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Go West, Young Man

What I did on my Idaho summer vacation. 

By Tim "Big Stud" Rhoads


Photos: Tim Rhoads, Mark Sampson


Tim

    Editor's Note: Tim and his Tour of Idaho riding partner, Mark Sampson, discovered the Tour through a posting on ADVrider.com. Tim and Mark are both highly experienced motorcyclists and we feel that Tim is much too modest in his assessment of his own ability and preparation. We like his attitude though (he darned well earned the MoJazz sobriquet, "Big Stud") and we are publishing this brief description of his and Mark's adventures on the 2008 Tour of Idaho with only a single caveat - we believe that they were actually at least as well prepared for the ride as most who attempt it. The problem is that the Tour of Idaho is far more than just a long dirt bike ride - a fact that is perennially difficult to impress upon the average dual-sport aficionado who reads about it here or elsewhere on the web. We hope that Tim's perspective, coming from a member in good standing of the ADVrider community, will aid future riders. Tim and Mark did a great job and their efforts, albeit ultimately coming up a bit short, earned the respect of the MoJazz staff. You can read all about their week-long Idaho adventure, entitled "The Long Way Up," at http://www.bigdogadventures.com/TID.htm. We look forward to seeing Tim again next summer.  
Big Southern Butte
      The Tour of Idaho defines Adventure Riding. Adventure as defined by not knowing what is going to happen next. I read everything I could about this ride, prepped my bike, packed early and repacked several times - traveling as light as possible. Following the Boy Scout’s motto I was trying to be prepared. 

     In February of this year, my riding partner, Mark Sampson (Big Dog) and I, took an 1800 mile ride through Mexico’s Copper Canyon. Via remote back roads and switchback infested countryside we saw some of Mexico’s beautiful offerings. The days were long and the roads were rough. It was a ride that required patience, endurance and experience. Thankfully, Mark carried the load when it came to experience. We had a great time without any major incidents other than a lost camera and getting separated once. The ride was fresh in my mind and I thought the Idaho ride would be no more difficult. Little did I realize how wrong I would be.

     If you plan on riding the Tour of Idaho you will want to have both survival equipment and survival skills. If you have neither you’re simply asking for trouble. I took a little of both with me and pledged that when I got home I was going to work even harder at improving my skills and taking less equipment. Martin, who wrote up the description for the tour, is a mountain climbing guide and a motorcycle racer. If you are neither you should not expect to complete the ride in a casual 5 or 6 days. Plan on more time and you will be glad you did.

     
The Tour of Idaho is an athletic event. Day 1 is described as the most technical, and it is. What you’ll be surprised to find out is just how long and difficult the day can be. If you want to enjoy the first day be sure to spend some time training and getting yourself and your skills polished up. The altitude is a whole other wild card in the equation so fitness is imperative. It’s a tough day and only 135 miles.
Pahsimeroi Valley
Lolo
     Mark is a seasoned and experienced navigator and we still made some wrong turns on Day 1. These ended up to be very brutal mistakes that took their toll physically and mentally. It was recommended that we have “big-assed headlights and powerful stators”. I had neither. I will not leave home without them next time. Chances are very high you will need both as we did.

     No single thing on this ride is brutally difficult, in my opinion, but the miles and days add up and take a toll on you in every way imaginable and some not imagined.

     The Tour of Idaho is 1300 miles of the most beautifully scenic country I have ever seen in my life. I loved the view of every single mile turned on this trip and you will too. There are many issues to contend with on this ride including long days that require some steep, technical riding. Do not take your preparation lightly for this trip or you will find yourself exhausted and only 50 miles into a day with another 150 left to go. Some of the trails through the mountains are of the 4 foot wide ATV variety that have been cleared with chainsaws only - leaving spear-like snags ready to drag you off of your bike or leave your bike broken the minute you lose your focus.
      This ride is a challenge and if you are not up for it you may want to reconsider the choice. We needed and used a good tool kit, bark busters and had spare tubes on hand. It was recommended that we carry an emergency beacon and I was grateful everyday we had one. Be prepared for 40-degree weather and rain all day. You also must be able to survive a night in those conditions at 7500 ft. of elevation. This trip is not for the faint of heart.

     Navigation is an issue as you are most likely in some of the wildest and most remote country the lower 48 have to offer. Many of the areas you will ride through can become impassable from trees over the trail and forest fires. Turning around may require a 250 mile excursion to get around an obstacle to get back on the trail. Making a navigation error will cost time and gas - two precious commodities which are generally not always in abundance or at your convenience. Planning, again, is critical as the small communities the ride takes you through have limited lodging available. Making reservations is essential if you plan on sleeping in a bed.

     My intentions are not to scare anyone away from doing The Tour of Idaho, but to help prepare would-be adventurers so that they can have as safe and an enjoyable time as possible. We are blessed in this country with some of the most beautiful scenery and natural wonders available. The Tour of Idaho showcases some of the best of God’s creation and natural beauty that requires an adventure motorcyclist to see. I hope as many people as possible put this “Tour” on their “bucket list”. It’s the best ride I have ever taken and I will be back to do it again. The next time, I will be even better prepared.
SE Idaho
The Tour of Idaho   
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