Yesterday was fantastic. There is no other way to describe traveling through this beautiful part of the country. Today’s ride is around the northern and western side of the Sawtooth Mountains along Idaho 21. When I turned onto the highway, I instantly wanted to stop to capture these beautiful, rocky mountains.
I’m equally impressed how well the iPhone captures these mountains. The midmorning sun provided great light in telephoto, standard, and panoramic formats.
I’ve heard Montana known as big sky country, but this part of Idaho with a little help from a wide-angle lens has big skies as well. Idaho 21 out of Stanley is going to be a really good time!
The first part of Idaho 21 followed the Sawtooth Mountains. I wanted to savor this time looking for interesting stops along the way – particularly lakes and overlooks. About 4 miles out of town and overlook provided a different perspective of the Sawtooths looking back towards Stanley.
A little further out of town was Stanley Lake. Given that it carries the same moniker as a town I have wondered about for years, I couldn’t pass by the opportunity to see this body of water. Stanley Lake is pretty, but it doesn’t have the absolute wow factor that Redfish Lake did yesterday. The water was a touch cloudy and somewhat green today. Others report it’s a great lake for all uses – I just didn’t see it today.
Riding Idaho, 21 felt a lot like riding Highway 75. The turns were generous and expansive, providing sweeping views of the landscape all around. I cruised along and crossed the pass from Custer County into Boise County, and the road quality instantly went to shit. Potholes dotted the road surface and made for comparatively bumpy riding from just a few minutes ago. Literally just came over a blind pass and the pavement completely changed. Note to self: Always be alert!
The hotel warned me that Idaho 21 was closed due to an extensive paving project Monday through Friday. All traffic would be rerouted along Banks – Lowman Road over to Idaho 55 back into Boise. I’m guessing the road crews haven’t yet gotten this far into the mountains: it needs it. Riding Highway 21 was hit and miss all the way down to the town of Garden City, where all southbound traffic was routed onto Banks – Lowman Road.
In sharp contrast, Banks – Lowman Road is a small, technical road going through a deep canyon connecting Idaho 21 and Idaho 55. I was working a bit with the big GS, navigating the sharp turns, steep canyons, and gravel I hoped didn’t exist. Now, it felt like I was riding back home. The wind picked up significantly as well. The GS held its own in the wind, but it was a dance through the curves bounced around by the wind. Unfortunately, Banks–Lowman Road was far too short. I arrived in Garden City hungry and ready for a break.
I lucked out on the only restaurant in town. The restaurant was a cross between a bar and a beer pub, and the food was absolutely fantastic. Eating well while riding a motorcycle is often like eating while camping. Whatever you eat is always way better than if you ate at home. Either way, lunch was fantastic. I could see myself coming back here. Plus, the waitstaff were excellent. They made the extra effort to make a traveler far from home feel welcome.
Idaho 55 had considerably more traffic than any other road I’d been on since leaving the Boise Metro area. I could see traffic streaming into the mountains as I approached town during commute hour. I was surprised by the significant traffic in Boise, given its relatively small size. Lots of red lights, lots of construction, very little mass transit, and only one freeway that crosses town.
As I neared the Boise Metro area, smoke filled the skies. I thought I would be free of the wildfire smoke from here on out, but the wind had another plan. Smoke blanketed the entire space around me. Visibility was reduced so I couldn’t see any of the beautiful geographic features around me. In some ways, I was in Southern California with all the smog and traffic for which Los Angeles is known.
Returning the bike back to its owner proved to be painless. He was thankful I made the fix to the turn signal out on the road and didn’t give me any hassle about any pre-existing damage. Generally, I find motorcyclists to be good people – especially the ones who enjoy the sport or love to travel on their bikes. This owner was one of those people.
Sometimes, I take a photo to use as my wallpaper because a ride or an experience is truly outstanding. I want to remember being in the saddle in the Sawtooths when I’m back home in the office.