Expedition Idaho: Where Memory Lane Isn’t Paved

Text: Alfonse Palaima • Photography: Alfonse Palaima

Going the distance can mean so many different things. For wanderers, it typically refers to making a trip longer than expected, by choice, or sometimes, by forces beyond our control. For others, it just means that you’ve gone, or are going, as far as you can. Last year I made just such a journey, along with a group of guys I didn’t yet know, all the way to land’s end in South America.

In two months’ time, and after a year of prep work, we rode the entire length of the Andean Range, from Cartagena to Ushuaia, traveling close to 11,000 miles. Nearing the end of the road then, we knew, after all that we had seen, experienced, and endured together, as we crawled and sometimes raced our way to the southernmost city in the world, that we would come together again, despite any petty road squabbles or differences. Travel can be difficult, and doing it as a team—with 15 independent and democratic operators—surely has its moments. But none of them outweighed the collective experience. The weather and landscapes encountered, the people we met, their faces, the smiles, and the children—for each of us, the journey was like no other. 

On the one-year anniversary of our launch from Colombia, six of us met up again, gathering over Labor Day weekend at our “farming” pal’s place in McCall, Idaho, to ride parts of the Oregon and Idaho Backcountry Discovery Routes (ORBDR & IDBDR). And instead of acquiring visas, passports, and shipping manifests, we rode (or drove) in from across the country to reunite and reminisce about our greatest expedition to date. Call it a stay-cation if you like, but it was still a 3,000-mile journey on its own, for me anyway.

The Plan

The plan—beyond recalling the craziness we’d seen in Colombia and Ecuador and the beauty we found in Peru and Bolivia—was to rally in McCall and ride a counterclockwise loop through and across the Magruder Corridor and the Lolo Motorway before returning to McCall.

What we didn’t plan for were the forest fires ravaging the region, occasionally closing parts of our intended route. But that’s where local knowledge comes to the rescue. Our group’s host in Idaho is not only a local, but also a volunteer route finder for the BDR group; so he knows the “official” route intimately, and a whole lot about Idaho, Wyoming, and Oregon to boot. Plus, two of our six reunion attendees live in those neighboring states. We shouldn’t get lost.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the May/June 2018 back issue.