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IAMC 2013 Challenge: IN THE MIRROR

by Wayne Smith
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, May 2014

2013 was a great year to have ridden the IAMC Challenge. The sites selected for the Challenge varied in difficulty from very easy to challenging, but all of them were fun and I was able to visit all of the sites for 2013. After looking over the list of sites for the coming year, I can’t wait to get started on the 2014 Challenge.

In preparation for the 2013 Challenge, I went over the list of sites as well as the map and gpx file. I matched the sites on the list with the map and made sure that all sites were accounted for. Last year, there was one site on the list that was not on the map so it does help to double check the sites.

I also opened the gpx file of sites in Google Earth so I could see the sites and plan my routes. When I was satisfied that I knew how I would approach each site and link them together if I was doing multiple sites, I created a route in Garmin Basecamp on the computer and transferred this information to my GPS unit that I carried on the bike. I still carried paper maps just in case.

After seeing the list of sites for the 2013 season I knew that I would be burning up some highway miles to get to many of them, so I traded my road bike for a BMW 1200GS that I could use for both on and off highway. Somehow I convinced my wife that this would be a much better touring bike than the R1100RT that we had. After riding the new GS for 7,000 miles, it is a great bike both on the highway and off road. The 800GS that I rode in the 2012 Challenge didn’t get as much use in 2013, but I rode it to many of the more difficult sites.

  One of my favorite sites of the year was City of Rocks National Reserve. The site is unique because of the rock formations and riding in the surrounding area was beautiful. The ride into the City of Rocks on a Sunday morning was fantastic. There were not many people on the road and the scenery was great. The weather was nice but a little brisk that morning. I was glad that I rode several of the sites in this area early in the year when the temperatures were pleasant.

A few weeks after that ride, my wife JoAnn wanted to take a ride. So with the promise of lunch in McCall, she agreed to a ride into Burgdorf. I have ridden thousands of miles with her on the back but rarely off pavement by choice, so this short ride would give me an idea of how the bike would act with a passenger on a good gravel road. The ride went very well, and she ended up visiting six more sites with me over the summer and earning the title of Princess Pillion.

In early July I decided to do an overnight trip to the Steens Mountains and pick up the four sites in that area. After visiting Fields, I made it to the locked gate on the road into Riddle Brothers Ranch, and then started up the Steens Mountain Loop road towards Keiger Gorge Overlook. After riding several miles up the road, I discovered to my surprise that the gate across the road was locked. The only thing to do was backtrack and ride to the north entry to the Steens Mountain Loop near Frenchglen to see if that road was open. A BLM information board said that south road was being repaired after it had washed out but the road was open to Keiger Gorge Overlook from the north. I started up that road toward the site and camped at Fish Lake that night. The next morning was cold at an elevation of 7400 feet but warmed quickly. I rode the short distance to Keiger Gorge Lookout and spent some extra time to take in the extraordinary view. On the ride out I planned to get gas in Frenchglen, but the store was closed on Sunday. With all the backtracking I was seriously low on fuel, and the nearest gas was in Burns. I was able to find gas at an RV park on the way to Burns before I completely ran out. Lesson learned – expect the unexpected and carry extra fuel.

The last big trip of the year was a two night trip to Southeast Idaho and ending up at Big Hole Battlefield in Montana before returning home. The weather on this trip was a lot more varied than I expected. It was very hot on the ride to Paris Tabernacle and Big Hill sites. Later that day on the ride to Caribou City a heavy thunderstorm hit. The good gravel roads changed to soft and muddy but stayed the pretty good shape. After visiting Caribou City the entire ride to Alpine, Wyoming was in heavy rain. The same scenario happened the next afternoon going over Lemhi Pass all the way to Dillon, Montana. Lesson learned – invest in good rain gear and waterproof luggage and remember to zip all of the zippers on your jacket.

Thinking back over the season, I tried to keep a few things in mind during the ride: (1) Expect the unexpected. (2) Carry tools and supplies for emergency tire repairs. (3) Be prepared for the changing weather. I knew that I would be uncomfortable at times during my adventures. Keeping a positive attitude is tough when things go bad. It’s not an adventure until the unexpected happens.

I would like to thank everyone who was involved in setting up the 2013 Challenge in 2013. I can’t wait for the 2014 season to get started.

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