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Making the Most of the Time I Had – My 2015 Challenge Adventure 

by Jim Jorgensen
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, May 2016

Last year’s challenge ended up being a bit of a whirlwind for me. My riding season began much differently than it ended. My Goal was to hit Gold level which I had not achieved yet. I had planned all year to ride the Idaho Back Country Discovery Route and pick up a number of challenge sites along the way. I spent the winter and spring meticulously planning my route, mapping out the IBDR with where I would stop each day, what detours I would have to make to pick up challenge sites and what challenge sites I would catch on the way to the beginning of the route and on my route home. With the route I had planned and the Time off work I had set aside, I was looking forward to an amazing adventure full of places that I had never been and several challenge site check-ins. 

Unfortunately, due to a very busy summer, I was not able to take the Time off work unPl the end of August. I watched disappointingly as forest fire a[er forest fire began in northern Idaho. I watched the fires closely to see if it was possible to still ride my desired route, but a[er watching the Magruder Corridor and the Lolo Motorway being shut down and nearly the enPre northern half of the IBDR closed, I came to the realization that the Idaho Back Country Discovery Route was not going to happen for me in 2015. 

Now what? It is now Nearly September and I have only 5 challenge sites under my belt. The only challenge sites that I had picked up at this point were the easy ones that I could get to from my house on a Saturday afternoon. My goal of Gold seemed nearly out of reach. 

I sat in my office staring at an Idaho map that I have on the wall. It is one of the maps I use for planning, and it was covered with little sticky notes attached to the challenge sites I was planning to visit on my trip. I realized that if I was going to achieve my goal of gold, I had to completely rethink how I was going to accomplish it. I began putting sticky notes up on all of the challenge site locations on the map. Labor Day was in a week. I had a three day weekend that I needed to make the most of. 

With the fires going on up north I turned my attention east. Slowly but surely a route started to come together. I had three days to hit as many challenge sites as possible, and I was going to do just that. I always set my goals high and make adjustments along the way. The route I put together consisted of 25 sites. Looking at the map it seemed doable, but visiting 25 Idaho counties in three days on my Suzuki DR650 seemed a little aggressive; why not give it a try? 

I continued planning for the next few days and began putting my gear and equipment together. This year would be a little different than the previous year. In 2014 I rode a Suzuki DR350, which I soon learned was not the best on the highway. It was a great bike. It did everything I asked of it and was perfect for the 2014 challenge that involved some tough routes to lakes and fire look-outs. This year I would be riding my new-to-me Suzuki DR650. Looking at the route I planned, I knew I would be grateful for the bigger bike visiting 25 counties in three days — I was going to be tearing up a whole lot of black-top. 

Other equipment this year that I did not have the previous year was a Garmin 62s GPS, a RAM Mount for my phone, panniers, better riding gear and a helmet with Bluetooth communication. Thanks to Dan Driscoll, who was kind enough to coach me on route planning, I was able to plan my route in Garmin Basecamp and download it to my GPS. This soon proved to be a big Time saver on the trip because I did not have to stop and pull out a map at every intersection. As an experiment and just to keep things interesting, I experimented with a GPS app for my smartphone called Locus Pro. I downloaded my route into the phone app so that along the way I could do a side-by-side comparison of the app vs. the Garmin 62s GPS. 

Day 1: My trip started off early Saturday morning. It was rainy and cold. I pulled into my first challenge site, Pickle BuFe in Canyon County, wet and freezing. By the Time I got to my second site, the Owyhee County Courthouse in Murphy, I was near calling it off and trying again another day; but this was a 3 day weekend, and those don’t come around very o[en for me. The day continued to be a bit miserable. I left Fairfield, and the wind began to blow. My ride to Hailey Idaho was spent leaning my bike at an angle into the wind, but I diligently worked my way from site to site, passing places like Craters of the Moon and Arco, Idaho, eventually ending up in Idaho Falls for the night visiting a total of 9 sites for the day. I had planned on camping, but a[er such a cold, miserable day, I decided a hotel room sounded much better. Thank goodness for Priceline! 

Pickle Butte in the rain.
View near Castle Rocks, Idaho.
Craters of the Moon near Arco, Idaho.

Day 2: My plan was to make it to a couple of challenge sites on my way to Dubois and arrive in Dubois about 9:00 so that I could aFend church. While aFending church there, I was asked about where I was going and what I was doing. I was told by locals that I absolutely had to ride the “Red Road” to St. Anthony. That had not been the direction I was headed; but I was there, and I did not want to miss an opportunity. The Red Road ended up being a wonderful ride through beautiful country. I took me right past the St. Anthony Sand Dunes, and I ended up in St. Antony at the Courthouse, one of the challenge sites. 

The rest of day 2 took me to several other amazing challenge sites and through some beautiful country including the Teton Dam Disaster site, Teton County with a wonderful view of the Tetons, Bear Lake, Palisade Reservoir, and many others. I ended up staying that night at my Sisters house in Lewiston Utah, completing the day with 8 sites visited. It was an amazing day. 

On day 2 I put my Garmin 62s GPS in my panniers and never looked at it again the rest of the trip. I had discovered that the phone app was easier to read, easier to navigate with and did everything the Garmin did.

St. Anthony Sand Dunes.
Teton Dam.
View of the Tetons.

Day 3: My third day of the trip started early and took me to the town of Mallad, Idaho. My wife’s family has much history in this town. Back in the day her grandfather, Keith Budge, had a honey factory there and was very prominent in the community. I took a few hours there to visit the old honey factory site and the graves of her grandparents, and I was able to take several pictures that my wife and her family as well as our children enjoyed. 

The Dam Store near Palisade Reservoir dam.
Utah border near Lewiston, Utah.

From Mallad I made my way to American Falls. I did not want to take freeway so I rode back roads, and this drive ended up being one of my favorites of the trip. I headed west out of Mallad on Hwy 38 and turned north on Arbon Valley Road. This was a great drive through some Idaho country that I had never before visited. From American Falls I zigzagged my way through several other counties picking up challenge sites along the way. To avoid the freeway working my way home, I road old Hwy 30 to King Hill, connected with Hwy 71 through Bruneau, and made my way back to good old Middleton Idaho. The day ended late, but I got to 9 more sites! 

Mallad, Idaho.
Site of the old Budge honey factory.
Near Arbon, Idaho.
Petrified watermelons near King Hill, Idaho.

A few things I learned along the way: 

1. Whether it is a Garmin or a smartphone App, a GPS is an incredible tool that saved me a ton of Time on this trip. With the excepPon of it trying to send me down a road that was more of a two track through a farmer’s field, it took me everywhere I needed to go. In it’s defense though, it was a road, just not one I thought I should take. 

2. I need a better windscreen if I am ever going to do this much road again. By the Time I got home the buffeting from the wind had me completely exhausted. 

3. The Suzuki DR650 is a very capable bike. I am very happy with my purchase. So far it has done everything I have asked of it. 

4. Waterproof gear is awesome.
5. Heated grips are my favorite farkle. 

Overall the trip was amazing. I was tired, sore, chilled, windblown and completely filled with happiness and satisfaction. Although it was not the trip I had planned for all year, it ended up being a great trip full of wonderful experiences and memories. I exceeded my goal by visiting 26 sites that weekend going form nothing to the gold award in three days. What an adventure! 

I would like to thank those that worked so hard to put the 2015 Challenge together. I am thankful to be part of the Idaho Adventure Motorcycle Club. Challenges like this have got me out to see parts and places in Idaho that I would not have otherwise experienced. 

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