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T1 2020 Trip reports

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  • T1 2020 Trip reports

    Here's where you may post your trip report for 2020, make it or not, as long as you were on the calendar. If you have any trouble posting pics let me know and I'll fix the limit on space. Cheers.

  • #2
    2020 Tour of Idaho Attempt Retrospective – Team Armadillo

    We spent almost a full year prepping and planning for our 2020 Tour of Idaho attempt. By preparation, I mean purchasing the necessary gear, accomplishing the necessary bike modifications, but primarily studying the route description and completing an in- depth review of google earth, making navigational notes and adding the additional necessary waypoints. The event organizer (Martin Hackworth) provides the minimum necessary amount of waypoints to guide the route, but those are just starting points for your detailed map study. Navigation on the tour is for real and you are not provided tracks like a Backcountry Discovery Route. You will be navigating over approximately 1,750 miles of mountain single track, across a desert, and miles of two track and forest roads. Some of these trails are so remote that they are not ridden by anyone except those riding the tour. There are different routes for solo riders, two-man teams and three-man teams. You also need to study the other team variants in case you loose a team member during your trip. You cannot study the navigation enough!

    Coming from Texas, we were assigned the team name of “Armadillo”. Martin does not allow teams to select their own names; he picks the team names based on his own judgement and what he determines to be appropriate, which may or may not be related to how big of a pain in his ass you have been, such as asking too many questions instead reading the material provided. He has a relatively low tolerance for “knuckleheads”.

    In the months leading up to the Tour, the event organizer hosts weekly one-hour long live video feeds discussing the tour in detail. It is important to watch all of these sessions. He provides a lot information of trouble areas, tips and tricks, route conditions, best practices and other pertinent information. These sessions are invaluable to your success.

    Initially, we did not agree with many of the recommendations. We felt we did not need to take the recommended rest day after completing day 1. We felt we could make better time than they reported that it took. We felt we did not need some of the recommended/required items and that we would be OK packing more items than was recommended. We felt that we did not need to change tires after completing day 1. Although we did grab onto most of these recommendations prior to our attempt, we were wrong on almost every initial thought.

    The Tour of Idaho is for real. The Tour of Idaho is extremely long and difficult. The days are long no matter what the mileage shows for the day. The days are long even if Martin calls it an easy day. You need to start in the dark every morning and you will likely finish in the dark almost every single day. Sure, we could have rode harder and faster, but we kept reminding ourselves, this ride is 1,750 miles and ten days long. You have to take care of your bike and your body or you will not finish.

    No one remembers those who drop out. I am not sure how many folks will even know your name after a successfully finish. However, we would know and those who follow and are involved with the Tour would know, and they respect anyone who even attempts it because they completely understand how difficult of an undertaking the Tour of Idaho is. Even with the perfect preparation and strategy, you still have to be lucky. You have to have good weather. You have to pray there will be no fires along the route. You have to pray there will not be too much downfall along the way. You have to take care of your motorcycle and pray you do not have any sort of mechanical issue. You have to keep yourself free from injury and have the ability to muster enough energy to continue each day on little sleep. Most importantly, you have to have fun. After all, that is why we signed up in the first place.

    We rode an almost flawless tour. We had done the proper navigation preparation. The bikes were set-up fairly well. We rode the proper pace to take care of the bikes and body. We had a great strategy for obtaining some of the easier additional bonus points along the way so we could bypass some trail late in the tour if it was impassable due to downfall.

    Everything was going perfect, until it was not. How quickly things can take a turn. Just a few hours earlier, Martin went live with a special report on how well Team Armadillo was doing. We just so happened to be taking a break on the Continental Divide Trail and actually had service and got to watch his broadcast. We felt so honored to hear the praise and the fact that our hard work was paying off. Just a couple hours later our tour was over.

    As in aviation, not one thing generally is the cause of a commercial aviation accident. It takes multiple things to go wrong and all align at the same time. This is called this “The Swiss Cheese Affect”.

    Late in the day on Day 6, Team Armadillo exited Lick Creek Road and entered the Power Gulch Trail. Powder Gulch was a new addition to the tour route this year and is an area where they are trying to reclaim old trails overgrown from lack of use. The section was discussed multiple times on the weekly broadcasts, so we were aware that we would need to exercise caution in this area. The trail entering Powder Gulch was clearly a new trail and we were the first team to make it to D6 this year so we would be the first team to attempt the new section. The trail was marked, although not burned in, and we were able to make it to the top to obtain our challenge point. Then it all went wrong.

    Swiss Cheese Affect: As we were approaching the top, our communication headset batteries died and we were no longer able to communicate with each other. We were running low on water. We were exhausted from the six long riding days completed thus far and may not have been thinking as clearly as we should have. We had been doing a little bushwacking from waypoint to waypoint toward the top, as the trail path was not completely obvious. We did not stop and look closely at our waypoint numbering on our GPS’s and overlooked the fact we were supposed to backtrack prior to heading toward the next waypoint. We did not get off our motorcycles and assess the proper direction we should be heading. Therefore, we navigated directly toward what we thought was the next waypoint that took us down a steep side hill when no trail was obvious. This would be the fatal decision that ended with us stuck on a side-hill, exhausted from trying to get our bikes back to the top, out of water with nightfall quickly approaching. We attempted to contact Martin to see if he had any suggestions, however Garmin had been hacked on a ransomware attack and our Personal Locator Beacons communication feature was not working. Had this communication feature worked, Martin would have told us the trail was just a couple hundred yards directly below us and we would have been able to continue on our way.

    We recovered the bikes by noon the next day and could have continued our tour; however, we would have been required to finish the approximately 40 miles of trail we did not complete on day 6 and all of day 7, which was already scheduled to be an extremely long 265-mile day. Truth of the situation was “our tour was over”.

    We were upset that our tour ended unsuccessful at first. It was a major disappointment for something you spent so much time and money preparing for. Not to mention the ding to our pride. However, after another night to sleep on it and while waiting for our shuttle and debrief with Martin, we had already decided to make our second attempt in the 2021 season. After all, we came for an adventure, and an adventure we had. We have learned how to further refine our gear and rigging, understand we need to slow things down and take a break when things take a turn so we can properly assess the situation, and we get to plan for another adventure.

    We are thankful we came out safe. We are thankful for Martin who has spent the time and effort to assemble such an awesome adventure called “Tour of Idaho”. We are thankful for the new group of friends we have met along the way. We are thankful we have been included into the circle of other tour vets. We look forward to our next attempt. Stealing a quote from Martin Hackworth “Life is short and you are dead a long time, and this is the kind of thing that makes what you do between those two points worthwhile”.

    Team Armadillo
    (David Powell, David Lucas)
    Last edited by David Powell; 08-27-2020, 06:57 AM.


    • bcarlsen
      bcarlsen commented
      Editing a comment
      Awesome report David(s).Thanks for the report and contributions to the community.

    • mnield
      mnield commented
      Editing a comment
      It was stressful to watch your beacon pings in those last few hours. I wasn't getting much of any else done that day. Sometimes things are just beyond your control, like the site getting hacked. That's just crappy luck. In '18 we were the first team out and made a 6 day run, the physical caught up to us. But I'm still telling stories about the adventure.
      Last edited by mnield; 08-30-2020, 09:04 AM.

  • #3
    Thank you very much David & David for taking the time to share your experience. I've been a "lurker" of the tour for 4 seasons, one day I AM going to attempt it. It always amazes me how quickly the tour can go south for folks.


    • #4
      Team Hillbilly 2020 TOI Trip Report:
      It's long, but it does have pictures!
      Cartographer. Trail Rider.