Continental Divide Route Reset

Bikes loaded – check. Riding gear loaded – check. Full tank of gas and sunglasses – check. 516 miles later we were checking into our hotel in Mountain Home, Idaho. We decided to pick up the CDR route in Salomon, Idaho after dropping off the truck at our friend Michael’s house in Hailey, ID, (yes – porkchop in every glass guy). As we got closer to the Idaho border we started seeing more and more smoke in the air. Wow, fire season was in full swing and like much of the West, Idaho was having more fire than usual in 2020.

Smoke from nearby forest fires

We arrived at Michael’s mid morning and quickly unloaded the bikes, anxious to get a good start on the ride from Hailey to Salmon. The ride was easy and fun on gravel forest roads over the White Mountains where we steadily climbed to nearly 8,000 feet through the wooded terrain before dropping into the valley where we would catch highway 93 to our destination. The mighty Yamaha 250 cruised up the mountain with its new fuel pump, full load and all. The motorcycle was happy, I was happy, Deby was really happy.

We stopped to admire the views but they were mostly obscured by smoke.

We arrived in Salmon, Idaho and checked into the Stagecoach Inn early enough to go for an evening walk and find a restaurant for some food. The hotel had covid protocols in place and most common areas were limited access. In the morning they handed out breakfast food in a paper bag, I don’t remember what was in the bag but we ate it anyhow just to have come calories for the day.

Back on the CDR

Whoo hoo, we were glad to be back on our route. The goal for the day was 209 miles to Island Park, Idaho. Almost immediately out of town we were on nice gravel roads travelling south east along the Bitteroot Range, after about 25 miles we turned east to start our accent for the first crossing of the divide for the day at 7,200 feet. Then I saw it…. a big sign, Road Closed due to wildfire. Ok, so…. what to do. So this means every single day so far on the CDR route we came across at least one road closed sign. I looked at my GPS, my maps, looked at the sky, the smoke. Gauged the wind, temperature, time of day and tried to decide. Finally I asked Deby what she thought and she looked at me as if there wasn’t really a choice. She was continuing on!

We followed the mountain road up towards Lemhi Pass and the smoke got worse but we didn’t see any nearby fires or firefighters so we kept going. Once over the pass we could look to our right and see the flames and helicopters dropping retardant on the fires. The picture below shows our path in purple with the boundaries of the 2020 Bear Creek fire that burned 11,900 acres. Wow.

Our actual route and fire overlay using GAIA maps: gaigps.com.

The rest of the day was fun riding into the Beaverhead Mountains where we crested another mountain pass at nearly 8,000 feet before dropping down towards interstate 15. After crossing the interstate it was back in the Western Centennial Mountains and through the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge before starting to climb for our last Continental Divide crossing of the day at Red Rock Pass at 7,152 feet.

Red Rock Pass marked our entry back into Idaho… wait, I didn’t even know we left Idaho! We continued to our destination of Island Park, Idaho and our room at the Sawtelle Mountain Resort. It was a Tuesday night in August at what should have been the peak of the tourist season and nobody was around. I asked if the hotel restaurant was open and the answer was no. Was there a restaurant in town? Yes, if you walk down the road, across the highway and turn left at the gas station. So we took off on foot searching for some food. We found the restaurant and it was… closed. Dang, that was the only other restaurant in the whole town. So, once again we had to improvise. I was getting tired of pork chops every night so we donned our masks and walked into the gas station convenience store to see what they might have. Not much. Let’s see, breakfast was something mysterious in a bag. Lunch was some mixed nuts we had in our bags. Dinner would be…. chips and wine. Go figure…

We sat alone on the patio at the lodge eating our dinner of fruit, carbs and salt when a couple of guy stopped to chat. Small world, they were there for some fishing and the guy’s wife worked with Michel’s (pork chop guy) wife at Alaska Airlines.

About that time I heard a large group of motorcycles riding in. It was a group of people riding the GPS Kevin route from South to North. One guy had a huge BMW GS motorcycle with a sidecar packed full of camping gear and a dog!

Our friend GPS Kevin not only distributes the route maps and GPS files, but organizes group tours of his rides. Kevin had an organized ride of the CDR scheduled for August but decided to cancel it because of Covid. These guys decided to go ahead and just ride it on their own. It was great chatting with them and getting a report on road conditions and closures to the south. That’s when we learned that basically, New Mexico was closed because the northern border was mostly reservation land and there was strict entry/quarantine protocols in place. Hmm, didn’t want to test those rules again, so that is when we decided we would only go as far south as New Mexico before turning north.

Island Park to Pinedale, Wyoming

Hurray, the little restaurant was open for breakfast! Bacon, eggs, toast, coffee we were all in. Realizing that meals would not be guaranteed on this trip we loaded up on food and by the time we started off on the bikes I felt like I was drifting into a food coma.

This was just a fun easy day of riding, no closed roads, no fire detours, no breakdowns. We crossed over Togwotee Pass at over 9,000 feet and then back down only to climb up again to Union Pass which was over 9,000 feet. Finally down into Pinedale and our first crossing into Wyoming.

It’s always interesting going through past forest fires and seeing the new undergrowth renewing the forest floor.

Wide open spaces
Beautiful Vistas

The destination city of Pinedale is not that interesting so I used my phone and located a place on Fremont Lake with cabins for rent, aptly named, The Lakeside Lodge. It was a few miles out of town but it was a beautiful cabin right on the lake. Of course the on-site restaurant was closed. Our big breakfast had long worn off and there wasn’t a lunch spot so reluctantly, we got back on our bikes and rode into town to the only open restaurant, The Wrangler Cafe.

We were happy, a good day in the books 238 miles.

Pinedale to Rawlins, Wyoming

I knew this would be a tough day. The route was through a place in Wyoming called The Great Divide Basin. Below is from Wikipedia link HERE.

The Great Divide Basin or Great Divide Closed Basin[3] is an area of land in the Red Desert of Wyoming where none of the water falling as rain to the ground drains into any ocean, directly or indirectly. It is thus an endorheic basin, one of several in the United States that adjoin the Continental Divide.

I remember is was a long stretch of nothing with no gas stops or cities along the way. Over 200 miles of nothingness would test our fuel range and stamina. It’s strange that a road with so much nothingness could be one of our favorites. The gravel was challenging enough to force our constant attention but we still had time to take in the vast vistas. This is a section of the CDR that is populated with antelopes. We saw plenty running around us, they are well known to race motorcycles along the road. We were warned that would happen and to be careful because they have a habit of suddenly cutting in front of you.

A satellite image of our route through the basin. Thanks to Gaia maps.

I only took a few pictures because the whole route could be summed up in the following two photos.

Here is a picture of what happened to me last time we were there. I had the spot marked on my GPS and we honked as we drove by.

I picked up a long nail that put about 6 holes in my innertube. Fortunately, this time we made it through without any flats but trouble was ahead. Dark clouds were building and by the time we reached the paved road south to Rawlins the sky opened up and we were riding in a huge downpour for the last 10 miles. To make matters worse, we were on a busy two lane highway with trucks blasting at 70mph. My little 250 had a max speed of about 60 and much slower when going uphill or against the wind. This time we had both, and my max speed was about 40 riding in the blinding rain. It was dangerous… visibility was low for the truckers and almost zero for me through my steamed up helmet face shield. I was really afraid someone wouldn’t see our tiny tail lights in the storm and run us over. Wisely, we pulled onto the shoulder whenever a truck approached us. It was slow going but we made it to the nondescript town of Rawlins and checked into the nearest Best Western.

I’m going to stop here for now. Next we enter Colorado and that is where the riding gets real, as they say. Thanks for following.

Donn and Deby

2 thoughts on “Continental Divide Route Reset

  1. I’m glad it was only 10 miles of blinding rain. The best Western must have felt like a real comfort zone.

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