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 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:

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 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