This was to be my fourth go at the GDR (Great Divide Ride). In 2006, me and my Tucson riding buddy, Lane left around 7/4, going S/N and made it a day and a half onto the Plains of San Augustin where my KLR650 became totally mired in mud and I fried the clutch – that was the end of that. In 2007, I tried a S/N again with Rick Sylvies departing 7/3. This time the monsoons were good to us in NM, and we sailed through that muddy trouble spot (when it’s raining) that is just beyond Collins Park. We joined up, by accident, with Joe Nelson of Madison, WI, in Cuba. NM, and completed the route in 10.5 days. I took a couple of nasty dumps where I got a concussion (I was definitely on queer street for a half hour or so) and on the other dump I had a partial dislocation of my collar bone. Other than that, the trip was smooth with only a brief bit of rain in CO. In 2009, Lane and I tried again going S/N, but this time his BMW had mechanical issues that forced us to give it up by the time we got to Kremmling, CO.
This year I turned 75, and I wanted to do the ride at least once more, but this time going N/S. Originally the group was to be Lane, my brother, Bob and myself, but business conflicts took Lane out of the equation. We had contemplated renting a truck to haul the bikes up to MT, but when it became just the two of us and it started looking like the cost of the rental and the gas was going to be approaching $1800, Bob and I decided to ride from my home in Patagonia, AZ up to Canada figuring we could stay at motels going and coming back for what the rental truck would cost us, and still have money left over.
We were originally planning on leaving about 8/15, after the bulk of the monsoons should be behind us, but my wife ended up having to have surgery to repair a faulty hip implant in the middle of July. So to insure she was far enough along in her recovery we re-set the departure date for 9/1. A little late in the season, but we figured worst case we may have to go around a snowed-in pass or two. The good news being the monsoons in NM should be safely over.
We both have XT225’s with less than 3500 miles on them. Besides the normal maintenance items (fresh oil, set valves, clean air filters, adjust chains), the only thing we did to prep for the trip was to replace the OEM Cheng Shins with Michelin T-63’s. We also installed Clarke 4.1 gallon fuel tanks. We did bring along camping equipment in case we got stranded in the middle of nowhere so the weight my bike was carrying was 207# - me and riding gear, 47# - stuff, and 12# - extra gas capacity, for a total of 266#.
DAY 1 was 9/1, and we didn’t get off early in the morning as we wanted to, but better on the road and free of domestic restraints so we finally left at 1:30 pm!!!
Will we be smiling when we get back?
The start of a long way to go............
When we were immediately north of Tucson in Catalina a big storm was going through so we stopped for 45 minutes for it to blow over – result was we only made it to Globe, AZ – 196 miles.
Ate breakfast and on the road by 8:00. Great ride through the Salt River Canyon on US 60, and up to Showlow where we took AZ 77 through Holbrook and then angled over to US 191, south of Chinle. Bob had never seen Canyon de Chelly so we spent an hour or so riding along the south side of the canyon and taking pics.
Even those this is a National Monument, people who lived there before it became so are still living and farming in the canyon.
Got to Blanding UT and stayed at the Stone Lizard.
We met a couple of guys from Israel who every couple of years take off for the summer and tour a continent – this year North America. Two years ago they did Australia. They were on Suzuki 650 V-Stroms with a real creative footrest.
385 miles for the day.
Rode to Moab bright an early and had breakfast at McDonalds. From there to Green River and then angled on US 191 to I-15 south of Salt Lake City. North of Salt Lake City had a pucker moment when I went on reserve and was frantically fiddling with the switch while a semi was driving up my rear. From then on I switched to the reserve position before I hit reserve with other consequences. Stopped in Pocatello, ID. Went to dinner at El Jacito and had a great special, Chicken Fajita dinner with all the trimmings and a large mug of Dos Equis Amber all for $8.43!
Miles this day: 483
As we’re crossing into MT, it’s becoming more gray, not clouds, but smoke form a huge forest fire somewhere in ID. This goes on for miles and we can’t help but worry that this is going to screw up the MT section of the trail. By the time we get out of the smoke, around Deer Lodge, MT, I have to pay an hour’s delay for having my switch on reserve since filling – I run out of gas.
Bob rides back to Deer Lodge and persuades a friendly lady at a Conoco station to lend him a 1 gallon plastic gas can which bails me out. On the asphalt Bob is always getting better mileage than me, but when we get on the gravel, I get better mileage. And how bad was the mileage on asphalt? – best fill was 55.8, and worst was 39.3, overall on the pavement going up to Canada was 48.1mpg. Contrast that with the ride back to AZ on the backroads: Best was 75.4, worst was 50.2, and overall was 61.5mpg. All this is to say the little bugger doesn’t really like to go much over 50mph. On the level with no wind, top speed was less than 65mph. We make it to Ovando, MT that evening and stay at the Blackfoot Commercial Co.
and go out and have some terrific roadhouse food at “Trixies”.
Miles for the day: 409
We go across the street to the Stray Bullet for Breakfast.
Mighty good, and we also succumbed to a cinnamon roll which was so huge it killed all thought of lunch.
We’re desperate after 1620 miles of asphalt to get on some gravel so we decide nuts to going up to Roosville for the border pictures and join the Trail just a little north of Fortline, MT, at about 1:00 in the afternoon. Here's how the T-63's looked after 1620 miles of asphalt:
How are they going to look when we get home, and will we get home with them?
Our 1st stop on the GDR:
Nice to be back in the boonies.
These ladies gave Bob the lowdown on grizzlies.
And also took his picture.
Very nice homes along Whitefish Lake.
Got into Kalispell and stayed at a Motel 6.
Miles for the day: 289
It's raining pretty good when we get up in the morning so we wait at the motel until the rain stops at about 11:00. Then misadventures begin. We decide to go down MT 83 and bypass the cycling route that is west of 83 (I did that portion of the route in 2007 and found it too boring) and also the single track that goes along Richmond Peak east of 83 mainly because I couldn't locate it on the Garmin Mapsource software. Two things happen: I damn near hit Bambi and the track I had loaded into the Garmin Street Pilot 2720 abruptly terminates!?!?!!! What the.....?
To back up for a minute, I had plotted the entire course on Mapsource software and then had uploaded it to Google Earth where I could compare the Mapsource route with physical reality. Doing this there were at least 4 areas where there was a significant difference between the two. This would mean when I hit those areas the GPS would go into some kind of re-calculate mode trying to get me back on the route that I was actually on. Because of this exercise I knew I had the whole route plotted. However, when I downloaded the route to the GPS device, I got no error message that the whole route hadn't downloaded. One thing I did notice was the GPS device seemed to have broken the route into a northern section and a southern section. After the abrupt termination of the northern section, I did check to see how much of the southern section was in the GPS - it looked to be all there. As back-up I had brought along the book, "Cycling The Great Divide", so we weren't stopped.
Back to the ride: We got back onto the official trail in Seeley Lake and came out of the woods a little west of Lincoln (home of the Unibomber).
Bob, 71, has a case of COPD, so often times when riding behind he would be wearing the mask to minimize the effect of dust.
Great to be in the woods.
This section is fast.
We get to Lincoln and stay at Leeper's Motel and go to dinner at
Miles for the day: 173 - not too bad for half a day.
We go back on the trail and climb up to:
Where at the top of the pass we manage to make a wrong turn and come out on the highway North of Helena, not West of Helena. Back in Helena we pick up the trail again and head towards Basin. We get to this lake
and spend quite a bit of time looking for the route that will take us to Basin (the maps in the cycling book are not always to scale). We do finally find FR 1878 which is a very sporting 2-track, but where it ends we don't have any luck staying on the official trail. We finally come to a 2-lane road that our MT highway maps shows going into Basin, however this is what this road becomes well before Basin:
Screw it. We turn around and head back the way we come, get on I-15 and go to Basin where we stop for supper.
We get back on the I-15, go to Butte and stay at Roggers Motel.
Miles for the day: 174 - not real good.
Beautiful riding today. We're getting near the area where we had seen so much smoke coming north and things are much clearer.
We're heading in the direction of Fleecer Ridge
But that's no motorcycle trail for old men and we quickly decide to bypass it.
We go down the frontage road of I-15, hang a right on MT 43, go through Wise River, then go left on a paved FS road that head us in the direction of Bannack, the original territorial capital of MT. Bannack at this time is a state park and one of the best preserved ghost towns I have seen.
It was a mining town.
The Masonic Lodge:
For well over a hundred years old, pretty intact:
Originally a courthouse then a hotel:
Staircase in very good shape:
A commercial cook stove in the hotel:
And the sink:
One of the homes.
Restored to look as it did:
Time to go:
This is the southern end of what remains of the old Bannack Road. You can just barely see it behind and to the left of the sign. We had taken this road on my ride in 2007 from S/N, however when we going N/S this time and got to its northern end it was signed as private property, no trespassing and with a locked gate. So we took a wide fast gravel road that ran parallel to it for all of its length.
As we approached Deli the road became less straight and much more scenic.
Coming into Lima, Mt.
In Lima we stayed at the Mountainview Motel
And, I found this!!!!!!!
How did the spark arrestor fall out yet the bolt that holds it in place stay in? Did the bolt cut through the sheet metal of the housing that slips into the muffler? The only mechanical issue I had on the trip. Bob had some travails I'll go into later.
Miles for the day: 209