Continental Divide – Finale

This post should conclude our CDR trip. It was really fun putting the story in print and I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. This is the final post of a four post series. Look at the menu on the right to navigate to the beginning if you want. We love seeing all the comments and appreciate the personal e-mails, thanks. We have more trips planned but nothing epic on the little bikes for now. We leave in two days for another GPS Kevin adventure on the big bikes (F750GS and Africa Twin). It seems like another Mexico trip is in the works, we’ll see what form that takes….

The ride home

So, if you count from the time we left home in August and included the time taking care of the broken fuel pump, we were almost a full month into this trip. We love riding but for some reason as we start for home we start putting in more miles per day. Get-home-itus. September 6 was no exception. We rode 328 miles from Kremmling through the Park Range in northern Colorado Stopped for lunch in Steamboat Springs and made tracks north for Wyoming. Before we knew it we were back in Rawlins but this time for only a brief stop before continuing north. A little way out of town we picked up a dirt road on the CDR that we skipped on the way south because of the torrential downpour.

It was sandy… and took us a while to transition our riding skills from rocky hill climbing techniques to Baja style sand riding but we managed and it was fun.

Loose, straight, fast, deep sand roads,

After about 30 miles of that excitement, we were back on the pavement where we decided to skirt along the north side of the Great Basin Divide on highway 789 into Lander for the night.

The next day was another 300+ mile trek. From Lander, we rode out of our way heading south to South Pass. We loved the section from South Path to Boulder so much we wanted to do it again, I’m glad we did. This time I took a few pictures.

Fall colors on display at Sinks Canyon State Park

I checked the weather app on my phone in Lander, it looked ominous.

Did I have that right?? 90 degrees at the time but Winter Storm Watch??

I filed that information in the back of my mind as we made our own CDR detour on a most excellent paved road to Sinks Canyon State Park and then continued on an extremely fun gravel road through the Freak Mountains. We switch-backed up to over 9,000 feet at Fiddlers Lake before dropping down to the highway and South Pass. The dirt road through the Prospect Mountains was spectacular, fast and smooth with plenty of beautiful vistas except for the dark clouds ahead.

We were making good time getting to Pinedale just after 1:00 and rode north into Grand Teton National Park. The route through the National Park was slow with traffic, and it started to rain. Heading North just before the entrance to Yellowstone, the route cuts West onto another favorite track of ours, this time it was getting colder and the rain was getting worse. Something was blowing in…. The wind picked up and soon we were coming upon down trees across the path. Were those snow flakes?? At one point we came to a downed tree that was way beyond my ability to move. A truck approached from the other side. He had a chain and tried to move it but it wouldn’t budge. I really didn’t want to go back to the crowded National Park, and we probably wouldn’t find a hotel anyhow, I was starting to get worried. I wish I would have thought to take a few pictures but my hands were freezing and I didn’t feel like messing around with my phone.

We got around. Deby and I stomped through the woods at the edge of the road and by breaking branches and knocking down small trees made a route around the tree. It was tricky riding but we made it. The truck turned around.

The weather was getting worse. It was late afternoon when we dropped off the mountain into Ashton, Idaho. Population 833, in other words not much. We had a reservation for the night in Island Park, Idaho only 27 miles away to the north at the cozy Sawtelle Mountain Resort. We knew it was nice because it was the same hotel where we stayed at on the way down. Twenty seven miles, we could do it… we were cold, it was raining, and the visibility was sinking to zero through our fogged up face shields. We stopped at the corner gas station to try to warm up before heading north.

We actually warmed our hands on the hot dog rack in the picture. It didn’t really work.

Later I learned we were heading up “Ashton Hill”, a local website had the following warning, “Be prepared for sudden thunderstorms accompanied by lightning, hail, and strong winds during the summer season. Falling trees under these conditions are not unusual. Also, be alert for deer, elk, or moose on or near the highways.” It started to snow….

Deby and I were both raised in Wisconsin, we know about snow and have driven extensively in snow. I’ve even ridden motorcycles in snow more than a few times but this was bad. It started as a few flakes but as we climbed Ashton Hill the flakes got “thicker” as they say and came down harder. Soon I was on the side of the road riding slowly with our turn signals on hoping cars would see us, and avoid running us over. We both had to ride with one hand and use our other frozen fingers to constantly wipe our face shields to even see a little bit. It was dark and dangerous.

I pulled over after 10 miles for a discussion with Deby, who was doing a great job following behind. We were 1/3 of the way to the hotel, still riding uphill, it was getting colder and the snow was now probably 4 inches deep on the roadway.

I’ve done some crazy things in my day and cheated death probably more times than need be, but this was just too dangerous and I said we were turning around. There wasn’t much argument from Deby. We slipped and slid the 10 miles downhill back to Ashton and pulled into the only hotel I saw, the Fishing Bear Lodge.

The Fishing Bear Lodge from Google Street View

We were a sight as we both dragged our soaking wet bodies into the small lobby of the motel (lodge??). They had one room left. I told the very nice woman behind the counter that I would take it and actually said I didn’t care how much it cost. I suspect that comment cost me at least $50.00 but I didn’t care. We didn’t get a refund at the hotel in Island Park so it was an expensive night.

We both warmed up with long hot showers before we ventured out looking for food. In short…. nothing was open so we went back to the same gas station pictured above and bought gas station food for dinner. Hmm, did we even have lunch? Chips, cheese, some processed mystery meat and liquid pork chops (beer, in case you skipped the other posts).

Final Day….

It was cold in the morning but dry we decided to make the 200 mile run back to Michael’s house via the shortest route possible. We climbed one last 9,000 foot pass and worked through the biting cold in our hands. We made a brief stop at the Klim riding gear world headquarters in Rigby, Idaho hoping to buy some warmer gloves but their showroom was closed due to Covid. Bummer.

In Idaho Falls we cut West towards our destination of Hailey and the wind picked up. We spent the next 150 miles getting blown around on the little bikes while trying to keep up freeway speeds on two lane highway 20. We blasted past the Craters of the Moon National Preserve where on any other day we would have stopped to explore the landscape, but we were on a mission and it was soon accomplished. We were at Michael and Dee Dee’s inviting home in time for some real food and hot showers. We made it.

So that’s it, the story that needed to be told. In retrospect it was really fun with lots of challenges. Like I said, we did the CDR back in 2012 almost 10 years ago but things change, the route changes, the roads change, we change. Will I do it again?? Ha, ask me in another 10 years when I’m in my 70’s.

Thanks for following this crazy blog. You never know what will be next….

Donn and Deby

Continental Divide- Colorado

The section from Rawlins, WY to Steamboat, Colorado was just plain fun, starting with a straight paved section south of Rawlins that suddenly turned to gravel as we approached the forests the Sierra Madre mountains. It felt good to be climbing back into the mountains with the tall pine and fir trees surrounding us. Soon we were over 8,000 feet at Middlewood Hill before dropping down only to climb again to 8,600 feet where we pulled over at a viewpoint for the 9,098 foot Battle Mountain in the distance. It was a spectacular view, so much so that I forgot to take a picture… go figure. Finally, we crossed into Colorado and rode another favorite section along the border before cutting south on CR129 through the beautiful Aspen forests. What… was my camera broken??

This was a scheduled short day, 131 miles and I wasn’t complaining. Steamboat Springs is a tourist town year round, usually. This year things were open but the normal summer crowds were missing and those that were there were all dutifully wearing masks. We checked in early at a place called the Nordic Lodge right on the main street. Funny thing, all the beautiful scenery and my only picture is of the motorcycles in front of the hotel.

We had plenty of time to walk around town, about half the tourist shops were open. Then we did something fun that would ending up costing me a lot of money later…. rented electric bicycles.

Soon we were busy offroading on these silly fat-tire e-bikes.

We found the bicycle BMX track and I gave the e-bike a good test over the jumps.. yee haa!

Steamboat to Estes Park.. more detours

It’s a good thing we had a “rest day” because this section tested our resolve. We were on the road before 8:00 and were trying to stay warm in the morning chill. We didn’t get very far out of town when we had to stop for a balloon crossing. Ahh, only in Colorado. It was pretty cool.

We rode highway 40 south and were suddenly climbing steeply on switchbacks to Muddy Pass at 9,000 feet where we crossed the Continental Divide for the first but not last time of the day. It was a nice road but was getting colder as we climbed. We entered the Apapaho National Forest and crossed the divide again at 9,000 feet and then switchbacked up even higher to 10,000 feet before starting down into the town of Grand Lake.

Dang, it was cold and my most reliable weather forecasting tool (looking up at the clouds) told me rain was on the way. This didn’t look good. The planned route took us through Rocky Mountain National Park. We had been there before and I really recommend it but I know the Trail Ridge Road to Estes Park is claimed to be the highest continuous paved road in the United States, reaching an elevation of 12,183 feet. I was cold just thinking about it. Would there be snow in August? Could be.

As we approached the park there was a long line of cars which surprised me, as we got closer I saw a sign…. Reservations Required. About that time it started raining for real. We waited our turn in line when we reached the front we were turned around. No reservation and no way to get one and no way he was going to let us ride through the park even if I promised not to stop. Bummer, we turned around in the cold rain to start the southernly detour to Idaho Springs.

Gas station stop to warm up
Burrrr… coffeeeee

We arrived in Idaho Springs early enough to check into the Argo Inn and Suites and get warmed up with hot showers, ahhh. I wouldn’t say the hotel lived up to it’s name and it seemed like there were only a few other people staying there, ok.. it was run down and kind of strange. There was one really cool thing… the room had a patio door that looked over Clear Creek onto the side of a mountain. There was an impossibly narrow trail with two Bighorn Sheep that were having a royal battle.

We sat for well over an hour watching them buck horns, it was actually loud and the sound echoed across the canyon.

Just down the road was an old mine that was open for tours, I just had to check that out…

It was a gold mine and we learned about the horrendous working conditions for the workers and their children who worked the mine, most of them didn’t live very long.

Idaho Springs is also the launching point of the road of the Mt. Evans Scenic Byway which is now the “highest paved road in North America” at 14,130 feet just barely surpassing Pikes Peak at 14,115 feet. Wait, what was that claim about the road in Rocky Mountain NP? Oh, that is the tallest “contiguous” road. We considered making a run up the mountain but were there once before and decided to skip it, anxious to move on.

The high road to Aspen

The clouds cleared and we headed south in high spirits. Immediately outside of town we were on side roads following I-70 West before cutting south on perfect gravel roads with stunning scenery. This time I thought to take a few pictures.

The road we were on in the distance

We were on the Guanella Pass Scenic Byway climbing to over 11,000 feet this time. Whew, the thin air was making me happy, of course, it could be the fun we were having.

We zig-zagged up to Webster Pass at 12,103 feet before dripping down to 9,000 feet for lunch in Breckenridge. After lunch is was more fantastic riding through the Pike National Forest. Then it got crazy… Mosquito Pass. I found a YouTube video of a guy going up the same route in 2015, it wasn’t any better in 2020.

This is our story… this last uphill to the peak at 13,185 feet was as tough as I’ve ridden in a long time. I was really glad we were on the small bikes, anything bigger would have been a disaster. We stopped on the bottom next to a couple of guys in jeeps, they were looking up the steep rocky climb wondering if they could make it. Really???? In a Jeep? They looked at Deby and didn’t say a thing but it was clear what they were thinking… she’s going to try this?

We didn’t have a choice, it was a long long way around and we were determined. Probably being slightly hypoxic at over 10,000 feet wasn’t helping our judgement. I went first with Deby behind me… I tried to call out the path and obstacles as we bounced up the incline. In actuality it didn’t matter what I said, we were just bouncing wildly from one rock to another trying to stay upright. Deby bounced left when she should have bounced right and finally bounced to the ground.

Picture of my parked bike as I walked down to help Deby

Pictures never really convey how tough it really was. Deby was OK, whew.. You can just see the Jeep at the bottom waiting to see if we made it. They were smart(?) and turned around.

Here it is a little zoomed in….

After a short break we each got back on the bikes for the final push and made it to the top to document our achievement.

It was so cold and windy that Deby didn’t want to get off her bike.

She didn’t say it but I could read her thoughts…. “take the &*(% picture and let’s get going!” I talked for a few minutes with a guy that came up from the other direction on a KTM. Clearly he was an experienced rider. He took off his helmet and said the ride up from the west was way harder than he expected and he had a pretty good crash around one of the sharp switchbacks. He admonished us to be careful going down. I didn’t need to be told twice.

— LAST MINUTE EDIT… YOU HAVE TO READ THIS —-

Ok, the following falls in the category of serendipity. I finished this post last night but didn’t post it because I was going to wait until today to get it uploaded. About 9:00 PM Deby and I turned on the TV to watch something, anything so I went to the television YouTube app which usually suggests motorcycle videos. I wonder why…..The first suggestion was a guy riding the Continental Divide Route. Hmmm, scary, is YouTube reading my blog??? What the hey, it might be fun so we clicked on it. Here is where it gets surreal…..

About an hour into the video (58:47 to be exact) I see Deby! This is the guy I just wrote about who crashed! Look at my picture above, see the KTM motorcycle on the right? That is him. Here is a screen shot from his video.

Here is the video, it’s long but entertaining.

We have a guest appearance 58 minutes into the video at Mosquito Pass

—- BACK TO THE BLOG —-

Yes, we made it down. Slow and easy did the trick and we rolled into Leadville tired but with a huge sense of achievement. The plan was to ride north over Hagerman Pass and then circle around to Aspen for the night. I checked the map and decided to take a shorter route over Independence Pass on paved state highway 82 instead.

We arrived in the upscale tourist town of Aspen tired and cold, we treated ourselves to a nice hotel for the night, The Annabelle Inn. A beautiful hotel close to the center of town, I’m not sure how many stars it had but it seemed like about 10 to us. I’m surprised they rented a room to us at such a nice place after we dragged in full of dirt and mud on some old dirt bikes, but they did. As a matter of fact after we checked into the beautiful second floor room with a huge deck I went right back to the lobby and asked for a second night.

Whew, a day off in Aspen, nice.

The rest of Colorado

Colorado is a paradise for anyone on an adventure motorcycle. There must be endless places to explore and passes to cross. We spent the next five days riding North to South and back North again. After Aspen we detoured North to tag Hagerman Pass.

I’m glad we didn’t skip that one, except for another rocky uphill and getting lost a little it was a great ride. From there south to the cross the Continental Divide at the 12,126 foot high Cottonwood Pass before connecting with the famed highway 50 where we spent the night in a lawnmower shack in Sargents, Colorado.

Our room for the night in Sargents, CO

You know it’s cold when you have frost on your bike in the morning.

Frosty morning in Sargents, Colorado

Then one of my favorite passes, Marshall Pass at 10,842 feet.

We found ourselves on the Historic Saguache – San Juan Toll Road which is actually listed on dangerousroads.org. You can read about it HERE.

I love it when we find these old highway markers, this one is probably from the Stage Route era.

By this point in the trip we had given up on Kevin’s route and were making up our own paths using a combination of tracks from Big Dog, the Colorado Backcountry Adventure Route and my own tracks from previous trips. After an eerie night at a non descript hotel in the seemingly abandoned town of South Fork we turned south for a quick pass through northern New Mexico.

We stopped at the Summitville ghost town. A crazy place that turned into an environmental disaster and is now a Superfund Site.

Look at these guys in the boat, they were workers diving in the polluted toxic waters. I wonder how much you need to get paid for that job.

We love this kind of stuff, amazing.

Then something special happened…..

We were traversing the Rio Grande National Forest east of Pagosa Springs when I stopped to take this picture.

We rode a little further and came to this informative sign.

We were looking at Little Red Mountain. In the weeks before we left on this trip our dog, Little Red moved on to the great squirrel chase after being part of our family for 14 years.

Little Red, we miss you.

That night in Durango we had a toast for Little Red.

North from Durango it was more mountains and passes. We rode through Silverton and on to the Animas Forks ghost town where we climbed up another steep rocky road to the famous Cinnamon Pass.

Cinnamon Pass is just one of those beautiful places in the world that has to visited more than once.

We were on a roll, checking off passes left and right. After lunch in Lake City we rode east and crested Stumgullion Pass at 11,529 feet and circling back north to rejoin Highway 50 and cross Monarch Pass at 11,312 feet.

We dropped into Salida for the night, a place I keep finding myself coming back to. In the 1970’s I was a touring musician and Salida passed through that town before it was the tourist city it is today.

Past Salida we officially started riding north and starting to think about making progress towards home. We rode the back roads into Breckenridge where we stopped for lunch and overnighted in the impossibly small town of Kremmling at the Super 8.

The next day we recreated our path south through Steamboat Springs and soon were back in the Aspen forest close to the Wyoming border. This time I took a picture.

I’ll end this post here and should be able to wrap up the trip in the next post where we ride in 90 degree heat and then get turned around by a blizzard… all in the same day.

Thanks for following,

Donn and Deby

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

Continental Divide Route – Part 1- cont.

Six thirty AM and we were both awake looking at each other, we needed to leave. I don’t know why, but we both somehow knew it. Breakfast was out of the question but we needed coffee, bad. The luxury honeymoon suite didn’t have a coffee pot but there was a microwave which was good news. We always travel with Starbucks Vias, their instant coffee packets that will suffice for a caffeine fix in an emergency. This wasn’t an emergency but I didn’t want to wait around for there to be one. I found some Styrofoam cups in the bathroom and made us each microwaved instant coffee. I dumped two packs in each cup to save the time of having to make two cups each. Next, I stuck my head out the door and was relived to find the bikes were still there and the car with the tinted windows gone. The coast was clear.

Heading south out of town we soon climbed to 5,000 feet on nice paved roads, the sun was out but we were still trying to work out the morning chill. We munched on some emergency ration nuts in our bags before our covert escape taking the back roads out of town. The road took us back to East Glacier Park where everything was closed, either because of the pandemic or the early hour or both. It didn’t matter, we turned south and kept riding. We were on nice roads on the edge of the Sawtooth Mountain range and were enjoying the views and warming sunshine when my phone rang in my Bluetooth helmet set. I thought about answering but wisely decided against it and let it go to voice mail.

Then the road got smaller with a few animals.

Great views.

Then something happened, the track said we were supposed to turn left but, there was no road. Nothing. No worries, we found a go-around to get back south to the Pishkun Reservoir and to the start of an excellent road, the Pishkun Canal Road. At the start of the road was a sign, Road Closed. Not again… two in two days geesh. Ok, we decided to just keep going to see “just how closed is it?” The canal road followed the canal and was clearly for maintenance vehicles and local traffic. It was well groomed gravel and was way too much fun to ride.

Beautiful views of the Sawtooth Range on the Pishkun Canal Road

Towards the end of the road before turning south we came to the construction zone. We soon found ourselves surrounded by heavy equipment moving around so we dodged the trucks and excavators the best we could and continued on. We got some glares but nobody said anything before we came to a barricade with a Road Closed sign for people going the other way. Luckily, we were able to squeeze around the barricade.

Crossing the Pishkun Canal

Just before noon we came to the small town of Agusta and low and behold there was an open bar type restaurant with some motorcycles parked out front. It had been almost 24 hours since we had anything besides liquid pork chops and potato chips. Bar food…yum. The Buckhorn Bar was only open for outdoor dining but that was perfect as the temps had warmed into the mid 70s. We chatted with the other bikers for a bit, one of them lived near the Glacier Park West Entrance. He thought the road with the road closed sign was actually open and we should have kept going. They were amazed we stayed in Browning, repeating the now familiar typical response. That reminded me to check my phone for messages. Sure enough, there was a message from the tribal police, would I please call them back….. I thought about it for a while but in the end decided not to. Now I need to add the Blackfeet Reservation to the list of places I should probably keep a low profile.

Soon we were riding south on an amazing two track dirt road with beautiful weather and bodies full of greasy cheese burgers. We turned south following the track onto the Elk Creek Road when we saw this sign.

Yep, this was really closed… there was no road, nothing at all beyond the sign. On to plan B. As usual it wasn’t too bad to get back to the main road and loop around to catch the route on highway 200 and ride over the 5610 foot Rogers Pass. Our first crossing of the day over the Continental Divide to the West side. We followed state route 200 to the town of Lincoln where we turned south on some nice gravel forest roads towards Helena. This route would take us up a steep climb and over the divide to the east side at Granite Butte, elevation 6700. By this time it was getting hot even at the higher elevations. All 250 cubic centimeters of my little WR were working at peak capacity to lug me and all my gear up the mountain. We were almost to the top when my bike decided it needed a rest. The graph below shows just how steep the climb was, we were just 100 feet or so from the top.

Stuck at the top of the mountain

So what to do in these situations…. be calm and take a rest. I’ve learned that usually, the best thing to do is…. nothing. I’m a fairly decent motorcycle mechanic having learned how to fix about anything motorcycle related because I’ve owned a Norton motorcycle most of my life. I knew this stoppage could be due to any number of system failures. Was the bike overheating? It certainly was hot enough. Out of gas? Fouled plug? Electrical problem? I did some on the spot trouble shooting and couldn’t find anything obvious. After things cooled off a little it I tried the starter button and it started! Ok, awesome. Quick, let’s get going…. for 20 feet or so up the steep grade before it stumbled to another stop. I was beginning to suspect what the problem was and it wasn’t good. We were probably 50 miles away from Helena on a remote mountain road with nobody or anything but trees around us. I decided to repeat the start, stop, rest cycle over and over until we were at the peak of the mountain. As you can see from the elevation graph it was a pretty steep down hill the rest of the way once we made it to the top so on the way down I alternated between coasting and using short sections of motor power to get into Helena. Gravity was my good friend that day and I’m really grateful the bike stopped working on the top of the mountain where I had a lot of potential energy stored up in the combined mass of myself and motorcycle (ok, I liked college physics).

We rolled into the extremely hot lowlands of Helena, Montana. I found a shady spot and booked a small cabin at a place near the center of town that looked to be in close proximity to two motorcycle shops and a few restaurants, the Lamplighter Cabin and Suites. Here is the picture from their website.

The last few miles were tricky. The temperature was nearing 100 degrees and we were both dripping wet in our heavy riding gear and boots. I was alternatively pushing my bike through town and riding it the few feet when I could. At one point we stopped and I tried having Deby tow me with a piece of rope. That didn’t go well and we both almost crashed. Finally we made it and checked into a little cabin.

I was pretty sure what was wrong, fuel starvation….. Dang, really? Again??? Just to review if you haven’t read all my blog posts… In 2015 I was stranded in Mexico with a plugged fuel filter on my new KTM1190 in , in 2019 my fuel filter was plugged in Mexico on my new Honda Africa Twin and now in 2020…. fuel pump.

Motel parking lot fuel filter replacement

Here’s where the story gets interesting, but I’ll try to sum it up. There is a local motorcycle shop but they don’t have Yamaha parts, bad. But, while they can’t get a whole fuel pump assembly they can order just the pump from an aftermarket company, good. But, it will take over a week to arrive, bad. But, they can expedite it for a fee and it should arrive the next day, good!

We spend the next day exploring Helena on foot and making friends with the wonderful woman who manages the motel and some of the guests who seem to be there on a somewhat permanent basis.

The pump comes in and it’s rather complicated to extract just the pump from the assembly but I manage to do it after a trip to a auto parts store for some specialty tools. I get it all together and….. nothing. It won’t start. I can hear the electric pump spinning and see gas moving and some bubbles but there was no way the bike was going to start. Ok, now what. We booked another night and sat around thinking about it. Somewhere in the night I pulled out my iPad and started watching YouTube videos on the subject and something caught my eye. There was an O-ring that was supposed to be placed between the pump and a tube, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have one installed. Yes, that must be it (and it was). I decided I would look for the o-ring the next morning and try it again.

A loud whirring sound woke me up the next morning. The grounds keeper was out leaf blowing the parking lot, I didn’t think much of it until later when I couldn’t find the O-ring anywhere and concluded it must have fell on the parking lot and was now somewhere in a pile of leaves. Arrrg. That was it, we decided to give up.

The truck was parked 258 miles away according to Mr. Google and his navigation system. A little far for me to ride Deby’s 250 in a day so I decided to look for a rental car. Due to the pandemic, most of the rental car places were closed and the only one open that I could find was at the airport. They just had one car, a high performance Mustang GT. We had a plan. Deby and I drove back to Eureka, Montana, windows down, radio up and blasted full speed on the back country Montana roads. Is there “really” a speed limit in Montana? We spent the night at the same lodge and headed back with the truck. Fortunately we could return the car not far from Eureka to make it a one way rental.

Mustang sports car parked where the motorcycle was parked two days before.

So that sums up part one of the trip. Probably 4 days of driving in the truck for two days of riding. When we got home I ordered a new OEM Yamaha fuel pump assembly. In the comfort of my own shop I replaced the pump and the bike started right up and ran great. While I was working on it I was looking for something in my motorcycle tool kit when I found the missing O-ring hidden in a back corner….. I had to laugh.

We were home on August 14 wondering what to do. I suppose a lesser man would have let it go, well actually I was ready to, but Deby would have nothing to do with it. We chilled for a week, fixed the bike and on August 22 loaded up the truck to continue on!

Stay tuned for Part 2, more adventure awaits, if not with gas then fire.

Donn and Deby

The Great Continental Divide Route Part 1

I keep thinking back on this trip and wonder why I never got around to telling this story. In August of 2020 in the midst of the great pandemic, Deby and I decided to ride the Continental Divide Route, CDR for short, on our small bikes. This would be my last trip on my trusty WR250R and Deby was on her updated WR250R,we were riding the twin Yamahas. Riding the CDR is challenging enough but we found that navigating the logistics during the pandemic threw in some unexpected curve balls.

As I write this in June of 2021 the pandemic is not over but Deby and I have been vaccinated and things are slowly getting back to some kind of normal, at least here in the United States. I seem to have a couple of reasons to circle back and document this trip. I think this little essay might be useful in the future to give a glimpse into what life and motorcycle travel was like during the crazy year of 2020. Secondly, after almost a year of retelling some of the more colorful events to my riding buddies I realize how the story is better with age. The rough edges are a little smoother and the bad days are now accomplishments to cherish. Ok, let’s dig in!

What is the CDR?

The Continental Divide Route is a series of mostly dirt roads from the Canadian border to the Mexican border. There are a number of variations of this route with some meant for hiking and others meant for bicycle riding. The motorcycle version of the route, to the best of my knowledge, mostly follows what was or still is the bicycle route. Deby and I rode this route back in 2012 when we were both pretty new at adventure motorcycle travel. This was before this blog existed so I documented our trip on ADVrider.com. If you want to see what we looked like almost 10 years ago check it out here: Rocky Rocky Mountain Ride. Look at the bike Deby was riding in 2012, an awesome G650X BMW. She still says that was her favorite bike.

Back then we were following some GPS tracks uploaded to the internet by some guy named Big Dog. I never met him or knew anything about his experience preparing a route like this but we blindly followed his tracks and are alive to tell the tale. To this day it looks like people are following his motorcycle version of the CDR. At some point along the way this guy GPS Kevin came up with his own version of a North South Continental Divide route that he calls the Great Continental Divide Ride (GCDR). I’ve overlaid the two routes and they are the same in some places and different in others. Kevin’s routes have easy and hard options which is sort of nice.

GPS Kevin’s Route Overview

Our Plan

This is always the problem, how to get from home to the start point of the ride and then back from the end point of the ride. In 2012 we were on big enough adventure bikes that we rode the whole way. This time we wanted to take the 250s and did not want to spend days and days riding those little bikes at freeway speeds.

It’s always good to have a three step plan. 1) put motorcycles in truck and drive to Eureka, Montana the start of the CDR. 2) Ride CDR and end up near Mexico. 3) Hmmm, how to get back… hey, let’s turn around and ride the CDR back!

So that’s the rough plan, of course there are those darn details. We decided to ride Kevin’s GCDR route south and then the Big Dog CDR route back. We had time and it would be fun right?

Day 0

It was a hot August 9th when we arrived by truck at the Riverstone Family Lodge in Eureka, Montana. It was a good sign that there were about a half dozen other adventure motorcycles in the parking lot with some shaggy looking guys standing around drinking beer and tinkering with their bikes. I think almost all the bikes were really nice KTMs, mostly the latest 790 models, and one guy on a big BMW GS. I’m sure it wasn’t true, but I felt like I was catching the stereotypical KTM rider vibe that any other brand is kind of a woosie ride. Ok, in fairness both my sons who are accomplished motorcycle riders (and ride KTMs) both claim the WR in WR250 actually stands for Wossie Ride. Nonetheless, soon after I unloaded the WRs we were all hanging around sipping cool ones and telling tall tales about motorcycle adventures. I recognized the name of one of the guys, Bill Whitacre. He was the guy on the big GS and even had a sticker with his name on it.

Bill is on the board of the Backcountry Discovery Routes organization, the organization that creates and promotes the Backcountry Discovery Routes (BDRs) for motorcycles in various states. We recently saw his videos on YouTube as part of Expedition 65 about a group of riders going through all the same places we were in South America. Nice guy.

Here is a nice “before” picture of Deby’s bike in the parking lot.

We were ready for the long distance with our AirHawk seat cushions on our trusty Yamaha adventure bikes.

Yea, who are they calling woosies? At least we would be comfy. Here’s Deby at our cabin at the Riverstone Lodge.

Day 1 – Crazy detours and unexpected ending

It was just one of those days when I look back and have to laugh. It started with me asking the hotel lady if we could leave our truck in the parking lot. The answer was no. I’m really not sure why, this was Montana with wide open spaces everywhere. The parking lot was huge and due to Covid the hotel was mostly empty. Still, the answer was no. She recommended I go across the street to a sort of run down shack and ask there. It was a place with storage lockers of sorts and a big parking lot so I negotiated parking for three weeks and just parked in the back of a big lot next to some old construction equipment. It seemed slightly dicey but we wanted to get going so I put any worries out of my mind.

By 8:00 AM we were on the road heading south on the highway for a short distance before turning east onto some gravel roads to start the journey. Our route today would take us through Glacier National park before stopping for the night in Browning, MT. Everyone I tell this story to stops here and winces. Browning? And then they usually have a story about the place. I had no idea about the reputation of the city and now I have a story of my own. We decided to make hotel reservations online the day of or a day ahead of time because we never know for sure what our progress might be. It seemed like a reasonable distance to Browning so I tried to book online but was having a problem finding a room. Odd. I finally found a hotel in town that had a quirky online reservation system of it’s own and it said they had a room so I booked it. I won’t mention the name of the hotel for reasons that will become clear later.

The riding was great with wonderful dirt roads heading east towards the east entrance of Glacier National Park. The first stop was the very very small town of Polebridge, Montana. It’s really just a tourist stop with a population of about 100 during the summer and less than 10 in winter. There is a somewhat famous place called the Polebridge Mercantile where we stopped for some baked goods and a rest.

The guys from the hotel were there and we chatted a bit. They were riding the Big Dog route so this was the point where we diverged. We never saw them again. Our route took us on a dirt road that crossed into the park. There was a ranger station a mile or so down the road where we stopped to show our National Park passes. Ok, senior passes, I’ll own that. A few miles further down the road we came to a “Road Closed 20 miles Ahead” sign. Huh? Maybe the park ranger should have said something? We sat there for a long time deciding what to do. Against my better judgement we turned around. I thought I would ask at the ranger station at the way out but the door was locked because of covid and we would have to drive around and wait in line to speak at the driveup window. Forget it. Upon checking the map and GPS it looked like the dirt road just followed the paved road for 20 miles and reconnected so we took the easy route.

The paved road cuts into Glacier NP just north of the actual West Glacier entrance so we never came across an entry gate or anyone checking our passes. I didn’t think about it. Soon we were on the famous Going To The Sun road over the mountains. So, I have to admit, this is one of the most beautiful roads in America but for me I can skip the traffic. Even during covid and maybe especially because of covid there was just a line of cars the whole way.

I could have skipped it but the alternative to our destination was pretty far out of the way. We slogged it out in traffic, it was hot and slow, we just wanted to get through the park. We skipped the crowded tourist pullouts and passed on double yellow when ever there was a slowdown because someone saw an animal. Finally past the Logan pass visitor center the traffic thinned and we could ride a little faster. Ahhhh. By the time we passed the Rising Sun visitor center we were almost to the East Gate entrance and out of the park. That’s when we came to a road block with some tough looking dudes. Clearly not park rangers.

I pull up my visor, “what’s up?’ “Road’s closed.” “Huh?, why?” “This is reservation land, it’s closed.” “How can that be? I asked, “I didn’t see a sign.” Frowning he answered, “You didn’t see the huge lit up sign?” “What, where?” “At the West Entrance where you paid your fee.” Awww man…. since we came in on the dirt road and then the paved road from the North we never went through the West Entrance and missed the sign. Sixty miles of slogging through traffic in the heat and now we had to turn around and do it again. I tried but there was no changing his mind. Later I talked to some friends about this and they were surprised I didn’t know the East Entrance and the Blackfeet reservation was closed. “Didn’t you see it on the news?” was the common response. So we turned around, tired, hot, hungry from not stopping for lunch, frustrated and suddenly realizing we had over 60 miles to go to the next gas which would put our range right on the edge. We broke a few laws riding back through the park but made it to the West Entrance on fumes and found gas and a restaurant with outdoor dining. I drank a beer and I think Deby did as well. According to my GPS we had 70 miles to browning on US 2. I didn’t put two and two together that Browning is on the reservation, and the reservation was closed.

I suppose I can’t really complain. US Highway 2 is a beautiful road that follows south east along the Flathead Range before it cuts northwest towards Browning. There was very little traffic and we started getting back into a good riding groove enjoying the views and settling into the hour and a half ride.

We arrive at the hotel that shall remain nameless to protect the owners, and it looks vacant. As a matter of fact, the whole town looks vacant. There is yellow police tape surrounding the parking lot and no cars nearby. Hmmm, We sneak the motorcycles into the parking lot under the police tape and go to knock on the door that looks like it could be the office. Nothing. Nobody. There is a sign on the door with a phone number.

I call and I can hear the phone ringing inside and someone answers. “Hi, I have a reservation.” “What?” “I have a reservation.” I repeat. “That can’t be, were closed.” Oh great I’m thinking. Now it’s getting late in the day and seriously, Browning, Montana is a long way from anywhere. The nearest town was East Glacier and when we rode through everything looked closed. This might not end well. I tried again, “I already paid online.” I try to sound both nice and desperate. Suddenly the door opens and a native American looking woman with a small baby in arms looks at us and our motorcycles in the parking lot and lets out a big sigh. “You can’t park there, you have to park around back where nobody can see your bikes.” I took this to mean she was going to give us a room and was correct. I took a few pictures to give the general vibe of the area.

It get’s better. Evidently we were special enough to get the honeymoon suite.

I liked it but couldn’t talk Deby into a soak in the jacuzzi tub. The next order of business was food. I learned all the restaurants in town were closed so my only hope was to walk a few blocks to the grocery store down the road. I donned my mask (the ones with skulls on it) and went for a hike. I came across this sign.

Umm ok, I was kind of catching on by now that they were taking the pandemic very seriously and I shouldn’t be there. at all. Before going into the grocery store there was someone checking temperatures and asking everyone for their name and phone numbers. There were a few people in front of me so I acted casual, pulled down my baseball cap and hoped my skull mask hid my white guy features well enough. I noticed everyone was giving only a seven digit phone number because probably they assumed everyone had the same area code. When it was my turn I resisted the temptation to call myself Don Big Bear and settled for using my first and middle name along with my real phone number but without the area code. It worked, and I was in. Beer…. I found the beer isle and there was a sign, “No alcohol sales after 7:00 PM. I had five minutes, geesh that was close. All I could find for dinner was some chips and a few other snacks. It made me think of our friend Michael who you may remember from a few of our South America adventures. Whenever we had to have beer for dinner he would proclaim that there was a pork chop in every glass. I got back to the motel and we had more than one pork chop.

I bent the rules a little. I didn’t park all the way behind the building just in a gravel parking lot off to the side where we could see the bikes from two chairs we dragged outside in front of our door. We removed anything valuable, secured the fork locks and used a cable lock around the front tires. That was the best we could do and always served us well when travelling in Mexico. We probably shouldn’t have, but we sat outside and ate (drank) our dinner. It was highly entertaining. A sedan with tinted windows parked perpendicular to our bikes and a big box truck. Nobody got out but there was suddenly a regular flow of people coming up to the car, they would hang out for a minute and then leave. Hmmm, I wonder what that was about.

We eventually had enough of the excitement and decided to call it a night. We could hear voices outside and people going back in forth but we felt relatively secure. We met the woman that ran the motel when we were outside and she seemed really nice and just asked us to keep low. I was in that deepest part of early sleep when someone was banging on the door. Great. I didn’t even think about it and opened the door. “You’re not supposed to be here.” the guy said. I recognized him as someone associated with the motel and maybe the car with the tinted windows. “Somebody reported you to the tribal police and we could get in trouble.” he explained. He asked if I could write a statement that we were travelling through and it was an emergency and we needed to spend the night. I figured that was close enough to the true story so I wrote it out in my best penmanship, signed it and handed it over. One last thing, he needed my phone number. Well, ok, I took the pen and wrote it down. The phone call didn’t come until the next day.

Long post for just one day but I had to tell the tale. At least the bikes seemed to be running great, too bad that didn’t last.

Stay tuned for more.

Donn and Deby

Journey Through Time Scenic Byway

In May the weather starts getting better in the Pacific Northwest and of course our thoughts turned to riding. Washington and Oregon were still sorting out what virus restrictions should and should not be in place so after some research we determined we could probably manage a few days riding in Oregon and Washington. I’ve always been interested in the Scenic Byways that many states have now designated so when we came across the Journey Through Time Scenic Byway in Oregon we thought we would check it out.

The following excerpt is from the official Oregon Travel website. Click HERE for more.

The marks of time are stamped across the landscape on this 286-mile/460-kilometer route through prehistoric fossil beds, mining boomtowns and surprising sights like the Painted Hills.

Driving across northeastern Oregon is a trip through the state’s historical timeline. This route begins at the Columbia River, the traditional fishing and gathering grounds for generations of Native Americans. It travels through river canyons and into the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, where 55 million years of life are preserved in the rocks. And it explores communities past and present that tell stories of the state’s hardworking heritage in the woods, in the mines, on the ranches and on the railroad.

Ok, prehistoric fossil beds, boomtowns and Painted Hills? We were in!

The starting point of the byway is along the Oregon, Washington border about midway across the state. We decided to let the weather warm up a little and get a late start towards the town of Hood River which is known for high winds in the Columbia George and the windsurfing crowd it attracts. We booked a room in advance at the Westcliff Lodge, unsure what to expect when we arrived since we heard Oregon was more locked down than Washington. Yes, the hotel was open but there was no food service and most of the restaurants in town were closed. As it was getting dark we ventured out towards the center of town and saw a Mexican Restaurant with cars in the parking lot.

With masks donned we ventured inside and found out that it was the first day they were open for business in months, although at a reduced capacity. This was, in fact, the first restaurant we were inside since before we left for Mexico at the end of March. It seemed strange but we were glad we wouldn’t have to eat gas station food for dinner again. I even took a picture.

We walked back to the lodge to call it a night. It almost seemed like we were the only guests however, in the morning there were a half dozen cars in the parking lot, but that was about it. Strange, especially since it was Memorial Day Weekend.

Friday morning we arose to sunshine and blue skies, perfect for riding. We managed some hot water from the office and mixed up some instant coffee that we always carry with us. We complimented that with an energy bar each and we were ready to ride.

We followed the route first south and then east on highway 218 to the John Day Fossil Beds.

We stopped at a small roadside pull off and went for a scramble up a rocky trail to look at the scenery and maybe find some fossils.

No fossils, but we had a nice hike. Probably one of the only downsides of exploring on motorcycles is that we need to do side-hikes in our heavy motorcycle boots and protective clothing. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our climb exploring the rock formations. We met a few other people on the trail and everyone kept their distances, stepping far off the path when we met. This was something new for us at the time, now it seems normal.

Beautiful scenery along OR 26

We booked a cabin in Sumpter, Oregon, a very small tourist town known for a huge gold dredge. The Delta-9 Cabins were right on the main street and advertised prominently that they were “420 friendly.” We, seriously, had to check in at the Pot Dispensary next to the cabins. Wow, you gotta love the hippies in Oregon. As I’m writing this I went to their website and it states they are Permanently Closed.

Delta-9 Cabins

Most of the town was pretty quiet and what should have been a busy tourist holiday weekend was very slow. We did manage to find Carol’s Mad Dog Restaurant and Bar a short walk from our cabin. The restaurant was full and we found the last high top table in the bar where we could order burgers and beer. Nobody seemed too concerned about the virus in that place. We had a short chat with the bartender and he said the town was quiet but since he was the only restaurant open they were as busy as ever.

Sumpter, Oregon Dredge

Deby and I had time to walk around the dredge. In better times it would be open for tours and the visitor center would be open. I think these gold dredges are amazing and a real engineering marvel except for all the environmental damage they caused. They literally dug up miles and miles of river bed searching for gold clawing their way across the state. You can read more about it HERE.

A pile of treasure in Sumpter

The Grand Canyon of Oregon

Somewhere in our research we came across “The Grand Canyon of Oregon.” A quick search showed it wasn’t far from us so we decided to give it a look.

Ok, technically it’s The Owyhee Canyonlands and it was called The Grand Canyon of Oregon in a New York Times article. We found a nice dirt road runs through it and decided to give it a go, we weren’t disappointed.

Oregon Route 245

Came across this friendly guy wondering what we were doing on his road.

Further down the road we hit pavement but still hadn’t seen another vehicle all day. We had to stop to avoid disturbing lunch time for these two.

Another nice day riding with virtually no traffic and good weather. I’m pretty sure we didn’t interact with any human beings and had a huge social distance from the world. It wasn’t bad.

Burns Oregon

Well, hmmm. I wouldn’t call Burns, Oregon in itself a tourist destination. The small town (population 2800) seems to mostly support the surrounding ranches. We booked two nights at the Best Western on main street. We wanted to use Burns as a launching point to explore the area around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. An interesting side note, in 2016 the Refuge was the site of a takeover by “far-right extremists.” You can read the Wikipedia account of the takeover HERE. When we were there, the town was quiet and the visitor center for the Refuge was closed.

It was Memorial Day but didn’t seem like it at all. We rode 323 miles in and around the refuge and found some great unpaved back roads.

We rode an excellent dirt road to the Pete French Round Barn State Heritage Site.

Round barns were more common in the Midwest between 1880 and 1920 but this one is unusual in Oregon and was built in the mid 1880’s. As a public space, we could walk inside to look around and we found a family of owls living in the rafters of the barn. We managed to get a few great pictures. I’m pretty sure these were Great Horned Owls.

We explored some more back roads before heading to “Diamond Craters Outstanding Natural Area.” I love it that they include the word “outstanding” in the official title of the place.

From the website:
Diamond Craters, an Outstanding Natural Area of 17,000 acres (23 square miles), has some of the most diverse basaltic volcanic features in the nation clustered within a small, accessible area. The area displays an entire range of eruptions possible in basaltic volcanism. It was formed sometime in the past 25,000 years and now resembles a thin, rocky pancake with a few bumps. Features identifiable at the Outstanding Natural Area include craters and vents, cinder cones, spatter cones, lava tubes, driblet spires, a graben, and a water-filled maar.

Exploring the “Outstanding” Diamond Craters

Yes, we were on a roll and having a fun day. Next up was a visit to one of our favorite places, the Alvord Desert. The Alvord Desert is a 12 mile by 7 mile dry lake bed in SE Oregon. We have been there a few times before, but it’s always fun to ride down onto the lakebed and rip around for a while. Similar to the more famous Bonneville Salt Flats, it’s a large perfectly flat dry lake bed.

It’s miles and miles of nothing, you can go as fast as you want. I made up a challenge to see how long we could ride with our eyes closed. Ten seconds is a LONG TIME at 60 mph. Scary, but not too dangerous since there is literally nothing to run into. I even tried it with no hands! We’ve been there in the past when a club of airplane “gliders” were using the field. We watched them being launched with big cables pulled by trucks. Another time we met some friends to camp on the lakebed and since it’s so huge and you can’t see all the way across, we had to locate their camper using GPS coordinates. There is really only a couple of entry points onto the desert and I learned from past experience to drop a pin on my GPS to mark the spot or it would be difficult to navigate back.

After having too much fun zooming around the lakebed we took the long and washboarded gravel road north to OR 78 and back to the luxury Best Western for the night.

With the holiday weekend over we decided it was time to head towards home. Looking for a slightly longer way home we rode north on 395 to Ukiah and then east on National Forest road 52 where we hoped to explore the northern part of the Elkhorn Scenic Byway on Forest Road 73 to Haines, OR.

I took this picture at a roadside stop. I supposed I should have read the little black box on the left, “Ask about road conditions past Granite.” The GPS elevation was at 4,000 feet, then 5,000 feet and finally at 6,000 feet and still climbing we came to this.

We rode a little further but the road kept climbing and the ruts were getting narrower and it was getting late in the day. I knew from well earned experience where this was going to end up so we wisely turned around. The “go around” route took us back to Sumpter, home of the 420 cabins. We stopped for gas at the only station in town and recognized the attendant as the bartender from Carol’s Mad Dog Restaurant a few nights before. We chatted for a while and he confirmed I made the wise decision to turn around stating the road probably wouldn’t be open for another month.

We spent the night at a modern hotel in Baker City along I-84 and rode the super slab home the next day. 1934 miles total.

Six days of fun. Just what we needed for a short get-away almost halfway through the year of the Covid.

But what’s next? Yes, there was an even bigger adventure in August on the “small bikes.”

Thanks for the comments and for following.

Donn and Deby

The world trip that wasn’t

My last post was on May 5, 2020. Now, in the days before Christmas, I thought I would catch up on this crazy year. Recently, I read a newspaper article that encouraged people to document what they did during the year of the Covid pandemic for historical perspective. I like that. In fact, I often refer back to my own blog posts when revisiting places we’ve been or when offering advice to others about their trips. So, I hope you don’t mind if I re-create our journeys in 2020 over the next few posts. This will be fun, and hopefully a diversion for the winter months.

The plan was to ship our motorcycles to Japan and start on April 19, 2020 riding through Japan, a ferry to Russia and then east to Germany where we would arrive close to the 4th of July. We needed to put the motorcycles in a container to be shipped by the end of February to ensure arrival on time. By that time the virus was spreading around the world and we received news that Japan would be restricting travel for tourism purposes. At the time nobody knew what to expect with the pandemic and many optimistically thought it would run it’s course over a few weeks and we could move on with our plans. Of course, we were wrong.

This would be a different kind of trip for us, we were going with a group called GlobeRiders. GlobeRiders has been around for years and is based out of the Seattle area and run by an acquaintance, Helge Pedersen. We found out about the trip because one of Deby’s long time artist friends started dating a guy who, “was into motorcycles.” That could mean anything so I didn’t think much of it until some months later when we actually met Dan in person. To say he was into motorcycles was such an understatement that I felt like I was just a beginner on my Sears Allstate motorcycle compared to his extensive history of global motorcycle travel and adventure.

Dan worked closely with GlobeRiders over the years as a guide and assisting on trips and was well experienced in global motorcycle travel.

In July of 2019, Deby and I met Dan and Jill at an art event where he told me about the upcoming Great World Tour that GlobeRiders was planning. They were going with Dan on his big BMW GS and Jill riding along in a sidecar. Would we like to go along? Hmmm, now that was tempting. On one hand, we are used to travelling alone or maybe with a few friends. We recently were on a motorcycle tour in Portugal and while we had fun, we felt a little stifled in our riding style. On the other hand, wow… Mongolia? Russia? Would we ever get to those places? Would I be able to figure out the logistics by myself? Deby and I went back and forth for a few days and finally decided to go for it.

It turns out that GlobeRiders requires people who haven’t ridden with them before to apply to be on one of their tours. I hadn’t thought of that before but it makes total sense and I felt relieved that company has some assurances that riders in the group are qualified before travelling together. Deby and I completed the lengthy questionnaires and sent them in hoping we qualified! Maybe our friend Dan pulled some strings but on August 7, 2019 I received word from Helge that were in. Now was the time for the planning to begin.

Deby and I decided that since the trip ended in Germany we would ride our older BMW motorcycles and store them in Germany for use on future trips. I still had my trustworthy 2011 BMW F800GS with 60,000 miles on the odometer and Deby would ride her 2012 BMW F650GS with 68,000 miles showing.

Of course both bikes needed extensive preparation to get ready for such a journey. Suspension, chains, tires, oil, valve adjustments, and various other maintenance items. It was a busy time in my shop.

By December the plans were coming together, dates were finalized and we were getting close. Deby and I hosted a meet and greet event at our house for the group where we could meet our fellow travelers for the first time.

In February with Japan cancelling tourism, we decided to skip the Japan part of the trip and ship the motorcycles directly to Vladivostok, Russia, in the far east of the country. This required changing hotel plans in Japan and booking last minute flights on Aeroflot to Vladivostok. We were enthused about the journey and eagerly got the changes done. On February 25th we all met at South Sound BMW near Seattle to load the motorcycles into two containers bound for Russia.

Both bikes ready to go.
Helge and Aaron tying down Deby’s BMW

I will say the guy driving the truck had the best mullet I’ve seen in a long time.

We said goodbye to the motorcycles and were looking forward to a long planned trip to Baja Mexico scheduled for the next few weeks with some friends from the Northwest Norton Owners club. Just one problem…. Deby’s motorcycle was heading to Russia!

Not to worry. While we were at South Sound BMW we noticed a beautiful 2020 F750GS just Deby’s size. It would be a perfect motorcycle to break in on a 3000, mile trip into Mexico.

I posted about that trip HERE.

By the time we returned from Mexico the news about the pandemic was getting worse and we all suspected the trip would be called off. It was.

On March 13 I received an e-mail from Helge that read in part: “……..After a long conversation we both realize that there is little hope that we will be able to go ahead with our journey as planned.”

Now the tasks involved cancelling airfare, dealing with getting a refund from Aeroflot and getting the bikes back. GlobeRiders did an excellent job taking care of the details on their end and even refunded all funds except for any direct expenses he had for shipping the bikes. A real class act. The container with our bikes made it to Russia where they were put on another ship to be returned to the US.

It was the middle of May when the bikes returned and we gathered at the warehouse of the shipping company to retrieve our motorcycles.

The motorcycles after their long journey
We were all getting used to wearing masks by this time. Here is Dan expressing hope for another trip.

So that was the end of the 2020 Great World Tour. My motorcycle went to Russia and all I got was a T-Shirt…. really! Helge sent us all these cool shirts!

So, that’s it. Our motorcycles travelled halfway around the world without us. All we got a shirt, a good story and some new friends. 2020 was off to a weird start…..

Next: We catch spring fever and blast off for some great riding in our own part of the country. Thanks for following us and as always we love to hear from everyone in the comments section or emails.

More to come.

Donn and Deby