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

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

  1. RMABTC

    RMABTC Been here awhile

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    Lol I can clarify, we had the bike on the centre stand, then just let it balance on the front forks so we could carry on with the puncture, unfortunately this is the balance point at where the bike can rotate forwards off the stand, and hey presto that's what it did!!

    At that point I just elected to leave it on its side while we finished the repair,

    Have to say in the workshop I do usually prop the bike when working on the front,

    But as this is a trail repair, bike on its side will do


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  2. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Just checking in from the Overland Adventure Rally venue - my west-east leg of this trip is now complete!

    I'll be spending the weekend here, and doing my best to entertain the Saturday evening crowd with my Trans-Am presentation... Then the return west will start on Monday 10th.

    I will do my best to get a few more daily reports up asap - but trust me, they will be worth waiting for - Montana was epic, and similarly it turns out that the Black Hills Sourh Dakota is ADV bike Mecca too!

    More soon, right now a beer is calling me...

    Jenny xx
  3. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Ok everyone, I'm actually sitting at a proper computer in Colorado Springs - so prepare for a serious update!

    First up, you may recall I was in Toronto at the weekend, and now I'm here in Colorado Springs, approximately 1800 miles away from the Overland Adventure Rally venue...

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    photo. still on the same rear tyre I started this trip with, nearly 9000 miles ago!

    The reason I'm so far again west in such a short space of time is that I elected to ride another Iron-Butt starting on Monday morning, this time pushing on through to complete 1500 miles in less that 36 hours (it was actually just under 34 hours, including an 8 hour stop overnight - not least to do some laundry ;o), and I rolled into Colorado Springs early evening yesterday...

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    photo. sticking mainly to the interstate (I70 for much of the way) allowed a high average speed... it was just over 70mph for most of the journey, except the last 30 miles between Denver and Colorado Springs in homecoming rush-hour traffic dropped the average speed slightly...

    I'm currently getting fresh tyres fitted, plus I am now desperately in need of an oil change and some fresh front brake pads too - which I'll be doing this afternoon...

    More soon!

    Jenny x
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  4. Hi-De-Ho

    Hi-De-Ho Mad Scientist Super Supporter

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    Love it. You Go Jenny
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  5. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    So, back to the story... where were we Piglet? ah yes, still in southern Alberta, about to cross back into the USA...

    Day 15: Tuesday 27th June - Pincher Creek AB to Choteau MT (215 miles)

    "Home on the ranges"

    There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but the free breakfast at the Parkway Motel in Pincher Creek was more than acceptable - decent dispenser coffee, orange juice that wasn't watered-down, and two toasted bagels with marmalade - nice!

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    photo. hitting the road early, to cross the US boarder in good time...

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    photo. I can recommend this crossing - there were only two cars ahead of me, and cheery customs staff too!

    Within 20 miles of crossing into Montana, I was on my first trail of the day:

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    photo. looking towards Glacier National Park from St. Mary Ridge Road - a faint grassy two-track that runs parallel with hwy 89 below...


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    photo. These guys came wandering over as I undid another wire gate (there would be a lot of these gates in Montana I would soon come to realise).

    My plan was to ride the 'gold' road "Going-to-the-Sun" through the Glacier National Park, then head back east again on scenic hwy 2 a little further south... however, on arriving at the park entrance station, I was fortunately informed (before I'd paid my $80 to purchase an annual Parks pass) that the road was only open for about 13 miles - there was still 10 miles of snow to clear in the middle. I really didn't fancy riding up to a turn-around point behind a parade of RVs, so scrubbed that one from the list, sought solace in an ice-cream parlour in St. Mary, and plotted a new plan of attack...

    I had the Butler Motorcycle Map of Montana with me, and while they have yet to produce a dedicated 'BDR' route for this particular State, at least some main dirt roads are highlighted, and which fundamentally are through-routes too of course. Heading south (and slightly east) down 89 would see me on another section of their recommended 'gold' roads south of Kiowa, and a quick zoom in on the GPS showed a network of unsurfaced roads that cut diagonally south and east - exactly in the direction I wanted to be going!

    Initially I picked what looked like a through-route (in the GPS) off hwy 89, although after a succession of wire gates, the 'road' such as it was ended with no warning in a bush-lined river, and with no sign of a bridge (the remains of or otherwise), I had no choice but to retrace my tracks and rejoin the highway to Kiowa.

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    photo. Turning around in the long grass, my wheel hit a rock, and over I went!

    This ultimately meant I got to ride the first part of hwy 49 out of Kiowa of course, and although short, it is exceptionally sweet - and definitely worthy of it's 'gold' status...

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    photo. Soon up in the hills again on an old mining trail...

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    photo. View from the top (back towards Glacier National Park) - this would make a cool camping spot too!

    The trail then continued east on as series of ATV sized two-track - wonderful! - and all the while still being routed by my GPS.

    At one point, the trail I was on crossed another (in the GPS), but honestly, it was barely on the ground at all - still, I picked my way across the pasture with the GPS zoomed right in, and sure enough, it led to a more major gravel road that would cross hwy 2, before disappearing again into the long grass pasture as I headed towards Heart Butte. It was an excellent example of how using a GPS (with the right maps of course) can pay dividends!

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    photo. So maybe this is where Manson's old bus ended up - abandoned at a ranch in the middle of Montana...

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    photo. Seriously, that's an 'unsurfaced road' in Garmin's City Navigator maps!

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    photo. Just west of Heart Butte is a delightful trail that winds though rolling hills, past lakes and meadows...

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    photo. stopping for an early dinner at Buffalo Joe's in Dupuyer.

    Already Montana was throwing up far more gems that I'd perhaps expected! Initially I'd planned to simply ride south through the State in just a couple of days, heading towards Yellowstone National Park, and then take the Beartooth Highway that crosses between Wyoming and Montana as part of my onward journey east... but if today had proved anything already, it was that all this wilderness trailage was way too good to pass up!

    Over dinner I hatched a new plan - I decided I'd forfeit the undoubtedly tourist hell that is Yellowstone (if I'm honest, while it might have been nice to see what the fuss is about, at the same time, there are a bazillion photos of Old Faithful, and I fear I'd just be part of a procession of tourists lumbering though the park and crowding every view point - and for me, it's always been about finding a view less seen, less visited...) and instead plotted a far more elaborate dirt route - taking in as many of the unsurfaced roads and trails on my map in an effort to create a sort of 'Trans-Montana Trail' or BDR through route as it were... especially since my only real commitment was not for another week (in Minnesota) for the 4th of July.

    This was going to be far more fun!

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    photo. I presume this is an Indigenous Indian name, but at the same time it also appeals to my inherently smutty British sense of humour ;o)

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    photo. beautiful scenery east of the Sawtooth Range mountains - made moreso in the early evening light.

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    photo. Obvious caption #2: 'A dirt monster... and a T-Rex'

    (cont.)
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  6. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Day 16: Wednesday 28th June - Choteau MT to White Sulphur Springs MT (193 miles)

    "Trans-Montana Trail"

    I'd decided to find a hotel since the campground on the edge of town was a windswept RV park, and the Gunther Motel was actually pretty nice (on the inside at least), and it was a relief to be back in a part of the US where you can still get a room for $50 or less, especially after the Canadian hotel prices!

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    photo. Time to oil that chain... fortunately a random off-cut of drainpipe worked perfectly as a prop-stand.

    I decided against breakfasting at the store which billed 'Espresso and Ammo' on the same sign (a volatile combination if ever there was one!), and opted for the far more salubrious 'Bridges' cafe further down the road on Main St. for a suitable coffee and smoothie influx.

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    photo. All the gear I'd need for mapping and recording my project for this week - a Trans-Montana BDR route!

    A quick jaunt down hwy 89 (everywhere you go in Montana you seem to cross/join the 'Geysers to Glaciers Highway' at some point!) before initially picking up a fast gravel road between Fairfield and Simms, then more gravel/dirt to Cascade (on I15), before embarking on more than 75 miles more dirt on what would turn out to be a highlight of the day...

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    photo. crossing over Sun River on the initial dirt road - even if there were no bridge, the river would have been wade-able as it was very shallow at this point.

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    photo. Crown Butte was visible for miles along the Simms-Cascade road.

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    photo. strange natural terracing on Crown Butte.

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    photo. OK, that's enough photos of Crown Butte - Ed.

    Millegan Road is an epic 75 mile route due south towards Canyon Ferry Lake - initially starting out as a series of fast gravel roads (across the prairie giving access to various ranches), before winding its way up to higher elevation where the road surface deteriorates into more traditional dirt - the kind that gets very slippery when wet, so it was a good job that at this time of year Montana is dry!

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    photo. Millegan Road is a fantastic back-country crossing, with, as it would turn out, a little bit of everything if you elect to explore some of the side trails once you get closer to Canyon Ferry Lake.

    As the trail climbed higher into the Helena National Forest, so too did the 'Beautiful People'* start to appear...

    *Those of you who followed my Trans-Am 500 report may recall I used this particular analogy when referring to all the side trails off the main [TAT] through route - that it was like walking into a bar full of beautiful people, and forgetting about the honey on your arm!

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    photo. This alternative to the main route would turn out to be an absolute corker. note. if this was Austin Vince's orienteering event, this sign would be a checkpoint ;o)

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    photo. After a few false starts (down dead-end trails to mining claims and/or private land), this trail [4161] turned out to be awesome!

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    photo. Mining claims are still being lodged in this area...

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    photo. ...and worked, at least occasionally.

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    photo. Fortunately the forestry have designated a through route across any private land.

    Even though I spent over two hours exploring these hills (initially thwarted by a locked gate, then a dead end, and then by mis-reading a sign on the particular route above - the land on either side was private, but the road through a right of way), I was ultimately rewarded with an epic trail though the forest - just technical enough to keep you on your toes, but totally big-bike-able and/or with luggage. Perfect!

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    photo. on reaching Canyon Ferry Lake, it was then time to head east on another well-marked dirt road - initially groomed gravel, before it started to climb over the Big Belt Mountains (via Duck Creek Pass at over 7500ft) where the weather inevitably would cause washouts and rougher terrain.

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    photo. More great scenic views - Montana is full of them!

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    photo. rolling into White Sulphur Springs from the west, you'll see this rather impressive brick house.

    White Sulphur Springs is a funny place... with a distinct lack of women to be seen anywhere. It was all windowless bars and rather grubby looking motels - not really what you'd call a 'resort' in the traditional sense - hot springs or not!

    I stumped up an extra eleven bucks for a smarter establishment on the edge of town (as far away from the somewhat scary Main St. thoroughfare as possible ;o), which included breakfast and wifi, and bedded down content with what I'd achieved so far... While it's true I'd not covered as much ground as I would have liked today (having started late in the morning, and diverted around and around in the forest later that afternoon), what I'd found so far had been very much worthy of inclusion in my personal 'definitive Montana' route!

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    photo. This made me smile, and the fajita special made my belly full!

    More soon... I have an oil change to perform!

    Toot toot for now!

    Jenny x
  7. Patobez

    Patobez Adventurer

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    I don't know Jenny, it looks like you must have recieved the "secret" city navigator maps on your gps. It loved the grass in eastern Alberta as well as Montana! Looks like I should have said "Screw work, and family responsibilties and kept following you from Edmonton. Opportunity missed!!! Ha ha

    Pat
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  8. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Day 17: Thursday 29th June - White Sulphur Springs MT to Livingston MT (266 miles* - on one tank of fuel! )

    "Montana Mountain Madness!"


    *Yes I know Livingston is technically just down the road (yep, hwy 89 again!) from White Sulphur Springs, but not the way I was planning on going!

    I don't mind paying top-dollar if the hotel is nice, and certainly the All Seasons Inn was the best of the bunch - an ex Super 8 (in a smart building) now independently run by very fastidious staff it seems - only their coffee was a little lacklustre...

    I'd woken early, caught up with some wifi based writing, phoned home, and was now ready to hit the trails again...

    Right out of town was a delightful 'warm-up' around Newland Creek Reservoir - plenty of free camping here, I'll remember that for next time ;o) - before rejoining hwy 89 for a Butler Maps 'red' road ride over Kings Hill Pass (not quite a 'gold', but close!)

    There seemed to be a huge network of forestry trails (according to my GPS) to the east - but this morning would be all about the pavement first. On reaching Monarch (a tiny town with one restaurant/bar, that may or may not have fuel, I didn't ask if the pumps actually worked), I then headed east on the unpaved Hughesville Road, which starts off following a creek (again with plenty of camping along it's length) before heading into more open country once you pick up Divide Road - but not before my GPS 'shortest route' function took me on the utterly epic 'Butcher Knife DV' trail - a rocky ATV route, and an appreciable climb in this direction* - which required all my concentration on the CB loaded with luggage, which simply tractored up it in fine style in first gear.

    *note. being conscientious in my pursuit of a BDR style route, I noted there is also more easy bypass to this trail - Spring Coulee Rd.

    It was bang on lunch-time when I finally arrived in Utica, after another one of those prairie trails that fades into grass... and took the only option in town:

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    photo. The Oxen Yoke Inn serves burgers in multiples of one size only - their 3/4lb patty!

    After lunch, Pig Eye Road lead right out of town, and swept through rolling pasture (again, more ranch access), before climbing through the Little Belt Mountains via the delightful Spring Creek Road:

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    photo. Rock formations, and a network of side trails to explore here too!

    I really was in my element now - the bike was singing along, the scenery sweeping by, the weather bright, cheerful and warm - and I was looking forward to joining the dots all the way to the southern border...

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    photo. An interesting alternative ATV & Motorcycle trail though the forest (which ultimately would rejoin the main road) - only if you look at the Season Closure date, I was one day out - denied! (I could have camped for 12 hours I guess ;o)


    Despite a sprinkling of rain towards the end of the trail (enough that I eventually put on my rain-pants), I was confident the rest of my proposed afternoon route would link up, and be uneventful...

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    photo. Certainly this particular trail was an absolute joy - climbing high into the Lewis & Clark National Forest just east of White Sulphur Springs - and affording a great view of the surrounding countryside.

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    photo. another fancy ranch sign.

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    photo. A well cared-for rural wooden church at Lennep. Needs a clock on that tower though!

    However, I could see in the distance to the south, the way I was heading now - that there were heavy rain clouds, currently dumping their load all over the Crazy Mountains - having already done their worst over exactly where I intended to try and cross through the mountains to their north, on what appeared to be a six mile gap on my map* between Forest Lake and Shields River Road.

    *To clarify, the Butler map does not show this as a through route - however, a quick google the night before showed a potential 'trail' joining the two - so I figured it would be worth a punt!


    To compound matters, I was now approaching the 200 mile mark and had seen no sign of fuel all day (to be fair I could have diverted east along hwy 12 to Harlowton earlier, but I was on a mission to stay on route ;o), but figured that if the [dirt] road to Forest Lake dead-ended, then I'd have to return to the highway so could always gas-up at White Sulphur Springs again anyway...

    Forest Lake road was a lot longer than I'd thought, and sure enough - right at the top, there was a gate:

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    photo. Closer inspection revealed this route was seasonally open for bikes and ATVs between 15th June and 15th September - result!

    I started up the trail (it was still climbing at this point), and immediately became concerned - the wet muddy surface was like ice, the bike sliding this way and that on the slick slimy crust. Dropping a [good] few PSI on the rear tyre helped, and ultimately I ended up riding on the grass next to the muddy two-track, just to keep the tread clean and gain some kind of traction - it was pretty precarious!

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    photo. I tapped a mark on my GPS screen, and counted down the miles. The gap was only around six miles in total, three up [to the summit] and then three back down again to this 'road'...

    Once I'd crested the summit (at just over 7300ft), I imagined the worst would be over now - well if nothing else, at least I would have gravity on my side - although if anything, the wet grassy and muddy trail was actually worse going down - one touch of the brakes would almost certainly see you on your side. I cursed the recent weather through gritted teeth - this trail would have been an absolute joy in the dry!

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    photo. Looks nice and flat here doesn't it? It was damn near treacherous on a laden bike if you wanted to avoid falling over!

    Eventually, after a particularly sharp decent, the trail started to flatten out... the GPS said I was now on 'Shields River Road' and yet I was still riding wet grassy two-track, with no end it sight... A couple of gates were cause for alarm - ominous looking padlocked chains from a distance, although on inspection fortunately one side had been left unlocked (this was technically a seasonal through-route after all), and certainly there would be no way back up that wet grassy meadow if I'd had to retreat.

    Then my [2nd] worst fear was realised - the 'River' from which the road presumably took it's name, would need to be forded - only now it was in full flood, after the torrential rain that afternoon.

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    photo. It doesn't look too bad in the photo, but it was fast-flowing, rocky, and about knee-deep in places... certainly not ideal to try and cross when you're on your own.

    I spent a good few minutes looking for an alternative route - the creek had now burst it's banks and split into three channels around trees and spits, effectively creating a series of islands - my only real chance of crossing would be to attempt each in turn, and hope I didn't mis-foot and drop the bike.

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    You'll have to wait until I get home again and edit the video, but lets just say it felt like an epic achievement once I'd finally made it across that last channel - my feet soaking, and the evening drawing in...

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    photo. And still there was no sign of a proper road!

    Ultimately, I followed my GPS road across another pasture (the long grass hiding what I feared could be a multitude of riverlettes and sink-holes), until I eventually spied a house in the distance. It was a big fancy house - a hunting lodge style log building - two stories high with a manicured driveway out front. I factored that at least there now ought to be a proper road connecting this property to the outside world (just as long as it didn't have fancy electronic gates or something!) and as I approached the boundary, the 'road' (such as it was) I was following had been fenced across with no way through - instead a pair of gates linked my trail to their driveway via a paddock. I may very well have to turn on the charm here I thought.

    Again, I was relieved to find both these gates were unlocked, and although there was no sign of life in or around the house itself, I offered a tentative wave of gratitude as I beat a hasty path towards freedom. No electronic gates, just a gravel road and then finally, pavement. What a resounding result!

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    photo. I can't recall the last time I was so relieved to find a paved highway! - and if you notice, a rainbow appeared as if to celebrate too!


    I rejoined hwy 89, and tapped the 'find fuel' button on my GPS. Amazingly, my reserve fuel light had not actually started flashing yet (at 239 miles), although it soon did - and it was a lot further to Livingston than I imagined (and I foolishly rode past a small unmanned fuel station at Clyde Park a few miles to the north).

    Creeping into town on fumes again (actually, I think the reserve on the CB is far larger than the gauge suggests - I've subsequently seen 0.6 flashing, and there was apparently still 2 litres in the tank, but that's another story you'll have to wait a little longer for...), I topped off the tank and set about googling for a reasonably priced motel - although being cold and wet and tired, I was not going to be that choosy... and it's a good job, as everywhere in town was well over $100, with a lot charging $200 or more - this being the 'Gateway to Yosemite' as the local Chamber of Commerce would have you believe... Shit.

    I eventually found a Budget Host at the far end of town that was $89 - more than I wanted to spend, but it was warm and dry, and the lady on reception exceptionally cheery and informative about not only what Montana had to offer the travelling tourist, but seeming half the United States too!

    I'd rolled into town just as the sun was setting, and figured that since my feet were already soaked it wouldn't hurt to take advantage of the evening light, and head back out on the bike (helmet-less this time, it is Montana after all!) for a quick spin and photograph a few of the old buildings and neon signs that pepper this particular outpost of the Old West:

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    And with that I retired to my room, stuffed my boots full of newspaper and took full advantage of the hotel hot water system!

    It had been a long and eventful day, but I really felt I'd sucked the marrow out of Montana - all I needed to do now was finally join the dots to Red Lodge (the northern/Montana end of the Beartooth Highway), then I could bank all these GPS tracks get on with my journey east once more...

    More soon!

    Jenny x
  9. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity Super Supporter

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    Hey Jenny, fun to catch up with you again in this RR, been a long time since Dakar and pics of you heli loading. Bob is definitely good people, we met when I was heading to the Mongolia Rally in 2010 and he put me up a few nights so I could Ski on my single days off working in Fort Saskatchewan. I was sorry not to meet you and Lyndon in person at Lawrence's rally, I was registered to go but had to pull the chute as other parts of my life got in the way. Onterrible is definitely not nearly as pretty as Newfoundland, you should add it to your list of places to see. :D

    Shiny side up
    Mike
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  10. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Epic update Jenny! We should start calling you Pioneer Woman or change all those signs out there to Lewis, Clark & Morgan!
    Are you going to share those tracks when you get a chance?
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  11. visualizerent

    visualizerent Raconteur

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    Wow, wow wow...Great stuff!

    When reporting from the road like this...how do you get your Lumix camera pics uploaded to Smugmug? ( does it have wireless capability?). Or are these cell phone pics? I assume you are using iPad to post?
    Taking the family on a N Ca adventure.
    Looking for that Applegate Resv adv route into Oregon...



    IMG_0702.JPG
    MOTEL 6 $60 fer 4!
    Juan, Pete, Julianne, Jeni

    Attached Files:

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  12. africanjon

    africanjon Adventurer

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    You JMo are a STUD! You too piglet :)
  13. RockyDS

    RockyDS Lost in the wilderness

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    Awesome read and great photo's.
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  14. LeMaitre

    LeMaitre Been here awhile

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  15. RockyDS

    RockyDS Lost in the wilderness

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    STUD - Seriously Talented Unadulterated Demon!
  16. powderzone

    powderzone Been here awhile Supporter

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    I'm lovin' your RR and adventurous spirit!
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  17. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Just checking in... I've been way off the grid the past few days (wild camping, plus staying a night at the 3-Step Hideaway too), which is why any updates have been thin on the ground...

    But fear not! I'm now in Nevada after an epic few days in the Colorado mountains and Utah desert - if you liked the photos from the journey east, you're going to love what I've got for you from the return leg!

    I'm hoping to be back home in San Jose by the weekend... and the day-by-day reports will then resume thick and fast, once I've got a proper keyboard in front of me again!

    Hang tight!

    Jenny x
  18. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity Super Supporter

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  19. JMo (& piglet)

    JMo (& piglet) Unicorn breeder

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    Hi Juan - I actually have an SD card-reader adaptor for the iPad, so I can copy the Lumix photos to that (you can preview them all as thumbnails before you upload, and just choose the ones you want) then upload the ones I want to share via Photobucket (yes, I know they are robbers holding people to ransom with their previous photos*, plus their IMG link copy and paste function doesn't work properly with iOS, I have work around by copying it to a document first - tedious)

    *to be fair to Photobucket, they have to make money somehow - however, in my opinion, they ought to honour any existing 3rd party hosting, and just charge for any new photo links going forward...

    This process is a littel time consuming when you're on the road, hence why regular updates have been more sporadic this trip, as I've not had the time or the facilities in the same way as I did on the Trans-Am 500 trip in 2015. However to do this trip justice, I've elected to bank everything in my notebook and camera/s as I go along, and will take the time to do a proper job once I'm back next week...

    In the meantime, I'll leave you with this:

    [​IMG]
    photo. At the top of the spur road at Imogene Pass CO - like Brian in that episode of Family Guy when they climbed Everest, I took a moment for an al fresco wee here... and I wondered if CB500X owners around the world felt it ;o)

    Toot toot for now!

    Jenny x
    Stickbow, Phipsd, juno and 7 others like this.
  20. skibum69

    skibum69 slave to gravity Super Supporter

    Joined:
    May 14, 2006
    Oddometer:
    11,525
    Location:
    New Melbourne, Newfoundland
    Hey Jenny, in light of how many pics you like to put up here I'm surprised you don't have a SmuMug account? Makes life so much easier in my opinion.

    I need a card reader for my iPad, I intend to run with that on my next trip.