This winter has been long!
Riding has been limited to the Murphy area. I always feel guilty riding those trails; they are so overused and crowded.
My good friend Andrew called and wanted to do the Idaho Centennial Trail this year; I piped up, “Let's do it this month,"
I have had some great rides in the Owyhee’s since March, I love the desert this time of year.” Andrew, being the instigator, organized the group. Since we are a bunch of middle age has-ben thrill seekers, the group seemed like a slam-dunk.
Our group started with Chris Robin AKA Rooster
One thing I can say about Rooster, he is fast, very fast, blindingly fast. He truly deserves to be a pro level rider but we let him ride with us anyway. We didn’t get any good pictures of him because he usually had his nose down, grit in his teeth and was way ahead of us.
This is Dennis Boone, Dennis. He quietly runs a successful restaurant repair business near Twin Falls and the father of two daughters. He is a very competent. Dennis rides his big one-liter KTM like a little dirt bike and never seems winded or the least bit out of control.
Next is Andrew Hyman, riding a big one-liter KTM Adventure, Andrew is a career thrill seeker. He spent years as a mountaineer and guide followed by years of competitive canoeing the Texas Water Safari then a short stint as a desert racer before becoming the father of twin boys who are the joy of his life. Andrew, it’s good to see you back on the bike and enjoying some fresh air, it’s also good to see the boys growing up so fast. He and Piper are heroes to me for being such good parents.
Lastly am I, Chris gave me the name of Captain Amazing. I forgot to bring leisure pants like the rest of the crew; I ended up scaring everyone with my polypropylene underwear at the campfire the first night, he started calling me Capt. Amazing. I liked that better than old guy. What can I say; I am an eccentric old guy who can still ride on the upper end of average. I have lots of opinions about riding but not much else. A lifetime of riding competitively but I know my time has passed for any kind of glory. I ride very carefully.
Back to the ride; we left Mountain Home Idaho about 1:30 Friday afternoon with the intention of meeting Dennis at end of the bombing range road at 2:15 p.m. Of course after a late start we rode up on a typical Bruneau Idaho happening.
Stealing a metaphor from my friend Scott Hardin, I couldn’t help but feel these cowboys, herding cattle, as the original adventure riders. They looked in their environment and ready to take any challenge thrown at them. Adapting and keeping a keen eye on the herd as little ones tried to escape. They were at one with their horses riding high in the saddle. Skilled beyond appearance, they had trained their bodies to react instantly to inputs from the horse, cattle and each other; they worked in perfect harmony. Much the way I strive to ride, not fast, but as perfect as I can. Learning to trust your ride, instinct, and judgment.
I lit the wick on the old 640 and blasted out to the intersection where we were to meet Dennis, he was taking it easy as usual. The ride out was on kitten head sized gravel and gave everyone important feedback on the status of their suspension. Tire pressure dropped at that intersection as well as suspension adjustments to be made that night, were planned.
All of these bikes are of the high strung Austrian variety, race bred and set up meticulously for solo riding without gear. The inputs from the ride were noted and off we went, each with many pounds of camping equipment.
We arrived in Murphy Hot Springs in just a few minutes after re entry only to find out the
Hot Springs pool had been drained, no problem for this crowd. With the bikes unloaded and tents set up we headed to Jarbige for Gas and dinner.
Rex the dog was in a bad mood but he seemed to finally accept us.
After a great steak dinner at the Red Dog, we gassed and had a great ride back. The group dynamics were starting to form and this was looking like an epic ride. Everyone spoke the same language about riding a dual sport bike; steer with the pegs, up and off the seat. We made mince meat of the road to Jarbige and back, the bikes were running superb. All of our careful setup started to pay off.
Back at camp, it looked like we were the first campers this year. We found plenty of firewood. We were over 5 thousand feet and it got cold that night, Andrew had just bought a new down sleeping bag, it was supposed to be good down to 15 degrees! He said he was freezing at 40 and had a rough night. It looked like the maker of this fine bag, MSR, was going to buy back one of their top of the line down bags very soon.
The rest of us rallied in the morning for a few different concoctions of eggs. We all agreed that freeze dried food was much better than expected. Chris had a mixture of potatoes and such, we heard a story of how he endured endless meals of powdered eggs every morning while deployed during Desert Storm, it was too hideous to repeat.
Off we went, the Nevada border was just a few miles downstream.
Chris carried a cutout for his nephew that we unfolded and took pictures of throughout the day.
Our group picture, a combination of motorcycling experience that was staggering! One of those moments that burns into your memory forever, this gathering of skill was awesome. This was a skill level that was acquired only for personal and private gratification. No one was looking for anything except the chance to ride their pace, feel confidence in their heart, and that we did well.
Once underway we found our comfort levels. Our bikes were performing as they were intended. Suspensions were working properly; we rode as well as we knew how and effortlessly. Before long we hit that magical space, a quite place, where you always go faster.
Without even a word the three of us realized leapfrogging each other for pictures was paying off. We took turns bringing up the rear giving us a chance to snap hero shot as we blasted through this excellent dual sport trail.
We were all in sync, having one of those days you remember forever. Rock gardens started to blip past and washouts didn't even faze us. With the right attitudes, we pushed these big bikes toward the limit, a place where they start to show you what they are truly made of.
Several years back I spent a year living as much of my spare time as possible as a track rat.
I realized what magic a finely tuned machine like my Aprilia was capable of. When I moved to Idaho I thought I might like to ride my track bike on the street, it took me about 10 minutes of riding to bring her back to the house. My pride and joy were going to get a new home, I couldn't do that to this bike. Out of the element, she was designed for, it was just too much for me. She was sold a few weeks later to buy my second 640 Adventure, I hold the 640 to a similar standard. My poor old KLR was sold soon after. I had found the perfect home for such a unique machine like the KTM 640 Adv. Back to the ride.
The day seemed to drift on, I stopped once for a picture, and Dennis thought someone had crashed or was hurt because I knelt down to get a better angle. He was quite relieved when he found out that we were just trying to get a better shot! We knew he would be riding in great form as he passed. This seemed to settle him a bit; he commented how hard days have been when people ride over their heads, getting hurt, not today, not with this group. We were on our game and riding well, that was in our minds, attitude, equipment, thoughts and every movement we made. What can I say, it was a great ride!
Picking our way to the end of the ICT ride we decided to call it a day at Winter Camp. This is an interesting area, according to local history experts Texas Longhorn Cattle were brought into the area during the 1850's. A bad winter in the 1880's killed most of the imports, except some cross breeds. Many of them raised in Winter Camp, Winter Camp still maintains a cattle population, but the rest of the area is a thriving agriculture provider.
Because of the overgrowth, we decided not to build a campfire that night, it started getting cold as soon as the sun set. Then continued to drop until the morning low of around 10 degrees chilled my toes. I stayed in my warm sleeping bag a few minutes after everyone arose.
We drank coffee and ate our dried meals; it finally warmed up a bit. Off we went to finish the route to the Bruneau Overlook.
This year we rode through some of the Bruneau Canyon area used by the cattle ranchers in the 1800's. You could see rock landmarks; I thought they must have been used to navigate to the area, from the flat plains on top of the canyon land.
Soon we were blasting down some great two track roads with occasional silt beds and washouts, just enough to keep us on our game. The speeds were increasing as well as the comfort level; we hit that magic zone again. All was going extremely well.
We stopped at the Bruneau overlook for a quick peek.
This one of many canyon areas in the Owyhees.'
Before long we were at the end of this section, the two KTM 950's had their fuel warning lights lit at around 100 miles. A good indication of how much fun was being had as well as running the bikes like they were designed for. Normally these bikes get 160 to 180 before the reserve light comes on. After a quick trip to the gas station, we settled in for a Lope Burger at the 1 Stop in Bruneau. I had told the group about a documentary I saw called King Corn on PBS; it really made me think about what I have been eating. In short, it was about how almost everything we eat contains corn byproducts as well as the corn fed beef we just finished eating. Andrew cleverly bribed one of the cooks to present me with my own can of cream corn; that was pretty funny to me. I think the rest of the restaurant couldn't wait for us to leave, whatever!
After the great lunch of corn fed beef burger with potatoes fried in corn oil we mounted our steeds for one last ICT blast to Hammett and say farewell to Dennis. Our ride home, we took the long route around through Bruneau and back to Mountain Home.
Everyone rode superbly, not once did a handlebar hit the ground, I never even saw someone bobble or biffed (what ever that means).
Another great ride into the Owyhees completed, a magical area of the country referred to as the big quiet. The last and largest undeveloped section of desert in the Continental US referred to as CONUS. It's a magical place you can look around and not see any sign of inhabitance for miles, or hundreds of miles. This includes aircraft, one of the biggest holes in official flight paths in the CONUS.
An area being sized up by environmental nut cases, developers, business interests for a change.
An area that has survived for centuries without human intervention, an area that tested our forefathers, early adventure riders and wagoner’s who fought their way through the Snake River Valley on the Oregon Trail in the 1850's.
The road is littered with the bodies and possessions of settlers. Estimates say up to 20 percent of those who started the trek never survived; I am sure that many of them perished in the Owyhee’s during the heat of summer and cloud of dust/silt that suffocated their weakened livestock as well as themselves. I often pray that this area is left as is for those of us who realize that this challenge must be preserved. We were very careful to stay on existing roads keeping our footprint as small as possible, what a treasure this is.