Waiting for cattle to clear the road at Medicine Lodge Divide, Montana

When a young couple on a BMW motorcycle stopped to talk to us on our bicycle trip the length of the Continental Divide last summer, Mary said “We should get one of those and come back and do this ride that way.”  And so, here we are.  We’re almost a week into the ride and we’re in Pinedale, Wyoming.  We’re traveling between 100 and 200 miles per day – about three to four times what we did on bicycles.

The BMW is well suited to this type of travel.  At 800cc, it’s powerful enough to easily travel at highway speeds yet maneuverable enough to deal with rough dirt roads.

The weather has been kind to us.  We did, however get caught in a downpour just as we arrived in Helena, Montana.  Our rain gear kept us from getting soaked.  It was hot traveling from Chelan to the Divide’s starting point – Roosville, Montana.  We’re traveling at 6000-7000 ft elevation these days so heat is no longer a problem.  This morning, near Yellowstone, we emerged from our tent to 32 degrees and frost on our motorcycle.  I’m glad the BMW has heated handle grips.

The trip is unabashedly nostalgic.  Our greatest joy is pointing out to each other the sights that we remember and what we did there: “That’s where the side wind was so strong it blew us off the road!”  “This is the bend in the road where the mother bear and cub were!”  Or, in at least one case, seeing what we missed last summer.  When we crested the Continental Divide outside of Butte this year, we had a clear view of awesome Fleecer Mountain and the valley below.  Last year, it was shrouded in smoke from nearby forest fires.


Mary in the foreground, Tetons in the background.

We looked forward to zooming up the steep hills this year, hills that exhausted us last year, and we have not been disappointed in that regard.  Riding a motorcycle is not without challenges, however.  Butt numbness, chief among them.   Every half hour or so, we have to stop and get the blood circulating again.  We also miss the thrill of exertion.  It may sound funny, but there was a kind of exhilaration to conquering the physical challenges on a bicycle – challenges we don’t have on the motorcycle.   When we pass bicyclists, I feel a pang of envy.

Even though we are motorcyclists on this trip, our hearts lie with the pedalers.  When we see a pedaler loaded down with panniers, we stop and talk to them.  We’ve probably encountered about twenty so far.  Most of them are European: Dutch, French, English, Norwegian, Belgian.  There are a few Americans.  We were probably most impressed by a seventeen-year-old American boy who is riding the Divide (alone) on his summer vacation before returning for his senior year in Austin, Texas.  I can’t imagine doing that when I was seventeen.

Jan Petter, world traveler

Today, we stopped to talk to this guy.  He’s Norwegian and he’s ridden from the tip of South America to Grand Teton Park.  He’s on his way to Calgary.  After that, he thinks he’ll go to Asia!

Tomorrow, we head out across Wyoming’s Great Basin.  It took us three days on bicycles but we’re hoping to do it in one on the Beamer.  Then it’s on to Colorado at which point we’ll probably turn north via Utah and Nevada to home.

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