Mexico to Canada on Dirt - The Continental Divide Trail

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by bwanajames, Apr 18, 2017.

  1. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    Unshackled

    After 28 years, my company was closing its Colorado office. Too young to retire, the only question became, what to do with this extended vacation? Unshackled from daily responsibilities, nothing, I concluded, would heal the mind and buoy spirits like an epic motorcycle adventure.

    But where?

    There were a few states on the East Coast I had yet to ride; that could be interesting. Then I discovered the Continental Divide Trail. Originally devised for bicyclists, it follows the rugged spine of the Rocky Mountains, crossing the Continental Divide 27 times. Spanning 3,100 miles, you go from the sweltering deserts of Mexico to the stunning dagger peaks of Canada – all on dirt roads! The route promises some of the loveliest and loneliest land this country has to offer. I had found my adventure.

    CDT_Kevin_Google.jpg
    The route

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    Colorado

    IMG_0692_crop_Unsharp Mask.JPG
    Wyoming

    IMG_0758_Banff_sig_Unsharpen Mask.jpg
    Alberta, Canada
    #1
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  2. Mountain_Vrodder

    Mountain_Vrodder Been here awhile

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    I'm assuming the green/red are alternate routes and the blue is the "main route"? Anyway nice adventure!
    #2
  3. NevBlu

    NevBlu Been here awhile

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    Watching and interested how much fun you will have. Are you going south to north?
    #3
  4. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    Vrodd,
    That is correct. The red alternate is for those seeking more challenging terrain. The green promises either an easier route, or a work-around in the event of bad weather (snow on the high passes, or impassible mud due to heavy rain).
    BJ
    #4
  5. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    NevBlu,
    Living in Colorado, the nearest terminus was the Mexico end. In hindsight, I question the wisdom of that. (As you will soon see...). :muutt
    BJ
    #5
  6. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    High Altitude

    The Continental Divide is a drainage divide running along the Rocky Mountains. To the west of the divide, all water flows to the Pacific Ocean. On the eastern side, all water flows to the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic Ocean.

    The very nature of the Continental Divide Trail (CDT) guarantees you’ll be spending a lot of time at high altitude. At 11,910 feet (3630 meters) Colorado’s Indiana Pass is the route’s highest point. At these elevations, snow is not uncommon – even during the height of summer.

    As much of the route is not signposted, good navigation skills are necessary. Riders should be self-sufficient and carry camping equipment as commercial lodging is not available for long stretches of the route.

    On the southern end, rain can turn dirt roads into quagmires of adhesive mud. Below is a state-by-state look at the elevation gains you can expect to encounter.

    CDT Elevation Tracker.jpg
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  7. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    Nancy

    August 2013: After 32 days and 9,000 miles, I was returning from Alaska. It had been everything I had hoped: a life-altering journey of discovery – of the land, the people and myself. On the last day, closing in on my Colorado home, I found myself riding slower, stopping more frequently; I didn’t want the trip to end.

    At a gas stop in Silverthorn, Colorado, I met Nancy. Sun-baked and firm, this schoolteacher from Vail informed me she’d just pedaled down from Banff, Alberta, Canada solo.

    “It’s called the Continental Divide Trail, and runs all the way to Mexico on dirt roads…” she continued. “Many motorcyclists do it – you should give it a try…”

    Thoroughly impressed, I filed this away in my cluttered adventure brain. Fast-forward to 2016 and contemplating my unscheduled “vacation”. Then, by sheer coincidence, I stumbled upon a CDT ride report on this very site and Nancy’s words drifted back to me.

    DSC_7220 Nancy_Banff to Silverthorn_28 day CDT.JPG
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  8. Daniel3640

    Daniel3640 Moto_Dans

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    Enjoyed reading through your Alaska trip, looking forward to this one! Keep it up

    Dan
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  9. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    The Bike

    Ideally, a trip of this nature would be done on a smaller bike. But with paychecks drying up, I couldn’t afford to run out and buy something in the more appropriate 400-650cc class. So, my 1150GS would have to do. Having an aversion to hotels (for both aesthetic and economic reasons…) I would be camping on this solo adventure. After all, this trip was about immersing yourself in wild country. Why retire to a temperature-controlled box at the end of the day?

    Humans are basically herd animals. But I’m convinced that solo travel is the best way to meet the world. Strangers who are understandably reluctant to approach a pack of motorcyclists, seem magnetically drawn to the solo rider who looks like he’s up to something. People often ask if I ever get lonely. On the contrary, solo riders meet new people at every gas stop.

    The drawback however, is that common gear normally shared – tents, stove, heavy tire tools, etc. makes the solo rider’s bike heavier than most. While I enjoy exploring mysterious dirt roads on the big GS, tackling the sand washes, rocks, ruts & mud of the CDT on the fully-loaded beast might prove a handful.

    IMG_0598_Cartoon.JPG
    #9
  10. HickOnACrick

    HickOnACrick Groovinator

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    I am interested to see what your experience was in NM...especially if there was rain!
    #10
  11. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    The Heat

    Brake problem? (Fast Stop in Williamsburg, New Mexico). With the early morning sun blazing, it gets hot quick in southern New Mexico – especially in July. Wearing full gear almost requires a Gatorade I.V. But, I’d rather sweat than bleed.

    From my doorstep to the CDT’s southern terminus at Antelope Wells, NM lies 800 miles of scorching pavement. On a loaded bike at highway speeds, I could almost feel the soft TKC-80 knobbies melting underneath me.

    IMG_0599_crop.JPG

    Last night, with the sunlight draining from the arid landscape, I found myself paralleling the Rio Grande into the town of Socorro (Spanish for "help" or "aid"), New Mexico. My evening plans are always ridiculously spontaneous. I never know who I’ll run into or where I’ll be. Only when the sun threatens to abandon me do I turn on my stealth camping radar.

    Hoping the town came by its name honestly, I asked a gas station attendant where I might find camping.

    “About seven miles outside of town is a BLM property called The Box. You can camp there…” he offered.

    Under coal black skies glittering with stars, I rode west on highway 160. It was easy enough to find. At first light, rugged cliff faces popular with the technical climbing community revealed themselves.

    The Box_Near Socoro,NM.jpg


    The Box_Near Socoro,NM_Clay Lankford.jpg
    Photo by Clay Lankford
    #11
  12. calan818

    calan818 The CarMexican

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    Nice start to a big adventure! Will subscribe to this thread to see how it all unfolds.:-)
    #12
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  13. GoMotor

    GoMotor Been here awhile

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    [QUOTE="bwanajames, post: 32062186, member: 222433"
    .................. Then I discovered the Continental Divide Trail. Originally devised for bicyclists,......................[/QUOTE]

    I am curious if the GPS map above showing main, difficult and easier route sections came from the Adventure Bicycling Association. My daughter talked me into ridding the GDR on bicycles with her and her husband and I got paper maps then. Later, I converted the paper route to gps tracks and have ridden it a couple of times on my KLR650.

    I always carry some extra bottles of water to offer to the bicycle riders along the way. Haven't been turned down once.
    #13
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  14. refokus

    refokus Hmmmmmm

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    I'm in for another one of your ride reports.

    Looks like you will have a good ride and time ahead of you. Jealous.....
    #14
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  15. dano619

    dano619 Long timer Supporter

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    Loved your Alaska report......subscribed!!
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  16. calan818

    calan818 The CarMexican

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    Just finished the Alaska report. The last two days in the Canadian Prairies have seen strong North winds, and some snow...great time to read your RR. I enjoyed your writing style along with your excellent pictures! Do you and Leonard still stay in touch? :imaposer
    #16
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  17. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    Calan,

    While Leonard and I don't communicate, I feel he is always with me - if only through the stench forever embedded into my riding jacket...

    BJ
    #17
  18. Piston

    Piston Long timer

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    Subscribed! Because I love the idea of solo motorcycle travel and camping.

    Looking forward to it!

    (Link to your Alaska ride report?)
    #18
  19. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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  20. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    Hatchita

    My sources said there was gas in Hatchita. But the decrepit pump in front of a boarded-up café didn’t look promising. Spotting a human, I pulled into the nearby drive of a ramshackle trailer. Thankful their junkyard dog didn’t have an appetite for cordura, a sketchy, bewhiskered pair of men emerged. The duo, perfectly cast for the southern classic Deliverance, viewed me with suspicion.

    Pulling off my helmet, I humbly asked about the gas situation.

    Through decayed jack-o-lantern teeth, one of them replied, “Ain’t nothin’ here… Ya gotta go to either Lordsburg or Deming…”

    I’ve learned that when dealing with people, always convey respect, regardless of their station in life. In the end, they were friendly – though one appeared to be sizing me up with deranged cannibal eyes.

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    CDTMap1 Notes_Antelope Wells to Silver City.jpg
    #20
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