JACK SHOALMIRE SS1000 IDAHO RIDE – OCTOBER 15, 2011
“I don’t know if I can make it?”
I glance over to Steve Cook who is hollering out to me. I hear his Harley’s clearly barking exhaust talking to me but am unsure if what I heard from Steve is true? Motioning to pull over, we leave the only stoplight in Ponderay, Idaho and turn into the Conoco station lot that is filled with potholes and has pitch black visibility. I had met up with Steve exactly 84 miles earlier in Priest River, Idaho at the Shell station at the junction of Highway 57 and 2. The roadway was plenty wet when we met just after 3am and the only signs of life were the two city cops pointing their radar at anything that resembled life. It was supposed to be Steve Cook’s first Iron Butt Association (IBA) ride, an event he had talked about wanting to take for some time.
“I am so cold!”
I sincerely felt for him as it was a tough way to start our Jack Shoalmire SS1000 Idaho ride that would encompass 1,000 miles only on roads within the State of Idaho. I was cold also and had anything electric turned on high along with donning everything that resembled warmth and was snow ski related.
“I can’t feel my fingers, my toes are cold and I don’t know if I can make it if I stay like this”.
If Steve was going to continue on it would have to be one proud ride that would cost a lot of sacrifice in the way of mental anguish and pure gut it out style. With no electrics to help warm he up it wasn’t a good way to start. In fact it’s not the initial type of ride I would have planned. With rain forecasted to the south of us it was looking to be an ugly day. I told Steve the decision was his to make, that I would respect whatever he decided. I really valued his complete candor at this point in time and promised to go with him on an IBA ride in the future. Being young, strong and really wanting to pull this off it was a tough call for Steve. He wasn’t one to quit. Sitting on his Sportster he was kicking gravel with his foot probably hoping that an overturned rock would hold a clear answer. I felt for him but kept my mouth shut for once as it needed to be his decision. Steve decided to opt out. As we rode the next mile into Sandpoint to the fork in the road we both waved “adios” to each other and took opposite paths. I wondered momentarily right then if he was the smart one as I had a long cold ride ahead.
When I first heard of Jack Shoalmire’s death and the 100 rides he had taken on and accomplished I thought – “I’m sure the guy felt he was just getting started”. I did not know Jack personally though we both had ridden in the 2007 IBR. I had heard of Jack and his exploits and knew he had a passion for pounding out miles and turning them into certificates. Howard Entman knew Jack though and wanted to show respect to his friend by organizing a ride. While I hadn’t met Jack, I had met Howard at Mike Hickman’s IBR Shake Down Rally in Oklahoma last May. A likeable guy Howard was plenty smart with a great wife by the name of June. I had the chance to meet June as she had flown out to the IBR finish in Ontario, California in order to see Howard finish the 2011 IBR. She passed along a fun insight on Howard on how he enjoyed mastering machines of all types and joked that she hoped he wasn’t planning on taking up trains when and if the motorcycles ran their course. On this latest venture little did Howard suspect how fast his planted seed of an idea in memory of Jack Shoalmire would grow. And grow fast it did. Like Jack in the Beanstalk Howard’s idea grabbed the imagination of both newbie and veteran rider alike by taking on what Jack Shoalmire was trying to accomplish of riding a Saddlesore 1000 in each state of the U.S. Howard picked a date of October 15th as the day to ride. October 15th? Not my ideal time for a 1,000 mile jaunt around Idaho. It might snow. Or worse yet there might be snow on the roads and a driving rain. But when I saw Howard’s email to me asking “Michael, would you ride Idaho?” what else could I do. The license plate bracket did say “Worlds Toughest Riders”. I guess I was lucky Howard didn’t line this ride up for December 15th. I immediately signed on and pulled myself up to the table to take on what was about to be served. As the date got closer I kept a close eye on the weather reports. I started getting messages along with a flurry of emails from friends. My longtime riding buddy Carl Stark called to say he was riding Wyoming with a Hoka Hey contestant and first time IBA rider. New friends Tyler Zimmerman and Adam Howell where taking on the State of Montana. Tyler and Adam had just completed their first Saddlesore during Bob and Sylvie Torters “GBU Rally” in July and got bit with the ld bug hard. In addition they decided they would also attempt a Bun Burner Gold (BBG), 1,500 miles in under 24 hours. I emailed Howard a few times and got regular updates. Fifty signed up. Next 100 people committed. Mike Kneebone jumped on line to ask for support from riders in tough states looking for riders to join the hunt. Whew! The cavalry responded to Mike with 130 riders jumping in. Finally, I last heard over 150 riders would cover all of the 50 states. Howard had hit a home run and was putting on a fine memorial for his friend Jack.
Leaving Sandpoint solo for the final 900 plus miles of my ride my thoughts turned to the business at hand. “Make a Plan”. “Ride Your Plan”. “Have Fun”. “Trust God” and “Look Ahead”. All mantras for me and part of my plan for the day! I had previously taken the same ride some years back and this time threw in a few twists to add to the fun. My plan was to take advantage of Idaho’s, Highway 95, “ The Goat Trail of Idaho” as the politicians liked to call it. I personally liked the road. Naw, I flat loved it in some places. A fan of curves whether on roads, wood boats or women I am usually dismayed when I see Idaho’s Transportation Department constantly struggling to pull curves out of this roadway that runs down the length of Idaho’s backbone over 510 miles long. The essence of this day would be Highway 95 and the 436 miles of bending turns heading south in one direction, only to turn around and do it again on the way back. Cruise control was no option on this trip and a worthless farkle piece that just hung on my Honda ST1300. Instead, wide sweepers that allowed a rider to tilt the horizon like a carnival ride. Grades with the name of Winchester or White Bird and enough pass opportunities to hammer past drivers that were timidly driving “10 under” the speed limit giving me plenty of time to set up for the next bend in the road.
Having started off on my ride at 2:23am I froze my butt off for the first 416 miles until riding past the 45th parallel midway between the Equator and the North Pole. Though it felt closer to the North Pole, I was motivated knowing full well 150 riders were out in force taking on the same challenge I was. Who was in Alaska today? How was Carl doing in Wyoming? How were Tyler and Adam doing in Montana? Who was riding in Washington State? All thoughts and things to keep my mind occupied as I rode along. As a kid I hated math in school but use it all the time on rides to keep me occupied. I fuss thinking of my schedule. Am I late or early with my plan? I use different numbers in my head to see how different speed averages will affect the ride. I tend to group things such as how many animals do I see? And what types? On this day, 17 Smokey the Bear signs along with two coyote and three cattle on the road. In addition there were 12.5 deer, six alive and jumping out of the brush! The other 5½ were smeared into the pavement from the night before. I’m just glad six dead “forest rats” won’t be out tonight to take a shot at me on the way back. Ahhh yes---Idaho! It has its share of wildlife. And hazards! Especially at night turning me into a fearful fit of a human being who leans hard onto my main nighttime mantra of “Trust God”! That and by using my HID lights and air horn liberally. Today I am hungry and like to stay that way. It keeps me on my game. It makes me alert. I can dream though of food and a big breakfast and whatever else passes into my head. I pass diners and restaurants on Highway 95 like the “Red Neck Café” or “Babes” where pickups with gun racks and 4 wheelers in the truck beds outnumber cars parked out front. It’s Saturday and it’s a casual crowd I see with folks dressed in puff jackets, sweats and girls with hair pulled back into ponytails herding kids out of harms way in the parking lot. No one is in a hurry except me. Got to keep to the schedule! With daylight taking the short end of the stick right now I want to make use of every minute while it is light out. Howard instructed us to take a photo of ourselves and our bike in front of a state sign. I look for tourists next to Idaho signs and see none. I do spot two motorcyclists, E.J. Bear from Payette, Idaho and Loren Sandy from Nampa out for a ride and willing to ride down to the beat up sign welcoming visitors to New Meadows, Idaho. After the photo shoot I bid adieu to E.J. and Loren and run smack into a set of another delightful twisted roadway! Nirvana! I tell people that I would be happy to stay home in Idaho if they threw a fence up around the state and made me stay within the confines. Close to 200 mountains over 10,000 feet in height to climb, skiing Mecca’s like Sun Valley, wild rivers and curvy roads! Idaho roadways are dictated by the rivers that have cut their way out of the canyons, rocks and mountains. Today I will never cross the 1,000 plus mile Snake River but I will parallel it and catch views of it a good part of the day. I’ll cross the Clearwater River, third largest in the Rocky Mountains where Lewis and Clark traveled down over 200 years ago. Other waterways come into my vision for the moment as I cross the dozens of bridges that take me into the next set of adrenaline filled road. River highways of old like the Pend Oreille or the Spokane, Weiser and Palouse, all running clear and icy cold. Fishermen are in drift boats setting course with their oars or just plain standing out in the Salmon River near Riggins casting lines with fly fishing rods. The day’s weather is like the state, a mumble jumble combination of rock, water and jagged mountains forcing themselves into the sky. I get soaked and depressed going through the dreary dream like grey skies of Grangeville. Everything looks so bleak. Southern Idaho warms my cold bones up with sunshine and 72 degree heat for two hours. The lumber and chip trucks in the north give way to the potato and onion trucks in the southern farm land, some with onions bouncing out of their trucks into my path. At the city of Fruitland I leave Highway 95 and head east towards my turnaround spot of Boise, Idaho. I am a foreigner now as I jump on to I-84. It is flat, wide, boring and has no radical bends in it. The Idaho Transportation Department has succeeded here in taking any life out of this Interstate. But it is a good stretch to pile on miles. I spot my predetermined turnaround spot picked especially for this ride. I know I am close as I spot the massive tail of a U.P.S. jet at the airport. I have been to this spot many times. It is a Chevron station at the Boise airport, complete with a McDonalds, clean restroom, good receipts and bananas that are eatable! It is also close to the exit where I only plan to spend a total of 10 minutes fueling up, grabbing a dollar burger and placing a couple of quick calls. All those messages piling up on my phone will have to wait until tonight or better yet tomorrow. I see messages, eight of them but refuse to respond. As any ld rider knows, outside life needs to be put on hold during a timed ride to preserve that precious daylight.
I climb onto I-84 again and put my ride in reverse, backtracking what I have just spent the last nine hours heading south towards. The breakfast houses are closed. The shadows are different and there is 33 degree temps waiting for me as I head farther north. There are all those curves again and the Honda purrs its way through each and every one. That and a beautiful Hunters Moon awaits me and rises in the east as I get closer to the City of Coeur d’Alene and the north. I pull into the same station I left in Sandpoint, Idaho, The Dairy Depot. It is 8:36pm. The employee this morning smoking cigarettes sitting on the milk carton is long gone but the gas pumps give me a good receipt and I look to see that I have spent the last 18 hours and 13 minutes doing what I love to do --- ride my bike, solve my life’s problems and day dream about the future. 1020.4 incredible miles! Thank you Jack Shoalmire! I may never have met you but I won’t forget you because of this day. And thank you Howard Entman for being the kind of friend to Jack that every person would hope to find in their own life. For putting together a ride on a a mass scale that is so fitting for 150 of my riding friends that I may never meet but know full well that they had a day as full of memories to take them into the future.
Howard Entman – you really know how to honor a guy!