Monday, September 1, 2008

Home is where the bike is - Day 5

Tony and I had kicked around the idea of spending an extra night in Oroville after looking at the map and doing some quick calculations. The initial plan I had was to do a loop through Idaho and into East Oregon, but Tony's plans had changed and his return date moved up to mid week.

We saw a gravel loop on the map that would lead us to Lolo pass on the Montana side.

Lolo pass simply as a commute back to the hotel? That sounded promising. We chatted with the owner of the hotel some more over breakfast and he provided what details he could. The road was supposed to be in good shape, important as Tony was on more of a road tire (Pirelli Scorpion MT90's for those of you who care ;) ).

We set off after breakfast and quickly pulling the seat off my KLR to see what shape the carb vent tube was in. No problems to be found in the morning, but then it wasn't 107 F ... yet.
The road started pretty easy and besides a bull on the open range who didn't seem to be a fan of red motorcycles, pretty uneventful.

The plan was simple:

Ride North-East to Headquarters, take NF 251 -> 250 which forked a couple of times and ended up in Superior, MT.

So we get into Headquarters

(note, no gas anywhere along this route of course, but we'd filled the KLR's in the morning).

And there is a fork in the road. The only road. And it says: 247 left, 246 right.
Back to the AAA map (GPS is for sissies ;) ). Hmm nope, definitely 251 on the map. We explored quickly on 246 but it didn't look like the description we'd had. So we went into the forestry building and chatted with a couple of nice ladies at the front desk. Looked like 247 was the way to go. *shrug* OK. Off we went.

The pavement continued for a while and Tony still thought he was riding a sportbike

But soon enough the gravel started and the views continued to be great, though a bit hazy.

Hey, 250! And Superior, MT only 71 miles of gravel to go :D

We were on the path. I guess there are points where you can't completely rely on a AAA map after all ;)

Cool suspension bridge (see Tony's 'KLR's grazing' shot above)

The road (trail?) got smaller and more fun. I was able to get into a good rhythm and make great time. Loads of stretches where 50+ was a good pace, followed by tighter sections to keep you wide awake. But less of the deep gravel compared to earlier and much better traction.

Tony was hanging back to keep the 'dust eating' to a minimum. I could have stopped every 2 minutes to take more photos, beautiful country. But we still had a bunch of riding ahead of us. So I generally stopped every 15 minutes to 1/2 hour to made sure we were good and he was still behind me.

Finally I got hungry (it was around noon) and I stopped in some shade for a powerbar (we'd stocked up the night before) and a bunch more water. We generally drank 3+ liters on the hot days.

After a few minutes Tony arrived. Looking dusty but happy :D He's got some photos of his helmet and bike I'm sure.

We didn't stop for long and reached a stretch of paved road and along with it a change of scenery. There were some mountains ahead and the alpine flowers gave away the climbing we'd already done.

Tony said "Hey this is turning into a great day of riding!"

The views continued and there were no warning signs at any corners. Or signs of any sort anywhere. Good stuff, kept us on our toes.

Finally we could see the summit and stopped just short as there we wanted to break out the DSLR's for some shots. My watch read about 1800 meters, or about 5500+ feet.

I broke out the 10 mm lens for some ultra-wide angle shots

Soon enough we took off and were back on gravel. Tony took the lead for a while and I took my turn hanging back. D-U-S-T-Y! And loose gravel. And more traffic including logging trucks *cough*

We made Superior, MT and gassed up. I had a couple of salami & cheese sticks. Today we were smarter than yesterday and parked the bikes in the shade. The temperature had climbed again and was over 100 F at this point.

We had no great desire to head into Missoula, so after a short hop on I-90 we pulled off in Alberton to find the gravel cutoff to get to Hwy 12 (i.e. Lolo Pass).

Finally found a road that crossed the highway and turned into gravel. I though, ah, this should be it! How many gravel roads could there be in Montana. Right? Exactly!

I didn't want my bike to cut out again so I kept it at 110 km/h on I-90, indicated on the KLR, so really about 100 km/h. Sure enough, we were going faster on the gravel than we had on the interstate. We had a good laugh about it later!

This was some fast stuff

We stopped once as the hydration was working well. You know what I mean ;)

Tony pulled up after I'd finish my pit stop and we motored on. The road got a bit more twisty at this point.

All too soon:

Hwy 12 West. The gravel ended :(

Off we went.

We stopped to take the mandatory pictures:

But seriously, this was a very uninteresting ride after what we'd done in the morning. Maybe if I'd been on my Ninja and had room to run the 40 and 45 mph corners at 1XX mph, this road would be great. But the 'winding road' was too gently winding to be much fun on a dual sport.

Still we managed to work the tires to the edge. Note that it really was a bit dusty earlier ;)

We only stopped once for a bit of a rest, another powerbar and some photos.

Talked to a guy on a KLR who had the "Wal-Mart" seat pad. I sat on his bike and decided I was going to stop off in Lewiston the next day to pick one up. My ass and back were plenty sore from the stock KLR seat.

Besides almost zipping past a trooper at 20 mph over the speed limit, the ride back to the motel was fairly unexciting.

For a "short day" we ended up being on the road for 10 hours and did over 400 miles, with over 150 on gravel. Good thing we're taking it easy :D

It was 'steak night' at the motel and we partook.

Combined with a number of these

it made for a great end to a great day.

The wind had picked up and rain and thundershowers were forecast for the next day. Tony was going to turn back towards Vancouver at some point and we'd looked at the map and worked out a few different possible routes.

Great trip so far!

Day 6 preview:

-Spiral? Yup
-Rain and solo riding.

Thanks for coming along on the ride :)

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