If you're up for it, this rugged, cross-country adventure could be the trip of a lifetime. Roaming from spectacular valleys where antelope caper to high plateaus where wild horses still run, we crossed river rapids and deserts and the undisturbed wilds of the western ranges. We stirred up the dust in ghost towns and slept each night beneath the stars.
After years of research and riding, American off-road enthusiasts Jerry Counts and Dave Hutchings have completed an extraordinary task. Linking a network of dirt roads and old wagon trails, they've created a continuous off-road connection and their own tour company, Mex2Can, which leads groups from the Mexican town of Tecate up to the Canadian border. The route wanders ever-changing extremes of terrain and climate, and a great diversity of landscapes, and the thought of riding it excited me. I was also thrilled to learn how much of the trip traces a number of trails blazed by Pony Express riders, the Lewis and Clark Expedition and other pioneers.
However, our team [see the Touratech sidebar] decided to make some modifications. Using the GPS coordinates Jerry gave us, we would ride the trail without a guide from the opposite direction, including side trips, and start out from Vancouver Island in Canada.
This region is known for having the mildest climate in Canada, but as our four-week adventure begins at the end of October, a cold, steady wind blowing along the Pacific coastline gives us the shivers. The stray shafts of sunlight breaking through the deep gray cloud cover cast eerie lights on the turbulent sea. Seagulls whirl in the air near a white and red lighthouse on a rocky outpost amid the offshore waves. We board the ferry to Seattle, and a few hours later, the city's lit silhouette, beginning with the Space Needle, seems to emerge from the dark waters.
I can't think of a much better place for saying farewell to civilization and comfort than a rustic bikers' bar. At just such a place in Seattle, we meet Phil, a bearded, chain-smoking character with a remarkable appearance: an engineer's white frock, shoes held together with duct tape, and long grey hair. Passionate about old English motorcycles, he runs a small bike shop in Seattle. After warming up to each other over a few beers and some bike talk, he insists on giving us a tour through his workshop, where we immediately feel at home. His shelves are filled with antiquated, valuable machine tools, and every one of them has a story to tell. Yellowed posters of '70s motorcycles accessorized with swimsuit models cover the walls.
In Wind and Snow
In order to get to Riggins, in southern Idaho, where we will pick up the rugged trail, we have to feed our GPS with an alternate route from Seattle across the Cascade Mountains. The fact that we are in the right place at the wrong time of the year makes it a real challenge, as much for the riders as for the motorcycles. On Stevens Pass, more icy wind blows thick snowflakes onto our visors. We brought along screws for our tires in case we needed to have makeshift spikes for the ice, but we're able to manage without them.