My tripometer said it was 1,194 miles.
Rubia's says it was only 1,186 miles, which must mean she picks better lines than I do. Lord knows there were plenty to choose from.
DAY ONE - Harrisville to Horseshoe Bend, ID
335 MILES / 540 KILOMETERS
The first day, Saturday May 27th, we departed from our nothern Utah home shortly after 8am. It was supposed to be a fine day for riding - we'd just recovered from a short cold spell with rains and wind, so the forecast called for mostly clear skies with a high of 66 degrees. And although it did eventually develop into a great day for riding, it was still fairly cool at 8am. If you're familiar with my blog you can probably guess I underestimated the wind chill, and with the sleeves of my textile stowed away in Rubia's backpack I shivered and froze the first 70 miles to Snowville.
This entire first day was all slab, I-15 North to Tremonton, where we merged with I-84 West through Snowville and into Idaho. The speed limit on this road is posted 80mph (130kph) where it travels through undeveloped areas, and slows to 65mph (105kph) when it intersects with civilization. The Twinjas do 80mph happily, if a little buzzy, but the windblast at that speed is significant even with my touring shield. Rubia's a little shorter than me, and so suffers a bit less, but both of us spent much of the ride tucked low over our bars.
We stopped for gas at the 180 mile mark, just outside of Twin Falls, ID. After filling our tanks, we parked in a stall and used the facilities, had a quick lunch of boiled eggs and string cheese, and stretched our legs a bit before resuming. Here we are parked in the lot at Twin Falls:
While we were sitting in the lawn eating our lunch, some MC or another on a group ride passed by. Maybe 40 bikes in all, big cruisers every one of them, riding two abreast. I didn't take any pictures, but they were a site to behold.
From Twin Falls, it was another 135 miles to the great city of Boise. It had finally warmed up by now, and with Idaho's agricultural regions falling behind the terrain was flattening into scrub desert. Traffic started to build up around us as we approached Idaho's largest city, and I was more than a little happy when we finally reached our exit. It had been a grueling, buffeting race across the slab, and my legs and butt were grateful for the reprieve as we navigated through town, gassed up again, and picked up ID-55 to Horseshoe Bend. We skirted Boise on it's flanks and left it's 250,000 residents behind, and as 55 rose into the hills surrounding the Boise valley we finally found some curves. It was 25 miles to the summit, tight sweepers with aggressive banks, and all the weariness from the slab fell away as we scrubbed the chicken strips out of our tyres. It was over before it really began, as my neice's ranch is just over the summit overlooking Horseshoe Bend, but it turned out to be a foreshadowing of things to come. As we left the highway and picked our way up a dirt road to Veranda Ranch, the next 300 miles of road whispered seductively to us. "Rest up, children," it said, "you have no idea what's in store."
DAY TWO - VERANDA RANCH
My neice and her husband are an impressive pair. First, they're both good at math, which to my mind makes them wizards among mortals. When I say "good", I mean my neice works in the financial sector as an analyst of some kind, and her husband is a math teacher at the local high school. Their Christmas card every year features a math puzzle, and I'd have better luck reading the Illiad in the original Greek than trying to figure out those things. I can spell "quotient", and that's where my math prowess ends.
They're also horse people, another area in which I have little knowledge. They keep and raise Morgans, which are known as "the horse that chooses you" by the marketing division of MorganHorse magazine. I know this because they have copies of that illustrious publication in their guest room, and I'm a compulsive reader. They purchased their ranch a couple of years ago, and it's quickly becoming one of my favorite places. Here's an overview from the hills surrounding the ranch:
We've stayed once before, in the fall of 2016, but that time there was lots of family present and lots to do. This time it was just us adults, and of course my grand-nephew, and we got a chance to catch up and visit. Our bikes got to spend that Sunday relaxing in the garage:
While the iron horses rested, we took flesh-and-blood horses out for a ride. If you've never ridden a flesh horse, they're quite a bit taller than the machine variety and the steering is exceptionally imprecise. They run on oats and hay instead of gasoline, which makes their exhaust smell quite a bit worse, and they only have 1 horsepower, but they're sure beautiful. Also, they know their own way home, so if you have to let go and strech your shoulders they'll keep you upright and headed in the right direction. Escorted by the dogs:
...we toured the property line of my neice's 40 acres and enjoyed a cool breeze, discussed solar panels, Idahoan well-digging procedures and plans for the upcoming Zombie Apocolypse. As the only member of the excursion with little to no experience on horseback, I was given the tamest of the horses available, an agreeable mare named Tammy-Anne.
Once, while trying to encourage the lovely lady to keep up with Rubia and her horse, my nephew told me, "there's a reason I put you on that horse." He was right, I'm no horsemaster.
Here are some more pictures from our stay at Veranda:
Dixie catching frogs on the swim dock with my nephew and grand-nephew:
The lovely Rubia, smiling through her first taste of Jameson Irish Whiskey:
My niece and her beautiful boy:
My niece and her other boy:
Rubia in the kitchen - when you're carrying your luggage on your back, one pair of footwear is all you get:
Me spoiling the dog:
Rubia again, sexy as HELL!
My nephew the horsewhisperer:
The youngest rider:
Why isn't "turkeys" spelled with an "IE"?
We stayed up late that night and played "Splendor", one of the most strategic board games I've ever played, and Rubia and I lost magnificently. This was the second board game my neice introduced us to that we enjoyed, the first being "Ticket To Ride", which we immediately ordered from Amazon following our stay last fall. "Splendor" will also be added to our stable of board games, and we're excited to play it again with our children. Mostly because we'll win, which seemed impossible while playing against math professors and financial analysts. After the dust had cleared, we made plans to depart after breakfast the next morning and limped humbly away from our board-battle defeat.
DAY THREE - HORSESHOE BEND TO MISSOULA
340 MILES / 540 KILOMETERS
Day three was a day of wonderful surprises.
We planned this entire trip for this picture:
Lolo. Ninety-nine miles of curves, from Kooskia, Idaho to Lolo, Montana. This two-lane road borders the Payette River for most of it's length, and it's nonstop curves and corners and beautiful scenery. We knew going into it that Lolo was going to be an epic ride, tailor-made for the zippy, agile Twinjas and their 500cc pleasureplants.
What we didn't know, what we had no idea about, was that the 240 miles from Horseshoe Bend to Kooskia were going to be just as amazing. Nevermind 99 miles of curves, this was 330 miles of twisting, banking, sweeping, leaning enjoyment through some of the most beatiful scenery I've ever beheld. All I've ever seen of Idaho is the farming regions and the high scrub -- I didn't know it was pretty. But up into the narrowing panhandle of that great state, things get dramatic. I'll tell you right now, reader, that if you've ever considered riding Lolo Pass, don't limit yourself to the 99 miles between Kooskia and Lolo. Pick up ID-95 in Grangeville and continue on through to Boise. I say this with absolute sincerity - the 340 miles from HB to Missoula is THE MOST FUN I've ever had on a motorcycle.
In the first 50 miles we picked up the picture for the Riding Game challenge, here alongside the Payette River on ID-55 just ouside of Banks and Big Eddy. Splash Dams.
We stopped at a Stinker Station in Donnelly and picked up a bag of delicious cheese curds, a recommendation from my neice.
On through to McCall, one of the most picturesque towns from our journey. It reminded me of Steamboat Springs in Colorado, another beautiful town, and the views of McCall Lake are fantasic even from the main road. We stopped for gas there but didn't stay long. We should've left two minutes earlier -- the only disappointment that day was the stretch of road north of McCall. We ended up behind a semi trailer, and had to suck diesel fumes while crawling down a beatiful, narrow canyon with a 7% downgrade at 35mph. As soon as the road straightened out we passed the rig, but by then all the drama had fled. It wasn't until we left ID-55 and picked up ID-95 outside New Meadows that the curves returned.
The stretch from New Meadows through to Grangeville feels like a race track. The road is twisty and curvy, but the curves are banked like I've never seen public roads. It lends itself to aggressive riding, and although I feel like we honored The Pace through that stretch I wont say we adhered to the posted limit of 55 mph. One driver on a road, some "good samaritan" in a white Chevrolet pickup with a shell, took it upon himself to "protect" us by straddling the center line in the passing zones. It takes all kinds I guess, but this guy was infuriating! When we finally passed him, we were in triple digits.
We reached Grangeville nearly forty minutes sooner than my nephew suggested we would. We ate a quick lunch of chicken soft tacos at a CENEX/Taco John's plaza and I took this picture of Rubia:
For the record, get your tacos from people named Paco or Jose or Juan. Don't trust your Mexican palette to a guy named John.
From Grangeville it was short juant to Kooskia, and there we finally made a right turn and laid rubber on ID-12, the goal of our journey. I've wanted to ride this road ever since someone here on TMW posted his own shot of the "99 Mile" sign, and it was absolutely worth the wait. The Payette River widens out impressively as it runs alongside ID-12, and while I can't be absolutely sure, I believe it's the widest river I've ever seen in the Western US. I'm sure there are wider, but I haven't been to them, and of course the Mississippi and Ohio rivers could eat the Payette for breakfast and still have room for toast. But they're not nearly as lovely.
The Payette was the perfect riding companion as we carved our way northeast out of Idaho, wafting cooling breezes over our brows and imparting the most amazing angles and curves to the asphalt. For almost the entire 99 miles the Payette is right there, forty paces off the eastern edge of ID-12. The west side of the road is characterized by a steep, rocky cliff for most of the way, and with the cliff on one side and the wide river on the other, the road carves through a wildlife deadzone. While we're always hyper-vigilant for game animals while traveling through wilderness areas, we saw not a single roadkill deer or other large animal the enitre length of the road.
Lolo is twisty and curvy, but not exceptionally so. Maybe that's the Twinjas -- we passed multiple cruisers and baggers in additional to trucks, sedans and SUVs as we leaned into Lolo. But I never felt taxed or like I was pushing my performance envelope. It was exhilarating, enticing and seductive to move around in the saddle and scan the road as it unfurled ahead, climbing gently for most of it's length before rising suddenly into a summit. Up there the road conditions worsen, rough uneven asphalt showing deterioration from an abundance of snow. Much of this route is "chains required" in the winter months, and I can imagine it being absolutely terrifying in the middle of February. But on Memorial Day it was just challenging, picking a line with the least scarification and gravel through brooding lodgepole pine and dark granite slopes. The closer you get to the summit, the sharper the curves get, and as we leveled off and raced over the flat expanse at the top I felt like I'd acheived a milestone of some sort in my adventure as a motorcycle enthusiast.
At the peak, we stopped in at the visitors center and used the facilities. I fed a handful of change to the wi-fi moose -- I forget his name, but if you stop by the Lolo Pass Visitors Center please tell him hello from me and drop some jingle in his jar. We bought a souvenier kerchief for our son and giggled over the title of one book on the shelves, "How to S H I T in the Woods", about 0-impact camping. They have a glorious topicgraphical map the size of the pool table there in the visitors center as well, and it's a site to behold.
Here is the views from our stop at the peak:
After the summit, the curves fall away into straighter, flatter roads with only a few sweepers. All too soon the pass tapers off and disappears in the rearview, we made a left turn in the tourist town of Lolo and headed up RT-93 into Missoula. We'd been on the road almost 7 hours by the time we pulled into our hotel, the Econolodge on the north end of town by the I-90 on ramp.
DAY FOUR - MISSOULA
There is very little to say about Day 4. We spent the entire day relaxing at the hotel, soaking in the hot tub and watching "Chopped", a show we have literally never watched before. We ate dinner at "The Stone of Accord", an Irish/Celtic bar/restuarant that occupies the same swath of parking lot as the Econolodge. The fare there was excellent, and I recommend you check it out if you're ever in Missoula. We bought mini-bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey -- a new favorite my neice introduced us to at Veranda -- and mixed them with Diet Dr. Pepper from the Conoco station next door. And we complained about and made up rude stories concerning the desk clerk who checked us in that Monday evening -- it would seem all the decent employees had Memorial Day off. I don't blame her for being surly having to work on a holiday, but be surly ON THE INSIDE.
Here's the view from the stall we left our bikes in all that day:
DAY FIVE - MISSOULA TO HARRISVILLE
485 MILES / 780 KILOMETERS
I find myself getting weary -- I've been writing for two hours and been through a pot of coffee. The mug I'm drinking from comes from the souvenier rack at Rocky Mountain Supply in Dillon, Montana, one of our gas stops from Day Five:
In light of that, and because it is what it is, I have very little to say about Day Five as well. It was rough, grueling, hot, windy slab for nearly 500 miles, through the windswept rolling hills of Montana's bleak southwest corridor. The first 40 miles as we left Missoula were beautiful if atypical, but by the time we'd reached Dillon it was all flat, lonely interstate. We did pass several "Cruise Canada" rental campers on the interstate, probably a fleet relocation, and it put me in mind of some pictures of central Canada that Mike has posted here on TMW. It occured to me during those stretches that Northern Montana is almost Southern Canada, and since I think of TMW largely as a Canadian site I spent most of that numbing slab thinking about how I'd write this exact post. It feels good to finally put it all down here 11 days later.
I hope you've enjoyed my recollections and pictures of our Lolo Adventure. This ride, as I mentioned earlier, feels like a milestone to me. We spent five days away from home, provisioned with only what would fit in our backpacks and armed with simple print-outs from Google Maps to escort us along our 1200 mile odyssey. We toured on Ninja 500EX's, something more than a few people will tell you you can't do, and had a blast doing it. And I came to the realization that touring IS my thing, THIS is our recreation, and we're excited to do a whole lot more of it. Rubia, myself and the Twinjas will have a lot more to say here on my blog in the upcoming months, so stay tuned.