4500 MILES ON A DIRT BIKE
BY: JOHN T. YOUNG
At the same time that the Wyoming Backcountry Discovery Route was announced, my 2019 Honda CRF450L got invited to the Overland Expo PNW 2022 in Redmond, Oregon as a Showcase Vehicle. Since Wyoming is right next to Oregon, I immediately planned a journey north and west from my home in Colorado to complete my 6th BDR and to meet up with some moto friends. I figured I could do it all in one 3000 mile trip. Then I added “4th of July in Jackson Hole” and “Dip my toes in the Pacific” to the agenda to stretch it out to 3 weeks.
My CRF had just rolled past 16,000 miles, so I made sure almost all its maintenance was caught up, and replaced the tires with a fresh set of Motoz RallZs. During the inspection I discovered my muffler’s baffle was missing. My bike was now very loud. I packed extra ear plugs, fired it up, and was off.
The first thing to die on the WYBDR, again, was my 12 volt cigarette lighter powerport. This is the 3rd one I’ve killed and the second time it’s happened on day one of a BDR. But I had learned my lesson and had added some pre-wired universal 12V connectors. Easy fix while having breakfast in Centennial, Wyoming. I patted myself on the back for being so forward thinking.
Day 3, somewhere south of Alcova, the bracket that held my rally fairing broke. It was now resting on the front fender! I reinforced it with duct tape and ski straps, then held it in place with one hand and rode until I got to pavement. First stop was a hardware store in Casper where I bolted, strapped, and duct taped it back on, sort of, in the shade of an Ace Hardware. Now to see if it would hold together for the next 2 weeks.
Section 4 was a double track along a high rim that felt like it was a thousand miles long. It was sandy, but flowy and fast. I passed cows, antelope, wild horses, deer, and a pair of elk. The fairing stayed on, so I kept motoring.
In Atlantic City, as I stopped for lunch as well as to marvel at my own engineering genius, an older gentleman asked me where I was from. “Colorado,” I said. He looked like he ate something sour and said, “Sorry to hear that. Too many people.” I told him the Rockies were beautiful, to which he informed me that I was in the Rockies. I looked out the window at the hills around us and, well, it was downhill from there. The patty melt was wonderful though.
In Ten Sleep I discovered my tri-pod had bailed out along the trail somewhere. I also discovered a restaurant named 1 Cow that made great burgers AND great coffee. I envisioned moving to Ten Sleep and eating there every day. I was told they had the best 4th party in all of Wyoming too. I had places to be though, so I moved on.
The last few sections held some snow and mud. I may have crashed once or thrice. Nothing bad, but enough to tweak my muffler and cause it to rub on my knobbies; and to break my windscreen. A little kick here, a little duct tape there and all was good. The fairing was still strapped nicely in place after 700 miles of BDR abuse when we parked in front of the Crow Indian Reservation sign marking the end of the WYBDR. We celebrated our 6th BDR together in the middle of a cow pasture by taking a nap.
On the way to Jackson for the 4th of July fireworks I washed the bike, changed the oil, lubed the chain, and switched over to road riding mode. The 450L has the motor and the composure to handle long stretches of highway just fine. Or at least as fine as you are willing to handle it. It’s buzzy and loud and raw. Your mileage may vary.
I stayed in Jackson for two days in a Japanese style hostel which consisted of a “room” big enough to hold a twin sized mattress and enough head room to sit up, if you weren’t too tall. Although everything at the place was new and clean I did not want to hang out in my coffin. Instead I spent the days riding around Teton National Park photographing jaw dropping landscapes with my bike plopped firmly in the center of them. I spent the nights people watching at the Cowboy Bar. Then back to my box. The fireworks were, OK.
Now on across Idaho, a whole state I had kind of forgotten was there. Out on US 84, trying to maintain a constant 75MPH at 7500RPM and 95 degrees had me wishing it weren’t.
Once in Oregon I visited the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument but was disappointed there were no fossil beds you could photograph your motorcycle in front of. I was also disappointed to learn that my chain had thrown its master clip.
Another day of my buzz saw sauna treatment and I was in Redmond at the Overland Expo PNW. It was a blast! Mosko Moto, Ruby Moto, and the BMW Motorcycle Owner’s Association had really gone over the top by setting up a moto camping area outfitted like a huge shaded living room. They fed us breakfast, handed out beer, showed us a movie, and provided a live band!
As Overlanders, motorcyclists were severely underrepresented at the Expo. My bike was the only one on display. But the camaraderie and passion of the ADV riders I met was as big as any Earth Roamer. Oh, and while setting up my bike for the show, I discovered my chain slider had broken in half. I planned on stealing the slider of Mosko Ash’s CRF450L until Brian Price of Atomic Moto swooped in and saved me with a brand new replacement. Sometime during all of this I realized I was already at 2900 miles into my 3,000 mile trip. I sent a panicked photo of my now well used Motoz Rallzs to Brian of Pacific Powersports, wondering if I’d make it home on that well worn rubber. He replied that I had nothing to worry about.
When the show was over I headed west again, vowing not to stop until my toes got wet. On our way there my CRF450L clocked 20,000 miles. I stopped and took a picture of it in a lava field.
I am not a beach person, so although I was ecstatic to finally walk into the Pacific and feel the water on my feet, it was everything I disliked about the shore - cold, wind full of grit, and smelled of old fish. But the sunsets! It’s hard to take a bad photo in the golden light of the sun setting over the ocean.
Another oil change, another filter change, a realization that my chain guide had worn completely through, and I was riding north along the coast. I would describe this to you but most of the time it was so foggy and I couldn’t see a thing. At least it smelled like fish. Time to head back to Colorado.
I got lost in Portland despite Google Maps. Or because of Google Maps? Either way my bike had decided enough was enough and threatened to overheat unless I got us out of there to anywhere. Anywhere turned out to be my port in the storm - the Mosko Moto Bates Mototel. I immediately fell asleep exhausted on one of the couches in the shelter tent. Thanks Pete and Ash!
I stopped in Boise to visit Upshift Online headquarters to meet with Brandon and Chris and to get out of the relentless heat. They gave me drinks and a tour and we talked of bikes and trips. Of course they said they’d print my story, if only to give me a reason to make it home and actually write it.
Price, Utah - my nemesis. No one tried to steal my bike this time, so this time it refused to start. It would click and spin and act like it was trying, but it really wasn’t. Until the 5th button push. Once it was running I vowed to not shut it off until I was home. That planned worked until…
At the end of an exit ramp in Rifle Colorado I stalled the bike at the stop sign. I was tired. I was done. But, it started right up as if I had imagined the whole thing. As I gingerly moved through the intersection I realized my front tire was flat. It just never ended. Flat fixed, bike gassed, chain hanging to the ground, I limped back out onto I70 and kept on east.
So anyway - I made it home after 4552.5 miles, 6 States, 102 gallons of gas, 1,000 gallons of coffee, and passing 21,000 miles on my Honda CRF450L. Its entire drive now needs to be replaced, as will the fairing bracket and right rear turn signal which melted off as a result of the missing muffler baffle. My hearing’s gone, but feeling is slowly returning to my fingers, and my toes have almost stopped cramping at night. Would I do it again?