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Tales from the Tour

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  • Tales from the Tour

    This thread is for tales of adventure encountered along the Tour of Idaho. Although not restricted to finishers I would like to keep this in the family, so to speak. So for those of you who've either succeeded or even given it a go, here's the place to tell your tales. Two rules: 1) No disparaging anyone - especially attributing blame for getting oneself into a jam to anything but bad luck or pilot error. 2) Rule one doesn't matter if it's really funny.

  • #2
    Do you think that she has any duct tape?

    We first started planning the Tour of Idaho in 2005. At that time I had a side gig working for and was racing almost every month at Willow Springs Motorcycle Club (north of LA). I came into motorcycle road racing in my 40's and was smitten pretty fast. Worse, I had some success with a few podium finishes in a fairly competitive class. It's like crack. After a while you are not fully in control of your life. Every time you just about come around you get another taste and you are back on a binge.

    All of that came to an end one very bad September day in 2005 when everyone on my team crashed in separate incidents. My Turn One get off resulted in a bruised lung, several broken ribs, cracked vertebrae, a hip injury and a concussion - but the others fared far worse. Finally the spell was snapped. But even to this day I drift away for a bit every time I smell race gas. Sometimes I even get a little misty...

    The winter following the end of my road racing career was kind of miserable. It was cold up here in Idaho and no more sunny race weekends down south. I was in no shape for any outside activities for quite a while. My family staged an intervention and made me promise to give up road racing. After watching my teammates go through injury, divorce and bankruptcy as a result of one bad race day I was kind of over it. No sense killing yourself for a $10 trophy. But I was still bummed out. Siren songs don't lose their appeal overnight. It's an evolution.

    I had a dirt bike that I'd bought a few years before because I'd heard that they were good training for road racing (never got to test that hypothesis myself, but anecdotally I'd swear by it). Over the course of that winter a buddy of mine, who had just bought his first dirt bike, and I used to sit around our favorite coffee shop dreaming of a grand dirt bike ride for the next summer. What we wanted to do was to see if we could find a way to ride all dirt the length of Idaho. That's literally how the Tour was born. We spent months concocting a route from topographic maps spread out over several tables in the corner of a place called Mocha Madness. I'm still hyper-caffeinated over a decade later.

    That summer we started exploring chunks of the route as we learned to ride our dirt bikes (we did the first Tour the first week of August that summer). We decided to ride across the Magruder Corridor from Shoup to Elk City and back on one of those rides.

    Shoup to Elk City is easy even for noobs. Though I lacked any dirt bike riding skill, road racing had made me in no way adverse to cracking open the throttle. We made it all the way from Shoup to Burnt Knob in about 4 hours. That's where this tale begins in earnest.

    I had Scott Summers inspired and equipped XR600R that would fly. My friend Dan had an XR200. When I got to Burnt Knob I settled into wait for him. I could hear him winding across the ridges that lead to Burnt Knob for about 20 minutes before he arrived. The plan was for me to ride on ahead to Red River Ranger station and wait again. Dan, in no hurry, was going to rest and water up for a few while I took off.

    As I was coasting down the long grade to Poet Creek (engine off to conserve gas) I came around a corner and rolled up on a string of pack horses being handled by two individuals I determined after a bit to be two young women. One was small and thin sporting a crew cut, a white tee-shirt with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in the left sleeve and enough tattoos to put an NBA team to shame. Her partner was a stocky blond who looked for all the world like she was still pissed off about being spanked at birth. Both were clad in Forest Service dungarees and shod in Whites logger boots. The fact that the bike was not making a lot of noise and came out of nowhere really startled the horses. They were bucking when I got the bike pulled over on the opposite side of the road so that they could pass. It was, unfortunately, too late.

    Now the only thing that I know about horses is that the smartest horse in the world is still one of the dumbest animals that ever lived. As great as they may be for fun, a horse will jump 10 feet into the air and chuck it's rider off the nearest cliff because it suddenly notices a trail sign. These animals were not happy. They were even less happy about the fact that their handlers were not happy either. It was massive unhappiness. Situations like that don't generally end well.

    After about thirty seconds of bucking and cursing, the smaller of the two women got really pissed and smacked the lead horse in the nose so hard that it broke it's lead and took off down the hill with the rest of the pack train in tow. This woman, who probably weighed all of 65 lbs soaking wet, smacked a 1200 lb animal with an open hand hard enough that it broke the lead rope in order to jump off the side of a mountain and run off into mountain lion infested woods because the poor brute considered it a better alternative. I kid you not. To this day when I occasionally have a nightmare about this I wake up yelling apologies.

    After a few seconds of yelling and cursing at the horses as they disappeared into the woods they both turned around and lowered a pair of mean gazes on me. If looks could kill I'd have been a goner. Honest and no lie. I sensed that there was no path forward that was likely to end well. I was about to get my ass kicked. So I did the only thing that any reasonable man in my position would have done. I kick started the bike and got the hell out of there as fast as I could.

    It was a few miles down the road before it occurred to me that my buddy Dan was likely to roll up on the mess I'd left behind. This would be a problem because being the polite person that he is I was sure that he'd stop to strike up a conversation and offer to help. But at times it's every man for himself. This was one of those times.

    When Dan did eventually catch up with me at RR Ranger Station he was in a surly mood. Sure enough he'd stopped to talk and sure enough they laid into him before even ascertaining that he was with me. He was lucky to escape without physical injury. But his ears sure hurt. I promised to make it up with a steak dinner at the Elk City Bar and Restaurant when we got there.

    We rolled into Elk City right around dark and went straight to our hotel (right across the street from the bar). We'd basically carried only riding clothes with us so when we ambled over to the bar I was in gym shorts with riding boots (sockless) and a brightly colored Under Armor tee. At that time I had two large hoop earrings and a pony tail half way down to my bum bum. Dan is a obviously a city slicker. So when we walked through the doors of the bar it was not unlike Luke and CP3O wandering into the Mos Eisley Cantina. Cigarette smoke so thick it was like fog. Dead animals mounted on every flat surface. Clearly we'd made a questionable decision.

    But we were hungry and running might just wind the locals up. No escape in Elk City. Through the haze I could see a table along the back wall right next to a window - perfect for a fast getaway if needed. I was moving fast, talking back over my shoulder to Dan to brief him on the plan of action. But when I got to the table and looked around he was nowhere immediately to be seen. Oh man.

    I looked around some more and finally spotted Dan at the bar, lighting up a pair of cigarettes for the only two women there. I had to rub my eyes to be sure but it was, in fact, the two women from earlier.

    But not to worry, Dan had it all under control. Dan's from New York and whatever he lacks in backwoods cred he more than makes up for in resourcefulness under duress. He's one smooth rascal when he has to be. We're talking Cary Grant levels of coolness with wonen. That's how you get it done. After just a few minutes he'd charmed both of us into their good graces. It was all good. The problem then became one of possibly getting our asses kicked by every chainsaw toting good old boy in the place for hustling their women. It was touch and go.

    It's like I tell my sons - sometimes you pay over and over for your mistakes.

    The next morning we awoke to rain. On the ride back Dan's rain pants developed a tear. We detoured all the way out to Red River Hot springs and were soaked and cold when we got there. If you've never been there it's quite the place. In the middle of nowhere there is really nice building with a big swimming pool, refreshing drinks and food. And the friendly girl behind the counter, the only person in the place, was drop dead gorgeous. I could barely believe my eyes. I looked at Dan, the ladies man, the guy who took one for the team the previous night - the consummate charmer, and said "Dude, what do you think about her?"

    His reply.

    "Do you think that she has any duct tape?"


    • #3
      Hahaha! good one Martin! Elk City is for sure a character building experience. I got invited out to a campsite when I was biking through there after asking about a good spot to pitch a tent for the night. I headed out about 15 miles down some gravel road behind the families pickup. They turned into a fairly large field and what looked like a gathering of the cast from Brother Where Art Though came into view. They had some sort of large mammal turning on a spit and a whole bunch of sketchy looking characters standing around drinking from pickling jars and such. As it was my first time riding in Idaho I figured what the hell, I'll visit for a while and if I don't end up on the spit, I will say my goodbyes and hit the road. I leaned my bike against a tree and sauntered over with all my gear on just in case of the need for a hasty exit.
      I chatted for a while and answered a few questions about where Canada was and what an Eskimo looks like, but all in all this crowd was pretty dam friendly. Following everything I was taught in secondary school about visiting the US, I did not mention politics or religion, but unfortunately the conversation did roll around to wolves. It is hard to believe that subject will bring such a violent reaction. Even is an old crone that was filling out one of those double wide camping chairs, cursing away between mouthfuls of Doritos. Anyway, I managed to extricate myself from that conversation and after a time I faded off into the back ground and sped off on my trusty KLX. I headed out into the bush and slept on the ground much relieved that I could rest easy knowing that only wolves lived out that far out. I love Idaho!