Article By: Scooter Tramp Scotty
Originally Published In The February 2019 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine
We left the small city of Idaho Falls in favor of rural roads that led to a small campout in the nearby mountains. My Electra Glide and Seny’s Sportster were in good running condition. Riding under a cloudless sky I soon fell into the easy euphoria so common in distance motorcycling. By mid-afternoon, the lonely little two-lane lead us steadily through rounded mountains. Unencumbered by thick forests, this place offered open fields with only sporadic areas of heavy tree growth. Houses were rare. Eventually, what appeared to be a few residences, was, in reality, our event-campground, came into view. Not a motorcycle thing, this would be a family type campout/hot spring visit.
We pulled into the field’s large grassy center, shut the motors down and gazed at RVs parked sporadically along the perimeter. A few small groups sat below awnings in lawn chairs as conversations rambled on. We dismounted and made our introductions. My first thought in any new place is almost always where I’ll be sleeping, and we soon wandered off to seek suitable turf. Spotting Jeff’s ambulance parked near a distant corner, Seny and I walked that way. Jeff, a Shovelhead and Evo rider, was the guy in Idaho Falls who’d invited us to this gig. Just now, he was nowhere to be found. Still, his area offered the best ground, so we set camps on either side of the ambulance—which is actually an RV conversion. Attendees ranged from grandparents to little children. This was a relaxed affair with tons of food and camaraderie, so we spent the evening engaged in these two luxuries.
In the morning, Jeff climbed from his Ambulance to brew coffee outside his rig. I was surprised to learn he’d left the motorcycle home. Soon a young boy delivered the message it was time to eat. The modest crowd sat at wooden picnic tables under a polebarn. Three men worked two huge propane cookers that smoldered with eggs, pancakes, sausage, spuds, etc. Of course I piled a plate high before taking seat with the others. Seny, my personal yoga instructor, and I practiced in the morning. Afterward, we walked, albeit in different directions, in the splendor of these mountains. After, Seny was content to hang at his camp for hours, while I spent time visiting. The hot springs were still waiting and Seny didn’t want to delay. However, I opted to soak tomorrow. As the day ended cooks manned their grill-stations for dinner. The following morning began with breakfast, kids were everywhere, and raffle prizes were piled on a table. Jeff had brought a new bicycle to raffle, which I rode. After, I informed him the thing had mechanical issues. I retrieved my tool-bag, Jeff set to work, others helped, and little boys watched in anticipation.
The raffle began. Wanting no new stuff, I grabbed shorts and towel for a brief walk to the hot springs. After passing a family home, the old building that housed these springs came into view. Stepping inside, I saw a big pool full of kids, snack bar, tables, and a hallway leading to the showers. There was also another hot pool in an adjacent room with no roof. At the counter, I learned this place was run by one family who lived there and made their living from it. The vibe was relaxed and had very few rules to enforce. The roofless pool harbored mostly adults, and the water temperature was perfect. Seny showed up, and we relaxed in this small slice of heaven. I was happy to return to easy living.
By Monday, only a handful of folks remained. It was time to hit the road again. Avoiding the interstate, it was again small roads that led us along the base of Idaho’s Salmon River Mountains, which seemed like an extension of the Rockies to me. By afternoon, Craters of the Moon National Preserve was upon us. At one time nothing could survive here because of the incredible heat from volcanic activity. In fact, ancient volcanoes could be seen in every direction as the long-cooled lava flows covered the land; a surreal experience. Knowing Idaho offers more hot springs than any other place in the U.S., Canada, or Mexico, I looked for another pool. After locating a primitive spring near the roadside, we continued the two miles into Carey to check out accommodations I’d used on a previous visit. Again, the first concern was where we’d call home
Our primitive hot pool sat beyond sight of the road, its water temp was perfect, and we soaked throughout the afternoon as small handfuls of folks came and went. Having grown up in hot spring country, I know these places offer a unique experience at night and insisted we stay. Obviously enjoying himself, Seny didn’t mind. By the late hours, we were alone. No moon came this night, and with the absence of ambient light in this barren land, the star speckled sky was ridiculously bright and seemed closer than ever. Only the trickling of water interrupted our deep silence. Then the bats came. Above and around our heads they swooped and weaved in their eternal bug hunting ritual. They began to dip and ping the water just in front of me. Having left the real world, we remained still and warm on this distant planet for hours. The town of Carey boasts a small rodeo fairground. At its rear sits a building that offers real bathrooms and covered picnic tables on a concrete slab, a good camp spot. When we were having bike problems while back in Idaho Falls, a man in Boise, some 300 miles east of there, had offered us the use of tools and a lift in his garage. Although no longer in need of repairs, we were heading west anyway and accepted his offer to visit.
It was just past dark of the next day as Don, and his daughter met us in a Boise McDonalds, and we followed them home. Theirs was a nice twostory pad in an upper middle-class neighborhood. Although rooms were offered, I’m more of a garage guy so Don’s Dyna, Sportster, and bike lift, were squeezed aside to allow our bikes plus bedrolls on the floor. Although obviously a happy family man, in the week that followed I’d note our new friend would greatly enjoy the fruits of a need to spend time with the guys. This attitude was reflected in his excitement at our arrival, accommodating manner, and the many hours, we’d spend talking in the home’s attached garage.
In the morning I saw that Seny’s rear tire was flat. Having one’s bike down when you live on it is an insecure feeling, and Seny jumped into this job. After Dan produced a flat-jack, Seny lifted the rear wheel and found what appeared to be a nail. My opinion was asked for, “Tire’s still good. I’d stuff a tube in it. There’s no sin in tubing a mag. I’ve done it countless times.” While Seny was busy pulling the wheel, I got a call from Mathieu, a friend from my past. One night while in Sturgis three years earlier, after I’d returned to camp from the tiregrind I was told a strange story from my campmates. It seems a new guy from Canada was camped there. He’d read something I’d written, told his boss he was quitting, packed his bike to live on, and rode off to find me. Two weeks later he was in my camp. Wow. Next morning, our new arrival Mathieu confirmed, in bad English over a French accent, that the story was true. He had been on the road these past three years, and was now in Boise and wanted to come over. I thought… this oughta be fun.
Wheel finally off, Seny pulled the nail to find that it was not nail at all, but rather some kind of metal rod. Unfortunately, it had penetrated at an angle and had gouged the sidewall. I told Seny that I would still tube it; but this was obviously his call. Allowing him time for contemplation, we managed to break the bead and had one side off the rim with tire-spoons when Mathieu pulled up in a grand display of youth and testosterone. Originally on some Jap duel-sport bike, Mathieu now sat atop a late model Sportster with garage made customization. Introductions went around before Mathieu contemplated Seny’s “nail.” As Seny continued his work, Mathieu described, with greatly improved English, his adventures. His time in Australia, Mexico, and riding in helicopters while fighting fires in BC was very interesting. Finally deciding on a new tire, Seny asked what I’d get, and I suggested Dunlop’s Elite-3 if they still made it. Next, I offered, “Get the size off your tire. Open the map on your phone and put in motorcycle shops, not Harley shops, then ask everyone if they have your tire and how much. There’s usually one far less expensive than all the others.” Seny followed my instruction, and that’s exactly what happened. We took the wheel and climbed into Don’s SUV for a ride to the little bike shop. Seny’s bike was put back together that day.
Seny’s bike was still running like shit. Back in Idaho Falls, we’d improved it dramatically with carburetor work. But the thing still wasn’t right. On these old bikes, there’s nothing beyond carb and ignition for tuning, so we found a worn plastic part in the Dyna-S ignition. Seny had that part shipped to Don’s, and he installed it. Bike ran perfectly after that. We all spent a lot of motorcycle time together. The young guys talked about the philosophy of their rambling lives as I just listened. At a coffee shop downtown a crazy old man captivated them with his own brand of philosophy; at Mathieu’s insistence we swam in a lake and played Frisbee; we visited a fair; ate tacos from a roadside truck while talking late into the night. And there was more. When a week’s time had passed, and even with Dan’s invitation to stay as long as we liked, it was again time to go. After all, it had taken three weeks just to get from Sturgis to Boise. But what a wonderful three weeks it had been. While Mathieu would ride south to friends in Moab, Seny and I aimed our front wheels at the Cascade Mountains that stood between Eugene and us. It was a good day to ride.