Ultimate Adventure ride:
"The Glacier 1000" July 3-8, 1997
Area: Northern Idaho and Montana
Miles ridden: 950
Type of riding:  Forest service roads and limited pavement stretches.

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Planning for the trip began in March of 1997 with a group meeting.  We discussed the possibilities of planning such a long distance adventure and  what would be expected of each of the riders in the group.

The idea was to carry all of our necessities (camping gear, clothing, etc) on each of our bikes and camp every night somewhere along the route.

A few weeks after the first planning meeting we decided that it would be better to have someone drive a "chase" vehicle and meet us each afternoon at a pre-determined camping location.  This had some good and bad points.  Good points:

Bad points: 

With the good points outweighing the bad, we chose the "chase" vehicle option.

We scheduled one more rider's meeting about two weeks before the planned departure date of July 3rd, 1997.  At this meeting we worked out some of the final details and made our "payments" to cover chase vehicle fuel and camping reservations.  This worked out to be $66.00 for each of the eight riders in our group.  Our only additional expenses would be food and bike fuel.  Considering the awesome riding opportunity, which most people don't get the chance to do, this was a relatively "inexpensive" vacation, but amounted to an immeasurable amount of fun!!

We decided to ride in two groups of four, and always wait at turns and intersections, etc.  Basically we discussed all the usual pre-ride stuff to ensure no one got lost and what to do if we encountered any problems or mechanical difficulties.  We also discussed that each rider should always make a mental note of where they were in the pack of riders - what this means is that we needed to be aware of who was ahead and who was behind each of us.  I always follow this rule when riding in a group.

I spent many hours prepping my bike to ensure it was in top mechanical condition so I didn't end up with problems on the trip.  I bought a few extra tools and a lot of spare parts that I now carry with me all the time when riding.  The extra "stuff" I carry may seem like overkill, but it's better to "have it and not need it" than "need it not have it".  Many of the items I carry I do so because other people have had these same parts break while on a ride.  I've received a lot of good advice from friends who have been riding a lot longer than I have.  The "trail bosses" of this trip put together a list of recommended items to carry.  I used their list to assemble my collection of items to pack.

95% of the items on the list are there because at some point in time they were needed and a rider did not have it, so when they got back from riding, they packed it with their gear for the next ride.  The list was compiled by the "trail bosses" of this trip by unpacking their waist pack and back pack, spreading everything out on the living room floor and taking inventory of it.

I carried a few extra things on the bike in dry bags in case we encountered cold or inclement weather.  This included heavy clothing, a spare set of riding gear and lightweight rain gear.

The only major catastrophe I had was leaving my riding jacked at home.  I discovered this after having driven 1 1/2 hours north to our meeting place in Lynnwood, WA.  It was too far to drive back home just to get the jacket, so Mike loaned me a spare he had.

Day 1 - Meet in Lynnwood, WA and drive to Coeur D'Alene, ID

We loaded up our bikes and gear and hit the road about 2pm for our destination of Coeur D'Alene, Idaho on July 3rd.  The drive across Washington was very hot for early July.  We towed five bikes behind the motor home, and several of us rode in the motor home.  The other bikes and riders went along with the chase vehicle and a small trailer.

Our assortment of bikes included:

  • Suzuki DR350SE - mine

  • Suzuki DR250S - Lee

  • Yamaha XT 225 Serow - qty 2 - Carrie and Patti

  • KTM 620 Paris / Dakkar Rally Special Edition - Mike

  • KTM ??? (the orange one with the newly installed tank.) - Kent

  • Kawasaki KLR 650 - Rick

  • Honda XR650-L - James

     

About 5 miles east of Snoqualmie Summit we heard what sounded like a loud gunshot.  This turned out to be one of the rear tires on the motor home exploding. As luck would have it, the blown tire was the "inside" duals on the rear axle.  We limped into Easton, WA where we pulled off I-90 and changed the tire in the only shady place we could find.  45 minutes later we were back on the road.

5 bikes were on this trailer, and the other three were on another trailer pulled by our chase vehicle.

We arrived in Coeur D'Alene just after dark.  We had some minor bike maintenance to perform to Kent's KTM.  A new oversized Acerbis/KTM tank was awaiting us at Beaudry Motorsports in CD'A.  After a late night wrenching and taking photos, we all tried to get some sleep.  6 of us piled into the motor home - 3 on the rear bed, one on the fold down dinette and 2 in the cab over bed.  I didn't get more than about 2 hours of sleep that night partly because of the excitement and anticipation of the upcoming trip, but mostly because too may people were snoring in the motorhome!!
Almost ready to mount the tank.

Day 2 - Ride from Coeur D'Alene, ID to Thompson Falls, MT
Miles traveled: 152.1

July 4th.  Bikes unloaded, sorting out our gear and getting ready to ride....WOOOHOOO!! 
First order of business was to get some breakfast.
We stopped for breakfast at the local IHOP restaurant in CD'A.
Carrie, Doug, Rick, Lee and James
Group photo outside of the IHOP where we had breakfast.

Our destination for our first day of riding was to reach Thompson Falls, MT.

We stopped in the middle of CD'A and watched a 4th of July Parade pass by.
Rick jumped in to the drivers seat of the float.
Photo of Patti and Carrie with the parade queens.
Mike
Some where in the hills above CD'A.  Mike wanted to take Carrie up he steep hill climb beyond this dirt berm, so he went on a quick side trip.
Looks like a bike convention in the middle of the road!!  We stopped here and had to devise a route around the blockage ahead.
We stopped for a break and enjoyed the view of the valley below.
Mike and James
We stopped for another photo opportunity.
Rick
Later in the day we stopped in a small campground somewhere in the backcountry.  Rick wasn't paying attention to the signs designating the Men's and Women's outhouse.  I photographed him as he exited the "Women's" facility.
Not sure where this photo was taken, but It's also somewhere in Idaho between CD'A and Thompson Falls, MT.
A new road was being constructed between a little town in the mountains of Idaho and Thompson Falls, MT.  This is the roadbed.  The road goes up a mountain pass, crosses the ID / MT border and leads to Thompson Falls.
Mike was checking out the old route up the pass, which traversed the hillside.
Up near the top of the pass, the roadbed was still under construction.  There were several pieces of heavy equipment parked nearby.
Patti spotted something below.
Some hapless driver ran this heavy duty dump truck down over the hillside into the creek below.  This photo doesn't do the scene justice - the hill is much stepper than it looks.
At the top of the pass we had to go over this large dirt berm.  Just beyond this berm was pavement.
The berm was actually quite steep on both sides.  We had one or two riders standing on the top of the berm to assist the other riders if need be.  By about the third or fourth rider, we'd chewed a pretty good gouge in the top of the berm so everyone else made it through more easily.

Rick assisted Kent.
 
Mike rode Carrie's bike over the berm.
 
Mike also rode Patti's bike over the berm.
 
Lee.
 
Mike shot this photo of the group while we were riding.
 
Carrie as she passed Mike
 
Patti and Carrie.
 
About an hour later we arrived at our destination just outside Thompson Falls, MT.  After a long hot day of riding, the cool water felt good.  Mike is hosing down Lee.  The rest of wait our turn.  Rick, James in the background (purple jersey)  and Kent
 
 
 
 
 
Most of us slept in this shelter.  By the time I was ready to roll out my sleeping bag, there was no room left under the shelter so I slept under the stars. 
 
Lee enjoying the warmth of the fir.
 
Rick roasting a hotdog over the fire.
 
 
 
 
Kent, Mike, Rick, James and our chase vehicle driver, Mike's dad.

Mike and Rick are scouting out some possible routes for the next day's ride to West Glacier.

 

Day 3 - Ride from Thompson Falls, MT to West Glacier, MT
Miles traveled: 232.2

 
Morning seemed to arrive too early.  We scurried around and packed up our gear, then realized it was an hour later than we though because we were now in the Mountain Time zone.  No one remembered to set their watches back the night before, this meant we were an hour behind our planned schedule.
 
We packed all our gear in the van, and prepared for departure.
 
I strapped the dry bags back onto my DR350.
 
We waited forever to get breakfast at a little cafe in Thompson Falls.  They were very busy.  We were in the cafe for about 2 hours before we finally left.  This allowed us to scope out the maps again, but it put us even further behind schedule for what we thought would be our longest day of riding.
 
We posed for the group photo near the cafe'.  It was about 12:30 when we finally got out of the cafe'.
 
We stopped to check the maps again.
 
We arrived at the top of a ridge and checked our maps again. 
We were somewhere on the Flathead Indian Reservation.
We rode a bit farther and could see the valley below.
We needed to be in the valley below, but getting there proved to be a bit of a challenge.
A few miles past where this photo was taken, the road dead ended.  We looked at our maps and it showed the road continuing on to the valley below.  We had no other choice than to backtrack up to the top of the ridge again.  We spent about an hour trying to determine the path down off the ridge.  We lost more valuable time backtracking on two different occasions trying to get down into the valley.

Once we got back to the top of the ridge, Mike decided to venture cross country through a field.  At this point, we had no other choice but to see if this would lead us to another road below.

Much to our surprise, it did lead to a road.  This photo shows Lee coming down the hill through the field.
We went through a gate to a somewhat overgrown/abandoned dirt road.  This led us into a small town.  We didn't waste any time getting out of town.  Mike and several other riders said the saw a truck heading in our direction as were were descending into the valley on the dirt roads.  His guess is that they were the caretakers of the land that we probably trespassed on.
We got out to the main road are were greeted by a stunning view of the mountains.
After some zig zagging around on some dirt roads that connected us to the main highway, we found a Dairy Queen to eat lunch at.
Mike's dad had been there for a while and was napping in his van when we arrived.
We took out the maps again and discussed our route options.  The original plan was to ride more dirt roads from here to the park entrance at West Glacier, but because it was so late in the day we took the main highway instead.
We stopped for a few minutes.  In the distance is Flathead Lake.  If my memory serves me correct, we took Highway 35 around the east shore of the lake as it was a shorter distance than going around the west shore.
Rick showed us a new sport called "bike surfing."  He's holding on to the rear rack of Kent's KTM while Kent was riding by at about 15-20 mph.

Up the highway past Flathead lake was a section of highway several miles long that was being widened and rebuilt.  The road bed was all dirt, including the right of way where a lot of dirt had been moved in preparation for widening the highway.  The vehicle traffic slowed to about 15 mph.  after about 100 yards of slow travel, we decided there was a better way to enjoy the dirt section.  One by one we pulled down off the roadbed into the dirt right of way and accelerated to normal cruising speed of 50+ mph.  We got some strange looks from the 4 wheeled vehicle traffic as we sped by !!

We arrived at the KOA campground in West Glacier about 7pm.
We had reserved two camp sites and promptly set up the tents.
Lee moving his gear to a different tent.
My 94 DR350 in the foreground.  Carrie moving her gear to a tent.
We took advantage of the facilities at the KOA and got cleaned up in the showers and did a few loads of laundry.

Day 4 - Ride through Glacier Park and back to West Glacier, then to campground in Whitefish, MT
Miles traveled: 149.6

The KOA campground had a nice breakfast served under this covered patio area.
Mike, Lee, Rick (foreground), me (Doug), Patti (background), James (wearing black hat.)
 
Patti was busy servicing the air cleaner in her bike prior to departure.
 
Carrie and Patti on a swing in the porch of one of the camping cabins at the KOA.
 

Kent

 

Rick, Kent and Mike

 

We posed for another group photo before departing the campground.
A sign near the park Entrance.  We didn't have a predetermined route once we got into the park.  We rode in and went up the "Going to the Sun" road, which is open to anything except large RV's or vehicles towing trailers.
We stopped for gas in West Glacier.
West Glacier.  I believe this is a lodge or hotel.
Park entrance.
Once in the park we arrived at a historic lodge.  These are the vintage open top tour busses that take tourists through the park for a small fee.
This is a photo inside the lodge, taken from the second floor balcony looking at a few large hanging light fixtures.
View from the ground floor looking up at Lee on the second floor balcony as he photographed me.

Once we left the lodge, the road started its gradual climb up into the mountains.  I remember riding through a tunnel just behind some Harley riders.  One of the riders in the Harley group revved his motor a few times, then the bike backfired and shot a flame out of the tail pipe that was visible in the darkness of the tunnel.

The first of many photo stops on the "Going to the Sun" road to the visitors center at the top of the pass.
We arrived at the visitors center and got a lot of strange looks from the the more "normal looking" tourists.  Most of us were wearing backpacks.  I remember being asked by one group of tourists if we were "skydivers."

We were all dressed in our motocross style gear and riding boots.  We got plenty of strange looks wherever we went.  Most people couldn't believe we were this far from home on dual sport bikes.  To them, our bikes looked like off road dirt bikes, and they are definitely more dirt than street oriented.

We found a nice place to park our bikes at the end of a parking row.
Inside the visitor's center we asked about different route options on the east side of the park.  At the east side you can travel up into the Canadian portion of the park.
Several mountain goats thought we looked pretty strange too, so they kept their distance and stayed up on the snow bank.
James, Rick, Patti, Kent and Carrie
We continued on through to the east side of the park and stopped at the Cafe' for a quick bit to eat.
Due to time constraints, we didn't do any exploring in the north portion of the park.  Instead, we continued back the way we came.  We encountered a small rain storm ascending the pass, but it only lasted about 10-20 minutes and didn't dampen our spirits any.  In the top of this photo you can see the rain storm moving in our direction.
On our return trip over the pass at the visitor's center, the goats had decided we were long gone, so they ventured out in the road.
Upon arrival back at West Glacier, we check our maps again.
Our next destination was a KOA campground near Whitefish, MT. 
After setting up camp we went into town and found a Denny's to eat dinner at.  Upon returning from dinner I decided to service my air cleaner.  I removed it, cleaned it and let it sit out overnight to dry.  I re-oiled it the following morning.

Day 5 - Ride from Whitefish, MT to Sandpoint, ID
Miles traveled: 256.5

Another fresh cooked breakfast awaited us in the lodge at the KOA campground.
Office at the KOA campground
Lake (reservoir) near Libby, MT
Riding a wheelie up the boat ramp.
We stopped for lunch at a McDonald's in a town somewhere in Montana after we left Whitefish.  We strapped several extra tires to the bike trailer.  Fortunately none were required.

Shortly after we left town, I was riding along and noticed I didn't see Lee in my rearview mirror.  I stopped and waited for a few minutes and still didn't see him so I turned around to go back and find him.  A few miles back I found him at the last turn.  He said his bike wouldn't seem to stay in gear.  It was either second or third gear that was having problems.  We proceeded in the direction I had just came from and eventually caught up with the rest of the group who had waited for us.  We reported the problem and Mike rode back to see if he could find his dad.  We figured we'd have to load Lee's bike on the trailer.

While Mike was gone, the rest of us decided to crack open the case of Lee's bike to see if we found anything obviously wrong.  The above photo was taken after Mike returned.  We had loosened the last bolt just as Mike returned, and he helped us pull the case off.  We found the culprit - the bolt holding in the shift mechanism had backed out and was laying in the bottom of the case.    Seems as though I remember hearing that this was a common problem on early model DRs.

When removing the case, the gasket stayed attached to one side of the case and didn't tear or break, so we had no fear of oil leaking once we reassembled the case.

I grabbed the bottle of Loctite out of my waistpack. We put a few drops on the bolt before reinstalling it and were back on the road about 20 minutes later.

Rick always had to check out the scenery below.
We encountered another obstacle when we discovered this bridge was not passable.  The wood plank deck was mostly rotted away.
Obstacle number 2 was a road washout.
  We dropped down off the road just before the washout, crossed the creek and rode up the bank behind where I'm standing.  This photo shows Mike riding Kent's bike across.
As this photo shows, the climb out of the creek was pretty steep and took several of us to get each bike back up onto the road.
Our next night was spent at James' friends house in Sandpoint, ID

Day 6 - Ride from Sandpoint, MT to our vehicles in CD'A, ID
Miles traveled: 145.7

We found a patch of snow along the road so we had to stop and play for a few minutes.
Rick gave Lee a good shower of snow from his KLR
As you can see, Rick buried his KLR well beyond the rear axle.  Notice the small pile of snow piled up on the left side of Lee's rear tire (the DR250 in the foreground) - this gives you an idea of how much snow Rick showered him with.
Prior to reaching this washout, the road was straighter than an arrow, and we road it at high speed.  The road was relatively smooth but had some small and narrow water troughs across it.  Some of them shook us up pretty good, because by the time we saw them it was too late to slow down.

We stopped at this washout and then Rick wasn't able to restart his KLR.  After some troubleshooting, we determined that his battery had grenaded due to the shock caused by hitting one of the water troughs at 60+ mph.  The battery was still intact, but it must have fractured internally, therefore it had no output.

We bump started Rick's bike to get it running again.  Mike rode ahead to check out the road beyond this washout.  This gave the rest of us an opportunity for a short break.

A makeshift bridge allowed us safe passage across the river.
This road was actually an abandoned railroad grade.
We encountered some logging activity.
This would have a fun road had it not been for several hundred trees down across the road.  Some of the trees had been cleared, put the cleared path was only wide enough for an ATV.  Trees that were high enough for an ATV to go under were still blocking our path.  We did a lot of zigzagging and ducking to clear the trees.  We concluded that the people who cleared the narrow path were on ATVs.

Upon returning to CD'A, we loaded our bikes and headed towards Spokane to visit Kent's parents.  We spent the night there and and drive back to Seattle the next day.

Reflections on the trip:

  1. This is the only vacation I've ever had where I never once thought about my normal day to day responsibilities of work and home - this meant that it was a true "vacation"...after all, that's what vacations are supposed to be all about is forgetting about the daily issues and responsibilities of life.

  2. We experienced an awesome sense of freedom by doing this trip on motorcycles, but even more so because we were doing it on dual sport bikes.  I'd estimate that about 85 percent or more of the trip was done on dirt roads.

  3. If the opportunity ever presents itself for an adventure like this again, I won't hesitate to say "Yes, I'll go."

  4. We had an excellent group of riders that worked very well together to help each other out when needed - this is one of the key things to a successful trip of this length.

  5. We made the right choice by having a chase vehicle to haul our gear, even though it may have eliminated part of the "adventuresome spirit" had we packed our own gear.  Doing the trip like this made the trip a little bit more enjoyable because we didn't have to spent as much time packing and unpacking when we set up and tore down camp every day.

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