Pictures: Day 4

Day 4 / Monday, August 31, 2009

The next morning, there were 5 dogs running around my site. A great way to wake up.

Aww, aren't they just so cute... They responded to my "sit" command right away.

This guy looked a bit older and was more mellow. Getting ready to boil some water for oatmeal.

"What'd you have for dinner last night?"

Don't even think about going in there. I didn't have to worry at all since these guys were all well-behaved.

There was a lot of sniffing going around, probably a morning ritual among these friends.

When I started with my oatmeal, I got all the other guys to sit and lie down, except this guy, who kept staring at me the whole time. I don't like to give dogs human food as it makes mooches out of pooches and besides the sweet isn't good for them.

On MT-49 going around Glacier National Park. I thought about going through the park but with major construction going on, it was estimated to be 3 hours to go through the park or 1 hour to go around it. I was here last year on my way to Alaska.

On the CDR trail on Foothill Rd, south of Columbia Falls. The trail went through some sub-division roads and a few gravel roads here and there.

Getting my first taste of the CDR on national forest roads, which is what the majority of the trail follows. These are well maintained gravel roads snaking through the forests, mainly used by wilderness fire-fighters, hunters and other recreational uses.

Feeling right at home among all this good nature. You have to ignore the fact that the highway is just a few miles away. This is near Swan Lake, east of Flathead Lake.

Coming across a road closed sign. The route is there in my GPS but it's no guarantee that the road is open. After hearing thundering earth moving equipment off in the distance, I didn't bother scouting out the bridge for a possible passage.

That's me with my new baldness. I was losing too much hair and decided to embrace the inevitable baldness. Scalp stubble against a helmet liner is a funny feeling...

Trying to find a detour around the bridge but came across a gate with overgrowth across the track. Time to turn back and head to the highway to go around.

Back on the trail a bit further south, near Cedar Creek Campground. The trail ended in some private ranch and had to head back to the highway towards Seeley Lake.

The nice gravel, mud road of Seeley Lake Road heading towards Ovando.

This was a pleasant road and an enjoyable ride towards the end of the day.

Going around some calm lakes.

The not so fun road to Helmville from Ovando, which was a majority of washboard roads under the gravel. I was running around 20 psi in the tires for the off-road bits, but yet it wasn't enough to smooth out the roughness of the washboard. I was wary of running too low of pressure in the tires after I blew my tire on the Dalton Highway in Alaska the previous summer.

The road to Camp Nelson marked in the GPS was blocked by this gate and with threatening rain clouds all around, I decided to motel it in Lincoln.

Next: Day 5, Montana Mountain Passes

Pictures Index

Pictures: Day 1 - 3

Day 1 / Friday, August 28, 2009

My custom 1998 Suzuki DR650 Adventure, named sanDRina (pronounced sun-dree-nah). All set to go with a few hours to departure. My backrest is the pillion seat from my other bike, a GSX-R. She's setup with Safari 8 gallon gas tank, Corbin seat, flat-slide carb, steering dampener, stainless brake lines and Vapor electronic dash computer, Happy Trails full luggage system, shortened and wide plate kickstand, tool tubes, Lexan windshield, Centech fuse box, Symtec heated grips, 12V DC outlet, GPS, battery voltage monitor and radar detector.


Day 2 / Saturday, August 29, 2009

I got past Minneapolis on the first day and this is towards the end of second day on ND-16 at the border between North Dakota and Montana, heading north to catch US-2 to go west across Montana.

Going through the Little Missouri National Grassland near the Roosevelt National Park in western North Dakota and enjoying the colors of the various sediment layers.

Setting up camp for the night under a bridge by the Little Missouri river near the town of Culbertson in eastern Montana.

The sunset produced beautiful colors on the exposed rock surfaces.

Dinner for the night: 1/4 cup couscous with miso coup and chunk tuna. Not a bad meal and I had a spice jar to add some cayenne or garlic salt.

Going to bed as the sun set, trying to catch up on lost sleep in getting ready for the trip.


Day 3 / Sunday, August 30, 2009

The bridge under which I slept the night before.

Rolls of hay awaiting collection. A majority of the farmland out in the plains was devoted to hay, the primary feed for cattle.

Is this an attempt at road side art with rolls of hay...

While Montana might be known for its mountains, the eastern half of the state still comprises of the Great Plains, with flat, straight roads. A good time for audio books.

The winds howl across the big flats and upon reaching some raised land, provide a good spot for capturing the wind with these wind turbines.

Finally, at the end of the third day, my first sight of the Rockies, where I will spend the next 12 days or so deep inside the mountain range working my way south.

At the start of my Continental Divide Ride, the US/Canadian border on the eastern side of Glacier National Park. Turn around and let's head for the Mexican border.

Sheet metal art of maybe neighboring tribes across the 49th parallel displaying friendly border relations.

Heading back south to Aspenwood Campground near the eastern border of Glacier National Park.

I first thought these were wild horse, but the campground owner said they were open range privately owned horses.

Sunset at Aspenwood Campground by the beaver pond.

And look at this cute little guy. The owner said she had quite a few friendly dogs running around the campground, chasing away any wildlife and cattle. This guy really enjoyed playing fetch with that stick and was very well behaved; look at how he's posing so nicely for this shot.

"I know, nice sunset, huh"

And then another one showed up. This guy was a bit more droopy-looking.

He was pretty aggressive with that stick.

Checking out the scene from across a small ditch.

Something smells good...

Next: Day 4, Start of the CDR through Montana

Pictures Index

Trip Preparation

For me, the journey begins when I'm fully committed to the trip. This can be a few months out or the night before. The year 2009 in my life was occupied with my knee injury and recovery. It's what set back a few big plans and all attention was focused on recovery and ensuring I could get back to the same physical fitness that I had before the injury. The first three months, after surgery in February, was devoted to letting the surgery wounds heal and to give time for the grafted tendon to take hold in the tunnels drilled in my bones (hamstring autograft). That was followed with three months of physical therapy through the summer. The good thing about this experience was knowing that every day was going to be better than the one before as recovery, with no complications, is an upward trend. Moving from immobility to two crutches, to a cane, to walking free and finally being able to jump was a challenging and eye-opening experience. I learned to greatly appreciate this bipedal mobility mechanism that we humans have been gifted with.

A month before being released by the doctor and my physical therapist, I was confident that I could do this trip. Yes, I would be risking re-injury as the graft can take upwards of a year to fully heal, but I couldn't let a whole riding season go by with no extended time on the road - my other home.

My preparations for my Alaska trip last year helped reduce prep time for this year as I had answered most of my gear questions already. Having already installed all my equipment on my previous bike, auDRey, the install was much quicker on the new gal, sanDRina. She got a fuse box for the electronics, headlight relay kit, heated grips, 12V DC power outlets and handle bar mounts for GPS and radar detector.

A few weeks before the departure date, I had a local motorcycle mechanic friend, Gus (Resurrection on CLSB), make some spacers for my luggage rack to help solve the cracked bolts that I was having on my Alaska trip. While there, he noticed a bump in my steering head bearings and luckily, the previous owner gave me some new bearings when I got the bike. I didn't notice it before, but after he pointed it out, it was bothering me during turns. After some fresh bearings, confidence was back in long turns.

The end of summer, getting close to the departure date, became quite busy for me with a cousin and his family visiting and me having to host my Indian high school class' 10 year reunion in New York City. Being a boarding school, it felt like no one had changed much in 10 years and we all still enjoyed each other's company. Kodai School definitely played a big part in how I turned out, having spent 10 years of my life there.

The week before leaving, I still had the task of painting the fairings as white was too plain and after a little deliberation, olive green was chosen as a mild pleasing color that would nicely blend in with all the wilderness and beyond.

One lesson I've learned repeatedly at the conclusion of my previous trips was that I sorely missed cooking while being out on the road. When I came back from Alaska, one of the first things I did was cook myself a nice chicken curry. It's definitely the Indian in me but also the foodie that I am. I enjoy food preparation and want to be involved with the food I consume. To try and do more of that on this trip, I settled on a simple recipe of couscous, fish, miso soup and mushrooms that would provide me with carbs, proteins and fiber that I would need daily. Obviously not having a refrigerator on the bike, the above ingredients were chosen due to them being available in dehydrated form or travel-friendly packs. I figured I could buy vegetables at towns I would be passing through. Having a small spice jar would help vary the flavors. Breakfast would be mainly instant oatmeal and lunch would be granola and protein bars. I planned for a few restaurant meals, but was trying to see how much I could provide for myself.

I'm surprised I didn't think about taking a water filter on my previous trips and probably spent too much on bottled water. This time, especially with more cooking planned in remote areas, I needed a sustainable clean water supply. Chemical treating is limited by the amount of chemicals you carry, plus the taste isn't pleasing and you're still drinking all the dead microorganisms. I wanted to find a solution that would be as close to being 100% effective against water borne viruses and bacteria. Yes, I would be only in the developed country of America with clean public drinking water, but I was planning on being away from civilization and needing to drink from streams. They might look all clear and pure if you ignore the possibility that there could be a dead moose upstream that you're water is running through. I saw the LifeSaver water purifier on TedTalks and decided it was the best solution for sustained clean water as it simply involved pushing water through 15 nanometer filter pores. With the smallest bacteria being 200 nm and the smallest viruses being 25 nm, there was no chance anything was getting through. The device is being used by military personnel and refugees the world over.

With food, water, shelter, security (in terms of bike reliability) covered, it was time to head out the door.

Next: Day 1 - 3, Chicago to Glacier NP, Montana

Ride Report Index

Packing List

Over the course of many motorcycle trips during the past four years, I've learned what to carry and what to leave behind, becoming an efficient packer. The two biggest factors in deciding what to take are weight and space. Weight is always an issue as a heavier bike is harder to handle, tougher to pick up if you drop it and reduces fuel mileage. Space is obviously limited on a motorcycle and items that pack small are preferable.

I prefer to run hard luggage instead of soft bags due to the increased weather protection and safety of belongings, which is not that much of an issue in developed countries, but I’m planning to head into some developing countries in the near future. Additional benefits of hard luggage include using them as camping stools and the ability to rivet additions features, such as spare tire-carrying mounts, etc. The downside of the aluminum luggage set is the added weight of the metal boxes as opposed to cloth saddle bags. Each box weighs about 10 lbs. However, to me the benefits out-weight these costs.

Along with clothes, tools, spares and food in the side panniers, I'm also taking along minimal camping equipment, a Digital SLR camera and other electronics in the top box.

Regarding riding gear, I follow the motorcycling ethos of “All The Gear, All The Time” (ATGATT), meaning full protection of the whole body anytime I’m riding, even for a short distance. Sometimes wearing all the protective gear can be cumbersome, but if it helps me in surviving an accident, then it’s worth the effort.

Motoport Riding Suit
Teknic Speedstar Summer Glove
Rev'It Celsius Winter Glove
Aerostich Triple-Digit Rain Glove Covers
Silk Glove Liners (x2)
Champion Insulated Glove Liners (x1)
Oxtar TCX Comp Boots (with torsional ankle protection)
Arai RX-7 Corsair Helmet

Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Jacket

Motoport Air Mesh Kevlar Pants

In terms of clothes, I'll primarily be wearing my Motoport Kevlar Riding Suit with base layers. For the body to be comfortable, it's all about layering. If it gets colder, I'll throw on the windproof and waterproof liners of the riding suit and if it gets still colder, I have a performance thermal set, which I use for skiing. In extreme cold, I also have an electric heated vest. On the other extreme, for really hot temperatures, I have a cooling vest that works on the principle of evaporative cooling. Besides changing out the base layers, I only require a few other clothes for the evenings and days off from riding.

Base Layer Tops (x3)
Base Layer Bottoms (synthetic x3, silk x1)
Bicycle Shorts (with padding)
Thermal Top
Thermal Bottom
Dry-Fit T-shirts (x1)
Regular T-shirts (x1)
Travel Pants (x1) (pants that zip-off into shorts)
Shorts for sleeping (x1)
Swim Trunks (for the hot springs)
Boxers (x2) for off-bike; on-bike it’s commando under the base layers : )
Socks: Smart Wool (x1), Motorcycling Padded (x1), Silk (x2)
Neck Gaiter
Widder Heated Vest
Kidney Belt (to aid lower back support)
Cooling Vest
Rain Liners
Camp Towel (quick drying)

Anti-Monkey Butt Powder (to reduce soreness of the posterior muscles)
Toilet Paper (small roll)
Eye Allergy Drops
Insect Repellent
Mosquito Net with Boonie Hat
Nail Cutter
First Aid Kit
Eye Glasses
Spare Contacts
Eye Shades

Catoma Twist 1-person Tent
GearGuide Light-weight Sleeping Bag
GearGuide Sleeping Pad
Coleman Exponent Xtreme Stove with Fuel
Food (various hydratable items such as couscous, miso soup and fish packets)

Digital Camera: Canon SD400 5 MP
Digital SLR Camera: KonicaMinolta 5D 6 MP with zoom lenses, remote, tripod
GPS: Garmin 60Cx
Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
iPod nano with Etymotic ER-6i earphones
Chargers for all devices
3-into-1 Wall Socket
iPod Speakers with AA batteries
LED Head Lamp

Bike Related
Even with all the precautions taken before the trip regarding the bike itself, things can still go wrong and one must be prepared for various situations. I have the tools required to fix a flat tire, change a tire, quick weld any pieces that break and other miscellaneous tools for upkeep and repair. Not taking any chances with running our of spare tubes like on my Alaska trip, I carried 2 sets of tubes.

Spare Tubes (Front and Rear)
Tire Irons
Tire Pliers Bead Breaker
Tube Patch Kit
Bike Krtuch
Slime Air Compressor
Vice Grips (x2)
Socket Set
Epoxy Bond
JB Weld
Cruz Multi-purpose Tool
Clear Helmet Shield
Electrical Tape
Duct Tape on wrench
Spare Clutch Cable mounted next to current clutch cable
Spare Shift Lever

Next: Trip Preparations

Ride Report Index

About The Bike

This being a motorcycle trip, the bike is obviously a very important part of the trip and I need to make sure that the bike is capable of what I ask of it. To ensure this, I've modified the bike to better suit long distance adventure riding and have done the routine maintenance to reduce the chances of any breakdowns.

If you've read my Alaska trip, you'll know that I had a mechanical failure on my previous motorcycle and after having analyzed all possible reasons for the failure, I came to the decision that it wasn't an inherent design issue with the motorcycle but was due to a compounding number of external factors. With that in mind, I set about finding another used Suzuki DR650, as it still makes the most rational sense to me for a reliable cost-effective bike that is simple and robust. It hasn't fundamentally changed since 1996 because everything works really well.

After flying back from Alaska, I found just about the perfect bike a few hundred miles away in Detroit. She was a 1998 DR and setup perfectly for adventure touring by her owner for long distance motorcycling. Most of my motorcycling friends were shaking their heads at my decision and foretelling that she wouldn't last very long, especially since she already had about 20,000 miles on her clock. I figured that wasn't a big issue since there are many other healthy high mileage DRs out there. I showed the new bike to a couple veteran DR owners and with their approval on her modifications and conditions, purchased her and went about setting her up to my specifications.

Her name is sanDRina (sun-dree-nah) and I’m looking forward to a great relationship between man and machine.

The reason I chose the DR for long distance adventure touring:
- Dual-Sport Capability > meaning it can handle dirt and gravel roads as well as cruising on the highway.
- Tube Tires > easier to patch/repair a tube tire than to repair a tubeless tire like sport bikes.
- Spoked Rims > can absorb the shock of poor roads better than alloy rims.
- Expandable Gas Tank > this bike's design is such that the original gas tank (3.4 gallons) can be upgraded with a 4.9 gallon one or a massive 7.9 gallon tank, which I currently have.
- Air Cooled > the bike's engine is cooled by moving air and an oil cooler but with no water-cooling (radiator), meaning less parts to worry about failing.
- Carburetion > this bike is carbureted instead of fuel injected because it's easier to work on incase something goes wrong while traveling.

This is how sanDRina came from her previous owner.

Modifications To The Bike From Stock (as she came from previous owner)
- Aqualine Safari 7.9 gallon gas tank (to improve range to nearly 400 miles)
- Corbin aftermarket seat (to improve comfort)
- Mikuni Flat Slide TM40 Pumper Carb with K&N Air Filter (to improve performance and throttle response)
- Happy Trails Skid Plate (to protect the engine)
- Answer 1" Handle Bar (to improve handling and durability)
- Trail Tech Vapor Digital Speedometer with Tachometer (to improve monitoring)
- WER Steering Stabilizer (to improve handling)
- Kientech Fork Brace (to improve handling)
- Seal Savers fork boots (to protect dirt from damaging front suspension seals)
- Stiffer Progressive front and rear springs (to improve handling)
- Larry Roeseler Rear Shock Absorber (to improve handling)
- Stainless Steel Braided Brake Lines (to improve braking performance)
- Adjustable Chain Guide (to protect the chain)
- Acerbis Hand-guards (to protect the fingers and the levers)
- Acerbis Supermotard Front Fender (to improve aero drag and looks)
- LED Tail Light and Turn Signals (to improve the looks and reduce voltage draw)
- Secured Neutral Sending Switch (neutral gear indicator bolts that could come loose in the engine)
- Upgraded Engine Torque Limiter (to prevent starter gear train damage related to this model year)
- Upgraded Engine Base Gasket (factory paper gasket could lead to leaks)

Modifications Added Since Then
- Rear Luggage Rack (to improve usability)
- Happy Trails Luggage Rack with Pannier Set and Top Box (to secure and increase storage space)
- Symtec Heated Grips (to provide warmth to the fingers when it's cold)
- Centech AP-2 Fuse Box (to have better control of electronic add-ons)
- Eastern Beaver Headlight Relay Kit (to increase power to headlights)
- Voltminder Battery Voltage Monitor (to monitor battery health)
- Upper Chain Roller Removed (potential design flaw that could damage the frame)
- Aluminum Engine Side Case Protector (to increase engine protection)
- Rear Brake Master Cylinder Guard (to protect exposed components)
- Shortened Kick Stand and welded Larger Foot Plate (to improve stability when parked)
- Fabricated Highway Pegs (to reduce strain on legs)
- Fabricated Lexan Windshield (to improve comfort in terms of wind buffeting)
- Fabricated custom bike crutch to aid in tire repair
- Tool tube under engine and subframe (to increase carrying space)

Farkles (Functioning Sparkles: electronic add-ons)
- GPS: Garmin 60Cx with Touratech Locking Mount
- Radar Detector: Escort 9500i
- 12V Accessory plug: for running mini air compressor, heated vest and charging electronics

Maintenance done before the start of the trip
- New Oil and Oil Filter with Shell Rotella-T 15w-40 Synthetic
- Valve Clearance Check
- New EBC Front and Rear Brake Pads
- Bleeded Front and Rear Brake Fluid
- New RK 525XSO Chain
- New Front (14) and Rear (42) Sprockets
- New NGK CR-10E Spark Plugs
- New Kenda K270 50/50 Front and Rear Tires
- Cleaned and oiled K&N Air Filter
- New Absorbed Glass Mat Battery

And this is how she looks after a Jammin transformation :)

I've done all the above modifications and maintenance to improve my chances of how sanDRina will behave while we're out on the road. Some items will improve her performance, while others will add to my comfort and increase my usability. Not everything above is necessary before a motorcycle trip like this, but it gives me a better peace of mind, so that I can enjoy my journey more.

Next: My Packing List

Ride Report Index

The Route Plan

With the GPS route being made available by Mark Sampson, a majority of the route planning for this trip was taken care of. This would be a different kind of trip than my previous trips, as I would mainly be following the arrow of my GPS and trusting it to keep me on-track. Of course, knowing that many others had followed the same GPS route over the past 4 years and giving their approval to the riding community, makes a decision like this easy to make. Regardless, I studied the route in detail as I had to break it up into sections to make it fit onto my GPS unit, a Garmin 60Cx which can only make routes with 50 waypoints. Mark's routes come with a couple hundred waypoints.

The part I would have to plan on my own would be getting to the start of the route at the Montana/Canada border and getting back home from the New Mexico/Mexico border. With 10 days off from work, I planned a 17 day trip over Labor Day Weekend, giving me about 12 days on the actual CDR, doing between 200 and 300 miles a day on the route.

Starting in Montana, I would be winding my way down, then head through a small bit of Idaho on my way to Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, then south through Colorado and finishing through New Mexico. The route has a varying character through each state, such as the remote forests of Montana, the high altitude desert of the Great Divide Basin in Wyoming, the high mountain passes of Colorado and the dry mud roads of New Mexico.

With time on my side, and the ability to camp wherever, I didn't set solid destinations for each day and was looking forward to this kind of freedom. On my previous trips with long distances to cover, I had to adhere to a schedule to make sure I could do what I planned. However, I planned to meet a riding friend of mine, Mike Perry and ride through the Colorado portion with him. He recently moved out to Denver and would be joining me for 3 days over the Labor Day Weekend.

The actual CDR starts on the west side of Glacier National Park at Roosville, Montana and ends at Antelope Wells, New Mexico. For the sake of saving some time, I would be starting on the eastern side of Glacier National Park and ending at Columbus, New Mexico as there are no vehicle importation facilites on the Mexican side of the border at Antelope Wells and I plan to cross over.

My trip route map, starting and ending in Chicago and going north to south down the Continental Divide.

Click here to download the CDR GPS route (BigDog's route) (5.2 MB) or email Mark for the route at

Next: About The Bike

Ride Report Index