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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.

isaac004 screwed with this post 08-10-2010 at 11:20 PM
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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.

isaac004 screwed with this post 08-10-2010 at 11:20 PM
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Old 08-05-2010, 07:04 PM   #7
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Congrats on taking the trip I have been trying to take for 3 years, and with your dad a double bonus.

Thanks for remembering the conversation we had on the way to Hollister also.. Glad I made it into your RR..

Keep writing.. it gets harder the longer you wait :)

I have rides planned for Aug, Sept, Oct, Nov, and maybe a 16 day trip in Dec... We will be headed down south for the Oct, Nov, and Dec Trip.
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Old 08-05-2010, 08:50 PM   #8
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I am in! Looking forward to your report. I totally understand the lame fire thing. That is one challenge on motorcycle that I haven't quite figured out yet....getting enough wood to make a pyro content with his campfire!

"but why is all the rum gone?"

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Old 08-05-2010, 09:11 PM   #9
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Old 08-06-2010, 10:19 AM   #10
Happy to be here.
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Old 08-06-2010, 11:09 AM   #11
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Nice report
Chicago to Vancouver and back
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:16 PM   #12
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Thanks for the comment guys.

You gotta do this ride Paul, it is bad ass! Definitely not so challenging (except for a few very small sections) but it is amazing to ride so far on dirt and see some amazing country.
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Old 08-06-2010, 12:17 PM   #13
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Day -1, Nezperce State Forest ID to Kalispell MT

I slept very well that night, largely due to Paul's (another metion for ya!) recommendation on the best sleeping pad ever. Try it out, you'll agree.

On the road around 7am again...I'll keep saying it throughout this ride report but it is simply the best time to be on a motorcycle. This is heading N/W on ID-14, on my way up to the LoLo Pass.

And then the infamous LoLo Pass! I saw virtually no cars that morning. Only had to pass 1-2 and that was it. The road was stunning, espcially in the crisp mountain morning air. I was passed by a BMW, what looked to be a 1200GS, who was running slightly faster then I.

On the east end of the Lolo Pass, I had to stop and take this photo. When I passed it 2 years ago, I was regretted not having stopped to snap a photo of it.

And then Montana! At this rest stop I saw a green KLr and a Harley pull out together...hmmm, seems like an odd combo. I also saw a pair of V-Strom's with Canadian plates but never saw the riders.

Saw a bunch of hamburgers and milk shakes heading east on US-12 towards Missoula...

Remember that odd combo of green KLR and Harley I just mentioned? Well I came across those two and decided to snap a photo for some reason. (I later met him and his name is Adam).

We chatted for 20 seconds at a stop light....I asked him where he was headed to and he said Alaska. He asked me where I was headed and I said the Great Divide. Light turned green, and we all rolled forward. I then passed them, off on a mission to find lunch in Missoula. Later in Missoula I stopped at a Subway parking lot to check out the GPS on food options. I saw them pass me and decided it would be better to stalk I mean follow them. In downtown Missoula they pulled into a parking lot and I asked if I could join them. Turns out Adam is a true adventurer and has been riding north from Chile since Feb 2009. Read his story here...I espcially love the parts about the KLR boat and the KLR raft.

Here is Adam and the Harley guy, Dennis. Dennis was a local who was showing him around a bit before Adam coninued onto Alaska.

Hmm, Adam's bike is like a mimi mobile BP oil leak.

A little bit north of Seeley Lake I pulled off at a camp site/boat launch ramp for a little afternoon relaxation.

Another hour or so up the road and the tarmac was beginning to show some wetness. In addition, the clouds were leaking! I decided I should pull over, bag up the cell phone (I was listening to some Fresh Air podcasts), and put on some rain gear. I saw another rider doing the same thing and pulled over to chat for a few. I didn't catch his name, but he had just ridden the Great Divide Trail from Montana down to Wyoming with some friends, and had turned around to head back home to Canada while his buddies continued south. He had a pretty cool DR650 with some nice tank bag guards/supports.

This is the only time during the entire trip that I broke out the rain jacket. I swear, it looked like I was about to ride into a big storm.

Whaddya know, it went dry again!

Not too soon after, I rolled into the Motel 6 in Kalispell and finally met up with my Dad! He had just spent one week riding out from Ann Arbor Michigan.

I was also greeted by this monstrosity on his XR650...

After a few thousand miles, here is what my front D606 looked like.

We rested up and did some planning and repacking that evening.

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Old 08-06-2010, 12:47 PM   #14
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Day 0, Kalispell MT to Eureka MT

Day 0 eh? Today we had two big goals. The first was to get new tires, and the second was to ride up to the Canadian border at Roosville MT in order to officially "start" the ride. So it was more of a prep/get a few things done day.

We rode just down the road to Penco Powersports, where we had called in and ordered 2 sets of D606's a few weeks prior. Dad opted to have them install the tires, though they wanted a lot of money to do such a task and were trying to charge street bike rates on the XR. I opted to install the tires myself, as I figured it would be great practice in case I am stuck doing such a task in the middle of nowhere (and even worse, in the rain). Here I am trying to break the bead on the rear tire.

Notice the rock in my had. It was the only thing I could find to beat the Motion Pro plastic bead breaker with. It worked, but I did get a bloody knuckle and when it finally broke the bead it pinched the tube. There is something really hard about trying to break the bead on a Deathwing on the 17" rim. Bah!

Also, thanks to fellow inmate FDKLR, who sold me for a great price that portable "kick stand" for wheel removal. Check them out:

It also started raining, so I was stuck in the parking lot with on and off rain while changing tires. I can't say the Penco guys are that helpful at all, well at least the guys at the service counter. When we asked to borrow a bottle of Windex for bead lube, they just said "we sell bead lube up front". I did ask a guy at the parts counter for some Windex later and he was much nicer and obliged. The sales guys are also nice. But not the service guys.

Finally, some new meaty treads.

Up the road we headed to the border, with the weather clearing up quite nicely.

Then the weather did this....stop it!

Here's Dad trying to get used to the "floaty" feel of a dirt bike on knobbies at speed. The D606's are the knobbiest tire he's ever had on the XR650, since he usually opts for a street oriented tire.

There are many things you can gather from this photo. The first is that it is stormy again...I swear, we threaded the needle through so many isolated storms that afternoon and managed to get just very light and brief sprinkles. Some of them looked pretty heavy too. The second thing you can gather from this photo is that my Dad is very old...after all, he appears to be a Historic Point.

Here we are at the border! We were sure not to get too close...2 years ago on the street bikes we accidently rode too far. Not quite into Canada but into some weird zone between the two borders. We were forced to go through US Customs and had to explain how we never actually went into Canada and how we managed to get stuck between the two. Luckily they weren't too nasty. But anyhow, let the Great Divide Ride begin!

I was hoping we would remain on the dry side...

We rolled back into a motel in Eureka MT and rested up for the next day, where we would actually hit dirt and the real riding would start.

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Old 08-06-2010, 01:31 PM   #15
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