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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Touring North-West USA over 9 days

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Overview

Yesterday I returned from a nine day tour through Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana. I rode the first three days with a friend; together we stayed over in motels. On the fourth day we parted company as I went off to do camping and some mountain hiking in Yellowstone National Park and elsewhere. The journey covered almost 4,000 kms (3840).

While I have done three weekend trips in the earlier winter months, this is my longest trip to date. The routes avoided interstate highways where possible - about 98% of the riding was on secondary highways. I saw virtually NO vehicles on about half of the routes; the trick was choosing secondary routes which proved to be too lengthy for commuter and transport traffic. I'm speaking mountain roads and river canyons.

The first day had us going through a snowy mountain pass, where the temperatures fell to 50 oF; hours later we arrived in a low-lying arid area (Okanagan) that saw the temperatures rise to 90 oF. Amongst the nine days I frequently had to deal with temperatures in the very high 90's and evening temperatures down to very low 40's.

I always wore my full leathers. The cold temperatures were tolerated with one or two fleesies underneath and a pair of hiking pants. I coped reasonably well with the scorching temperatures by stripping down underneath the leathers, and drinking loads of water (3 liter hydration bag with Gatorade).

I wanted to experience the winderness as much as possible, so I always avoided any place larger than 1000 people population. Basically I would refuel every 100 to 200 kms, drink my Gatorade, eat a small snack, and clean off the bug juice. I ate most of my meals (French bread, chicken strips, beef jerky, apples) purchased in the morning from a grocery store, and ate at any of numerous spectacular road side sceneries.

I generally started about mid morning and finished around dinner time. Some days saw very few miles travelled; the intent then was to experience the locale on foot rather than have it wisp by me at break-neck speeds.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Highlights

While I loved the riding, my most memorable experiences were actually off the bike. They included:

1) Hiking all day, off trail, up Purple (Madison) Mountain in Yellowstone park.
2) Hiking half day, off trail, through wilderness hills of Swan Valley.
3) Camping atop a wilderness hilltop at Pearrygin Lake state park (deers abound).
4) Visiting the authentic and historic buildings of Virginia City.

Nonetheless, the riding included some of the best I have ever done. They included:

1) Riding 20 miles on a gravel road through rolling hills in Montana.
2) Riding 5 miles on a gravel path up the hillside to camp in Washington.
3) Riding 77 miles of canyon twisties through Idaho's Lewis & Clark Mtn Hwy.
4) Getting stuck in a traffic jam in Yellowstone park when buffalo stampeded the road.

The riding included numerous hazards:

1) Scariest (luckiest) moment was coming around a hairpin turn on a mountain road only to be surprised by a sand spill across the road. I had my speed kept down because it was a blind, tight turn; when I encountered the sand I was able to get the bike up in time. I have never seen this hazard before. I'll be looking out for this too in the future. (See photo with circle).
2) I witnessed the aftermath of three road-kills of deer through the mountain passes.
3) A thunderstorm was so severe that I was blinded, and forced to take refuge on a convenient road-side pull off. (My umbrella came in handy as I waited for half hour for the heaviest of the rain to let up.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Yamaha FZ6

My Yamaha FZ6 did very well as a sport/touring bike. I carried about 90 lbs of luggage; this is rather excessive because it includes full camping gear plus hot/cold weather clothing and rain gear.

I use to have Metzeler M-1 tires on the bike. Their tread was almost all worn off from my track days during last summer/fall. As I intend to mainly do touring this summer I switched tire types; I put on a fresh pair of Dunlop 220's. These are very good tires for the sport/touring. This trip put on about 3000 miles and I now only have a very mild flattening along the center ridge of the rear tire. The front tire shows no sign of wear. The tires performed very well at canyon twisties, gravel roads, rain soaked roads, and very very spirited speeds on the open plains.

I had only two mechanical problems, as minor as they were. Apparently the excessive vibration that the swing arm coped with while travelling over the 20 miles of gravel roads dislodged the bolt that secures the plastic chain guide onto the swing arm. I discovered its absence the next morning when routinely checking the bike before starting on the knew day. I was able to temporarily secure it with a couple of Zip-ties before finding an automotive shop that could give me a replacement bolt and washer. The other problem is the light bulb burnt out over the licence plate holder; I find this is common with excessive miles of bouncy roads.

Every morning it was necessary to apply a fresh coat of chain lube. The Owner's manual advises to apply chain lube every 600 kms or so; my daily experience is that number is dead on. Incidently, the 20 miles of gravel was enough to completely absorb the previous application of chain lube.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My conclusions

1) GPS with road mapping is vital. My unit made navigating on secondary roads a mindless exercise. The GPS paid attention to the route while I kept my mind free on the ride.

2) I have soft luggage, but in hindsight I would prefer hard luggage. Hard luggage makes for moving in and out of motels, etc easier. Also, my saddle bags leaked water even when covered with their secondary rain covers.

3) I appreciated not riding too many hours/miles each day. I gave myself plenty of time to enjoy the mornings and evenings on foot. Even more so, having a day or two off at some waypoints made the journey more engaging.

4) Below is my daily journal. This was compiled only after returning from my trip. I actually had no more planning than where I intended to go the next day, and never any days beyond. This style of underplanning worked really well for me as I was never pressured with an itinerary, and it kept me flexible to respond to the discoveries on route. Case in point: I never new I would end up in Yellowstone park; when I did arrive, it was attractive enough to lure me to stay put for two days.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ My journal

For what it's worth, here is my daily journal.

Day: 1
Date: 06-05-13-Sat
Time: 11:00-20:00
Start: Vancouver, BC
Finish: Ephrata, WA
Night: Motel (Best Western)
Distnc: + 500 km / day = 500 km / total

Route: I-5, Hwy-2, Hwy-28
Scene: Stevens Pass over Snoqualmie
Hilite: Riding thru the snowy mountain pass

Photos: River

Day: 2
Date: 06-05-14-Sun
Time: 11:00-20:00
Start: Ephrata, WA
Finish: Caldwell (Boise), ID
Night: Friends house
Distnc: + 770 km / day = 1270 km / total

Route: Hwy-17, Hwy-26, Hwy-195, I-95, Hwy-55
Scene: Open plains, Payette Natl forest (Payette river)
Hilite: Racing thru the open plains

Photos: River

Day: 3
Date: 06-05-15-Mon
Time: 11:00-19:00
Start: Caldwell (Boise), ID
Finish: Swan Valley (Idaho Falls), ID
Night: Cabin (Local)
Distnc: + 500 km / day = 1770 km / total

Route: I-84, Hwy-20, Hwy-26
Scene: Sawtooth range, Craters of the Moon, Lava beds
Hilite: Surrealistic lava fields, hill climbing

Photos: Lava fields

Day: 4
Date: 06-05-16-Tue
Time: 11:00-15:00
Start: Swan Valley (Idaho Falls), ID
Finish: Yellowstone Park, WY
Night: Camping (Purple - Madison mtn)
Distnc: + 260 km / day = 2030 km / total

Route: I-191, I-287, I-191
Scene: Grand Teton National forest, Yellowstone National park
Hilite: Grand teton mtns, buffalos, elk

Photos: Snow fields, buffalos

Day: 5
Date: 06-05-17-Wed
Time: (No riding)
Start: Yellowstone Park, WY
Finish: Yellowstone Park, WY
Night: Camping (Madison mtn)
Distnc: + 000 km / day = 2030 km / total

Route: (No riding)
Scene: Madison mountain (climbing)
Hilite: Mountain climbing

Photos: Camping, mountain climbing

Day: 6
Date: 06-05-18-Thu
Time: 10:30 - 17:30
Start: Yellowstone Park, WY
Finish: Wisdom (Butte), ID
Night: Motel (Local)
Distnc: + 350 km / day = 2380 km / total

Route: Hwy-287, Gravel road, Hwy-43
Scene: Open plains, Virginia city, Wise river
Hilite: Riding thru wilderness fields on gravel roads

Photos: Virginia city, gravel roads, dirt and bugs!

Day: 7
Date: 06-05-19-Fri
Time: 08:30 - 19:00
Start: Wisdom (Butte), ID
Finish: Moscow (Lewis), ID
Night: Motel (Lucky 8)
Distnc: + 580 km / day = 2960 km / total

Route: E. Fork Bitterfoot Rvr, Nez Perce National forest, Lochsa river
Scene: River corridor canyons
Hilite: Canyon riding along various mtn rivers

Photos: Bolt vibrated free from gravel road: Zip-tie to the rescue
Mountain goats along side unprotected road
Thunder storm

Day: 8
Date: 06-05-20-Sat
Time: 09:30 - 18:30
Start: Moscow (Lewis), ID
Finish: Wintrop, WA
Night: Camping (Pearrygin Lake)
Distnc: + 470 km / day = 3430 km / total

Route: Hwy-43, Hwy-93, Hwy-12
Scene: Lolo peak, Clearwater forest
Hilite: Wilderness camping atop Pearrygin Lake state park

Photos: Gravel roads to atop mountain for camping
Deer roam openly
Camping in wilderness

Day: 9
Date: 06-05-21-Sun
Time: 09:30 - 16:30
Start: Wintrop, WA
Finish: Vancouver, BC
Night: Home (Alas!)
Distnc: + 410 km / day = 3840 km / total

Route: Hwy-20, Hwy-9, Hwy-542, I-5
Scene: North Cascades National Park
Hilite: Canyon riding along various mtn rivers

Photos: Mountain pass, river and lake rides


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1,252 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thunder storm looming
Taking refuge under umbrella in storm
Grand Coulee dam
Watch the sand on the blind corner


· Registered
1,252 Posts
Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
Camping atop hillside wilderness ... (I was awoken by a pack of coyotes only feet from my Hennessy Hammock tent. The next morning I found deer grazing very close by.)

Riding home through mountain twisties.

... Life is good.

After a wonderful ride and journey, it is nice to be home with my family.


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Since you said you used GPS, you can post the routes you took through this website:

I haven't used it myself, but it basically takes whatever you export out of your GPS (if you saved anything) and overlays the route on a Google Maps style map.

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·

Thanks for the tip and link.

I use Mapopolis which doesn't save "tracks". So no luck there.

I used a second GPS (Garmin Geko 301) when I was hiking off trail through the mountain. It does save tracks and I have previously been amused at how zig-zaggy a hike through an obstracted forest can be.

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
VDub90 said:
Fantastic write-up and pics!!!!

When are you going to make it over to the island? I'd love to do a full tour over here.
I have a trip tentatively scheduled to the Yukon via Vancouver Island; that should be in late June or early July. It would be good to join up with you in Nanaimo and ride up to Campbell River, etc. (Hey, want to consider going onto to the Yukon?)

In August I'll be on the Island again but that time on foot. I am planning on hiking the West Coast Trail.

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732 Posts
Fantastic trip and write-up. I'm going to try really hard to do at least one extended trip this summer. Kentucky and Tennessee have some great twisty roads, so I'll likely head down that way.

I like the idea of underplanning a bit to keep things loose and fun. I find that if I plan things out too much that I wind up always trying to "make time" when traveling, which is too stressful to be any fun. Having an open itinerary would be great, as long as I take enough maps to feel like I'm not going to get lost.

Your trip is very inspiring, thanks for posting up about it!
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