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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    Hi BMWBUD,

    Yes! Waaaay back in post #64, I attempted to give props to the kind gent behind all this:

    "Regarding the maps, I have to give credit where credit is due. They are courtesy of a generous fellow by the name of Kevin Glassett (aka: GPSKevin). A visit to his website reveals a wealth of CDT information for planning and preparations. There you can download color-coded GPS routes essential for navigation. http://www.gpskevinadventurerides.com/"

    Disclaimer: Now, I hope this isn't outdated information, but I was able to poke around his website - and at the time - download the route and a PDF of the CDT Handout Maps (minus the scribble) free, free, free... Whether this is still the case, I do not know. But, even if you have to throw a pittance Kevin's way, the guy certainly deserves it.

    Happy Trails!
    BJ
  2. BMWBUD

    BMWBUD I couldn't hack it. Back on two wheels.

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    Thanks. My wife says sometimes I look but don't SEE. :D
  3. outbacktm

    outbacktm Bullrun Bison Supporter

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    +1
  4. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    Dakar

    For those wondering why this report is moving at a glacial pace, there is a logical explanation. When I started the account, I was a man of leisure. Those days are but a sweet memory. I’ve since jumped from the frying pan to the fire, so to speak. Now the alarm clock goes off at an obscene hour to begin my 3-hour (round-trip) commute to a 22-story cube farm in Denver. What started as a 6-8 week contract gig for an Engineering firm is now in week 47.

    However, being a respectable taxpayer does have its benefits. The Adventure account down at the local credit union is growing fat. Those following along may recall my reservations about taking the 1150 on a dirt odyssey better suited to something with half the displacement. (A decision based on the sudden absence of paychecks…).

    But I may as well put all that hard work to good use. The other day I picked up this…

    My Dakar_Resized.JPG
  5. johnnywheels

    johnnywheels Been here awhile Supporter

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    Yeah Baby! A slush fund & new wheels?! I feel an adventure in the works!

    Congrats! That’s a sweet ride!
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  6. docwyte

    docwyte Long timer

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    That was my first bike. reliable and gets incredible gas mileage, I'd routinely get close to 70mpg out of it. Not particularly quick tho and the vibrations would make my hands tingle after an hour of riding...
  7. Ladybug

    Ladybug Bug Sister Supporter

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    That's is a terrific Christmas present for yourself. Wahhoooo. Return to this report when you have time, it's worth the wait. Be safe on that commute to and from the cube farm.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New year.
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  8. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    "I believe adventure is nothing but a romantic name for trouble."
    Louis L'Amour

    Back on the CDT:

    choteau map.jpg

    Heading south to rejoin the CDT, the 1150 felt like a penned horse wanting to gallop. With the sun beaming, a full heart, full gas tank and wide-open Montana stretching out before me, yellow center stripes soon blurred to one.

    A winding ribbon of asphalt snaked through irrigated hay fields and lonely prairie; then forested valleys cradling crystal waters. Eighty-three miles later, I rolled into Lincoln, Montana – a bustling metropolis of 1,100. Meriwether Lewis passed through here on his return to St. Louis in 1806, following the famous “River of the Road to the Buffalo” created by Native Americans centuries before. Five miles away, in a remote cabin without electricity or running water, gifted mathematician and political terrorist Theodore Kaczynski (aka: The Unabomber) made his home until being hauled off by the authorities in 1996.

    Looking to refuel myself, I pulled into the dubiously named Scapegoat Eatery. Bad sign when you are the only patron. An hour later, burdened with the (cooking) sins of others, I cast myself into exile and rejoined the CDT.

    Crossing the Blackfoot River edging town, the Stemple Pass Road bisects pastoral ranchlands. Dragstrip-straight to the foot of the mountain, I spied a lone bicyclist in the distance. A woman. She too was heading south. Fit, middle-aged, wearing typically colorful cycling attire, her sculpted bronze legs churned with an easy cadence on this rare flat section. But heavy panniers suggested this was not a weekend ride.

    I’m always intrigued by daring souls who strike out on their own; a respect growing tenfold for courageous women. Surely she had a good story. Slowing to match her speed, I asked how far she was going. Tight-lipped, she shot a dagger look as if I was a Hell’s Angel fresh from prison. Taken aback, I took the hint and pulled away before she could unleash the bear spray.

    Following the South Fork of Poorman Creek, rocks sprout from a trail turned steep and narrow. There are those who feel the 1150GS has “a stupid-tall first gear...” Count me among them. With an incline, rocks, ruts and camping gear, it was reminiscent of my 4-wheeling strategy with the 2-wheel drive F-100 of my youth: momentum.

    On one of these grades, I ran into Joe, the CDT bicyclist met 250 miles back at the liquid-mirror Red Meadow Lake. Sharing a roadside chat, his keen engineer eye spots something amiss.

    “You have a screw loose…”

    (If I only had a nickel for every time…)

    In an instant, he reached into a tidy accessory pouch producing a hex key set, tightening the errant windscreen fastener before it could make good on its escape.

    Unlike most CDT bicyclists, Joe had elected to keep his mount pannier free. Instead, he was towing a clever single-wheeled trailer. “The low center of gravity is nice” he added “But you can’t stand on the pedals cranking uphill without inducing trailer wobble…”

    To compound the problem, his fretful girlfriend insisted he take the kitchen sink. Pausing to gaze at a soaring hawk, Joe clipped-in and wove his way up the mountain at a walking pace.

    Somewhere between Lincoln and Helena, I encountered a cheerful middle-age couple from England pedaling to Antelope Wells, reinforcing the trail’s international appeal.

    CDTMap17 Notes_Seely Lake to Helena, MT.jpg

    In Helena, folks are just sitting down to supper. So should I. Montana’s state capital (population: 28,190) was founded as a gold camp which surrendered $3.6 billion (today’s dollars) in gold, making it one of the richest cities in America by the late 19th century. This wealth shows in the town’s ambitious Victorian architecture.

    But I still have light, and must make up for my romantic diversion. Rolling out of town on colorfully named Grizzly Gulch Drive, the dirt track ascends ever upward. Twenty miles later, clouds converge into one dark foreboding mass. The ceiling sinks. Winds swirl. Dreaded raindrops collect on my visor. Camp is wherever the end of the day finds me, but it is clearly time to start looking. On a commanding overlook east of Chessman Reservoir, I find a roadside clearing which will serve the purpose. I’m home.

    As usual, I’ve got the place to myself. Thirty yards away, a Forest Service bulletin board warns of recent grizzly activity. Though I’ve been in grizzly country much of the trip, I do wonder if something grim has occurred.

    While rain is cursed on two wheels, there is something pleasant about the gentle pitter-patter on the tent fly. In safe harbor, burrowed into my sleeping bag, the rhythmic tapping lulls me to sleep. Morning dawns damp, but non-threatening. I was not dismembered in the night.

    IMG_0816_crop_resize.JPG

    Packing up, an aging white pickup splashes through puddles, coming to a gravelly halt beside me. A burly 50-something man leans out the window.

    A gruff voice inquires, “Where you headed?”

    Explaining my mission, he advised: “Oh, that route gets pretty rough. You may want to double-back and take the back way into Rimini…”

    I thanked him and he bounced down the pot-holed road, quickly swallowed by a stately mix of pine, fir and spruce.

    Had there been a wash-out? Conditions change all the time, right? A wandering out-of-stater is generally wise to heed local advice. Or so I thought. It was only a mile or two back to the green sissy alternate route, so I took it.

    It started out gentle enough, then turned into a narrow, boulder-strewn ATV trail. With outrigger legs, I paddled my way through rocks clawing at my skid plate. At the end of the trail was a construction crew doing road maintenance. Idling next to a worker holding a stop sign, he glances over at me asking: “Did you just come down that? I know that road and I wouldn’t take my truck up it…”

    So much for the sissy “green” route.

    (Author’s note: Ironically, this green/easy section was rougher than any “blue” section on the entire CDT – outside of, perhaps, the hellish final approach (blue) to Abiquiu, New Mexico – which I avoided).

    RiminiMontana.jpg
    Rimini, Montana

    During World War II, remote Rimini - one of the oldest mining districts in Montana - was the U.S. Army’s War Dog Reception and Training Center. There 800 sled dogs, 100 pack dogs, and 125 soldiers trained for one of the Army’s greatest missions never attempted - the invasion of Nazi-occupied Norway.

    Instead, the dog sled forces took up a different mission: rescuing and recovering pilots and airplanes lost in the remote corners of Newfoundland, Baffinland, Labrador, Greenland, and Alaska.

    Today, Rimini is a ghost town. However, a handful of seasonal and year-round residents remain in what is now an eclectic off-the-grid village.
  9. DunkingBird

    DunkingBird Been here awhile Supporter

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    Louis has me all figured out:
    "The armchair adventurer has all the advantages, believe me." :rofl

    Thank you very much, bwanajames, for your wonderful update.
    I wish you an adventurous year 2019.

    Cheers, Peter

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  10. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    Stupid Tall First Gear

    For you 1150GS aficionados cursed with a first gear that feels like second, there is a cure. Rather than paying dearly for a used 1150GS Adventure transmission (which has better off-road gearing) some folks were simply swapping out the final drive. Among the “R” series boxers, there seemed to be a wide range of interchangeability.

    As luck would have it, one day I was perusing Craigslist and discovered a fellow parting-out an R1100R. I did some digging and determined it had a 33/11 final drive (33 teeth of the crown wheel gear and 11 on the pinion). This 3:1 ratio would surely be better on the trail than the stock 2.8:1 gearing (31/11).

    When I arrived at the fellow’s house, I was met by a bleary-eyed young man who had been up all night. He knew precious little about the brand, mechanics or life in general. The previous owner, he told me, had attempted to turn it into a scrambler. It had aggressive tires, and in the interest of weight savings, was stripped of every part deemed unnecessary. Other parts were stripped by the laws of physics gone bad. It leaned against a wall in a cluttered garage begging to be put out to pasture.

    I had my doubts.

    “I took it to the dealer, and they said the transmission is locked…” he offered sleepily.

    Grasping the rear tire north & south, I gave a wiggle. Almost no perceptible freeplay. Then pulled the final drive drain plug. Honey flowed with no telltale metallic glitter on the magnet. While the bike was a horror, the part I was after looked great.

    Sinking my 12mm hex into the final drive pivot pins, the guy points to the front swingarm pins and says, “Wouldn’t it be easier to disconnect up here?”

    Containing myself, I replied, “Good point…”

    Final drive, drive shaft, swingarm: $75.

    I felt like a thief.

    The donor bike had 50k on the clock, but my GS had 84k; so a step in the right direction.

    I’m happy to report the transplant was a huge success! I can now pull tree stumps. No feathering (smoking) the clutch at the slightest grade. No more Fred Flintstone starts. I can now deftly pick my way through precarious terrain without killing the engine. I’m not sure what the boys in Berlin were thinking, but it can now be used like a GS.

    The only downside is absence of mounting bosses for the GS possum scraper (aka: mudguard). But I can live with that.

    Note: The 33/11 final drive runs about 500 rpm higher going 70 mph in sixth gear. Some who have performed the swap prefer the 32/11 ratio for better highway cruising (and perhaps better gas mileage). And they may be right. But the first test was on a particularly rough stretch of the COBDR and I was thrilled with the results.

    DSC_1713_1150 Gear Ratios_Resized.jpg
    Final drive gear ratios are stamped here.
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  11. NoelJ

    NoelJ Been here awhile

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    USA
    That's awesome; I love a great bargain that's a mechanical win. Someday something like that will happen to me too. :D
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  12. Ozark08

    Ozark08 Been here awhile

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    I hope you're not staying so busy you can't go visit a certain lady friend. Or she could visit you...
  13. lanztek

    lanztek Adventurer

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    This is by far the best RR I've ever read...reads like a novel. Can't wait for the rest of it. CDT is on my bucket list
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  14. MotoRojo

    MotoRojo Adventurer

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    North Vancouver BC
    You have a beautiful way to describe in amazing captivating detail, even the most mundane activities and thereby evoking in us a feeling of actually being there to live the moment. Thank you Bwanajames, for sharing this gift of yours and allowing us in a very special way, to tag along in your incredible adventure.

    But speaking of which, you also stoked the flame in me to stop dreaming and set the date to ride the CDT. My plan is to start at the Canada/US border in late August/early September to hopefully avoid the worst of the heat and monsoons once in NM. I am in the midst of all the planning and making careful notes from your observations, which is half the fun!

    It sounds from post #468 (wow!), that both the green and the blue tracks south of Helena are in fact, deserving a good flushing of red (ie difficult). If so, and based on your ride in the chameleon 'green' stripe, would your advice to those of us in heavier Adv steeds be to, just do the sissy thing and stick to the tarmac until gosh, -south of Walkerville?

    I cant wait to read your next installment to find out what you did around Fleecer Mountain which, according to GPSKevin's maps, is also labeled a blue track.
    bwanajames likes this.
  15. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

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    MotoRojo,

    Excellent! I’m glad to are taking the plunge. Barring the worst of catastrophes, it will surely be an enriching trip full of precious memories.

    However, an observation on trip planning if I may. On the CDT, I was inspired by all the bicyclists I met. Come May, I hope to be peddling north from Antelope Wells.

    Why May? Simply because New Mexico residents have advised that it is the ideal time to avoid the oppressive heat and – more importantly – the monsoon rains, which instantly make the most basic routes impassible.

    The good people at the National Weather Service tell us that monsoon season in The Land of Enchantment runs from June 15th to September 30th. For a southbound British Columbia resident wishing to avoid New Mexico's slippery mire, this means an early/mid September launch. However, finding yourself on the CDT’s highest passes (11,910’ Indiana Pass in southern Colorado) in late September, you may encounter a slippery mire of a different kind. Snow.

    Hence the charm of the CDT. With such a long trip, over very diverse terrain, it becomes a balancing act to avoid Mother Nature’s fury. Personally, I would rather error on the side of mud. A greasy New Mexico road dries quickly. Late September snow may be there a while.

    Your thoughts of a late August departure seem ideal.

    With regards to riding the CDT on a big adventure bike, the vast majority (90%) of blue routes, were for me, a man of average skills, easy. Unless Mother Nature dictates otherwise (and she probably will) I would avoid pavement. To fully absorb the true character of this marvelous ride, you really need to stay on as much dirt as possible.

    GPS Kevin did a great job plotting this route. But when he got back home and started color-coding, he may have missed a couple of spots. Hence the occasional surprise. But he collects rider feedback and may have already tweaked the route.

    With the Rimini re-route south of Helena (post #468), I believe the concerned local thought I was headed down the upcoming red section along the North Fork of Quartz Creek (see map). Sadly, I can't comment on the blue route into Basin, but I suspect it is just fine. However, the one tricky section aside, the Rimini to Basin route (green) was all dirt and excellent riding.


    Rimini CDT Routes_Notes.jpg

    Lastly, thank you for the kind words. I’m glad you are enjoying the report. Unlike, say, a magazine article, where there is compensation involved, ADVwriters currency is gratitude. Thanks to fellows like you, my bank account is full.

    BJ

    Attached Files:

  16. MotoRojo

    MotoRojo Adventurer

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    Thank you very much for the further helpful details on the routes above and advice in dealing with weather window conundrum.

    You are taking the adventure, and no doubt the endurance, to a new higher level by tackling the CDT by bicycle next! And why not. He who does not try misses out and best to grasp the opportunity while our bodies allow it. You have our admiration. Seems to me a book or magazine article is well in order to in a more tangible way, be rewarded for both your talent and efforts. Thanks Jim.
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  17. Bunce1260

    Bunce1260 Been here awhile

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    Oregon
    I'm not going to lie, reading this ride report inspired me to buy this a couple of weeks after finishing reading. While I don't see myself going on an adventure on this scale anytime soon, I hope to do shorter ones around the PNW.
    Keep up the ride reports mate. Double thumbs up.
    upload_2019-1-20_11-26-54.png
  18. m0t0-ryder

    m0t0-ryder RYD

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    Bay Area, California
    Whew!
    Read it all today.
    Great read and adventure.
    Thanks for sharing and motivating.
    bwanajames likes this.
  19. eakins

    eakins Butler Maps

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  20. MotoRojo

    MotoRojo Adventurer

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    Sticky, sticky! The right place for it. :clap