Sunday, January 20, 2019

2018 Tour of Idaho Day 3

Tour Of Idaho (2018) Day 3:
Up and on the road at 4am with a plan to reach Smiley Creek before the restaurant closes and the gas pumps are shut off.  First checkpoint for the day, Beverland Pass is only a short 30 min up the road.
It’s still pitch black and not much to see but the 2 track road and some sagebrush. 

My Tour almost ends:
Heading down that backside of Beverland Pass there was a major washout.  The road was completely gone, replaced for ¼ or so mile by 4 to 10 feet deep channels.  Some just a foot or so wide, others wide enough to ride down.  In the dark I can’t see any obvious work arounds and start to slowly pick my way across and down the washouts.  I soon come to a 6-foot-deep, 2 feet wide gap and cannot see an easy way around.  I set up to power across at 90 degrees and easily reach the far side but land my front wheel 8 inches to the right, smack into a tough bit of sage brush. Forward momentum halts and I stumble off to the side of the bike—right into a deep washout.  My chest hits the far bank and my head smacks the ground, hard enough to ‘bounce’.  The speed of my little mishap was slow, ie walking speed, but the hit to my head was hard enough to displace my goggles, visor and helmet light. I could tell I just missed hitting hard enough to cause a concussion, ie I wasn’t ‘quite’ seeing stars.  All in all this was my most scary time for the whole tour.  But other than scaring the bejesus out of me all was good and I was soon past the washout. 

Easy relaxed riding on road, forest service roads and a bit of ATV trails to the next Check Point, Stewart Canyon/Corral Creek. 

Sun is up, bike is running great, miles are being racked up, all is good. 

Next Check Points are Wildhorse Look Out followed by Burnt Aspen/Kane Creek. 

Last year (2017) the loose shale rock sections near the top of the climb to Wildhorse tested my skill just a bit, this year the same rocks were well within my comfort level.
This year the Burnt Aspen switchbacks, the ones with the stupid angled logs were a non-issue, unlike last year when I lost time man-handling the bike over them.

I rolled into Ketchum at 11:26am, gassed up, ate a hot snack and was back on the route by 12:00, a 30 min pit stop!!

Just outside of Ketchum the route dives across a small river and into long sections of flowing singletrack mixed up with a few short technical sections.  Basically the rest of the day is singletrack with just a few miles of connecting roads.  Once past the last Check Point for Day 3 (Paradise Peak) you cross some intimidating but relatively easy side hill and then on into Smiley Creek.

Here is a video link of Martin’s “Side hills of Concern" coming down off the saddle at Paradise Creek/Snow Slide Viewpoint.  Not the only side hills on day 3 but one of them is pretty tall

I reached Smiley Creek Lodge at 7:15pm.  Shortly after I arrived there was a power outage so I missed getting a hot meal. 

But even with the power outage the lodge staff went out of their way to take care of me, had the cook whip up a two tuna sandwiches, and with some cold drinks and snacks I was set.

Days 4 & 5 up next....

Friday, November 9, 2018

2018 Tour of Idaho, Rest Day & Day 2

End of Day one, ahh transitioning into my ‘Rest Day’ with early dinner at the Sand Trap Restaurant 
 (ya, ya I know…I am not really the 'selfie type with strangers' but hey, this pic was worth an extra Tour of Idaho point-- yup, that’s my story and I am sticking to it…...)


After Day 1 I chose to use the optional rest day.  It’s a bit counter intuitive to take a day off after only one day on the route during a 9 day event, but……by taking a day off I had a chance to do some routine maintenance, grab some extra points and repair a broken kick stand. 

Lots of extra time on my Day off for great meals (@ CollegeMarket for the semi-famous TI sandwich)

It’s not unusual for Bike, Gear or Navigation issues to crop up on Day 1 so the riders who plan for a day off have a higher success/finish rate than those who didn’t.  Physically I did not need a rest day that soon, gear wise I didn’t need to change anything and bike wise I ‘almost’ didn’t need that day off.  Stress wise, knowing I had a planned day off coming made my Day 1 virtually stress free.  Just knowing I would have a chance to rectify any bike/gear issues was worth the extra day.  And it turned out my bike also benefited from the rest day…..

At the end of my Day 1, right after I finished my early and tasty dinner at the Sand Trap (and collected the extra bonus point), the retaining spring on my kick stand fell off as I went to leave the parking lot.  

Sand Trap Parking Lot. (I don’t know it yet but my Kick Stand Spring and parts are about to fly off)

KTM style kick stand/spring assembly’s bolts together with a couple of very specific parts.  When the spring went flying off in the Sand Trap parking lot & one of those tiny but key parts was lost.  The only way I could keep the kickstand retracted (and hence ride the bike) was to utilize the rubber retaining loop. (I never use it but thank goodness it was still on the bike).  It’s very awkward and time consuming to slip this rubber loop over the end of the stand when the spring is gone, the stand is just flopping down and the bike has saddle bags.  

Getting the bike prepped for the rest of the TI at Pocatello PowerSports (they all know all about the TI)

Hey: A big big shout out to Pocatello PowerSports.  On my day off they let me work on my bike in their parking lot, lent me some tools, gave me some top-off motor oil and cleaned my filter sock.  But the icing on the cake was when they sold me the needed but ‘not-in-stock’ kick stand part off a new bike on their showroom floor. YES!! 

So in the end, getting the needed replacement part on my day off saved me time each and every time I had to get off/on the bike going forward.  The stress free Day 1 was more enjoyable, I got several extra points and a topped it all off with tons of sleep for a super early start on Day 2.


Day 2 for me was a long but relaxed, easy day.  The single track is easy but fun, the double track was fast and fun, and the weather conditions for the desert/sand were ideal.  All in all, other than being a sort of ‘long’ day, Day 2 was my easiest day.  

Day 2, 1st check point up on Scout Mtn, got a snack, helmet light is now off and tucked away, great start to a great day

'Lime Green' Red Bull and fast but hot lunch in American Falls.  I hit my self-imposed time checks all day long during Day 2…

2DAFSD Check Point, parked it right up on top of the little dune for this pic, weather was ideal and hence the sand was an absolute blast!!

Here are two video links to some of the D2 sand riding, both vids are raw, uncut/edited.  A bit of Martin’s 'flags in the sand' trail and also the fun little drop into/and big sand bowl.

Getting ready to drop into the big sand bowl

Last CP for the day, Big Southern Butte, views were a bit cloudy but the hawks were hovering on the thermals everywhere.  It was really fun to watch them hovering ‘below’ my vantage point and then seeing a dive and pounce into the grass on the side of the mtn.

Arriving at Arco, the end of Day 2, I automatically fell into my pre-planned ‘RECOVER/PREP’ routine (which I followed pretty much each day going forward).  It goes something like this:
1.       Get gas
2.       Buy food for the room and next day.  If available I would microwave dinner, breakfast and have lots of snacks, chocolate milk and Pedialyte. 
3.       Check into room and then multi task as follows:
o   Store GPS track manually on both units and reset/charge GPS/Tracker/phone etc
o   Bike Maintenance
o   unpack
o   Cook, eat and Drink in room with ‘recovery’ in mind vs a restaurant meal
o   Clean and organize gear for next day
o   Shower
4.       Get horizontal asap and then:
o   Facebook
o   Study route for next day
o   Set alarm
o   Maximize sleep
o   Snack and drink Pedialyte once or twice during the night if/when I woke up
5.       Next morning, multitask as follows
o   Dress
o   Pack
o   Hot breakfast
o   Hit route within +/- 15 min of planned departure
Most nights it is a big rush to get everything done in time to maximize sleep time and be prepared for a early start.  For me the end of Day 2, and the following evenings, were simply an extension of ‘doing the Tour’.  IE: Every action/decision at the end of each day greatly impacts the coming day, for good or bad.  

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

2018 Tour of Idaho, Day 1

D1 Statistics:
Distance:            158 miles (from the hotel in Malad City to the Flag Pole)
Total Time:        12:15
Moving Time:    10:16
Stopped Time:   1:58
Speed:                15.4 mph

5:10am, At the Utah/Idaho Border, let the Tour begin, I was thinking---stay mellow and conserve energy---be smart, no stupid mistakes allowed….

Day 1 of the Tour starts at the Utah/Idaho border and winds its way along dirt roads, OHV trails and some single track generally north, up to the Flag Pole in front of Martin’s house on the edge of Pocatello.  (see motorcyclejazz for a full description, note- route for 2019 will be different ) 
The riding, while not overly technical in nature includes truly long extended climbs, loose rocky sections and some brake testing down hills.  My GPS shows just over 29K of climb and just under 29k of descent.  It’s a long day in the saddle and D1 is deliberately arranged to ‘test’ tour riders.  In short if you struggle on D1 from a skill, navigation or endurance point of view you are not yet ready for the full Tour, end of story (literally for many).  During my 2017 attempt D1 was a medium sized eye opener. I did not find it overly technical but at the same time some of the riding was challenging my skill set and the climbs and descents were a lot longer and a bit harder than my practice runs back home. 

1:05pm, at Check Point 3 for the day, top of Robber’s Roost Trail.  Personally I think the trail down is more challenging than the trail up, greater consequence for a mistake anyway…

I have some D1, Robber’s Roost video “click here” posted up on my YouTube channel 

This year D1 was basically a long, fun, mostly mellow ride.  Partly because I ‘knew’ what was coming but also because my skill set was a notch higher.  My game plan for D1 was something like: start early, ride easy but steady, conserve energy, stay mellow clear till the end. 

3:08pm, a pretty bike just sitting there at Inkom Pass, Check Point 4 for D1

Throughout the day, over the more challenging sections I was constantly gaging my current riding skill against last year and was happy with my progress from a year ago.  Also, knowing that I was taking the optional rest day made it easy to sit back and relax, I was going to have lots of recovery time and also if I had minor bike or gear issues there would be time to fix them. 

4:10pm, At the Flag Pole, D1 in the books, unfortunately the main pirate wasn't home..

I was pleased with my day and looking forward to hanging out, sleeping in and working on the bike.

And…it turns out I did have some minor bike issues that needed to be addressed on my rest day.

Up Next—Rest Day in Pocatello….

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Tour of Idaho 2018 (a two-year journey)

In early Oct 2016, while on a dual sport ride (Adventurized KTM 690) in Moab UT I mentioned the Tour of Idaho (TI) to my brother.   During our conversation I made up my mind to put the TI on my bucket list. 

Step one was to learn how to ride a dirt bike.  By the end of October I had purchased a Beta XTrainer and the journey towards the Tour was on.  You can go to my YouTube channel and scroll to my 1st ever Beta video.   Subsequent videos show my training and prep for a 2017 Tour attempt.

Come Aug 2017, nine months of practice and learning to ride, route study and bike prep I was headed to Idaho for the 2017 Tour.  You can go to my Tour of Idaho 2017 playlist, and watch a day by day account up to my fail on D5. 

Needless to say my bike skills were not quite up to the task at hand.  I climbed more hills and rode more single track on Day 1 alone than my entire 9 months of practice.  In short I had developed the needed baseline skill set but did not have enough practice “using” said dirt bike skillset in backcountry single-track terrain.

To successfully complete the TI I feel you need the following six elements (in order of importance):
1.       The right mind set
2.       An in-depth understanding of the event rules
3.       GPS Navigation skill (understanding of explicit TI methods and actual practice with said method)
4.       Correct Bike and Gear choice
5.       A small bribe to the demons of good luck
6.       Requisite dirt bike skills

In retrospect I can see that going into my 2017 attempt I had 4 out of the 6 required elements.  However, I was still lacking in #6, dirt bike skills.  And even though #6 is at the bottom of the list, weakness here eventually ate away my confidence and hence I lost the required mind set, ie: the most important requirement for a finish.

Driving the long long road home from my failure in 2017, tail between legs, I almost immediately began planning for 2018.  At the time I decided there were three things I absolutely had to have for success in 2018. Better bike skills, a riding partner and a even lighter bike/gear combination.  In the end I really just needed more time on the bike in the backcountry.

Tour of Idaho, 2018, D1 up next....

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Day 6, Last Day

I slept on the side of the road for a few hours and then up & off.  At this point I was well into a smooth steady routine.  The last day strategy was simple, easy and steady to the finish about 100 miles away.  I costed down into Fort Augustus by 8am and got some breakfast, cleaned up a bit in the public washroom.  I remember sitting in the warm sun thinking a nap would be nice but eventually pushed on down canal path to Fort William.  I enjoyed the easy pedaling while checking out the boats, locks and idyllic scenery.  

In Fort Williams I thought of finding a restaurant for a late lunch but settled for a small grocery store along the route. It was them some climbing up then down to Kinlochleven.

Kinlochleven has a touristy feel to it, lots of day trippers busing around, felt a bit hectic after the relaxed canal riding earlier in the day.  A quick resupply and then up over a long steep climb and on to the finish.  I rolled the last 10 miles as hard as I could and reached the finish at Tyndrum around 10:20pm.  Right at the finish line there was a small group of racers and friends hanging out.

I looked for my wife and son but they weren’t there so after a bit of banter I left to find them.  And so ends my HT 550. 
More of a ‘fast tour’ than race with a official finish of 5 days, 13 hours and 21 place out of about 40 finishers. Not bad for a 60 yr old.  If you get the chance I can’t recommend enough you race the HT 550.  One of the best multi-day races anywhere.

The rest of the week was spent playing tourist with Sharon and Scot. 

We saw castles galore and all the usual stuff.  We visited the McPherson museum (family tree stuff) and had fun driving on the wrong side of the road…..and in general just had a great time.  I would go back to Scotland in a heart beat........

Friday, April 7, 2017

Day 5 (slow drag)

Shortly after I got going on the morning of day 5 I tipped over and hit the ground pretty hard.  Knowing that I was not going to make my self-imposed finish time goal, hurting a bit and surprised from the crash and just general exhaustion I now lowered my expectations and mentally let go of the race.  In retrospect this was the end of my ‘race’.  My sense of urgency to push on moderated from high to medium.  From this point onward I didn’t take as many pictures, I stopped more and more, and in short I was cooked and just riding out the miles to the finish.  The weather was perfect, the scenery fantastic and basically I took a mental deep breath and transitioned to a ‘I-am-on-vacation’ mode and proceeded to enjoy the remaining miles from a more relaxed perspective.

I soon arrived at Kinlochewe and kicked myself once again for pulling up short the night before as I realized I could have spent the night at the small Kinlochewe Hotel. 

Gurr, Missed staying in this cool little hotel by about 2 hours…..

On the other hand I had gotten a fairly good night, under the stars in the Highlands, so maybe that was better.  

Took a rest inside this little bothy, and unlike in this web pic, the sun was out, the day presently warm, the legs tired and even though it was only 9:00am I actually took a short nap on the floor of this cute little bothy.  Its more of a day rest hut than sleeping hut. The sun and big windows had warmed up the small room, I easily could have stayed 2 hours but after 30 min I still had enough ‘race’ in me to move on.  

Soon I was riding again with Karl Booth (he had gotten a room that night at the Kinlochewe Hotel, slept in a bit and seemed to be pretty chipper) across the fast & fun Achnashellach singletrack.  Once again wishing I had bigger tires with a bit more traction.  By the gate at the end of the steep technical section Karl was gone and I made no attempt to catch back up.

The next 10 or so miles to Strathcarron were flat and easy pedaling along a sealed country road. Many times I find these type sections 'easy road riding' the hardest going as I tend to let up, relax, get sleepy, start to feel each ache and pain etc.  By the time I rolled up to the intersection at Strathcarron I needed a break. Got a nice lunch, one of my few real meals, even had pie for desert.  I tried to sit off by myself as I am sure I stank a bit but was treated nicely and left refueled from a meal and the little post office, I was now somewhat refreshed.

Strathcarron Hote & Restaurant

I leisurely made my way on to Dornie arriving about 4:30.  Took pictures of the 'tourist' castle and then sat next to water and ate some snacks from the post office. I remember being tired, content and in no hurry to get anywhere, yup I was feeling the vacation mode….

The route passes by the Eilean Donan Castle

Soon after leaving Dornie the route returned to the backcountry and does so with a steep sharp hike-a-bike climb.  The climb got me going again plus I wanted to finish off any singletrack before dark.

Cool ruin right before the hike-a-bike begins.

I passed by the Camban bothy around 8:40 pm but couldn’t quite bring myself to stop.  There was still daylight and I pressed on for 3 more hours.. At 12pm shart I camped up right next to the road in some lonely pine trees.  It had been a long, slow 20 hour day with only 75 miles to show for it.  At this point in the race I was still putting in the hours but really just riding out the remaining miles and taking in the sights.  A little disappointment going from a 'race' perspective but 100% satisfied from a vacation point of view.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Day 4 (short, strikingly beautiful & very hard)

The 4th day was overall probably the most spectacular day from a constant WOW factor.  But was also one of the hardest days from a motivation point of view.  Up and going by 4:30 am, it had been a less than restful night, buggy, interruptions from other racers, little recovery, just a bad night overall.  And to rub salt in the wound about 2.5 miles into day 4 I pass by a nice modern Bothy with a bikepacking bike leaning up against the wall.  Later I would learn I had this bothy pegged once in my pre-race prep as a potential stop but had lost track of it and neglected to place it on my final cheat sheet map.  Ahh, if I had only rode out my planned 100 miles for day 3 I would have stumbled upon it and had a perfect camp with 1 fellow racer—if I ever get a re-do I hope the route and timing takes me to this specific bothy (humm, does this sound like good excuse, I mean reason to go again?).

Schoolhouse Bothy (lifted this pic from the web)

Side note; I never hit a bothy at the right time to spend the night, always to early or to slow to reach one.  I did spend about 30 min in one the following day, took a short nap under a sunny window all the while wishing I could stay much much longer….

Shortly after I the missed Bothy I was joined by the occupant who had the good fortune to spend a solo night there, Karl Booth.  Karl was back to finish the HT 550 in 2016 after a missed attempt the yr before.  Karl is a younger, stronger rider but we did spend some time together working our way thru some tricky sidehill tracks and on to Ullapool.  A late grocery store breakfast and full re-supply in Ullapool and back on the route about 1 hour later.  After stopping for 1 hour, eating and drinking all I could get down, I could tell that I was not fully recovered.  Normally this would have been upsetting but I was still taking in all the fantastic Highland scenery, enjoying unusually good weather and basically was quite content to ride along in a ‘fast tour’ frame of mind.  

A long steep climb and I had a reached this high point with great view.  I tried to take a quick 360 deg video but had the start/stop settings backwards and shot 30 sec of my feet—but you get the idea with this still shot.

The route drops down and across the Dundonnell River then up and back down to the head valley above Loch na Sealga.  Again I was being wow’ed, almost overwhelmed by the terrain.

Old cottage on the way to Loch na Sealga

I rolled by the Shenevall Bothy at 3pm, again wishing my timing was different, although this particular bothy was busy with backpackers

Inside of Shenevall Bothy

Moving on after a quick tour of Shenevall I arrived at the “potentially dangerous river crossing” mentioned in the route discretion, the same one that in other years proved a huge stumbling block with high dangerous water.  I had been stressing about this river crossing ever since I began serious HT 550 prep. 

Well for my HT 550 it was all cake, ha a sunny day, shallow, still water, maybe almost knee deep at best  

On the far side, putting the socks and shoes back on

Pushing the bike across the rock, on route along the beach at the tip of Loch na Sealga.

Around 4pm I was climbing away from Loch na Sealga and starting to mentally drag a bit.  There was a bit of hike-a-bike, trackleader says about 30 min for me, before the drop back down to the Duba Lock Causeway.

Nice trail after some hike-a-bike.  Plus size tires would have been way more fun in these type sections….

Causeway can be seen in the upper left

Causeway, after which the route heads to the far right and then hooks left and up a valley

Around 8:40pm I topped out above Letterewe Estate (

Looking down on Letterewe.  The route comes up the now closed road that was cut in just to build this estate. So this building now only has access by foot or boat if I understand correctly.

Hum, I wonder if they drove that truck on the left in or ferried it in.

The route skirts along the edge of the main buildings and shoots off to some tricky sidehill singletrack.  Once I reached this section, apparently an old ‘walking postman path’ dark was closing in and I became a bit concerned about crashing and walked the bike more and more.  This was also one of the few times I got ‘bogged’ with a bad line choice and had to wade thru some mucky muck to get back on track.  The hope was to reach the end of this 'postman path' before camping but it was not to be. 

Only 60 miles in a long 18 hour day I was cooked and found a small hill top with a light breeze to keep the pesky Midges mostly at bay.  A short, hard day but in the end a very rewarding day….but I did sleep good this time.