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2011 Adventure-Touring Expedition – Day 8

Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The MotoUSA testing crew got a hefty dose of adventure during Day 8 of the 2011 Adventure-Touring Expedition. The excitement came via the Magruder Corridor, a 101-mile stretch of primitive road through the rugged borderlands of Montana and Idaho.
The Beemer and Yamaha make there way along the Magruder Corridor.
View of the Frank Church Wilderness  with more than 2.3 million acres of pristine wild lands.
The Magruder Corridor features spectaular views throughout its 101 miles of primitive road (top). It's time to play 'Where's the Ducati' (below).

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) built the one-lane road, dubbed FS 468, back in the 1930s. It’s as remote as a road can get in the Lower 48, literally surrounded by wilderness – the Selway-Bitteroot Wilderness to the north and the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness to the south.

Heavy smoke from a nearby large forest fire upped the adventure factor some for our crossing. The fires had just crossed into Montana territory, forcing the closure of several access roads the day prior and filling the Bitterroot Valley with grey haze. Running through the Corridor from the eastern side (Montana), we stopped at the West Fork Ranger Station to check in and confirm the Magruder was indeed open. Getting the green light, we fired up the bikes and started to climb Nez Perce Pass.

Crossing the Idaho border, our five-rider AT troop plodded forward. Road conditions varied from slightly damp red dirt, loose gravel, chalky dust and quite rocky terrain. Views are stellar, the horizon filled with an endless array of steep mountains. Much of the landscape is scarred by old fires, and smoke from the active blazes remained (we ran into more managed fires along the way). The scale of the surrounding wilderness is hard to grasp – the ranger station noted that the two roadless areas are larger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

The road is in pretty good shape, though for a time it gets rough and rocky in the middle. Our AT riders all have extensive dirt experience, save one – myself. So while Magruder was a cake walk to most of the crew, for me it really was an adventure – and a challenging one. Climbing up the steepening grade aboard the torquey BMW, I was just feeling my oats when a sneaky divot tucked the front. A humbling result, but nothing the stout Bavarian couldn’t handle.

A hundred miles in the dirt can eat up a lot of time, and it took almost five hours to cut through the wild lands. Magruder rovers are advised to haul along repair tools and a saw. No snags blocked our  way, but some troublesome logs had recently been cleared off. Fueling up is a requirement too, as once the dirt ends there's no services until Elk City, 22 miles to the north.

The road out of Magruder is pristine. Blasting down Highway 14 was one of the highlight stretches of street riding in our AT test as well, making Day 8 one of the most memorable thus far.

All total, we reckon our time on the dirt mileage somewhere under 300 – with two longer stints supplemented by short blitzes. But the miles off the pavement were quality ones, packing a lot of excitement. Total mileage for the trip is now over 2000 miles, with another 450 scheduled for tomorrow.

More updates to come, as our comparison testing comes to a conclusion.

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