Attending the Nez Perce Ride in Washington, Idaho, and Montana) and ambling across Oregon

Click the smaller pictures to see big ones

Well, for years now my friends in Seattle have been saying "good-bye" to me in August. I sit at the tavern alone, wondering what the big deal is with this organized ride called the "Nez Perce" that they go on year after year. Who would want to go on an organized ride at all? And in the scorching heat of North-Central Idaho, to boot? They did, that's who. And they kept coming back telling me stories about the rides and the people and the hot springs they saw every day. So finally I decided to sign up and go. 2005 would be my year for the Nez!!

the route



Katy Surefoot
I wasn't able to coordinate my schedule with anyone else, so I loaded up all the detail maps that my GPS would hold, and the waypoints provided by Mike Howard, from the BMS shop in Boise that sponsors the ride each year. According to his emails, dinner would be provided each night via a support vehicle and coffee and light fare would be set out for breakfast. Not having to carry food made a big difference in my packing! I got to take all sorts of stuff! I struck off alone across Washington, headed for Walla Walla. Boy, oh boy, was it ever hot. My camelback bladder got a leak so I lost a lot of water but luckily there's an REI in Kennewick so I was able to make a detour and get things sorted out. I was sure going to need that camelback on this trip!
I arrived about 3pm at the Oddfellows Home in Walla Walla and spent a wonderful afternoon and evening getting caught up with my Aunt Helen. We had dinner in the cafeteria and stayed up a bit late talking. I set off early the next morning (well, 10am, but for me that's early). It was strange to point the bike east on Highway 12 instead of west like I usually do. On and on I went and the day got hotter around me. As I passed through Pomeroy, WA, the skies turned a strange orange color and dimmed the sun. I wasn't sure what it was at first but I would soon learn (over and over) what the symptoms of a forest fire look like. This one was just getting under way and would eventually burn 45,000 acres before they could control it. I waved at the friendly firemen in their Camp and crossed the border into Idaho at Clarkston. I turned south on 95 from Lewiston and rode through some of the hottest weather I have ever experienced on a motorcycle. I think that through Riggins, the temperature may have been over 110 degrees. I had to stop frequently to clear my head. I had plenty of water, but the heat scrambles your brain anyway. I learned that the best place to stop in these small towns where there is no park is the cemetery. Usually there's a sign pointing the way and once you're there, it's the greatest! They're usually well-watered so the grass is green, there are usually tall trees to provide shade, they're usually on a hill so if there's any breeze, you're going to feel it, and the best part is that they're usually deserted so you have a little bit of privacy. At the cemetery in Cottonwood, I shook a bee out of my jacket who had stung me on the neck and was dying. Ouch, did that ever hurt. Glad I'm not allergic.
I made slow time riding through Hell's Canyon because of stopping to catch my breath. But finally, I reached the little town of Cascade, ID and made a left turn (east) onto Warm Lake Road. Our camp for Sunday night was at the end of this road. It was nice to be arriving, finally, although I was several hours later than I thought I'd be. Once at the campground, I saw all my friends and was sure glad for the friendly faces. I pitched my tent and caught up with Lin, who was just heading down to the lake for a dip to cool off. The water felt grand, and Tina, Jim, Rick, Lin, and I relaxed on the dock for a long time. Mike called a riders' meeting that night and handed out maps to all of the camps we'd be making over the next four days. He talked a bit about the routes, available gas and groceries, and safety. Then we all split into groups to figure out with whom we were going to ride. Eric Blume, Jim, and I decided to ride together and spent some time reviewing Monday's route. I hit the sack early but wasn't able to get much sleep as I had forgotten my earplugs and some people stayed up quite late talking. Plus, being able to hear everything meant that I was up immediately after the first person out of bed :( around 5am. I was coffeed, packed, and ready to leave at 5:45am when Eric came around to see how I was doing. He was ready, too, so off we went. I think we may have been the first group out of camp that day. As we would be most days...
The ride from Warm Lake to Yellow Pine was fantastic. It had rained a little bit during the night so the dust was down and the roads hard-packed. We sped along, admiring the scenery. Yellow Pine is a neat little town. The day we were there, they were cleaning up after a weekend-long Harmonica Festival. But everyone was still friendly and we told them there'd be 40+ more bikes showing up during the day. Eric bought a bottle of wine from the friendly proprieter of the Mercantile there. I bought a bar of cherry-almond dark chocolate for later. Yum!

On Lin's advice, we took a detour to Stibnite, ID, but there wasn't much to see there. Just some mining ghost town ruins. We gassed up and took off for Big Creek. Once there, we headed uphill en route to Warren, ID. About 10 miles from Big Creek, though, Eric took a tumble and snapped the line feeding one of his fuel injectors. That was bad - it meant his bike was going nowhere. We tried to use Gummi Steel to make a seal around the connection but it didn't hold. So Jim and I left Eric on the mountain (it was a nice spot, with a creek and a firering and everything) and promised we'd send help back to him when we got to camp. We made tracks on to Burgdorf as fast as we could, letting people along the way who were faster than us know what had happened. The ride to Warren was great and probably the most technical terrain we experienced during the whole trip. But the road from Warren to Burgdorf was lovely, wide, and fast. I was nervous leading Jim because it meant I had to know where to turn and I'm not the best navigator in the world. But I did lead us to camp successfully. When we got there, we were told that "help was on the way" for Eric and assumed that meant someone was heading back up the mountain to help him. A couple of hours later, though, it turned out that "help is on the way" meant a new injector setup was en route from Boise and would arrive later that night. It was 4pm - we couldn't leave Eric on the mountain! What to do?
Well, Eugene and I grabbed a few snacks and struck out on the 115-mile (each way) journey to get Eric. I dumped out my panniers so he could bring his things off the mountain, and Eugene cleared his passenger seat. Eric's bike would just have to spend the night alone in the woods. The 30 miles to McCall were paved but after that it was dirt, rocks, and sand the whole way. I went first and startled many a deer along the way. After 115 miles, we arrived where I had left Eric, but he wasn't there!! Neither was his bike. Hmm, we thought, something's odd here. But there was no way to no what was going on, so we simply headed back to camp. Along the way, my headlights gave out so I rode just in front and to the right of Eugene while he had his brights on. It was dangerous, yes, and probably not the smartest decision but we were cold and so very tired. We just wanted to get back to camp. The whole trip took us just over 7 hours so we arrived around 11:30pm. Eric was there, having fixed his injector with JB Weld that someone had given him that afternoon. I was SO tired and hungry. And I hadn't even pitched my tent yet! But, surprise, Lin and Tina had pitched it for me. Lin had even blown up my Therma-rest, set out my sleeping bag, and placed half a bar of chocolate on my pillow. Eric had set up my rain fly and put half a bottle of wine just outside my door. And Mike had saved some of the seafood paella that he made for dinner. I could barely talk, I was so tired and overwhelmed at what folks had done for me. That was a long day, 360 miles of dirt! I ate some paella, drank the half bottle of wine, took a gram of ibuprofen along with the chocolate, and passed out cold. I slept soundly until 8am the next morning.

Eric and Jim came over first thing to see if they could help me with my headlight troubles. We took the whole shroud off the front of the bike and disconnected, reconnected, and jiggled all of the wiring we could touch. Earlier the prevoius day, Jim had mentioned my headlights were out and jiggling the wires had helped. But nothing seemed to work today. I decided to bag the whole ride - I didn't want to go forward without a headlight and was worried about what else might go wrong with the bike so far from any kind of help. My friends were upset to hear this decision, but the respected it. They said good-bye and set off for their day's ride. Then Mike came over to see if he could help and told me "You really should finish the ride. I'd really like to see you finish". I sighed and said no, and turned the key on the bike to leave for Boise and the KTM shop there. But the lights came on!! Somehow we had fixed them! Hooray! I caught up with Mike as he was leaving camp and told him the good news. Since my friends had left, he suggested I ride with him that day, at least as far as Riggins, where we could get a good breakfast.

We wound our way down the mountain and followed the Salmon River west to Riggins. Along the way, we passed Lin and Rick where they wre taking a break and they agreed to meet us in Riggins for breakfast at the Summerville Cafe. The ride upriver was wonderful, although the road was a tad narrow, which led to some heart-stopping school bus encounters...but breakfast was terrific, with some of the friendliest service I've ever encountered while on an offroad motorcycling trip (in other words, I was dirty from head to toe and drank coffee like it was going out of style).

just me and the flowers

alone at the creek

flowers nearby

fire near Shoup, ID
At the cafe, Mike broke the news to me that he had to go into town and get supplies with John, who was driving the support vehicle/camper. So he wondered if I could ride with Lin and Rick the rest of the day. They said "sure", if I didn't mind taking a slightly different route than the map indicated and if I didn't mind not going more than 45 mph on the highway. Well, the highway part of it was pretty nerve-wracking, but Lin and Rick were on small bikes and in no hurry. We drove north on 95 for about 10 miles and then headed east on Slate Creek Rd. It was a nice road, along Slate Creek (cleverly enough), and I road ahead at my own pace, thoroughly enjoying the peace and quiet of riding alone with just the sound of my engine, my breathing, and the birds to keep me company. I waited for them at the intersection so we could debate which way to turn. We figured out a route, and headed north, then cut back west a bit, and caught 20 miles of wide, flat, fast mini-gravel road that led us to Highway 14. At that point, I didn't wait for Lin and Rick - it was too hot and we were facing 45 miles of pavement into Elk City. I went ahead, as fast as the bike could reasonably carry me. In Elk City, I gassed up and relaxed on the porch of the general store with a bag of peanut M&M's and a can of Diet Squirt. Man, did that snack hit the spot! What a hot afternoon it was. Eventually, I wound my way up to Red River campground and pitched my tent where I thought it would get the most shade. I looked at maps, read my book, and bird-watched for a while, then went up the road about 3 miles to the hot springs facility there. They have showers and a pool that are fed by natural hot springs. For $6, I got an amazing shower. The music was too loud, though, for me to enjoy the hot springs so I sped back to camp, letting my clean-for-now body be air-dried by the breeze. What a great night - we had chili and brats for dinner and Mike had even remembered to pick up some diet pop for me (he got me Diet Pepsi instead of Diet Coke, but we learn not to be picky when you have to filter water from a creek to get a drink).

The next morning, I got up early and made several shots of coffee before packing up the bike and hooking up with Eric and Jim for our ride over the Magruder Corrider. The Magruder Corrider is legendary for being a very tough road to travel with any vehicle. It was a popular mining/trade road over the pass from Darby, MT to Elk City, ID. It's 113 miles and the warning sign at the beginning states that it isn't maintained. But that's not true - it was quite easy and not scary at all. They obviously maintain and grade the road (we saw a grader, even) and the last 40-odd miles are actually paved. Piece o' cake on a dual-sport bike. And such pretty views from up there! We descended into MT with the intention of getting gasoline in Darby, but there was a new lodge opening up outside town that had gas on sale and a lunch cafe so we stopped and had a delicious (albeit slowly-served) luncheon. I had a BLT and onion rings MMMMM!

We had nearly 50 miles to cover to get to Horse Creek Hot Springs, but we made short work of it and were still the first to arrive at camp. We selected our spots, pitched our tents, and commenced to relaxing on this, our last night of the Nez Perce ride. Eric noticed a nail in his rear tire so we got to watch him use his road-side tire plugger. It did a good job - and now I know how to use mine ;) I went down by the creek for some alone-time and heard people arriving steadily into camp. I sterilized some water using my new Steri-Pen from REI and drank to my heart's content. Later on, I grabbed my towel and walked up to the nearby hot springs for a quick rinsing off. It was nice up there, but a bit crowded. I'm just not the sort of girl who wants to bathe with her best friends, you know? We even had a freak thunder shower that afternoon that sent huge rain drops and even hail down on us for about five minutes. No one who wasn't there believed it...

Jim and I decided to ride out together in the morning at least as far as the fork in the road (3.6 miles) where he would turn north and I would turn south. He was headed home and I was headed down around Boise somewhere. So we hit the sack early and got up with the sun. I was excited to be striking out on my own after four days with a big group of people and waved good-bye as I rode off with Jim. At the fork, I listened as his exhaust note faded into silence and then I turned south on 044, a dirt road that promised, eventually, to bring me to 038, another dirt road that brought me out to Highway 30, where I chose to turn east away from Shoup, ID as there was nothing I needed but space at that point. The ride east on 30 was interesting as the hills above the valley were on fire. The sky was a deep orange-brown color and there were ashes in the air. I took some pictures, and stopped to mourn the death of some kind of bird that tends to linger near the edge of roads in Idaho. It's brown and spotted and some of them have little turkey-like flared tails. Anyway, there were two of them and one had just been hit by a red pickup truck travelling in front of me. The other bird was deeply in shock and was just standing there staring at his friend. I slammed on the brakes and came durn near to running over that guy. I had to nudge him with my front tire a bit to bring him back to his senses and get him off the road. I felt sorry for him, poor guy. What a horrible day...the world is on fire, you can't breathe, and your best buddy is a tangled mess of blood and feathers.

Sawtooth Range
near Stanley, ID

A lone tree survives the fire

Dinner at the Geiser Grand

Chandelier in my room
At Highway 93, I aired up my tires and tried to mail Nathan's birthday card. But my little Rex card had been too violently shaken during the trip and had dumped its address data. So I'd have to wait to get that off to my brother. Too bad as that meant it would be late. The ride south on 93 was lovely, with just a few bits of road construction to slow things down. Well, that and the Harleys returning from Sturgis. They kept gettin' in my way! I turned west on 75 through Stanley, where I caught Highway 21 that took me to Boise. What a wonderful day of riding, even if it was pavement!! The farms, ranches, and little towns along the way - the rivers and creeks and variety of birds that I saw were all terrific. Compared to that, Boise was stifling and I-84 a nightmare. I road it into Oregon, though, and rested in the shade at the Welcome Center in Ontario, OR. I had a snack and thought about my options for the night. I decided to push on to Baker City and see if this groovy old hotel downtown would take me in. I remembered the hotel from my travels a couple of years ago in the truck and had always wanted to go back and stay there. Sure enough, there it was, the Geiser Grand in Baker City, OR. What an awesome place - built in 1889 during the mining boom, let fall to pieces during most of the 1900's, and then miraculously rennovated for a grand reopening in 1998. The place is fabulous, with chandeliers all over (even in the guest rooms) and a giant stained-glass portico ceiling at the2nd floor level. Wow! My room was swanky, and the people friendly despite my griminess. I didn't even undress when I got to my room, though, I just turned right back around and went to the laundromat to wash my clothes. Yowza, they were dirty.

At the laundromat, I met "Larry", a native American who is a sundancer. He was a really friendly guy and we talked for a long time about sundancing; the purpose, the endeavor, and the promise of it. I had learned quite a bit about it and he was kind of surprised that I even knew what it is. I lied to him, though, about who I am and where I was headed. I generally don't tell the truth to guys I meet when I travel, especially if I'm alone. I felt a bit guilty about lying because I think he was probably telling me the truth, but it's a safety point with me, and a good one. Anyway, it helped pass the time while we both did our laundry. When I got back to the hotel, I took the world's longest shower and OH BOY did it feel good. Then I had room service send up a big meal of cream of asparagus soup, homemade bread, chicken-fried steak with rice and vegetables, apple crisp for dessert and a nice bottle of Oregon Gewurtztreminer. Mmmm! I ate and looked at maps and read my book and just generally had a great time. The room was amazing, with marble-topped furniture, a crystal chandelier, and 10-foot windows in what must have been at least 14-foot ceilings. And it was a BIG room, too, bigger than my whole living room at home even with two double beds. Wow, you can't beat that for $99/night. I called Ronna to get Nathan's address, packed up my newly-cleaned clothes, and slept like the dead.

Next morning (Friday), I set off early and took a lovely winding route across Portland. I saw coyote, deer, and rabbits. I even saw a red-tailed hawk pick up and fly off with a snake! Cool! I did pass through a wooded area that had been burned several years ago. It's amazing how many trees are popping up to replace the burnt ones. Mother Nature sure knows how to take care of herself. The scenery was grand (i.e. not on fire, like Idaho) and the weather divine. A bit cool, just perfect for riding. As I made my way north and west, though, I came out of the mountains and into the canyons and the heat cranked up a lot. By the time I hit the dreaded I-84, it had to have been in the mid-90's. I turned west to get to Portland in 145 miles and they were the longest, most painful miles of the whole trip. The pavement took care of what was left of my MT21 offroad tires and made it hard to keep the bike going straight down the lane. The wind bucked the front end the whole way, wearing out my shoulders. By the time I got to Portland, got lost and then found again, and pulled up in front of the Hotel Lucia, I was beat. I did the same as the night before: took a long shower, called room service for dinner, and read my book until I fell asleep. Well, actually, I did go buy a bottle of champagne, some pop for the mini-bar, and a Velvet Hammer Shake at Coffee People. And I checked my email and talked to both Al and Lori on the phone. But I was still so tired from the trip. My favorite little town along the way that day had been Heppner. What a neat town, great restored downtown area and lots of kids playing outside.

Dinner at Hotel Lucia

Maybe five years ago?

New trees all over the place

small town but
big graveyard
Saturday morning I got up and called Lori and arranged to meet at her house. I rode there and we all piled into the Element to walk the dogs at Forest Park. It was great to get some exercise for a change and not spend the entire day in the saddle. We talked and walked and walked and talked - it was wonderful. Al called when he was near Portland so I headed back downtown to meet him at the hotel. I was so glad to see him and made sure he got over his road-daze from the drive down as painlessly as possible. He had hit lots of traffic on the trip and so was glad to help me finish the champagne in the room. Then we met Lori and Jonathan at Whole Foods and got the makings for a nice turkey dinner with mole, a la Alfonso. De-lish!! We chatted the eveing away with our best friends. When we got back to the Hotel Lucia, room service sent up a bottle of wine and some Dove frozen treats. I had forgotten that I had booked the "Bon-bon Package" for our Saturday night stay! Along with the treats, we got two free movies from the on-demand system so we watched "Star Trek 3: Revenge of the Sith" and had a blast together.

Sunday morning, we slept in and went to the Southeast to get coffee beans from the Coffee People on Hawthorne. I had a bit of a surprise as I went to leave the parking garage on the bike - the lady at the booth came over and told me it would cost $5 to get out of there as the charge for bikes was $2.50 per day. Now, when I parked the bike, the attendant told me it was free, but rather than argue, I just gave her five bucks figuring that it was sure a lot cheaper than the garages in Seattle. I think she was soaking me for a bit of lunch money, really. Just as Al and were headed to the Laurelthirst for breakfast, Lori called to see if we'd be interested in trying the St. John's Cafe near their house. So we drove over there and had a really nice late breakfast in the outdoor patio area behind the cafe. Very nice. Unfortunately, though, it was 3pm and time to hit the road for home. So we said good-bye and got on I-5 north. I can't believe it even as I write it, but it took us almost four full hours to get back to Seattle. Traffic was terrible! There were accidents upon accidents and backups for miles. At one point the temperature light on the bike came on and I decided to ride up the emergency lane (something I never, ever do) to cool it, and myself, off a bit. It had to have been over 100 degrees and there I was stuck in full riding gear with a hot bike beneath me and surrounded by car exhaust. Well, people really hate it when you ride up the emergency lane, especially when it's too narrow for them to do it, too (it was) and several drivers gestured at me in an unfriendly way. But one guy went way overboard and pulled his SUV into my path and started yelling curses at me at the top of his lungs. I guess he was just so mad and so hot that he'd lost all reason. I mean, it's not like I was having fun running over dead animals and truck parts (hub caps, etc.) in the emergency lane. But what else could I do? The bike was overheating and, frankly, so was I. He wavered one second when his wife touched his arm and that was all I needed to sneak through the gap and take off. I was afraid he'd catch up to me later and harass me but I never saw him again. The entire trip home was one slowdown after another. It was almost comical. We got home at 7pm exhausted. All we could do was order pizza and collapse on the couch together. But at least we were together. That made up for a lot.
It was a great trip overall. I saw friends and family, lots of scenery and wildlife, and even made a few new motorcycle buddies in the process. The weather was great, the people were terrific, the food divine, and overall it was a wonderful summer adventure. I shall never forget it!

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