From Sept. 17 until Sept. 24, 2016, Dave and I did basically nothing but revel in having access to a kitchen, fridge, laundry, showers, wifi and a real bed to sleep in. Our friends Neil and Linda live in Sagle, Idaho and we were staying with them for a week recuperating from our marathon ride back from the north. It’s interesting how the things you think you’ll miss the most when travelling, you don’t at all. But the things you take for granted everyday at home become the actual things you’ll miss most on the road.
We love visiting N & L. Aside from their great company, they live on beautiful property. There is a pond in the front yard with fish and ducks. Curious horses roam the fields. Huge turkeys walk onto the deck and look inside the kitchen windows. There is a great view and a wood fireplace, as well. We greatly appreciated and enjoyed our week with the friends we’d met just a year ago and especially enjoyed the delicious dinner they made for my birthday the night before we left. (Linda had even called my mom to ask what my favourite things to eat were.) It’s always great to see them but after so much relaxing, it was time to get back on the road.
A delicious birthday feast cooked by the Oldridge’s. Photo: Dave Sears
And I had another mission.
I wanted to ride back along the trail just outside of Avery, Idaho where exactly a year ago I’d clipped the boulder that had caused me to break my wrist. I wanted to pee on that boulder.
Our friend Ismail, whom we’d met in Guatemala that winter, was riding down to Wallace, Id to meet us for a few days. It was an 800 km (500 mi) ride and thus a little far for just a few days but Ismail is crazy like that and that’s why we like him.
Once we’d all convened in Wallace, Ismail, Dave and I took off up a backroad out of town.
Ismail tucking into the first few miles of the Idaho BDR. Photo: Dave Sears
Within about 15 km (10 mi), Ismail’s rear brake calliper fell off.
Ismail with his broken brake calliper. Photo: Heather Lea
The vibration from the gravel road had rattled out a bolt and the calliper was left dangling off the side of his bike. Lucky it clung to life staying on the bike but the bolt that kept it in position was long gone. We all rode back into Wallace to a small, local hardware store and as luck would have it, Ismail found something that would work. He fixed it into place and we took off again on the quest for Urination Rock.
Within 30 km (18 mi), we were riding the narrow gravel trail that follows the North Fork of the Saint Joe River down into Avery, Id. The trail seemed much more overgrown than I remembered from the year before. I kept my eyes peeled for the boulder I’d clipped with my pannier last year. My imagination started getting the best of me; what if in coming back to “the scene” I had another accident. If again I’d not be able to manoeuvre my now larger bike around the boulder and again clipped it, went into the ditch and snapped a piece of bone of my wrist? It would just be too embarrassing.
The trail went on. Ismail was following behind me and Dave was out ahead so he could get into position for some photos. We still hadn’t come upon the boulders but my memory was spotty for the area. They had to be coming up. I rode along wondering when they would appear when suddenly we were out on the highway that would take us into the tiny town of Avery. It looked like I wouldn’t get my opportunity to disrespect my nemesis boulder. The two rocks must have been cleared off the trail.
Coming into Avery, Idaho. Photo Dave Sears
Coming into Avery, Idaho. Photo Dave Sears
Ismail and I rode past Dave, who’d decided to snap off a few photos anyway, and on into Avery, which basically consists of a few buildings owned by an older couple—Sheffy’s General Store, selling fish and tackle, hunting supplies, beer and a few groceries—and a hotel by the same name. We asked Sheffy if he remembered us from last year. He’d loaned us his van so Dave could drive me to get X-rays. Sheffy said he remembered. When we explained we were back so I could pee on the rock but it was no longer there he chuckled and said that there was an informal trail crew that would go out every year and clean up the trails. The road becomes a good trail system for snowmobilers in the winter as well. The rocks were likely pushed off the trail into the river so they could groom.
Earlier in the day, we’d been passed by a guy on DR450.
Mike Neudorf riding along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Dave Sears
He had been inside Sheffy’s when we stopped. Mike Neudorf is a West Jet pilot from Vancouver, B.C. and was out for a long ride that would take him down to Phoenix, AZ. Mike decided to join us for a few days along the Idaho BDR. We didn’t leave Wallace until after 3:00 p.m. and were still hoping to get up to the Blue Cabin, which we’d heard was free to stay in. It was the same cabin Dave and I were headed to a year ago to celebrate my birthday with some lamb steaks and chocolate cake but instead spent the evening in the hospital. I was looking forward to checking out this cabin and now we had two friends along, who would help take care of some of the adult birthday beverages we’d brought along.
But after our late departure from Avery and some warnings from other riders who’d come from the cabin’s direction that the road was a little technical, the four of us only made it another 24 km (15 mi) up the road from Avery before it started to get too late to ride and we found a place to camp for the night. The cabin would have to wait until tomorrow.
It was chilly so the guys got a fire going.
Campfire along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Heather Lea
We set up our tents then went back to the fire to watch Dave cook steaks over some coals. He also fried up some mushrooms and onions in butter and had been carrying three pieces of cake in different flavours he’d found at a grocery store along the way. The meal was delicious, especially for backcountry cooking. This year’s birthday was certainly proving better than the year before! The only downfall from carrying a bunch of steaks on a motorcycle is they bled out of the paper all over our canvass kitchen bag. We meant to stop at the nearest creek in the morning to wash it but somehow forgot. If this had happened in Alaska, we’d have been more nervous. As it was, we were still in bear country with a rancid-blood smelling bag of dishes.
Sept. 25 was a beautiful day in Idaho. The fall colours at this time of year are pretty incredible and the temperature warmed considerably during the day.
Heather riding along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Dave Sears What a great (better) way to spend a birthday! Photo: Dave Sears
I was still getting the hang of my new bike. This was the first time I’d ride the F800 on anything technical since buying the bike in Fairbanks, Ak. This section of the IDBDR had some steep sections with deep ruts and a smattering of big, loose rocks strewn about on blind corners but I was riding with three guys and wanted to keep up as best I could.
We found the Blue Cabin late morning.
The Blue Cabin along the Idaho BDR. Photo: Heather Lea Inside the Blue Cabin. Photo: Heather LeaInside the Blue Cabin. Photo: Heather Lea
It appeared suddenly to our right as we rounded a bend along the dirt road. Two hunters were loading their ATVs outside. As we talked with them we learned they were a father and son pair who were caretakers for the family-built cabin maintained for hunters. They said now a lot of big bike riders had also started to use it in recent years. We asked if they minded and they said absolutely not, that in previous years the cabin was often abused and left messy and even damaged from people who’d learned the cabin was usually vacant. Now, with more use, the cabin stays intact and cared for. It’s a very cool little place that sleeps about six and even has hot running water. Sadly, we still forgot about cleaning the bloody kitchen bag.
Learning what direction we’d come from, the two hunters suggested we ride back a little ways and take a road that headed east at the junction for a spectacular view of the fall colours and a huge valley below. After the turn-off at the junction, I found myself in a little over my head with my big bike on a steep downhill full of loose rocks but the trail was too narrow or steep to stop. All I could do was ride it out. We sat in a section of the road for almost an hour checking out the view. The fall colours were so vibrantly red, orange and yellow they seemed to reflect off our skin.
Vibrant fall colours along the Idaho BDR. Photos: Heather Lea Ismail, Mike and Dave. Photo: Heather Lea
After a while, we rode back up to the main road. Mike and Ismail were ahead. Dave was behind me. I was keeping the momentum humming along on my bike and found it easier than I thought until I saw the fender of a pick-up truck coming down. With difficulty, I slowly manoeuvred my bike over into the ditch on the right side of the road. Ahead, I saw Ismail’s bike down. He’d dropped it trying to get around the truck when he nipped the driver’s side mirror. The driver of the truck had moved over as far as he could but it was a tricky squeeze-by. Finally the truck passed and we all continued up. This was a classic dropping-bike scenario: the steep gradient requires keeping your speed up but there are usually objects you’ll need to ride around or stop for all together. It’s hard to keep a fully-loaded bike on two-wheels in this terrain but luckily my stars aligned and the F800 stayed upright. It was proof yet again that despite its larger size and extra pounds, I was riding the 800 far better than the 650.
Later we rolled into Pierce, Id.
Dave, Ismail and Mike in Pierce, Idaho. Photo: Heather Lea
Ismail left us here to head back to Vancouver. It would be an 800 km (500 mi) ride but he wasn’t planning to go the whole way that night. I thanked him for coming all this way to celebrate my birthday, even if we never found Urination Rock. He assured me he wasn’t too upset about not seeing me pee on a boulder and rode off into the evening to cover some miles homeward.
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