ADV Rider Montana 1000
United States Montana Darby
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The Adventure Rider Montana 1000 is in the can – another great ride is a memory, and one for the books. I signed up for the ride in February on the forum, and knew I just wanted to go. The KTM 640 Adventure was still in the stable, as was the 300 EX/C, but I decided back then I wanted to sell them both while they were still in good shape, and convert that into cash for a single brand new rally raider – that’s how “Casper” the friendly Punkin was born. Armed with my new 450 XC-W Six Days, I set out for Darby, Montana to do some raiding on dirt roads in the hill country of Southwest Montana.
Having the opportunity to visit my grade school and High School friend Mike and his family along the way to the rally point was a good thing, and a wonderful experience. I met Mike’s wife and son and I was asked to spend the night in their beautiful remote home they had built near the Continental Divide. Thanks Mike, Jane and Conrad for your hospitality and warmth! A week after I arrived at Mike’s, I would end the rally on Day Six on an alternate to the primary route that I conjured, taking us to within about 10 miles of his place once again, more or less as the crow flies.
Day One of the Rally proper got us off to a good start from Darby, right from the fairgrounds South of town where they had just finished the first half of the annual Logger Days. An hour after our morning departure from the rider’s meeting there would be chainsaws re-fired for the rest of the competitions and we left that junk show behind by about 10 am. I decided I wanted no part of dirt road dust from what could have been 80 – 200 riders in front of me, so I was the first to leave and solved that issue right off. I stopped somewhere along the way to Skalkaho Pass and took some pictures, and after about 15 minutes, I heard riders trailing up from behind, and let them pass as I got some pictures. Soon after remounting, I passed all 5 again and was out of the dust for the rest of the day. I found fuel and a couple of ‘man-killers’ at the convenience in Drummond, and by 3 pm I was on my way to Garnet for camp and end of the day. By 4 pm, I had located a recovering road cut with pines jumping back up through the middle of the road, and pitched in. 5 bars on my AT&T got me through to my wife, I had camp in, and two relatively cold 24 ounce Hard Ice Tea’s on standby for the night. The view from the road cut – which made for a landing strip of campers about 12-14 or so in all by the time the last riders settled in – was outstanding. I broke camp with throttles open by 7:03 am the next morning, continuing solo. 165 miles under the wheels.
Day Two began at 0500 and I lollygagged about with 2 cups of steaming orange mocha cappuccino going as I broke camp – quietly. There were more than a dozen adventurers dozing nearby. I passed a group camped in the trail by pushing the bike cold through the tangle of tents and bikes, then out away from everybody toward the dirt road, and lit Casper up once again. She fired and purred, then she roared slowly on and on as I began to cruise on a warm 4-stroke from Austria; a fabulous dream machine begging for technical track and a good whacking on the loud handle….. but this was a cushy ride to make miles, see some country and meet new people having some fun. I made a fuel stop once I made pavement, and inquired about a café for breakfast. 13 miles ahead in Ovando was the “Stray Bullet Café,” perfect. I rolled in alone and as I sat to order, I was joined by Marcin from the Seattle metro area. Marcin and I ate together and exchanged pleasantries – a very fine fellow and Polish National here in the States for the past couple decades, and a computer genius with a degree from Princeton. He was on a big Suzuki V-Strom and liking his ride as well. I petted the beautiful Sheppard (looked like he had some Terveran in him though) before idling off and heading East to Lincoln. More fuel and a right hand turn got me back onto the dirt toward Marysville, the rally point for the day. I made a photo stop and let some riders past as I took in the view and snapped some pictures, then made tracks and passed a few riders back, and made Marysville by 12 noon. Marysville’s one horse up and left long ago, so I bolted for Day 3 on the spot, deciding to try some of the more challenging navigation on the rally in the afternoon, and see what I would find out about the alleged road closures dooming the primary route as planned going through and past the Rimini mines. As it happened, I made good time with nobody’s dust ahead, and navigated on the fly with the Garmin 60CSx in my custom cradle made of Boltaron 4330 (Concealex.) The road closure was there, but I routed around and stayed legal on good dirt into Cataract Basin and some glorious views. Penetrating further into the late afternoon, I made the ghost town of Comet and found bad tracks in my GPS, but good directions on my paper. So, after wangling around that extinct mining community, I set off down the High Ore Road toward Boulder, and made the Frontage Road in good time.
I fueled again in Boulder after backtracking for it, to load up for a final rally that would bring me all the way down along the Boulder river, along Lowland Creek and towards Butte from Walkerville past Sheepshead Mountain. The sun began to drop to the West as I made the North side of Butte – hometown of Robert Craig Knievel for those who keep track. I had made some bigger miles today and was beginning to feel it, and would have poured a basket-ful of wolverines down the front of my pants on a bet to secure a shower. After checking a few motels for exorbitant prices, I grabbed a trayful of Arbys glick and used the bars on my Sony Walkman cell phone to holler at my wife. She had been following pretty attentively along this day on the live feed from the SPOTcast, and was wondering when the heck I was going to go down by 8 pm at this point and the cell call. I still needed fuel but vowed I would make the Delmoe Lake rally point that marked the end of Day 3 on out rally plan. I grabbed gas and a liter of water and stuffed it in my pack, and hauled out of town to connect with the tracks I left on Continental Drive, and remake the route connection South of Butte. Whoever laid in these tracks was in good humor, because I was leaving dirt road for two-track, then two-track for single-track. I ended up blowing almost a half hour trying to connect the dots before I bailed out and turned around for a sure thing as I know my way around Butte in general terms. The sun was almost gone by the time I made the Interstate 90 on-ramp and headed East for one exit, getting off at the top of the hill, Our Lady of the Rockies watching me the whole way until I disappeared at the Homestake exit, right past the fence along the highway I was handlebar close to 40 minutes before, and having no luck punching a whole in the wire to make a leap out onto I-90. Just as well……
I found the nearest Forest Service fire ring as the sun was setting, and was glad to spot it. That ring for me meant weight management, and as I dismounted at dusk, the flurry that ensued had my bike drained of oil for both the engine and transmission, pouring it out over the leftover coals and logs in the fire ring, still boiling hot. Filters and oil changed, the mosquitoes continue to ravage and swarm as I gave the fire one match and incinerated some of the pesky rascals, along with my trash and empty oil containers. I had the cell phone hung up with Dorothy and the tent up with mattress and bag inside by five minutes to ten pm. 265 miles today – I’d killed two rally days off in one, and the plan for me for “Day 3” was a down day – by Delmoe Lake. And my bike maintenance was mostly done!
Day 3. Down day at Delmoe Lake. Good campsite along the
route and away from the pay campground. Just want more water, no bears and some
rest for Day 4. I got all of the above. Changed air filter and lubed chain.
Day 4 – I got up at 5 and lounged with 3 cups of steaming orange mocha cappuccino again, and bolted toward Pipestone and the breakfast café awaiting rally raiders at Whitehall. There I ended my solo adventures and traded that for some company with fellow riders, Rod and Cal. We ate breakfast together and enjoyed a good one, and sat leisurely getting to know one another as other riders slowly drifted in. They asked if I wanted to ride together and gladly accepted their company, and off we rode toward the Tobacco Root Mountains, and the old mine town of Pony. We made a good ride of it on excellent dirt roads, watching pelicans fly overhead on our way past the Indiana University Geology Field Station. Once past Pony, I remarked to the men that there was a hot springs in Norris that I’d never been to, but had driven by many times – and that today might be the day to actually stop and start scraping some barnacles off our hides. (I had made a giant score yesterday on my down day at Delmoe Lake, and had two major mountain stream visits with Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint Soap – complete with all laundry – so I was pretty flush.) But the Hot Springs sounded pretty damned good, and we made a tontine.
I had been in close proximity to my “local” area of operations since Butte, and was familiar with the Southern portion of the rally route, so I made mention of a few local landmarks to the fellas as we rode here and there. We blasted out of the Tobacco Roots and on into Norris, only to discover that the hot springs was closed. Damnation! Refueled and continued West back into the Tobacco Root on the primary route toward a GPS connection that would allegedly lead us in a loop out to McAllister. The GPS tracksetter was a graduate from Clown College, and we got a bit tangled up high and fence-locked on a non-motorized boundary, giving Rod some extra pucker on the escaping return ride over slippery grass with bald tires on a huge BMW. The guy was magnificent the way he skied that sled down outa there – zero adhesion on his contact patch – just wishful thinking and some big seeds. Way to go Rod!
We made it out of there after navigating one other possible routing solution and turned away from the sun, and rode on into Ennis for a reconnoiter, food, fuel, water and last provisions for the 20-mile exit from town and on to the end of day rally point on the top of the Gravelley Range. We met a couple guys hiding in the shade at a fuel stop in Ennis, and became a group of 5 for the remainder. Mike and Pete had been riding the rally together, and after sharing some commentary there, they hooked up and gelled into a solid pack of wild men, out to taste Montana in the dirt. After a grocery stop to load the tin panniers some of the lads were sporting with ice and refreshing beverage for camp, we hightailed it South on the Varney Road to make dirt connections to the top of the range, and a rally point at “Crockett Lake” in building storm clouds. We made the rally point after braving some gusts of wind, hail and a torrent of Big Sky rain, and I for one sniffed ozone at least twice for the proximity to the lightning being hurled at us. Unbeknown to us, lightning was playing hell with climbing parties in the Tetons at the same time, and "Art'y" was getting called in 'danger close' all the way around. The cells rolling in were so ominous and the lightning such a real threat, we made a decision to un-ass the area and just get back out of the hills, and follow the lunatic to his cabin in Island Park to take shelter. We just need to hang on for dear life through whatever got thrown at us for an hour and 20 minutes or so of high speed pavement – easier said than done, but all of us knew what that might entail. We voted, and off we went after gearing up for battle on the slab at speed and wind and rain and lightning – but less lightning than we were facing up here.
We made the cabin after a great meal stop, and actually outran the nasty thunderheads that shook the top half of the Gravelly Range all afternoon and evening. We feasted like condemned men, and by 10pm, we had secured hot showers, a good meal and had already consumed some man-killers by the blue glow of the “On Any Sunday” DVD, and even lit up the “Enduro at Erzberg” for good measure. By midnight, all the adventurers were secured in bags or bunks, and we laughed ourselves to sleep at the “Lucky Dog.”
Day 5 - By dawn’s early light Rod had broken his camp and was packed up and ready to go. A few of us stragglers caught up to him at the café and we had a great big breakfast, got fuel and wandered off pavement toward Sawtelle Peak and the north side of the Centennial Range, and a reconnection with our previously abandoned primary route at the toe of the Gravelly’s. Our reconnect path took us through some silt beds that had Rod battling to get his big GS through, and had he not brought substantial off-road skills to the table, he would not have made it across the sand flats as far as he did before making a sound Adventure Rider decision and turning around. He had to manhandle his big bike back up on his own after crashing, but he got it righted despite tweaking his back. He made the right decision and stopped the folly while he was still capable and uninjured and continued back out on an alternate route under his own power, after coming to within a mile of the end of the treachery. We rejoined him at a fuel and meal stop in Dell, Montana along the Interstate later, and he was raring to rejoin us. Getting hurt is unwelcome, but it’s also a very real eventuality. A fellow did crash hard enough to hurt his shoulder, somewhere out on this ride. (I found out later it was a guy I had met briefly on a previous trip in Baja, and I hope he’s okay. Good luck and take care “Jonz.”) After reloading with food, water and a fresh load of cold 24-ounce man-killers for camp, we set out toward the end of day rally point at the Southern part of the Tendoy Mountains. As we neared that destination, Rod had to pull the plug on the journey and make a rendezvous with his wife that was off our primary route, so we said goodbye to a good rider and stalwart companion, and off he went. He shot a text to Mike later on, to let us know he made it back out to civilization okay, and that we were on our own to finish the rally. And then we were 4.
Mike lit up his WR250 and led the way toward a campsite further along the tracks than the rally point indicated for the final night rendezvous for all riders en masse, because the track-laying monkey was laughing at us again, and there was nobody there. We found it hard to believe that we were the lead element in the entire gang of fools, but in any case, a better campsite was bound to present itself, so we rode through some good remaining daylight, heading North toward the Clark Reservoirs to claim a patch of solitude wherein we could camp in peace under tree cover in the sage, and enjoy the coldy goodness of our recently packed man-killers. (I got hard Lemonade x2, and they were good!) We navigated along some two-track up into a draw and found a great little spot with enough flat ground to pitch tents and tell stories under the wild Montana Skies. I enjoyed myself perfectly, and the company of my new friends kept me happy through bed time and beyond. Asleep that night under starry skies, I dreamed of my good fortune to be doing such wonderful things, seeing such fantastic things, traveling at such a satisfying pace and doing it on an exceptional bike with some really fantastic people. I drifted off on night five, secure in the feeling I was a lucky, lucky man indeed.
Day 6 – We kicked back in camp for a couple hours and I finished the last of my cappuccino while packing for the last day of the rally. We made the old ghost town of Bannock north of the Clark Reservoir in a hurry, and under the clear skies of another bluebird day, we made tracks toward Polaris and the Valley to the East of the Pioneer Mountains. We had our last breakfast on the trail at the Grasshopper Inn in the Grasshopper Valley and got fuel. We left for the Northernmost point on this loop, Wise River, and rode past gorgeous meadows and stands of Ponderosa Pine along the way. Wise River was small, quaint and picturesque, and we yarded on the handlebars there to turn Southwest toward the Big Hole Valley along the river of the same name. We made Wisdom for last gas, and topped off for what we thought might be a good alternate to the primary route and a good way for our group of 4 to end the rally. Having been through a section of the Big Hole Valley on a previous trip that ran over dirt Forest Service Roads, I knew a route that would get us off the pavement and onto the dirt tracks, taking us over the Continental Divide at Big Hole Pass above Gibbonsville, Idaho. A locked gate at a ranch failed to stop our crew, and Cal throttled his mighty 690 through a nasty little creek crossing like he was on a mission. Pete blasted through the same obstacle on his bit Husky, and we all thumbed our noses at the ignorant cattle guard that places the rider at risk with the grate running parallel to the wheels, rather than perpendicular to them. It would be a real joke if it weren’t so dangerous.
We finished the day with a run over the Divide and down through “Banjo Village” and not a single one of us was abducted by local headhunters. That’s a good thing in my book. We made Darby and the end of the rally by 4:30 pm under a blistering sun. We were bushed, but settled in under the shade of “Gentleman Mike’s” van and proceeded to relax and wind down. My personal GPS page 4 data from the ride read:
Total miles = 1,063.72
Max Speed = 90.4 mph
Moving Time = 28 hrs 42 min
Moving Average = 37.1 mph
Stopped = 16 hours
Overall Average = 23.4 mph
Everybody else's data would vary, of course. It was a good
and successful journey. No bears found me – and we rode through and camped in
bear country. Today’s newspaper carried the story of a bear attack that occurred
in the wee hours yesterday morning in a campground at Soda Butte, in the
Gallatin National Forest near Yellowstone. 3 people got munched, and one of
them perished at the scene that covered over a quarter of a mile. The lightning storm that scattered us from
the top of the Gravelly Range moved through the area and wiped out 3 or 4 climbing
parties on the Grand Teton, creating the need for the largest and most complex
rescue on the Grand since the 1960’s. People were injured and some lost their
lives. All we smelled was ozone, and we made it through and out.
My posse on this ride were great riders and great guys - good men to "ride the river with" (with apologies to Bill Jordan.) I learned things from each of them - and I tip my hat to each of you in turn; Rod and Cal, Pete and Mike. Thanks to Pete, I am now embarking on new sojourns ensconced in the knowledge that "I might be here, or I might be 19 feet away...." and perhaps that is the way it should be. Mike, we will meet again. Cal - nice work out there - you are a better rider than you give yourself credit for. Rod - "salute."
Thank you to all the great people on the Adventure Rider Forum and especially to those who volunteered and coordinated efforts to put a rally route together. It was in the making for almost a year, and it went off smoothly thanks to the efforts of a lot of guys working together for each other. Adventure Riders are the greatest! FYYFF’s….
More pics here:
http://s761.photobucket.com/albums/xx251/StoveyBuzzard/Montana 1000 Rally/
Team Ruptured Buzzard
“Never Give Up”