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Riding Solo in the Outback of the Owyhee’s

By Samuel Stone
Originally Published in the IAMC Newsletter, August 2010

So now you have that new or at least new to you dual sport motorcycle and are just itching to go on a great adventure into the wilds of our backyard…the Owyhee’s! Well let’s put this in perspective, how many are aware that the county of Owyhee is 7,697 square miles that in itself is nearly the size of the state of Massachusetts at 10,555 square miles, and Owyhee barely has a population of over 10,000, so I guess you wonder where I’m going with this? As you are already apprehensive about the thought of heading out there, part excitement and part terror, your senses are heightened with adrenaline. So now you are out there…nothing to worry about if you are prepared.

Being prepared is both mental and physical and most of us, if not all of us, for the most part are physically capable or we wouldn’t be riding; so what it boils down to is your mental state. Once you can get past this openness of the desert, it is a wonderful if not spiritually healing place, a place that allows tranquility.

I started riding the Owyhee’s back in 1994 on a Yamaha TW 200 and thoroughly enjoyed my solitude, and I must admit to roll up on a butte or bluff and kill the engine then there is, “nothing” not a sound other than the wind or perhaps the rustle of the brush accompanied with the sweet fragrance of sage or juniper. Then you start to survey the land slowly turning in a 360 degree circle, and it hits you. You are really alone! Then a fleeting ephemeral thought passes: “I sure hope my bike starts.” The fight or flight moment envelops you ever so briefly, and then you know all is well.

The Owyhee’s will delight you in so many ways and there truly is something for everyone from the go fast extremists to explorers and scenic riders; it will make you feel alive yet provides you with a feeling of awe! If you are something of a neophyte to riding the gravel/dirt, I would recommend a wonderful scenic ride called the Mud Flat Road, also known as the Owyhee Upland Scenic Byway. This can be ridden in a day, but I would say you will enjoy it more as an overnighter. This allows you to actually watch as the topography changes numerous times. More information on this can be found at the following site: http://www.idahobyways.gov/byways/owyheeuplands.aspx

One little jewel I stumbled on many years back is the Bruneau Canyon Overlook. You come to it following along down the Clover-Three Creek Road, and since you are heading that way, keep going south towards Murphy Hot Springs and then on to Jarbidge where food, spirit and fuel await – all in all a good easy ride. Don’t let your apprehension dissuade you; the Owyhee’s will move you in ways you never thought possible! It will make you feel so insignificant as you survey all that surrounds you, and remember by pushing yourself out of your comfort zone, you will learn more about who you really are and of the nature and history that surrounds you.

In closing I would like to say to know yourself and be diligent, stay within your riding abilities for you are the only one who knows your limits. Don’t be shy to explore, and if you feel the terrain is beyond your skill set, get off and hike around. Even I won’t ride certain places alone. There is plenty to see, old homesteads, ghost towns, cemeteries of times long past, flora and fauna to overwhelm. Remember to carry plenty of water and account for changes in the weather. Leave everything as is so those who come after you also can enjoy what you have discovered. Respect property; if a gate is closed then make sure it is left as you found it once you have gone through.

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