2011 Adventure-Touring Expedition – Day 7

August 29, 2011
Bart Madson
By Bart Madson
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Bashing away at the MotoUSA keyboard for nine years now, Madson lends his scribbling and editorial input on everything from bike reviews to industry analysis and motorcycle racing reports.

Seven days. The word ‘trip’ officially becomes inadequate when it hits the week-long marker – we’re in expedition status now. The MotoUSA crew bolted out of Big Sky after watching the XC race with none of our five riders voted off the island, at least not yet. But there’s still more than a thousand miles to go, and the mood is a bit surly after a full week in the saddle… Fuel stops are less chatty now. Supplies of clean clothes and cheery moods are dwindling. Inside-out underwear rations will go into effect tomorrow. Grim times indeed. And now the AT testing cadre begins the most important task of the entire journey, charting through Idaho’s Magruder Corridor.

Virginia City stop on our AT tour.
Adventure-Touristing in Virginia City, Montana. The Nickelodeon peep show is a must see… or not.

Splitting between two road-less wilderness areas, the Magruder Corridor is a dirt-only stretch connecting Connor, Montana, with Elk City, Idaho. A couple days ago a nearby wildfire was burning 30 miles south and causing evacuations, the smoke from which we saw entering Darby, Montana – our destination for Day 7. But the fire has since died down, reputedly, giving us the green light to charge west in the morning.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, as getting to Darby wasn’t as easy as we thought. The ride is only 300 miles or so, depending on the route. And yet we left at 9 a.m., not arriving at Darby until 7:30 p.m.

Where did the time go?

First, we had to catch a peep show in Virginia City. And we paid good money for it too – a full nickel.

We passed through Ennis to reach Virginia City, and while there paid a call to the Gypsy Lounge to gander at the old Nickelodeons. One featured a dame stripping from her ankle length gown into her petticoats. I think I may have even seen the nape of her neck!

Virginia City at one point was the biggest town in the territory. Saloons and dance halls dotted the boardwalk thanks to a mining boom. Now the boom is long gone, with Virginia City and nearby Nevada City touristy ghosts of their former selves. Gawking at turn of the last century smut sent us down to the saloon where we wetted our beaks with soft drinks and water. We needed a first-class whoopin’ for drinking those sissy drinks in the bar, but we skedaddled northwest to Twin Bridges.

After lunch, a run in the dirt was wanted. An easy stretch bypassed a longer loop down to Dillon, so we headed straight onto Melrose and nearby I-15 via gravel and dirt. The off-pavement jaunt caused problems, however, as our video/editor/wrencher Justin nearly wadded after the Triumph Tiger 800’s kickstand spring rattled off. Drifting the back end around on a left-hander is mighty difficult with the kickstand falling to the ground…

So, long story short, we now have a kickstand-less Triumph. What are the odds that could be a problem later on?

The day improved when we headed north to Wise River, then directly south through the Pioneer Mountains – a scenic byway that lived up to billing. From then on out it was easy riding to Wisdom and then west on Highway 43. Climbing Chief Joseph Pass on 43 was fun, but hauling down Lost Trail Pass after heading north on Highway 93 was even better.

All kidding aside, the MotoUSA AT team is still in good spirits, with the most difficult part of the day deciding what not to ride. We realize that our ambitious route, now at 1750-plus miles, has forced us to stick with pavement, more often than not, in the interest of staying on track.

But there will be dirt aplenty tomorrow. We hit Magruder Corridor first thing after breakfast. Stay tuned to see how things turned out.