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Old 08-02-2010, 08:05 PM   #1
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A Father and Son Trip Down the Great Divide

Some years ago, Clement Salvadori of Rider Magazine wrote an article on his ride of the Great Divide, a version of the mountain bike trail that follows the Continental Divide from the Canadian border down to the Mexican border along the Rocky Mountains. It was this article that caught my Dad's attention, particularity the part about the ride taking place on relatively easy dirt roads, as well as Salvadori's comment that it was the most scenic ride he has ever done. This is quite a statement coming from someone who has ridden in many different parts of the world.

(A preview of one of the Divide crossings):

Fast forward to February 2010 and I'm headed out to go dirt biking with my buddy Paul at Hollister Hills, just south of San Jose. Paul had mentioned on the long drive down to a previous month's ride in the desert his plans of riding the Great Divide in the summer and it sounded like a great idea. My Dad and I had been talking about doing a summer ride together since it was very apparent I would be transferring jobs and should be able to take a few weeks off. Two years ago I was in a similar situation, transferring job positions from Allentown PA to San Jose CA, so we used that opportunity to ride across the country together. So on my drive down to Hollister I give my Dad a call and proposed the idea of riding the Great Divide instead of a twisty tarmac ride around the Rocky's (which we had previously discussed as the ride for the summer). A little hesitant at first, he quickly warms up to the idea. The fact that he has a XR650L sitting in the garage is very beneficial. All I had to do was find a suitable adventure bike.

But first, meet the inmates. Here I am, drawn to motorbikes like a moth to the light as a very young kid. Some would say my addiction started early, others would say I was indoctrinated, but who cares since the outcome was great, right?

Here are the two that are responsible for me, back in their golden youthful years, Mom and Dad. He got me riding dirt bikes at the age of 12, and thankfully she was completly cool with the idea. In fact, she was very happy to see my Dad and I riding the Great Divide together. Growing up, we did a lot of motorcycle riding together so you could say it's our thing.

I began searching for a adventure requirements were that it be reliable and cheap, especially since I already owned two other bikes. I was considering taking my Wee Strom, but wanted something tougher that I could throw around if need be. I also discovered that the Strom wasn't as dirt friendly as I had thought (at least for rough stuff), so I decided to sell the Strom and buy a SV650 as well as whatever other adventure bike I would need. Due to the cheap requirement, it was narrowed down to three obvious contenders: XR, DR and KLR. For some reason everyone loves the KLR, but I don't. Why? Because it's water cooled. I think that a true adventure bike for riding miles from civilization should be air cooled in the name of simplicity. Who wants to worry about a water pump breaking or a radiator puncture? So then I began to focus on the XR and the DR. I opted for the DR due to it being slightly more road friendly then the XR, and due to the fact that I found a great deal from a fellow image Baron (Badassbobthecattlerustler). He was located in Orange County and I was still in the SF Bay Area, so we met in Bakersfield to perform the transaction. Luckily I had some buddies out in Death Valley for h8chain's DV Ride, so I continued on a few more hours in order to break the DR in the best way possible - good ole desert riding. The best thing about the DR650 is that it had all the right mods, including suspension, and to make things even better Baron is the same weight as me. Score!

This is how this RR will work - we did this ride in July 2010, and it is now August 2010 and am finally able to get around to sorting/uploading photos and writing this RR. I'll be writing a few days worth of RR here and there, whenever I am able to. Hope you enjoy!

And now on to the trip....

After months of preparing, many emails and phone calls, it was the end of June and we were ready to kick things off. Dad had left Michigan, all loaded up on his XR650L, heading for our meeting spot of Kalispell Montana. All I had left to do was direct the movers with the packing of all my stuff I would not need for the ride, as it would be my last day living in Mountain View CA. The semi truck would then go off to Los Angeles, where all my stuff would sit in storage until I arrived 3 weeks later, ready to move in. I must say, I feel pretty lucky to have been able to take this time off in between job positions...who else in their mid twenties can afford to take that chunk of time off? Not many....this will be the ride of a lifetime.

Note: some people call it the CDT (Continental Divide Trail), some call it the CDR (Continental Divide Ride), but technically it should be called the GDR (Great Divide Ride). The motorcycle route is based off of the mountain bike route put together by Adventure Cycling, and they called it the Great Divide Ride in order to differentiate it from the CDT, which is the hiking trail. Also, thanks to Big Dog, since we used his tracks to make navigating much easier.

Here are the final GPS tracks after the journey:

isaac004 screwed with this post 10-22-2012 at 09:17 PM
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Old 08-02-2010, 08:28 PM   #2
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Day -4, Mountain View, CA to Oroville, CA

Day -4? You'll see, keep reading and the numbering will make sense. I'm planning on 4 days from Mountain View CA to Kalispell MT. After the movers pack up all my worldly possessions, motorcycles, bicycles, etc, all I am left with is everything I will need for the next 3 weeks and an empty house in which I just turned in the keys.

A bit famished, I head out for some fine dining in the middle of the afternoon at my favorite local taqueria. For those of you in the south bay area, you must check out Ruby's Taqueria in's pretty well hidden on the south side of a sound wall off of 101 in between Mathilda and Fair Oaks, but look it up and be amazed with their tacos. Some excellent chips, tacos, and of course a Mexican Coke.

Before hitting the road, I snapped a photo of my rear Death Wing. I was planning on 1300 miles to Kalispell and had a worn out D606 up front which I knew would make the trip but wasn't 100% sure on how close I could cut it with the rear.

I then hit the super slab, trying to get to Oroville CA as quick as possible in just a few hours. Right before Oroville I ran into one of my last chances for some fresh California peaches and plums....

The ride up would also be a test of the gas range with my 5 gallon IMS tank. I had filled up in Mountain View and managed to make it to Oroville without using reserve, which was about 200 miles. Riding at 70-75 mph, I managed somewhere around 48 mpg. Not TOO bad, but I was running at higher speed. I then checked into Motel 6, grabbed some Subway, and relaxed to Gran Torino (good movie) on HBO, in preparation for a real day on the road the next morning.

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Old 08-03-2010, 05:56 PM   #3
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Day -3, Oroville, CA to Burns, OR

Woke up bright and early, and grabbed some breakfast from the 24 hour diner next to the Motel 6. I loaded the bike up and then headed up to CA-70, working my way into the Sierra's. Here's one of the many power/sub stations that PG&E has along the river.

I then passed another famous north/south trail, the PCT:

There was also the Eby Stamp Mill, which was used during the gold rush era. It looks like it's not doing so well with crushing the rocks stuck in there.

I really wanted to ride through Mt Lassen, but alas the road was still snowed over in early July. The website said it was still being plowed and would not be ready until mid July. Bummer. So I left CA-89 and headed up the east side of Lake Almanor.

Next up was Eagle Lake.

I came upon two pickup had a cage with a few goats in the back, which looked kind of cool. Then I passed this truck, with the dogs sitting on the tool box and looking like they were having a blast being out in the wind.

I rolled into Alturas CA looking for gas and lunch. After filling up, I took a wrong turn without realizing it since I was focused on trying to find a decent looking restaurant. I quickly came across a Thai restaurant and without thinking, I turned in the parking lot because it immediately looked familiar. Turns out that 2 years ago when my Dad and I rode from the east coast, we stopped at this exact same restaurant for lunch. Just my luck! Even the same black cat was roaming around the outdoor eating area.

Shortly after heading north out of Alturas CA on US-395, I had to stop and take a photo of this:

After taking the photo, I had to wait for a group of cars and bikes to pass before pulling on the road. I quickly caught up to this group of Harley's:

I passed them, and then they passed me, and then they stopped and I passed them....this continued all the way to Burns OR. When they first passed me, I got a big thumbs up from one of the guys. Next up was the dry Goose Lake, which had some funky dust storms dancing around.

Welcome to Oregon....don't grab the gas pump!

I didn't realize it at this point but southern Oregon is where the clouds started to slowly build up...

As I hit Lake Abert, boom, it hit me (not literally) that I was about to ride into a bunch of storms. It seems like it all of a sudden went dark!

I stopped at the only official rest area between Lake Abert and US-395/20 and talked to a few other riders who were messing around with rain gear. One said that shortly before my arrival it was hailing like crazy and they all had to wait it out under the picnic table shelters. Whew, close! It was looking a bit like this when I pulled up:

I continued on towards Burns OR, questioning my original plans of camping at some hot springs just east of there. As I rolled into Burns, I saw this place and decided for $39 bucks I would rather not risk any more rain for that night. Did I mention it was cold? Through most of OR that day it was about 50-55 deg F, which is rather low for July. Two years prior it was more like 100 deg F in July!

At the hotel I talked to two Harley riders next to me, who were wrapping up a multi week trip and were headed back to Washington. One was still recovering from some stomach bug or food poisoning. I also saw a loaded up GS staying there as well but did not get a chance to talk to him. Ordered some pizza from Figaro's and called it a night.

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Old 08-03-2010, 06:44 PM   #4
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Nice RR

Keep on writin'

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Old 08-03-2010, 06:52 PM   #5
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Nice one, Isaac.
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Old 08-05-2010, 04:53 PM   #6
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Day -2, Burns, OR to Nezperce State Forest, ID

Unlike the sky the evening before, the morning was very bright and blue with few clouds in sight. The air was crisp, just cool enough to break out the heated vest and still feel refreshed. The ride east out of Burns started out very flat and straight but soon entered some rolling hills where I saw what I thought to be a mechanical horse.

Here is one of the cameras I was using, my HTC Incredible, in order to upload photos to friends while on the road.

I then came up a small rise and realized there was a perfect view of a small stream running out to the valley.

The temperature creeped up slowly to 60 but it still felt rather cool. I thought it was perfect, just cool enough to not feel hot at all in the gear, but not cold enough to feel cold. The surrounding hills started to get taller....

I then rolled through Vale OR and spotted the following bakery. Since I hadn't stopped yet that morning, I felt the urge to go in and grab a cinnamon roll. I felt just slightly out of place with the few big families in there, guys in cowboy boots and hats, and me in my Aerostich with big ole motocross boots on. I like to think they were jealous of my boots.

I hit Ontario OR at lunch time and decided to stop at a small drive in type burger joint called Burger West, which is famous for putting big slices of ham (on the beef patty) in the burger. I didn't opt for the ham, but it was pretty good.


Idaho started out kind of flat and open, but it was a nice relaxing ride while the lunch digested.

Working my way into the hills and mountains of central western Idaho, I passed by Black Canyon Dam. I'm a sucker for dams so I always try and stop to check it out and snap a photo.

45th Parallel! Not the first time, but the first time on the DR and I was on a mission to snap this photo.

Working my way up ID-55, traffic started to get worse due to the 4th of July weekend. There were some nice twisty spots that were bogged down by all the cars.... disappointing to say the least, but not too bad because where I was headed there are no cars!!! The wind also started to whip up too. Later in the afternoon I stopped at a big pull off and scrambled down some rocks to rest to this:

I really dig the contours on the side of the hills.

As I was heading north on US-95 to Grangeville, the road was getting higher and higher, until I saw how high we were over the valley and just had to stop for a photo. I ran into an older couple on a Harley who were on a 1+ month trip all over the US and had started in Florida. We talked for a bit, and took photos for each other.

I pulled into Grangeville ID, looking for gas and some canned food for camping. I was also looking for camping, as I knew there was some NE of the town but not sure exactly where. After grabbing petrol and supplies, I headed out to find ID-14 as I recall some state park and camp sites there from a map. I rode down ID-13, went onto 14 for some miles and did not see any signs for a camp site. It was a nice road though....

I was getting a little worried and turned around to find a way back towards ID-13, assuming I might have to give up and keep riding towards US-12. I saw a local walking on the side of the road and talked to him for a few minutes....he was very nice and said I was originally going the right way and just had to continue on US-14 for a few more miles. I was in the right spot, Nez Perce State Forest.

Sure enough I found a few camp sites and picked a spot.

Scrounging around for downed wood, I built the lamest fire ever before going to sleep.

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Old 08-06-2010, 02:45 PM   #7
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Looking forward to more. Looks like a great RR in the making.
"give your free will a chance, you've got to act to succeed"

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Old 08-07-2010, 04:13 PM   #8
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Day 1, Eureka MT to Seeley Lake MT

Today starts the first full day of riding the Great Divide. While loading the bikes up in the morning, my Dad noticed one of two bolts holding a heat shield on my exhaust was missing so we tracked down a hardware store ASAP. We found one that opened at 8am and we rolled up right as they were opening. I bought the bolt, but then realized that the boss welded to the pipe had stripped out threads. Hmm, this means the bolt could have been missing for a long time. Simple fix though, I just put a hose clamp around it.

Here is the quick works great and I'm planning on leaving it like this as the permanent fix.

We continued on and quickly jumped onto a goaty paved road. Still no dirt yet, but we knew it was coming! We had heard from some hikers the day before that part of the road was supposedly closed off while they resurfaced it. They were right, as we came across this:

There was a Park Ranger type person there checking up on the construction contractor and while very nice and polite, he was adamant on not allowing us to try squeeze by on the narrow "shoulder". We were getting kind of bummed out because the only other way around would be to jump back on US-93 south and miss the whole first section of dirt. The ranger left and we decided to walk up to the construction workers and ask them if we could sneak by. They said "sure thing!" and we immediately jumped back on the bikes and squeezed around the paver and roller. Score! Nothing like riding on virgin blacktop!

Shortly after that, we hit the first official section of dirt!

Cruising down the dirt, everything felt more alive all of a sudden...

Came across some damaged forest...not sure if this is due to pine beetle infestation, but it wasn't pretty.

Thump thump thump......Dad is getting back into the dirt groove.

We then came across this preserved cabin but I forget what it was called.

Working our way up to Red Meadow Lake.

Boom, Red Meadow Lake...

This mountain top lake is incredibly beautiful and serene. It was extremely green all around and the air was crisp.

We talked with 2 locals who were up there fishing, and got them to take our photo for us.

We continued down the road and came across one of the listed camp sites for the Great Divide mountain bikers. I took a side excursion and rode down one of the paths to the lake, next to one of the camp sites. Absolutely perfect!

But since it was not even lunch time we had to keep on rolling if we wanted to make progress. We rolled into Whitefish MT looking for lunch and I immediately pulled over at Piggyback BBQ.

The food was pretty good here and it was a nice spot to relax for bit. Here's my Dad enjoying his sandwich.

Here's the pulled pork sandwich I had, which was quite tasty.

Next up was a section of small side paved roads. These yellow flowers grabbed my attention in one of the many grassy fields.

For a while we trailed two Harley's, one of which was this sidecar. It was very interesting following them and watching a motorcycle lean the wrong way in every turn, but the way her hair was flowing in the wind looked very relaxing as we all carved around the meadows and woods.

Just as we were missing dirt again we jumped back onto the forest roads. Here are a few of the Great Divide cyclists we saw along the way.

I should add that in June they had the Tour Divide, an unsupported cycling race from north to south that is 2745 miles long. Every rider is responsible for carrying all their own camping gear, food, water, etc. They must also plan on how and when they will go off course to restock on supplies. These guys are truly nuts, especially considering the fact that the first place guy completed the Great Divide trail in 17 days on a mountain bike.

Here's a little surprise we had to squeeze around.

Afternoon snack by the river.

We decided it would be best to run down to Seeley Lake and hotel it for another night. The rainy weather was still clearing up and it was still dipping into the 30's at night so we opted for some more comfort. While riding south on MT-83 we saw some more storms brewing off to the side...

Unloading at the hotel.

Dad got attacked by a bear...

The lady at the motel recommended Lindey's Prime Steak House for dinner, which was actually pretty good. One dinner feeds two...they bring out a huge chunk of meat and cut it at the table for you after cooking it.

Overall a great first day on the dirt. Most of the dirt was double track forest service roads, winding up and down the mountains.

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Old 08-07-2010, 06:52 PM   #9
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Great RR, Isaac, I just love reading about long distance rides done on Thumpers.

Thanks for providing a link over on SBR. Edit: & a link to that work stand.

BigT screwed with this post 08-07-2010 at 10:06 PM
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Old 08-07-2010, 07:29 PM   #10
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Keep up the awesome RR. Planning a Phx to Glacier and back ride in three weeks and cant wait to get up north!
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Old 08-07-2010, 07:30 PM   #11
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In on it too!

Looking to do this trip one day myself.
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Old 08-07-2010, 07:51 PM   #12
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Always enjoy your RR! Keep it coming
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There's roads and there's roads and they call, can't you hear it? Roads of the earth and roads of the spirit. The best roads of all are the ones that aren't certain. One of those is where you'll find me till they drop the big curtain. Bruce Cockburn
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Old 08-07-2010, 09:05 PM   #13
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Awesome. Wish my dad rode bikes. Have fun.
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Old 08-08-2010, 12:11 AM   #14
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Awsome way for father and son to spend time together. Cant wait to get out there the DR650 is ready to go!


Great RR, Isaac, I just love reading about long distance rides done on Thumpers.

Thanks for providing a link over on SBR. Edit: & a link to that work stand.[/quote]
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Old 08-08-2010, 08:11 AM   #15
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I'm in, looks like a great ride!
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