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My Experience with the 2016 IAMC Challenge

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

I don’t write much and I have a terrible memory so I was a bit nervous when Craig asked me to write an article outlining my experience for achieving the platinum Tire level for the 2016 IAMC Challenge. I didn’t take any notes along the way but luckily my Challenge picture files are date stamped. 

Back in January, I signed up for the Challenge knowing that my summer was already booked up. My youngest daughter was graduating high school, my oldest daughter was getting married in June, and my wife was turning 50 in August, which meant a big celebration or trip. There would be a trip to Victoria, backpacking, and several vintage trailer rallies. I am reTired but my wife has a few more years to work, so I promised to keep the weekends for her. My strategy was to lump as may challenge points as possible in the fewest mid-week trips. 

While watching the news on April 6th, I learned from meteorologist “Liar” Larry Gebert that there would be a few days of unseasonably good Idaho weather with abnormally high temperature. After receiving the go ahead from my wife, I packed my duffle bag and hit the road to visit as many Eastern Idaho challenge points as possible. Most of the roads I would travel are 80 mph speed limit and paved so I took my Triumph Thruxton. It has heated grips and enough watts to power my heated vest. The right cylinder was running very rich but the problem only seemed to affect drivability in the low rpm range. I was going to go fast anyway. 

April 7th: I rode to Bruneau, Castleford, Eden, Acequia, Almo, Malta, Rockland, Bancroft, Dingle, and Freedom. Heading north I stopped at a nice motor inn in Wyoming somewhere between Freedom and Swan Valley. 

Memorial Park in Bancroft (Southeastern Idaho).
April snow drifts in Island Park (Eastern Idaho).

April 8th: I rode to Swan Valley, Tetonia, Island Park, Mud Lake, Spencer, Leadore, and Mackay. After Mackay I was planning on continuing to Atomic City, but I stopped at the Bear Bottom Inn in Mackay and learned they were having a barbeque rib dinner special. They had some excellent dark beer on tap so I booked a room at the Inn. The ribs and beer were excellent! I struck up a conversation with some folks at the bar and they invited me and my wife back for the upcoming town events. “This is really a great place to live,” they told me. This invitation came after they found out that my wife is a school teacher. Apparently they can’t find any teachers to move here. 

The Women’s Club in Mackay (founded in 1907).
The AC Bar in Atomic City — both in decline.

After dinner I took a stroll down what I guessed was Mackay’s main drag. There was a bar open advertising “beer to go and .22 long rifle ammo for sale.” I had to check it out. Inside were two elderly men at the bar and a little old lady bartender. They all looked 80+. They were nice people and seemed interested in my explanation of the IAMC Challenge. I think they were excited for the possibility of more adventure riders passing through Mackay. One of the old guys informed me that he had “connections” in the ammo industry allowing him to procure .22 long rifle ammo. His prices were crazy high, so I skipped on the ammo. Aoer leaving the bar, I walked several blocks to explore the rest of the town. I came to the conclusion that Mackay is a dying town. 

April 9th: I road to Atomic City, then home to Nampa. 

A few years ago I stopped at the AC Bar in Atomic City when riding the Utah to British Columbia route. I met the owner of the AC Bar — he’s a nice guy. Back in the day when the atomic industry was bustling, he was a specially trained crane operator for nuclear plant construction. He told me the AC Bar was a busy and popular place. His wife liked the AC Bar so much that she convinced him to buy it. He said he didn’t want a bar but he bought it to keep his wife happy. As years passed, the work around Atomic City declined and so did the AC Bar business. He said his wife took off, leaving him with a bar he didn’t want in the first place. He sold the AC Bar once but, since no bank would touch financing it, he had to hold the paper. He explained that the new buyer sold off the hardwood bar and appliances, stopped making payments, and skipped town. He was stuck with the bar again but now it was in much worse shape. It is a sad story. There has got to be a lesson in there somewhere. 

As I began, on day three of my trip I stopped at the AC Bar to visit with the reluctant bar owner and found it closed. The bar and the enTire town looked deserted. There wasn’t a soul in sight. Possibly the AC Bar opens on weekends? I took a breakfast break in front of the closed AC Bar, dusted off, and then hit the road. 

Just out of town I stopped at the Experimental Breeder Reactor No. 1 (EBR-I) Atomic Museum, located on U.S. Highway20/26, to take a look at the Air Force’s tiemptata reactor-powered bomber plane. I walked around two aircraft nuclear propulsion prototypes on display next to the parking lot. I chuckled at how massive these things are. No wonder they scrapped the idea of a reactor-powered bomber. These bombers would have been just too massive and dangerous to fly. 

I made it back to Nampa and the Thruxton was still running poor. The bottle of Seafoam I added to the gas at the beginning of the trip didn’t clear up what I thought might be gelled gas from the winter. It turns out that the right carburetor float adjustment was out of specification allowing the cylinder to run very wet. For the remainder of spring and summer I rode my Suzuki DR650. 

For my next ride I focused on northern Idaho challenge points before the annual forest fires made riding difficult. 

April 26th: I road to Weippe, Peck, Elk River, Santa, Avery, Harrison, and Cataldo. 

I stayed at the Stardust Motel in Wallace. I got a kick out or the Stardust’s 1970’s décor. This hotel and the enTire town of Wallace are like entering a place stuck in Time. The historic 1313 Club has decent food, but for me the main attraction is the local beer from the Wallace Brewing Company that they have on tap. My favorite is the Black Lager. Their marketing literature says they create this beer by cold steeping dark Idaho grown pilsner malt for 24 hours prior to brewing. They had another excellent oak barrel aged beer on tap. No worries; the hotel is within walking distance. 

Post Office in Santa (Northern Idaho).
Waterfront in Bayview (Northern Idaho).

April 27th: I rode to Murray, Bayview (great pancakes at Ralph’s Coffee House), Coolin, Clark Fork, Moyie Springs, and Porthill. Aoer Porthill I made my way to Moscow Idaho and stayed at my daughter’s apartment for the night. 

April 28th: I headed south to Riggins, but stopped in Lewiston for a massive breakfast at Waffles n’ More. This was the only meal I needed for the day. I attempted to get to Warren from Riggins via NF-1614 along the Salmon River and headed up the mountain on NF-246, but hit impassable snow before Burgdorf. It was a nice ride anyway and I managed to surprise a herd of 15 or so elk. 

After backtracking to Riggins, I headed to McCall to see if Warren was accessible via the Warren Wagon Road. Nope. They stopped plowing snow several miles past Payette Lake. A warning sign would have been nice. There is nothing like rounding a curve to find a wall of snow in front of me. Because of all the snow in the area, I didn’t try to get to Yellow Pine via McCall. Instead I reached Yellow Pine via Cascade and Warm Lake. The South Fork route is 70 miles of mostly paved single lane road. I am not sure how any government entity could justify funding such a road through a remote area like this, but I am glad they did. The road is an absolute blast. 

This three day trip was great even though it was a bit too cold at Times. The DR650 proved once again super reliable. The only problem I had was operator error. It is too embarrassing to write down the details, so I won’t; but I had an altercation with a drainage ditch that required a new skid plate and hand guard mount. These parts did their job so I was able to make it home. I also learned that a few feet of water make it much more difficult to upright an upside down bike and then get it
out of a ditch. 

Pioneer Cemetery in Placerville (Boise Basin).
Petticoat Junction (windmill and water storage tank on Highway 28 in Eastern Idaho).

I was able to visit the remainder of the 44 challenge points with a few more day trips. I managed to see my first wild cougar somewhere in the hills between Elk City and Warren. It was a surprisingly big cat with strong, stocky legs. It was a good thing that it had no interest in me. 

It has been a great eventful riding season. The challenge points gave me an excuse to visit places I would not have thought of plotting courses to. Great job Michael and Craig for putting this together! 

One of the many interesting non- challenge sites I encountered on my challenge journey this year is Pencoat Junction located about 25 miles southeast of Leadore along Highway 28 (GPS coordinates: N 44° 22.004 W 113° 09.498). 

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