Sunday, August 15, 2010

Day 3: Challis, Idaho to Elk City, Idaho

I'm really behind on this. Sorry. Between the scarcity of WiFi and cell service compounded by my road fatigue the blog has slipped as a priority. So, enough with the apologies....

We woke up in a pretty somber mood knowing the John was injured. I went to bed before he returned from the Orthopedist but found out from the grapevine that the doctor believed it was a bad sprain instead of a break. Having suffered both I consider this the worst case. I spent a few minutes with John before leaving and he was high as a kite! Good for him. He had a circuitous route to return home which would involve plane changes and layovers that must be torturous with a bad wheel. I hope they gave him a big bottle of those pills. Lloyd would be spending his day making sure John got off okay from the airport in Missoula and wouldn't be joining us in Elk City this evening or supporting our trip to get there. This was a day for caution.

My group got a pretty late start. My riding group for the day was Dan Bowman, Jason Ennis, and Brent Cotton. Jason had been a standout on Massacre Mountain the day before so I was pretty sure he should be out front. But I got pushed out front with my GPS to start the day and, as has become routine, I was relieved of my position after getting us lost a couple times. Oh well. I felt less pressure leading an ace rider around anyway and his example actually helped me during the day.

The city of Challis is located in a valley beside the Salmon river between two impressive mountain ridge line's and we made our way north in the valley to a sandy, rocky, twisty pass which took us to much more lush and green surroundings. We had a picturesque ride along a dirt road which hugged the Salmon river as we moved north to the quaint little town of Shoupe. Shoupe is famous for it's gas pumps which are the antique glass bulb style which the proprietor manually pumps into the bell and then rounds your dispensed fuel to the nearest half gallon. The current proprietors have run the place for about a year and only own the business. Someone else owns the building and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM which is omnipresent in Idaho) leases the rights. Seems tenuous to me but this place is a fixture that has survived a long time with this arrangement. Anyway, it was a really cool stop and I had a delicious Huckleberry milkshake to go with my gas.

In retrospect we all lingered too long in Shoupe and our group definitely got too late of a start from the hotel anyway. So as we began our route from Shoupe to the Magruder Corridor we tried to pick up the pace. Dust is a big problem when alot of bikes are moving down the trail and the bottleneck leaving Shoupe made it rough going for everyone. With all these factors no one begrudged Brent any when he told us to go on and he'd tag on with a slower moving group which was kicking up less dust for him to deal with. So the three of us pressed on but it was pretty clear we were going to end the ride in the dark. With that in mind we moved at a safe and prudent pace but didn't waste alot of time with stops. But as the sun dropped low in the sky we slowed to a crawl as we fought the blinding sun, dust, and the rocky trail. That's just no fun. Twilight brought relief but it was short lived as darkness then slowed us with a general lack of visibility.

The moon was magnificent and amazingly bright. The Magruder is a very remote area of the Bitterroot Forest made infamous for a theft and murder during the boom times of local mining. It was stunning under the bright moon light and I couldn't help but to remind myself that this beautiful forest could turn ugly if we had a big problem. Jason and I lined up beside one another and Dan did his best to shine his light around us. This put lots of light down the trail but was pretty difficult riding for me as I tried to handle obstacles with half the trail and hopefully not take Jason out when I made mistakes. We managed ~30 mph this way but 72 miles like this was a long ride. By the end of the Magruder Corridor we were about 200 miles into our day and the second half was the hard half.

At the end of this section we thought we were home free! The GPS was telling us we were close. The road signs were confirming we were close. So Jason and I didn't think twice when the GPS route turned us back into the woods when the street sign told us we had 22 miles to Elk City. How far could it be? Well, it was about 3 hours long. We'd fallen into a routing mistake and taken off on rough single and double track that eventually came to dead ends no matter which fork we took at every intersection. It was late, we were cold and tired, and the miles were eroding our skills and cheery dispositions. We finally accepted defeat and back tracked to the street sign which indicated 22 miles to Elk City and began following the signs.

We were the last group to arrive and everyone was quite worried. We'd been moving so well and having no problems when others had seen us. Elk City doesn't have internet or cell service so there was no way to communicate even if that has a slim chance of success. So everyone greeted us in the parking lot with lots of questions and more than a little relief. I was too tired to tell the tale and headed for bed. I'd decided on the road into town that I needed to get ahead of the itinerary and take a caffeine fueled early morning ride to the next stop so I could rest up. I felt some peace and welcomed a hot shower and sleep.

BTW, Elk City claims to have 300 residents but I'll bet anything the Census takers can't find them all. I'm still shocked they have hotel even if it is dumpy.

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