Monthly Archives: July 2016

Oldie but a Goldie

The best value in America may be the Senior Pass for National Parks (formerly known as Golden Eagle Passport). For $10 you get a permanent card which grants you access to National Parks, monuments,  federal recreation areas and discounted camping in National Forests. This card has paid for itself ten times over, just on this trip.

Here is what $4 to $9 buys you in a National Forest (probably not smart to pitch the tent under the giant leaning tree):


After leaving Coeur D’Alene, I headed for Highway 20, the route across the North Cascades, climbing over passes at 77 degrees and dropping into valleys at 100 degrees. Guess which I liked best. The mountains are rugged and beautiful. The smells of pines is so rich from the seat of a motorcycle.


I spent parts of three days riding, biking and hiking in the National Forest lands.  

Cutthroat Lake.

Mount Baker.

So much spectacular scenery, almost overwhelming.I rode the mount Baker scenic byway up to the alpine meadow above Mount Baker ski resort, a twisty road not unlike the alpine passes in  Europe. The reward at the top was 360 degree views of snow capped mountains, and Canada.

Today enters phase two of my adventure, getting to Seattle for Caitlin’s wedding. I’m staying in Bothell, the wedding is in Woodville, quite literally across the road from Chateau St. Michelle winery.

After the wedding, San Juan Islands.

Riding the Rails

One of the flagship rails-to-trails bike paths is The Path of the Hiawatha BN railroad cut into the side of mountains asking the Idaho/Montana border. While only fifteen miles in length, it is a magnet for bikers due to the many high trestles and tunnels, the longest stretching 1.66 miles. 

This ride was on my bucket list and necessitated a southward detour from Glacier NP. That turned out to be a good plan as I returned to Eureka, near the Canadian border, then turned south along the Kootenai River. The road was a winding, scenic and traffic-less ride down to Libby dam. I camped and fished at Dunn Creek before picking my way to St. Regis, the flyfishing capital of the northwest, if you believe the sign in town. I did catch a really nice trout within a stone’s throw of the interstate, wading in ice-cold water

St Regis is only thirty freeway miles to the Path of the Hiawatha trailhead. 

The ride from this end is fifteen miles, downhill, at a consistent 2% grade and 1000 feet of elevation change. The trail surface is a rough gravel, perfect for my Fargo.  The longest tunnel faces you immediately from this portal. The tunnel is straight, you can see a speck of light in the far distance. Headlights and lamps are a must, maybe a warm shirt as the temperature drops dramatically. and, there is cool dripping water. Pretty cool, literally and figuratively. Especially as the tunnel is named after St Paul…

The views of the mountains and trestles are awe inspiring. The trestles smelled of creosote which mixed with the scent of pines.

The ride down was easy, not even breaking a sweat at fifteen miles an hour. There were lots of casual cyclists and families with trailers. 

There is a ten dollar trail fee to support the trail upkeep. You can also pay nine dollars to get shuttled back to the top. I made the turn at the bottom, eschewing the easy way back. It was more like ten miles an hour back, and hot, good thing I filled my two liter bladder with water.
The reward is a cool waterfall at the far entrance to the long tunnel.

I packed the bike on the bike and headed towards Coeur D’Alene, taking the scenic Lake Coeur D’Alene byway. A winding road overlooking the lake. Super motorcycle riding. All in all, a really nice day, fishing, bicycling and riding.

Now, I’m calculating the miles and routes to Seattle, taking highway 20 across Washington to maximize the scenery. The weather forecast looks warm and dry. The adventure continues…

Great Divide Mountain Bike Route Days 1-4

The story starts here, ten days, 342 miles, eight days of riding, twelve riders (one woman), two countries.


We all arrived at the Whitefish Bike Retreat in Whitefish, Montana July 9, met our leader, Nickel, for our orientation over pizza and beer from the Retreat.

Riding in a van with twelve people is never fun but the scenery was spectacular, once we crossed the border.with Scott, who had forgot to renew his passport until too late and had to pay a $400 expedite fee, expecting it to arrive in Fernie. Apparently you can get into Canada with only a birth certificate but can’t get back into the US. A giant leap of faith by Scott in the US government and FedEx.

Once in Banff, we set up camp at the Tunnel Lake Campground. The provincial ranger, Mark, came by to scold us for five minutes about leaving food unattended. We got it after thirty seconds, but had to endure stories about alpha wolves that had to be destroyed because of careless campers, like us. We loved Mark.

In the morning, we found out that the bathrooms are locked until 7:00 am, to keep the critters out. That was uncomfortable. The start of the ride was downhill into Banff. Standing five feet off the sidewalk was a large elk, we assumed he was paid by the Chamber of Commerce to stand by the road greeting tourists. Impressive and scary all at once.

The highlight of Banff is the Banff Springs Hotel, a giant stone structure and the official start of the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

The first day of riding was a short one, and I had assumed it would be an easy roll out of town on a bike path, I was wrong. The gravel path quickly changed into a rough and rolling road. Our leader had given us instructions on where our, primitive, camp for the night was, saying look for the two large rocks. Amazingly, we found it.We set up tents in an open field by the reservoir.

It rained overnight but the second day broke with some sun. We headed out, knowing we had a relatively long ride. Sure enough the drizzle started and the mountain views became fewer and far between. Did I mention, it was a 50 degree day and 50+ miles? 

 Our destination was Boulton Creek, in a Provincial park, warm showers, five minutes with our token provided by Nickel. The best five minutes of the day. As with the previous day, the sun came out as we hit camp and we were able to dry out the tents before we set them up. They wouldn’t stay dry through the night…
Day three was the one I’d been worried about, we start out the morning with a climb over Elk Pass. Nickel gave us the map guidance the night before, telling us the first climb was called “The Wall” and there may be some pushing required. He didn’t lie. We pushed our bikes for a good half mile, harder than riding. Then the rain started, did I mention it was 42 degrees? The climbs after that settled out and followed a powerline cut. When we got to the high point, the trail leveled out, but that meant the trail also became rutted and full of muddy puddles. Sweet.

A rider passed us in the opposite direction just as I was bombing down a short roller. As I came over the rise, I saw a giant bear wander across our trail a quarter mile ahead. I yelled “bear” to Jim, only to realize he’d stopped to talk to the rider and was nowhere in sight. Double sweet. We made a lot of noise as we rode from that point on. It turned out the pass was not difficult at all, even though it is the highest elevation on the ride at 6450-ish. The rest of the day was mostly wide, wet gravel roads with longer sustained climbs.

One of the highlights on the pass is an old cabin that had a lot of history from riders on the race along the route. We stopped to take it in.

 The destination for the day was Elkford, a small mining town, coal mining. We had a view of the above ground terraced mining, with giant trucks crawling across the face.

Again,  the sun came out, we dried our tents, had dinner, it rained all night, packed up wet tents and hit the road for Fernie, our layover day destination. 

Fernie is a ski town with tons of mountain biking trails. Our ride there is on the “Fernie Alternate” mapping by the ACA. The good news, it avoids a washed out section, a big climb and a road destroyed by logging that the rider Jim talked to the day before couldn’t stop swearing about. The bad news, it was along busy highways. It felt like the Pacific Coast all over.

At the midpoint was Sparwood, another mining town with the largest truck in the world. The wheels are ginourmous  I’m doing my Da Vinci Andromeda Man.

Our home in Fernie is the Raging Elk hostel. It has a full kitchen, game room, bar a laundry and a patio. Really comfortable. The deck has a view of the Ghostrider on the mountain. there is a legend about it that is longer than I can share and less than believable. I’ll let you check it u on the internet, and see if you can make it out in the picture.

The other benefit of Fernie is quality bike shops. Several of us went over, I hadn’t planned on any service but noticed I had a rear wheel wobble (loose spokes) and gritty sound in the hub (bearings).they kept the bike overnight and fixed it up.

Today was our rest day. some sat on the deck, some napped, some took in the spa. Jim and I went biking. The plan was the Lazy Lizard trail, easy by BC standards. It started out with a serious climb just to get to the trailhead, then went up. Pete started up with us, missed a dab and rolled down a bank, with his bike. He turned back. We continued and had a really nice ride. Then, we were feeling our oats and decided to ride to Island Lake Lodge for lunch. Only 7K, how hard could it be? The answer… Really hard. It was a continuous series of ten to twelve percent grade climbs. what Nickel calls “punchy little climbs”. But, the lodge had a great deck with a view.

Back into town, I stopped along the Elk River to pick some Saskatoon berries(?). They are like a cross between blueberries and huckleberries, a local favorite. We’ll be putting them in our free pancakes at breakfast. 

Tomorrow we ride again. A relatively easy day. Then we get across the border and have some tougher climbs. We should be hardened by then. 

Sadly, we had one more rider drop out here in Fernie for “personal”reasons. Now we are eleven

So far, the ride has been both challenging and rewarding, living up to the billing. The chemistry of the group is really good and Nickel is the perfect leader. We’re halfway done and I’m not sure if I’m relieved or sad. 

,, probably have to do a wrap-up post when we get back to Whitefish as there is not a lot of civilization between here and there.

Here We Go

Today is the official start of our tour. We are scheduled for an orientation meeting tonight, Jim and I decided to take a gravel grinder warm-up ride around several lakes. The weather forecast was for rain staying at 10:00 and continuing all day. We headed out at 8:00 with grey skies and 64 degrees, very nice for riding. The scenery and smells are very much like northern Minnesota. The lakes could be Boundary Waters. We stopped at Dollar Lake and Jim spotted some Huckleberries, they’re a local blueberry-like delicacy, and they’re ripening! We took a chance and ate a few. The weather forecast turned out to be wrong, it only rained briefly around ,11:00 while I helped The Kid from Austin, Scott, put up his brand new version of my tent.  Then we helped him attach his brand new handlebar bag. It takes a village.

We jumped on the trail system back to the Retreat. The Fargo is looking and feeling super.

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Throughout the day, all of the other riders filtered in and we started with our introductions and backgrounds. Turns out, I’m not the oldest rider. One older, but several geezers in their 50’s and 60’s. The youngest may be Scott who is probably early 40’s. Two of the guys had this ride given to them as a gift from their wives… just saying. One guy won the trip from a drawing the ACA had of tour participants from last year.

The bad news for the Adventure is that one of our team,  Chris, whom I’ve had considerable pre-ride communication, stopped to stretch his bike legs in Bozeman on his drive here, swerved to avoid a car, fell and broke his wrist. He’s on his way home to his wife in Kansas City with his tail between his legs.

We had our orientation meeting with our leader, Nikkel, who seems great and has an unending smile. He brought pizza for us to eat while he gave us the ACA doctrine and maps.

This is the pizza box they use in Montana. Are you sensing a trend?

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We jump in the van at 8:30 tomorrow for a six hour ride to Banff. Zzzz. I’m hoping I can sleep but expect there will be a lot of socializing. Calling shotgun seems like a good strategy.

I will have very limited connectivity in Canada after we leave Banff so don’t be alarmed if you don’t hear from me for a couple days.

Adventure Reboot

My family has long since learned that living with my randomness requires flexibility…

That lead-in is a hint that the Going to the Sun ride had a hiccup. Jim didn’t get into Whitefish until after 10:00pm and I had failed to follow or original strategy which was for me to get to the park early to get a first come first served camp site. With my late arrival, there was no availability at any of the sites so we ended up coming back to the Retreat. My bad.

The good news, the Retreat owner, Cricket, who is sort of a legend as a Tour Divide racer let us stay in her house. I guess we are non-threatening and likeable. That left us with options to ride some of the 35 miles of single-track adjoining the Retreat. We ride in a light mist down to Whitefish, had lunch and some tweaking to Jim’s brakes at Glacier Cyclery, a really great shop.
This was a gated entrance the middle of nowhere. Somebody has a nice retreat.

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We made our way back to camp in time for beer at the Retreat office. Several of the riders are staying to show up at camp including our leader, Nikkel. The bad news, we heard that my frequent correspondent, Chris, had a spill and broke his wrist and is out. Bad luck.

On the positive side, Jim and I are looking for a reboot on Going to the Sun Road after we finish this ride. Stay tuned.
The trail marker for the Retreat

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Tomorrow is a test day with more riding around the Retreat, unless the rain is too stiff. All is good.

Meet the legend

The plan for the day is to stop at the Adventure Cycling Association office in Missoula, then head to the starting point of the Divide ride, the Whitefish Bike Retreat. By their own advertising, the only bike retreat in Montana.

I got up early and headed for Missoula, arriving at the official opening hour of 8:00, it is a soft opening. I grabbed something to eat and came back at 8:45 , and everything was hopping. They didn’t know what to think of the guy in full motorcycle gear in their entry. I explained my setup and people starting coming out of the woodwork to check it out. I got a personal tour by one of the cartographers, Jen, who had just been on a ride with Sid Voss, a former principal at Glen Lake for the kids and now a tour leader for the ACA. Eventually, Greg Siple, one of the founders of Adventure Cycling came to get my story and take my picture for the archive. Who knows, it may show up in the magazine. Anyway, a brief celebrity sighting. They gave me a commemorative banana and wished me a safe journey.

I was still about three hours from my destination and I didn’t leave Missoula until after 10:30… trouble. The ride up the Swan Valley was scenic but, with lunch and gas stops, I didn’t reach the Retreat until 3:00. no way I was going to get to Glacier. New plan, catch the shuttle to Glacier with Jim. That gave me time to mingle with the staff, repack my stuff, dry out my tent and park my motorcycle. While hanging out, up walks Sid. I caught him a little off guard. He’s leading a tour the whole length of the Divide. What a way to spend the summer.

Only photo today is the sunrise at my campsite for last night.

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Tomorrow, riding up Going to the Sun Road to Logan Pass, and coasting back down. Maybe some pictures worthy of sharing.

The High Life

Up at 6:00, breakfast, pack, watch hosts leave on their annual trip to Yellowstone. I’m in charge of the campground.

It is a short ride to the Beartooth Scenic Highway, Highway 212, the road Charles Kuralt called the midst beautiful road in America.

On the first climb is a fire tower lookout the hosts told me was recently out on the National Historic Register and is open to the public. I turned up the steep gravel road, and coaxed my loaded rig to the top only to find the open hours start at 10:00. Oh well, the view was great back to the Beartooth range. I took a short video panorama, no photo from the phone. A slow dance back down the gravel road and upwards.

I thought I had passed the summit and was tempted to ride backwards to savor the feeling but continued on. I couldn’t have been more wrong, the road climbs to over 10,000 feet past some lakes, across the treeless plateau at the top, then starts back down through huge gaping valleys.

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I agree with Chuck. Well worth the two hours it took. Lunch at a Subway in Red Lodge, listening to a guy chatting about 100 clip loads for his AR and how California is trying to take away our Constitutional rights. This is not a blue state.

Looking at the time and where I need to be tonight, I knew I had to put some miles in. Unfortunately, the only way to do that is Interstate 90 and there is another strong crosswind. Worse, 90 is 80mph. I couldn’t hold my lane with the wind and didn’t feel comfortable riding over 70 with my big rig, so I tried to ride the frontage roads and let the Garmin lead me. After a five mile gravel road adventure, I went old school and followed the map. needless to say, Montana is huge. But, I did manage to find some nice riding off of the interstate and got to see some small towns up close.

This town is still catching up on political correctness…

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Late lunch at a great burger shack where a cheeseburger is $1.89.

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I pushed the distance, and wind, until stopping close to Missoula. Missoula is home for the Adventure Cycling Association, our hosts for the ride. If they are open in the morning I may make the pilgrimage. My goal is to get to Whitefish before noon, park the motorcycle, get on the
bicycle and ride to Glacier. Jim is on the train and should arrive late tomorrow night. We’ll see if the plan comes together. A week on the scooter, then a week-plus on the bike. Everything changes tomorrow.

Agony and Ecstasy

Riding across Wyoming is like that, periods of unbelievable riding and sections of long, straight,  boring and hot slogging. The highlights are the Big Horn Mountains and the Chief Joseph Highway. The lowlights are the stretch from Gillette to Sheridan and the Big Horn Basin on the west side of the climb up and over. Fortunately, the good offsets the bad and the final riding was Chief Joseph.

The day started at Devil’s Tower. I sat outside of my tent after dinner last night and watched the lights of three climbers still descending after 10:00pm. My camp neighbors with the Teardrop trailer from Wausau had been on the ranger hike in the morning and said climbers were not allowed to stay on the tower overnight. Pretty spooky to climb in the dark with lightning in the area.

Sunset on the Tower. Trust me, there are three lights on this face.

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I got up at 5:20am, just in time to see the grandpa/son campers across from me finish packing and leave. Grandpa was checking the oil on the car. The teenager didn’t look too enthused. On to the day’s ride.

The Big Horn climb outside of Sheridan is great, unless you’re stuck behind a CruiseAmerica (CurseofAmarica) rented RV… ugh. I had to pull over and sit for several minutes to let him l poke on up. Then, the riding was wonderful and the view back inspiring.

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The backside was a step 10% grade down to the basin. A real brake fryer for those not experienced in mountain driving. Runaway truck turnouts for the unfortunate or incompetent.
The basin… say no more.

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The Chief Joseph Highway drops you down just East of the northwest entrance to Jellystone Park. I’m skipping Yellowstone this trip because of time and the Summer madness.

On my way down, there was a truck with his flashers on stopped. I slowed to pass and saw why be was stopped, there was what I assumed to be a grizzly jumping up and down about 30 yards down the sloping shoulder. I didn’t stop to gawk. There were signs all along the road advising that this is grizzly country.

I passed the first campground that had only one lonely guy and picked a campground that was closer to civilization and had other campers, Hunter’s Peak. I had a great site next to the river, with a view and, the hosts gave me free firewood. The price was actually that they stopped to talk to me every ten minutes. Apparently I’m very likable, at least to elderly hosts.

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No cell service here, so this posting is delayed.

Tomorrow, another highlight, the Bleartooth Highway. Can’t wait.

Independence from Ho Hum

Absolutely spectacular riding day!

I got up before 6:00, tent wet from overnight rain, figured I could lay it out and let the sun dry it, if only the sun could rise above the trees. What did rise above the trees was a hot air balloon! Cool.

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The usual breakfast and dying/packing took almost an hour and a half. Still, on the road before 8:00, before the tourists and their lumbering RVs. The roads were dry, mostly open and the smell of Black Hills Spruce in the cool air, ahhhh, it doesn’t get any better. I wandered into Custer, found an Apple fritter and a buffalo.

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The parade wasn’t until 10:00, with a B-1 flyover. Still, by then the roads would be clogged, I had to go. First up, The Needles Highway, named after needle shaped rock formations. If I had the time, a hike among them would have been real nice. But, I’m on a motorcycle riding mission.

This road connects back with 16A, a classic Black Hills road, switchbacks, curves and overlooks. The GPS view, a motorcyclists dream

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The only thing missing were the bison. I didn’t see any at all. Last time here, they were all over the place. Sounds like they are being rounded up in the southeast corner of the park. 16A takes you back to Keystone and Mount Rushmore. I intended to do, but there was a line a mile long just to get to the parking lot. I bypassed and settled for the profile view.

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I stopped for lunch at the Subway in Lead. The owner is at least third generation there and had a lot of facts to share. Lead is home of the Homestead gold mine with shafts well over a mile underground. Turns out, our old friend William Randolph Hearst owned the mine and Homestead was the first company listed on the NYSE. Or so the Subway guy says.

It is also the Sanford research site for particle physics. The LUX WIMP study is going on there, earned a Nobel Prize in 2002. You get bonus points if you can guess what the acronyms stand for. Hint, the “X” is for Xenon and the “P” is for particles. The above ground pit

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Next stop, Devil’s Tower but not before more riding fun, this time Spearfish Canyon. What a gem. I stopped to chill down at their Bridal Falls.

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Lord it was hot. 98 degrees when I got to Belle Fourche. The B-1 also flew over their parade this morning and the only thing still going on was the rodeo. Not going to sit in the hot sun for cowboys. . Onward…

The towers rise out of the flat land spectacularly. I got there just in time to set to my tent before a brief shower. A bike around the monolith, dinner with blueberry pie ala mode for a great end to a great day.

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Tomorrow, the Big Horn Mountains and more.

Black (Hills) is the new Sturgis

Today’s adventure starts in Pierre, the capitol city. My free camping just blocks from the capitol, came with a office. I had set my tent up just outside the left-center outfitted fence for the baseball field. Another camping poacher warned me that the sprinklers near where I was had come on at 2am the night before. Sure enough, at 1am sprinklers on the baseball field came on. One of them cycled just enough outside the fence to wet my fly. Ugh. I had to pull the stakes and drag my tent ten feet to safety.

Up at 6:00, packed up, made my oatmeal breakfast loaded the bike and left before anyone else got out of their tents/RVs. Since fireworks are legal, everyone and his brother was shooting off really big stuff, I mean the kind that go thump and send an explosive high in the air. That must have kept them up late,

The plan for the day was to explore the Badlands and ride on to the Black Hills. Starting off of Super Slab led me along lesser two-lanes. I noticed signs along the fenceline that said something about the Deadwood Trail. I pulled over to check out out.

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I couldn’t make out the wagon shell tracks and there was no sign of Mex.

One cannot escape the advertising exclusive of Wall Drug. The signs are literally every 200 yards along the road. I stopped for a picture.

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The start was grey and overcast but by the time I got the scenic drive, the sun was out and it was warming up. The Badlands are a spectacle, unfortunately, I didn’t get a picture on my phone so use your imagination.

Down the road towards Rapid City the sky got really dark, rain and lightning were directly ahead. I spotted a closed gas station that looked like it had shelter. I pulled over and waited for the storm to pass with three hard core Harley couples. We waited an hour and the storm just sat over the only road west. Their conversation revlolved around NASCAR, conceal/carry and construction equipment. We had little to talk about.

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I decided to make a run for it and got into a heavy rain that felt like hail. Big drops of rain at 65mph do that.

I stopped in Keystone for a late, 4:00, lunch. Keystone is the definition of a tourist town. I couldn’t wait to leave and got caught in another squall. Crap. I sat at the Norbeck overlook as the sun came back.

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16A is the road to ride in the Black Hills. There is a tunnel where you get Mount Rushmore framed by it. If my phone didn’t have such a crappy camera you could see it here. Once again, use your imagination to see the dead presidents in the glowing light.

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I lucked into a campsite site to a cancellation at Legion Lake. Pretty way to end the day.

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Tomorrow, Needles Highway, Mount Rushmore, maybe a 4th parade and off towards Devil’s Tower. I may have to get moving if I want to make it to Whitefish on time.