Thursday, October 11, 2018

Yamaha Tenere T700... soon?


Hopefully Yamaha doesn't skunk us again, and actually launches a commercial version of the new T700 "World Raid" that widely expected at EICMA this November 6-11.

In a fit of optimism, I stopped by my local Yamaha dealer on the way home from work today and put down a deposit on the bike. They said there's been keen interest in the Ottawa area--not surprising, given the fantastic dual-sport and off-road riding here. Already there's a long "to call" list of potential buyers.

Am I jumping the gun? Possibly, but what's the risk? As the first interested customer to actually put money where my mouth is at this dealer, I will hopefully now have the option to get my hands on a bike if and when it finally makes it to the showroom floor. I've seriously looked at various alternatives including the Africa Twin, F800GS, F850GS, and Triumph Tiger, and pretty much ruled them out. All are great bikes, but my sense is they're more complicated, costly, and heavy than the T700 for my intended application: i.e., true dual-sport riding on rough trails.

The Tenere has received excellent reviews of its engine (which takes regular gas!) and all expectation is the bike will be bulletproof-reliable as one would expect of Yamaha. After all, the prototype has enjoyed extensive testing riding though one of the most agonizingly protracted marketing campaigns in recent memory. Hopefully this has given Yamaha the chance to sort out any remaining tweaks needed to ready the design for commercial release.

So now we all wait. If and when I get a Tenere, I'll be sure to post my seat-of-the-pants review. And I may have my trusty WR250R up for sale. In the meantime, check out some pics of the T700 prototype taken at the recent Intermot show and posted on ADVRider.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Continental Divide ride 2018 - Part 3

Part 1
Part 2

We couldn't have asked for better riding conditions: crystal blue skies, cool temps, and deserted logging roads carving a roller-coaster, swooping ride through Douglas Fir forest. Hardly a bug to be seen on our visors, although the dust remained a challenge and forced us to balance separation between bikes to avoid the worst clouds, and riding within the frustratingly limited range of our Sena 10-series headsets.


As a footnote on the Senas, they are probably fine for road riding, but their analog sound quality and inconsistent wind noise (despite endless fidgeting with helmet adjustments and mic locations quickly proved tiresome and sparked many debates about who was guilty of causing the worst noise. Their lack of communication range in our dual-sport application was a serious liability--especially when we needed to spread out on on winding mountain trails. We all agreed to seek an upgrade after the trip.)

After spirited riding to start the day, minutes later we were flummoxed by yet another gpsKevin route anomaly in what was to become a common theme. Although we'd agreed to at least try the recommended main route to gauge its rhythm before considering alternatives, by now we should've known better. Optimistically, we thought it would be worth checking out a short advanced section that roughly paralleled the main route, on what appeared to be fire roads vs. the paved main road. However, it didn't take long for the gravel to unexpectedly end in what appeared to be either an overgrown landslide, or where road construction had simply ended.


So much for keeping momentum! The way forward was again the stuff of hard-enduro riding, although this picture doesn't do it justice. To our right was a steep drop-off, and just ahead the track narrowed to about 6" wide and would easily catch your uphill peg on rocks and brush. 

   

The track continued this way around the contour of a hill, getting steeper on the drop-off, until it entered a forest about 100 metres on. Some recon on foot found that numerous large trees had fallen across the sideslope, rendering it impassible. We also noticed some wide tire tracks just where the trail started to narrow. Looked like a rider on a big bike got in over his or her head, and decided to nope right out of there, and somehow paddled their bike backwards down the track to the end of the road.

A little frustrated, we followed suit and agreed that from now on, we wouldn't even consider tackling the gpsKevin alternate routes, and would instead try to make something of the main route--which was already proving challenging to follow for simple navigational reasons. Otherwise we'd run the risk of losing too much time on pointless riding, which could easily become a liability if weather conditions changed or something else went wrong--as we would discover later.

As a consolation prize, the main route offered some spectacular paved secondary roads through massive Douglas Firs, allowing us to make up time without dust for a change.


Those trees are much bigger and older than they first seem. As a tree-hugger myself, I couldn't help but imagine what history had passed by these towering pines over the last centuries. It may be hard to see in the following picture, but the Douglas fir from which this slice was cut in 2001 was a certified "witness tree", dating back to 1483. And it was far smaller in diameter than many of the bigger trees we'd seen beside the road.  


Hours of dirt made us all a little cranky, and in these situations I've found that food is always a good idea even if you don't feel hungry. So we welcomed a stop for breakfast in the hamlet of Ovando in the Blackfoot River Valley. The Stray Bullet Cafe was an excellent (and only) choice for grub. We rustled up plates of eggs and pancakes, washed down with root beer. A little pancreas abuse from time to time doesn't hurt--and it turns out we did need the calories after all.   



There wasn't much else to see in the wide square opposite the cafe--just some classic old wood frame buildings that could've been right out of a movie set, including the former town jail, or "hoosegow". That western vernacular word originated in 1908, coming from the English pronunciation of the Mexican Spanish word for jail, "juzgao" or "juzgado". 



This stop represented the quintessential Old West: Slow vehicles, slow talkers, wide open sky, dust, swathes of grassy rolling hills dotted with cattle and topped by firs, sun-bleached old buildings. We hardly saw another motorbike: just the occasional long-distance cyclist riding the same route of the Divide. 



Soon the route began to climb, once again reaching towards the Divide with more wilderness vistas. We wound our way up and over countless minor passes, through desolate ranch lands with log homes tucked down by sparkling, crystal-clear rivers. Hardly a vehicle in sight--sometimes just the occasional tell-tale dust plume of a truck bombing along a country road in the distance was the only sign of activity.


Our infrequent encounters with other folks belied a more industrial and populous history of the region. In the late 1800s, this area was punctuated with countless mining operations and the small communities that sprung up around them, many underwritten by the massive (and appropriately named) Anaconda Company that extracted all manner of riches from the geography, at seemingly any cost. Just when you thought you were in the middle of nowhere on some rutted dual-track, ruins would appear. In this case, we rolled through the once-bustling site of the Empire Mine.


Those foundations on the hillside were once home to a crushing mill, with mining carts bringing in gold, silver, copper and tin-bearing ores from shafts in the distance.

  

Nothing now but tailings, a few ore samples, and some rusted old equipment.


While enjoying a break at the mine, Pete's CRF unexpectedly tipped over all by itself. We laughed and didn't think much of it. Later, after we headed out and worked our way up a rutted, steep trail, Jeff and I noticed Pete was no longer behind us. We eventually went back and found he'd somehow picked up an old bit of wire through his tread, flatting out. He must've lost air when parked at the mine, causing his bike to unbalance and fall, but the terrain was rough enough that he didn't notice his tire was flat.


As it was by now late in the day, we were all parched, patinated with sweat and dust, and the prospect of fixing a flat was the last thing any of us wanted to deal with. Moreover, there was still some distance to go to reach Helena. It was a classic scenario of what can go wrong at an inconvenient time. Fortunately, with some teamwork we were able to change the flat in about 20 minutes--and this would be our only flat for the entire trip! Nevertheless, it was clear that after 10 hours of riding, we were all pretty tired, but since our water was low, camping may be necessary. A strong indicator of our limited time was Pete's general silence over the helmet comms (more than usual, even for a Brit!). Plus, the route was getting steeper and rockier, and Jeff's frustration with the more challenging aspects were becoming apparent, although stopping for a selfie with some cows helped mellow the mood.


Fortunately, Helena turned out to be not much further and entailed a brilliant section of smooth, downhill riding through spectacular open vistas. Just before reaching Helena, we paused briefly to evaluate an advised road closure, but we pushed through anyway: it turned out to be nothing more than some deep ruts from recent rains, and was no problem for our knobbies.

Arriving in Helena so late, we beelined for a tired (but friendly) motel in the downtown, where hot showers and air conditioning proved essential remedies for the appalling combo of fermented grundle-funk and road grime we'd accumulated. Jeff was so disgusted by our collective filth that he got his own room. Pete and I learned important limits in our selection of clothing (in his case, the heavy eaux-de-sheep fog of wet Icebreaker wool underwear; in my case the unwise limitations of rotating only two pairs of UnderArmor shorts). We opted for giving our clothes a thorough flogging in the motel's laundry, sharing a stuffy utility room with old drapes steeped in decades of cigarette smoke and disappointment.

 
Helena (pronounced hell'-en-a) is is an architectural and historical gem, well worth a visit. The town struck it rich on massive placer gold deposits, including one discovered only a few decades ago under a bank in the historic downtown. We'd arrived during a street festival of sorts, but food and beer were our priorities as evening approached.


The downtown was chock-full of beautiful old buildings with wonderful architectural details from the heyday of mining wealth.


The cathedral is a iconic landmark and highly representative of the wealth and hard work in the town's history.


A few days earlier, Jeff's Kriega backpack had spontaneously torn out a shoulder strap as he was putting it on. Since all three of us had bought identical packs just before our trip, and since the cause of the failure seem innocuous, it was a disconcerting failure of expensive and necessary gear. There were no Kriega dealers in the area, and Kriega support proved unhelpful, so we looked for local repair options. (I would normally prefer to repair rather than replace gear, but in this case the problem looked like a basic design flaw and we were concerned that a repair would only be temporary.) Miraculously, we found a sewing shop just blocks from our motel in a nondescript building with an unremarkable entrance. It was like stepping back in time.


Considering we didn't see another soul in the area (never mind the building), the waiting area in the basement seemed out of place and entirely optimistic given the lack of business down there.


But, sure enough, down the hall and buried behind mounds of sewing and old clothes was this windowless lair inhabited by a sole elderly woman who regarded us with clear suspicion.


Some haggling, a $5 bill, and an hour later, and Jeff's pack was fixed by a few bar-tacks. Meanwhile, we'd found a superb breakfast at the Fire Tower Coffee House, which that morning was being run masterfully by Dave. He had the remarkable ability to take orders, pull espresso shots, grill eggs and bacon, and serve and clear tables--working all by himself. Well worth a stop for food and to enjoy the extensive collection of Beatles and other music memorabilia up on the walls. Also, the free WiFi gave us a chance to catch up on messages, although our attention to our phones probably seemed antisocial in such a friendly place.



Leaving Helena proved to be a minor challenge: we had to detour around roadwork on the gpsKevin route, and find our way through a different canyon to reconnect with our intended route. The route snaked up into the hills as a series of gravel roads that eventually deteriorated into rough forest roads and several missed turns. Jeff's and Pete's OSMand GPS solution again came in handy for navigation: trying to plot a new route on my Garmin was tedious and ultimately fruitless in these scenarios.



While the riding was excellent, something didn't feel right with my bike. Perhaps spooked a bit by Pete's puncture yesterday, I pulled over a few times convinced that my own rear tire had gone flat. It had developed what seemed like the tell-tale vibration of a stiff knobby with low air. But each time I checked, it seemed to be holding air just fine. I eventually discovered that releasing some air helped, chalking up the problem to a combination of consistently higher speeds, higher elevations, and higher temperature, which together naturally increased the tire air pressure versus at lower elevations, leading to less compliance of the knobbies and therefore more vibration. This was another good lesson for all of us to rely on actual air pressure measurements, not just compressing the tire with a boot make sure it was full. Tire air pressures crept up and down with our elevation changes, so we learned what to watch for. With the correct air pressure, problem solved! We were all relieved, because even little problems like this can build up and wear down a group, killing momentum when you want (and need) to make up time.

At least we had engines. Just before one crest, after a long, hot climb on a rough surface, we passed a couple of sweaty, sun-beaten cyclists following the same Continental Divide route who looked like they'd already spent a few hours getting to this point. Unfortunately for all of us, just a few hundred metres on we discovered the road was completely closed due to treefall and other damage.


Clearly there'd been some major weather activity in the last few weeks, confirmed by stories from others we'd met that long sections of the route had been impassible mud not long ago. Equally clear was that we shouldn't enter the closed area in the face of active clean-up work, or we'd likely face significant fines from the workers who passed us.

It had been many kilometers since we passed an alternate route option, which really sucked for the cyclists coming up behind us: they'd completely wasted their morning and would have to descend all the way back down thousands of feet of elevation to find an alternate route at least another 50km out of their way. Not fun when you're low on water and there's no shade. But there didn't seem to be any alternative besides taking the "expert" gpsKevin route which, judging by the terrain we could see from our present location, was likely another Hard Enduro epic beyond our bikes and skills. The map at the closure wasn't much help either, and both we and the cyclist swore at whoever thought to close the road at the top of the mountain rather than at the last intersection with an alternate route.


All this backtracking was sucking hours out of our day, which normally wouldn't be an issue but we hadn't even hit the hard stuff on our journey. We needed to establish a rhythm for traveling and interacting with each other as co-adventurers, to avoid frustration. Having been on numerous group trips in the past, I'd expected to reach this dynamic at some point early on in our adventure, once the initial excitement wore off and the stark prospect of thousands of kilometers of overland travel on hot, dusty roads started to settle in. Fortunately it happened now, while the weather was perfect. This was actually a really fun stage of commitment for me, because it reminded me of when I competed in long-course duathlons, and having to dig deep within myself to overcome doubts and discomfort, and find the determination to cross the finish line. Basically, the problems are all of your own making and in your head: Accept the situation for what it is--a series of trivial setbacks--and look for ways to enjoy them as simply part of the adventure.

Eventually the rough mountain roads gave way to paved highways through stunning canyons with glittering rivers at their base, providing a welcome change from the dirt. Some diversions along  abandoned rail beds built originally to support the mining boom in the 1800s were equally fun. At the time, these railways would've been the only passable routes through the area, and we had them all to ourselves, ripping along standing on the pegs. Along the way were many signs of old mines, including dark timber-framed adits into the cliff beside the trail, piles of old square timber, twisted old iron machinery, and other detritus of lost communities. Would've been nice to stop and check some of them out, but we were going too fast and we were determined to reach the historic town of Butte, Montana, where we had planned oil changes and maintenance.


Dirt yielded to Interstate, where a long descent revealed a panoramic view of Butte and ample signs of its continuing history as one of the most remarkable mining sites in the world.


That hill in the distance hides thousands of miles of underground mining tunnels as much as a mile deep. Whole communities used to exist on the mountain, swept away by excavation to become what is now one of North America's most contaminated sites.


"Our Lady of the Rockies", a statue based on the Blessed Virgin Mary, watches over the town.


Being a mining junkie, visiting Butte was a highly anticipated destination for me. The town has an incredible history stemming from the vast riches dug out of the local mountainside known as "The Richest Hill in the World". Today it remains a hardscrabble community frozen in time, home to incongruities like a vibrant music festival and neo-Nazis, as well as a proliferation of more side-by-sides and Harleys in daily traffic than we'd seen anywhere else.


In the next post, I'll cover some of Butte's history, but the short version is if you are at all interested in mining, you have to put Butte on your bucket list. What we didn't know is that we'd end up going to Butte three times... it proved hard for us to get away despite our best efforts!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Continental Divide ride 2018 - Part 2


Gotta hand it to the Americans: They have some excellent craft breweries scattered across the country, whereas not long ago our experience with American beer was limited to mainstream sex-in-a-canoe options. In fact, one our objectives on this trip was to sample regional beers, and to that end one of the first detours I'd planned was to a micro-brewery just south of the Canadian border in Eureka, Montana that I had found while scouting out the gpsKevin route online. I even marked it on our GPX route: H. A. Brewing Company.

However--and despite an immense late-day thirst, empty bellies, and keeping our eyes peeled--we somehow missed the brewery altogether, probably because we were so wrapped up in late-afternoon golden sunlight, the prospect of finding a campsite, and peeling off our sweaty riding gear. Too bad, because the place seems to have good reviews, and we would've enjoyed the break. Next time.

As a consolation prize, we did enjoy one of the most remarkable stretches of narrow, pristine pavement I've ever ridden, which ascended into the mountains just east of Glacier National Park. The low-angled sunlight strobing through the tall pines and spruce, combined with cool mountain air, sweeping turns, and an impeccable road surface was pure tonic for our senses. And just as we started to become concerned about finding a campsite, we found a perfect spot all to ourselves in a meadow at Clarence Creek, where there was once a forestry guard station. No sign of the original station remained, but there was a bear-proof food box and clean toilet that looked sturdy enough to withstand a bear attack. Again, kudos to the US park system and its amenities: we would be continually impressed by how thoughtfully managed and outfitted the various state and national campgrounds were that we visited. Parks Canada could learn a lot from the US approach, and probably save money as a result.



A crystal-clear stream swept through the forest near our site, supplying plenty of delicious water and some rustic entertainment as some small adventurous birds caught bugs mid-stream.



It all seemed too perfect, until--just as we finished setting up camp--a pall of woodsmoke descended unexpectedly over the trees in our area. This was alarming, as we hadn't seen any other people for well over an hour, we were a long way up a narrow forest road, and there were concerns about forest fires in the area. It wasn't clear where the smoke was coming from, there seemed to be only one road in or out, and we were becoming alarmed at the potential implications of getting caught in a blaze with unclear escape options. And the smoke was becoming quite thick and extensive. We decided to reconnoiter the source of the smoke and began planning a quick escape in case it became necessary. Pete took off on his bike, first back the way we came, then up a road through a side valley, to see if he could identify the source of the smoke. After about 20 minutes he found another campsite up the side valley where campers admitted to having a hard time starting their campfire. Their inept efforts had created a remarkably large cloud of smoke that had rolled down their valley and then spread out over many tens of acres near our campsite. It was a big relief to us that nothing more serious was the result, other than stinging eyes. Soon we had our own campfire going (no smoke), and the only other person we saw after that was a lone rider on a 1200GS who shot down the road from the direction we were heading towards the next day. He had blue lights installed on his bike which, coupled with the sound, made him look like a UFO.

The morning brought gray skies and a threat of rain, but nothing that some fresh-brewed coffee couldn't overcome.


Heading out the next day, we immediately found that the pristine pavement ended just past our campsite, transforming into a rutted, gravel forest road where a little bit of rain would have been welcome to keep down the dust. Finally, it felt like a true mountain adventure! The road was rough and exposed on one side to a progression of deep gullies far below, often with a stream raging loudly out of sight at the bottom. You had to pay attention to your track so you didn't get caught up in the view and become a permanent part of the scenery. We all began to truly appreciate the magnitude and exposure of the upcoming adventure: everything was covered in dust, none of us had any clean clothes left in the bag, we'd been eating camp food... this was what we came for!

   
It was also tiring, compounded by us all still getting used to sleeping on the ground. Other than our short turn-around at "the wall" before Fernie, this was our first long day riding on more technical, loose, challenging roads, and it tested our patience and skill. Jeff revealed that he really didn't like heights, which made traversing some of the steeper side-slope sections particularly unnerving for him--and also for Pete and me, who weren't sure if Jeff's discomfort would be temporary until he got his bike legs, or if it would be something more profound. In any case, we were all exhilarated by the views. In our helmet comms chatter we encouraged each other and rationalized away the riding challenges as good prep for the harder stuff to come in Colorado.

Approaching the western side of Glacier National Park, our plan was to take the Inside North Fork Road south to Lake McDonald. However, we found that the road was closed at the south end as a result of extensive washout damage from the spring. This was surprising given we were traveling in early July, when we thought that most seasonal damage would already be cleared up. But it obviously wasn't the case--something we'd see repeatedly further south in the mountains.

Our alternate route followed a well-travelled, wide dirt road which offered a spectacular view of the Glacier peaks to the east across the river valley, but was tempered by billowing clouds of choking dust thrown up by passing vehicles. Only a few short sections had some sort of anti-dust compound applied--probably at the expense of individual homeowners to manage what must be a frustrating problem for them. We had to stop every ten minutes or so to clear our goggles and visors. Eventually we reached Polebridge, plastered with grime in every sweaty orifice, parched and hot from hours in the sun.    


Here you can see a little bit how Jeff has pimped-out his DR650 with a new fairing and LED headlight. This was a nice set-up, now looking much more rugged thanks to some trail decoration. I think it was around this time that I decided to remove the plastic headlight cover I'd made and attached using Velcro, because it magnetically attracted all the dust and made my headlight completely useless anyway. 
 
Polebridge has a remarkable history as a historic frontier town, and it was well worth a stop at the original general store--or "mercantile" as it is called in this part of the world.


The inside was like stepping out of a time machine into the old west. Remarkably little appeared to have changed in the basic structure except for the advent of electricity and a few other conveniences like cold beer. The contents were in remarkable condition: nothing historic seems to last like this in the humid conditions around Ottawa, Ontario.





From Polebridge we continued south on the main gravel road, hoping to skirt back east into the more scenic side within Glacier and then down to the Ranger Station at Flathead Lake. However, as we entered the park via a loop road, we discovered that vehicle permits were required--we couldn't just pass through without stopping, as is sometimes the case in Canadian parks. The self-pay option to enter was unreasonably expensive--something like CAD$30 each, which would have only been needed to ride the 10km or so to the main entrance! Instead, we turned back to take the non-toll road and aimed straight for the ranger station at Flathead Lake, where for US$80 we bought annual passes to gain access to all National Parks. While we were bummed about not visiting Glacier proper--first because of the road closure, and then because of the entrance passes--we figured the passes would come in handy later (and they did).

Then began a blissful respite from the dust, riding on hard-packed dirt and paved roads, all going along swimmingly well--until disaster struck. 

The three of us often took turns leading the route, usually with Jeff or me up front, and Pete guarding the rear on his CRF. This time, I was in the rear and lost in my thoughts, when I noticed Jeff had suddenly stopped ahead to take a look at a railway crossing, probably because our helmet chatter had commented on how much the area looked just like a model railway set. Pete didn't notice in time that Jeff had stopped, and while he was able to slow down, was not able to miss hitting the back of Jeff's bike. I watched in horror--in part because I was just about to make a dumb joke about motorcyclists getting stuck on the railroad tracks and not being able to get away from an approaching train, when the two collided at the tracks. Their bikes were stuck together, something was burning, and both were mildly pinned in the tangle. You can see the dark spot on the ground where someone's bike leaked. 

A sense of foreboding certainly got me moving quickly to help--and none too soon. We disentangled riders and bikes, and got both bikes upright and away from the tracks just minutes before a freight train came roaring through the crossing. 


Fortunately, there were no injuries and no serious damage to either bike, other than some scorched straps on one of Jeff's saddle bags from when they touched Pete's exhaust, and some popped panels and a bent shifter on Pete's bike. It was nonetheless a sobering wake-up call for each of us on how quickly things can go pear-shaped by a simple distraction. We were all a little freaked out--especially because of how soon (and close) the freight train arrived--just like in a bad joke.

Nerves calmed, the only thing to do was to keep on riding--so we did, heading to Columbia Falls. Just before town, we noted a large "Trump" graffiti spray-painted high on a conspicuous spot overlooking the road. This was an obvious reminder that we were in solid Republican country which--given the recent state of politics, notable events, and deteriorating relations between our two countries, added to my general apprehension about being a Canadian in this part of the world. This was a surprising sentiment for me, and the first time I'd felt genuine trepidation about traveling in the US. Would we be hassled by police? Have our valuables seized under civil forfeiture laws for some innocuous traffic violation? Get shot by some random stranger in response to a simple misunderstanding or not knowing a local situation? Although I've travelled extensively through parts of the world that are considered to be very dangerous at times, and despite many prior trips to the US to visit family and for vacations, I really had some doubts about what to expect. Fortunately, these doubts would all be proved wrong, but I wasn't so sure of that so early into our trip. 

When in doubt, I've learned it's always good to stop for food and eat with the locals. The Montana Coffee Traders in Columbia Falls proved to be a real gem, one of the best little diners on the whole trip and well worth putting on an itinerary in the region.  


Having previously tried an iced espresso/banana/mocha combo in NYC many years ago, I knew right away this was something to order from the local menu. It was superbly delicious and necessary; a welcome tonic to the day's adventures. The food was also fantastic and filling, all for a reasonable price. Kudos to the wonderful people who run this place with smiles and efficiency.



After a tedious detour to Kalispell to get a SIM card for Jeff's phone so we could have cheap data access for route planning, we headed back east towards the mountains where our progress over the twisty, dirt road pass to Swan River was obstructed by some nut in a white Nissan Sentra who did his best rally driver impression for well over an hour, preventing us from passing on the narrow, rutted track. Instead of ripping it on our knobbies, we got to eat hot choking dust the whole time. Stopping to let the Sentra get a lead left us sweltering in the sun in all our riding gear. Then it would take us no time to catch up on the switchbacks, and we'd be right back where we started. The driver just wouldn't pull over, starting a running joke for the rest of the trip about other white Nissans we'd see and their off-road capabilities.

Finally we were able to ditch the Nissan, and at a fuel stop soon after, we met some guys adventure touring on squeaky-clean bikes who had an entirely different concept of what gear to bring and how to pack it. They seemed a little surprised we were traveling so far on 250s--a recurring theme we would hear more often as we moved south.


Covered in grime, testy from hunger, but stocked with the promise of cold cans of beer and fresh veggies from the gas stop, we headed down a welcomed paved road to find camping. With most spots on the Swan River full thanks to the time of day and our proximity to population centers, we jumped on the first available site at a two-site campground on the Swan River. Again blessed with clear, cold water, we chilled our beer, washed our clothes and our bodies, and fed an insurgent mosquito population that was delighted by our arrival. We also had a good chat with our campground neighbours, a pleasant retired couple who've been coming to this spot for years.  



As at the end of every day, no matter how tired we were, we also grudgingly tended to our bikes, lubing chains and inspecting for undue wear and damage. Happily, our tires seemed to be holding up well despite the heat, pavement, and rough terrain, suggesting we should be able to get at least 3500km out of the rear D606's that we were each running. Our air filters were a different story though--this was mine after riding mainly in the rear of our group for some of the dustiest parts of our last day. This required a skin change. 



By now the terrain and forests had attained a distinct personality from the woodlands of home. Towering Douglas Firs predominated, but there was none of the dense undergrowth we were used to. The air was fresh and the skies were clear. Remarkably, other than that brief threat of rain earlier, there'd been no precipitation on our trip so far.