Having recently purchased an '05 KTM Adventure from a fellow inmate after spending way too much time on this site drooling over other's ride reports, stories, etc., I persuaded a good friend to tackle the CDR with me this last June.
The Plan: roll out of Boulder and get to Whitefish, MT as quick as possible, change tires, then start heading back south via the CDR.
With an extremely understanding and supportive spouse, I began collecting the various bit and pieces of equipment needed for the trip.
- etc, etc, etc.
To back up a bit, my previous riding experience is listed below:
Years riding motorcycles: 3
Longest ride on a motorcycle prior to trip: about 150 miles
Longest ride on dirt: 20 miles
Time spent navigating via GPS: 0
Tires changed by self: 0
I was motivated by shear desire for this whole thing and psyched I could get my best man in on the deal to share it with me.
Clean, smiling, unknowing...
Our goal was to get somewhere north of Laramie to camp for the first night. G-Man (on the Dakar) came up from Golden and we rolled out of Boulder around 5pm on a Thursday. We had the joy of hitting rush hour traffic and 30 mph cross winds as we went north via 287.
We grabbed a burrito in Laramie as the sun went down then headed off to find a camp site.
Finding a place to camp, in the dark, in an unfamiliar area is always is a gamble. We found a dirt track heading off of the road and went up to find a quiet spot to dirt dive for the night.
3+ hours from home and we already found ourselves, in the dark, in rut slick from rain... this is going to be really fun....
We retreated from the evening hill climb to flatter ground, pitched our tents, and crashed for the night.
We woke the next morning only to be swarmed by mosquitos.
We hastily packed our bikes and retreated to a more hospitable spot for coffee and oatmeal....
The route north was not planned. We knew we wanted to hit the Chief Joseph Highway and Beartooth Pass, but that was about it. So, we made our way through Wyoming, with the RPMs high and our heads down.
Somehow, during a fill up, I managed to break the antenna of my Garmin Quest, while it was still in the holder (I caught my sleeve on it while I dismounted) ! I had read about and heard that they were a bit fragile, but WTF! We picked up an external antenna at a big box store for $30.... For all you Quest owners out there, pick one of these up. It is the cheapest "Plan B" you can have.
As mentioned in previous posts, the Chief Joseph Highway was incredible. Crazy views and fun twistys.
We rolled down the west side and headed up Beartooth Pass with Red Lodge as our goal for the night.
Having been hit with the biggest winter in many years, even at the end of June, some of the snow banks reached +13' in height.
We had almost done 500 miles that day and we were feeling it. With thoughts of cold beers and a warm meal in our heads, we rolled down the pass into Red Lodge to find some fixin's for the night.
Now, all you veteran moto folks out there may have forgotten what your first long distance ride feels like at the end of the day.... stories of the stock KTM seat are not exaggerated, my ass was numb. My right hand had turned into a claw; I couldn't even wipe my ass with it and had to go 'lefty'.
With another long day of highway riding ahead of us, we rolled out of Red Lodge early in the am.
We made our way up through Great Falls heading north through the wide plains of central Montana. With the Rocky Mountains to our west, I imagine that this was what the Colorado Front Range must have been like before all us white folks crashed the party; rolling grasslands, few trees, and a massive mountain range coming straight out of the ground.
We made it to St. Mary's and procured a campsite for the night.
Having ticked close to another 500 miles of slab, were were glad to have made the push to get here. One more easy day of riding over to Whitefish, and we could start heading south on the dirt.
The next morning, Going to the Sun Road was still closed due to snow, so we took the bags off and road up as far as we could to check out the views.
... and we were not disappointed.
We made our way over to Whitefish, via the southern route, and grabbed a campsite at Whitefish State Park to proceed with our tire changing secession.
Keep in mind that neither of us had done this before, let alone even try to take a wheel off the bike. I reassured G-man that it would be no problem as I had read a post on Advrider on how to do it and we should have it done in no time.
We proceeded to take the bikes apart and begin the assault.
With temps hovering in the mid-90's we sweated and cursed our way through the task. My right hand still having the dexterity of a club certainly did not help matters.
This pretty much sums up my attitude about changing tires.
We had only brought with us a small bike pump to fix emergency flats along the route, and were not looking forward to pumping up the tires.
As the saying goes about idiots and drunks, someone was looking out for us... The ranger for the park came by to say hello and offered to help us out by letting us use his tool shed equipped with an air compressor.
Never underestimate the helpfulness of such folks. Even with the compressor, it took us 6+ hours to change 4 tires. So, after a lot of sweating and scrapping off the skin of our knuckles, we remounted the tires and quickly motivated to fulfilling our duties of being not only idiots, but drunk idiots
Tomorrow, we were finally going to be getting some dirt under the tires
With the previous day's task behind us and the memory already clouded by a few too many pints, we had a hasty breakfast and rolled north to touch the border.
Having done close to 1300 miles of pavement, it felt good to finally get here.
This northern part of Montana is incredible. Big peaks, grass fields, and not too many people.
FINALLY, WE HIT THE DIRT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We aired down the tires, and huge smiles on our faces we kicked up a cloud of dust.
To give some background: I had only played with Garmin's software about 2 times before we headed out, so I was using a combination of tracks for our navigation (thanks BigDog!). In the end, I'm not to sure which one I was using, but it always seems to get us where we wanted to go. We also brought along DeLorme Gazetteers for each state with the route highlighted so we could check out where we were headed the night before (these became invaluable....)
Back to the story........
The route north of Whitefish was incredible.... great scenery and fun roads. Being that I was the only one with a GPS, I had clean air the whole time. G-man quickly regretted not purchasing a unit for himself.
We stopped for lunch just north of Polebridge alongside a creek for a quick snack in the shade. Air temps were still in the mid to upper 90's.
We blazed back west across the mountains towards Whitefish loving every minute of it.
The condition of the roads was incredible. Packed smooth, grippy, no loose rocks... everything a couple of dirt noobs could ask for for the first day on the dirt.
We rolled back though Whitefish, picked up some supplies for dinner that night and kept heading south. The dust on the ranch road between Columbia Falls and Swan Lake was unbearable, so we jumped on the slab for a bit. We picked up the trail again at the north end of Swan Lake. It had rained the night before and the roads were smooth and tacky. Every time we stopped we could not stop smilin', hootin' and hollerin'.
We camped at Swan Lake that night and recounted the day. We were exhausted from the anticipation and exhilaration of riding our first dirt of the trip and marveled at our luck of getting to do this all again the next day and the next, and the next; boosted by the fact that around every turn was something new to be experienced.
You could say I was a happy camper...
[day two later.....]