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

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

2019 – Canada, eh!

Thanks for all the comments on my last post. Writing these posts is fun and a good way for me to relive some of the adventure we’ve had this past year. The other purpose is to jog my memory if I ever am asked about a certain trip or place, and hopefully, I put enough information about roads and hotels that should anyone want to re-create one of these trips (like me!) it can be done.

Just a little more before I get on with the trip report….. Thanks Richard for the note and mentioning our 2013 trip to South America with Keith and Dave (link here: https://advdonnh.com/motoraid-ii/). That trip was the basis of Keith’s book, “The Whole Story” available at Keith’s site: http://www.keithsrides.com/the-whole-story.html and that trip is what really launched Deby and I to feel confident enough to explore Latin America on motorcycles.

We had a reunion of sorts in November at the LeMay Museum in Tacoma. I’m glad to report everyone is doing great. Here is a picture:

November 2019 Reunion of the MotoRaid II Crew

From left to right: Jim (Doc), Janice and Dave, Michael, Deby and Donn, Chris, Ann and Keith

Yes, that’s Chris from our 2019 Patagonia trip. So, on with the adventure……..

When good plans just don’t pan out

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Gravel Travel and Dancing

Wow, sorry for the delay. Finally….. bandwidth. I’m writing this from Colhaique, Chile. We are here, and so far, safe and sound and having too much fun. Our route is the bottom magenta line.

I’ll pick up where I left off with Michael and his wife Dee Dee riding two up on the Africa Twin. We left Chiaten for the south along the northern part of the famous Carretera Austral. It was another beautiful day for riding with nice roads and views behind.

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Day 1 Riding!

On our last trip to Patagonia we had to wait one month in Buenos Aires for our motorcycles to be delivered. This time…. one day! Oh, yea. Of course, we were not waiting for OUR bikes all we had to do was take a cab to the offices of Ride Adventures in Pucon where they had our bikes shined up and waiting.

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