The final preparation in the morning was nerve-racking. I wanted to get started as soon as possible, but I knew that if I hurried, I'd probably forget something. I don't remember ever feeling so much nervous excitement. I had finally reached the day that I had spent so many months preparing for!
It was such a relief to finally be underway! All the worries of forgetting something just melted away as I was finally on the road with everything I would need either packed on my bike or in my backpack. The destination for the day was Pocatello, which is the largest town along the way. Anything that was forgotten or I needed and didn't have could be found there.
I had about 20 miles of pavement to ride before I hit the official start point. I was expecting to run into some of the other riders who were supposed to be starting on the same day. I was thrilled to see that NO ONE was there and there weren't even any tracks. I had it all to myself!
|Beautiful morning early on Day 1 -- no other riders and no tracks... my own private Idaho!|
|The "Tour of Idaho" sign at the Utah border|
|Some T1 spectators|
|The first real off-road challenge -- climbing Weston Peak|
|More Weston Peak trail... beautiful and very fun|
|I saw a lot of this on Day 1|
I was relieved to find that the trail actually started circling back in the direction of where I was supposed to be and ended up on a road at a trailhead. The road continued taking me in the right direction to get me back on track, so that was very encouraging.
|Back on the route|
|Nice spot for a snack break|
|Having a great time!|
I followed the country roads down toward US 91, where I passed right by Downata Hot Springs (near Downey), which is a water park that was packed full of families with lots of kids. It occurred to me, as I heard the screams and laughing, that this is what most people do for thrills and fun in the summer. Man, I was so happy to not be trapped in that place and to be doing what I was doing.
|Party on top of Sedgwick Peak|
I rode right up to the top in the middle of the crowd and took a few pictures, and then the biggest misfit came along. It was a middle-aged guy, with no helmet, wearing shorts, a t-shirt and flip flops, riding up to the top bouncing along like a madman on a little scooter! There were broken plastic body pieces hanging off the poor thing and the little tires where bouncing around on the rocks like basketballs. Something's gotta give when you're riding over 10" rocks with 8" wheels. But he topped the mountain with a huge smile on his face, receiving the cheers of the rest of his happy group.
|A sandwich and a nice, cold water at the gas station|
in Lava Hot Springs
Just a few miles out of Lava, I was back on a trail. After about three miles of this trail, I ran into a navigational challenge that had me scratching my head. As I was riding, I would usually only check my navigation to make sure I was going the right way when I came to an intersection. I never saw an obvious intersection, so I just kept kept on riding on what I thought was the only trail. I glanced down at my screen and realized that I was off the route. "Dang it!" So I turned around to get back on track.
|This was the spot where I missed the turn...|
doesn't really look like a trail, does it?
But then I heard a couple of bikes on the ridge above me and realized that it was one of the groups that was starting on the same day as me. It was my first encounter with Mike and Shawn, two good riders from California who also happened to be great guys. I waited until they dropped down to where I was. We did some quick introductions, and they agreed that their navigation showed the same as mine -- that the route takes us straight down the hill. I told them I could see some tracks where a bike or two had gone maybe the day before. We talked about it and decided to go ahead and continue down. It really helped me to not only have a second and third opinion, but to also have a couple other guys to help if we had to come back up.
We came out on a road at the bottom and everything turned out just fine, I was just surprised that part of the route took us off of designated trails. It was a tough spot for someone riding solo, like me. When you're alone, you're extra careful to not get yourself into situations that you can't get out of without help.
I have to admit that when I first saw that Mike and Shawn were starting on MY day, I was less than thrilled. ;-) I really wanted to be totally on my own and not worry about other riders. But I was really glad they came along when they did and helped me out of the situation I was in... and they turned out to be a couple of really great guys who I enjoyed spending time with over the next few days.
This is why I prefer being solo. It seems like you exponentially increase your wait times as you add riding partners. Somebody is always waiting on somebody else. If I'm not the one waiting, then someone else is waiting on me, which is just as bad (it's probably a worse feeling, actually). I know it's safer to be riding with someone, but all the waiting would just kill me, especially when you're riding the Tour and on such a tight schedule where all the extra minutes really add up. But that's just my preference. Mike and Shawn actually seemed to do really well together, so it really helps if you find the right partner whose skills and experience are a good fit.
So I was back in the lead, for now. When I know there are other riders around, especially behind me, I ride differently. I know I shouldn't let it affect the way I ride, but I can't help but ride faster and make fewer stops, because I just have this urge to stay ahead. I guess it's a competitive thing, which isn't always bad, but it does change the relaxed feeling of just being all alone with no one around.
I got my stuff packed up and helmet back on, and was about to leave, and there they were. They stopped very quickly to get a picture and were ready to keep on going. I just let them go first and stayed right behind them.
The next section of trail, which followed South Fork Inman Creek, was really nice. It was the only trail that day that reminded me of a North Idaho trail -- following a mountain stream in a cool, shady canyon with big trees and dense undergrowth. And it ended up being the only time on the Tour when Shawn, Mike and I actually rode a section of trail together.
|Me right behind Mike at the end of the South Fork Inman trail|
Thanks for the pic, Shawn!
I headed up the Sorelle Canyon road within sight of them. I had heard of some riders in past years having trouble finding a very obscure trail ahead that would connect us from this canyon to another trail system. The three of us ended up searching together for this cutoff trail for a few minutes. Shawn was the first to find it and all three of us headed up the very faint trail (after Shawn found it, Mike actually went up the road looking for me to show me where it was... like I said, these were really good guys).
It was slow going and I noticed that my bike was starting to get a little hot. Just as I was thinking about possibly stopping or trying to ride faster to cool the engine, Mike stopped in front of me with steam rising from his bike. This was my chance! LOL. I knew that they'd have to stop and let Mike's bike cool down for a few minutes, so as I rode past Mike I said "I gotta keep moving to cool mine down!" and I kept going. I told Shawn what had happened to Mike and then I was off to the races with the goal of getting to the finish first.
|End of Day 1 at the flagpole|
After leaving Shawn and Mike, I rode just about as fast as I could over Chinese Peak and down to the finish, which is a flagpole out in front of the home of the creator of the Tour, Martin Hackworth. After a few minutes, Mike and Shawn showed up. It looked like Martin was in his shop, so the three of us went down the driveway and spent some time shooting the breeze with him. It was great to get to visit with Martin, since I had read so much of his writing on his site. He's an interesting character, for sure. I might never get him figured out, but all I know for sure is that he does an amazing amount of work to organize and maintain the Tour and basically works as a volunteer just because he loves to do trail riding in a certain way and gets a kick out of helping others do the same.
I probably spent a couple hours hanging around Martin's shop, which was a lot more than I had planned on. Just before dusk, I headed down into Pocatello to check into my room at the Rodeway Inn. That place seemed WAY too nice for a dirty old dirt bike rider. It was the "fanciest" motel I stayed in the whole trip.
One thing that had been on my mind and in my prayers that whole day was my family. They had been on the road traveling from Preston back home to Hayden (600 miles). My awesome wife Kathy had agreed to drive the truck all the way home, loaded with camping gear, two motorcycles, two boys and a dog and pulling our 26' camper trailer. I watched their progress and stayed in contact with them through the day when I had cell service (which was actually fairly often on Day 1). It was a nice load off my mind when I got the message that they had arrived safely at home, and Kathy had even backed the trailer into the driveway without hitting anything (unlike a recent attempt of mine... LOL).
Right next door to the Rodeway Inn was Elmer's Restaurant. I had a really good BLT sandwich, lots of water, and just had a good feeling about how the day went and I was looking forward to the days ahead. I felt good physically, my family was safe, and I had taken a big step toward proving to myself that I had the skill, experience and determination to make it.
Day 1 stats: 170 miles (from Preston), 10.5 hours
Day 1 track