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Old 07-13-2009, 02:51 PM   #1
WoodWorks OP
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Solo F800GS down the CDR

The idea of riding the Continental Divide Trail popped into my head before I even took delivery of the F800GS last October. A friend of mine had done it on his R1200GS several years ago, so I knew that the lighter F800GS wasn’t too cumbersome for it. In fact, from what I had read on several road reports posted here, it seemed pretty much like the ideal bike to me.

So once I took delivery of it, I set about farkling the bike for the journey, studying maps, and reading up on anything relating to the trail that I could find.

And then, on the morning of June 27th, I was ready to go. I had my Caribou panniers loaded with camping gear and tools, a duffel bag with some clothes was slung across the back rack, resting on an empty 2-gal. Rotopax canister that was going to be needed for a couple of stretches on the trail that exceeded the F800GS’s tank range. My GPS was loaded with BigDog’s track, and my Spot device was blinking away, allowing my wife to keep an eye on where the hell I was each day. And my trusty iPhone, with which I hoped to use to take pictures and keep a blog going, was in my front jacket pocket.

But it was inauspicious start.

I made it all of about six miles from my home in Ashland, Oregon. Didn’t even make it as far as Medford before I noticed the bolt holding my right hand guard about to fall off. I pulled over and tightened it. But this little incident only served to remind me that I had neglected to pack the little tube of blue Loctite that I had pulled from my toolbox and placed ever so prominently on my workbench, so I wouldn’t forget to pack it, you see.

The blue Loctite is not an optional item on this kind of a ride. There would be miles and miles of washboard ahead of me, and I expected that the bike will be ejecting parts like an out of control Kenmore washer on spin cycle if I didn’t stay on top of all the bolts and screws with the magical blue Loctite.

Clearly, there was to be a stop at an auto parts store in my immediate future.

The first day was all about getting to the start of the “real” ride via the most direct route possible. That meant riding up Highway 97, and I hate riding up Highway 97.


Heading for 97 past Mt. Thielsen

Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fine highway. But the State of Oregon, in its wisdom, has decided that all rural, two-lane roads should have 55 mph speed limits. In some places this makes sense. But east of the Cascades, where Highway 97 runs, it makes no sense at all. East of the Cascades is high desert country, with roads as straight as a Mormon missionary, and views up the road ahead stretch on for miles and miles to the horizon. You can see obstacles in the next time zone.

Every adjacent state has 65 or even 70 mph speed limits on their rural roads. But in Oregon our state motto is “We Love Dreamers.” And reality-based thinking is just too bourgeois for us (see Oregon’s gas dispensing laws).

So even though most motorists on 97 drive at a reasonable and safe 65 or 70 mph, there are always some Taliban-inspired drivers who feel it necessary to exert their control over the rest of us. And these true believers are easily identified by the line of 8 or 12 cars (and me) strung out behind them. When oncoming traffic makes it impossible to pass them, the only thing that keeps me from morphing into Mr. Exploding Head is my full-face helmet.

But I made it past the rolling roadblockheads on 97, and down to the Columbia River. There I veered east on I-84 and followed the once mighty river, now reduced by the Army Corps of Engineers to a chain of flaccid, but barge-friendly lakes, to Umatilla.


Wind Turbines down by the Columbia

Crossing over into Washington, and blazing across the Palouse, my GPS informed me that I was within a half-day’s ride of the Canadian border. So I decided to call it a day once I got to Spokane. But my research for this trip hadn’t uncovered the fact that there was some sort of huge basketball tournament in town, and every motel room for a hundred miles was booked.

Thus I found myself staying well north of Coeur d’Alene, and well beyond where I wanted to end the day’s journey. Ah well, it would make for an easier 2nd day, I hoped.

Total miles, Day One = 605.2
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Old 07-13-2009, 03:04 PM   #2
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Old 07-13-2009, 03:12 PM   #3
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I'm in. BTW is the CDR dirt? always thought it was a series of paved roads wondering along the dvide.
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Old 07-13-2009, 03:31 PM   #4
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Beautiful ride That's the beauty of a bike, most of the time, you can blow by the highway hogs, mr. RV USA, doing 45 in a 55 zone, with a full paved shoulder, but noooo... he's holding his place..

Keep it comin'

I'm curious to know the range of the 800gs when doing straight highway at about 70mph.
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Old 07-13-2009, 03:46 PM   #5
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And on the second day, the bike got a little dirty.

I was still 200 miles from the border that morning. But the dawn brought clear skies, and the states of Idaho and Montana provided twisty mountain roads. Made me very happy.

I decided to cross over into Canada and get a stamp in my passport to make the start of the ride official.



Canadian border guard: What is your destination in Canada, sir?

Me: Oh, about 20 meters up the road.

That got his attention. So I explained the purpose of my visit, got the stamp, and turned back to the U.S. of A.

American border guard: How long was your visit to Canada, sir?

Me: Oh, about 30 seconds.

Another explanation. Another stamp. Then I was on my way!


At the border

The dirt portion of the trail didn’t start for about twenty miles. But once it did, it was suddenly clear to me just how isolated I was going to be for the next 2450 miles or so. All signs of civilization disappeared, and I felt completely cut off from the modern world.


At the start of the dirt.

It was an illusion, of course. I had only traveled about fifteen miles from the nearest town. I had a GPS to help me navigate. I had maps. I had a satellite tracking device. But all of a sudden I felt like Meriwether Lewis on a motorcycle. That was so cool!

The first dirt roads weren’t that difficult. I knew that this was the “easy” part of the trail. But I was heartened by how well the bike tackled the few tricky obstacles that I encountered, and how comfortable I felt during the ride. It was a great warm up for the more difficult sections ahead.


Near Glacier N.P.



Red Meadow Lake

That night I ended up in Kalispell. And for Day 3 I was headed back into the mountains towards Helena and Butte. I had no idea how far I’d get. But this wasn’t a race. Slow and steady. Doh dee doh.

Total miles so far: 935.9
Miles, Day Two: 330.7 (about 100 in the dirt)
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Old 07-13-2009, 03:50 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pantah
I'm in. BTW is the CDR dirt? always thought it was a series of paved roads wondering along the dvide.
You thought wrong, grasshopper.

It's a 2450 mile trail, of which about 80% is dirt (or gravel, sand, mud, etc.)

David
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Old 07-13-2009, 03:55 PM   #7
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Great pic's..
Enjoy the trip, thanks for sharing.

UP N MTNS
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Old 07-13-2009, 03:57 PM   #8
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CDR.... Continental Divide Route??

Why isn't it the CDT?

I'm in on this one WW. I would like to ride this trail, ...err, route some time soon.
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:01 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DolphinJohn
CDR.... Continental Divide Route??
Route, Ride, whatever...

Quote:
Why isn't it the CDT?
Some people call it that. I call it one of the best rides I've ever taken.

David
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:07 PM   #10
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I'm following this one!

This is the trip I've wanted to take for the past couple of years. Will be eagerly reading your account. I want to try it on a 650 Dakar, so will be interested in how the 800 GS handles it all.

Dale WU7X
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:08 PM   #11
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My Great Divide Ride 2009
Great Divide Part 2
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:16 PM   #12
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Another beautiful dawn greeted me, and by 7:30 I was on the road, heading for the mountains east of Kalispell. The climb was pleasant, a fine gravel road. But at the ridge the road narrowed to a single-lane jeep track, hemmed in by trees and bushes on either side. It occurred to me that I’d have little chance to avoid any wildlife crashing out onto the trail, so I covered the clutch and brakes.


The narrow road

Rounding a curve, I spied a large, dark object sticking out of the undergrowth down the trail a ways. It looked like a big log. But the log (which was considerably larger than any of the trees nearby) suddenly raised its head and looked at me. It was a bear, about 50 yards away! Even if there had been room to turn around, that bear would have been on top of me before I could have gotten half way around. But he (or she) took off into the bushes before I even had half a chance to shit my pants.

Yikes!

It was “only” a black bear, not a Grizzly. Didn't get a picture, though. Sorry! But I decided then and there not to be doing any solo camping until I got out of bear country.

That bear wasn’t the only wildlife to cross my path that morning. I saw two deer, an elk, some grouse, a pheasant and her chicks, and lots and lots of bunny rabbits.

A few miles after the bear encounter I managed to get good and lost. Yes, even with a GPS, I got off track not just once, but twice! And then, a after backtracking several miles to a known point, I regained the trail only to discover that it had been gated off by the Forest Service.

And this is when a GPS is really handy. I just punched in the name of the nearest town (Condon) down in the valley below, and it navigated me by the most direct route down to the highway.

It turned out that I only missed about 6 miles of the actual trail, because it gets routed down onto the highway near there anyway.

But following this trail through the maze of forest roads was trickier than I thought. Forks in the road don’t present obvious choices. Each road looks the same, and the one going off in the “right” direction often turns out to be the wrong choice. Not helping me was the fact that I was traveling in a southerly direction, and my GPS was set up with its map oriented to the north. So every “right” was really a “left” and I kept getting turned around. It was only late in the day that I changed the orientation to adhere to my track, and suddenly following the course it gave me was much more intuitive.

Duh. I seem to have to learn everything the hard way.

I stopped for gas in Lincoln, of Unabomber fame, and then rode up and over Stemple Pass. It was the first crossing of the Continental Divide of this trip, and I was to recross it four more times on this day. Four down, twenty three to go.


Stemple Pass

The trail got much more rough and tricky after Stemple. Deep ruts, steep descents over loose rock, pot holes, mud holes, and a few deep gullies across the road that I managed to hit hard enough to make me fear that I’d bend a rim. But the bike (and I) came through without a scratch.


It was much steeper than it looks here, and it was much rougher than this in places. But I wasn't stopping for pictures then.

I bypassed a particularly hairy part of the trail at Lava Mtn., but even the bypass gave me some trouble. Piles of deep, fresh gravel had recently been dumped at the top of the bypass, and I have had my share of scary moments in deep gravel. Not this time, though, as the bike rode up and over it with ease if I gave it a little throttle. When in doubt, gas it, a well worn motorcycle aphorism says. The often unsaid second part is: It may not help, but it’ll sure remove the suspense.

By 3:15 I was within spitting distance of Helena, a good stopping point for the day. But Butte seemed reachable, so I crossed up and over one more range before finding a place for the night.

The next day the trail heads up onto a high plateau, and there would seem to be an opportunity to rack up a few miles. Maybe even reach into Idaho. But it’s also supposed to feature some of the most scenic parts of the ride, so I may be lured into stopping to take a bunch of photos. That’s OK. As I said, I’m in no hurry.

Total miles so far: 1239.4
Miles, Day Three: 303.0
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:19 PM   #13
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Please post a map of your route!
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:24 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Claudellvonhop


Please post a map of your route!
Here's sort of a big picture overview:



But this might be more helpful, a link to BigDog's GPS track that I used on the ride.

David
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Old 07-13-2009, 04:48 PM   #15
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Well, Day Four started out more exciting than I had intended. The trail took a brief climb up from Butte over a small range to the southwest before descending steeply down to I-15. But I stopped to take a picture at some point, and forgot to turn off the ABS when I started up again. It was only during that very steep descent that I suddenly realized that I had almost no brakes at all! Only some engine braking and a lot of luck saved my bacon.

I really should have some sort of off-road checklist.


Just south of Butte

After the descent the trail stays on pavement for a while, and follows the Big Hole River. The sweeping curves and Montana’s 70 mph speed limit brought out the hooligan in me. Someone ought to come up with a “Montana’s River Roads” book. I’d buy it.

The fun didn’t stop as I turned south again and started to climb. For about 25 miles the trail winds its way up through aspen forests populated with all sorts of wildlife. I saw elk, a moose, two wolverines, and raptors galore.

Finally I emerged out onto a broad plateau, and after another brief swing eastward onto pavement, I turned south again onto the Bannack road.



The Bannack Road

Bannack was briefly Montana’s state capitol during its heyday as a mining town. It’s a well-preserved ghost town now, and well worth the 4 mile detour off of the trail.

Farther down the Bannack road I met my first bicyclist. He was slumped over his handlebars as I came up behind him, so I stopped to see if he was OK. He was just resting (I don’t blame him!) and it turns out that he came all the way from Switzerland to ride the trail. And his home town is Breitenbach, just down the road from where I used to live when I was a boy! We chatted for a while, and I got the chance to use what little remains of my once fluent Schwyzerdütsch.

About five miles farther I met my second bicyclist. Only this one was sitting alongside the trail next to his wrecked bike and trailer. Seems he had taken a bad spill on the rutted trail (which had been giving me some trouble too), and had pretzeled his front wheel and banged up his knee so bad that he couldn’t put any weight on his leg. Even if it hadn’t been 30 miles to the nearest town, he wasn’t walking out of there.

I asked if there was anything I could do to help, but he said his buddy, who I later passed farther down the trail, was riding to get help.

It took me another hour to ride out to civilization. His buddy wasn’t going to get help before nightfall. So once I got back into cell phone territory, I dialed 911 and notified the sheriff. I hope they got him out of there.

Bicycles. You gotta be crazy to ride those dangerous things!

After gassing up in Lima, I started a long, flat section of the trail that took me back into Idaho. It was well groomed and easy to ride, and except for the few sections where they had “improved” the road by dumping piles of deep gravel on it, my biggest problem was just trying to keep from going stupid fast.


East of Lima


Nearing the Idaho Border

That all ended at the Idaho border, where the trail winds its way around the northern edge of the Teton range. About 30 miles of nasty, steep, rutted, and muddy road finally wore me out.

There were no cheap accommodations in the area, so I opted to camp at one of the concession camps in the Teton Nat. Park. Bad idea. Not only did it cost $26.50 for a camp site, but my site was wedged in between a family with lots of noisy small children on one side, and Herr und Frau Bickermeister from Germany on the other. Plus, the place was swarming with mosquitoes.


Campsite in Teton N.P.

So I decided: from now on I’m only camping (if I camp!) in National or State Park camp grounds. My neighbors may not be any more congenial. But it’ll be a hell of a lot cheaper!

Total miles so far: 1606.1
Miles, Day Four: 366.0
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WoodWorks screwed with this post 10-05-2009 at 11:11 AM
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