Stanley Idaho to Terrebonne Oregon, 455 miles
After lining up the new tire with Carl’s yesterday, they asked if there was any way I could get the bike in by 11am. Looking at the mileage and the weather reports had me a bit worried (128 miles, morning temps below freezing), Idaho 21 is a wonderful swoop through a couple of minor mountain passes with dense woods, opening up to big grassy valleys and the occasional picturesque ranch. It’s pretty, but not something you can really make time on. I asked if I could get it in by noon, would that work? Yes! Oh good, that means I only have to get up at 7 to be on the road by 8:30, hopefully late enough to avoid that deadly deer time as the sun is rising.
That darned alarm went off before the sun was up, fortunately my little no-tel-mo-tel room had that full kitchen so I boiled some water and downed a cup of tea and ate a breakfast bar. I knew I needed to get going quickly and I’m decidedly not a morning person so I’d taken time the night before to get all my gear staged for a quick exit in the morning.
Walking out the door I’m greeted by an arctic blast and everything is sparkling with a fuzzy white stuff. Well, it’s not snow, but it’s some pretty heavy frost, the thermometer on the side of the building reads 26. I try to ignore it.
I can’t ignore the fact that I need to scrape all the frost off Sir Tao’s seat, but figure I’ll get him started so he can warm up a bit. I push the go button and the engine is decidedly sluggish turning over. Uh oh. I unplug everything electrical and try again. It’s a slow grind, and not a sexy one. I do NOT have time for this! One final try and the engine catches and quickly settles to its normal thump. Whew!
I clean off the frost with my handy travel towel (yes, I follow the teachings of Doug Adams and always bring a towel), pack up the bags, plug in the heated liner and gloves, and by 8:30 I’m on the road. I know from experience that because yesterday was warm and overnight temps didn’t cool down until the early hours of the morning, the chance of the road being slick are pretty low. Still, I am definitely careful in shaded areas.
The road is lonely and quiet and I’m really enjoying this sharp clear day. My heated liner is still one of my all-time favorite moto accessories, how wonderful to be able to crank the dial up a bit when I get chilly at the top of the passes, then roll it back down as I enter the warmer valleys below.
I’ve been riding a little less than an hour following the winding road along the Payette river when I see a person next to a pickup with its flashers on, they wave their arms and I slow down. Coming around a righthand corner I see a BMW car on its side, still steaming. Obviously a very recent wreck. I shut off my music as one of the local ranchers comes up to me. I ask if anyone is injured, and if everyone got out of the car. I’m told the driver was alone with her two dogs, she and one dog are fine, they haven’t found the other. Then I see the driver, she is frantic with worry about the dog and obviously in shock. I ask if anyone has been able to contact a tow truck, the rancher says there’s no cell service in this valley, closest is either back towards Stanley or ahead about 45 minutes down the road. The victim is worried that her other dog is trapped under the car, and even goes over to the car and says she needs to roll it back over and free the dog. She is obviously going to be better off if we can get emergency services here faster than it would take with that 45 minute drive.
Well, I guess I get to find out how the InReach SOS works! The answer is, pretty darned good. First I try messaging my buddy Joe, he does get the message but isn’t able to see my location and I’m still dealing with time constraints so I tell him I’m going to call in the cavalry. I flash the SOS and get a text back in less than 5 minutes. They initially are unable to see my location, so I walk to a spot with a more clear view of the sky and they pick it up. I text a tow truck is all that is needed at this point, and they confirm one is being dispatched, with an ETA of about an hour.
What I sort of forgot is that when I set up the SOS response I had Joe as one contact, and my Sister-In-Law Sue as the other. When an SOS signal is activated, anyone on your emergency contact list is notified. So, Sue gets a cryptic phone call from the nice people at InReach who read her my text. In hindsight I should have included more information and made it very clear in that initial message that I was not involved. It was implied that I was fine and continuing on, but didn’t give any actual details of what happened, so Sue was worried. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this at the time. After receiving confirmation about the tow truck dispatch, I told the rancher I needed to keep going. I went over and talked to the driver a bit to tell her help was on the way and I was so sorry she had to deal with this.
I got back on the bike and took a quick glance at the time. 10:15. Yikes. I still have about 75 miles to cover, the last 15 or so on surface streets with traffic lights. The time went by quickly, there are so many places along this route that I would love to stop (not just for the view, I’m starving!), but I’ll just have to come back again next spring, darn it!
I swear, the last 15 miles took longer than the 60 before! Finally I see the familiar Carl’s Cycles sign ahead and pull into the lot at 11:45. It’s a beautiful 65 degree day, so I’m shucking off three layers of gear as I walk into the repair department, they’re waiting for me and get the bike in the shop before I’m even sitting down in the waiting area. I really like this shop!
First order of business, return Sue’s messages. My Zumo puts up text prompts so I know she’s messaged me asking what was going on but I couldn’t even take the time to respond. I apologized for the cryptic message, and she says she was so worried that seeing a wreck like that would have triggered some bad memories for me. I told her I definitely had it in the back of my mind and seeing the driver shaking and crying uncontrollably was painful. Still, I had a job to do and I felt I was helpful, so that made it better. In some ways, Mike’s accident made it easier for me to deal with other bad situations I’ve experienced since. I guess my brain measures the new incident against Mike’s death and if it’s not as bad, I know I can handle it.
After that I look up and realize the waiting room has snacks. Free snacks! Free Costco muffin kinds of snacks! And good coffee! Wohoo, breakfast!
I’m barely done with my apple strudel muffin when the mechanic comes to tell me Sir Tao is ready to roll. He actually called him Sir Tao, yep, these guys are great.
By 1pm I’m back on the road with fresh tread and fewer worries about catastrophic tire failure. And just 355 more miles to ride before the sun goes down!
There are multiple options getting from Boise to Terrebonne, there’s the boring option of Hwy 20 through Burns, good if you need to make time and you don’t want any pesky vistas ruining your run. Second option is basically returning the way I came, up I-84 to Baker City and then home through Sumpter, catching up to 26 at Austin Junction. The third way is my favorite, I-84 to Ontario and Vale where I land on Hwy 26 and follow that bad boy all the way home. So yes, I’m taking the 3rd way. They all are about the same mileage, the only difference being the Burns route has fewer deer (but a greater chance of falling asleep at the bars).
It’s warm so I’ve shucked everything except my regular riding pants and jacket over lightweight pants and shirt. I have vents open on the gear and the air is that perfect temperature, not too hot, not too cold. Bliss!
At this point I’m going to apologize for the lack of photos, in the morning I was rushing to get to the shop, and now I’m rushing to get through the canyons before evening (and deer) arrive. So, no sightseeing. Well, lots of sightseeing, but all done at 70mph!
I sadly wave at all my favorite restaurants on my way through Austin, John Day, Dayville, and Mitchell, no time to stop. Good thing those Costco muffins are so big, it’s the only reason I haven’t broken down and stopped for food.
Riding through Prineville, I make the last gas stop of the trip. It’s nice to ride through towns and know where the non-ethanol gas is hiding. On longer trips it’s like a scavenger hunt, even with the Gas Buddy app. Still, nothing is too good for Sir Tao. He’s carried me over twelve hundred miles in 4 days without a single complaint, even when I dropped him and also made him roll way too long on a worn out tire. I promise him that we’ll stop at Sonic in Redmond for ice cream because he’s been so awesome.
Sitting on the curb on this warm evening, eating ice cream and thinking it would be a good idea to change out that front tire also…yep, that’s me, always worrying about what-if, always planning and fussing and making lists. It’s sometimes hard for me to shut my brain off and live in the moment. But, I do. Here, amidst the asphalt, car noise, smell of fries and cheap hamburgers, I remember so many other trips with Mike. Stopping to eat after a long ride, talking over the things we’ve seen, laughing and just enjoying being together. We were each other’s best riding buddy. We really were at our best on bikes.
And now I know even though nothing will ever be the same again, I have the ability to make my own way, on two wheels, and in life. I carry Mike with me everywhere, not only in my heart but also in a pendant around my neck.
I read in a book awhile back that it’s sad how we know when it’s our first time experiencing something, but we hardly ever know when it’s going to be our last. Last time sharing a hug with a grandparent, or a laugh with a friend, or a drive in a favorite car, or a weekend at a beloved cabin, or a ride with our best buddy.
I’m not going to say we all need to live our lives like every day is our last. I don’t see how one can do that without making us crazy. For one thing, we’d be buying all the cool stuff and staying at all the most expensive places and our credit would be shot. But for another thing, we can’t hug, kiss, touch, laugh, or enjoy if we’re thinking “will this be the last time I see this person?”. It’s not a good way to live.
I think we are blessed with ignorance. When it comes to unexpected life changes, the not knowing is a good thing.
So instead, I’m going to say, I hope you are able to live in the moment. Wherever you are, whoever you are with. Be there as wholly as possible.
So I am here. The ice cream is cool and sweet on my tongue, the evening sun is warm on my face, my muscles are sore from a long day of riding, and I am, once again, a motorcyclist.
Pam Falcioni – September 2020