scenery and roads were fantastic, though.
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    We stopped at Polebridge, MT before finishing the last 40 miles of dirt. This is the entire town. They had great-smelling cinnamon buns, but I was not hungry. I could just smell finishing this ride.
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    The dust was typical.
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    The last 30 miles was dual track, with a dropoff on one side and a hill on the other. The scenery was spectacular, even when riding through a burned out area, but my throttle was sticking the entire time. It was not a good feeling to be going up and down a narrow, rocky two track road, with a sticking throttle, and nowhere to go if I crashed, while thinking that it would be a great defeat to have a mechanical breakdown this close to finishing the ride.

    I got through the final dirt section a little late, and Jim helped me unstick my throttle cables and get the crud out. It worked better, but I still had problems going all the way home. I learned to replace the throttle cables before a long dirt ride.
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    Dave went to the border last year, so he decided to go directly home after the dirt section. He will be leaving Wednesday for another ride, and wanted to get home to pack his K bike. He’s a very busy guy in retirement. :lol3 Thanks, Dave, for being our guide. :clap
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    Jim and I took the last part of the Trail (all pavement) to the Canadian border. We had to stop and take pictures at the border sign, loop into Canada, and return to the USA. Silly, but you have to do some things.
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    And back into the USA, looking from the Canadian side.
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    We then rode to West Glacier, and stayed in a KOA cabin, where we took the first shower in 4 days.
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    #7
  8. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    Jim and I decided to take 3 days, all on pavement, to get home to Ft. Collins, CO. This allowed time to loop through Glacier National Park on Going to the Sun Road and to take an easy ride the rest of the way.

    I’ve never been to Glacier, but the scenery is absolutely jaw-dropping beautiful. I live in Colorado, so I’m used to spectacular scenery, but Glacier was over the top. The mountains are massive, and rise straight up. I took some pictures, but the day was hazy with fog and smoke from all the fires raging in Montana. Again, the pics are crap compared to the real thing.

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    Smoke from the fires obscured the view. At the time I’m writing this, the fires are getting worse.
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    We spent the first night near Livingston, WY, at another KOA. We rented a cabin, because we were feeling good about finishing the ride and wanted to live the high life. :lol3 It was a good call to get a cabin because it rained from 4 to 7 am. If we camped we would be packing our tents in the rain.
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    The next day we rode through the northern part of Yellowstone, where the Buffalo roam.
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    We rode the Chief Joseph Highway, which is a spectacular motorcycle road.
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    Jim rode his KLR around the curves like he was Rossi. He’s a great rider, which made me appreciate even more that we kept a reasonable pace throughout the ride.
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    We stayed at Thermopolis, WY for the night in an overpriced motel, but soaked in the hot springs. It was warm, and we smelled of sulfur after we got out of the water. It was a good, relaxing thing to do. The next day we headed home over the Snowy Range road, which also had spectacular scenery.

    The ride home would have been great on its own, but it was nothing compared to the dirt ride going up. On our way home, we saw hundreds of motorcycles, all going to Sturgis.
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    In a way, I feel sorry for these heards of Harleys. They probably think their ride is great, but compared to the Continental Divide Trail, it was nothing. On the highways filled with motorhomes, one looks up at the scenery while riding. On the trail, we were literally in and surrounded by the scenery, with almost nobody around us. It was quite a difference.

    The ride is never over until one gets home, right? About 20 miles from home, Jim noticed his front tire was going flat. We pulled over and changed it. It was only a minor inconvenience; see how he’s still smiling?
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    Here I am at home, after nearly 3000 miles. The bike is a little beat up, it needs new speedometer and throttle cables, an oil change, general maintenance, and the mountings are ripped out from the saddlebags. The owner is in a similar condition, but I made it. :clap :clap
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    It felt good to complete the trip. It was an epic ride, and riding with Dave and Jim was fantastic. It was hot, there were hundreds of miles of dust, rain, ruts, sand, and mechanical problems, but we made it. It was a ride that was so far beyond what I expected that I might never top it. My bike is beat up, and I feel the same way. But it was epic. :thumb I was not a good dirt rider before the trip, but I improved immensely during the trip, thanks to following these guys and listening to their advice. :bow

    Thanks, Dave, for being a good scout and guide, and thanks, Jim, for helping me pick up my bike and being my riding companion back home. It was a real pleasure to ride with you. I could never imagine better riding companions than the both of you, and I really appreciate everything you both did during the trip.
    #8
  9. Coloradocajun72

    Coloradocajun72 Adv-curious

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    Cool man, Cool!.... even as fast as it went it looked like fun.
    #9
  10. 1200gsceej

    1200gsceej wanabee overachiever

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    wow ... I am .. awed, to say the least. Your narrative was great and the pictures wonderful. My personal thanks for taking the time it did to share this with us.
    -ceej
    #10
  11. ktmnate

    ktmnate Long timer

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    Ok, pay attention! When I tell my wife the family vacation is off. and that I am going on a solo ride, I'm giving her your e-mail. Just tell her something about official business or somthing. I have got to get that ride on the books. Thanks for the report. and thanks for the marital unstability that will take place shortly.



    Nate


    ps -anyone have a couch that I can crash on?
    #11
  12. darmahman

    darmahman "Illogically Deluded" Supporter

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    Dan - Great job on getting it done. You had two excellent people to do it with. What's next?:evil
    #12
  13. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    Yes, I rode with two excellent people. What's next?? Maybe finishing the route from Colorado to Mexico next year? Do you want to go? :ear
    #13
  14. GSgal

    GSgal Been here awhile

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    You've had a standing invitation for over a year, now, Nate. Bring that Katoom to MT!

    Really nice ride report, Murgatroid. :thumb Congratulations on riding the CDT, and thanks for sharing it!
    #14
  15. tommcbride

    tommcbride Long timer

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    Awesome and Phemomenal ride report
    ~ down and dirty, not too wordy ~

    Great picts.

    Thanks for sharing!
    #15
  16. Hayduke

    Hayduke ///SAFETY THIRD/// Supporter

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    :clap Top notch report, Dan! What a blast! We rode the CDT down to West Fest from here- just a taste, and now I want more!

    Thanks for the report. :thumb
    #16
  17. Givemtwo

    Givemtwo Just another Geezer

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    :clap :clap :clap Thanks for the pics and words, your trip is what two wheels off road is all about, THANKS AGAIN!
    #17
  18. XLR8

    XLR8 nice

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    Jim's my dad. When you grew up in eastern Iowa riding motorcycles and your dad was Jim Brach; things were good; racing motocross on the weekends, and enduros or harescrambles when I got older. I remember that day in 1974, getting my first bike; a Honda MR50, like it was yesterday. I do not remember my mom and dad ever working a weekend. The weekends were always for riding or other non-motorcycle fun. Our vacations to New York, visiting my grandparents, where my dad and my mom Joyce are from, were always during the Unadilla Motocross races…DeCoster, Hannah, Staten, Tripes, Russians, Czechs, tearing up that overgrown grass track was amazing. Our other vacations to the Colorado mountains for a week of dirt biking changed my life. I remember riding 80 to 100 miles each day for 6 days straight on my old Suzuki PE175. Those Colorado vacations caused me to move out to Colorado after my days at Iowa State. I still ride at least a couple times a week, even if just commuting, but I think about riding every day. We all know here at ADVRIDER that riding is the best therapy available, the mood during and after riding is a high that, to me, is unequaled. Through the years after college, I have roadraced, flat tracked, ridden enduros and harescrambles, but just riding either alone or with my wife and daughter on a mountain road or trail in the middle of what seems like nowhere gives me that high. Each time I trail ride or dual sport ride with my cool ol’ dad today, we have our gear on, which seems to kick that aging thing to the side, and when he leads, it seems as if time has rolled back 30 years, and I am this 12 year old kid riding behind his 30 something dad in the middle of what seems like nowhere; things are good.<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:eek:ffice:eek:ffice" /><o:p></o:p>
    #18
  19. murgatroid42

    murgatroid42 Great Adventurer

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    Thanks for this post. It was a pleasure to ride with your dad, and now I know why he's such a skillful rider and even a better riding companion. You are very fortunate.
    #19
  20. munchmeister

    munchmeister Grow'd Up Mini Trail

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    Murgatroid:
    GREAT Ride Report. Jim B. is da man! and a member of our esteemed Twisted Shaft Club in Ft C. I really enjoyed that report, especially since my summer sucked big time with no riding due to a crash. But I'm getting my F650 lubed up and maybe will be able to join you guys next time.

    --Doug
    #20