Kelly and I were up promptly at 6am and excited to get the trip started. The night before we gave the bikes a "once over" and found Kelly had a bolt that holds the rear sub-frame onto the main chassis missing. A quick trip to the hardware store and we were back in business. We departed Anthony, TX topped off the tanks and were heading for customs border station in Antelope Wells to start the official Continental Divide Trail ride! On the way out to Antelope Wells I saw 4 rattlesnakes on and alongside the road. Yes, Live ones, EWWW. There was also a raging bull that had gotten out of its fenced area and was abviously not happy about us passing through his territory. We arrived in Hachita, NM with the idea to top off the tanks and behold, no fuel and a closed down station. We continued on to Antelope Wells down a 47 mile road to nowhere. Along the way we saw a gentleman on a mountain bike who we found out from his ride at the border that he had biked the entire way from Banff, Alberta Canada and was just finishing as we were about to begin. It was a total of 174 miles for us to reach the border from our start point. Next we needed to find the closest fuel station. This was another 60 miles north in Lordsburg, NM. Kelly was going to stop and put in his extra can of fuel before hand but I really wanted to know the range of our bikes when there were completely loaded down with gear. 55 more miles up the road we met hwy 10. I decided that at 240 or so miles that before getting onto the interstate and risk running out of fuel that we had better stop. I dumped my 1 gallon rotopax into the tank and got onto the hwy. About a mile down the hwy I noticed that Kelly was falling behind. I assumed that he ran out of fuel and i was correct. I didn't wait for fear of crazy NM drivers and being stopped along the hwy. I also knew that he had a 1.5 gallon auxiliary can with him. Kelly pulled into the fuel station about 3 miles up the road and met me at the pump. I ordered a coffee and relaxed in Denny's and then we made our way onto Silver City, NM and fueled up once more. We passed a huge open pit mining operation and it really reminded me of my hometown of Eveleth, MN. This is where the official trail-head of the continental divide trail began. The weather was still a little rainy but was great because it kept the dust down on the trail. Another 20 or so miles we stopped for lunch and I setup my camp chair and relaxed. We came to another section of trail shortly after with a sign that said no service and poor quality road for 120 miles. At the 365 mile mark we stopped for the night at the Boulder Creek Campground. This camp in the middle of nowhere was absolutely amazing. We stopped and setup camp for the night here. Shortly after setting up the tent and getting settled I stripped down, yes completely naked, and was able to take a VERY cold "bath" in the small stream that passed through camp. Unbelievably refreshing is how I would describe it especially after a long, hot, sweaty day on the bike. I dont think I have ever felt more connected to nature than after my "bath". This place was awesome! After a good hot MRE I went to bed full and happy.
It was sad to have to leave the Boulder Creek Camp. Such a serene place. I stumbled out of my tent at about 6am to be greeted by a beautiful brisk morning. Kelly and I packed up our gear, rearranged some items in the panniers and were off again. Back on the dirt path. There were many small stream crossings that had some decent sized boulders that we dodged around. About 10 miles down the road we came to a section that on the right hand side dropped down almost a straight 800-1000 feet. I definitively wouldn't want to loose control on this trail! Shortly after this I saw what I thought was an antelope but as I approached and the animal began to flee i saw it was actually a jackrabbit! I have never imagined a rabbit being so large! The views from the top of the mountain were incredible. It was hard to believe that we were in New Mexico. Trust me it isn't all desert here. The Gila national forest is breath taking. We stopped a few times along the way for photos and to stretch out. Once for a flock of wild turkeys and some horses. We came to an intersection and were at the Beaver camp with a decent size ranch behind it. About a tenth of a mile down this trail we came across about 75-100 elk that were traveling together. They were quite spooked by our bikes and ran away before I could get my camera out. Kelly has photos that I will eventually upload to here. We traveled on down the trail through some potholes and muddy sections until we came to a spot that in my eyes will forever be known as hell on earth. The "extraterrestrial" mud that we encountered really was an "encounter". I have never in my life experienced such a sticky substance that clogs everything it touches instantaneously with concrete like abilities! I was about 200 yards in when my front tire stopped spinning because it was so jammed with this extraterrestrial mud! Shortly after the front tire stopped moving I looked like what I could best describe as a baby giraffe, who had just been born, trying to walk as I tried to hold the bike up. My feet found no grip and that was it, she went over. It took everything in me to pick the bike up and get back on it. I fought it for another 10-15 feet and she went over again. This time the pannier suctioned into the mud and I couldn't budge it. Kelly was about 100 yards behind me and ran over to help. He claimed that his bike wouldn't move. I quickly formulated a plan for us to get mine out and onto somewhat firmer ground, which was another 100 yards or so up the trail and then focus on his. This was definitely going to take some serious teamwork. We were both sweating and hot! I found a rock to place under the already enlarged kickstand pad on my bike and it still sank about 6 inches in this crap! We walked back to Kelly's bike and it didn't move. Not because of the mud this time but because his clutch had glazed the plates and it wasn't going to move again until they were replaced. We were stuck! I spent the next 45 min clearing the mud from my bike. About 10 min later a man in a pickup was passing through on his way to Truth or Consequences, NM (yes that is actually the name of a town). He advised us that the mud would last for another 3 miles but would dry up in an hour or so with the sun shining on it. He was kind enough to let us put Kelly's bike into the back of his truck and tow him out of there back to town. This took about an hour to unload his gear, load the bike and then reload the gear. I turned my bike around, muddy concrete bits flying everywhere as it flung from my tires, and made my way back down the few hundred yard pass that just took the life of Kelly's clutch. I backtracked down the trails, ahead of Kelly and his broken KLR, that we had just navigated and finally came to a paved road. I noticed that my pannier was flopping around and stopped at a small station about 50 miles down the paved road and pulled out my toolkit. I was able to fix it as the mount had become dislodged when it suctioned into the mud. I stopped in Truth or Consequences, NM for a coffee and waited for Kelly and his in tow bike. About an hour later I texted him wondering where the hell they were as a considerable amount of time had passed. Turns out the guys truck that had his broken bike in the back had blown a tire! What a day. We managed to find parts that won't be available until Wednesday. I decided that from T or C that I would just ride back to my original starting point as it was only about 120 miles away. We parted ways, Kelly heading toward his cousins near Hatch, NM and me back to Anthony, TX. Before I left town I pressure washed the rest of the mud from the chain and wheels so it wouldn't shake as much going down the interstate. I arrived back in Anthony, TX around 5:30pm and had finished the day with about 260 miles. I hate pounding pavement with TKC80 tires, my rear tire is almost worn out already!
This post is being brought to you from the Starbucks in Canutillo, TX. Today I was up at 7am and managed to wash all of my riding gear, recharge the GoPro batteries, headset and phone, wash the bike completely, scrub and service the chain after the mud excursion yesterday probably claimed 30% of its life, dry my tent, remove the rotopax mounts from the panniers, go to the post office, stop at ACE to pick up silicon and rubber grommets to patch my panniers and post this post at Starbucks. I am removing the rotopax carriers as they are to heavy and I really don't think I need 3 gallons of water with me. I am also taking the opportunity to jettison some other items from the bike to save weight. The plan as of now is to wait for Kelly's clutch parts to arrive and then get back on the trail. I am ready for the second launch!
Day 4 started out with me searching for a new tire. I then rode around the El Paso area for a bit to test my new packing scheme. I came back and repacked the bike once again and moved some of the gear around the panniers to improve the center of gravity. Even after taking off the Rotopax mounts and containers from the bottom of the panniers the bike still felt unusually heavy. This really is a never ending battle of trying to pack the items that are readily needed in a convenient manner.
Kelly sent me a text message and said that they were picking up the parts for his clutch in Las Cruces. I ended up calling a buddy of mine, Jaime, from Las Cruces Motorsports and he thankfully had a new rear tire for me. I hadn't planned on replacing the TKC80 until somewhere near the end of Colorado but with all the pavement riding, as we dealt with Kelly's broken bike, I wore the rear out fast.
I hopped on and rode leisurely to Las Cruces, NM and strapped the new tire onto the back of my bike. It was over 100 degrees at this point and it felt like I was melting. Damn desert!
After riding to Power House Motorsports across town to meet Kelly, he was nowhere to be found. I spend about 2.5 hours there getting to know the guys and looking around the dealer. The dealer is really nice and the guys were all very friendly.
We left there around 3pm and started toward Hillsborough, NM where Kelly's bike was. I had planned on putting the new tire on in Colorado but after traveling an extra 100 miles with a spare tire strapped to the bike I decided to just put the darn thing on where we stopped. It was much easier than dealing with a huge heavy tire strapped onto the rear of the bike. I removed the old and slapped the new tire on with some spoons and we tinkered with Kelly's bike until about 11pm with no luck of making it move. This was not a great feeling as I figured the trip was over at this point. After this long and disappointing evening, I died out and went to bed. Kelly went back out and tried to sand the new plates and buttoned up the majority of the lower end, I think this was the third time that the KLR was apart and together. PS: Kawasaki-get a clue and redesign your damn KLR so you don't need to drain the coolant every time you want to remove the clutch cover! I don't think Kelly even went to bed tonight...
Kelly's Bike runs and it even moves! I woke up around 7am to find Kelly already out in the shop still working on the bike. It was almost put back together, I'm going to say this was the 4th time?
We finally departed Hillsborough, NM around 11am after our water packs and bellies were full. We decided to stop about 30 miles up the road in Truth or Consequences, NM to wash the rest of the sinful New Mexican extraterrestrial mud off of Kelly's bike and make sure it wasn't leaking anything. The plan was to ride to Socorro, NM and cut across but the dreaded KLR was acting up yet again. This time sputtering alongside the highway. It proceeded to run poorly for another few miles and even stop completely at times. I jokingly told Kelly that if he hadn't bought his bike at Walmart that we wouldn't be broken down every few miles. My faith in his KLR was running on fumes almost like his bike was acting.
When we arrived in Socorro, NM we fueled up and decided that it would be best to head for Albuquerque, NM just in case the KLR died and needed more parts. We made it to Albuquerque and then made our way towards Santa Fe, NM. About a mile outside of Albuquerque on Hwy 25 his bike sputtered and died out again. Please let there be a dealer that can fix this!
I remembered a power sports dealer in Santa Fe from my previous travels through there. I directed Kelly and his Kawasaki "Walmart" KLR to the dealer who even serviced Kawasaki bikes. We spoke with a gentleman by the name of Craig who was pretty awesome and definitely knew his bikes. He went out to the Kawasaki and did some serious voodoo magic to it and from then on the KLR was permanently upgraded to a Sears Roebuck bike and no longer carried the burden of "Walmart".
FOOD! We were famished from the long day of touring the highway and found a Panera Bread restaurant in Santa Fe to eat at. We sat outside as it was absolutely beautiful. Kelly had a sandwich and chips and I helped myself to a tasty Army MRE that I had stashed away in the bike.
The plan at this point was to head toward Chama and stay at Floyds. On the way to Chama we came across a section of the CDT trail that had camping so we decided to camp instead. We pulled into camp pretty late with the sun going down. After setting up my tent I stripped down, grabbed some soap and stepped carefully into the shallow river that had the most slippery rocks I have ever had to navigate. After the long day in 100+ degree heat I had reached a level of stink that was thought to be unattainable. I call this the nuclear stink stage. The New Mexico heat will do this to you. I am finding this river bathing thing to be pretty refreshing.
This was the first night that we had a campfire too!
Total Miles 317
New Mexico / Colorado / New Mexico / Colorado!
This morning when we woke from camp we were both ecstatic to get onto the trail. At 7:30 we pulled out of camp and onto the CDT. The first section could best be described as bumpy, rocky, muddy, rutted and very harsh. These by far were some of the roughest trails I have ever encountered. Kelly managed to dump the KLR a few times and was no longer an off road virgin. I managed to jam my leg while dodging a running dog about 2 miles in, where the heck did he come from? We must have seen 1000 chipmunks on this section scurrying across the trail.
Kelly managed to jump a cattle guard and sink his bike into a mud hole that almost claimed the KLR forever, it was DEEP! We met 3 mt. bikers on the trail that were doing small sections of the CDT every year. I give these guys so much credit for being able to mountain bike for days on end.
Kelly was like a little kid in the mud puddles as I tried to dodge them and ended up catching a stump and slightly bending my kickstand and then shortly after whacked my pannier into a tree. Luckily neither of us or our bikes sustained any major damages during this section of treacherous trail.
We arrived in Chama, NM after crossing into Colorado and then back into New Mexico around 1:15 where we fueled up the bikes and ate at Feliciano's Home run pizza. An Italian restaurant ran by Mexicans, go figure.
Chama, NM has a really neat steam railroad that made me think of my best friend Bryan back in Minnesota. He is a big steam powered nerd and would have loved this! I can picture him talking to these old farts for days about the steam train.
After lunch we were back on the trial. Shortly after I hit a rock so hard it jarred my teeth and I was sure I bent my front rim. Luckily no damage other than what felt like a slight concussion.
I can't remember where we were exactly but the trail became sandy and almost impossible to navigate the heavy bikes through. I rode up onto the desert and started making my own trail through the bush. After a mile or so the sand cleared and we were on some pretty awesome single track. I was sure that I blew my rear shock out on this section even going as slow as I was. It bottomed out on everything. I imagine running this part of trail on a dirt bike would be an absolute HOOT! The trail ran into a decently maintained forest type road that was much smoother and kind of a relief. I saw a sign that said natural arch and stopped to wait for Kelly. We both agreed, with enthusiasm, to check it out. After getting there the decision to hike to the top was unanimous. What an awesome spot!
After our hike we found some really nice dirt roads that were 80 mph of fun until we reached our campground.
While pulling into the campsite Kelly managed to dump the KLR over in the parking lot. I had to get a picture as we had just ridden the craziest trails today and could never have expected this. We both laughed, he got back on and we pulled into the site.
It had just started drizzling rain as we setup our tents. We listened to music and waited for the rain to stop before we ventured out to the water spigot that was about a mile down the road. With our headlamps on we walked to the water house to find that everything was locked up and there was no water. Total bummer, we walked back and went to sleep. ZZZZZZZZZZZZ
Total Miles 257
Total Miles so far 1,409
Last night it rained all night until about 5:45am. Other than closing my eyes I really didn't sleep at all. We were packed up and on the trail by 7:30am.
The start of the day was on some really great 40-50 mph back roads / trails. When we finished this section there was about 7 miles of paved road and then back onto the trail. The start of the trail was great and had these huge sweeping turns that you could fly through then the mud came. I suppose the all night rain contributed to the trails being almost impassible. I was 5 miles into the rough rutted road covered in slimy mud when I stopped to wait for Kelly. When he caught up I asked him if he wanted to continue or turn around, he quickly replied turn around. I 100% agreed with him because of the condition of this trail. It would likely have taken us an entire day to get through 30-40 miles of this.
I blasted out back to the entrance of the trail and waited again. While I was sitting there a man on a WR250 rode up. I could tell he was higher than a kite and spoke in the stereotypical stoner voice. This is Colorado after all. The lost hippie on a bike asked me if I was on my way to the rainbow festival. I tried to explain that I was riding my motorcycle on a journey from Mexico and I could slowly see his eyes glazing over. "Whoa maaaaaan" but are you going to the rainbow festival? I didn't know what this was and asked if it was a gay thing? He got all mad and said "Nooooooo Maaaaaan!!, theres a bunch of hot chicks with long armpit hair who don't shower for days, playing drums and we all get super high!" Makes sense to me, although I don't know how much higher this guy could have gotten. Kelly was pulling up as the lost hippie was leaving and we both decided to ride to Gunnison, CO instead of partaking in the mini Woodstock.
On our way out and riding down these awesome winding mountain roads I was thinking to myself: shit, I should have gone to the rainbow festival as I had't bathed myself for 2 days and would probably have fit right in!
When we got to Gunnison we stopped for Kelly to shop for a new jacket and got some breakfast at Your Mothers, or Mammas Restaurant. I cant quite remember the name but the food was fantastic and the portions were enough for 2 days worth of sustenance. The waitress was really cute but extremely forgetful and flustered. I think it must have been her first day. We gave her a bit of a hard time but tipped her very well.
On the way out we stopped for fuel and an old man on a vintage triumph pulled up next to me. How do I keep attracting these weirdos? I couldn't understand a word this guy was saying. He had no teeth and kept revving the piss out of his bike while he was talking / shouting to me about how his bike is the best bike ever built. I felt like I was experiencing some type or sensory overload. I put my helmet on and shouted for him to ride safe. I don't know if he could understand what I was saying but I really did want him to ride safe. He wasn't wearing a helmet and didn't seem quite coherent enough to walk down the street let alone ride a motorcycle!
We found our way to the KOA "Kampground" on the edge of town where the ADV rider rally was going on. Had I known about this earlier I would have planned to stay there a few days. What a crowd and HOLY adventure bikes! It was like Daytona adventure bike edition! I was in motorcycle heaven!
We rode out of Gunnison and made our way down some of the absolute best and most beautifully twisty mountain roads. These were the roads in the dreams of those who dream of motorcycle roads. I still can't get them out of my head. We came to a section that we were going to cut across that took us back onto the dirt and through a neat little village called TinCup. What a cool place. It was like a lost little world back in the mountain. The trail that heads out toward Buena Vista started out great, tight and twisty. Then about another mile in came to the edge of a small lake and became very very rocky. Baby head sized rocks littered the trail and made for quite an interesting ride. We came to the other side of the lake and stopped next to a group of ATV riders. I asked them how long the rock crawl lasted and they said about another 3 miles and gets way worse and steep. From what I could see ahead of me the ESPN rock crawl rigs would have been challenged. We both voted to turn around yet again. We rode back out to TinCup where Kelly got suckered into buying Gatorade from a little girls "lemonade" stand and then back to the road where it was paved for about another mile and then turned into dirt again. This steep climbing section took us to about 12,200 feet and was yet another amazing ride through the twisty switchback mountain roads. Colorado is really growing on me. I love it here!
Once we reached the top we had to go back down. The opposite side of the mountain that heads toward Buena Vista, CO was all paved. This made for an exhilaratingly quick high speed descent from the mountain pass! We fueled up in Buena Vista and kept going North to Leadville. We pulled into Leadville and Kelly was arguing with me that we should have stopped 19 miles back in Twin Lakes, CO. I told him he was crazy. We were trying to find the trail head for Mt. Elbert and the campground that sits at the trail head. I knew we were near it because the .gov site said its in Leadville, CO. We pushed on another few miles toward the mountain and were still not sure where to go. I saw a man in a little yellow Porsche pulling into his driveway. I stopped and introduced myself and asked him if he knew where the campground might be. After a few minuets of talking Kevin invited us to camp in his yard and even offered a shower and dinner! How on earth could we pass this up. His wife Amy showed up after about an hour and I think she was a little confused about the situation at first. Two random guys setting up tents in her front yard. After we showered we sat down and had a few beers. These two were amazing. Kevin and Amy are truly what makes trips like this worthwhile. We really need more Kevin and Amy's in this world! I couldn't thank them enough for their hospitality.
We talked for a little longer and decided we should go to bed and get some sleep before our summit of Mt. Elbert tomorrow morning.
Total Miles 237
Last night was COLD. I can't remember a time when I was so uncomfortably cold and shivering all night. 30 degree temps and no socks, don't ask. I got out of my cocoon like sleeping bag state that I was in at 5am. No sleep again. Kelly and I rode out to the trail head of Mt. Elbert and parked our bikes. We started the ascent at 7:00am sharp. Here are some Mt. Elbert stats:
9,743 Starting Elevation
4700 Elevation Gain
18.40 Trail Difficulty Rating (Strenuous)
11,900 Tree line
Along the way we met some pretty awesome people. Stephen, Steph, Greg, Amanda, Jan and her boyfriend that never spoke because he was too hung over! There was also a guy at the top that helped me out and gave me 2 bottles of water as I had ran out on the way up. He pretty much saved my life and I should have remembered his name. If you ever read this leave a comment below! You know who you are.
After our epic summit we started the descent. About half way down I was feeling the affects of the altitude, developed a serious headache and started to loose my legs. Actually my muscles felt ok but my knees were giving out. By the time we hit the bottom my knees were shot. Walking was a chore. We hopped on the bikes and packed up our gear from Kevin and Amy's front yard.
After a long hard day of hiking and climbing all I wanted was a hotel room. I didn't even care where it was. While looking at my bikes NAV system I realized that I was pretty close to Breckenridge, CO. I have never been there and I am sure glad that I had the opportunity to go! I set the course straight to Breck and was off!
I opted for a room at the River Mountain Lodge as it was $200 less than the one next door. This place is expensive!
I got settled in took a shower, started our laundry and then ordered a 16'' pizza, 10 chicken wings and a salad. After 20 min of looking like a caveman there was no food left. I ate everything and immediately slipped off into a food coma induced sleep.
Total miles 65
This morning I woke up in Breckenridge, CO! This place really is amazing. I really didn't even want to think about leaving here. First thing this morning was to go to the front desk and see how long I could delay checking out of this room. All I wanted to do was explore the town. Noon checkout it was! I made a pot of coffee in the room and set off. I walked from one end of town to the other and back. I have never seen such a nice place, so many neat shops and restaurants and absolutely no corporate chains. Everything in this town seemed to be privately owned and screamed quality. I seriously don't want to leave!
Unfortunately we needed to get back on the trail so at 11:45 we departed the River Mountain Lodge and started off in the wrong direction. About a tenth of a mile down the road Kelly's bike had started loosing another sub frame bolt. We pulled over at the ice rink, something else that made this town awesome and he tightened it down. Once heading in the right direction I said one last sad goodbye to Breckenridge and we were off.
I feeling of extreme boredom came over me as we rode down the desolate dirt roads and all I could think about was getting off this trail to explore some more cool mountain towns. My legs were also so sore from the previous days climb that I didn't think it was safe for me to ride too much off road because I could barely hold my motorcycle upright. Kelly and I finished a few sections of the trail and I told him that I was going to take the next section of road and meet him in Steamboat Springs, CO. I am glad that I did because I came into a little mining town that had pretty much been deserted. There was a "shrine to mining" display in the town center. I snapped a few photos and rode on to Steamboat Springs where I stopped at a fuel station and was greeted by two very beautiful forest workers in a big ford truck. I rode to the edge of town through the main street and into a park area where I waited for Kelly. When he arrived I told him that I wanted to part ways in efforts to not hold him up from doing the trail so that I could do some scouting in all these little towns. We shook hands and wished each other well and were off again in our own directions.
I rode to the Wyoming border that evening and decided to setup camp and settle in as it was getting dark quickly.
Total Miles 243
After another long cold lonely night of debating the future of my travels at the halfway point of the trip I decided that due to the amount of time already spent on the trail that I was going to pack up and head back toward Texas and make this journey a two part adventure.
I made my way south and stopped for coffee and a ham and cheese danish at a really cool little coffee shop.
The rest of the ride was really beautiful until I was just North of Santa Fe, NM where the blistering heat attacked me again.
I ran out of fuel about 2 miles North of Socorro, NM and was happy that I packed my extra 1 gallon gas can and kept it full. After a long day, 756 miles on the 650 I was ready for bed.
Stay tuned for a trip packing recap, new bike build and some crazy surprises!
Total Miles today 756
Total Trip Miles: 2,710