The Idaho Baked Potato Rally - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-06-2014, 09:08 PM Thread Starter
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The Idaho Baked Potato Rally (now with video)

Last week I led a group of 5 other riders from Seattle over to Idaho for a 5 day trip. Weather forecast was for temperatures hovering around 100F, so this was going to be a toasty one. Us northerners are not used to these kinds of temperatures.

Even the famous Idaho potatoes were feeling the heat.

This would be my third time leading a group over to Idaho and this time I was going to change it up a little as there was a request for more gravel roads.

Day 1:
Heading out

I have recently added Hepco crash bars and fitted the Tinner gravel guard that had been sitting in my closet for 2 years (). Ortlieb saddle bags for my camping gear and a strapped down tank bag where the top box is supposed to go for snacks/camera etc. I didn't want to use my top box as I figured it would be stressed out on the rough roads (the connection is kind of wobbly as it is) and I didn't want my tank bag on the tank as it gets in the way when standing. So a bungee cord on the back and I was set. Last minute addition was a dry bag to hold my evaporation vest. Filled it with water before I left so I could put it on once I crossed over the Cascade mountains.

Getting out of Seattle entails a long haul on the interstate over the mountains into the dry eastern half of the State. Once there we got on back roads but the first part is deadly boring as the roads are straight as an arrow and it was already starting to get very hot. Eventually though as you near Idaho the geography changes and you enter what is known as the Palouse. This area was formed at the end of the last ice age and is a large area of highly fertile silt dunes. Picture rolling sand dunes with perfect roads winding their way lazily between them for a hundred miles and you get the idea. Perfect riding territory!

The Palouse

Then we roll through St. Maries and onto St. Joe River Road, our actual destination. This road is rated as one of the best in Idaho which is saying something as the roads out here are amazing. It was to be the first of many river roads we hit on this trip, roads that run alongside a river that meanders across a valley floor. One of the selling points of this particular one is that it doesn't really go anywhere so there is little traffic. We did 87 miles of twisty tarmac without ever catching up to a car. Probably the last time I can ever say that!

Spent the night in a primitive camp site at the end of the valley.
Camping in the woods

Last edited by alba; 08-12-2014 at 12:54 AM.
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post #2 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-06-2014, 09:10 PM Thread Starter
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Day 2:
This was to be a large loop where we head east into Montana before looping round to end the day in Lewiston, Idaho.

First off was the climb out of the St Joe River valley and into Montana. We had been told the road turned to gravel in a mile so I was taking it easy, but the road was a racetrack perfect surface all the way up the mountain till you hit the state line with Montana. The climb up that hill was one of the best roads I have done. Perfect surface, sweeping bends and grandstand views over the mountains. Wonderful start to the day.

The drop down into Montana was a gravel superhighway. I think of these as roads with a sprinkling of gravel on them. Loose gravel is not my favorite as I've yet to master sliding the back end around, but even I got up to 50mph on this road. Unfortunately the logging trucks have mastered the art of sliding the back end out as I discovered when I met one in a corner
There was no danger of a collision but I was suddenly confronted with a wall of dust coming my way. I closed my eyes, pictured the corner in my mind and made no sudden control inputs. I captured it on video and was surprised to see I was only blind for a split second. At the time it seemed like an eternity.

Uh oh...

Next interesting section was Lolo Pass where we head back into Idaho. Lolo Pass is pretty famous in these parts as a must do road. Plenty of folks have posted the picture of themselves with the "Windy Road Next 127 miles" sign. I've done it once before and didn't feel it lived up to it's reputation, but I was interested to see how I would feel this time. Ended up thinking much the same. It's a nice road but a 50mph limit on the Idaho side that is heavily policed takes all the fun out of it. 80mph would be a nice speed for this road, so it was just a gentle cruise down it for us as I had no interest in getting a ticket. The plus side is it is very pretty.

Lolo Pass

Next up was a couple of interesting but disconcerting moments. We gassed up in Kamaih and I managed to get the dregs of the tank. My friend couldn't get any gas and gave up and went to the gas station next door. I didn't have any issues but half an hour later when accelerating the motor would hit a brick wall, like a rev limiter, and then accelerate hard, hit a brick wall, accelerate hard. Was very disconcerting. I did not know my friend had to go to the other gas station at this point and I was somewhat relived when I found out. I thought my bike was dying on me so I was glad a fresh tank of Super was all it took to fix it. Next issue was a melting road surface that gave me a feeling that my front wheel was coming off. Three of us felt that so from that point on I was in slow and steady mode to get back to camp and have some beer.

FJR boxes make great coolers
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post #3 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-06-2014, 09:57 PM Thread Starter
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Day 3:
This was to be a day of gravel roads, copying a route someone had posted on advrider. They said it was an easy route. I guess that is all relative as the guy on the FJR was not quite agreeing with them. Still, it was a great day.

Heading south on Washington side of Snake River

More gravel.

The road was getting a bit rocky for an FJR so we decided to turn around.
Versys, VStrom, 1200GS, 800GS, SV650 and a FJR

No longer following the purple line on the GPS we are off exploring, finding a way from the river to the top of the plateau. We found Sherry Grade road which was smooth gravel but very steep in places with amazing views. A good road in my book.

A quick blast down Rattlesnake grade, one of the best paved roads around IMO, to have some much needed refreshments at Boggan's Oasis.

Then back to the loose stuff. Nothing too technical but more amazing views from riding along a ridge.

The FJR is about done with the adventure riding though.

So we take the shortest road back to camp and stumble upon yet another sublime paved road. I had seen this on the map but assumed it was gravel but nope, superb tarmac as it twists its way back down to river level. We had the entire road to ourselves. Just simply fantastic.
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post #4 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-06-2014, 10:28 PM Thread Starter
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Day 4
I think this was my favorite day of the trip. We were heading down to Elk City which has yet another river road leading to and again, it's sort of a dead end so limited traffic. We however were taking the back road to it, an old wagon trail that was the original road.

I had so much fun on this road. 42 miles of varying terrain, some of it easy but some it just difficult enough to be a lot of fun without being concerned about damaging the bike. I was giggling in my helmet as I wheelied over some of the large ruts. I fell in love with the Versys all over again. Capable of carving the canyons but does not blink an eye when the going gets rougher.

We eventually roll into Elk City for some much needed ice cream. Bumped into a bunch of guys off to do the Tour of Idaho, the real off road version. One guy was on a VStrom and the others all on dirt bikes so I hope he knew what he was doing.

Elk City Hilton

The weather was starting to look threatening so we high tailed it out of there, this time along the paved route. Another 60 miles of twisty river road with almost no cars
As we got to the next town we could see thunderstorms off in the distance where we were heading and learned there was a flood warning for where we'd just been.

So we hung around where we were waiting for the storms to blow over.

Then it was a quick run back to camp to demolish our beer lanterns.

Not much to say about day 5 as it was a mostly boring run back home. 1500 miles in 5 days with temperatures constantly over 100F and the Versys performed flawlessly. A small burp with bad gas but that was the only complaint it gave despite the abuse I threw at it.
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post #5 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-07-2014, 08:49 AM
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Very nice!

Ride To Live, Live To, really!
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post #6 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-07-2014, 09:15 AM
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Nice write up and great pictures. Sounds like a good time. Thanks for sharing.

- Ian Thomas
2013 Versys
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post #7 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-07-2014, 12:49 PM
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REALLY enjoyed your write-up and your pics...!


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post #8 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-12-2014, 12:53 AM Thread Starter
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Finally finished the video

No Video
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post #9 of 9 (permalink) Old 08-12-2014, 03:07 AM
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Awesome write up and photos.
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