3 Weeks in the Rockies riding over 2,000 miles
November 25, 2019
My father and I decided to up our game this year and try a longer and more intense motorcycle trip. We had our sights on the Continental Divide after watching videos of the beautiful landscape out west. What better way to take in the scenery than on an adventure bike!
Planning for this trip began months before. We deliberated for a long time whether we would ship the bikes, haul the bikes, or rent bikes there. Ultimately we decided that the shipping was expensive enough that it would be worth buying a trailer and just trailer them out. Since I had free time after the trip, I would be able to haul them back on my own. I’m not sure which option would have been better in the end, but at least we now have an additional Kendon motorcycle trailer that works very well and is easily hauled.
After hauling our bikes from NY to Great Falls, MT, we began our 2,000+ mile journey towards the Mexican border. We ended the trip in Albuquerque, NM.
We didn’t actually make it to the Mexican border because we ran out of time. We will have to do this next time! I hope you enjoy this writeup of our trips with pictures. I’m also working on compiling video footage which will be on Youtube soon!
After final packing preparations and loading the bikes on to the trailer, we left Tarrytown at 12. A few hours into the drive, a bunch of lights illuminate on the dash - the Check Engine light, tracking control, VSC. With over two thousand miles to go, this was not a good sign. I immediately turned to Google and Youtube and we based on some videos we suspected it was the gas cap. A quick trip to Autozone and a 30 minute drive later, all the lights went out! This ended up being the only real issue with the truck the entire trip, which was a blessing! We found a hotel in Toledo and took some rest for the night.
Bikes strapped down on the trailer, truck loaded, we’re ready to start the drive
Driving through western PA
We woke up and left Toledo. Today we drove from 9AM till about midnight, including a time change. 16 hours and something like 840 miles. We made it to Fargo, South Dakota. Not much else to report about today besides that the all day driving is mentally draining.
Another full day of driving. We made it to Great Falls late, around 10PM. What a relief to finish 33 hours of driving! We slipped into the hot tub at our hotel to decompress which felt great.
The bikes were still attached and upright, but the 2,000+ mile journey took a toll on a few of the tie downs. Due to my stupidity, we nearly lost the trailer license plate. This was my fault because I had only attached it with one screw. Luckily, I zip tied one end which prevented it from falling off completely. We crashed for the night and prepared to begin the trip in the morning.
The trailer license plate nearly falls off
After waking up, we drove out to the storage facility in Great Falls. A woman greeted us from her trailer which smelled very questionable. There we packed the bikes with the gear for the trip, parked the truck and trailer into the storage unit, and departed north towards Glacier National Park.
Storing the truck and trailer in the unit.
As we were packing, I thought to myself, wow, I took way too much stuff. It was difficult to find a home for everything. Let this be a lesson - too much stuff can be more of a burden than a few missing items. As a consequence, Dad also got mad at me for taking way too long to get ready. Sorry Dad.
The drive today was rather boring - mostly flat, plains like terrain with very few notable features along the way. We arrived in the Glacier late afternoon hoping to ride the Going to the Sun road, but we decided against it for today as it was already too late. We spent the night at a KOA with a great hot tub.
We left the campsite around 10AM. For Dad this was way too late - if it was up to him we would be packed and riding by 830. However, I take too long to get ready and so Dad has to put up with this (again, sorry Dad). Today we drove the Going to the Sun road which was very nice. The weather was mostly good - we were super lucky to get some great views of the park. We didn’t stop for any hikes as we did not budget for additional time in the park. After finishing the scenic drive, we left the park and rode down to Columbia falls to start the GCD. From there we took a variety of backcountry paved and unpaved roads until we got to some mountain Jeep road.
Some photos from today:
Riding the Going to the Sun road through Glacier National Park
We ended the day at a nice bed and breakfast that we found by chance called the Laugh Horse Lodge. The owner is a chef and cooked us a wonderful dinner and breakfast. She even gave us guidance on bear spray and encouraged us to place it within easy reach on our bikes.
Look at these desserts!
We woke up early and had breakfast at 8. It was great. We left Swan lake around 9 towards Helena, where we hoped to finish today. We took a few roads to quicken the pace, but made it to Helena around 6pm. Today we had a good amount of riding in the back country, and we were pretty worried about bears. We had an extremely abbreviated lunch break which was stopped by a sound that I thought was a bear, which turned out to be car. We were still riding with some fear of bears, so we packed up our lunch rapidly and continued to make progress. Nice Montana countryside and scenery.
Some photos from today:
On the hill sits a black bear cub
Dad drops in deep mud
We ended with a nice dinner at a Mediterranean restaurant in Helena. I was suprised to learn that Helena’s capital has a population of only a few thousand. It was a quaint town and the few people we talked to were friendly. We stayed in Boulder, Montana at a hot springs bed and breakfast.
Our morning began with a nice ride south on interstate 15 to Butte, Montana. This was a great paved ride through the valleys of mountains. Our afternoon began with some easy off riding, but that was to change. We ended up at this mountain face called Fleecer Ridge, which quickly became very challenging. The incline may be difficult to capture on camera, but it was very steep for our big bikes. After beginning to go down it, we decided to turn around as we did not feel comfortable going down such a steep rocky slope on our loaded bikes. It was a huge hassle to turn the heavy bikes around mid trail. After 30 minutes and lots of sweat, we retraced our steps back towards a paved road. Dad also fell a few times here which was indication that he was done for the day.
Frustratingly, I lost my musician’s earplugs. They fell out of my tank bag somehow, which really pissed me off. Luckily, it was just a matter of money and time to get a new pair. Shit happens.
Tonight we camped at a KOA in Dillon, Montana. The location wasn’t nicest, but it was right in front of a stream which made for some great background noise.
Dad inspects the rest of the trail. It’s hard to capture how steep this slope is
More photos from today:
On the trail in Montana
Rather than continuing on the trail, we saved some time and rode a windy 3 hours to Yellowstone. After checking in to the Grand Yellowstone Hotel (check name) and rode to see Old Faithful and Grand prismatic spring. It wasn’t too crowded and we even got to sit at the front and watch Old Faithful erupt right at sunset.
Near Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone
Pool near Grand Prismatic Spring
Near Grand Prismatic Spring
Today we visited Mammoth springs and did the loop around to the canyon. Nice Yellowstone scenery. On our way down the park, we got caught in some rain which was a bit miserable and cold, but luckily it didn’t last for very long. This was pretty much the only rain we encountered and so we are overall very lucky to have a mostly dry trip.
The drive into Jacksdon Hole from the north passes by the Tetons mountains range on the right. The ride was incredible as the sun was setting behind the mountain range, making for some excellent photos.
The views of the Tetons with the sunset behind the mountain range
Here are some photos from Yellowstone:
Hiking in Yellowstone
We took it easy at an Airbnb today - I uploaded GoPro footage at the library, and we hung out and didn’t do much riding.
This morning we rode back up to Tetons National Park to visit Jenny Lake and hike up to Inspiration Point. The views were great. There were also a bunch of bears by the boat entrance that park rangers were helping take care of. Inspiration Point in Tetons National Park
More riding in the afternoon towards Dubois with some nice elevation gains. We found a place to stay a few miles before Dubois, which I don’t recommend staying at as it was overpriced. However, the dinner was actually pretty good:
Giant slab of pork
This morning we crossed Union Pass. It was also cold in the morning, definetly below freezing.
Frost on the motorcycle. It was definitely below freezing at night. Would have been a cold night to camp!
The trail was a good mix of on road and off road riding that wasn’t too difficult. We had lunch in Pinedale, Wyoming. We then began crossing the Great Basin Desert. We were both to find a huge desert in the middle of Wyoming, and it was quite desolate. There was hardly any evidence of civilization for miles. We came across a very small city called Atlantic City with a population of about 75 where we decided to sleep as the next city/settlement was hours away. At the outskirts of the city we passed 2 young french guys on bicycles who had been riding the Continental Divide from Banff. We planned on pitching tents with them on a guy’s property (he generously offered us his front yard) but we miraculously found a woman who had an architecture office in her home in Atlantic City and rented out her top floor as a cabin. What a find!
Entering the Great Basin Desert in Wyoming
Eating dinner in an architect’s small cabin
Lots more desert riding today. This desert is quite large and there is nothing. There were a few animals running around such as horses, desert deer, and cows, but not much else.
The ride into Rawlins was extremely windy. We had to lean the bikes hard into the wind to negate the force. It was actually a little scary to be riding in such conditions.
I wish I had a picture of this, but while we riding a backroad out of Rawlins we saw a girl walking down the road alone. She had nothing with her, and the road was miles from any civilization. What was she doing?
At our hotel hot tub, we met this girl who was doing a portion of the Divide alone on a bicycle. She and her boyfriend were doing a portion together. We bonded over passing through Atlantic City. We were amazed to learn she rode the Great Basin Desert alone. It is over 250 miles of off roading through quite inhospitable terrain.
Today we entered Colorado. The riding was through nice back roads and unpaved well groomed roads. We ran into a section that dad didn’t feel comfortable doing that was more of a Jeep trail, so we skipped some more advanced riding. We Ended the day a bit earlier today as dad wanted to meet up with an old friend in Silverthorne.
As we are driving along a backroad, we notice a couple attempting to change a tire. Dad and I say to ourselves on the intercom, “Should we stop and help them?” We did a loop back and they indeed they were very thankful we stopped. The guy didn’t really know what he was doing and didn’t look like he’d get too far. We helped them change their flat in about 20 minutes and went along our way.
We help a young couple change a tire on their Toyota Highlander
We met Dad’s friend and wife for dinner at a brewery for beers and burgers.
Today we took it easy at a Marriot near Silverthorne since Dad was feeling sick.
Today we rode over Marshall and Borealis passes. Marshall pass was fun ride up with good off road riding. The drive into Saguache County was also nice. We had no idea that southern Colorado was this remote, rural, and desert like. We stopped through the hippy looking town of Salida and got bougie smoothies.
We stayed the night in another very small town called Saguache.
Shorter ride today, but still nice. Lots of dusty desert riding and canyons. We stayed on this old style renovated hotel in Del Norte, Colorado.
Today we left Del Norte, Colorado and continued south for some more off road riding. The riding was pretty tame - a little bit of gravel here and there. We did a few more passes. The views were a nice combination of both mountain and desert climate.
Tonight we camped for the first time in many days which was a nice change of pace. We cooked some dinner and tried to light a fire, but failed miserably at that.
I also had a bit of a mishap on my motorcycle. I was trying to get back onto my bike, and attempted to lean the bike back to level on a fairly angled slope. I lost my balance and had the bike topple back over me. My Helite vest airbag was still attached to the bike and the fall was just enough to rip the cord and exploded the vest. At least I learned the vest actually works and I got a nice photo!
Making dinner at our camp site
I lost my balance and dropped the bike trying to get back on. My Helite vest also inflated. At least I know it works!
Some more photos from today:
Stopping for some coffee
Riding through the Rio Grande National Forest in southern Colorado
Today was had a few hours of riding before riding into Sante Fe, New Mexico. We spent half the day walking around and checking out the city.
Last day of the trip! The bikes are stored in the storage unit for me to pick up in a few weeks with the truck on the way home. Dad flies home, and I fly back to Great Falls, MT to start the next phase of my trip on my own!
Flying back to snowy Great Falls to pick up my truck
Enjoy some more photos from the trip!
The bikes are loaded on the trailer, ready to go
This is what a helmet does to your hair after a long ride
Picking the bike back up in deep mud
Somewhere in New Mexico
Nice view in Montana