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Old 10-06-2007, 09:36 AM   #1
Grainbelt OP
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Open Range Tour - Saskabush to Utah

I left Saskatoon alone on a bleak Monday morning, 1800kms away from a meeting in Park City, UT with two days to get there. Armed with a map and a heavy throttle hand, I started out west through the oppressing greys of a September morning, and then South toward my home country and roads that bend.

My enthusiasm was tempered by a lengthy stretch of road construction, and once thru the mayhem I paused to relax a bit as I crossed the Saskatchewan River.

Around 11 am the sun burned through the clouds to lift my spirits and expose the vast emptyness of the prairies.

I entered Montana on Hwy 191, meandering south and west. As I crested a small ridge I dropped into a town that time has seemingly forgotten. I pondered the lives of the few residents of this Loring, MT, and what it would be to live here, particularly in winter.

Amber waves of grain, indeed.

Having spent too much time taking photos and enjoying the scenery, I gave the throttle a hearty twist and struck out for my hotel in Bozeman, stopping only to capture this scene of the setting sun as its struggled to shed light upon the eastern edge of the Rocky Mountains.

An evening rainstorm erupted as I hustled along Interstate 90 past Livingston. This was not the time for epic attempts at onboard photography, so I simply enjoyed the challenge of 80mph semi-dodging as the bends tightened and we rose thru the hills into Bozeman. I arrived at the hotel wet, tired, and enthralled by the 1000 kilometers I had just spent alone in the vast western prairies of North America, eager to continue south through the mountains.

To pass the time until morning, I acquired a massive can of PBR and perused a little Jo Momma.

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Old 10-06-2007, 09:37 AM   #2
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Day 2

Tuesday morning brought a chill with it, and I shivered as I repacked bike for the final push into Utah. I took 191 again, travelling upstream along the Gallatin River toward West Yellowstone as the fog slowly lifted out of the valley. A brigade of heavy trucks blocked my path, apparently headed to Big Sky to install cement. The cars and motorhomes behind them dared not pass, given the tight arcs the road took thru the exposed rock. I, on the other hand, had a motorcycle, and used its ample torque to sneak past the dozing bluehairs and the labourers that impeded their progress.

Satisfied that I had put some distance between us, I finally stopped for a photo along a colourful hillside. I can't help thinking that the designers at Kawasaki had this very trip in mind, the cloudy fall morning setting off the silver and gold they chose for the bike.

The moving roadblock behind me, I slipped through the TargheeForest toward West Yellowstone. I had no time for photos, my mind wandering as the bike seemingly leaned itself around the corners. I intended to stop in W. Yellowstone for gas, but was in no mood for stopping and pressed on toward Ashton.

I had made excellent time thus far, my early morning antics putting me a bit ahead of schedule, so I took the option of staying East of I-15 for the time being, winding my way thru the high meadows that sit between the Rockies and Tetons. Just off of US 20 is a sign for MesaFalls, so I veer off course to see what is there. This is where I had my first of many encounters with free range cattle, coming around corners to find a steer in my lane, staring at my headlight as I bore down upon it, all honking and revving of motors having no effect. I learned to simply go around them, but was never comfortable with their presence in the ditches, on the shoulder, or in the middle of the road.

MesaFalls is nothing spectacular, but the angle of the sun in late morning was causing a rainbow to appear in the spray.

Idaho has a number of 'scenic highways', and I took the time to strafe them as I made my way south. ID 32, then 33, then 31, all providing spectacular views and sufficient curves to keep this flatlander occupied. I eventually arrived at the Palisades Reservoir, and stopped to hydrate and enjoy the scenery.

From Etna I turned West toward Soda Springs, and was rewarded with a twisty climb into the hills, the road shooting through the gap in the center of the photo and winding upward toward the vantage point the shot was taken from.

Soon after I topped this ridge I found myself in a silent pasture high in the hills. Not pictured are the white tents with chimneys, sheep herders readying themselves for winter.

I dropped down into the coal-fired town of Soda Springs as my fuel light blazed brightly on the dash. Bike and man satiated, we headed out for BearLakeState Park, only to be thwarted by a severe construction delay. I grudgingly turned west toward Logan, UT and Interstate 15. I hit Logan at rush hour, and eventually made Brigham City where I stopped for gas and to zip the liners out of my gear. Somewhere along the Utah border I had dropped West out of the mountains and into the heat of the day.

Bored with the traffic on I 15, I was glad to find I 80 toward ParkCity was nearly empty, and again took the opportunity to weave carefully between the tractor trailers and the center divider as I rose back up into the mountains.

Two days, 1876 kms, and quite a view to end the first leg of my journey.

I checked into the hotel as my colleagues wondered who the motorcyclist was at the front desk. I wish all my business travel resulted in a bed dedicated solely to heaps of motorcycle gear.

At this point our meetings commenced, two and half days of business planning, development of best practices, and gin-induced hilarity at a few establishments on Main St. in ParkCity. Apparently I moonwalked at some point. I don’t recall this whatsoever.
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Old 10-06-2007, 09:38 AM   #3
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Day 3

At noon on Friday we said our goodbyes, the other beancounters waiting impatiently for their airport shuttles as I checked out and donned my gear for the ride North. Friday would be a short run to Idaho Falls, but should allow a visit to GlacierNational Park on Saturday, weather permitting.

I made decent time as SaltLake appeared, then disappeared along the side of the road. Too much slab is bad for the soul, so I snuck west for a glimpse of the Great Salt Lake at WillardBay.

Bored again with the Interstate and with plenty of time to spare, I took a detour West on ID 38. I remembered these Idaho highways from Tuesday, and figured it would be worth the detour. It was a safe assumption.

I followed Bannock Creek North to Pocatello, and came up on a most photogenic shed.

Much to my dismay, the road leveled off and straightened the further north I went.

I took the opportunity to roar past the potato farms, wondering all the while what lake or aquifer fed the endless miles of above-ground plumbing that irrigated the fields.

I made my destination of Idaho Falls in plenty of time for supper, and took the opportunity to enjoy some Mexican food. We don't have any Mexicans in Saskatchewan, nor any enchiladas. The sun was setting as I made my way to the hotel, so I took a quick ride out of town to capture the scene for future reference, then collapsed into bed.

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Old 10-06-2007, 09:39 AM   #4
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I rose early on Saturday, eager to test the weather and return to Glacier, which I had visited by cage last June. I paused briefly at Idaho Falls' namesake before rocketing north on I 15.

That turned out to be the only photo of the morning. I was intent on making Dillon, MT my first fuel stop, and arrived there only to be warned by the locals there there was a winter storm warning in effect. Needless to say I pounded my coffee and continued north.

All intentions of following the slab to Missoula were abandoned as I saw an opportunity to take Hwy 1 West through Anaconda. It was a perfectly reasonable detour, and the road became rather challenging as we headed west. I shot out of the trees to find a spectacular view to the north from the top of a waterfall, and continued downhill a bit in an attempt to photograph each of them.

From this point I took Hwy 93 North toward Kalispell, and was frustrated for two hours by the constant traffic up to and around FlatheadLake. In a fit of impatience I took Hwy 35 around the eastern shore toward Bigfork in an attempt to avoid the masses, only to be greeted by a steady diet of blind driveways that feed the cherry orchards. I convinced myself to slow down a bit and enjoy the ride, and nearly did.

I inquired about Going to the Sun Road as I gassed up in ColumbiaFalls, only to find it had been closed for the year. Hwy 2 was the only route east. I have fond memories of Glacier from last year, and was disappointed to find the views from the southwest were anything but spectacular. Hwy 2 was decent and nearly empty, which brightened my spirits a bit.

The scenery didn't improve until I passed East Glacier and turned onto 49 to cut north to Kiowa. A few miles onto 49 I encountered a rather unconvincing 'Road Closed' sign that was only in my lane. No gate, no lock, no stopping.

I was rewarded with some spectacular views of the park.

I rejoined Hwy 89 toward St. Mary and dodged more open range cattle as the road wound down through the hills.

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Old 10-06-2007, 09:40 AM   #5
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The home stretch

I awoke Sunday to find the weather had taken a definite turn for the worse. It seemed appropriate that my bike, having been stripped of my gear, was showering naked in the parking lot.

The forecast called for rain along Hwy 3 the whole way home, so I took a detour north to Hanna in an effort to escape the weather. The drizzle picked up a bit as I entered the province I now call home.

I rode the final 3 hours in the driving rain, my gear keeping me dry, but allowing the wind to chill me to the core. Rarely have I been so pleased to arrive home at the end of a trip.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. 4112 kilometers in 4.5 days of riding didn't leave much time to stop and enjoy the experience, and if I had to do it all over I'd take at least another day each way. My apologies to Bosco and any other ADVriders I callously blasted past on my way thru the open range.

A bunch more photos at
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Old 10-06-2007, 11:20 AM   #6
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Great ride, thanks!
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Old 10-06-2007, 03:55 PM   #7
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Nice ride, your still a great photographer. Glad to see someone can still take goos shots while they make the miles.
"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." - Oscar Wilde
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Old 10-06-2007, 04:03 PM   #8
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Thanks for a great report and pics! Thanks for posting
ADV decals, patches & flag? Here
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Old 10-06-2007, 05:04 PM   #9
Grainbelt OP
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Originally Posted by rob1313
Nice ride, your still a great photographer. Glad to see someone can still take goos shots while they make the miles.
Thanks, Rob. There really are a ton more pics, and originals of these, in my smugmug. Check it out.

I'm trying to by a DR650 this weekend. May need to put some studs on it and come west
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Old 10-09-2007, 08:24 PM   #10
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Nice photos, Mike!

It was good riding with you first part of September.
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