Weather had been unusually nice and my friend Greg Bunce had some business in Boise so, at his prompting, we decided to make it a weekend motorcycle trip from our homes in Moscow, Idaho. I would hang out with my childhood friend Brett, who’d moved there a few years earlier, while Greg was busy. At the time, I worked at the University of Idaho computer store and so had access to demonstration units of some of the first-ever consumer digital cameras, such as the Apple QuickTake and Casio QV-10. I used them quite a bit — so cool to see the photos right on our computer monitors! What we didn’t see comparing our fourteen-inch screens to 4 × 6 prints was just how much quality was lost compared to film. It’s almost tragic but I guess also a bit of history. These were probably shot on the QV-10. Its images were less than one-tenth of a megapixel (320 × 240).
We were a bit of an odd couple, Greg and I — him on his meticulously maintained Ninja and me a foot taller and a hundred miles-per-hour slower on my XR 650L.
The trip that began smoothly enough became quickly frustrating when my back tire went flat only a bit past Ferdinand, about eighty miles from Moscow. There was some question about what to do — whether to abort the mission altogether or attempt some fix — but on Greg’s suggestion we hobbled into nearby Cottonwood in hopes that a repair would be available.
The Cottonwood service station could offer us no help but to suggest we try Tackett’s in Grangeville, thirteen miles up the road. A phone call confirmed help was available so we began the slow trek on the side of the road to Grangeville.
After a slow journey from Cottonwood to Grangeville we made it to Tackett’s Saw Service.
Greg was patient about the hours added to our trip even though it meant we would be arriving in the dark. With a new tube installed, we hit the road again for Boise.
Night was upon us by the time we began winding along the Payette River. Carving left and right through the dark was mesmerizing and fun and I rode without concern that I didn’t see Greg’s light behind me. He arrived at Brett’s sometime after me and was rightly miffed that I hadn’t stopped anywhere to re-group.
I don’t remember the XR 350 needing as much attention before I sold it to Brett. He had to resolve fueling problems before we could head out for a day of desert death defiance. Once the dual carburetors were sorted, the kick-starter recoil spring failed — whack-a-mole mechanical issues. That was mitigated with a bit of twine.
With Brett’s motorcycle ready, we drove to a spot where Brett had seen some trails. It wasn’t exactly pretty.
Brett’s little truck lost its grill earlier in the year when we were speeding together along Orchard Loop Road and hit a deer. It scampered off when we got out to check on it.
The disappointing terrain was made somewhat more interesting by the sound of ricocheting bullets. Over one of these hills was a group of folks target practicing.
My dual-sport tire didn’t fare so well in the poof dust.
Brett’s speedometer cable came loose next.
After mitigating kickstarter, tank and speedometer issues, the fueling problem resurfaced. I think it was a couple whacks with a screwdriver to fix it.
Before heading out the next day in search of better riding, Brett worked to exorcise the XR’s demons.
On the advice of some guys Brett knew, we drove South about an hour to find trails across the Snake River.
Brett and I had a lot of fun on the trails out there. Towards the end of the day, after coming to a stop on a steep, gravelly hill, I began sliding backwards and squeezed the front brake so hard before jumping off that I broke the lever. That made the remaining riding more interesting.
I didn’t really believe J.B. Weld could fix the lever — too much stress on a small surface — but with a little time to spare, it couldn’t hurt. It didn’t hold even once.
Wanting to get back for work and school, Greg and I got up while it was still dark and headed toward Moscow. The cold was bitter. We stopped at the first town, Cascade, to warm up. We both bought gloves to wear under our bigger gloves. Greg also bought some long underwear to add under his pants and I added a pair of sweatpants I already had. We added all the layers we could muster.
The second flat happened within twenty-five miles of the first one. The same guy at Tackett’s Saw Shop was our best hope for a fix. From Whitebird I called him and not only was he willing to fix it but he offered to use his lunch hour to drive twenty minutes from Grangeville to pick the bike up so I wouldn’t have to ride it on a flat — nice guy!
The unusual recurrence of flats, it turned out, was the product of a tear on the inner wall of my tire, not noticeable from the outside and not something you’d normally feel by running your hand around the inside of the tire. My only option was to purchase a new tire from him. Luckily, he had one to fit my bike. Unluckily, the only reason he still had one was because everyone thought it was too expensive. But it got us home.