Mexico to Canada on Dirt - The Continental Divide Trail

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

  1. PapaDontPreach

    PapaDontPreach Been here awhile

    Joined:
    May 5, 2016
    Oddometer:
    109
    Location:
    Wandering the bootheel, New Mexico
    Wall Lake campground has been closed for many years. The lake and the property that the campground was on was leased by the state from the Fowler brothers. After many years of issues with the USDA Forest Service and the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish the Fowlers ended their lease. The actual campground has been bulldozed and fenced off.
    Solo Gato and fasttortoise like this.
  2. ki_ote

    ki_ote Cindi Jo Admirer

    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2012
    Oddometer:
    804
    Location:
    DFW, TX
    Papa, fyi, that yellow font is really hard to see. Unless, of course you don't want us seeing...in that case carry on.

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-G928A using Tapatalk
    OldTriumphRider likes this.
  3. Rich Rider

    Rich Rider Adventurer

    Joined:
    Nov 4, 2011
    Oddometer:
    28
    Location:
    Edmonton, Canada
    @bwanajames
    As someone in the same age bracket as you and in a similar "do it now or you'll regret it" frame of mind, your report is incredibly inspirational and informative. I appreciate reading your thoughts on deciding to take on this new adventure. I finished reading your Alaska report before catching up here and really appreciate how you embraced any and every opportunity (good or bad). Wonderfully well written and a pleasure to follow along with you. Thank you for sharing your personal journey in all its facets.
    Solo Gato, Billy52, lucertola and 2 others like this.
  4. 1stgenfarmboy

    1stgenfarmboy The Sherpa Man

    Joined:
    Jun 2, 2013
    Oddometer:
    6,585
    Location:
    southern tip of ILL
    Heck yes I'm in what do you think I am.
  5. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado
    Cinder Cones

    Once through the grasslands, the infamous C-42 snakes through juniper country. To the west are a series of cinder cones, giving the region its name. From above, the pockmarked landscape appears to be the victim of celestial shelling - but, quite the opposite. These are volcanoes that have blown their top, forming huge mountaintop craters.

    IMG_0644_crop_Cartoon_1300Resize_Sig.JPG


    Cinder Cone.jpg

    From the USGS:

    Cinder cones are the simplest type of volcano. They are built from particles and blobs of congealed lava ejected from a single vent. As the gas-charged lava is blown violently into the air, it breaks into small fragments that solidify and fall as cinders around the vent to form a circular or oval cone. Most cinder cones have a bowl-shaped crater at the summit and rarely rise more than a thousand feet or so above their surroundings. Cinder cones are numerous in western North America as well as throughout other volcanic terrains of the world.

    chain of Craters_GPSKevin.jpg
  6. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado
    Zuni Canyon

    Pine scent fills the air as I wind through the ponderosas on Forest Service Road 50. The track beneath me drains well. For the moment, the evil mud is behind me.

    Nearing Grants, I plunged into the carved copper walls of Zuni Canyon. There I faced the pleasant problem of admiring the geologic formations, or whipping through the exhilarating set of twisties.

    At the Grants city limits – home of the world’s largest speed bumps - be prepared to use your skid plate.

    IMG_0645_tight crop_cartoon_sig_1300Resize.JPG


    Grants Route_Rain3_Notes.jpg
    The Chain of Craters Byway was a memorable route I would not want to miss. But, I’ve come to the conclusion that green routes don’t exist simply for the benefit of sissies; they are necessary work-arounds to deal with Mother Nature’s many moods. The problematic C-42 is a prime example.
  7. Little Bike

    Little Bike Air/Clutz Sue Supporter

    Joined:
    May 13, 2012
    Oddometer:
    10,409
    Location:
    Temecula CA
    No muddy bike/rider pics?!



    Jk,
    Fabulous trip!
  8. norton73

    norton73 drinkin' Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2003
    Oddometer:
    13,505
    Location:
    Beautiful Downtown Springville, Alabama
    Great report and writing.
    I especially like the maps you add with details.
    Subscribed!
    bwanajames likes this.
  9. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado
    Grants

    GrantsGreetings.jpg

    CDTMap3 Notes_Cuba to Grants, NM_1300.jpg

    Running through Grants, New Mexico - the one-time carrot capital of the U.S. – is famed Route 66. Like the way into town, green (easy) and blue (original) CDT routes were offered going north. Rolling down Main Street of America, I turned onto road 547 (blue) heading for East Grants Ridge.

    A dozen miles from town, my GPS showed the CDT departing onto a steep, rocky, Jeep trail. Perplexed, I parked the bike and did some exploratory hiking. It didn’t look good. Unladen, I might have attempted it; but I wasn’t going to shuttle gear for god knows how long.

    (Exasperated sigh…)

    Crestfallen, I backtracked to Grants to take the sissy paved route. Fuming, I had to get a grip. Here I was, free as a bird, riding through marvelous country. I should be elated - regardless of the road surface.

    While it would be easy to curse my brawny German tank, without it I’d be sitting home staring out the window.

    Grants Red Route Back-out2.jpg

    Grants Red Route Back-out_Arrow_Notes.jpg
    Words to the wise: It wasn’t until much later that I realized I didn’t have to turn around at all.
  10. everready

    everready Stuck in Ohio....Ugh!!!

    Joined:
    Jul 1, 2013
    Oddometer:
    3,434
    Location:
    Macedonia, Ohio
    "I had to get a grip. Here I was, free as a bird, riding through marvelous country. I should be elated - regardless of the road surface."

    ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
  11. Scoutman

    Scoutman Misanthropic Drifter

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2011
    Oddometer:
    529
    Location:
    North Idaho...Sorry, No Vacancy
    BWJ,
    Thank you....Thank you.....I am thoroughly enjoying your ride report. The storytelling is first rate and the maps are a valuable resource. I am interested in your previous off-road riding experience level? Thus far, it seems that there were a few "Blue" sections you chose not to do due to difficulty and the fact you were riding it solo. I am running this South to North starting 01JUL17 with my wife. I will be on my 950, she on her 1200GS.
    We plan on running the standard route where possible, but splitting up where I choose to run the Advanced sections. She is an excellent technical rider, but lacks confidence on the big bike. My concern is her having difficulty on the "Blue" route while temporarily separated. An honest evaluation of your skill level would be very valuable to me in determining if I should be worried about her or not.

    Again, congrats on a successful journey and a stellar ride report.

    Cheers!

    Phil
    bwanajames likes this.
  12. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado

    Scoutman,

    The few blue (original) routes I avoided were because of:

    1. Needed gas. (Went to Datil, NM)

    2. A mismarked trail above Grants (detour should have been “red”, I could have easily continued on the blue route had it been properly marked. See photos on post #112).

    3. Rode 90% of a blue route going to Abiquiu, NM before it turned into a 4wd trail. Took forest service roads to Coyote, NM.

    4. Weather (Abiquiu to Chama, NM. Torrential downpours. No matter how good a rider, you aren’t going to win a battle with NM mud).

    5. Construction/Forest Service road Closures (there was one in Colorado (massive rock pile barricade) and one in Montana (bridge out) that prevented traveling blue routes).

    The most gnarly section of the trail was, ironically, a green (easy) route south of Helena, Montana. I took it on the advice of a local, who warned against the blue route over Lava Pass (he may have been thinking of a nearby red route). After coming off the mountain on the advised green route, a road construction worker looked at me and couldn’t believe I rode a bike though it. He was familiar with the trail and said he wouldn’t take his truck over it. A green route in Colorado had the only deep water crossing (run-off dependent). While the "difficulty color-coding" was generally reliable, there were some surprises.

    My dirt experience: I’ve never owned a true dirt bike, but am not intimidated by off-road travel. In fact, I enjoy dirt and often seek out alternate routes to include it. But I don’t do gnarly single tracks on the big GS, where the heavy machine feels out of place. My skill level? That’s hard to assess, as I don’t ride with other guys. But I’m no GS Giant expert! On a scale of 1-10, I’d say a modest 5-6.

    Should you be concerned about your wife on the big GS? For the most part, I would say no. It would be rare for her to run into something technical and unmanageable on standard CDT blue routes. But if she does drop the heavy machine, there may not be anybody coming along to help her for a VERY long time. I frequently rode for hours without seeing anybody. If she is comfortable in the woods, it may not be a big deal. If she’s not, she’ll be terrified. The ability to communicate using walkie-talkies (don’t count on cell service…) or text message via Delorme InReach would put both your minds at ease.

    My Route advice: Take the blue routes exclusively (or red if you're able), unless weather, fuel, or road closures dictate otherwise. And they will! 90% of the CDT blue routes are tame forest service roads. In my view, where blue routes turned into Jeep trails were the result of exploratory efforts on the part of the route maker. To keep the color-coding and route character consistent, some editing would be required. While this sounds like a criticism, it is not. I realize the difficulty of creating a motorcycle CDT route and am deeply appreciative of those who came before me.

    BJ
  13. Bigbore4

    Bigbore4 Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,020
    Location:
    Andover MN USA
    OK, Caught up and in. Read your AK report and enjoyed it. I am keenly interested in this. I have the CDR on my list, I have a large bike.

    Question, I have surmised you are writing this after the fact. Did I miss a date stamp somewhere? Only ref I saw was July heat in NM.

    Keep it coming, looks like an amazing trip!
  14. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado
    Bigbore,

    You are correct. This is a completed ride transcribed from my journal. For me, these ride reports take so much time (photo editing, composing...) that it's not practical to do them on the road - especially when camping in the boonies.

    Before doing this trip, I looked for CDT ride reports from guys on bigger bikes and found little. Yet, the behemoth adventure bikes are very popular! Hopefully, this report will inspire people to ride the CDT regardless of what's in their garage. If you can ride forest service roads, you'll have a ball on the CDT.

    BJ
  15. HickOnACrick

    HickOnACrick Groovinator

    Joined:
    Dec 5, 2007
    Oddometer:
    3,250
    Location:
    captures.crunching.farewell
    Your experience through NM sounds very similar to mine...mud with the consistency of greased snot. I rode the CDT north-to-south and encountered little to make me pucker until I reached NM. Once in NM the quality of road degraded rapidly and I found myself on many 4-wheel drive roads with consequences, intermixed with flat long stretches of road that would suddenly turn into some of the slickest mud I have ever encountered. I was on a 950 SE, and didn't drop it in NM, but had many "what am I doing here alone" moments. Props for pulling it off on a GS!

    Like you, I saw very few motos on the CDT, but feel like it is one of the most epic multi-day trips I have done.
    outbacktm and bwanajames like this.
  16. Bigbore4

    Bigbore4 Long timer

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2010
    Oddometer:
    2,020
    Location:
    Andover MN USA
    I spent a day in the Nebraska Sand Hills area off pavement. Dirt and sand ranch roads. And a day in the mountains of MT on wet dirt / clay on street treads. A bit puckering but survived.

    I believe I will tear a page from your book and that will be next years summer big ride!

    Thanks for taking he time to drag us along!
    b56tc likes this.
  17. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado
    Bigbore,

    Like the KTM guy with the hot girlfriend said: "You'll get used to it..." :D

    BJ
    Jubalito likes this.
  18. orangebob

    orangebob n00b

    Joined:
    Jan 30, 2016
    Oddometer:
    6
    Location:
    Belgium
    I'm in !
    Having traveled large parts of Colorado, Wyoming, Montana and Canadians BC and Alberta, passing the CD many times, this Belgian is waiting for your brilliant story to come ...
    Relying on what I've been reading so far, this is very promising ... way to go ! Like the slightly sarcastic and self critisizing writing style ! Will read the Alaska story as well as soon as I have a couple of free hours to spend.
  19. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado
    Orangebob,

    A Belgian! Welcome to our digital campfire!

    Boarding a high-speed train in the UK, I was eager for my first trip through the eerily subterranean marvel known as the Chunnel. Surfacing in France, only then could I appreciate the blinding speed. At 300 km/h (186 mph), cars on a parallel highway looked like they were standing still!

    Heading north to Amsterdam, we made a brief stop in Brussels. At that moment, the sage advice of a co-worker drifted back to me.

    “If you get a chance, stop in Belgium. They make the best beer. That’s where it all started!”

    Dashing for an ATM, I got a fist-full of Euros and searched for a pub. I didn’t have to go far. Requesting a local brew, I then asked the jovial bartender to kindly snap a photo.

    This was June 17, 2014 and World Cup fever was running high. Belgium had just defeated Algeria. As I hoisted a frosty Leffe, festive locals donned this passing American with local colors.

    Travel is one of the few things you buy that makes you rich.

    BJ

    DSC_8266_5x7_adj_Brussels,Belgium_1300resize.jpg


    DSC_8263_crop_adj_1300resize.JPG
  20. bwanajames

    bwanajames Moto sapien

    Joined:
    Dec 25, 2011
    Oddometer:
    341
    Location:
    Colorful Colorado
    Trust your Instruments

    Twenty-eight miles later, I was back on dirt. Rolling down San Lucas Road passed El Derrame Canyon, I was delighted to be standing on the pegs again. Open country sprinkled with pungent sage sprawled out before me.

    Before long, I found myself in the driveway of a lonely ranch. This can’t be right?

    Double-check the GPS. Zoom-in, zoom-in, zoom-in…

    Well, according to my fancy space-age device and a constellation of satellites mysteriously hovering above, I'm in the right place. Hmm… Pilots say “Trust your instruments…” So, as long as the rancher doesn’t pepper my delicate derrière with birdshot, I guess I’ll keep going.

    Close enough to toss the Sunday paper on his doorstep, I continued down a literal cow trail. Hardly brimming with confidence, I encountered a lake in the road which was easily skirted.

    Crap. A gate.

    Where I come from, gates don’t come without padlocks. Ugghh…

    Sidestand down. Sprint over. Hey, no lock!

    San Lucas Road_Ranchers Front Yard.jpg


    San Lucas Road_Ranchers Front Yard2_Notes.jpg


    IMG_0647_crop_Unsharp_Mask_sig_1300resize.JPG
    slogger, stuntchick, jays100 and 11 others like this.