Early this year, I was invited to do the “Tour of Idaho” in 2018 by Randy Block. If you don’t know what “The Tour” is all about go check out Martin Harkworth’s website, motorcyclejazz.com. One can find all the details right there in a nice little package. Martin is the Executive Director of the BlueRibbon Coalition(if you’re not a member you should be) and has spent years fine tuning the Tour for everyone’s enjoyment. To sum it up, the tour is a +/-1,500 mile off road adventure that begins at the Utah border and traverses Idaho to a mountaintop just a few miles from the Canadian Border.
I’d found Martin’s site many years ago and had perused it from time to time as it was in my bookmarks. I’d come back to it periodically, but mainly to view the pictures from Day 3 & 4 as each summer I’d ride in that area of Central Idaho. Additionally, I’d seen the TOI recount that was done by “Big Dog” several years. It’s worth reading as well.
Randy is the Eastern Representative for the BlueRibbon Coalition and lives just across the river from Kentucky in Indiana. I met Randy in early 2017 through a mutual interest in working with the USFS in Kentucky. He and his friend Roger completed the Tour of Idaho in 2015 right after Jimmy Lewis. Interestingly, I’d been riding in Central Idaho in 2015 with Will Lyons and he said that after we left he was going to film Jimmy Lewis doing the Tour of Idaho. Small world.
By the way, Will’s work on the video capture and production is phenomenal. If you want the real scoop on what the Tour is all about, you need to watch all 45+ minutes of it! Check it out here.
Randy had noted that Jeff Stoess also had an interest in doing the Tour. Thus, it only made sense for me to team up with him. Jeff is an incredible rider with lots of long-distance adventure riding and dual sport experience. Just the kind of rider you want to be teamed up with!
This was all coming together nicely but I really didn’t have a bike that was appropriate for that sort of undertaking. From what I could tell, most everyone that had finished the tour was on a large-displacement, street legal, four-stroke, dirt bike. My little YZ250s weren’t up for the task. Can you imagine how much premix I’d have to carry?!
Over the next 3 weeks or so I pondered about what bike to get. For me, a Yamaha WR450F came to mind first as I try to support my local economy and you can’t find an orange bike at JVM Motorsports. During this short 3 week period I’d discussed my intentions with several fellow riders. I’d asked Mark Edwards specifically if the WR450F subframe was up to the task of supporting some sort of saddle bag system. So he was aware of what I was thinking.
Mid-morning one day at work I get a text from Mark with a photo of a VERY clean 2015 WR450F. He said it had less than 100 miles on it. It had been traded in at JVM on a street bike. Within 48 hours it was in my garage. Step one. Done. Got a bike for the tour.
Mark was right. It only had 92 miles on it. The bike had never really been dirty at all. Factory-applied oil was still on the bright yellow and debris-free air filter. Wow. Deals like that don’t appear very often. Knowing that I had over a year to get it ready, I pushed it into the garage where it began to gather dust.
For the next several weeks it just sat there. I did get some nice Cycra ProBend hand guards for it, put a solid rotor on the rear wheel, and geared it down a bit. Otherwise, it got no attention. I didn’t even load it up for a ride.
As usual, we went out west in July. Visited Gary and Judi in the Black Hills, stopped by to see Keith in Billings, and made our way up to Glacier National Park for a few wonderful days! Afterwards we headed down to the Sawtooth Valley in Central Idaho for a couple weeks. Chip was in Stanley but unfortunately had a bad knee. My aim was to start bike prep for the Tour upon my return to the Bluegrass state. So the WR just sat there and gathered a nice thick layer of garage dust. Waiting for a little attention . . .
More to come on this topic in my next installment. This is just one of many. Stay Tuned!
Hat’s off to the organizer’s of the 2017 Renfro Valley Dual Sport once again! I’ve only done this three years now, and each time, I’ve been amazed at how well they mark the route. If you pay attention, you could probably do the whole thing without a roll chart. It’s marked that well. The sign-up process is a breeze and flows quite smoothly. Make sure to get it on your calendar when they announce the 2018 dates. Typically, it is held the first weekend in May.
I’d been talking up the dual sport all year long with some guys I normally ride with. Some had never done it before, and others hadn’t done it for many years. I was actually kinda worried that the group would be too big, but it all worked out just fine. In the end, there were five of us riding together on Saturday. Greg, Bo, Kyle, Travis and I all headed out on the route just before 9am. Ideally, 8:45am would have been a bit better but this crew is fairly quick and I didn’t expect us to have to wait very long on anyone.
Just like in 2016, there was a fairly strong possibility of rain on Saturday. Argh! I’ve never ridden the event when it was even somewhat dry. Well the forecast gods made a good call as it started coming down about an hour or so into the route. Luckily, I’d suited up in my Klim Traverse jacket with the d3o pads in the shoulders and elbows. This setup over my regular riding layers was the ticket. The vent zippers on the Traverse made it easy adjust to the conditions they changed throughout the day.
We’d hit all of the Green Arrow (Hero) sections that morning and folks were getting stuck all over the place. None of the crew had any issues with the hills or ruts and we tractored up, over, and around everyone and made good time as well. About 3 miles from lunch, we came out onto a paved road. It was in the mid-40’s, pouring down rain, and we were all ready for some shelter and food. Especially Bo. Evidently he was in dire need of nourishment. Everyone was in much better spirits after a good lunch and some “so-so” hot coffee.
They had gas for sale at the Sand Gap Community Center where we had lunch for $4/gallon. A bit steep in price, but it meant you didn’t have to head over to the store and wait in line behind 50 bikes to get gas. The guys on smokers mixed their gas accordingly and shook it up in the supplied milk jugs. I’ll do that again next year!
The rain was subsiding a bit as we pulled out for the second half of the day. There was some great riding ahead but it was going to be wet and sloppy for sure. Trail conditions were deteriorating quickly as the crew moved forward. Some sections had water running down the ruts in the trails. When we got to the 2nd afternoon Hero section, Greg indicated that the potato salad at lunch was not working out very well. I think he was getting a little green. Not good, as we had over 40 miles left to go. He and Bo skipped that Hero section and promised to meet us at the junction.
In the end, Bo and Greg had to wait over 30 minutes for us. It was not good. This was the only section where I had to hit a hill twice. Travis, Kyle and I were challenged for sure! Tiring to say the least. Things were just plain sloppy and it was hard to keep forward motion at times. For the first time ever, my “WR250” got a little warm. I never remember this happening to the bike before. We stopped for about 4-5 minutes so it could cool off. Not good. Bo and Greg had made a good call not running that section.
The next Hero section was the cool stuff at Big Hill. I rode that last year (in the rain) and it was OK, but this year it was wetter. Kyle was pumped to try it so we let him head his own way. I knew of one really steep downhill that I just wasn’t willing to tackle in these conditions. It just wasn’t wise, at least not for me. At this point we were less than 30 miles from the staging area and the rain was still coming down but you could see the clearing skies in the distance.
In a short while, we popped out onto the pavement and there was no precipitation. Excellent! A combination of pavement, gravel, quad trails, and jeep roads lead us to the final section of cool single track. Very, very nice to say the least. A wonderful way to wrap up the day. It flowed well and now that it wasn’t pouring, it was actually enjoyable! We came off the single track and dropped onto an old road that descended down a creek bed back to the final section of pavement. I’d say 4 miles later, and we were back at the staging area. It was nice to start loading up without the rain as an annoyance. Special thanks to Greg for being our leader for the day. I greatly appreciated not having to ride in the front for a change.
Bo, Kyle and Travis had other obligations so they headed back north. Charlie came by and said his shoulders were hammered from fighting the little Husky he was riding so he pointed his van northward to Indy. With the mass exodus underway, the plan was to seek out Jeff and John and see if we could tag along on Sunday.
Greg and I stayed for the evening. We got a good meal there in Mt. Vernon and went to our hotels to get some rest and recover for the following day. The forecast for Sunday promised to be awesome, cool in the morning with a high around 61 degrees and plenty of sunshine. Good deal!
Onward! Woke up to a light coating of frost on Sunday morning with clear skies. Things were damp, no doubt about it, but at least the sun was shining. I met Greg at the staging area around 7:30am. He’d had a rough time with leg cramps that evening and throughout the night. I’ve dealt with that before and it is not fun. Makes me cringe to just think about it. Wisely, he headed north as well, not wanting to chance getting 40 miles in and have to deal with the leg cramps. Plus, he had a 5+ hour drive ahead of him. Smart decision.
So I got in touch with Jeff and John and they were fine with me tagging along. Their friend Justin was there too. He was a good rider for someone that had only been on a bike for 3 seasons. Being young and tough benefited him as well. He kept up a good pace and dealt with most obstacles very well.
John pulled up in his Sprinter beside the MotoVan and everyone got their gear on and bikes ready. A group of four is a good size for this type of outing. The first part of the day was a bit too much pavement for me but as soon as we turned onto some natural terrain I got really interested. The lack of precipitation made it much easier to take in the surroundings. Mountain laurel were in full bloom and the ferns were popping out of the forest floor. Sandstone rocks and the associate reddish dirt were prevalent at certain elevations on the route. Neat stuff!
Unfortunately we encountered lots of bottlenecks on the route that morning. Some of the more challenging hills were making it tough on many of the riders. Luckily, our little crew was able to get around these sections with little effort and kept a great pace.
There was one particular Hero section that I really enjoyed. It traversed a hillside with sandstone cliffs towering on the ridge above. Evidently, this is part of the “Sand Springs” area where Travis rides frequently. Jeff said that he’d ridden there with Travis the year before. Some of that section had burned last fall and that made it easy to see through the trees. The steep hills and off-camber trail layout made it fun to navigate.
Just before lunch we went under I-75 and ended up in “downtown” Livingston, Kentucky at the local fire station. They were grilling hot dogs and hamburgers and had all the fixins’ laid out to embellish them accordingly. Just like, Saturday, the fire fighters had gas available for purchase, but this time for $3 per gallon. Good deal. We all gassed up after eating and headed back out for some more fun.
We saw a couple groups that were bypassing the main route and taking the road back to the staging area. Boy they really missed some awesome riding. The Hero sections after lunch on Sunday were some of the best we encountered all weekend. So glad I stayed for Sunday this year!
My favorite landscape feature of the whole event was a sandstone outcropping that had eroded into a series of passages that were 30′-50′ deep. As we approach this area, I noted what looked like pea gravel on the trail. My first thought was, “How in the world did they haul this pea gravel into here?” Hmmmm. When the sandstone became visible you could literally see the little pieces of gravel embedded in the geologic structure. These little pieces had eroded away and washed down the hillside, thus the appearance that someone had spread the gravel on the trail.
Not too far on down the trail from the sandstone outcroppings we came upon an overlook. It wasn’t a natural overlook, but rather a sheer drop off into what was an old mine. You could see the large shafts from the edge and the old railway that serviced the mine many years ago.
When we reached the end of that trail and hit the gravel road, Jeff turned right off the route and we headed down to the mine shaft entrances. There you could see 3-shafts and it was then obvious that the railway actually went through the mountain via a tunnel that we’d just ridden over a few minutes beforehand. Justin and I followed Jeff and John into the mine shafts. Kinda eery.
I didn’t think about it at the time, but what if the vibration caused by our bike engines had made pieces of the roof come down? Not good. I might not go in there again. I’ll just wait outside and take pictures!
The route had one more Hero section and then some old road beds, quad trail, gravel and so forth before the end of day. We saw a dual set of train tunnels a few miles before the end and actually road down the gravel beside a railroad bed for about 1/2 mile. The sun was still shining, everyone’s bikes were in good working order, and no one got injured! A great way to end the day.
If it isn’t obvious, this is now permanently on my “To Do” riding list for every year. I certainly wished that I knew about this event many years ago. I recall folks not coming to KORHS races because they didn’t want to miss the dual sport. Now I understand! Don’t miss it next year!
Day 4 of riding in Idaho was great as usual. Dwayne, Chip and I set out on the Little Casino trail around 9:30am or so. Dwayne hadn’t ridden this trail since the re-route they’d done 2-3 years ago. I’d only ridden it once when the trail followed the original route but honestly don’t remember much about it except that there were multiple creek crossings.
About three miles in we stopped and Dwayne said, “This new trail sucks!” He preferred the old route that had less exposed side hill, more creek crossings and a good climb to the top of the ridge. It is not a bad trail, its just not what he’d ridden for so many years. My understanding is that the new route gets you up to the ridge sooner and it never crosses the creek. This is all part of a strategy to keep trails further away from running water thus reducing erosion and sedimentation.
Next stop was a couple logs down across the trail. They weren’t huge so we stopped and cut them with the hand saw. This section of the trail had been cleared recently and whomever did the work certainly earned their wages. Dozens of logs were across the trail just a week or two beforehand and the sawdust piles were still visible from the fresh cuts.
Chip wanted to stop where there is a good view of Redfish Lake and the Sawtooth Range. With that in mind we made our way up the trail looking for the best place to get some photos. A little climb and a few corners later the perfect spot came into play. Ended up being a great view in all directions! Chip got the photos he wanted and I took a few as well.
When we headed up the trail from where we were in this photo, I rode Dwayne’s new Beta X-Trainer for about a mile. The bike was very nice for the type of riding that we do. It’s plushness and linear power delivery are perfect for mountain trail riding. Anyone with a short inseam should try the bike as well. Dwayne said it is 10% shorter in both directions which makes it very maneuverable. It is a 300cc engine and all you have to do is dial it back a bit and you’ll be reminded it is a big bore. Oh . . . and electric start too!
Onward to the “4-way” where the Casino Creek trails come together with the trail up to the Rough Creek Fire Tower and Martin Creek that leads down to the Warm Springs Meadow. On our way up the hill you pass the junction with Boundary Creek Trail. I went down that trail about a week ago at the recommendation of a local bicycle rider. He said that anyone who can climb up Boundary Creek without stopping on a bicycle has iron lungs and legs!
At this junction we saw a bicyclist coming up that trail. We stopped and talked with him for a few minutes. If I understood correctly, he only stopped once on the way up. One thing for sure . . . this guy was fit! We told him where we were headed and he indicated he’d be going the same way. I’d cleared several logs off the trail ahead the week before so I told him it was probably clear. He waited for us to depart and then headed up the hill.
Martin Creek Trail was the plan so we took the right hand turn and made our way down the trail. I’d forgotten how darn rocky it was. I’d been up it once and there is this one rock step up that is just plain tough. As we approached the Warm Springs Meadow, the downed timber became more and more frequent. Looked like a big game of pick up sticks. That is just the best way to describe it. Forward motion was slow at times throughout this mess.
So we are sitting here on the trail, taking a break after crossing 50+ downed logs, and the guy on the bicycle rolls up. Yep. he’d caught us. Very impressive to say the least. I know Martin Creek is almost all downhill but he’d climb another 750+ vertical feet since we’d seen him and made his way down the trail and across all those logs and over all the rocks. Wow!
We were just getting ready to leave so once again he let us go first. About 20 more log crossings and we rolled into Warm Springs Meadow. What an awesome place! For many years I’d eyed this valley on the aerial photography and topographic maps. It was 2013 before I actually made my way to the valley. Awesome views!
About 1/4 mile past the location shown in the photo above you take a right and head up the valley. It is really marshy in that area as beavers are active nearby. We carefully picked our way through the wet spot and as we were getting back on the main trail we saw the guy on the bicycle coming our way. Geez!
The next mile or so is flat and there were several downed trees along the way to the next creek crossing. This crossing has a “bridge” if you want to call it that. Essentially, there are about two dozen logs laid lengthwise across the creek. No boards or anything on top. We came to a stop got off and carefully walked our bikes across.
On our heels once again was the guy on the bicycle. He was incredible. Chip told him it was all “downhill” just ahead and onto the Williams Creek Trail. Chip had forgotten there were two more small ridges to traverse before the final descent. Oh well, this guy was in the for the long haul.
Dwayne took off and I rode just behind his dust all the way to the Williams Creek trailhead just of ID75 near Obsidian. Chip rolled in about 3 minutes later and we took advantage of some shade offered by a pine near the trailhead sign. There were two vehicles parked there and within 8-10 minutes bicyclists arrived, loaded up and drove away. About 5 minutes after that, the bicyclist rolled right up to us. I was amazed! He’d climbed up and over those two ridges and cruised down Williams Creek with ease.
In the end, we learned he was from Washington State and was not acclimated to the high altitude as he lived at about 800 feet above mean sea level. His bicycle was a “Felt” and from what I figured the frame alone cost around $10K . . . yep, just the frame. He’d been “glamping” (his term) with his family at Redfish Lake. He was impressed with how we got our bikes over all the downed logs but we were blown away with the fact that he’d been keeping up with us for nearly 30 miles!!
Before he pedaled down the road, he took some pictures of us and grabbed a selfie or two. It is about 6.5 miles of flat pavement to the turn off for Redfish Lake from the trailhead. I estimate that the loop he’d ridden was ~36 miles. Wow! Dwayne put it best when he described the guy as “sculpted” . . . you can probably get the picture.
We too made our way up the road and back to the turn off for Boundary Creek. I was looking forward to climbing the trail back up to Little Casino. A group of horses was coming down and we all got off the trail as best as we could. One horse was spooked by the whole thing and almost bucked off the rider. It was kinda scary. Didn’t like it that that happened.
I met a hiker half way up so I shut off my bike. She walked by, said hello and high-fived me! Wasn’t expecting that! The trail was clear up to the junction and all the way back down to the Casino Creeks Trailhead. Simply awesome single track compared to anything we have in Kentucky.
Dwayne had an iced downed watermelon in his cooler so Chip cut it up and we enjoyed it before loading the bikes. What a wonderful way to finish up another great day of riding in Idaho. No doubt I’m fortunate to ride with these guys!
It was good to shed my gear and I was certainly getting hungry. Jumped into the Sprinter and pointed it towards the hotel for a shower and dinner. Already thinking about the next riding adventure!
Day three turned out to be adventure! Chip and I went out for the day and started right where his RV was parked. The ride began with about 4 miles of asphalt heading out towards Stanley Lake. Another 3+ miles of two-track leads to a frequently used section of single track that traverses some awesome meadows where the views of the surrounding mountains are wonderful. We stopped about 6 miles in where the trail intersects with the Elk Meadow Trail. The photo below shows the view just beyond the trail signs. We have to cross that meadow.
I’ve only been across this “trail” four times now. Each “crossing” was memorable. The first year, the meadow was flooded with about 7″ to 9″ of water with thick reeds and grasses stretching as far as the eye can see. I was following someone that had been across before and magically we emerged at a 10′ wide running stream where there was a sand bar that made it easy to cross. After that, you turn left and head towards this tall wooden post way down the meadow where the crossing is easier. More than half of this 1+ mile crossing was through the flooded type area I described above. Sketchy.
The second year it was relatively dry and the crossing was not too bad at all. I had the GPS tracks so that made it easier to find the trail and the best crossing points. Year number three was an adventure for many reasons. Check out this video for a cool riding blooper captured on helmet camera in the meadow. Hats off to Philip for keeping the bike out the water!
This year was a challenge. The middle of the meadow was closer to 10″ to 12″ deep. I followed my tracks closely but it just kept getting deeper. We reached the point where the initial creek crossing was supposed to be easy, but that was far from the case. The sand bar was gone and a tall bank had been cut into the far side. (We found out later that beaver dams situated downstream had raised the water level in the meadow.)
Retreat! We turned around, backtracked to the edge of the meadow and started riding along the margins as best we could. Patches of willows, large sinkholes, and narrow but deep creek crossings were encountered. Our goal had been to find that tall pole where the second crossing was marked and finally it was within reach. Some quick searching revealed a place to cross that was easy and wouldn’t tear up the meadow or the opposing bank. Less than 20 yards beyond where we crossed, the tall pole highlighted the path forward.
A mile or so afterward, we were at the base of the mountains where the trail intersects with two others (see below). This was a good opportunity to take a quick break and regroup. I knew that the climb ahead promised to be the next challenge.
What we found on the way up was not fun. There were dozens of downed trees and some portions of the trail had deteriorated for a variety of reasons. Not good. At one point, I had to use the hand saw to cut a path so we could move forward. I should have taken my chainsaw on this ride. Bad move on my part.
With some effort, we reached the top of the climb. The last portion wasn’t steep but it sure was rocky. Momentum was the key! Elizabeth Lake is visible from this summit and a good view of the Sawtooth’s is just a few feet away through the white bark pines.
We paused for a while to enjoy the view and rest up a bit. What a cool place! I feel fortunate to ride on this great trail system with folks that appreciate it and know it well.
The next section of trail is notoriously rocky. Keeping a good rhythm is tough as there are places where you have to bulldog your bike through the boulders. Reprieves are few and far between until you reach the next trail junction. The scenery is nice and the wildflowers were on display, but concentration on the trail was important.
We forged straight ahead at the next intersection and made our way down Swamp Creek trail. Someone had cleared most of the logs on that route, however some quads had pushed there way up the trail about 2 miles farther than allowed. Irresponsible use of the trail will eventually lead to its closure. The trail ends at the highway where we found a way across the meadow and over to Cape Horn road. After about 3 miles of gravel, we reached the Valley Creek trailhead. There is a short quad section that leads to some single track or another Forest Service road.
We chose the single track! The Forest Service had worked on this trail last summer and it wasn’t too bad considering it burned 2 years ago. The setting is surreal. The ground is seared black as are the trees. Wildflowers are abundant on the hillsides and the creeks in the valley are very lush in comparison. Riding the trail with the trees was certainly better but we still have fun on this slow and steady climb up to Basin Butte road.
Chip and I took another quick break at Basin Butte road. The view above is just a few feet from the trail marker on the opposite side of the road. Afterwards, we coasted down this trail which leads back to the Basin Creek trail. This mostly downhill route is favored by mountain bikers. All was going well until we encountered some downed trees in an old burn area near the end. Getting around a couple of the root balls was not easy and going over was not an option!
Some more nice single track back led us to another Forest Service road and then back to where Chip’s RV was parked. Just under 50 miles once again! Kim was nearby at the RV Park with her friend Kathy so she came over as I loaded up and peeled off my gear. It was about 4:30 and I was ready for beer! Back to Stanley for a shower, some beer, and a good dinner.
Doing a loop like this is nearly impossible in Kentucky. There are few places left in the US where riding like this is an option. I plan to ride as much of it as I can before it is all gone!
On my second day of riding, I was lucky to tag along with Bill and a friend of his from the Boise area. We went out on Basin Creek and up to Hindman Lake. There was a group of four riders there when we arrived so we took a break. Before we left another 3 riders showed up. As usual, I was the oddball in the group. All of the bikes were orange with the exception of one Husky (orange KTM) and there I was with my blue YZ/WR 250. Everyone else was from Idaho so the “Kentucky” plate on my bike stood out.
We left the lake and headed down the trail and over to the Valley Creek Trail. A short way down the trail, our group turned left (eastward) onto Prospect. Lots of deadfall was on the ground but Bill employed his saw and we made our way through the route. The first couple miles was bad but it got clearer as we moved towards the Basin Butte road.
After a short break we headed down Sunday Creek trail back towards Basin Creek. I hadn’t ridden Sunday Creek since the recent burn and it looks really bad in terms of erosion. The good part was the wide variety of wildflowers. There were more colors and shapes and sizes on that trail than any other that day. The purple lupine were shin deep and covered the blackened soil along the single track trail.
The end of Sunday Creek intersects with Basin Creek so we took that trail back to the trailhead where our vehicles were parked. Good timing. Bill had business in town and at the RV Park and I was looking forward to getting Smoke Prime Rib for dinner!
No pictures of this ride. I do have some GPS tracks as proof but nothing more!
Took a short ride this morning. Kim dropped me off at the Casino Trailhead around 9:30. I went up Little Casino and the trail was in good shape. Most all of the deadfall had been cut back. There were two places where I had get out the saw, one of which was an ancient six-trunked white bark pine that had fallen across the trail about 1 mile past the Boundary Creek. Some folks had been riding around it and it was all chewed up. Not good.
I ran into a large group of hikers that had come up Boundary and stopped to speak with them for a few minutes. There were about 12 teenagers with a couple guys that were probably teachers or camp directors. They were tired and wanted to know how far they’d need to hike in order to see the surface of both Redfish and Little Redfish lake. When I told them it was about 2 miles or so, they kinda decided to head back down!
I found a few snow drifts in the usual places along Little Casino as they’d been sheltered from the sun. Last year was the only time I’ve ridden that trail and not seen snow. From what I understand, the snowpack was pretty good this past winter.
Went up to the 4-way (Little,Big,Martin,Lookout) and took a short break and turned around. Went back down Little Casino to Boundary. I’d never ridden Boundary, so I took it down to the main road and then back to town.
On the way down I stopped for a mountain biker that must have had iron lungs. I was very impressed at his progress on the unrelenting steep grade. I shut off my bike and got it off to the side so he could get by. He stopped at the switchback just past me and thanked me for allowing him to come by easily. I told him Little Casino was clear which was going to make his loop much easier.
I didn’t have my helmet camera with me for the ride but I did get a few pictures along the way. That is good, as I rarely get to stop and take pictures when riding with a group.
I don’t like riding on the pavement but sometimes its necessary to make a good loop. Having the plated “WR” is nice for those occasions. I got back just before noon so Kim and I went to lunch. She was pleased and I was certainly ready to eat!
I’d heard about this event for many years, but honestly, I didn’t have a good idea of what it was all about. I mean, it is called a “dual sport” how much fun can that be? In 2014, Jeff, a riding buddy of mine, encouraged me to attend the Renfro Valley “Dual Sport” the next year. He’d told me all about his adventures on this ride and evidently, he hasn’t missed one yet! Later on, I spoke with 2 or 3 other riders about it and they too had only great things to say.
With all these great recommendations, we just had to sign up. Jesse and I went and Travis tagged along on his DRZ400 (he did very well on it). You can read about the 2015 experience in this blog post. We had a great time and promised to return in 2016. It was on my calendar!
My pre-registration information came in the mail a few weeks ago and I immediately filled out the form and sent them a check for Day 1. It is a 2 day event but we only did the first day in 2015. My plan for 2016 was to sign up for one day and then go back on day 2 if I felt like it was doable. Physically, that is . . . I guess mentally too.
I started watching the weekend forecast everyday during the week leading up to the event. This was probably a bad idea. The forecast was horrible in terms of precipitation but OK in terms of temperature. Riding in the rain isn’t miserable if it is warm enough. Also having the right gear makes it much more comfortable (another post on this is forthcoming).
On Friday, the forecast finally improved in that the rain was probably not going to start off until 11am or so. Hooray! Like Charlie said, “It is really easy to call it day when it is raining at the start.” I pulled out my High Sierra Motorcycle Club jersey and took a picture, and sent it to a few folks. I was going regardless of the forecast! Ride or Die. No Snivelers.
Several people I know had planned on coming to the event, but for one reason or another, all of them bailed. I knew Jeff would be there as would Charlie. Michael also indicated he’d be with Charlie’s group and Travis was going to bring Taylor and ride along with a crew he’d been to Colorado with. Therefore, I had several options for “tagging along” with some fellow riders. Philip will regret not going but he had final exam stuff to prepare for this year.
I arrived around 7:55 am and found a good place to park the Sprinter. As I put it in park, I noticed an older model (pre-2007) coming down the road with “KTM” on the front above the windshield. It was a 3500 that was all blacked out. After unloading a couple things I headed over to the sign up. On the walk over I spotted a 2014 parked by Jeff and there were at least three more in the gravel lot at the sign up area. I don’t remember seeing any there last year so that was pretty cool. The new thing? Maybe so, but none of their’s were 4×4!
The sign-up line was short. The number of riders was down from last year. The forecast had kept them at home. It was a quick process as I had pre-registered for the event. I ran into several people I knew on the way back to gear up and finish unloading. All were more than gracious to offer to let me ride with their group. Appreciated!
Good to see Jeff G. as always. It had been exactly one year since I’d seen him. He was going to ride sweep with Harvey and Marty. I just couldn’t handle being out that late on a rainy day. Many thanks to them for doing what they do!
In the end, the “Indy” group was my choice. It would be good to ride with both Charlie and Michael. I saw their group prepping to leave so I rode over there to wait. Didn’t want to hold them up. There were a couple stragglers in the group so Charlie and another rider took off and waved for me to come along. The way it worked out, this was our group. Charlie, “Little Dave”, and I were it. Just three of us, and I could tell within a few miles that we were evenly paced and moving along very well.
We stopped at the first marker for a “Hero Section” to take a break. As we sat there, 3 or 4 groups came by. They’d head down the road with the Green Arrow (Hero) and within 5-7 minutes they’b be back. Each group indicated that there weren’t any markers. Someone had said that they’d taken them down because of all the rain. Up until this point, it had not rained. But, then it began, as a light downpour. With so many groups not finding the arrows ahead we just chose to take the main route. Onward!
Our little group made very good time and ended up being some of the very first people to make to the lunch stop. There couldn’t have been a dozen other riders already eating at the Sandgap Community Park shelter house. A quick bite to eat, a trip to the restroom and back out on the loop. There were a couple of groups rolling into the parking area as we were leaving. And yes, it is still raining at this point.
Our first stop after lunch was about as far away from the staging area as we’d get all day. Yes, I’ve studied our tracks. There is a very large sandstone cliff overhang that the trail runs underneath. A perfect place to take a break on a rainy day! There is a small lake about 100′ straight down to the left of our bikes. Beautiful!
Moving on, we spent the next 15 miles or so on very old dirt roads, some gravel and about 4 miles of pavement. This lead us to our gas stop at the “Fill Ups” Gas Stop along US421. We had another reprieve from the rain under the awning as we gassed up and added some premix to our fuel tanks.
Charlie went in and asked for a trash bag. The clerk gave him one and he told him he’d use it as a raincoat. Some other riders were coming in the door as Charlie walked out and he told them, “The sales clerk is selling rain coats for one dollar!” Very good.
I had driven past this gas station many times on our way to Earl and Marcella’s property where we used to host the “Big Hill” hare scrambles for the Kentucky Off Road Hare Scramble Series. My knowledge of this area was excellent. I knew from last year that we’d be riding on that property just up the road.
About 5 miles after leaving the gas station we were stopped at a Green Arrow at the very edge of the property. I knew exactly where we were. Cool! The neat thing was that not a single person had ridden this advanced section. All of the tracks, and there were very few, lead forward on the main loop. This was some of the best single track trail we road all day. It was slick, and one of the downhills was a bit hairy, but being the first to traverse it made it even better!
At one point during the “Big Hill” advanced loop it comes out and crosses the road but when we came back on the road we found the green arrow, but couldn’t find the next turn. We rode around for 20 minutes trying to find some orange marker tape or another arrow. Finally, Little Dave found a piece of tape and we were back on course! Actually, we went back onto Earl’s property and picked up some of the old hare scramble course and then made our way up a logging road and back to some pavement. Once again, this was all in the rain. Relentless.
The adventure continued as we made our way past the “Three Links” community marker and two miles down the road to a gravel farm road where a sign said “Welcome Riders”. We sure didn’t expect to see that. About 3/4 mile down the gravel road we saw a sign that said, “Lemonade, Sweet Tea, Sodas, and Beer!” Really? Hmmm. Just around the bend in a yet to be completed pole barn sat a family selling exactly what they advertised. They invited us to pull our bikes under the barn and take a break. I wasn’t interested in a beer at that time of day but the lemonade was sure good. There was a fire and everything. A good rest.
At this point, I had 86 miles on my odometer and Little Dave determined we had 20 or so to go based on the route sheet. The next few sections were getting really nasty. The dirt roads were essentially mud, the trails were slick and nasty with greasy roots and rocks, the gravel was heavy and wet, and of course the roads were slick if you pushed it with the knobbies on. Things were a bit more sketchy than earlier in the ride. Prudence was necessary.
We passed up the last “Green Arrow” section as they’d been told at the morning Rider’s Meeting to not ride it if it had rained. Something about high water (Did you see the picture of Jeff at the top?). It didn’t appear that anyone had gone that way and it looked like one bike was parked where the old gravel road started. I guess to turn people around?
The bad part about this whole ride to me is the first and last 6 miles or so of straight up pavement. The other paved sections are much shorter and those aren’t too bad on the “WR” but those two extended sections of blacktop are tiring. I’m just not comfortable riding on the road. Never will be. However, I do realize that those road sections are what it takes to get you to the good riding!
When I pulled back into the staging area my odometer said 09.49 miles. That means “109.49” as my digital odometer has only two characters before the decimal point. I’d never seen it do that before!
I loaded up quickly, jumped out of my wet and thoroughly nasty gear, dried off a bit and got into something dry. Nice. I ran over to tell Charlie and Little Dave goodbye. Good to ride with good folks. Like Charlie said, “It’s a small world!” They were staying for the next day. Adios! All I wanted to do was get home to take a shower and get a good beer. Back to the Sprinter and northward towards Osage Hill.
There is no doubt that I’ll be back next year. This is now a “must do” on my event list and I will encourage others to join in. The folks that host the event do a good job. They are a bit “old school” in terms of trail marking, and this pisses off a lot riders, but I totally understand. I’ve laid out a 12 mile hare scramble course, put up 500 arrows and 1/4 mile of marking tape and still been criticized for bad course markings. I can’t imagine marking 120 miles. Hats off to them for their efforts!
Don’t forget to add the 2017 Renfro Valley Dual Sport to your riding calendar!
This year, an expanded Prince family made its southward pilgrimage for a Spring ride in the woods of South-Central, Kentucky. I say “expanded” as it was Ryan, Seth, and their father Greg. They’d been eyeing the first couple weekends of April and ended up that the first was nearly perfect. Greg said several times, “You couldn’t mail order a better day for riding!” We all concurred!
The weather was ideal on both Saturday and Sunday but the wind was whipping on Saturday afternoon (that’s another story). It was cool but also sunny which is certainly a great combination for trail riding! Ground conditions were slightly damp in the bottoms but dry on the ridges. Spring was just beginning to put on a show. The redbuds were on the upswing, the maples were pushing out deep red buds, the beeches and hickory were opening up and a variety of phlox, lilies, and violets were blooming on the south-facing slopes.
Unfortunately, I have no group photos to document our Spring event. However, I do have some video footage! Ryan wore the camera for a bit once Kyle got there but his had the small SD card so he didn’t get lots of footage. My camera had a bigger SD card however, my camera was not working well. Luckily, I did capture some decent footage, as did Ryan. Enjoy the clips and read on for an overview of our great outing!
They arrived before 1pm on Saturday and we were able to ride 26 miles that afternoon. The trails we rode were a good sampling of some of the best in these parts. We packed up and headed out around 4:15pm as they had to deal with a kick-starter issue and getting a spare tire for their trailer. They’d booked a room in Danville so there were lots of options for dinner and so forth.
Sunday morning’s rendezvous was at Cracker Barrel in Danville around 7:30am. The group grabbed a bite to eat and rolled on down to the Green River Valley. Kyle was to join us, but he was running about 50 minutes behind. That gave us ample time to gear up and make a little loop before he arrived. A warm up is always nice.
All was good as we rode back up to the parking area to find Kyle nearly ready to go. After some greetings, bike adjustments, and so forth we hit the trail ready for an adventure! Our loops on Sunday included the Razor’s Edge, Goat Trail, Cat Cave Hill, Pencil Ridge, and anything I could use to make a seamless loop. I made sure to stop at the best viewpoints and I tried to keep a decent pace that would keep my more “fast-paced” friends engaged.
The lunch break was brief and it allowed us all to chat a bit with Kyle. It was wonderful to have a such a great group of riders that really appreciate all the time and effort we’ve put into developing such a nice trail system. Riding with a group like that makes all of our efforts truly worthwhile. A special thanks to the landowners that make this all possible. It is sincerely appreciated!
The final loop of day ended back at the parking area with 37.40 miles on the odometer. We’d covered 64 miles in two days and I made sure to include some new trails that needed a bit more beating in along the off camber sections. All was good! Everyone was tired and they must have been dreading their northbound exodus to the land of cold, windy, and icy conditions. (I saw some photos on their phone. Brrrr!) Something tells me we’ll see them again next year or maybe this Fall. Onward!
Fender Well Box: I found several references to fender well boxes or covers on the Sprinter-Source forum. After noting how my motorcycle tie downs were routed it appeared that I could have one, but maybe not two.
Luckily, I had plenty of 3/4″ plywood leftover from making my partition and rear wall panels. All I had to do was figure out how I was going to put it together and secure it to the floor and walls. Making a template for the curvature of the wheel well was easy and with a few key measurements in-hand I went to work.
Initially the plan was to cover all of the box with the same Olympic deck coating that I’d used on the lower partition panel and door. However, I ended up having enough of the very nice maple hardwood plywood for the box top so I stained it with some black stain – polyurethane made by Minwax. Three sides are wrapped with 3/4″ aluminum channel to make for a nice look.
RattleTrap was employed for insulation and sound damping (not dampening) on the surface of the wheel well. Wrapping something that is square and flat over a rounded surface is never fun. Cartographers faced this issue centuries and decades ago when trying to “map” our “round” globe with flat, paper maps! As a result, there were some compromises made in this process.
I cut 1.75″ lengths of 1″ x 1″ aluminum angle and used those along with some allen-head stainless steel bolts and nylon-based stainless lock nuts in each corner. This approach ensured that the box would be very square and solid. Both of the leading corners (front and back) were encased with 1″ x 1″ aluminum angle as I knew they’d endure some abuse while loading and unloading bike and such. Those were attached with some #6 stainless screws and a bit of caulk.
The hinges I used were Austrian-made and ended up being the perfect solution. They are fully-adjustable in all directions, have a zero-clearance factor on the back side, and are soft-closing. Some foam-based weatherstripping pieces were temporarily added on the two front corners until I can come up with a permanent solution that is both functional and appealing.
Attaching it to the van was easy just above the wheel well and two 1″ x 1″ aluminum angles attached it to the floor. Once again I used stainless hardware to secure everything. It is very solid. Actually nice to sit on.
I now have my tow chain, a cable, spare tie downs, garbage bags, rags, along with stuff that was previously under the passenger seats. This is good. I’ve cleared up space up front and have shifted a bit of weight towards the rear which will further improve the ride.
Fluids Box: I’ve really been worried about carrying “fluids” in the back of the van. That wasn’t a big deal in the truck but having them “internal” to the van is a different story. About three weeks were spent trying to identify good options for holding things like antifreeze, motor oil, premix, filter oil, chain saw pre-mix, chain saw chain oil, and so forth. In the end, an aluminum tool box made by Better-Built was acquired and deployed (see photo below).
It fit perfectly on the floor where I’d planned but when the top was raised it rubbed my nice black panel rails. After some contemplation, I figured out how to space it out from side just enough so it would clear and not scratch anything at all. Very good. So far, I’ve been able to put all my “fluids” in here and with the top being sealed and only two small holes (caulked) on the bottom it should be good to go!
My next project is to mount a fire extinguisher, first-aid kit, tire pump, and come up with a great option for securing the partition door. I’m also going to place some small D-Rings on either side of where a rear tire is situated. Once that is done, I’m taking a break from all this and getting back to more riding and bike maintenance. Spring is just around the corner and I need to get some trail work done before it gets all hot and nasty!
When I was young, we’d ride each time it snowed. Sometimes it was just on a small plot of land next to our house, but we’d ride. I can remember my Father, my Uncle and me going around and around a large figure 8. Once you got the hang of it, you could drift around the corners. Good practice!
Sometime in the early 70’s we got a really big snow that shut down things for days. My Father rode his Suzuki TM-250 to a factory in town where he worked in Maintenance. I’d say he was one of the few people to show up for work!
Basically, riding in the snow teaches you a lot about traction, momentum, and weight distribution. Anyone that rides a dirt bike should try it at least once! Like David said after riding last week, “That was mucho fun!” He’d never ridden in the snow before and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I’m nearly 50 and at this point, I’ve probably ridden in the snow less than two dozen times. Sure, we get snow in Kentucky, but its occurrence is rare and in most instances there isn’t enough on the ground to justify loading up and heading out.
Out West, now that is a totally different story. Their riding season is so short that they take to the snow in the winter. They talk about snowmobiles with turbos, throttles on both side of the handlebars, and “boondocking” in the back country. Dwayne, out near Tahoe has a KTM fitted with a Timbersled and Gary in South Dakota has knobbies with spikes that are just plain gnarly. Obviously, the snow doesn’t keep them inside over the winter!
To this day, one of my most memorable snow riding experiences occurred down near Duganville (bet you don’t know where that is). It was in the early-90s and I had a 1991 Honda XR600. There must have been 18″ or more on the ground and I went down to my friend Bob’s to ride. We had an established loop that was about 7 miles long around his three properties. Well I made the whole loop. I put that XR600 in fourth gear and held it at about 3/4 throttle and went everywhere. Up and down every hill, across every creek, and through each “cedar tunnel” . . . it was a blast! The snow was so deep in most places that I could just step off the bike and it would stand up in the snow with no support. I have yet to ride another bike in the snow that was better than that XR. Period.
Finally it happened. We got some snow a little over a week ago. Actually, we got a lot for Central Kentucky. There was about 12″ at the house with larger drifts here and there. At the end of the road, the drifts were over 2 feet deep. That was on Friday, and on Sunday, Jesse and I went to ride down in Casey County.
For some reason I expected there to be less snow on the ground down that way but when I hit the Lincoln-Casey line the road went to hell. I was driving the Motovan and it was not in 4WD so I eased on down the road noticing that everything “covered” with snow. I’d say there was 17″-19″ of snow on the ground where we parked. Never a dull moment!
I had spent 50 minutes or so putting sheet metal screws in my tires on Saturday evening and it paid some dividends. Regardless, forward motion was slow at times and a bit hard on the bike. A big-bore . . . that is a big-bore four-stroke would probably be the best for “big snow” riding but the YZ went ever place I pointed it.
We only covered about 4 miles and 50% of that was just logging roads. Towards the end of the ride, we came down this one hill and the snow was piled up almost 3 feet deep! I almost went over the bars getting to the bottom of that one.
The next Friday evening was spent removing the screws I’d installed the weekend before. It was going to be in the mid-50’s on Saturday and at our house, the snow was 95% gone. Mistake. Should have left the screws intact. Every North-North West slope was still covered with at least 6″ of snow. In most places it was more. Totally unexpected. Luckily it was heavier and not as light and fluffy as the previous weekend. We got around well but it was tricky and a bit tiring (see video below).
Bottom line. If you own a dirt bike and it snows at least 6 inches where you live, get out and ride in it. You don’t need to go far, just get out. Don’t be a “fair-weather” rider. You’ll be surprised what you’ll learn and fun will be had in the process!