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Old 01-07-2014, 11:37 AM   #1
Tourmeister OP
What's that funny noise?
 
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Joined: Dec 2003
Location: Huntsville, Tx.
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5th Anual Legends of The Fall Montana Maniacs Ride - 09/08/13

PROLOGUE

Back in 2010 I made a trip to SW Colorado with a bunch of guys from Two Wheeled Texans. I was riding my KLR 650 back then. Many of the other guys were riding KTMs and they seemed to be having a MUCH easier time of things. The seed was planted... About a year later, I fell into a great deal on a 2010 KTM 530 and jumped on it. After a few trips to the Big Bend area, New Mexico and North Carolina, I was in love with the bike. Fast forward to the Spring of 2013 and there is another trip to Colorado in the planning stages. I'd finally get to test the bike on the high and rugged passes of the Rocky Mountains!

But then something unexpected happened...

Sometime around the end of April I got a PM from Roger "Rsquared" Rogers that linked me to a ride invitation posted on the RideDualSport.com site. This would be a limited group, all on 650 or smaller sized bikes, and riding in the mountains of Western Montana. It would start in Jackson, Wyoming, run up along the Montana/Idaho border almost to Missoula, then double back and end in Jackson. We'd be riding in the second week of September. Ever since my older brother made a trip to Jackson back in the early 80s and came back with incredible pictures and stories of the area I have long wanted to see it for myself. Thirty one years later I finally get the chance. Roger and I had not made any definite plans for Colorado and so decided to do this trip instead since neither of us had ever been to the area.

And then something totally expected happened...

I had to gear up!

This trip was to be a camping trip from start to finish. The KTM 530 is not exactly a touring bike. The first order of business was to figure out what I needed to take with me and how to carry it. For the next four months I scoured the net reading ride reports and threads about minimalist camping gear. I started a thread on TWT as well and got a lot of good feedback.

At first, I was a bit worried about how much I might spend on camping gear for this trip. My problem was that I really did not have any of the gear needed for camping off the bike, especially where the size and weight of the gear was a real issue. Roger quickly pointed out that the hotel cost for 8-10 days of the Colorado trip would easily cover the cost of the camping gear, but then we'd also still have the camping gear for future trips! I cannot believe my rationalizing engine totally missed that obvious fact!? Roger and I bounced ideas off each other and slowly but surely I settled in on the gear.

Now I don't like to let a good opportunity go to waste. My current riding suit, a Motoport Airmesh II Kevlar suit wasn't going to cut it for this trip. We were expecting potentially low temps and wet conditions. The suit is great for Texas, but not so much for Montana. For some time now I had been wanting to get a new riding suit, one that would be good when conditions even here in Texas turn toward the cold and wet. But I HATE messing with rain liners and/or rain suits. So I started searching for gear that was water proof without liners or overcoats.

Very quickly I found myself drawn to the Klim Badlands Pro Jacket and Pants. The price put me off and I kept looking at other brands for over a month. But every time I went down the list of features, it just kept bringing me back the Klim gear. I am not opposed to a high price per se, but I just want to be sure it is worth it. My Motoport suit was custom fitted and cost me close to $1200. That was almost eight years ago and it has been worth EVERY dollar!! Well... It had been a long time since I spent money on any new gear so my motorcycle fund had been building up over time. I decided to take the plunge and get the Klim gear. While I was at it I also popped for the Aria XD-4 dual sport helmet. My current helmet was also about eight years old... I briefly toyed with the idea of replacing my SIDI Flex Force boots, originally bought back in 2005. They have never been water proof and that can be slightly annoying on cold/wet dualsport rides. Instead I opted for the Klim Gortex socks because even though they were old, the boots were still in great shape and VERY comfortable.

With all the camping and riding gear falling into place. All that was left was to get the bike prepped. Roger was of immense help in this regard! He knows the KTMs inside and out. His 450 and my 530 have a LOT in common. We upgraded the oil pump parts on both bikes. He put in a new piston and rings, but I just did new rings only. We also replaced the valve stem seals. My bike had been using oil and my hope was that the new rings and seals would fix that. I decided on adding the 6.6 gallon KTM tank to the bike rather than trying to mess with carrying extra fuel on the bike in other containers. After seeing my tank installed, Roger decided to do the same thing. We were told we needed a 200 mile range as a minimum. These tanks could push us up around the 275-300 mile range. The last thing to be done was to mount up a new set of tires. Phil "Pkiser" Kiser was of great help here because he lives close by and has a Coats 220 tire changing machine. Changing the tires only takes about twenty minutes but I usually end up being there for several hours as we always enjoy getting to visit. This time I treat him and his wife to dinner afterward as a thank you for his help.

This trip would be one where I was not doing the planning or leading of the rides, which is a nice change from my usual routine. The trip organizer was Dave "Stovebolt" Jankowsky ("Stovey" most often), a member on RideDualSport and AdvRider. He actually lives in the area so I pay close attention to his recommendations for the trip. Even though I am not planning the trip, I still like to know where I am going. So when Dave sends out the GPS routes, I spend a lot of time pouring over them, looking at maps, exploring alternative routes in the area, etc,... A few of the routes he has planned are less than 100 miles for the day. If I am gonna spend two days driving each way, I want to get in as much riding as I can while I am there. So I lay out some alternative routes that generally follow his routes but that look like they might be interesting. Roger enthusiastically endorses the idea.

Over the months the camping gear, riding gear, and bike all come together and I figure out what to pack, how to pack, and get the bike setup. All that remains is a shake down ride to make sure things don't fall off unexpectedly. I did one ride of close to 300 miles without all the gear after doing all the engine mods and installing the big tank. It went great but I was still using oil A few weeks later Roger and a few other guys joined me for another shakedown ride, this time with EVERYTHING loaded on the bike and all the same riding gear that I'd be using on the trip. It was close to 100 F... Everything worked really well. The luggage stayed put. I did not melt in the new riding gear and we even got to test out the water proofing of the gear and luggage in a pretty heavy down pour. Best of all, after close to 300 miles of hard riding, the bike did not burn oil!!

All the pieces were set in motion... Nothing to do now but wait...

[Once I finish the report, I will try to do a review of all the various camping gear, riding gear, bike mods, etc,...]
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:40 AM   #2
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And so it begins...

Roger shows up at my home about 5:45am on Friday morning, September 6th. It is dark and muggy. I've got everything ready to go, but there is that always present and nagging feeling in the back of my mind... "Am I forgetting something!?"

It doesn't take us long to get my bike in the back of his truck and all the gear tossed into the back seat.




It's gonna be a loooong drive. We've got 1500 miles to cover. The plan is to stop in Denver and spend the night with Scott "Bluedogok" and his wife Naomi. It's been a few years since I've last seen them and a visit will be nice. It also saves us the expense of a night in a hotel. Roger and I have done quite a few of these long drives and I always enjoy the conversations along the way. You can cover a LOT of topics on a 1500 mile drive! We get away shortly after 6:00am and roll into Denver at Scott's place around 10:30pm, almost exactly 1000 miles.

Scott


After a nice but short visit, we hit the sack. The plan is to depart sometime around 7-8am.

The next morning we run up to Fort Collins and then run US 287 Northwest into Wyoming. Fort Collins is a really nice town nestled at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The run up 287 is very scenic, especially near the Wyoming border. The rock formations are just plain cool. Our plan is to reach Driggs, Idaho by late afternoon or early evening. This is where we will stay the first night and leave the truck while we are riding all week. Some of the other guys are going to be camping just off the highway that runs back over the mountains to Jackson. We'll be hooking up with them and riding into Jackson in the morning for the rider's meeting and breakfast.

As we get closer to Jackson, the scenery gets really nice and the traffic slows down. It seems there is some kind of bicycling event and everyone for a thousand miles that owns spandex is out in force. There's not much of a shoulder and with oncoming traffic there is nothing to do but slow down. When we hit town, we take a few minutes to find the breakfast meeting place so we'll have some clue where we are going in the morning. Then we head up over the mountains into Idaho. On the downside, a few miles before we reach Victor, we find the campground and pull in to see if anyone else has arrived.

We find Brad "UlyBrad", Dave "HasBeen" and another guy I don't yet know. It seems that Brad and the other guys were out riding earlier in the day and Brad's KTM 450 morphed into a mosquito fogger along the way... Driving 1500 miles to have your bike's engine let go is a real party pooper... At this point, his plan is to head to a dealer Stovey told him about and see if they can do a FAST repair so he can rejoin us in a few days. I am a bit skeptical that ANY dealer will have the parts or be able to get the parts in the space of a few days and then get the work done and have the bike ready to roll in time for him to join us at all... Brad realizes this and tells us that if worst comes to worst, he'll just drive the truck and play sag wagon and camp with us each night. Roger and I decide to head for our hotel in Driggs, unload the bikes, grab a bite to eat and then head back out to the campground for some fireside chatting and a few cold ones.

The hotel is maybe another 15 minutes up the road. I don't relish the idea of having to get up even earlier to meet everyone, but it will be worth it to have a nice hot shower and comfy bed the night before we head out for a week of camping. We grab some Mexican food for dinner, grab some beer, and head back to the campground to find that Stovey has stopped by for a visit.

It rained the night before and the wood is wet. Brad attempts to get the fire going by fanning it with his HUGE hat... That is NOT snow filling the air


Roger, Brad and Dave


Not everyone has arrived just yet. Val is still somewhere on the road and expects to get into the campground this evening. Some of the other guys will be meeting us at the breakfast in the morning. In all, there should be ten riders. Stovey takes an early exit so he can finish his preps. Roger and I follow his lead, heading back to the hotel so we can get a good night of sleep....
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Old 01-07-2014, 11:48 AM   #3
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Joined: Dec 2003
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Day One

For a change, I slept really good last night. Maybe it is just the anticipation of the ride, but I actually feel somewhat refreshed when I wake up in the morning instead of feeling like my normal walking dead... Roger usually gets up a lot earlier than me, does whatever it is he does at such freakishly early hours, and I get up about 45 minutes before we have to leave. I don't do breakfast normally. This still gives me time for a hot shower so I can coax my muscles into functioning, to throw on my gear, load the bike, and be ready to roll.

Packed and ready for action


Someone needs to clue me in about what kind of tree that is behind the bikes. It has the bark of an Aspen or maybe a Birch, but the leaves are more like some kind of willow tree. I could not tell if it was the three or maybe the bedding on the ground under them, but I kept checking my boots to see if I stepped in something...

The morning is bright, clear, and cool, perfect for the start of an adventure. We head over to a gas station to top off, then cruise out of town and head for the campground to meet the others. As we are pulling in, they are pulling out, so we just fall in with the group for the run up over Teton Pass to Jackson. It is a very nice run of highway.

Looking East down into Jackson




We roll down the mountain on into town and head for the breakfast meeting location, some place called Bubba's. It is either the only place in town or it is really good because the parking lot is overflowing into the shopping center parking lot across the street, where we park. As we head inside we meet a few more of the riders, Keith, Lanny, Cal, and Val. So now we have me, Roger, Brad, Dave, Stovey and the four we just met... We are missing someone. It turns out that we will be losing a rider before we even get going. His wife is having unexpected and serious health issues and he needs to stay with her.

The place is packed and the wait is maybe 30 minutes or so. When we are seated, they split us up into two groups and stuff us into little booths. At this point, we are just happy to be able to order and get the show on the road. It is a great breakfast. Brad surprises us all by pick up the tab for the whole group! Nice guy that Brad

Speaking of Brad, I forgot to mention that one of the other riders, Lanny, who is a local, just happened to have a second bike. Lanny is riding a DR 650 but also has a KLR 650 which he insisted that Brad borrow so he could still do the trip! Talk about a nice guy! Brad got all his luggage moved over to the KLR and was good to go by this morning. Trip saved!

We slowly waddle back out to the parking lot and get ready to roll. We'll be heading back through town, crossing over the Snake River and then heading up into the South end of the Grand Teton National Park.

The road heading up to the park starts out nicely paved. Then it turns to smooth graded dirt. There is a fair bit of traffic on it as well, but here is a clear moment free of the prevalent SUVs.


We reach the park entrance, get our passes and continue running North up the East side of the Tetons. The road becomes smooth pavement again for most of the rest of the run through the park. It is here where I discover that my front tire is not well balanced. In fact, the resonant point for the imbalance is precisely at the posted 45mph speed limit for the park. If I go a little under 40mph or a little over 50mph, it smooths out nicely, but at 45mph it feels almost like the front of the bike is going to shake off! I have balanced a LOT of tires in my riding career and I thought I had this one balanced, but wow... This won't be good. It is only the first day of the trip and if I have to spend much time running this kind of speed things won't be much fun... Nothing to do now but press on as I cannot re-balance it now. The drive through the park seems to take FOREVER as a result. But it is scenic!



The bike fully loaded


Grey skies all day, but no rain until later in the day


Here is Stovey do his 'splaining thing... Cal on left and Lanny on right (he gets the award for biggest back pack!!), and the borrowed KLR for Brad in front of Cal




Eventually we reach the North end of the park and turn West on the Ashton-Flagg Ranch Road. Stovey informs us that it has something like four different names and they are all used on various maps. It quickly turns into a nice fun gravel road the skirts along the Southern edge of Yellowstone Park but never actually enters the park.

There have been LOTS of big fires in the area in the last ten years. This will be a common scene for the rest of the week


LOTS of tire sliding action on this road!


Roger sporting his new Klim Badlands Pro jacket... not even dirty yet


A relatively flat and level section of Ashton-Flagg Rd.


Brad's HUGE tailbag is shifting and has to be re-strapped


I think this is the source of that red stuff you see in the middle of bear poop


Lanny, Roger and Brad


All up, I think I was toting about 40-45lbs of luggage. I weigh in at 185 lbs and the riding gear is maybe another 10-15lbs. Even with the big gas tank topped off, the bike handles great!!


Keith's XR650R... kick start only... He's hard core


The roads starts to twist and turn more, flowing with the contour of the rising and falling landscape


It is getting rockier as well


After about 35 miles, we turn North. The last few miles have been relatively flat and straight as we dropped down out of the mountains. Hay growing is BIG business around here. The valleys between the mountain ranges are covered with massive hay pastures, many with VERY large rectangular bales stacked several high and several deep. Maybe two or three of these bales would fill a tractor trailer flat bed.

A lonely house from long ago in the middle of one of the pastures. What stories might this building tell if it could talk...?




Not long after turning North, we pass through Grizzly Gulch. Apparently this is where quite a few of the "problem" Grizzlies from other areas are released... Stovey did warn all of us to buy bear spray! The planned route is to run up Fish Creek Road along the Western edge of Yellowstone. However, when we reach the intersection for Fish Creek Rd., it seems that Keith is having some kind of mechanical issue with his XRs front sprocket. Time to stop...

Stovey's KTM on the left, totally decked out and farkelized for rally riding. That is Stovey on the right.


The planned route


Just a reminder of where we are for later reference


Keith and Stovey set to fixing the bike. Back left to right, Roger, Cal, Val and Dave (Hasbeen).


Sprocket keeper issues...


Cal's KTM 690, Lanny and his DR650 behind it.


Dave takes the opportunity to catch a few winks...




All better and good to go!


I had been talking with Stovey about alternate routes and as everyone is gearing back up to leave he mentions something about splitting off from the main group to show a few of us a different route. Keith will lead the others and Roger, Val and myself will follow Stovey. They head on up Fish Creek Road but we head for Warm River Road back slightly to the West. This is not one of the alternate routes I had previously looked at doing, but I figure Stovey knows the area and knows what I am looking for in terms of riding, so off we go! After a few miles of pavement, we turn off the road into what looks like a parking lot, cut through a gap in a fence and...

Well it starts off looking interesting...




And soon turns to a ledge road running along a scenic river valley




It turns out that the "road" is an old railway bed.


Must have been a nice ride on the train!


The tunnel that protected the trains from nasty rock slides, now closed.


But there is still a way around it




The path around the tunnel


Not far beyond the tunnel, the road straightens out... I think Stovey missed this sign because he is longgg gone into the dust cloud ahead of me


I've been seeing rain clouds in the distance... We might catch them...


We are heading right for them....


The rail bed road is actually quite fun. It is some kind of crushed volcanic ash rock. There are places where it gets pretty deep and the bike wants to squirm around. It is also whooped out pretty good in a few sections so I do have to watch my speed to make sure I don't get into any of them unexpectedly. In several places the trees line the road so closely that their branches almost touch and I have to make sure to keep an eye open for the ones about head high... Even with all the luggage though, the bike is just running fantastic and soaking up the terrain. The temperature is starting to drop and the clouds are looking ominous. Looks like I will be getting a chance to test the water proofness of the new Klim gear sooner than later.

More 'splaining...


I tease about Stovey liking to do a lot of talking, but he really does know an amazing amount of info about the area. He makes an excellent guide and is always very focused about the dynamics of riding in a group rather than just doing his thing and assuming everyone else will keep up and know what is going on at all times. Having led a lot of rides myself, I can really appreciate the level of work and effort that he puts into organizing this kind of an event.

Another "slow" area


Right about the time it is starting to look like it might be getting real nasty, we meet up with the rest of the group on Fish Creek Road not far from where it turned West away from Yellowstone Park. It is starting to rain. Roger and I start helping each other get the zippers closed on all the vents on the jackets. We are near the end of today's route and should only have a few more miles into Mack's Inn and then to Stovey's cabin retreat in the woods, Lucky dog Cabin.

Are we there yet?


Roger suiting back up after closing all the vents


It rains hard enough to be annoying, but not enough to really get bad. Mostly my face shield is really dirty so it gets hard to see. But it is not raining hard enough so that I can turn my head to one side and have the water blown away by the wind. I need a wiper blade on the thumb of my gloves. We soon roll into Mack's Inn around 5:00pm. Stovey informs us that there is a great dinner waiting for us at the cabin!

Gassing up now so we will be ready to go in the morning


The exact location of the Lucky Dog Cabin is a secret. If we showed you a GPS track of its location, we'd have to repeatedly run over you with fresh knobbies. We follow Stovey back out into the woods, down a slightly muddy ash road, to a gate. Here he does some more explaining about how we are to follow him through the property, make a big loop and park all the bikes in a particular area so we'll be ready to pull out in the morning. We make a loop through and and around the area where he has his new outdoor bar. I think he just wanted to show it off

By now, it is starting to get quite chilly. My gloves have soaked through because I was too lazy to dig out the water proof gloves. I quickly get the bike unloaded and stake out a place to sleep for the night. There is a shed/barn not far from the cabin and it has a loft. I claim one side of the loft. No tent sleeping tonight, which given the weather is fine with me! Then it is time to head inside and warm up some. Stovey has a nice wood burning stove and his wife already has a fire going! Even better is the fact that there is a little rack on top of the stove where I can place my gloves to dry.

Brad, Dave and Val


My new best friend...


It's always Christmas at Stovey's place!


My sleeping quarters for the night, note the sheet metal roof...


The outdoor bar. Party lights come on later!


The reading room...


The shed. My loft spot is just above the basketball goal


Close up of the bar


Lucky Dog Cabin


The meal is great, chicken with green bean casserole and lots of beer. We hang out for a while after dinner, but I head to bed fairly early. The rain has blown through and the stars are spectacular. It has gotten much colder as well. But just before I head to bed the clouds start rolling in again...

This is my first night of really sleeping on the new cot. Unfortunately, I was not able to do a shakedown camping trip prior to this trip because it is just so hard for me to get the time off from work and family commitments. I stuff my extra fleece blanket in the sleeping bag and wear my riding underpants and shirt to bed. Not long after I start trying to get comfortable, I hear the rumbling of thunder and see the flashes of lightning. Soon rain is BEATING down on that sheet metal roof just a few feet above my head. Laying here thinking it is going to be a long night, a drop of water hits me square in the forehead...

I did not occur to me that the roof might leak... I briefly contemplate trying to move the cot, but there really isn't anywhere else I can put it. While wondering what to do I notice that no other drops are following the first. So I chance it and stay put. I do my normal tossing and turning every ten to fifteen minutes as each part of my hips, back and shoulders hurts in turn. About the time I start to drift off I am blasted back to reality by the sound of hail smashing into the sheet metal roof Even with the ear plugs in my ears it is deafening. Fortunately, it does not last too long and eventually I drift off into a fitful slumber...
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Old 01-07-2014, 12:45 PM   #4
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Day Two

Morning comes soon and I feel like I've not slept a wink I could never find a comfortable position on the cot that would last more than maybe 10-15 minutes before something started stinging or went numb... I hear some of the others up and mumbling around so I roll out to greet the day.

It's pretty cold, not freezing, but definitely chilly. As soon as I get dressed, I start packing up my gear. I don't want to be the guy everyone is waiting on when it comes time to leave. As I am packing up the bike, Stovey asks me if I mind leading the group today. It's a bit of a surprise, but he needs to hang back, clean up the cabin, and bear proof things before leaving. Today is supposed to be one of the long days of the week and he wants us to get moving instead of waiting around for him. He'll catch up later.

When it comes time to fire up the bike, it cranks very slowly and then stops... Great! My battery apparently does not like the cold. It is one of those Shorai Lithium Ion batteries and I've never had any trouble with it before, but I've never tried to use it in cold weather either... Fortunately, Stovey is the master of kick starting a grumpy bike. I don't have the knee for it. If the bike doesn't fire on the first 3-4 tries, I am done and will be feeling it for most of the rest of the day... Yeah... old knees suck.

I lead the group back toward the main highway. The road out of the woods is muddy and slightly slick from the rain last night. Everything has a neat clean look to it and the skies are slightly overcast still. We stop at Mack's Inn so folks can get snacks and take a last minute potty break. I sit outside and keep the bike running... just in case...

When I think everyone is ready to roll, I hop on the highway and run South a short way, then pull off and wait at the next turn at Flat Rock Road. There's no one behind me...

I check the route on the GPS just to make sure I am on the right track and it shows that I am. So I wait a bit longer... still no one... I head back up the road thinking maybe someone had a problem. I arrive back at Mack's Inn just in time to see the last guy cut across the road onto some other road not on the route. Looks like Old US 191. However, looking at the GPS I can see that it comes out near where the other road would have come out, so I just chase everyone down and run back to the front of the pack. We're all good now and the sound of all the bikes buzzing through the woods warms my soul

Our route takes us West along the Southern edge of the Gallatin National Forest and roughly parallels the base of the line of mountains forming the border between Montana and Idaho. The road starts out paved, becomes gravel for a while, paved again, gravel again... It is smooth and mostly straight with the occasional turns. Knowing we have a lot of mile to knock out today, I set a relaxed pace at about 60mph and just cruise. The dust is almost non existent, a nice side effect of the rains. The ranchers are out and about working their cattle and baling hay. We pass one cattle loading operation in process and it has a distinct country "fresh" smell... We keep up this pace for 35 miles or so and eventually start running across a wide open desert plain full of scrubby little plants.

Dave contemplating a LOT of straight pavement...


We are heading for those mountains in the distance, much further away than they look.


When I first saw these signs I thought maybe they were tumble weed warnings... Apparently they are for Sage Hens?


Waiting for the whole crew to catch up


We roll into Dubois around 11:00am. Everyone gets gas and restrooms. The gas station is really nice, kind of like a small Bucee's and appears to have a decent little deli. There is no telling how far from here it will be before we can eat again, so I suggest we seize the opportunity. I get a large chicken wrap and have them cut it in half and wrap the pieces separately so I can save one half for dinner later tonight. Then I grab a few small snacks to stuff in the backpack.

We head Northwest out of town and soon start climbing up into the mountains of the Beaverhead National Forest. Here the riding starts to get more interesting.

Medicine Lodge Road just NW of Dubois, where it starts getting fun.




Val is a bit camera shy




The short canyon brings us up onto a high valley, which we then cross to the base of the mountains.


We are headed up this road


Dave takes off. I'll catch him soon as we've been playing leap frog when I stop to take pics.


We will be exiting stage left here...


This is where it gets even more fun.


Somewhere along the way, we cross over into Montana. It is somewhere in the mountains and is called Bannack Pass. The pass is at about 7700 feet elevation. The road goes from wide maintained gravel to brown dirt and rocks. The road no longer follows cuts and fills through the hills but rather follows the natural lay of the land. It gets narrower and basically becomes a fun two track. The clouds have become lumpy and scattered, letting blue skies and sunshine through. It has warmed up considerably and has become pretty much PERFECT riding weather!!

Miles and miles of this...


From a distance it looks kind of flat and smooth, but up close it gets hilly and twisty, great fun!


The bike is running and handling great. I am feeling much better than I was this morning. Most of the morning I had been feeling not so great, but riding has a way of taking care of that. Now I am feeling relaxed and start just flowing with the bike, working with it instead of against it. I zoom ahead, having fun, then slow where I can get a good look behind me to make sure everyone is still coming. We have a few turns where there is some confusion, but eventually we get everyone going the right direction. Dave has just been hanging back behind me and seems to be really enjoying himself. We continue to leap frog as I take pictures.

I crest a ridge and the back side is fairly long and somewhat steep. Far down below and in the distance I spot a truck in the road. As I come down behind him I see there is also a minivan of some sort. They are blocking the road but when they see me behind them they make room to let me pass. Ahead of them is a pretty good water crossing. I roll up, pick my line, and plunge into the water. There are some decent sized rocks, but I can see most of them and avoid them without too much trouble. I stay on the gas and chug my way across to the gravel on the far side, then dismount and grab my camera

I think this is either Cabin Creek or Big Creek, I cannot recall for sure.


Val coming down from the crest


Val crossing creek - LOF5 Ride - YouTube

Brad crossing creek - LOF5 Ride - YouTube

Keith almost crossing creek - LOF5 Ride - YouTube

I don't get pics or vids of all the rest of the guys because I am trying to help Val and Keith get Keith's bike upright so he can get it out of the water.

Val and Keith trying to lift the XR650R


Success... Now to ride it out!


But first everyone else crosses, this is Roger making a nice polite small wake...




Then Lanny...






Lastly, Cal...


Who "might" have target fixated a tiny bit!!


Hard to start, so it gets pushed out...


Roger sheds a layer


After Brad makes the crossing he gets off the KLR and I notice he is limping. I ask what's up and he tells me he blew a corner and came down pretty hard. He's afraid he may have broken something in the leg or ankle, but he's "good" to go... Of course he makes some interesting noises when he gets on and off the bike! The bike is unscathed.

The guy in the truck had pulled the van out of the crossing. Seems the van flooded and was stuck. It would not restart so the guy with the truck was giving the van driver a lift to the nearest town... 22 miles away... so he could find a wrecker to come get his van. I would NOT want to pay that tow bill!! Everyone gets across and Keith gets his XR refired, then we are off again. The road runs NW along a nice valley following Medicine Lodge Creek. It is very scenic and just being out here seems to make all the worries of the world fade from thought.

It's hard to imagine living out here on your own a long time ago...

(I came REAL close to dropping the bike on myself getting off for this pic. The kick stand started sinking into the ground before I had my other leg over the bike. I had to do some SERIOUS hopping and heaving to keep things right side up! )



Cal coming to a stop




Before too long the roads starts to come out of the valley into a wider and flatter area. The next highway is just up ahead of us. Cruising down the road I spot something interesting in the pasture to my left...

The pasture BOSS


The pasture BOSS wannabees


Dave takes advantage of the stop to transfer fuel from his spare to the main tank


We've reached Hwy 324 and now head West. We've covered a lot of miles thus far and have been able to keep a pretty good pace going without everyone getting too strung out or lost. Hwy 324 takes us even closer to the border between Idaho and Montana.

A few miles before the border, we head North on Bloody Dick Road...


While we are hanging out at the turn off to make sure we have everyone, Stovey rides up. Our lunch stop was kind of long, and we haven't been really hauling, but when Stovey tells me he left the cabin about two hours after us, I'm thinking he's been HAULING!! Our destination is Reservoir Lake, 18 miles up the road. It is a great 18 miles and the ride goes by far to quickly. I reach the entrance to the campground and wait for Dave to see me before I go on inside. I find Ron "Wansfel" at the "office" sitting on his KLR and visiting with the park manager. The place is empty and we have it all to ourselves. But for some reason, no one else has followed me into the park!? Probably 10 minutes go by before we finally see any hint of the group. Then we find out that Keith went off in search of gas and/or missed a turn

We scout out some spots, not too far from the water or the john. Then we get to setting up camp so we can hang out and relax for the evening.



As far as outhouses go, this one is nice, well stocked, clean and roomy. In a pinch you could even take shelter in here... In a real pinch...


Lanny, the KLR lender and trip saver, a local boy


Val "Tireman" from Texas


Roger "Rsquared" Rogers from Texas


Dave "Hasbeen" from Texas


Brad "UlyBrad" from Texas...


Cal from Reno (or Tahoe?)


Ron "Wansfel" another local boy


Dave "Stovey" spell bound by one of Brad's stories...


My new tent, a 3 person Marmot Limelight, VERY roomy and EASY to setup and take down!




Keith's tent




Stovey's tent, a bit cramped for my tastes, but it packs SMALL


The food box, anything edible goes in here at night...


Nice to have water, and very nice tasting as well


Hasbeen's camping setup... Not sure what he plans to do in the event of rain


Some of the other tents


Time for the story telling to begin...


The campground is in a beautiful spot and its a beautiful evening!






There is a small lake, reservoir, nearby. I never manage to wander down to check it out though. A few of the others do and they say it is quite pretty. The pine beetles have been really bad in the area so the campground people have been thinning out the trees. Apparently, the beetles have a harder time propagating if the trees are at least sixteen feet apart from trunk to trunk. The happy result for us though is a large abundance of firewood already cut and ready to burn. This is nice because as soon as the sun starts to go down it quickly begins to get chilly.

Val and Dave


Keith


Stovey and Val


I don't know exactly what time it is when we finally call it an evening. The skies have cleared out completely and the stars are absolutely incredible. There are so many that it is hard to find the familiar stars I can see when I am home and the others aren't visible! The other thing the clear skies mean is COLD. By the time I am snuggled into my sleeping bag for the night, it has gotten quite cold. I eventually doze off, but like last night I wake frequently to toss and turn, partly because I can't get comfortable, but also because it keeps getting colder...
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Old 01-07-2014, 02:16 PM   #5
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Day Three

It got pretty darn cold last night. I was awake on and off all night. I could hear Roger tossing and turning most of the night as well. It is not long after sunrise that I decide to just go ahead and get rolling for the day. No point laying here as I am not going back to sleep... I dress quickly and head out to greet the new day.

The sky is a beautiful blue and the sun is blindingly bright. To my dismay, there is a light frosting of ice on the seat of the bike. Hopefully it will start... I set about packing up the gear and loading the bike. Before long I hear a few other bikes sputtering to life and decide it is time to try mine. It barely cranks... Rather than bother Stovey, I decide to give it a go. Then Roger kicks it a few times. Then I get back on and kick a bit more and it finally rumbles to life. Thank goodness I have a kick start!

A few of the guys have already rolled out of the campground. I'm not leading today and Roger and I may do some side routes today. Stovey is still packing up but tells us to go ahead and get rolling. He will be along shortly. By the time I reach the gate, there is no one in sight ahead of me. Lanny and Roger are behind me. So I take off, running Northwest up the Bloody Dick Creek valley. The road winds through the valley, wooded on each side. It is an easy gravel road and I can run a nice pace. Somewhere along the way it becomes Skinner Meadows Road.

I soon come up behind another rider and it appears to be Keith. We approach an intersection where my route shows we need to go left but Keith goes right and takes off in a cloud of dust... I decide to sit and wait for Lanny and Roger, then figure out which way we need to go. The road to the right is wide and well maintained. The road to the left is immediately rocky, kind of steep, narrow and doesn't look like it gets used a lot. I am reminded of my daughter Sarah's favorite poem by Robert Frost,

TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

--The Road Not Taken - Robert Frost (18741963)

That pretty well sums up my take on dual sport riding...

After a few minutes, Lanny and Roger arrive. I tell them Keith took the road to the right but that the GPS route shows we should go left. The road to the left looks more challenging and perhaps leading to unknown adventure.

We go left.

The initial rocky climb is short and takes us up into a narrow two track with woods close by each side. The climb continues, but it soon levels out into a gentle but continuous climb. The road is mostly dirt but in places has quite a few good sized rocks embedded in the dirt. In some places it is loose sand. All in all, a really nice little road!

Just after the initial climb from the intersection




After maybe ten minutes of riding up some fairly rocky sections we come to a closed "gate". It is just barbed wire strung across and latched with a chain, but there is no lock or any evidence of the land changing to private property. I check the GPS map and it shows this as being NF 7321 for quite a ways. So we decide to press on.

Roger holds the end of the gate, the two poles laying on the ground being the middle of the gate


Just beyond the gate, the road gets narrower, twistier, and rockier. Lanny and Roger wait for me to resume leading the way


The rocks continue for a good way and now the road is climbing a bit more. We started out around 7000 feet and reach almost 7600 feet within a few miles. Near the top the road levels out briefly and the rocks give way to smooth dirt. I pull over to wait for Lanny and Roger.



It does not take long for them to catch up to me




I decide to stop for a bit to rest. Tired or not, it is nice to just stop, shut off the bikes, and just soak it all in. It is not often that I get to enjoy being in such country and I want to really embrace it. While talking with Lanny he casually mentions that he's never done any DS riding like this before! I am impressed because the last stretch of rocks has been somewhat technical for a new rider and Lanny is on a HEAVILY loaded DR 650! He assures me that while it is work, he's enjoying himself and is good to continue.

While we are resting an ATV comes rumbling up behind us. We move the bikes to make room for him to get by and then talk with him a few minutes. He's a young guy, maybe in his early twenties. He's out hunting, elk I think. He does not seem bothered by our presence in the area and is very friendly. After a few minutes of chatting he takes off down the trail ahead of us. I wait a few minutes to let him get a good head start so we don't wind up getting stuck behind him. Shortly after we get going again, the road begins a twisting descent and the rocks start again.



I pick my way down through the rocks, occasionally seeing a bit of dust lingering in the air from the ATV having gone ahead of me. At one point I start picking up a bit of speed heading down hill and start working the brakes to haul things down. I approach a blind corner and as the road turns right, it quickly drops down into a stream. I am not going fast, but there is no way I can really stop before reaching the water without risking sliding the front end in the loose rocks. I scan for a line across, stand up and get back on the gas. Fortunately, the water is clear enough that I can see the really big rocks and miss them without much trouble. The bottom is loose rocks but I just stay on the gas and grind through to the far side. Not knowing how far back Lanny and Roger might be, I quickly park the bike, grab the camera, and find a way back to the far side of the stream. I want to flag the others down before they reach the blind curve so that they might have a chance to slow/stop before hitting the water.

The blind corner


The view entering the stream from the blind corner


It is not long before I can hear Lanny and Roger coming down the road. I flag them down at the top of the hill, explain what is ahead, then they wait so I can get back down by the water to get pictures.

Roger crossing creek - LOF5 Day 3

Lanny crossing creek - LOF5 Day 3

The videos do a good job of conveying how steep the entry is to this crossing. Once in the water though, it is not too bad. I came around the outside of the corner and ran across in the left track. I don't know that one side or the other was really any better or worse. Once on the far side we stopped for another short break. After a few minutes I take off again and continue down the mountain. Once again I see some dust hanging in the air, but there is no way it is the same guy on the ATV unless he stopped for a while as well. Soon though I come up behind two different older guys on an ATV. I follow them for a bit then stop to let them get way ahead. About this time I notice no one is coming behind me so I turn around. When I get back to the water crossing I find Stovey visiting with Roger and Lanny. Apparently he pulled up just as I was pulling away. We visit a few minutes and then get rolling again.
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Old 01-07-2014, 02:50 PM   #6
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Day Three - Continued

We head out, me in the lead again, and soon come to another water crossing. This one is not as big of a surprise as the last one so I have more time to slow down and consider things. Of course, once I consider things I realize that I am NOT where I want to be and it will be a pain to move the bike to get where I want to enter the water. The "ground" here is mostly big rocks and moving the bike in any direction other than forward is gonna be real tough, especially with all the added weight of the luggage. Sooo... I put my faith in the long travel suspension, stand up, get on the gas, and just plunge into the water!

Very often when I am riding the KTM, I marvel at how glad I am that I am NOT riding my old KLR. Don't get me wrong. I loved my KLR, but it has some shortcomings... It's heavy, underpowered, has weak brakes, and poor suspension. I think the single biggest thing that makes the KTM stand out though is the FAR superior suspension, especially when riding on big rocks that you might have trouble seeing because they are underwater. The KLR would hit, bounce, and fly off line, usually resulting in a fall. The KTM will usually hit, absorb, and just keep on rolling with very little fuss. Sure the lighter weight, better brakes and more power are nice, but ultimately it is the suspension that keeps you stable and in control.

No sooner than I hit the water, I am rolling over some large baby head rocks. By large I mean 8" - 12". That in and of itself is not so bad, except they have some algae on them which causes the tires to do a little slipping and sliding. I stay up, on the gas, and let the bike do its thing and before long I am climbing out on the far side looking for a place to park so I can grab the camera and get setup before the others arrive

Looking back - I entered by that big rock on the right and ran right over those big rocks in the water


Looking forward - I exited on the right, having crossed over from the left side to the right side to avoid having to go so far, then parked back behind those trees in the center


Lanny and Roger are able to enter on the better side with smaller rocks


I don't have a good footing where I am standing and as Lanny heads in I start stumbling around trying to regain my footing. By the time I keep from falling over and get my camera switched from photo to video, he's already coming out the far side without any problems. Nice job for someone that has never ridden stuff like this before! I do manage to get set up for Roger though.

Roger creek crossing 2 - LOF5 Day 3

(I don't know why, but when I upload the video of Roger, YouTube doubles it by showing it twice in a row. I even tried deleting it and uploading it again, but it still shows the entire thing twice )

Once we clear this last creek, the ground changes to a more sandy loam and less rocks. We've pretty well reached the bottom now and just have to run a few miles back out to the main road, passing a hunting camp on the way where the ATVs were headed.



The woods soon give way to open pastures and straight roads running along fence lines with 90 degree corners at the ends of the pastures. We pick up the pace because it is likely we are pretty far behind the rest of the group. It seems that some time during the evening last night or this morning, Stovey and the guys made some changes to the route for the day to avoid all the stuff we just finished. I did not realize this, but I am glad we did it anyway because it was a LOT of fun and I think Lanny really enjoyed it as well. We gradually head East and soon hit Hwy 278 where we turn North for the short paved run up to Wisdom for gas and lunch.

We arrive in Wisdom to find the rest of the group... just finishing up their lunch. I catch mumblings of visiting some park nearby or something... I don't really pay much attention as the plan is to hit some alternate routes North of here anyway. So after gassing up the bike we head across the street to grab some lunch. Stovey and Lanny join us.

Busy and GOOD food!


The cafe is busy. It seems this is the only place for miles and miles around. Also, there are quite a few fires in the area and there is a good sized group of firefighters eating lunch. It is worth the wait though as the food is excellent and really hits the spot. I could REALLY go for a good nap afterward...

Another cafe a few doors down, but it did not appear to be open, or it was empty if it was...


Not a real big town... this IS "downtown"


After lunch, Roger and I head West out of town on Hwy 43. As we near the turn off to get back on the dirt route, I spot a group of bikes coming out of a road on the right. It's all the rest of the guys and they are leaving some kind of battlefield memorial park thingy, for what I have no clue. Anyway, I pull over and we all group up together. It is already getting on in the day and at this point Roger and I decide to just hang with the group instead of hitting the alternate routes. We are not positive where the camp site is. Ron and Stovey have been talking about different sites. So we figure the easiest thing to do is just stay together for now.

Looking West into the mountains where we are heading


There's not much to say about the next hour or so. We head North-ish on FR 1203, a real squiggly line on the map. The riding is fantastic and the scenery beautiful, although we do ride through a LOT of areas that have seen some BIG fires!











The valley below where we started sits at just over 6000 feet. The high point on this route is just over 8000 feet and affords some really nice scenic overlooks.





That black spot on the lower right of the rock is from fires. It seems this is a popular camping spot and the fire is built in a small hollow at the base of the rock.


A bit exposed for my liking, but a nice view!


I've been playing leap frog with the whole group, leading, stopping, catching up, stopping...


After I finish taking all my scenery pics, I take off in pursuit of the group. It is not too far before I come around the corner and am greeted by a big cloud of dust drifting away from the road. This is not usually a good thing... It seems that Ron lowsided his KLR in a descending corner. He's fine. The bike will be fine, it just needs a little "tweaking" to get things back where the should be.

Cal on Val's KTM 530 XCW checking out the KLR as he goes by


Val on Cal's KTM 690


Lanny waiting as Ron finalizes the tweaking


Looking back - I was trying to get the road names in the sign, but you cannot see them here (Lodepole Cr, Springer Cr, Mink Cr, Schultz Saddle and Stone Saddle).


Ron is fine and soon has the mighty KLR rolling again. That is one thing about the KLRs that I did like. They seem to be real good at taking a lot of abuse, shrugging it off, and just rolling on like nothing ever happened. Mine was all zip tied together, but it never let me down... except that time I got smacked head on by a crazed teenager on a BIG ATV But that wasn't a shortcoming in the bike, just in the brains of the teenager

The road has been descending for a while now, following Meadow Creek to the East Fork of The Bitterroot River


When we reach the Bitterroot River, Stovey decides to do a side trip over to a small town where we can stop for gas, bathroom breaks, snacks, etc,... This will be the last place where we can grab stuff before hitting camp later this evening. At this point we've dropped down to about 5000 feet. The run down along the river to the small town of Sula will bring us down to about 4500 feet, probably the lowest point on the entire trip. The run down starts out as dirt but soon gives way to pavement and it is very nice. I hang at the back of the pack and just enjoy the scenery. However, a few miles down the road I come upon the whole group slowed up and looking up the side of the nearby mountain...

Big Horn Sheep... LOTS of them... Scattered all over the side of the mountain


Can you spot them all...? There are at least seven visible in this shot.


Here are the two obvious ones


After everyone gets their sheep pics, we continue on into town. As we get near town the terrain opens up into beautiful rolling pastures with farm houses scattered far and wide. It is an idyllic setting.

Even has the quaint old school house




This has something to do with the hay business, but for the life of me I cannot figure out what it does or how it works. I've been seeing them everywhere though.


We finally roll into "town", which is basically a gas station with some small lodges and a nice camping area just off the main highway and on the river. It looks like it might actually be a pretty nice place to stay. I've no idea what the cost might be for the cabins though and I forget to check. After gassing up the bikes and grabbing some snacks, we double back up the river to get back to the dirt. On the way back, the entire herd of big horns is in the middle of the road. The whole gang is stopped with cameras out and videos running. I hang back for a bit then rev the engine and start plowing through real slow so they can get out of the way. It is amazing how easily they can just run right up the side of a really steep mountainside!!

The Bridge where Meadow Creek and the Bitterroot meet




The East Fork of the Bitterroot River, flowing Westward toward Sula.


We continue East past the bridge and soon veer off to the left on a smaller road that immediately runs off into the woods and starts getting real twisty! For a short while it roughly parallels the river and then makes a sharp cut back to the Northwest and begins a nice climb up onto a ridge line, gaining almost 2000 feet in elevation in just eight miles. Looking at the route on the GPS it is obvious we still have a good bit of riding ahead of us. There are at least another 45-50 miles and it is mostly REALLY squiggly on the map!! It is getting late in the afternoon and if we want to setup camp before it gets dark, we need to bust out some serious miles. I wind up back in the lead again, for no particular reason. I do take some pictures, but now I feel myself slipping into that mode where I am just focusing on the riding and not so much on the scenery. I'm in a nice groove and running a fun pace, not fast enough to get the adrenaline up, but enough to have fun.

Typical of what we see for miles and miles




After that last picture, the scenery changes to more of the burned out area. At one point I stop and reach down for my camera, which I have been carrying in a pouch on my tank bag that sits at the rear of the bag...

IT IS GONE!!

I have carried the camera there for years and never had a problem with it bouncing out. It rapidly get that sour feeling in the pit of my stomach... It is the only camera I've brought with me. The thought of losing all the pictures from the last three days and not being able to get any from the rest of the trip causes a wave of despair to wash over me. I've come pretty far since the last shot so there is a LOT of ground to cover if I am to have any hope of finding it. There is nothing to do but head back and look for it. I HAVE TO FIND IT!!

I know it might sound corny to some folks, but I start praying hard. It is not unusual for me to find myself praying while riding. Riding is often a "mountain top" experience for me, whether literally on a mountain top or riding in a desert somewhere. But this is different. There is a real desperation... Not quite to the point of trying to bargain with God if He will help me out... but almost There is definitely a lot of, "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!"

As I am slowly heading back up the road, scanning carefully and looking in the shadows, I start to think it may be hopeless. If the camera bounced out of the pocket and hit the ground at speed, it could easily have gone careening off the road into the underbrush where I will never see it. Even if I might see it, what condition will it be in? I soon encounter a few of the other riders and wave them on by me. Stovey eventually comes by and checks to see what I am doing. Then he tells me he saw something a short way back up the road but he did not stop as he thought it was just an empty cigarette pack or something similar. The camera is almost exactly the size of a pack of cigs! I thank him and excitedly take off down the road. Maybe a half mile later I come around a corner and see Lanny stopped in the road, attempting to lean off the bike to reach something on the ground without dumping the bike on himself. As I pull up he has my camera in his hand!!!

"THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!!!"

The sense of relief is overwhelming! I quickly turn it on to see if it works. Then lens comes out like it should, albeit with a kind of gritty sound. That is not so unusual though as it has done it before when used in a dirty environment. I blow out as much of the grit as I can and it gets noticeably quieter each time it moves. I quickly switch over to view mode to see if the memory is working and I am able to view all my pictures!! The exterior of the camera seems no worse for the wear. I cannot believe how lucky I am! Thinking back on it, I had been having issues making sure I had the camera actually in the pouch and not between the exterior of the pouch and a small hand strap that runs across the outside of the pouch. I think perhaps that after that last shot, I got it between the pouch and strap which let it slip out the bottom between my legs when I stood up on a slightly rough spot in the road. I happily thank Lanny and get back to chasing the front runners of the pack.

The shot I wanted that made me realize I didn't have the camera
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Old 01-09-2014, 01:14 PM   #7
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Day 3 - Continued...

By now the sun is on its downward path to the horizon. Shadows are starting to get long and I think everyone is starting to get a bit tired, ready to be at the camp and to call it a day. But the road just seems to keep going and going... Not long after finding my camera I eventually catch back up with Stovey. He's pulled off into what looks like a small camping area. A glance at the GPS confirms that this is not where we had planned to stop for the night. A quick check with him and I learn that we are improvising. He, Lanny and Dave will be staying here for the night rather than trying to push on to the planned camp site. Ron will lead the group onward since he knows where the planned site is located. Stovey and the others will catch up in the morning. Sounds good to me...

And then the road seems to go on and on and on...


After MUCH wiggling and squiggling our way across the GPS screen, we finally arrive at Hwy 38 at Skalkaho Creek and turn North. Here the road becomes wide smooth gravel. There is also a bit of traffic. It is a nice road though with mostly big curves that are fun to throttle through with the back end sliding.

Yours truly - Skalkaho Falls




Roger


Spillway on the other side of the road... a long way down...


When we first hit Hwy 38, we were around 4700 feet. Seven miles later at the Skalkaho Falls, we are around 6200 feet. From the falls the road turns "due" East as the snake wiggles. It gets a bit twistier and more scenic.

Higher up the mountainside looking back to the Southwest


Roger and Brad


Everything is starting to get that warm evening glow to it


Cal


Keith






At Skalkaho Pass we stop to regroup. We're at 7200 feet now. The cool crisp feeling of the air is invigorating. It is such a wonderful change from the hot, clingy, and humid air of East Texas in September Ron takes us down a little side road that bends back to the Northwest and winds its way into the woods. It is a narrow two track with lots of rocks embedded in the road bed. It climbs gently as it winds, bringing us up to almost 7400 feet. We round a corner and there is a dam. The road goes around the side of the dam and wanders back to a clearing under some large tress, right by the side of the lake. We are at Daly Lake. It is a primitive camp site, but man what a location!!





Everyone starts unpacking and setting up camp


A pier of sorts sticking out into the lake from the dam


Wow... lots of reflective bits on the tent!


Same shot sans the flash - not bad for a seven year old slightly banged up pocket camera in low light conditions


Roger's palace


My view of the lake from my chair


Darkness comes soon after most of us finish setting up our tents and get settled. It seems this area is under a burn ban, so no fire tonight. No problem, we just circle around the fire pit and Keith puts a little LED lantern in the center of it It's not the same, but it works and we sit around telling stories and talking about the day's riding. I decide to try out one of the freeze dried meals I've brought. After letting it rehydrate and draining off the excess liquid, I dig in because I am actually quite hungry

Well... It's not bad per se... and it beats starving... But it basically tastes like wet cardboard. I manage to eat maybe half of it before I decide to raid my snack bag. Ron, having LOADS of storage space on his KLR, wisely brings real food and enjoys a nice meal. This is something I will need to work on for future trips

Without the fire to keep us warm and going, the stories soon fade to yawns and stretches. I've no idea what time it is, but we soon start heading off to our tents to call it a night. It is not as cold tonight as it was last night. The sky is perfectly clear and the stars are amazing. I spend a little time away from the edge of camp just staring up into the night sky. I see a few shooting stars! I also spot quite a few satellites tracking across the sky, some appearing to be quite close to each other, but no doubt having different orbital altitudes. Once again, the Milky Way stands out like spilled milk... go figure...
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Old 01-09-2014, 01:22 PM   #8
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Day 4 - Splitting from the main group

Morning comes quick, probably because I actually slept pretty good last night instead of waking every fifteen to twenty minutes like the last few nights. Not being as cold helps, but no doubt the exhaustion of three long days of great riding combined with not so good sleep also helps! You might recall that at the start of this trip I mentioned the tooth issue and the Shingles? Well, I've been a walking pharmacy as a result, carrying antibiotics, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, pain killers and even a few muscle relaxers. Those latter two really helped with the sleep last night as well The tooth has not been giving me any issues and the Shingles appears to have faded for the most part. I still get a bit of tingling sensation on my cheek and some times on my scalp and neck, but nothing that rises to the level of really annoying or painful. For this I am VERY grateful

I roll out of the tent to find yet another incredibly beautiful day waiting for us. Other than the brief rain during the first day and the nasty storm that night, we have had fantastic weather!! I don't think we could ask for better weather. The mornings are crisp but soon turn into just cool days that keep us from overheating too much when the riding gets "exciting". Today looks to be no different. What is different is that today Roger and I will be taking one of the alternate routes I created. The plan is to meet up with the group at the campsite at the end of the day. But first, we have to pack up our gear.

Roger breaking camp


Ron maybe?


Ron, Cal and Val


Wow... I wonder if the fishing is any good here... That might make for a nice dinner instead of the freeze dried stuff


Too muddy to stand on the other side of the tree to get the shot...




The road back to the dam, that is the spill way to the left


Breaking camp never seems to be a rush job. Each morning folks just sort of get up, stand around, brew their coffee, maybe eat breakfast, visit a bit and then finally start packing their gear. I've tried to start the process right from the moment I roll out of my sleeping bag. Before I even leave the tent I pack the sleeping back, break down and pack the cot, put on my clothes, and do as much packing as possible before I have to get outside the tent. I sometimes visit with the guys just to get a feel for the day and how everyone is feeling. Then I move to packing the bike so I can be ready to roll. This morning Roger and I are set to go before the rest of the group. Stovey, Lanny and Dave are not here yet and I think the other guys are going to hang out and wait for them before hitting the road. Roger and I say our goodbyes and head out, back to Hwy 38 where we will continue East on Hwy 38 for a while.

Not far from the pass, the road turns back to pavement. I round a particularly sharp corner and a few deer leap up off the road onto the steep embankment to my left. They're pretty hefty looking critters and hitting them would not have been fun. I'm not going especially fast, but I do take the hint and slow down just a bit more so I have more time to scan and react.

I guess this is natural as it doesn't really look like the result of blasting for the road...




The highway quickly winds its way down from the pass and soon starts to straighten, following the West Fork Rock Creek down to the Middle Fork Rock Creek. I don't know what the convention is on how these things get named, if there even is one. I guess there's no limit to the number of forks a creek can have

The mountains give way to the rolling hills as we head down into the valley below


The main group will be continuing East on Hwy 38, but our route takes us North at the Middle Fork Rock Creek on Rock Creek Road.

The scenery along the creek is really cool


Don't you just LOVE signs like this!?


Seems more like a river than a creek...




The run up Rock Creek road is just an amazingly nice ride. It is not technical. It is fun though and the scenery is just great. It is a narrow valley with high peaks on each side. There are campgrounds all over the place. It is obviously a popular area as there is more traffic here than we've been seeing all week. There are also a few ATVs here and there.

A common site along the road


Cool rocks






We pass an area that has a bit of a residential look to it, at least residential for this kind of area, and there are a few ladies walking their dogs along the road. I slow way down to avoid dusting them or potentially kicking up rocks at them. They give a friendly wave. A few curves and hills later, I spot a cool looking old cabin and slide to a stop to take a look at it.







This is across the street from the more modern house




All the creature comforts of home...


Roger points this out as I am heading back toward the bikes




Cozy...




My first thought it that it might be an outhouse for the main dugout and house. However, once I take a peek inside, it looks to be large enough for one or two people to spend the night. Thinking of the harsh winters that come through this area, I can see how this would have been seen as REALLY nice accommodations! The sign said something about the home owners providing campsites and lodging for local hunters and fishers way back in the day. My kids enjoy these kinds of pictures because similar stuff has been described in the Little House On The Prairie stories written by Laura Ingles Wilder. They've been listening to the audio books and also reading them. It still blows their little minds that people lived without electricity, running water, indoor toilets, and all the other modern things many kids under 10 years old take for granted in our society.

Further up the road I start seeing smoke on the West side of the creek. I also spot several forest service trucks and firefighting trucks. Eventually we come to a point where I can see that there must be a pretty good fire going just over the Western ridge as the smoke is pretty thick here. I keep expecting to be stopped and told we have to go back, but that never happens. Instead we meet some interesting adventurers coming the other way...

They happily stopped when I pulled over to make room and asked if I could take pictures






Had to be careful on this section of the road... lots of blind corners.


The creek and road make a big gentle curve back to the Northeast. We follow it until we reach Sawmill Gulch and the small "town" of Quigley. Here we head East and follow Brewster Creek up into the mountains. For the first half mile, maybe three quarters of a mile, there are some homes along each side of the narrow gravel road. But the road soon passes them, runs along the creek a short way, and then starts to climb, rising from 4000 feet to 7000 feet in a few miles.

Climbing up a long ravine


Then it gets tight with quite a few bumpy switchbacks


Still not quite to the top, we stop for a break, somewhere along the West side of Sliderock Mountain.




It is really nice to just sit here and relax, listening to the wind and feeling the air


We find this near the top. There are some old mines in the area.


Nice...


The window, which actually looks out over a nice view!


The road runs South, along a ridge of sorts before it then starts dropping back down into another creek valley, Willow Creek I believe. The initial descent is somewhat steep, but once we reach the creek it is just a wonderful relaxing ride down through the valley along the banks of the creek along Willow Creek Road. There is almost NO traffic here and we up the pace a bit to have some fun until we reach Hwy 348. 348 is a nicely paved highway that is fun even on the KTM, but would be REAL fun on my 1200 GS. It runs East over some low mountains to Phillipsburg, our destination for lunch/gas. However, my GPS maps show that Rock Creek Road diverges from 348 on this side of the mountains and runs up through the mountains instead of going around then like 348 does.

I get so wrapped up in having fun on 348 that I neglect to notice on the GPS that I just went smoking past our turn off for Rock Creek Rd. At a highpoint in the road where I slow to enjoy the view, I glance down and realize what has happened. Roger soon catches up and we turn around, this time going slowly so I can look for the turn off that was not immediately obvious. I find the turn off, but there is a locked gate with a note about the access point having been moved a half mile or so to the South. Okay... So we go look for that.

Just prior to the new access point is this great rental property! Phone number on the sign: 259-PAC-RATS. Fully furnished with Satellite and Local TV reception!! A smoking deal!


Just to the South of the rental, our roads lies out there somewhere...




We find the new gate, pass through and it looks promising


Did I mention the spectacular weather!!??


The road quickly becomes narrow and washed out as it drops down around the side of the hill into a small valley below. It is likely that it is only used by hunters. It crosses a small wash out and then climbs back up to another gate. We pass through this one and soon find ourselves back on my intended route. We start climbing toward a nearby peak, winding around its side through some nice piney woods. The surface of the road has become soft brown dirt with scattered loose rocks. It's nothing real technical, but some of the rocks are large enough that if you hit them wrong they could easily send you in an unexpected direction! We soon turn due South and head up into a high saddle between two peaks and the ground becomes rocky again but is smooth.



Howver, the road soon starts to get rougher, then the tracks begin to fade, and eventually we encounter signs saying no motorized vehicles beyond that point It is a real shame because it was getting really fun and looked like it would only get better as we continued. It is getting late in the afternoon though and I am getting hungry, so I decide to just backtrack to the highway and run that on into Phillipsburg.
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Old 01-09-2014, 01:31 PM   #9
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Day 4 - Continued...

Our attempt at running Rock Creek Road over the mountains to Phillipsburg having been frustrated, we retreat back to the main highway and run that on into Phillipsburg for lunch. You might recall that I was having balance issues with my front tire earlier in the week. Well, it is still a problem and it is REALLY getting on my nerves... Right on the edge of town there is a tire shop on the side of the highway. It's an automotive shop but I am getting desperate. I pull in and check with the guys and they tell me they can't do anything for me but there is a bike shop in town that can help me! Awesome! I figure we'll grab lunch, hit the shop for maybe 30 minutes, and resume our ride...

Well, the lunch plan goes off without a hitch. There is one nice place to stop in town that is a gas station, convenience store, and bar/restaurant all in one. We grab some burgers and have a nice break. Afterward, we head to the main drag that runs through the old down town area and easily find the bike shop, a Yamaha dealer. I head inside and they have a BIG assortment of Klim riding gear, even stuff I could not find on the internet! However, even though the sign outside says "Parts and Service", balancing a front tire is apparently not one of the services they can provide... Okay... So it looks like I am just gonna have to suck it up and keep riding

We head on out of town to find our next road. It doesn't show a name on either of my maps, but it runs mostly East right up the side of a mountain. Google maps shows it as Contract Mill Rd. We quickly climb over 1000 feet.

Not far from the edge of town






And then we come around a corner and see this...


What we have stumbled on is the remains of a town called Granite. Apparently it was a silver mining boom town in the late 1800s, boasting over 3000 inhabitants at its peak. All that remains now are some cool ruins. I would like to have seen it in its peak. If you Google it, you can find information about it. It is actually a state park now. We stop to take a few pics and check it out. First from below then from above.







The view from above




The way we are heading... I always get leery of getting flats around stuff like this. LOTS of old nails lying about...


Not wanting to really spend a lot of time here, we don't get off the bikes and walk around. That would be fun, but we don't know what lies ahead or how long it will take us to reach our destination, so we press onward and soon find ourselves still climbing. Not far beyond the mine the road condition changes for the "better"

I don't know about you, but there have been numerous times in my dual sport riding experiences where I am faced with those moments of decision...

"Do I really want to attempt this...?"

"What happens if we get into this and can't get out!?"

"Will my bike and/or my body survive this...?"

Now, Roger and I have done quite a few adventure rides together over the last 5-6 years and we have a simple rule. When it stops being fun, we do something else. I say it is simple but in reality it's not so cut and dried. There have been many times where the moment in question was NOT fun. There has been much gnashing of teeth, wailing, and gnawing of tongues. However, IF we got through it, for some reason I cannot explain, it usually seemed fun in hindsight We joke about this now, calling it hindsight fun.

The other thing that I have noticed about those times where we were about to embark on some crazy riding experience is that our minds had this peculiar knack for underestimating.

"Oh, it can't be that bad."

"It can't be very long."

"It probably just goes to the top of the hill and then gets better."

And on and on it goes. You might think experience would dull this underestimating "skill", but it doesn't

Looking at the road ahead, I have the distinct feeling that we are in for some serious hindsight fun...


Looking back down one of the straighter and less rocky sections


Keep in mind we are riding heavily laden bikes, bikes which are NOT meant to be heavily laden, on some pretty nasty rocks. The "road" is really just an area of rocks with no trees growing in the middle of them. It is about the width of a jeep and is quite steep. There are numerous places with tight and steep switch backs covered in huge rocks. I am running in first gear and kind of crawling. Roger likes to run second and maybe even third gear and just roll over the stuff. I end up letting him roll on by because I can tell my pace is ruining his groove. At one point my front end glances off the side of a BIG rock, bouncing the bike to the side of the trail, and before I can correct, the front end is trying to climb the berm on the left side. The front slides out from under me and the bike just kind of lays over against the berm as I step off. Oh great...

Roger is already up the hill out of sight. Even if he were here, there really wouldn't be anywhere to park his bike other than perhaps leaning it up against a tree. There's nothing to do but grunt and lift. Surprisingly, even with all the extra luggage, the bike is not that hard to lift. Once again I am thinking in my head how happy I am to NOT be riding my old KLR

Of course, getting the bike upright is just part of the battle. I still have to get back on it while standing on a steep hill and uneven ground. I manage to balance it while I stand on a rock and swing my leg over. So far, so good. The bike refires without any problems. Getting moving again will be tough. I regeared from the 13/52 I use for rough riding to the 14/49 I use for easier dualsport riding. Believe it or not, that makes a HUGE difference in this kind of stuff. I manage to get the bike rocking back and forth and then hit the gas right as I rock forward to launch myself over the rocks right under my tires. I try to get up on my feet as fast as possible and stay on the gas. The first few seconds are perilous and uncertain as the bike flops around and I try to pick my new line. For a few moments, it feels like I might just flop on over again, but then I hit that magic speed where the suspension starts working and the gyroscopic effect of the spinning wheels starts helping to keep the bike stable. I lean forward, look far up the hill, grimace and gas it!!

After what seems like an arm pumping eternity, but which has probably only been 5-10 minutes, the rocks actually do start to thin out and the ground becomes more level and smooth. Once again that underestimating skill kicks in and I start to think, "Wow, I made it!!"

See? All easy peasy from here on out right?


You might think I would learn...


I know things are getting interesting when I start talking to myself... out loud. Think of those scenes in Lord of the Rings where Gollum is debating with himself and you will have a good idea.

"We can do this!"

"Are you sure you want to do this?"

"It's no problem, we're almost at the top!"

"We don't really know that for sure and if we can't go on... we have to go back!"

"Go back!? You can't be serious!"

"Well I am kind of feeling like I can't get enough air when I breathe."

"Don't be such a pansy! Breathing is overrated!"

And on it goes...

I press on, gasping for air and trying to ride smooth and relaxed, letting the bike do all the work and allowing me to bring my heart rate back down from the stratosphere. The more I focus on my breathing and relaxing, the better I ride. I actually allow myself to start thinking I am really having fun! I soon catch up to Roger and we decide to take a break at a small area that looks like it might actually be the high point of the road and where we might start heading down again. I park the bike and flop myself down on the ground in the shade of a tree. Breathe in... Breathe out... I can see the edges of my vision pulsing in time with my heart beat... I figure I will lay here till that stops, and hopefully not because my heart has stopped

After what seems like an all too short amount of time, maybe ten minutes, we decide we need to get moving again. We don't know how much further this rock garden stuff goes and our pace through it is not real fast, averaging maybe 10-15 mph at best and we still have quite a ways to go if we are going to have any hope of meeting up with the rest of the group this evening. So I manage to drag myself back to the bike, get my jacket and helmet back on, and take off once again.

We do seem to have crested and are now heading "mostly" down hill. Unfortunately, the rocks have not abated and if anything are worse. I say they are worse but that is probably because I prefer going up nasty stuff as opposed to coming down such stuff. It is easier to regulate my speed going up and I always feel like I am on the verge of riding a run away bike when I am going down. It does not help that the bike will often slide when I try to use the back brake or use too much engine braking. I cautiously use the front brake, which can actually result in an amazing amount of stopping power even on the loose dirt and rocks. But then....

Once again I let the front end ride up the side of a small berm and slide out from under me, sending me to the ground at low speed


The bike and I are fine. I manage to get the bike upright and to a point where I can actually put the kickstand down. When I go to remount the bike and I put my weight on the left foot peg, something snaps and the bike starts to come over toward me I manage to jump clear and keep the bike from going down. When I look down it soon becomes apparent what has snapped... The foot pad on my kickstand has popped off, leaving a spike about 3/4" in diameter. The result is a stand that is about 1-1/2" shorter than normal which lets the bike lean WAY over and it readily sinks into the ground letting the bike lean WAAYYYY over! Well... dang. Nothing to do but keep on riding. It can't go on much further... right?
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Old 01-09-2014, 02:21 PM   #10
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Day 4 - Continued again...

If you have ever engaged in strenuous activity over a long period of time, relatively speaking..., then you know what it is to "hit the wall". Some times you can feel it coming on, sometimes it hits you like a ton of bricks. A few minutes after that last drop as I am picking my way down through the rocks, I hit that wall, or I should say, it hit me... like a ton of bricks!

I have been feeling winded, but up until this moment strength has not been an issue in terms of it fading. Nor has my ability to focus and concentrate been a problem. Yet in the space of maybe twenty feet, I now find myself feeling like my limbs suddenly weigh three times the normal, my mind has gone to mush and I can't pick a decent line to save my life...



A quick glance at the GPS shows that we still have a pretty good way to go before we hit the next highway where we might bail off the route and make for camp. I now seriously begin to wonder if Roger and I might be making camp somewhere out here instead, which we are prepared to do, but I don't like the thought of leaving the other guys wondering what has happened to us.

Roger is leading. His pace has slowed as well. He doesn't look like I feel, but no doubt he is starting to tire as well. I muster all the mental focus I can and just ride through the wall. Once again I find myself deep in audible conversation with myself.

"We are having fun!"

"Are you sure about that? I mean, I could really get hurt if I'm not careful..."

"You've been in worse situations, we'll be fine! It can't stay like this forever..."

"Okay, but at the first opportunity, I am bailing and heading for civilization!"

"We have no problem with that."

And down we go, crawling between and over rocks, sliding in the loose dirt, the front end snapping to the side as the wheel catches on a downed tree branch or another rock.

"Steady... steady... breathe... focus..."

"We're still alive. This is fun. Look around and soak it in! It is beautiful out here!"

Indeed it is beautiful out here. There is just something about the color of the trees, the feeling of the breeze, the look of the rocks, the sunlight finding its way through the flickering leaves and the shimmering patterns of light as it hits the ground, the sound of the 530 happily doing its thing, and the POUNDING of my heartbeat in my ears. Sure, I could be in a better mental/physical condition at the moment, but overall, I am happy to be here, in this moment doing what I am doing.

We've been steadily descending for a while now. As I round a curve and dodge some rocks, I roll out into a short level section of the road that has railroad tracks going across it. Has to be a mine, which means I should stop for a picture and a breather.

Fairly old trees are standing in what used to be the tailings pile. No doubt it has been a LONG time since an ore cart last rolled along these tracks.


It has to take a special (read insane) kind of person to work in such environs over 100 years ago...


After snapping my pictures, I just sit for a few moments, looking around and just absorbing the moment. Then I roll on, heading around the corner and take off to catch up with Roger. I am starting to feel better now. I am still tired and don't have quite the strength as normal, but mentally things are improving. Also, the road seems to be finally easing up in terms of the roughness. I can now just roll right over most of the rocks in the road at speed rather than having to crawl over them or ride around them. Now the bike is doing much more of the work and I can relax a bit.

I catch up to Roger, but once again the road is climbing...


It is only a short climb around the side of a peak, and then we are dropping down into what looks like a high valley. We're up around 8000 feet, give or take a few hundred as we run along what seems like some kind of ridge or series of peaks. Down in the trough we come upon what is left of a lake.

I think this is Racetrack Lake - right around 7700 ft elevation.


I pull away from the lake and almost immediately the road begins climbing again, rapidly reaching 8200 ft as it climbs up into another high saddle between two peaks.

Is the worst finally over...?


Still rocky, but not BIG rocks!




We finally pass through Fred Burr Pass. If you like cool history stuff and want to know who Fred Burr is, read here. All I care about in this moment is that from here on out, the riding seems to be getting MUCH easier and we seem to be consistently heading down. Somewhere along the line, just after the lake stop, we missed a turn to continue heading East to the town of Racetrack on I-90. I don't recall even seeing the turn, but once I realize the road we are on makes pretty much a straight shot down to US 10A at Georgetown Lake, I figure it is time to bail on the intended route. We can hit the highway and just run pavement all the way into Butte and call it a day. Roger is happily on board with this plan. Moreover, we both see a Dodge truck parked off to the side of the road in the woods and figure that if he could make it up here, then the road between here and the highway can't be anything like what we've been riding!

The road is soon following North Fork Flint Creek down out of the mountains. It straightens out considerably and wastes no time descending down into the valley below. Georgetown Lake and the main highway are indeed a welcome site when we reach them! Butte is still 40 miles to the East of us, but it is not real late yet and we have plenty of day light to make it. Running the bikes at 70+ for a while won't be thrilling, but I am okay with that. It has been a FULL day!

The highway run is actually not bad. The town of Anaconda has the LONGEST main drag of any town I think I have ever seen and it is posted at 25mph! THAT is hard to do!! However, once past Anaconda, it is smooth sailing all the way into Butte on the freeway. We pull into a gas station to fill up the bikes and to take stock of where we are and what we want to do. I pull up to a pump and try to park a little further away than normal to allow the bike to lean further in light of the missing foot on my kickstand. As I slowly and carefully dismount, the bike just starts coming right over on top of me as I try to swing my right leg away from it and the suspension starts to unload I manage NOT to get myself pinned between the bike and the pump, get the bike stable and upright, and proceed to fill the tank. Then I join Roger over on the side of the parking lot.

I am spent. Roger quickly confirms that he is pretty much in the same condition. I ask if he wants to just get a hotel and catch the other guys tomorrow and without hesitation he says, "Sure!" We toy with the idea of riding out to where the other guys are camped to let them know and then ride back into town. Then I check the GPS and realize they are another 20 miles or so out of town and we quickly decide to scrap that idea. We'll just get the hotel and call it a day.

Right across the street is a nice Hampton Inn. It might be a wee bit more than I would generally want to pay, but it is RIGHT across the street! We head over and I go inside. No dice, they are booked. In fact, the lady informs me that every place in town is booked, something about an Economic Conference... Sounds like a bunch of bureaucrats and academics will sit around pontificating about how to solve all the problems of our whacky economy... Yeah... I want to be FAR away from here She does mention another hotel, the Hotel Finlen on the North side of town that is older, but still "nice". She graciously calls them to see if they have any rooms. They have two. So we hop back on the bikes and head North.

The Finlen is easy to find. It is in the old down town with a lot of other cool historic buildings erected in the late 1800s and early 1900s. It has also had a "motel" added to the side of it, which is basically a two story motel where you park right outside the rooms. The main building however is a nine story tower. We pull up outside, park, and I head inside to see about a room. The hotel has apparently been heavily renovated back to the period style. The main lobby is VERY cool. If I had more energy and a better camera, I could spend a LOT of time in here taking pictures. I'll let you Google it instead

They have a room, actually two rooms joined, but it rents as one room. It is only around $75 a night. "We'll take it!!" I get us checked in and head back outside. My feet feel like they are made of lead weights. We quickly get the bikes unpacked and settle into our room. Roger showers and I collapse on my bed. After I shower we decide we need food, real food. Rather than order out for pizza, we walk a few blocks away to a really cool place. I forgot my camera though. Anyway, the food is excellent, as is the beer. On the verge of pure physical exhaustion, I manage to trudge back the few blocks to the hotel and in short order head to bed.

My head hits the pillow and I am out like a light...
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Old 01-10-2014, 11:09 AM   #11
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Day 5

Morning arrives impossibly fast. I don't recall falling asleep, waking up and tossing around as is my normal routine, or even dreaming. It was just lights out... alarm...

Before heading to bed last night, I did manage to find out that there is in fact a KTM dealership here in Butte. Roger and I decided to sleep in a bit this morning and then head to the dealership to see about my kickstand and perhaps getting my front tire balanced. After another hot shower, I start packing up my gear and get ready to check out of the hotel.

The bikes packed and ready to go. Another BEAUTIFUL morning!!


Cool old Salvation Army building across the street


Everything is brick... Note the "NEW" on the Tait Hotel sign...


We quickly find the KTM dealer and they are open. Unfortunately, they are of little help. They won't sell me a kickstand and claim they are simply too busy to balance a front tire, even if the tire is already off the bike. About the only help they do provide is to call a fabrication shop on the far South side of town to see if they can weld something on the end of the kickstand for me. Not real pleased with their level of "service" we head South through town. The main drag is a long one and we do eventually reach the outskirts of town where we find a big fabrication shop. They look like their guys are busy, but they drop what they are doing to help us out.

The owner, a real nice guy.


The welder, also a real nice guy




It is decided that a 2" long piece of 1" round stock will work as a new foot pad for the kickstand. However, when he starts trying to weld it, the plastic still inside the end of the kickstand from the foot melts and messes up the weld. The remains of the foot are threaded into the bottom of the kickstand. He tries twisting it out like a screw, which doesn't work. I suggest they just drill it out. I am not worried about trashing the threads as I will likely just get a whole new kickstand. This does the trick and they are able to weld without any problems.

Patiently waiting to get back to business...


The other fab guy comes over to hold it and make sure it is properly aligned for welding




The owner takes us around for a quick tour of the place. As far as fab shops go, this one is pretty good sized and has several large overhead cranes. We walk through a door in a wall and he has another entire section, almost as large as the first. Then he takes us through a door in the back and there is yet another huge area. This one is full of personal water crafts, ATVs, and some motorcycles. Apparently he warehouses some of the inventory for the dealer we visited earlier. After seeing the place, we head back up to the bike to find the guys finishing. I quickly mount the stand back on the bike and we are good to go!!

Total time has been maybe 15-20 minutes since we arrived. I ask the owner how much, he pauses... "How about forty bucks?" "DEAL!" I can see in his face a moment of, "Dang, I should have asked for more!" But, he's cool with it and wishes us well. I thank him for making the rest of my trip much easier and then head back outside to gear up and get riding. I was happy to pay I'm just thrilled they were willing to stop what they were doing and help us!!

IF you need welding help in Butte, look up these guys!


Back in business...


By now, it is almost noon and we haven't even had breakfast. We head back into town looking for anything that seems good and end up at a Wendys. While eating we decide that since it is already late in the day, we'll lop off part of the original route that starts up where the others camped last night and just pick up the section South of I-90. This means running a short stretch of I-90 East out of town, but that shouldn't be a problem.

We are soon running down the freeway. Traffic is moderate and flowing pretty fast. With the 14-49 gearing on my KTM, running 75-80mph is not a problem. The highway runs South along the side of some mountains and then turns East and climbs up through a pass at about 6200 feet. Here is where we would have picked up Delmoe Lake Road to run up to Delmoe Lake where the guys camped out last night. It is also where the scenery gets really cool. The rock formations are big and fantastic looking. I know I should be stopping to get pics and will likely regret not doing so, but the traffic is moving pretty good and there is no real good place along the freeway to stop. After cresting the pass, the highway gently snakes down the East side of the mountains and eventually runs into a big open valley at about 4400 feet. Here we get on the frontage road for a few miles until we reach the spot where I-90 and US-10S split. We turn South and head off into the country side along side the Boulder River.

Images like this make my mind go back in time to try to imagine what must have happened here when it was all new...


Not much here to break the winter winds and snow...


It's hard to imagine this place keeping you warm in the deep of winter...


We eventually reach a little town called "Pony". It has A stop sign. I can't help but wonder what it must be like to grow up out here... even now, much less 100+ years ago!

Biggest and fanciest building I see in the town


Next door to this one, which appears to be a new addition to the school system...


Ever see a door on the second floor that opens to the porch roof...? Yeah, the snow can get that deep here!!


A beautifully manicured yard, and this caboose in the middle of nowhere...


We continue heading East and once again drop down into a valley where we hit US 287, the same 287 that runs through Fort Worth back in Texas. We head South on 287 a short way to Norris and then West back up into the mountains. We are getting close to the camp site for this evening, so this will be a short day.









We quickly reach the spot on the GPS map where it says we should be camping. I can see that we are indeed in a camping area and there are some folks camped here and there, but I am not seeing our group. The road continues and starts climbing up the side of a pretty good hill. I come around a corner where I can see back down over the whole camp site and down below I see Brad and one of the other guys waving their arms at us. DOH! I must have missed a turn. We head back down and find our way to the site. They are already set up, drinking beer, and telling lies...

Stovey informs us that we might be in for some nasty weather this evening, so set up camp appropriately. After getting all my stuff squared away, I join the group and fill them in on our adventures. This is when I notice we are missing David. It seems they left him in some town where he could get a hotel and he agreed to meet everyone back at the Lucky Dog cabin in a day or so. Nothing to do now but relax and see what the weather does...



Ron's hammock setup


My spot


Lanny enjoying a tall cool one


Cool because they have been soaking in a nearby creek!


Val has become one with the chair and unlikely to move for the rest of the evening


Keith and Roger


Trail leading down to the creek from the camp site


A bridge across the creek


A nice little creek, making perfect beddy time gurgling sounds...


Looks like a nice hiking trail on the far side, but I am tired...


The suburban belongs to some hunters that left for a day or so. They left the keys and told us we could use it if we needed. We stored our food in it at night. If they weather were to turn ugly... it might get crowded in there




Ron - I think that chair belongs to the hunter guys


Keith and Brad, Brad is getting around pretty good on the bum leg and it doesn't look real nasty, which is encouraging.


Val, Stovey and Lanny


We had a nice fire! - It was getting cold again...


Val and Stovey


Brad and Roger


The story telling went well on into the evening. I messed around with fixing some dinner using my new JetBoil camp stove, whose piezoelectric starter wasn't starting... Ron came to my rescue with a pocket lighter. Not wanting to mess with another of the dinners, I went instead for the bacon and eggs breakfast meal. I could do breakfast for every meal of the day!

I don't know what time it is when we finally call it a day, but the wind was blowing a bit and it has been sprinkling off and on throughout the evening. The temperature has really dropped and it looks like it will be another chilly night for sleeping. Roger had mentioned earlier in the week that he had some of those chemical hand warmers and I could use one if I like. He puts one down by his feet and said it keeps him nice and toasty. So I readily accept.

Somewhere in the wee hours of the night, I finally get tired of the cold and decide to activate the hand warmer. My hands are freezing. I crunch it and shake it, then cling tightly as I wait eagerly for the heavenly warmth to flow into my hands... and I wait... and wait... and crunch it a few more times just to be sure... and I wait... Dang. It's gonna be a long cold night...

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Old 01-10-2014, 11:15 AM   #12
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Day Six

Some time during the night I wake and notice that the fire has been resurrected and is burning brightly. I am tempted to go out and sit by it to warm up but decide the effort to get out of the sleeping bag and tent just isn't worth it. It's probably one or two of the other guys or maybe the hunters have come back. I squeeze my failed hand warmer a bit tighter... nothing... then I drift back off to a fitful sleep.

Morning arrives with the sun climbing over the top of the nearby hill. Its rays light up my tent like a gas light filament. I am STIFF and COLD. I quickly roll out, dress and head for the fire which has already been stoked again. It turns out that Stovey got cold last night and was the one that got up for some alone time with the fire. I stand by the fire eagerly waiting for the sun to climb higher into the sky. We never got the forecast rain last night. We got some light drizzle and low clouds, but that has blown through and it looks to be another incredible day of riding. I grab a quick bite to eat and start packing up my gear. The best way to warm up is to get on the bike and get riding.

Cal gets a last shot of the camp site as we prepare to depart


The plan is to do a short ride into nearby Ennis for breakfast before starting the main part of the ride down into Gravelly Range. Roger and I will be staying with the group today. We start out by heading South as the worm wiggles, gently climbing the East side of some low mountains that afford some beautiful views of the lands below.

Cal again


Ron


Roger


and a typical view...


We soon begin dropping back down along a "road" that continues to be really twisty. It runs alongside Fletcher Creek and then Moores Creek before eventually coming out on the highway. As is usual, I am a bit clumsy when first starting out in the morning. At one point the tracks in the road become more like ruts running alongside each other. They are sandy and grassy. Before I even realize what is happening, the front tire grabs the side of a rut and I am in a slow motion tumble toward the ground and the bike just sort of falls out from under me. I roll off into the weeds without incident. I stand the bike back up, give it a quick once over to be sure nothing it amiss, and then take off again. Of course, after the shot of adrenalin, I am a little more awake now...

Roger, lower down on a non rutted and more level section of the road




Not sure what was going on here as I arrived at the back


Cal's left bag hanging a bit crooked. I did not realize he had an "off" earlier in the week.


A little further on down the hill side the road begins to level out and the surface changes... We pass through a gate into what is obviously a pen for handling a large number of cattle.

You DO NOT want to go down on this road! Thank God it is dry...


The road gets wide and smooth after the cattle pens








We are soon in town parking across the street from the Ennis Cafe.


Ron's collapsible walking stick keeps Brad going with the bum leg/ankle


The food in the cafe is great. We stuff ourselves with biscuits, cinnamon rolls, pancakes, eggs, and coffee. About the time I am thinking a post breakfast nap would be nice, it is time to start the main portion of the day's riding. As we head outside I confirm with Stovey that Roger and I will indeed be riding with the group today. The route through the Gravelly Range is supposed to be a highlight of the trip and we do not want to miss it.

Folks begin to ride off, but not all in one group. Apparently some are headed back to the gas station where we stopped before breakfast. So the group gets broken up right away. I head on out of town on the highway a few miles to where the route picks up and heads South. No one else is there so I stop to wait. While waiting I check the oil level in the bike and once again, it is low. Seeing no one in site, I dig out my bottle of spare oil and top off the reservoir. It is a good thing we are getting down to the end of the trip because I am running out of spare oil! A few minutes later it becomes apparent that either I am not where I should be, something has happened, or there has been another on the fly route change that I missed, so I head back toward town.

And find this... a common site on most any good dual sport adventure. Keith picked up a nail somewhere.


Anything will do in a pinch for use as a jack stand




Roger acts like he hates changing tires, but he's always the first guy in there getting dirty and helping out


It would seem that I missed another on the fly route change. The original plan was to head back West from Ennis to just beyond the place where we dropped out onto the highway this morning, then run South along the top of the mountains. Instead, we will be heading down a road roughly paralleling the Madison River and then later cutting back West into the Mountains. There are time and weather concerns of which I was not aware. Anyway, we get Keith's bike back together and head South.

We run down Varney Road to Call Road and then cut back into the mountains. What started out as a clear pretty day is quickly turning into an overcast day with ominous looking clouds gathering. It is still a nice day though.

The group climbing back into the mountains


You can see here that we space out pretty far to avoid the dust


We run through the woods on a nicely maintained road


Climbing more and more, crossing some small high plains as we go


Smooth road, but LOTS of loose and small gravel. It's like riding on marbles!


Call Road climbs to about 8200 feet where it meets Devils Road, which then turns South and runs along a high ridge line of mountains a short distance to Johnny Ridge Road. An even shorter distance South this puts us on Gravelly Range Rd.

Brad climbing back on the KLR (turn up the volume a bit for the full effect!)
Brad Mounting KLR - YouTube

The clouds are getting bigger and closer together...




Beautiful country!!


Miles and miles of this...




and this... (look closely and you can see Roger lower left on the road).


There he goes


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Old 01-10-2014, 11:21 AM   #13
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Day Six - Continued...

The run down Gravelly Range road is superb. We cross many high saddles between peaks. The views in every direction are expansive and really call out to that place deep down inside me that has an almost irresistible urge to go explore just over the horizon. Parts of Texas have "big skies", but there is just something different about it here. In Texas there are places where the sky meets a horizon so distant that the distance is hard to judge. In Montana, there are WIDE valleys between the mountain ranges and the sky/ground meeting is bounded by the distant mountains, giving a better perspective of distance and I think this actually makes the sky seem bigger because it keeps it in the realm of what the brain can deal with. Looking out from this high vantage point, it is readily obvious that I could spend a LOT of time exploring in every direction. If only it weren't so far from home...

The clouds are getting darker and darker, closer and closer, yet still no rain. The wind is blowing pretty good up on the ridge, which helps to keep the dust from the riders ahead out of my eyes. The bike is running fantastic and the miles just slip away. I am so far removed from the cares of my normal day to day world that it almost feels like a dream, but one of those kind where you know you are dreaming and will eventually have to awaken... For now though, I simply enjoy it while it lasts.

Black Butte in the distance












This is a LONG climb. You can barely see the other guys on the road near the top.






We stop just beyond the Butte to take in the views


Big skies!


and BIG fires!


MVI 8939 - YouTube

Further on down the road. This looks and smells quite recent.




Rain in the distance...


Rain coming from behind us too...?


The road starts to descend and the surface has become a very white/dusty gravel. There is an SUV ahead of us and it is kicking up quite the cloud. Having stopped to take pics, I've dropped back quite a bit from the group and have had some fun catching up to them. However, I round a corner and see a cloud of dust clearing from the road and a bike is down. I pull up and see that Ron has lowsided in the loose gravel. He's fine. The bike seems fine but in need of some minor "tweaking" to get it going again. Ron is well prepared with his stash of tweaking supplies!

Ron's KLR facing the wrong direction


Ron is up and going in a few minutes. The road begins to follow the edge of a small valley that feeds out into the larger valley below, twisting its way down lower and lower. The ground now becomes more dirt than rock and does not look as heavily traveled or as well maintained as before.

Definitely rain in the distance!


Roger


Time to zip up vents in the pants and jackets...


As we get nearer to the valley floor below, there are a few places where the road is a bit rough and narrow, affording few line choices. I come around the side of one hill, look ahead across to the side of another hill just in time to see Brad going down on a rocky climb... We catch up to him and get the bike righted. He's fine. It was a low speed tip over. He hops back on the bike and continues up around the side of the hill. Then the road starts to run down and straighten out a bit, leveling out as it hits the valley floor. It runs a short way and comes to a gate, where Val is waiting for everyone to pass through. As I come through and look ahead just beyond the gate, I see bikes stopped in the road...



Keith's back tire is flat again. He doesn't have another rear tube, so he decides to run a front tube in it in the hopes of making it back to the Lucky Dog Cabin, hopefully not to many more miles from here.

Short on stuff to pile up for use as a jack, they use the ditch to get the bike high and wheel low




It's been a long week of riding on a bum leg...


Ron takes advantage of the stop to wire his foot peg to the bike. KLR peg bolts are BAD about stripping out (mine did the same thing on my 02 KLR)




Stovey and Roger hold the bike steady while Cal and Keith remove the tire under the watchful eye of Lanny


Waiting patiently and hoping to NOT get rained on...


Roger holds down the log on which the bike is precariously balanced


Thunderheads in the distance... with the occasional sprinkle and rumble...


Brad can't watch quietly... and he starts to "supervise" and "consult"


Once again Roger is helping with the tire


Supervising just wasn't enough... now he's helping The smile typical of Brad all week long


Stovey puts air in the front tube to make it more manageable during the install
MVI 8964 - YouTube

Keith and Roger inserting the front tube


Still waiting patiently...


These KLR guys always seem to have electric pumps (I always had one on my KLR!)
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Old 01-10-2014, 12:58 PM   #14
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This is a great report so far. You spent a good deal of time just posting. I've been wanting to explore that area and wondered what was out there. On loosing your camera, I connect mine with a lanyard and caribenir to my Camelback. I did lose a video camera off the side of my bike last August up around Vernal. Had some great videos I wish I had copied off. I'm really interested in the rest of your trip. Thanks.
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Old 01-10-2014, 03:31 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bomose View Post
This is a great report so far. You spent a good deal of time just posting. I've been wanting to explore that area and wondered what was out there. On loosing your camera, I connect mine with a lanyard and caribenir to my Camelback. I did lose a video camera off the side of my bike last August up around Vernal. Had some great videos I wish I had copied off. I'm really interested in the rest of your trip. Thanks.
Thanks. I like to work the story instead of just posting a butt load of pictures with no context. They work together to bring in the reader... hopefully

I have toyed with the lanyard, but I must be a retard. I get all tangled up in it and usually spend more time fidgeting with it than I like. Still, in light of this experience, I may try again.
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