Ride Report: Day 1 - 3

Day 1 / Friday, August 28, 2009

Staying awake till 2 am every night the week before still didn't allow me to finish all my tasks that I had planned for the trip and the night before leaving, after 3 am, I decided it was going to be an all-nighter.

One big task I had to get done was shaving my head. I was losing hair up top much too quickly for my age and concluded it was in my genes, seeing my maternal cousins' shiny heads. Better to embrace it rather than hide from it. I figured I would try the shaved look during my trip and if I liked it, it would stay.

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.

I got going around 7 am in a misty rain and was aiming for Fargo, North Dakota like on my trip last year to Alaska. However, I knew fatigue would set in quick and I soon found myself taking frequent breaks to help keep my alertness up. I'm no stranger to sleep deprivation, having stayed awake for 55 hours during a high school camping trip in India, but there is only so much energy in the body and without recharging the batteries with sleep, Red Bull and other energy supplements can only help in short bursts.

I was getting close to Minneapolis near their Friday evening rush hour and knowing my low energy and focus levels, I figured it best to go around the city and avoid traffic. The roads north of the city proved enjoyable in the setting sun and helped keep my attention up. I made it to St. Cloud after 470 miles from home and checked into a cheap motel, and quickly hit the sack for a solid 10 hours of sleep.


Day 2 / Saturday, August 29, 2009

The original plan of taking two days of highways to get to the start of the CDR was stretched to three days, taking away from a day off planned in Yellowstone National Park. Better to be safe and enjoy the ride, then just be rushing to stay on some arbitrary schedule. I still needed to stay on schedule so that I could accomplish what I set out to do and get back in time to go back to work.

I got an early start at dawn and the temps didn't respond to the sun's new rays for at least a few hours into the day. 50 F ambient feels really cold when moving at 65 mph. I save the heated vest for much colder temps.

I set 65 mph as my own speed limit for the trip due to the tires I was on, Kenda K270's, which are a 50% street, 50% dirt tire, meaning the tire has deep knobbies for grip off-road and a softer compound than a regular street tire. This trip was going to be about half on the Interstate and half through national forest roads. I could've planned to change tires, but carrying both front and rear tires throughout the whole trip didn't seem to be worth it and at $80 for the set of K270's, which could last the whole trip, it seemed the simpler solution. To protect the knobbies on tarmac, lower top speed is required and more air pressure. I planned to diligently take care of the tires during the trip, lowering air pressure for off-road sections and then increasing air pressure for tarmac sections, with my mini air compressor running off the bike.

Coming from sportbike touring where we regularly cruised at 10-15 mph above the speed limit, and now having to cruise at 65 with the speed limits at 70 and 75 in these empty regions, you can imagine the frustration my right brain was having, which aims to maximize neural reward for the current situation. But my left brain was in control here, telling me to think about the big picture of the trip and learn from my past mistakes, such as when I left for my Mexico trip cruising on these same kind of tires at 85 mph and tearing off the knobbies a few hundred miles into the trip. Oops.

Going past Fargo on I-94, the feeling of being far away from civilization started to set in. As much as I feel that I'm a product on my times, this accelerated global society, the allure of cutting communication lines and support networks is still strong. I was looking forward to a fortnight of me and nature.

Even with all the good sleep I got the previous night, fatigue set in early and frequent breaks were needed. Much more sleep was needed to recharge the brain batteries. To keep my attention piqued, I was reading all the geological sign boards at rest stops and reflecting on the information as I rode by. They said the Sheyenne River was just a trickle of its past glacial glory when it was two miles wide and filled the whole valley that the interstate dipped down into. This was the same river that caused havoc to communities along its banks in the spring of 2009 when it flooded unprecedentedly due to heavy rains and melting snowing.

In the afternoon, my fatigue went away and I was back in good spirits, getting into the vibe of being on the road. As I neared the western end of North Dakota, I decided to take US-2 across Montana instead of MT-200 as I had done that road twice already in previous trips. I worked my way around the Roosevelt National Park through the badlands and enjoyed the always pleasing sight of vividly painted hillsides due to the various sedimentary layers.

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.

Just after entering Montana, I crossed the Yellowstone River, flowing from the park about 500 miles to the south-west, on the Atlantic side of the Continental Divide. It would soon join the Missouri River and head down into the Gulf of Mexico.

I pulled into Sidney and didn't find any suitable campgrounds. Upon asking the city RV park owner if there was someplace scenic to camp at, he told me about a fishing access spot under a bridge further up the road. Outside the town of Culbertson, at the Missouri River, the fishing access spot was an ideal place to camp for the night. The signs clearly said no overnight camping allowed, I presume to dissuade RV campers and "officer, I don't read the English too well" :p

I setup camp with a great view of the river and embankment and was glad to hear not much traffic going across the bridge and what little that did was covered over with tunes from my iPod speakers, helping me create a sense of home. Here I was sleeping under a bridge for the first time and felt very much at home. I remember telling my friends at school that I’d love to be that guy who had a Lamborghini Diablo and had to live under a bridge, because he couldn’t afford anything else.

I would be sleeping in my new Catoma Twist tent that springs open into shape. Catoma has made tents for forest fire fighters and the military and recently expanded into consumer products. The Twist comprises of two sets of thin fiberglass poles that expand to create a one person shelter. I didn't buy the Twist primarily for its self-setup feature, but mainly because it was the cheapest, smallest packed, lightest one person, self-standing tent with a vestibule large enough to house my riding gear overnight. Having the tent go up in a second is surely a nice feature to have. It does take a little practice to wind it all back together, but it soon becomes easy.

I made my dinner of couscous with miso soup and chunk tuna and used water from the Missouri through my LifeSaver filter was glad to note all my gear was functioning as needed for the trip ahead. After enjoying the stars in the dark skies over the river, I was off to bed for another 10 hours of sleep.

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.

Having completed 650 miles the previous day, I had about 500 miles left to the start of the CDR near Glacier National Park. The entire day would be on one single road, US Route 2, cutting across the western end of the Great Plains. US 2 is considered a scenic highway for the rural country it passes through and was envisioned as part of the old Roosevelt International Highway aiming to connect Portland, Maine with Portland Oregon, running across the northern boundary of the Continental US, and across southern Ontario. It's the northernmost east-west route across the US and is nicknamed the Highline for that. The Adventure Cycling Association, who is behind the CDR route I was going to take, has a 600 mile tour across Montana and North Dakota along US 2.

The route followed the gently flowing terrain and I excused the barren landscape as being labeled scenic in expectation of what lay ahead at the Rocky Mountains. I seem to have conquered my fatigue and was in the groove of the trip, listening to audio books and looking ahead to first sight of the Rockies.

I met a Canadian couple from British Columbia who were touring on two BMW F800GS' over three months across Canada and the US and were impressed with the idea of spending two weeks going down the Rocky Mountains through national forest roads.

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.

After crossing the Blackfeet Indian Reservation city of Browning, I finally climbed up into the Rocky Mountains and enjoyed seeing the elevation meter aspiring up, knowing it would go much higher through Colorado. To make the ride official for literary's sake, I went up to the border and snagged a picture before the border guards suspected something. From the US/Canada border, I was heading south to the US/Mexico border.

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.

I stayed at Aspenwood campground on the eastern edge of Glacier NP and got some advice to be on the lookout for cattle during my trip as this was all open range country. She also quipped that I was bound to run into black cows at night and white ones in the winter. I got a good site under some aspen trees and had the company of her numerous dogs through the evening. Dinner was the same as the previous night except dried shrimp was thrown in instead of fish. My mountaineering friend, Iryne, gave me tips on buying dried food from the Japanese supermarket that had worked well for her winter backpacking trips.

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

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1 comment:

  1. Hi,
    I am Suhaas From EOI School Moscow Kamla Maam is our E.V.S teacher she told us about you I am inspired by you I wish even I could travel the whole world.