There always has to be one, a day that keeps the “adventure” in our travels. Fifty degrees and rain is all we get from morning until early evening. That and an unplanned dead-end makes leaving our campsite and reaching the next an exercise in endurance.
The large flaps snapping in the wind was the first thing to wake me up. I was a little too warm the night before so wanted to leave the rain fly off last night. Joel and Jeremy convinced me to put it on with Joel’s compromise: leave the sides folded open.
It is still dark when I awake again to the patter of rain on the flaps I zipped closed against the wind. And when finally the penumbral light of early morning creeps across the lake, rain is still falling. I don’t think I want to get up.
When finally we reluctantly emerge, it’s a fight to make a fire; and not clear that it’s worth it. Do we stand in the rain by the fire or under a tree, like Jeremy?
The rain shows no sign of fully stopping so at the first lull we hustle to roll and stuff gear into our bags. If it’s going to rain, we might as well be riding. Let’s go!
We follow the main Motorway then turn at Mex Mountain as planned, a more direct route to Highway 12. The road narrows and gravel disappears as it begins winding through thick forest. Ferns and moss covered rocks, dripping in the rain, line its edges.
“Staying warm?” I ask Jeremy.
“Yeah!” he answers enthusiastically.
The road is beautiful and fun, though it’s getting harder to ignore cold soaking through to hands, feet and necks. And corners are demanding more care as the road’s dirt surface begins to emulsify — clues the fun could fade.
Time spent correcting a wrong turn then a dead end just as we summit the last mountain before the highway, contrary to what two maps indicated, push us into recovery mode. Since we didn’t stop at the Lochsa Lodge before starting the Motorway, we were depending on this route to refuel.
Rain hasn’t stopped and the temperature hasn’t exceeded 50°F. The dirt-only road is only getting muddier and we have to backtrack anyway so we decide to do that first then have an “emergency” fire before we figure out our next move.
Jeremy has had to switch his fuel tank to reserve and Joel’s and my fuel lights are lit by the time we get back to gravel near Mex Mountain. We stop at the first clearing and leave all our gear on, helmets included, as we alternate between gathering wood and standing under trees out of the continuing, steady rain. It will be tricky to transfer gas like this, if that’s our solution.
We are watching steam roll off the gloves still on our hands, extended over our growing fire, when we catch sight through trees of a Forest Service truck coming down an intersecting road. It stops and we designate Jeremy to hustle over and see if they might have some spare gas we can buy.
“They don’t have any gas,” he tells us when he returns, “but they laughed because there’s a warming hut just up this hill.”
We ride a hundred yards up a sideroad and gratefully peel off sopping gear inside the spacious hut we find there, then kindle a fire in its stove with wood from the ample pile. Oh, that’s nice — our first time out of the rain today.
starPhoto is from later when we were leaving
Although Lochsa Lodge and possibly Powell were our fuel plans, the forest crew told Jeremy there’s no longer gas there,¹ that Kamiah is our nearest option. That doesn’t seem right to us but we can’t afford to gamble.
We decide the F800 GS is probably the best choice for riding to Kamiah to retrieve gas so we pull the KTMs into the hut out of the rain just long enough to unhook their fuel lines and drain them of gas.
As of September 2018, the Lochsa Lodge website still mentions gas but you’d best call them before relying on it.
Somehow it falls to me to make the ride. Even with all the KTM gas, the low fuel light on the F800 GS is still lit. Great. I hope it can go 35 mountain miles. If it doesn’t, Jeremy and Joel are in for a long wait.
I ride as fast as I can with minimal throttle twisting. When I reach the highway after about an hour, the rain is finally letting up. And I see a few houses so at least if I run out of gas now, the walk won’t be bad.
Happily, that doesn’t happen. When I descend the highway into Kamiah, it’s 70ºF and doesn’t appear to have rained. Jeez, I’m not sure I want to go back. I’m finally feeling warm and dry.
I fill the GS with gas then buy a five gallon can and fill that too. Since I’m here, I grab some potato chips, hot deli food, cookies and beer. Might as well make some lemonade with the day’s lemons!
I don’t go easy on the throttle for the return. I pass several cars on the highway then attack the mountain roads. I rev and whoop like a hero when finally I approach the hut again.
We are jubilant to have avoided Brother Ride defeat once again. I tell Jeremy and Joel of the warm weather down below and hear of their posh time eating pasta and listening to an audiobook by the hot stove.
“We almost fell asleep,” they tell me.
We aren’t sure where we’re going to camp now. We’re all gassed up and the rain has finally stopped but it’s nearing dusk. We can’t reach our planned spot along the Selway. We decide just to ride the right direction, an alternate route to Highway 12, and take the first reasonable spot that comes.
We end up in a decidedly B-quality campsite — no views or water — but with time for a little fire and libations to round out our last night.
The morning brings warm sun, much needed to dry out gear that never had the chance yesterday.
There isn’t much to keep us at this campsite so we pack fairly quickly and make the remaining way to the highway.
This is quite a change from yesterday’s wet and foggy mountain riding. We twist open our throttles and zoom along asphalt following the Middle Fork of the Clearwater’s curves. At Three Rivers Resort, we turn over the bridge to continue with similar speed up the Selway River.
None of us have been up this way. It’s really beautiful. I wish we’d been able to camp here but, as Joel says, it leaves something for a future trip.
We take the first bridge over the Selway with a sign to Elk City, back to our Uncle Pete’s.
We each have several hour drives to get home from Elk City so we don’t pause for much except to quickly consult the map.
I pull into our Uncle Pete’s, where Jeremy and Joel left their trucks, with just the right amount of gas left. While they unstrap gear and begin loading their motorcycles, I bid them farewell to begin the ride back to Boise.
Weeks later as I’m sitting comfortably at home, writing these words, I realize the beer I just poured (Elysian Superfuzz) is one left over from that emergency run to Kamiah.
I pull up a chat window and message my brothers: “It seems right that I should be drinking a bottle of beer that went from Kamiah to Mex Mountain to Selway to Elk City to Boise, and in a frosted mug, as I finish the write-up.”
I get their thumbs-up then Jeremy adds, “I feel like that needs to make the write-up.”
“Okay, one crap photo for the write-up,” I concede.