Northern eXposure - gold roads, wilderness trails, and bacon.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by JMo (& piglet), May 23, 2017.

  1. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    May 23rd 2017

    "Ok piglet, I think it's time for another big adventure..."

    "Ok Mama!"

    It's been two years since my cross-country trip on the first production Rally Raid CB500X Adventure in the USA (and those of you who followed that exploit at the time may recall that at this time 730 days ago I was still recovering from camping at below freezing during the 2015 snOverland Expo!), and a lot has happened since then...

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    Not least, having been so impressed with the way that bike ate up the road miles and devoured the trails (including the complete Trans-Am Trail on my way back west), that I've now bought my own CB500X and kitted it out in a similar fashion, and already racked up nearly 12,000 miles all over the western USA - highlights from last year include the inaugural CBXpo [group] ride, and of course that little foray Juan Browne and I enjoyed* on the Rubicon Trail last September...

    *I say 'enjoyed', I mean endured of course - to see what I mean, his video is here:



    In all of those instances, I'd been fortunate to have either already ridden the roads/trails in question, or at least been familiar with the region and terrain I'd be passing though - although that's not to say you can't still get caught out by the unexpected of course!

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    However, this year, I feel it's time to spread my wings a little further afield, and explore some states and indeed a whole new country, that I've never visited before...



    Oh Canada!

    Yes, I think it's finally time to embark on a little moose-dodging, and see what the northern territories have to offer!

    Fortunately this desire has also coincided with a couple of invitations to ride with some long-term friends and associates north of the boarder - in the western provinces I'll be visiting an old rally-racing pal who lives in the Jasper National Park, en route to spending the weekend of the 23-25th June with Alan and Lisa from the Rocky Mountain Adventure Bike Touring Company (www.RMABTC.com) to take part in their 'Canadian CB500X Rendevouz' - an informal gathering of CB owners in conjunction with the Alberta Dual-Sport event held at Macklin Lake, Saskatchewan - do contact RMABTC for more info. It's only $40 for the weekend!

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    photo. RMABTC rental fleet includes 2016 model Honda CB500Xs with the Rally Raid LEVEL 1 and 2 kits fitted.


    In the east, and indeed the ultimate destination this particular trip is going to be Toronto (although I'm actually planning on dipping back into the USA for a time during my journey east - see details below), where I've been invited to attend the Overland Adventure Rally - hosted each year by the esteemed Canadian Dakar racer and all-round moto guru Lawrence Hacking - and I'm scheduled to present a couple of AV seminars during the weekend of July 7-th-9th. More info regarding that event in the link above.

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    So, using those more formal commitments as a structure - in between time, piglet and I will endeavour to take you on another cross-country adventure using words and pictures (and of course blogged here on ADVrider - almost in real time whenever possible) - that I'm confident will include some new [to me anyway] and exciting wilderness routes on road and off, that in turn will hopefully inspire you to get on your bike and explore further afield too!

    As with the original 2015 Trans-Am 500 trip - this isn't intended to be a catalogue hard-core off-road challenges... indeed, the reason I built my own adventure bike around the Honda CB500X is precisely because of it's all-road / all-terrain capabilities - and certainly my proposed route is going to include just as many epic paved highways* as unsurfaced roads and trails.

    *In that regard, my initial route planning has included the Butler Motorcycle Maps for various states I'll be passing through - and where they have highlighted their recommended 'gold roads' in each region.

    In addition, I also intend to visit a number of 'tourist' spots on my way both east and back west - not least as I'm always impressed with how the US tends to make the most of their landmarks and historic points of interest. Some of these will be instantly familiar (I've never seen Old Faithful or Mt Rushmore for example - hence me dipping back into the US during the east-bound leg), others perhaps less so - but all ought to offer some interesting punctuation along the way...

    So, enough waffle* - what can we expect in the coming weeks?

    *You can never have enough waffle of course, or syrup, or bacon...


    Route outline

    First of all, I've split this trip into four distinct parts - not least as it makes route planning far more manageable, and hopefully easier to follow too!

    The first leg will be to travel north through the pacific coast states, and cross into Canada.

    LEG 1: San Jose CA (USA) - Macklin Lake SK (CAN)

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    photo. Note this is google maps, which tends to snap to paved roads - the actual route is likely to deviate slightly from this overview.

    Day -21: My plan is to leave the Bay Area exactly three weeks from today (on Tuesday 13th June), and head north on some familiar and favourite paved roads - although I also intend to incorporate a few new trails in Northern California en route to visit Harold and the team at Giant Loop in Bend Oregon.

    From there I'll take a scenic [primarily] paved route via Portland, before picking up the southern section of the Washington BDR (Backcountry Discovery Route, again published on paper by Butler Maps for those unfamiliar) en route for Seattle, and ultimately the boarder crossing into Canada.

    I will then loop initially north west of Vancouver on a series of backcountry highways and dirt-roads (passing though the Whistler Ski/Mountain-bike resort) in British Colombia, before crossing the Rocky Mountains into Alberta through the Jasper National Park. RMABTC are based about an hour or so south of Edmonton AB, and we'll be riding together to the Alberta Dual Sport weekend (23-25th June) just over the province boarder in Saskatchewan.


    LEG 2: Macklin Lake SK (CAN) - Toronto ON (CAN)

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    This is the sector I'm particularly looking forward to!

    Initially I will actually head back south and west a little, to cross into Montana at the north end of the Glacier National Park, and pick up the legendary "Going-to-the-sun Road" which is one of Butler's Gold Standards in not only Montana, but the whole of the United States!

    I will then work my way diagonally south on a mix of dirt roads and scenic highways, and cross into Wyoming on the western side of Yellowstone National Park. Now I'm conscious that at this time of year, Yellowstone is likely to be particularly busy with tourist traffic (of which I am part of course!), so I'll make a break back into southern Montana for a moment at least, via the epic Beartooth Scenic Byway (Hwy 212) - topping out at an elevation of almost 11,000ft - and another one of those Gold Standard roads in the region.

    Conscious that I will need to keep moving east if I'm to meet my deadline in Toronto, I've plotted a route through northern Wyoming that mixes scenic paved roads and what look to me some pretty decent wilderness dirt trails, before inevitably snatching a few interstate miles towards Sundance, where I'll endeavour to get of the blacktop as soon as possible, en-route for Deadwood* South Dakota...

    (*one of my favourite TV shows from a few years ago - not least because of the copious profanity, for which I myself am known of course ;o)


    Of course South Dakota also plays host to a good number of other iconic landmarks and attractions - including Mt. Rushmore, the ongoing Crazy Horse monument and Badlands National Park, all of which I intend to drop by and see what all the fuss is about!

    From there though, it's likely to require another stint on the interstate, where I plan to pass through Minneapolis and pay homage to Prince at First Avenue, then head north for Duluth (Love it or loathe it, you can never leave it or lose it), before ultimately crossing back into Canada and riding right around the top of Lake Superior en route for Toronto, and the Overland Adventure Rally weekend.

    Phew!

    cont.
    #1
  2. Bultaco206

    Bultaco206 Back-to-back motos suck Supporter

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    From the Minneapolis area you should consider heading northeast across northern Wisconsin and into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on gravel and 2-track and crossing at Sault Ste. Marie. While the north shore of Superior is awesome, the off-the-beaten-path of the Northwoods is just as awesome...and the perfect terrain for the kitted 500X.
    #2
  3. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    cont.

    LEG 3: Toronto ON (CAN) - Salida CO (USA)

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    The return journey is effectively one of two distinct halves - a needs-must, followed by more of an indulgence.

    That is not to say there are not some excellent deviations and distractions to an otherwise monotonous initial journey though the mid-west - I can think of Chicago (1060 West Addison, Blues Brothers fans ;o) and Indianapolis (Indy 500) to name but two places that I'd like to visit one day - but fundamentally, I will have been on the road for almost a month already, and more importantly, am really looking forward to riding a few more western trails - especially some of the high passes in Colorado - a couple of which I'd had to forfeit during my TAT ride in June 2015, as they were still covered with snow...

    Of course this harsh winter (and ongoing spring storms in the higher country) may mean that once I am once again thwarted, even if I am passing through a few weeks later than before - but that's the gamble I'm going to have to take...

    So my plan is to leave Canada via Niagara Falls, and I've calculated it is 1566 miles from Buffalo NY to Colorado Springs CO - so if I can knock that out in less than 36 hours, then I've earned myself an Iron Butt 'Bun Burner' certificate* and broken the back [distance wise] of half the return journey in less than two days.

    *after completing a 'Saddle Sore' (1000 miles in 24 hours or less) during the Trans-Am 500 I did say I had no intention of ever doing an Iron-Butt ride again - but hell, I've got a whole bunch of new tunes in my iPod this year, so who knows - just as long as it's not raining... ;o)

    Either way, my plan at this stage is to get some fresh tyres fitted in Colorado Springs, ride those roads up and down from Cripple Creek that were closed due to flooding and landslides back in 2015, and meet up with Juan Browne in Salida where we will hatch a plan to take in as many high passes as we can on our way back west.


    LEG 4: Salida CO to San Jose CA.

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    The final leg is more of a personal indulgence - taking in a few favourites together some trails I might have missed previously, and hopefully a few new [technical] challenges too!

    Certainly I'd like to ride California and Corkscrew (part of the official TAT route) that were snowbound in June 2015, plus I'd like to prove to myself and anyone else that the CB500X is just as bit a capable as my XT660Z was on the original TAT route that used Hancock and Tomichi passes...

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    If Old Monarch Pass is clear (another than tends not to be county-maintained any more), then that would be fun - as would Black Bear down into Telluride of course - but all these are going to be subject to the weather I know...

    However, I'm confident that once we reach the Utah boarder, things are going to be warm and dry - possibly to excess - so that will also dictate our final route home, which is currently very much weather dependent and therefore fluid at the moment.


    I've certainly spent a lot of time in Moab in recent years, so this time I will most likely forfeit the La Sal mountains and the northern route (via Green River and the new TAT, fun though that is), and instead stay south through Monticello and the Abajo Mountains, before heading west though southern Utah via Hite/Bullfrog and the Burr Trail to Escalante.

    From there we have plenty of dirt-road options - and at this stage I envisage going via Zion, St. George, Hurricane and the Arizona high desert north of the Grand Canyon towards Vegas - which sounds like the perfect nostalgia trip, a route I've not ridden for nearly ten years now!

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    It's all good stuff!

    Well, apart from this part:

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    Oh, and this guy:

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    From Vegas, Juan and I plan to ride some alternative trails though the Mojave Desert - if only in part as a reccy for our proposed [not the]CBXpo Ride V2. planned for the end of September this year...

    So that is probably enough to be going on with for now - one thing is for sure, it's going to be quite the trip:

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    18 US States, 4 Canadian Provinces and getting on for another 10,000 miles once I'm done!

    Between now and then, I'll also be sharing my latest packing hints and tips for this particular trip - plus I'll also have a whole new look for my CB500X to introduce you to too in the coming days and weeks (in fact a package from the UK has just arrived, so watch this space as they say!)

    In the meantime, I'll leave you with this - a new paint job in honour of this year's destination's flag!

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    More soon!

    Toot toot!

    Jenny xx
    #3
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  4. MotoVentures

    MotoVentures Stromaholic

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    Looks like fun! I'm in!
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  5. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Awesome Jenny! I am looking forward to some of your North western routes I may steal for a ride this summer.
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  6. No-Fret

    No-Fret DeplorableTanker

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    Let us PNW folks know if/when you think you'll be close to the Seattle/Tacoma area during your first leg. :)
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  7. Wind_Rider

    Wind_Rider Been here awhile

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    Looking forward to seeing you soon in Portland and hopefully ride some of the WABDR with you after that!

    Happy trails, see you soon.
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  8. garzan

    garzan Been here awhile

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    That big lake ENE of the "A" in Montana is where I lived for ten years--which also has a great deal to do with why I live in tropical Thailand now. :-)
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  9. appliance57

    appliance57 Long timer

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    On that return trip, I'd dip further south into Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky , Tennessee. I think there's beauty to be found. I've only been through Pennsylvania, and it has great roads and is so lush and green - strangely beautiful. I've been through the states you list on your route, and its not so interesting.

    I've been on the Sun Road and it's nice, but Glacier is packed in the summer so it will be slow. One road that is beautiful is Beartooth Road from Montana to Wyoming. A great riding road that goes through breathtaking glacial landscape and will end up at a lessor entrance to Yellowstone. A strange and funky little place.

    If you're going through the Tetons -that stand out as uniquely, and quietly, beautiful in an area of beauty, there's good camping at the Gros Ventre campground. Or, you can follow that road up into the hills and find more remote grounds by the lake. The town on that road consists of a small post office and a mother/daughter breakfast nook. I'm not a foodie, but the homemade waffles and good coffee is a treat.

    Another poster recommended the upper peninsula, and I agree. The route through Canada has good moments, but generally it's second growth scrub and not too interesting.

    I should add that this is IMO - I have no doubt insulted many of my fellow countrymen and neighbors - apologies.
    #9
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  10. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi Appliance - thank you for your suggestions! With regard to the return route, I am already familiar with much of West Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee (not least during the Trans-Am 500 ride of course), and agree - there is some magnificent riding in that region - indeed, I recall I considered my route winding though Kentucky and West Virginia actually trumped my trip to the Alps on a Ducati a few years previously - for the shear surprise and enjoyment!

    I am not familiar with Pennsylvania it's true, and I may be doing them a disservice by breezing though on this occasion - but I am on a limited time-frame this trip, and already have commitments to meet and ride with Juan in Colorado the following week...

    So I guess I'm just going to have to plan another trip east for 2018 eh?

    Thank you again for sharing your knowledge of the various regions - it's invaluable when planning a trip like this - unfortunately I'm well prepared for slow traffic in the National Parks, but as you say - both Going-to-the-Sun and Beartooth are on pretty much everyone's 'must ride' list, and this trip is the perfect opportunity to encompass both!

    I'm sure things will evolve once I get on the road!

    Jenny x
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  11. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Dirt Farmer

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    In and Subscribed. :lurk
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  12. Hi-De-Ho

    Hi-De-Ho Mad Scientist Super Supporter

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    Me too...in...and subscribed.

    Now where did I put those Unicorn treats ? :dunno
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  13. Jktrail

    Jktrail Adventurer

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    Sounds like an amazing adventure! I'm a new rider myself (2nd bike), and I just bought a 2016 cb. I'm awaiting the stage 3 kit, so it will be fun to follow this trip as I upgrade my bike.
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  14. agplant

    agplant Ride Fast Travel Slo

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    Looking forward to this one.:lurk
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  15. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hee hee - unicorn treats!

    As a sneak preview, here's a little treat for my unicorn that I've been working on recently:

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    More soon, I have some wiring to do!

    Jx
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  16. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    In the meantime, I've also revamped my 'Packing Light' seminar that I've presented over the past year at various overland events (both in the UK and US), and updated the original slide-show to reflect some of my latest revisions:



    note. this is simply the slide-show that I use to illustrate my presentation, so you may want to pause the video from time to time to study a particular photo/list in more detail.

    Now I'm not suggesting this is a definitive guide of course (erm, actually I am, you overloaded heffers ;o) - but fundamentally it's what works for me, and I hope it shows that with a little forethought and some clever doubling up - just how little you can get away with, and still be comfortable for an indefinite period on [and off] the road...

    Certainly for this particular trip I'm conscious I'll more than likely need to combat the cold and wetter weather than I might should I be travelling though the desert states over the summer - so my ultimate packing (and access) will reflect that... however, other than adding/deleting a swim-suit and shorts perhaps (depending on your destination and/or priorities - I've been known to swim in some suitably modest underwear and a sports bra), the above really ought to cover all eventualities?

    Feel free to ask questions here - or better still, if you're near Macklin Lake or Toronto on the dates above* where I'll be presenting this seminar plus my Trans-Am 500/TAT AV presentation, then I'd be delighted to answer any questions in person of course!

    Jx

    *note. for UK readers, I'll also be presenting the 'Packing Light' seminar at the Overland Event in Oxfordshire 1-3rd September 2017, together with the debut of my brand new AV travelogue from this summer's Canada and northern United States tour.

    I'll then be back in the US at the end of September for the Horizons Unlimited California event with those presentations, and not least the [Not the] CBXpo Ride V2. with Juan Browne... so hope to see some of you along the way!
    #16
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  17. boardforever

    boardforever Been here awhile Supporter

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    Jenny,
    When are you coming through OR/WA it would be cool to meet you and maybe ride with you for a couple days.
    #17
  18. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi Board' - I plan to leave San Jose on Tuesday 13th June, so will be in Oregon the next day (aiming to arrive in Bend by Wednesday evening), then visit the guys at Giant Loop first thing on Thursday, then ride up to Portland that afternoon... and start the WABDR from Stevenson on Friday into Saturday - hopefully Wind_Rider will be able to join me/us for that section too!

    Jx
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  19. boardforever

    boardforever Been here awhile Supporter

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    Cool, I'll see if I can make it work to meet up with you guys on Friday. Stevenson is just a half hour or so from where I live.
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  20. Hi-De-Ho

    Hi-De-Ho Mad Scientist Super Supporter

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    Jenny, he is not the only rider planning on meeting you at the start of the WABDR, as I know I will be there too...and now we might have boardforever along with us too. Should we bring Unicorn treats for piglet ? :p3rry
    #20
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