Minnesotans go to The Black Hills and Idaho in 2002
Edited by Charlie Coons
(Photos by Charlie unless noted)
The Idaho trip involved a crew consisting of Pat Butler, Charlie Coons, John Coons and Tim Stubbs. Their bikes of choice were Transalp, DR350, DR350 and DR650 respectively.
Our trip began in mid-September with a warm-up in the Black Hills community of Nemo where John had reserved the Big House at the Nemo Guest Ranch. We were joined there by Joe Brueske, Joe & Beth Miller and Marty Mataya. Joe & Joe brought Dualsport bikes and Beth and Marty brought Guzzis to participate in the Moto-Guzzi event also going on at Nemo.
John and Joe B. rode in Joe’s truck and Tim, Pat, Mary and I drove the Luxo-van with trailer through the night on Thursday arriving for breakfast in Rapid City then on to Nemo. By noon or so on Friday we were ready for a ride so the DS crowd rode up to the overlook above Nemo. Later Marty rode the M-G with sidecar up there too.
After some looking around we took off to find a cave that John knew about. We found some interesting roads including one paved with small loose logs, but no cave. One DR suffered a broken clutch lever as a result of going too slow over the logs. Eventually we found ourselves in Piedmont for a late lunch after which Charlie and Tim went to Sturgis looking for a DR350 clutch lever. None was found, but a piece of copper pipe pressed onto the stub produced a serviceable lever. John, Pat and Joe M. took the hard way home.
Black Hills Route Planning Session (Tim S. photo)
Saturday after a ride to the Sugar Shack via the Centennial Trail for breakfast we decided to head for Custer Peak Lookout. A little rain and snow and a couple of wrong turns spiced up the trip. From the lookout we saw a few snow showers, but decided to head west anyway. The precip turned the trails to mud and both Joes took a close-up look at it. At length we came out on FR205 and went up to Englewood where we took an old railroad bed back to the Boondocks. By this time it was getting late and colder so we took FR539 from 385 to Nemo Rd. and returned to Nemo. The railroad bed and 539 are great fun and made us forget all about the mud.
The View From Custer Lookout (Tim S. photo)
Sunday Joe B. and Tim went to Sturgis to buy stuff and the rest took off on the Piedmont Fire Road to Stagebarn Canyon (not a road), which dumped us out near Crystal Cave. After looking around a bit we tried to go up another canyon, but Joe and Charlie decided it wasn’t suitable for them so we returned to Nemo on the fire road to pack up for Monday’s trip to Oregon.
The four intrepid explorers left Nemo in the dark Monday morning for the 18-hour drive to Jordan Valley, Oregon, which would be our base for the next four days. John had reservations for us at the Basque Inn and Texaco station. Somewhere along the line Tim contracted a cold, but held up pretty well in spite of it.
Our plan was to ride in Owyhee County Idaho in southwestern Idaho. For info see http://owyheecounty.net/profile/index.htm Owyhee County is very lightly populated and there are many ghost towns there. The most famous is Silver City and we spent a lot of time there.
Tuesday we got a late start but went east into Silver City. At one time there were 10,000 residents but there are only 1 or 2 year round residents now. The road to Silver is paved for the first 5 miles or so, and then turns to well graded and drained gravel for another 10 miles or so. The last 10 miles is a dirt road which the locals say takes about an hour to drive in a truck or car. Not recommended for low clearance vehicles. Fast and fun on a bike.
Building (needs work) on the way to Silver City (Tim S. photo)
Downtown Silver City (Tim S. photo)
Suburban Silver City (Tim S. photo)
In Silver City we toured the town on foot then ate at the old hotel now run by Roger Nelson and some partners. For many years this hotel was run by Ed Jagels who was somewhat of an institution in the area. When Ed passed away Roger and partners were able to continue the traditions of service and preservation. They now offer historic rooms and meals at reasonable prices.
Pat, Charlie Tim and John at the Idaho Hotel (Tim S. photo)
After food we tried to go up to the Tip-Top mine on Florida Mountain, but it got late before we made it all the way so we turned back to avoid riding in the dark.
On the way back to the motel we passed the Hanley ranch. Mike Hanley has lived in the area all his life and has written several books about various phases of history and life in the Idaho, Oregon, Nevada area. Seeing him in the yard we stopped and were warmly welcomed. He gave us a tour of his restored wagons and stagecoaches and extended permission to look around his “cow camp” at Fairylawn the next day.
Wednesday morning we left about 10 a.m. on a longish (180 miles) tour of southern Owyhee County. Tim decided to tour locally and rest a bit, so we were three. As we got onto the gravel the sign said “Next Services 103 miles.”
Our first stop was a canyon and campground at the North Fork of the Owyhee River.
After a quick look around we continued on to Fairylawn. As with many places on the map this was originally a homestead/ranch. It was built around 1900 and we met a woman in Jordan Valley who had lived there before her family sold it to Mike Hanley. When we arrived, Mike’s step-son (also Mike) was there working on the corral. He took time out to give us a tour of the old ranch house which is now used as temporary quarters when working in the area. It is about 36 miles from the home ranch. We later found out that Mike’s truck caught fire on the way home and was seriously but not fatally damaged.
After our tour we continued on the Juniper Mountain Road. Our plan was to go to Oreana, Murphy and Silver City. After a little map study we determined that we could go to Triangle for about the same number of miles so we took the Antelope Ridge Road North. This was a little used two-track with some rocky sections that required careful path selection for those riding Transalps. After about 16 miles we arrived at a locked gate from which we thought we could see Triangle. Oh well.
A fast gravel highway and 12 miles of pavement got us to Murphy (unincorporated), which is the county seat of Owyhee County. There is a Historical Society museum there, but it was too close to closing time for us to do anything but buy a couple of books.
We returned to Jordan Valley via Silver City. The Silver City Road was a rough two-track the first time we took it in 1975 (on /2 BMWs). Now it is paved for a few miles then a fast gravel highway to within a mile or so of Silver City. The pavement ends at the apex of a blind curve with no warning sign. It could be exciting if you are not paying attention. The route is pretty much the same with many vistas and great curves where the consequence of error is a LOT of air time.
We did a quick tour of War Eagle Mountain, had a sandwich at the Idaho Hotel, returned to Jordan Valley just at dark and then went to visit Mike Hanley to buy some books and get them signed.
Mike Hanley(L) and John
The museum in Murphy looked interesting to we decided to return on Thursday. Tim was somewhat restored and went with us. On the way we looked at the ghost towns of Delamar, Dewey and Democrat. Democrat was so named because the only Democrat in the area settled there according to local legend. The road through Democrat and Reynolds Creek is a rough two-track, again requiring care on the part of the Transalp crowd. Somewhere before Democrat Charlie had a flat on the rear. Just as the wheel came off Tim discovered a can of Fix-a-flat in his pack so that got us back on the road more quickly that a tube repair would. It held for the rest of the trip.
The Road to Democrat (one of the better parts)
We had a nice tour of the museum and then adjourned to the gas station/store to fill up. While there we decided to eat supper at Silver City so called Roger to warn him. As it happened he was preparing a family style meal for a group so we made plans to join them. Roger cooks up delicious meat, potatoes and gravy with vegetables, home made rolls and desert. All you can eat for about $13.
We took the Old Stagecoach Road which joins the Silver City Road just as the pavement ends. This is a rocky sandy two-track that is more fun than the paved road. Just past New York Summit and near the side road into Silver City Charlie felt the front wheel sliding and soon was communing with the gravel (Gravel took up residence in the Aerostich, gloves and helmet. Miraculously the next day there were no bruises or sore spots. Armor works.) Only a broken wind deflector on the Acerbis Rally Guards marred a perfect crash. Fortunately no one had the presence of mind to take photos so we continued into Silver City for supper. After an excellent meal we returned to Jordan Valley just at dark.
Friday we got a late start for Silver City but arrived in good order. After a little more visiting in town Pat, John and Charlie headed for War Eagle again while Tim took it easy and eventually rode back to Jordan Valley.
There are many mines on War Eagle and we spent some time looking at them, but never did find one with much machinery still in place. Most are just there for the looking with minimal or no warnings and no safety precautions. In the pictures below the road runs about one foot above the top of the mineshaft.
Pat (about as far in as we wanted to go)
We continued to the top of War Eagle for photos and an excellent view. After photos we toured the west side of the mountain and returned to Silver City. Eventually we all ended up in Jordan Valley to load the bikes and pack for the return trip.
The Explorers On Top of War Eagle Mt.
Pat and John and “The View”
Total dual sport miles for the week as measured on John’s Odometer were 610 miles. Not a lot of miles, but a lot of fun.
We left Jordan Valley at the gentlemanly hour of 9 a.m. (CDST) and twenty-seven hours later arrived in Minnesota to unload and go our separate ways. The main excitement was running out of gas on a foggy freeway in the wee hours of Sunday morning. Fortunately John had urged us to fill a gas can at the last gas stop so the delay was short.
ccoonsml at rconnect.com