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2016 IMAC Challenge Experience

by Ron Hoppins (Platinum Tire Level Winner) 
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, January 2017

Let me just start with a little background. I have been a member of IAMC since 2010. I was introduced to the club by Ed Hiatte at Happy Trail Products in 2009 when they were down on Chinden. 

After several years of not having a motorcycle, I purchased a 2009 KLR 650, and to me there was nothing more enjoyable than to go look and see how much more money I could spend on that brand new KLR (don’t tell Leslie, my wife, but as most of you know, it’s a lot). I wasn’t new to riding. I have had some sort of motorcycle since I was a kid. My dad, two younger brothers and I would be out at Blacks Creek, Reynolds Creek or up 8th Street almost anyTime of the year. I also worked at Carl’s Cycle Sales for 11 years in the 80’s and early 90’s, but it had been about 15 years since I had been off in the dirt. 

This adventure riding concept was amazing — leave the house, ride the pavement or the dirt and go places not everyone gets to go. It wasn’t long before I decided I could use a set of new panniers; “stuff” you have to have room to pack all that gear. Shortly after that I rode my new panniers home, they just happened to be mounted on a BMW R1200 GSA. 

Then, lo and behold, IAMC posted the 2010 Challenge — look at that list of all those wonderful places to “adventure” off to. I have 2 different adventure bikes, and I have my weekends off — Sign me up! I’m going to get me one of those fancy Challenge stickers! That year I did preey well, I made it to 36 sites, most of them with my brother-in-law, but a few of them on my own. More importantly though I brought home the “Gold” (sticker). The excitement, the anticipation of next year’s Challenge was already filling my brain. Surely I can do better. 

2011: I only visited 10 sites — Bronze Sticker! Are you kidding me? What happened to all that excitement and the sense of adventure? To be fair my brother-in-law had moved out of state, and I’m preey sure there weren’t as many weekends in 2011 as there had been in years past. However, after a ride one Saturday morning on the KLR, I came back into town, stopped at Carl’s Cycles, and listened to Jack Struthers always trying to sell me something I shouldn’t have. He said, “Go to my house and get my KTM 990 out of the garage and take it for a ride.” I showed him though; I didn’t buy that new KTM 990 for almost a full month. 2012 Challenge sites look out; I’m coming for you! 

2012: I’m so disappointed. Can anyone tell me why 2012 was so short? Not only were there fewer weekends than 2011, but I swear there were whole weeks that just flat vanished — only 3 sites visited. All the luster and shine of that fancy sticker, and I make it to only 3 sites. The hardest part though was going into the garage; I couldn’t even make eye contact with those two beautiful motorcycles. 2013, I have to do better! 

2013: Finally a normal length year with no missing weeks and the exact number of weekends a standard year should have. I visited 25 sites, “That’s Silver Tire stuff right there, baby.” My motorcycles and I were friends again. I just know 2014 will be better! 

2014: I was wrong! In fact 2015 was not much better; but 2015 was the year I learned to really appreciate the ability and adventurous spirit of the other club members. Several Times a week I could sit in my recliner, open up the lap top, view the IAMC website, and start living vicariously through all the other challengers with their ride reports and wonderful pictures. Then if you combine that with Google Maps and satellite view, it’s like I was right there. Add in a couple of Adventure Motorcycle You Tube videos and a bowl of Rocky Road ice cream and that’s just truly SAD! 

This brings us to 2016. It all started with Chuck Scheer’s (AKA Oldnut) report on the Ola Inn, so I told Leslie, my wife, I needed to start this year’s Challenge with breakfast in Ola. Leslie is a wonderful woman but always slow to get ready. We had a nice lunch. Had to stop and take this Sweet photo on the way to Ola. 

Leslie smiling at Sweet on our way to Ola, site #-28.
Leslie and I at Balanced Rock.

A couple of weeks later we go have breakfast in Idaho City and make our way over to Placerville — 2 sites down and I’m thinking I’m on to something; “It’s all about breakfast.” 

I have to stray a little bit from my story but Leslie and I were able to spend the 4th of July with our daughter, son-in-law, and 3 grandkids at Fort Rucker Alabama. Our son-in-law is a helicopter pilot for the US Army. He was flying the OH-58 Kiowa, Warrior, which has been reTired by the Army, so he transiKoned to and is now flying the AH-64 Apache. The 4th of July (Freedom Fest) on an Army base was awesome, and Leslie and I are so proud and thankful for Cambridge is next, breakfast in Emmett and a great day ride. That’s a total of 3 sites in about 4 weeks; it must be Time for a new motorcycle! It took about a month to sell the old BMW and get the new one but now it’s the middle of June, and the Breakfast tour can resume. Up next is breakfast at the Boise Stage Stop with 3 sites on the list, Bruneau, Castleford and Eden with a drive by photo shoot at Balanced Rock. Plus there was a bonus dinner at the café in Shoshone. Is it just my luck or does the wind always blow about 100mph when you’re headed back to Boise from Mountain Home? these young men and women that serve our country. If any of you reading this are serving now or have in the past, “Thank you.” I hope you know how truly grateful we all are. 

Apache helicopter at Fort Rucker, Alabama.

I was able to take my grandsons to McDonalds for breakfast a couple of Times so my Challenge spirit was sKll intact. Did you know they have biscuits and gravy on the menu at McDonalds in Alabama? 

Okay, so now we’re back home, and I go to the website to see where the challengers have been. Thanks to Craig Olsen (AKA coolsen) and Ron Schinnerer (AKA Ron S) the answer is right there — a lot of miles in a very few days. And now with my proficiency using Google maps, I could make this happen; maybe not 1,100 miles in 2 days, but something very close. 

Craters of the Moon NaFonal Monument in the background.
Leslie relaxing in the big chair at Pickles in Arco.

We took off on a Thursday afternoon and headed east, went by the Craters of the Moon Monument then on to Atomic City and Mackay before heading back in Arco at the Mountain View RV Park. That’s right; I made Leslie stay in a tent and sleeping bag at an RV Park. 

Friday morning it’s breakfast at Pickles in Arco and then on to Mud Lake, Leadore, Spencer, Island Park, and Tetonia. We were also able to pick up a site from the 2013 Challenge, Indian Massacre Historical Marker at Birch Creek (site #-9 that year), so that was a bonus. 

After Tetonia we made are way to Victor, ID and stayed the night at the Teton Valley RV Park. Both of the RV parks we stayed at were very nice, a little noisy being right off the highways but most importantly they have showers. Saturday morning it’s breakfast in Swan Valley, then on our way to Freedom, Dingle, Bancroo and Rockland and back into Pocatello where I had booked a Hotel. I thought Leslie and I would enjoy the comforts of a room after 2 nights in a tent. We got our room, and it was bad. It smelled, and after two cans of air freshener from the front desk, I think we just couldn’t smell anything. The first thing Leslie asked when we walked into the room was, “Do you think we should go find an RV Park?” 

Sunday morning the continental breakfast is rather slim but it’s something. We then headed to Malta, 

Almo, Acequia and back home to Boise. 25 sites completed including the 4 shops in Boise. I’m on a roll, and Leslie is a champ! 

Indian Massacre Historical Marker at Birch Creek on Hwy 28.
Looking South at the Dent Bridge over the Clearwater River.

When we decided to head north, I thought it would be best to stay in hotels because of weather concerns. I was right. Also, because of Time, I had to decide to leave a couple of sites off the list; so Elk City and Weippe were cut. 

Taking a break from the rain under an awning in Clark Fork, site #-12.

We leo on a Thursday afternoon and made it to Winchester. That is where I found that I had left my Challenge bandana at home. After a small fit and maybe a few tears, Leslie was able to calm me down enough to make it to Lewiston. Friday morning we headed out and had breakfast just outside Peck. Then we made our way to Orofino and over the Dent Bridge on our way into Elk River. From there we went on to Santa, Avery, Harrison, Cataldo and Murray. Then it was back to Coeur D’Alene. The weather was beautiful all day. Saturday was a different story. We got up to pouring rain, but we made it to Bayview before we stopped and had breakfast in Eagle. Somewhere along the way we stopped at a Walmart, and the lady in the vision center sold me some Cat Crap anK-fog. It was raining so hard that I couldn’t keep my visor open, and when it was closed, it fogged up so fast that I couldn’t keep it down. There was just no happy medium. The Cat Crap worked just okay so off to Clark Fork, Moyie Springs, and Port Hill with a totally wet face and a half fogged helmet visor. 

The plan that day was to also go to Coolin, but because of the rain and the number of stops we had already made, we just ran out of Time. By the Time we made it to Port Hill, the rain was letting up a little but it was getting really cold. So back to Coeur D’Alene it was. 

Sunday morning the weather had broken, and we got out of there fast. We went all the way to Lewiston and had breakfast at Waffles N’ More. On the way back to Boise we picked up another Challenge site from 2013, White Bird Battle Field (site #-8 that year). 

Looking over White Bird Battle, site #-8 from 2013.
Looking at Warm Lake to the West on my way back from Yellow Pine.

Northern Idaho added 12 sites, and now we’re sitting at 37 Challenge sites visited, I had intentionally left the closer sites to Boise for last thinking they are the easiest to get to but they are also a lot of fun. Lowman was a nice leisurely afternoon ride, and I made
the loop through Banks and Idaho City. 

The next day I went into Atlanta on the Middle Fork Road and out through Featherville and Pine. The following Saturday I went by myself into Yellow Pine. I had never been there before, and that was real fun! Oh, I did have breakfast in Horse Shoe Bend. Then the next day my favorite site of all, Warren, not because Warren is my favorite site, but because breakfast at the Pancake House in McCall is. 

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