Continental Divide Trail, July 2016

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by WilsoDRZ, Jul 19, 2016.

  1. Aces 6

    Aces 6 Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, Over

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    Great to kick it off with the video! :photog
    #61
  2. Cyclenaut

    Cyclenaut Been here awhile

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    Epic...great report
    #62
  3. WilsoDRZ

    WilsoDRZ Adventurer

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    Austin, TX
    Last Day 11: Kalispell, MT to Eureka, MT 166 miles

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    A night in a motel does wonders for the soul after many nights camping. Sharing breakfast with a variety of visitors bound for Glacier National Park, I debated my route for the day. After visiting Grand Teton and Yellowstone, I was less than excited about Glacier but a friend who has been many times on photography trips encouraged me to take the time. My planned route took me through the fog and drizzle to Columbia Falls where I turned onto a wide, well-traveled gravel road. The miles offered amazing views of the North Fork Flathead River and it seemed as though flowing water was everywhere.

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    Not far after turning onto Camas Rd, I reached the un-manned Camas Creek entrance to Glacier National Park where the sign instructed me to drop $22 into the metal tube and put the receipt on my dashboard. First off, I don’t have a dashboard, second, nobody carries $22 in cash so I sealed my last $20 in the envelope and headed down the nearly deserted paved road to Apgar. The next turn north on the red route was a short distance outside Apgar village so I decided to check it out and finally decide whether to take the Going-to-the-Sun road. Relatively early, the park headquarters at Apgar was buzzing with excitement from the hikers and sightseers. A sign warned of road closures on my intended route so I spoke with a ranger and he assured me that my route was closed but I could still take the main road to Polebridge. As far as a route to Eureka, he claimed there was no road and I would have to return to Columbia Falls, Little did he know, I was on the mighty DRZ400.

    I sat there feeling more alone in the sea of families and tourist groups than I did in the far reaches of the Colorado wilderness. After some internal debate, I decided to ride 10 miles along McDonald lake and then re-evaluate. The ride was scenic as was the lake from a view roadside turnouts, but the fog and drizzle soaked into my gloves and I pulled off to u-turn at the end of 10 miles. Fortunately, I turned off onto a picturesque bridge that looked back at the lake.

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    The dismal weather, building traffic and ambiguous road conditions that lay ahead all collaborated to steer me back through Apgar village and north to Polebridge Mercantile. I had read about the location many times and knew I wanted to make the stop. With the weather clearing, I turned into the parking lot and took the obligatory photo of the storefront. After exploring the grounds, I stepped into the store and perused shelf upon shelf of crafts, chachkis and camping supplies. The bakery counter lured me in for lap 1 but I assured the clerk that I had to see all my options before making a choice. I found the beer cooler and checked my phone for the time before realizing that I didn’t care. Besides, 11am isn’t that bad, right? Selecting a Montana ale, a ham and Havarti sandwich, and a huckleberry macaroon, I sat on the porch and enjoyed the nourishment and the moment. A three-legged Shephard mix came to see if I was in a sharing mood but didn’t beg too long. I’m sure he knew that some careless kid would drop his humongous huckleberry bear claw before the day was over.

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    Back on two wheels, I continued at a fast pace with very little effort and sense of relief that I hadn’t encountered any trouble on my last day. The road narrowed and turned to smooth loose stone as it passed grand entrances to expensive estates. After curving west, the forest became less populated except for man on an ATV cutting logs by the road. Not far after passing him, I noticed the view ahead was its only little pine version of Aspen alley. After rolling to a stop, killing the engine and pulling out the camera, I heard a whistle from behind. Looking back, I saw it was the man trying to whisper-yell something to me. Figuring he heard my motor shut off and was just checking on me, I gave a thumbs up. Moments later he drove the ATV alongside, excitedly asking if I had seen the grizzly. Nope, just a dumb Texan here taking pictures of trees. We talked for a few minutes, he visited Fredericksburg TX near Austin only a few weeks before. He said he couldn’t live there for the wind and I couldn’t live in Montana for the cold. He spoke of the 26 grizzlies he saw last summer in the same fashion my Grandma used to talk about the humming birds on her porch each season. He described the road ahead and said it was easily doable in a truck and the bike shouldn’t have a problem, just watch out for tire shredding rocks.

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    The road followed alongside a creek that shifted from stagnant to whitewater and back again. It was easy riding with slight ups and downs over two-track dirt with rocks. I started to hear a new slapping sound from the bike at every pothole and my mind instantly raced with thoughts of being stranded less than 75 miles from the goal of my journey. I listened to it over a few more bumps before stopping to investigate, pondering the paradox of Shrodinger’s cat. Joyously I spotted the loose chain guard that was rubbing on the tire and chain. In preparation for this trip, I did everything myself on the bike from replacing forks to checking valves. However, in Breckenridge where I mounted my new tires, I asked my friend to install the chain guard so we could get to the softball game. Watching him go gorilla-strong on the first bolt, I then told him to go easy on the second bolt. The second bolt is the one that fell out. Opening the fender bag, I found the one spare M6 bolt that I carried for the last 3000 miles. Disaster averted.

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    The GPS indicated a peak of 5000 feet as the road dropped downward and improved from rough dirt to maintained dirt to pavement. I started to feel the end of the trip looming near and slowed down to really give me time to think. Though the sun shone brightly, illuminating the green of the forest, a dark cloud hovered directly ahead. I stopped in a dry spot under a tree to put on the rain jacket just before a steady but pleasant rain shower soaked the earth for a few miles. Emerging from under the cloud, the rays of sunshine again brought color to the surroundings. Steam drifted up from the newly chip sealed asphalt. The grass along the trail, still splotched with black from the treatment, implied that the road was specifically prepared for me like a red carpet rolled out for weary travelers. My visor collected an array of perfectly spherical rain drops. As the sun danced through the trees overhead, the light flared in the water droplets like dozens of camera flashes from the edges of the red carpet. My head and heart filled with every emotion; joy for the moment, sad for the end, pride with accomplishment, thankfulness for the good luck, gratitude for the acquaintances. When people ask the greatest memory of the trip, this is it. Absolutely. But usually I answer something about conquering the single track or the views from a mountain pass. This moment is too hard to verbally describe in response to a casual question thus I hold on to it. It’s like any number of pictures, nothing can ever compare to the real thing.

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    After that experience, reaching the border was only a technical achievement. Eureka is a quaint town with a gorgeous backdrop of mountains. I stopped for fuel and searched the store for a small bottle of champagne or sparkling wine but ended up with a single can of Kokanee beer. The clerk assured me it was “pretty good”. Riding the 13 miles to the port of entry made me anxious as a downpour appeared in the distance, but it stayed on the horizon as I approached the Canadian border. There was a small bar/duty free shop with a large group of dirty hippy type cyclist getting ready for a two-week ride to Missoula. I didn’t find a good sign or anything for a photo opportunity, I only ended up with this:

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    My continental divide journey ends here. I didn’t plan to enter Canada and ride to Banff. My plans led me away from adventure riding to Seattle to play tourist. I’ll probably write another post summing up my gear, prep, trail advice and general comments. Thanks for reading and watching and if you’re thinking about a similar trip, do it.

    -wilso
    #63
    juno, fasttortoise, #1Fan and 8 others like this.
  4. DaveWave

    DaveWave Don't sweat the small stuff. It's all small stuff.

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    Great ride report Wilso! You have a way with words and descriptions that not many have achieved in other reports. I was just in Glacier NP last week...and got drenched by rain too...but when it cleared up it is an awesome place for scenery.
    This ride is also on my bucket list and you've just reinforced my determination to go. Thanks!
    Good on you for take the DRZ too...great, under-appreciated bikes.
    #64
    norton73 likes this.
  5. hoost

    hoost Been here awhile

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    Great trip and great report. Thanks for sharing!
    #65
  6. camrynholt

    camrynholt ThePannierReport.com

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    Dude, Send me your cards I can put something together for you! No one should have this kind of problem when you have friends!
    #66
  7. camrynholt

    camrynholt ThePannierReport.com

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    Great trip, love the footage! My family wants to do this trip next summer but I can't decide on it or Alaska...
    #67
  8. Walternate

    Walternate Strawberry milkshake!

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    Great ride and report, sir! I enjoyed the story and your writing. And I definitely sympathize with you on when to share the truly defining moments. I'm glad you found such great things! :thumb
    #68
  9. Bdmoody

    Bdmoody Adventurer

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    I guess the question I have on my mind is; is the smaller bike the way to go or could a gs do it. I just would like your thoughts on the type,of bike one should consider using.

    Thanks,

    Brad in SC
    #69
  10. KTM Mike

    KTM Mike Long timer

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    Great read! Your route differed from mine in that I followed CannonShot's tracks - and did not do any of the more technical "red" routes you did - though much was the same of course. I'm really looking forward to finishing off the last leg.

    Bdmoody - you certainly can do it on a GS - though not the "red" tracks Wilso did. I have ridden it (using Cannonshot's tracks) from Banff to Steamboat Lake CO, two up on a Vstrom. In about 2 weeks we will finish it off from Steamboat to the border - though will be on a KTM 990 this time - still two up.
    #70
    soundasleeprecording likes this.
  11. refokus

    refokus Hmmmmmm

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    Very nice, great job on your ride report. I truly enjoyed this one...........:thumb
    #71
  12. LONG DONGER

    LONG DONGER Been here awhile

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    Hey, when you do another post on the gear (and bike?), will you post it here or start another thread? I am following this one, so easy to find. A new thread would be challenging for me to find! (I'm old)....

    Really interested in how the bike was on the trail. Have ridden the CBDR from Wyoming down to Steamboat on the GS, but interested in a smaller bike. Just not sure if I want to go as small as a 250, and I thought the DL650 I had was a little too big...so interested in the 400...of course a friend of mine dropped a 1985 Yammie XT250 off here yesterday for me to work on. If I can talk him out of that, it becomes a non issue. The bike you ride is the best one....
    #72
  13. ADV_Pilot

    ADV_Pilot Adventurer

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    Looks like an awesome ride. I would like to do it next year. Not enough time left this summer to get on it. Looking forward to an adventure like this.
    #73
  14. mkitchen

    mkitchen Been here awhile

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    Location:
    Kingman AZ, the heart of Route 66
    I have been wanting to ride the CDR for some time. Heck, I can remember when Adventure Cycling originally set it up, but was more into pavement touring then. I now have a KLR and am looking forward to doing it next summer. Your RR has certainly stoked my desire to get it done.
    I noticed that you said that you sold the bike and are looking at other options. There are many that would love to hear your observations.
    Mikey
    #74
  15. WilsoDRZ

    WilsoDRZ Adventurer

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    Thanks for the responses everyone. Regarding the bike choice I'll start with my decision process:

    Cost limit of $4000
    Small and lightweight, doing the trip solo meant I needed to be able to lift the bike just about anywhere
    Street legal from factory so I didn't have to mess with adding electricals
    Plentiful and cheap OE parts and aftermarket farkles

    I found my 2001 DRZ400S on Craigslist for $2600 but when I went to check it out, the battery was dead. I offered to jumpstart it since the owner didn't know anything about bikes. It had been a hand-me-down from his uncle. It cranked over and coughed on choke until it finally started but would only hold a high rough idle at half throttle. I loaded it up for $1400. It was completely stock and looked like it had ran head on into a wall. Front fender and headlight fairing scuffed, bars tweeked, gauge pushed back into the bar clamps. Getting it home, it only took a good carb cleaning to start and run like a champ. I started with the basics: loctite fixes, 3x3 mod, JD jet kit, valve clearance check, manual cam tensioner. Eventually I added a rear rack, bark busters, case savers, bash guard, Clark 4 gal tank, and rotopax. After blowing the fork seals, I upgraded to forks from a 2004 DRZ400E. The 2001 DRZ-S is the only one with cartridge forks that were immediately replaced for the next year model. After trying a couple types of tires, I decided to go with DOT knobbies for the ride.

    The CDT can definitely be done on a larger bike, like KTM Mike said, just don't do the red routes. If you can't tell, I was out for the biggest challenge and I wanted to ride hard and fast, but I actually missed some nicer areas on the blue and green routes. The 400 was plenty of power for 99% of the trip. Only in northern Colorado did I find some long steep grades that required 1st gear and a buried throttle. Changing jets to accommodate the altitude would have solved the problem, but I didn't want to risk breaking or losing something rebuilding a carb in the woods unless I absolutely had to.
    In my opinion, a WR250 would be great but an XT250 wouldn't be a good choice. I don't like the idea of less travel and ground clearance. Since every foot of the trail is unknown and I was still trying to keep good pace, there were lots of sudden steps, rocks and potholes that bottomed the DRZ pretty hard.

    Highway riding is awful. There isn't much more to say. The seat and riding position are uncomfortable. I moved around a lot, sometimes hanging off the side of the bike and resting on my hamstring or leaning back and propping my boots on the radiator shrouds like poorly placed highway pegs. I had bruises and sores where the edges of the seat pan rubbed my backside. But I'm relatively young, 33, in decent shape at 5'11", 165lbs and was willing to take this punishment for all the reasons listed above.

    Finally, the durability of the DRZ was outstanding. I believe that the make of the bike only gets you so far. How the bike is prepared, ridden and maintained will determine it's true reliability. That being said, I did nothing along the trail. Never changed the oil, never lubed the chain, never adjusted the carb, never cleaned the air filter. I inspected the bike thoroughly each morning, checking for leaks and loose bits. I only realized I broke the subframe crossmember in Montana somewhere when my luggage started hitting me in the back.

    After reaching the Canadian border, I rode to Seattle and left the bike with a friend who was willing to keep it until I could ship it back. However I decided it wasn't worth the $500 to ship home with a broken subframe. I'm the type who can't stick with one hobby very long, or at least I haven't found one yet. I went all-in to adventure riding for a year, completed the CDT and now I'm looking for the next challenge. So I put up an honest craiglist post and sold the bike to a guy planning on the CDT next summer.
    #75
    juno, #1Fan and AZ TOM like this.
  16. LONG DONGER

    LONG DONGER Been here awhile

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    Thanks! Answered all my questions about the bike! Appreciate the response!
    #76
  17. dbradford

    dbradford Been here awhile

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    I know exactly where this locked gate is...I was going North to South last year which puts you right up on that guy's back porch on the other side. No such gate on the other side of the property coming from the other side...supposedly there was a no trespassing sign that I missed where the forest service road turns private. He's not exactly a people person and isn't too fond of our kind riding through his property and ''stirring up'' his cows. Hes about 80 and rather cranky. I'm surprised I wasnt greeted with a rifle. If you ever find yourself on the wrong side of that locked gate 1) Apologize as much as possible 2) find something bad to say about the Clintons...he was a Ted Cruz guy and hates the government in general. After a thorough interrogation he let me out the gate. I checked the map at the Ranger station, and it's definitely private property. I emailed gpskevin about removing that red section, and I think it's now been taken down. Shame though...that guy's property was pretty nice to ride through with several creek crossings.
    #77
  18. Macdogg

    Macdogg Adventurer

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    Awesome vid, looking forward to the day to day write up.
    #78
  19. #1Fan

    #1Fan Been here awhile

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    Just found this RR. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us!
    #79
  20. WilsoDRZ

    WilsoDRZ Adventurer

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    Oh man, re-reading this thread really makes me want to start another adventure! I'm thinking a cabin in Moab is the next destination.

    Macdogg, maybe you missed the actual report after the video and first post?
    #80