2013-07 GDRx2

The Great Divide Route (x2)

Motorcycling Adventure #13

20 days, 4,756 miles, Jul 2013

Ray Jardine

Day 1 2013-07-01 page 1 of 1
The rugged Centennial Mountains.

Day's Riding: Home to campsite near Cuba NM, 472 mi.

The GDR (Great Divide Route) has become one of my favorite rides, and I'm eager to ride it again. As with the previous year, I plan to skip the route through New Mexico, due to the heat, and instead ride pavement through AZ & NM and get on the route in the mountains of southern Colorado. When I reach the Canadian border I plan to turn around and follow the route back to NM.

Day 1: Arizona


Queen Creek Canyon

Salt Creek

New Mexico

First night's camp, 4 mi. north of Cuba NM.


Day's Riding: Cuba campsite to Storm King campground, 230 mi.

Day 2: New Mexico

For the second time while driving this road I've arrived at a train crossing to see an approaching train. This is the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad heading up to Cumbres Pass.


Little and Big Red Mountains

Montezuma Peak and Long Trek Mountain.

Looking back at Del Norte, a fuel stop.

At Storm King campground, I was the only visitor. I had the whole place to myself.


Day's Riding: Storm King campground to Colorado Springs, 229 mi.

Day 3: Colorado


Leisurely departure from Storm King campground.

Climbing Bassam Park Pass, looking at Mt. Antero, Princeton, and Mt. Yale in the Sawatch Range.

In South Park, this is a fun crossing - but it's much deeper that it was last year. The water was over the top of my boots when standing on the pegs.


Day 4: Colorado

Layover day in Colorado Springs.

My sister on my bike. She assumed a hard core look, so I enhanced the photo to suit.


Day's Riding: Colorado Springs to Campsite 5 mi NW of Radium, 203 mi.

Day 5: Colorado

The ranch where I grew up.

They have sub-divided the acreage and made a public road though the place. This is one of the fields I farmed, planting and harvesting oats.

The old hay rake was part of my grandfather's farming inventory. I used it a lot.

Back on the GDR, en route to Como.

Coming off Boreas heading to Breckenridge, The Ten Mile range.

The Gore range, coming out of Silverthorn. I spent the summer of 1974 up there instructing wilderness courses.

Interesting rock formation en route to Radium, CO.

People fishing in the Colorado River on the outskirts of Radium.

A weed is just a weed, until you give it a closer look.

Late in the day, I make another stop to look at the flowers.

Fleabane. I took over 2,500 photos on this trip, using a small point-and-shoot, and every now and then I get something good.


A curious sight at my camp. I recently got this message from someone in the UK "Okay so I know this is an off the page question, but you have hiked so many places and remotely as well so what I want to know from you is this: Have you at any time ever seen a sasquatch (bigfoot) or heard ape like noises." I can't crack a joke on my website without someone taking me seriously; so I won't comment on this, other than to say that bigfoot is well known for sticking trees in the ground upside down.


Day's Riding: Campsite 5 mi NW of Radium to Rawlins, 189 mi.

Day 6: Colorado

Shortly after the previous photo my camera ran out of juice and I missed several good photo opportunities. So here I am after recharging the battery at a convenience store in Steamboat. Last night's camp was fraught with a heavy all-night rain that turned the dirt roads into mud. So the riding was extra challenging. Big Rock Creek, a normally passable crossing, had been flooded by beavers making a dam down-steam of the crossing. (View this place in Google Earth.) I waded 3/4 of the way across with the water over the top of my boots, until I came to a hole. So I turned back and rode around that short section. (note the loop on my map - Google couldn’t do the turn-around.) Reaching this c-store I plugged in my camera battery then spread things to dry in the sun. Note to self: don't forget to pack an extra camera battery next time!


Aspen Alley. The name is not mine, but actually quite well known among the locals and visitors.


Day's Riding: Rawlins to campsite by Mosquito Lake, 280 mi.

Day 7: Wyoming

Did you ever wonder what Bairoil WY looked like? Me too, but the ten miles to get back on route was extra rough and hardly worth the detour.

Out in the middle of nowhere, crossing the Great Divide Basin (aka Red Desert). When you can finally see the Wind River mountain range - way out yonder - you know you're getting somewhere.

Highway sign

North of Pinedale, the hail from this storm left me with a few bruises. So much for the armor in my motorcycle jacket and pants.

Heading up toward Union Pass.

One of the benefits of repeating routes is I know just where to camp in stormy weather. I was riding fast to beat the next oncoming storm, and made it to this place just in time. I pitched my tarp and threw everything in, just as the rain began. Then ten minutes later the clouds moved on, the sun came out, and I enjoyed a very pleasant evening. This camp is what last year I called my "Columbine Camp" near Mosquito Lake.

The Columbines? Like last year they were everywhere.


Day's Riding: Mosquito Lake to Red Rock Pass - 206 mi.

Day 8: Wyoming

Pretty bridge on little-used Warm Springs Road. (Bicyclists please note that the Warm Springs alternate has several extra up-hill grinds.)

Elephant Heads

Over Togwotee Pass

Even though the light conditions are not stellar, the view is nonetheless gobsmacking.


I was pulled over by this fellow at Flagg Ranch, and during our conversations I told him where I planned to camp that night. Several hours later I pulled up to my campsite, and there he was. He followed me for the next two days.

My campsite at Red Rock Pass - same trees, same peg holes.


Day's Riding: Red Rock Pass to campsite below Table Mt (S. of Butte) - 237 mi.

Day 9: Montana

Ready to roll.

The rugged Centennial Mountains.

Taylor Mountain


Old homestead in Centennial Valley.

A side trip to Morrison Lake.

I talked Richard into crossing this stream a third time for my photograph.

A late afternoon stop to buy groceries.

Stealth camping on nice soft grass.


Day's Riding: Campsite below Table Mt to campsite along Marsh Creek - 133 mi.

Day 10: Montana

A stop in Butte for gas and coffee.

Northern Pacific Railway tunnel

Ruins of the Glass brothers' smelter near Basin

The GDR on Lava Mt. This hill is much steeper that it looks in the photo, and too steep and rocky for my skill level. And anyway I wouldn’t want to contribute or even or coexist with that kind of erosion. (Most of the erosion was caused by Jeeps and Quads it seemed to me) But what's more, the route is closed to motorized vehicles - according the posted sign - so we we went around.

An old lime kiln on the outskirts of Helena.

Imagine you are taking a break from an all-day car ride, sitting in the shade and eating a snack, when three guys stop their cars, come over and strike up a friendly conversation. And time to go, handshakes are shared all around with sincere wishes for enjoyable trips. Such a thing would be almost unheard of. But switch to motorcycles, and such a thing happens. According to these guys, we were the first moto riders they had met on the route. And they certainly made my day because I enjoy meeting other riders.

The old Empire Mill Site.


Day's Riding: Campsite along Marsh Creek to Kalispell - 181 mi.

Day 11: Montana

Early morning, I stop for breakfast in Lincoln MT.

Huckleberry Pass


Day 12: Montana

Layover day in Kalispell.


Oil change


Day's Riding: Kalispell to campsite above Swan Lake, 242 mi.

Day 13: Montana

Reaching the Canadian border, I didn't pass through, but turned around and started following the GDR back to the south.

I always find it amazing that this fence is the international border. On this side I'm in the US. Someone on the other side would be in Canada.

The route passes through downtown Eureka Montana.

Following the route west up Graves Creek, I came to this road closed sign. Fortunately today is July 13, so the road is open.

Graves Creek. Last year I was turned back by an avalanche chute that had covered the road by a big snowbank, near here. But this year I am not finding snow anywhere.

Nice spring flowing out of a road cut.

I love to ride roads like this, with open views and beautiful scenery all around.

Heading for Polebridge.

I bought a raspberry turnover and a small cup of coffee. I had to use a plastic knife on the turnover, a fork wouldn't cut it. It was a meal in itself, and so delicious. The coffee was excellent also. I asked the friendly cashier how many mountain bicycles he sees coming through here on the annual GDR race, and he said at least 200. So about everyone makes the 4 mi detour to here from the route. Or maybe this is on the official route.

Red Meadow Lake

Bear Grass


Playing around with the late-afternoon sunbeams



Day's Riding: Campsite above Swan Lake to campsite near Basin, 232 mi.

Day 14: Montana

Road Closed at South Woodward Creek

Little chance of getting my bike across that. The photo does not give a true impression of the depth of this hole.

Time to turn around and go around this section.

Lots of beautiful springs around here.

The route passes through Condon where I had a bite to eat.

Humorlessly named "Reservoir Lake"

Right about that.

Nice bike. How much horsepower?

A gentle climb to Huckleberry Pass.

S. Fork Poormans is on the route, but it scared me the first time I went down it, back in 2011 as a newbie, so I have since bypassed it via Stemple Pass Road. Now that I have more experience, I think it would be no problem.

A nice place to rest in the shade of the Ponderosas.

Camp along the Boulder River.


Day's Riding: Campsite near Basin to Campsite near Red Rock Pass, 285 mi.

Day 15: Montana

Northern Pacific Railway tunnel N0 (number) 9, 1914

The ride through is much darker than the camera shows, because the eyes don't have time to adjust. It's still heaps of fun.

South of Butte

Wise River Café

Wild animal

Old Hay Stacker (beaverslide)

Out in the middle of nowhere - cabin for rent.

Turnoff to Morrison Lake. I've passed through here seven times now on various journeys. View this place in Google Earth

Heading along Big Sheep Creek. I saw a mountain sheep along here, but it climbed the rocky hill so fast I didn't get a picture.

Tourist amenities in Lima, Montana.

Heading out into the great empty (again).

Sharing the GDR and a drink with a friendly bicyclist from New Zealand. All together this year I've seen about 150 GDR bicyclists and 30 motorcyclists - the overwhelming majority have been friendly.

Upper Red Rock Lake.

Camp near Red Rock Pass


Day's Riding: Red Rock Pass to Pinedale, 250 mi.

Day 16: Wyoming

Sunrise over Henrys Lake.

Cow elk wearing a tracking collar.

A stop at the Old Faithful lodge for coffee and muffin.

The purpose of this photo essay is, in part, to help motivate the reader to leave your favorite social networks behind, and get out their and see and experience such beautiful things for yourself. It does not matter what mode of transport you chose - be it hiking, bicycling, motorcycling, canoeing, kayaking, or even touring in a car. It does not even matter where you go. What matters is that you leave your familiar surroundings with your comfort zone behind, and do something completely different. It's a time of renewal and refreshment for the soul, and once returned you might find yourself a better person for it.

So don't think you have seen what I have seen through these photos. Think instead what you can see by going out there yourself.

Towards Union Pass

Heading for Pinedale

This thunderstorm materialized in front of me, and as I happened to be riding past an outback café, I pulled in, got off my bike, and sat on the covered porch. Minutes later a deafening lighting bolt struck the ground right across the street, not 200 feet away.

Nearing Pinedale, I've punched through the backside of the storm.


Day's Riding: Pinedale to campsite at Savery Stock Driveway, 282 mi.

Day 17: Wyoming

The Wind River range

Why so many photos of my bike? The bike helps to personalize the usual photos of scenery, and I think that years later it will help bring me back to that moment where I could smell the crispness of the air, and re-live the fatigue of riding for unending miles - the numbness in the butt sitting on the seat and the stiffness of the hands griping the bars. When I see the bike sitting there, I will remember walking on the earth like an astronaut in EVA with great stiffness in the legs, and looking back to my bike which had become, for that moment, for that journey, like a space ship. For without it, I would be stranded. The bike is my ticket to freedom to explore this desolate land, and reach the next destination with its food and people - and more gasoline. For even though The bike only sips gasoline (86.3 miles per gallon on this stretch), it craves always more.

A breakfast stop at Atlantic City. Those are the owners on the left. The cowboy at the bar would become my day's best friend.

After eating we sat and talked for an hour. why so long? I rarely meet people like this that have so much experience in life. The guy was a Vietnam vet who had many kinds of jobs in all kinds of places - truck driving the haul road, wood cutting in Alaska, and so on. A kind of guy that the knowing-ness of life just seemed to rub off on you. I enjoy meeting people to the max, but I rarely meet someone with so much depth.

A friendly hiker crossing the Red Desert, who, despite modern technology and the latest guidebook, didn't know he had just passed a large lake (Picket Lake). When Jenny and I passed through here on foot back in the old days before GPS, we carried the latest maps, and used a compass and the skills of dead reckoning. At all times we knew where we were, and where everything was around us. By this fellows report, he was encountering fewer water sources than we did, and his route was longer. Nevertheless, I met about 6 to 8 CDT thru-hikers this summer and always wish them well. They are a hardy lot, and I enjoy thru-hiking also.

After crossing the Red Desert, the bike craves a bit of rest in the shade. Me too.

I talked with the fellow in the pickup for 45 minutes while the road crew installed a culvert. He was a local from Rawlins and had some kind of document giving permission to pass after 5:00 pm. He said they are paving this road, a 10-year project it seems to me, and the good news is they are stopping their work at Aspen Alley. Even better, they don't plan to widen the road through Aspen Alley.

Aspen Alley. The knobbies are wearing off, but should get me home with tread to spare.

I coined the term "Stealth Camping" to mean camping away from established camping sites, and out of sight of any road or trail. Not easy with a motorcycle but still quite possible. This area could hold a hundred Stealth campers and their bicycles or/and dual-sport motos. Just be sure to name the site after me when it gets popular   And please don't build any fire-rings! Keep the place natural.

Cozy camp

I'm using an X-large Net-Tent under my tarp, and like it very much. It’s big enough to hold everything I have with me except for the moto itself. My motorcycle jacket and pants are as large as an extra person with all the armor and padding; but they fit easily. And the yellow bag also leaves me plenty of room. I would not take this big net-tent hiking because of the weight and bulk, but would opt for a standard Ray-Way Net-Tent.


Day's Riding: Campsite near stock trail to Silverthorne, 195 mi.

The Forest Service has changed the road along Blacktail creek. Google Maps is not showing the new road yet, but switch to satellite view and there it is. If Southbound: from the junction of paved 134 and gravel Rd 206, go SW on 206 for a couple hundred yards, then turn south on the new gravel road. View this place in Google Earth. If Northbound: you will find the new gravel road automatically if you follow the better road in that region.

Day 18: Colorado

Stagecoach Lake

Blacktail Creek

Stopping by my Big Foot camp.

Lunch stop at Radium Campground.

Gore Canyon panorama (three photos of Gore Canyon, Colorado River, and the Union Pacific Railroad.)

Williams Fork Reservoir

Another view of the Henderson Molybdenum Mine.

Gore Range.

Clean clothes in Silverthorne.


Day's Riding: Silverthorne to Montrose, 276 mi.

Day 19: Colorado

Silverthorne at sunrise after a night of rain.

Climbing to Boreas Pass.

Boreas Pass

The old Como Depot under a steely sky.


The route turned into mud about half-way between Hartsel and Salida. I stuck with it for a while, but began to realize that the upcoming creek crossing might be too much. So I finally turned around.

So much for the knobbies.

With much more rain in the forecast, I know that my GDR ride is finished. These roads are well known for being unrideable when wet. So I will have to take the slab from here. But that's not such a bad thing - there's still lot of pretty riding ahead. And with that in mind, I think I'll head for the million dollar highway.

Mt Princeton, 14,197 ft. and the outskirts of Buena Vista.

Mt Yale, Columbia, and Harvard, all fourteeners.

Looking more South, Mt. Antero and Mt. Ouray and I can see that Marshall Pass is getting soaked.

Finishing the day at Montrose


Day's Riding: Montrose to home, 634 mi.


Mt Sneffels and the northern San Juan Mountains, photo taken near Ridgway.

Ouray (we Colorado natives pronounce it "yur-ray' ")

Bird's eye view of Ouray

For those who have a motorcycling bucket list, you might add this ride. It's quite beautiful and in many places spectacular. But not for the faint of heart. In some places the edge of road has no guardrail and it's high above the steep canyon.

Red Mountain Pass

I met this couple in Silverton and talked with them for nearly an hour. From Montreal they drive to Colorado ever summer and spend three weeks riding around the SW portion of the state. They both have powerful Kawasaki Ninja ZXs (998 & 636 cc) and love to ride them.

Electric Pk, Arrow, Greystone and Mt Garfield.

Day 20: New Mexico

Imagine you are driving your car through town and someone in their car motions you to stop. They get out of their car and come over to talk cars. But with motorcycles this is not uncommon. This is Brett Ride from Farmington, NM, and we enjoyed a half-hour conversation. He manages the nearby KFC and is about to retire. We discovered that we're the same age, but "I'm better looking" he asserted to which I said "I can't argue about that." The fun people you meet on bikes - it never ends.

Shiprock (Yes, I've climbed it)

Jamming for home with one eye on the clouds.

I stopped for gas on the Indian Reservation and met this beggar. It looked like he hadn't eaten for days, so I went into the store and bought him a package of baloney. I never did manage to pet him though; he was afraid of people.

These guys were from Albuquerque and headed for San Francisco, one on a souped-up sport bike, and the other on this 1200 GS. Both were quite friendly.

Stopped to put on my rain jacket.


Almost dark but the camera is compensating for the low light.

One thing I like about this bike is it can go blazes down the highway for unending hours. Even with knobbies. I don't have to load it in a trailer to get home.

I didn't pack my clear shield for my helmet, so am riding with the dark shield which makes for all kinds of fun. Plus I'm riding through lots of rain tonight. But still fun because I enjoy riding at night. Gotta watch out for deer though, and rabbits too.

After riding 634 miles in 17.5 hours (counting the stops) I arrived home at 1:00 am.

Trip total: 4,756 miles in 20 days

2013-07-21::Epilogue - Preparations and Gear



Getting ready for the GDR: installing a new fuel filter. Also have done:

  • Changed engine oil and installed new oil filter
  • New fuel filter
  • New clutch cable
  • Lubed throttle
  • New tires (TKC80 knobbies) for riding dirt and gravel & new inner tubes
  • New rear brake pads (front pads ok)
  • Check and clean brake lights
  • Check coolant (ok)

Riding gear

2-Person x-Large Net-Tent, light brown floor
1-Person Quilt 2 layers Alpine
2-Person Tarp, sky blue
Stakes (10)
Batwing (not used)

We write the history of item on the item itself. This is my tarp: 17.8 oz Made for TARP BOOK 2003, Used: IUA 2003, JF & CC classes, Moto Prudhoe 2011, Moto Utah 2012, Moto CA 2012, Moto CDRx2 2013

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