Humanity :: Those Idahoans

idaho backcountry discovery route sunset

Two weeks into a two-year motorcycle adventure around the world, I’m cruising along the St. Joe River on the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route. One mile remains on the trail before my boyfriend and I will connect with a paved road leading into the endearing hamlet of Avery. I spy a boulder the size of a wood stove in front of me and choose my line. Five seconds later, I’m in a ditch, the rear wheel of my BMW G 650 GS spinning in the air.

riding full circle idaho backcountry discovery route

The boulder that took me out. The black scratch on the rock is from my pannier hitting.

Dave finds me when the adrenaline—nature’s morphine—has worn off. I’m holding my right arm where a shooting pain comes from the base of my right thumb. I can’t ride.

“I’ll ferry the bikes to the road,” Dave tells me. “Are you okay to walk?”


I work out what happened while striding along the trail, happy my legs are okay. The aluminum hard case on the right side of my luggage rack hit the boulder with enough force for the box to sheer off my bike. I lost control and veered left into the ditch, coming to a bone-crunching halt.

Now what? We’re hundreds of miles from home and know no one in the area.

idaho backcountry discovery route sunset

Sunset along the Idaho Backcountry Discovery Route



In Avery, Dave and I are surprised when the owner of a fish and tackle store loans us his van so Dave can take me to the hospital 50 miles away.

“Take the keys, son. She’ll be more comfortable than on the back of your bike.”

An X-ray in St. Maries reveals a fracture at the top of the right radius. I’m heartbroken because this means the end of our trip for now.

broken wrist riding full circle

Not impressed after breaking my wrist.

We call Sheffy, the van owner, to let him know we’ll be back after dinner.

“Stay the night there. No rush. Bring it back tomorrow.”

We find a lackluster hotel room in St. Maries and Dave gets some ice from down the hall. I remove the splint and place a cube on the swelling.

“What do we do now?” I ask.

“I don’t know.” Dave looks as sad as I feel.

For over a year, we prepared to ride around the world, selling Dave’s house and truck along with my magazine business in order to come up with the funds. Items we wanted to keep were in storage; the rest we sold. There was nowhere for us to go. “Home” was on two wheels now.

riding full circle home on two wheels

Our homes on two wheels.


In the morning, Dave takes the van to Avery and retrieves his bike. He asks Sheffy to keep mine in his garage until we know our next move. Sheffy says no problem. Aside from the broken pannier, there is no damage to my bike, which is good.

BMW G 650 GS

This is the last time my bike looks this good.

Bored at the hotel, I write about my accident and post it to our travel blog. I debated doing this as I didn’t want people to know how soon into the trip I failed. Half an hour later, I receive a message from a man named Neil.

“Hi Heather, sorry about the break. Do you and Dave need a place to rest up for a week or two? If so, let me know, and I will work on some logistics to get you and your machines to Sandpoint.”

Three days before my accident, Dave and I were eating ice cream outside a gas station in Samuels, Idaho. A tall, barrel-chested man approached in cowboy boots, a dark leather vest, and a bolo tie.

“I’m Neil.” He reached to shake our hands. “Now, where’re you kids going with all this stuff?”

I gave him our web address before we parted ways.

“I’ll be following along. You two take care now.”

Scenery you’ll find along the Idaho BDR.


Scenery you’ll find along the Idaho BDR.



I read Neil’s email again. His offer, which includes staying in a private cabin on his ranch for “as long as you need,” is more than just convenient. A rider himself, Neil’s generosity bridges the gap between stranger and friend—between being lost and feeling welcome.

Linda and Neil, our saviors, in Sandpoint, Idaho.


Linda loaned Dave and me her T-bird to go for a drive one day.


This three-on-the-tree Chevy was also loaned to us whenever we needed to get around while staying with Neil and Linda.

We stay with Neil and his wife, Linda, for almost two weeks. One day, the four of us drive to Avery and lash my bike down in the back of Neil’s truck. When it’s clear I need a while to heal, Neil drives us six hours north to my parents in British Columbia, where we all enjoy a Canadian Thanksgiving together.

My undamaged motorcycle in the back of Neil’s truck after he drove 100 miles to pick it up.



Three months later, Dave and I set off again. Our experience with those Idahoans early on in our travels sets the tone for the next 708 days we spend riding through 40 countries. Time and again, we discover no one is a stranger, and help always comes when you need it most.

For more of our adventures, see


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Heather Lea has traveled to over 60 countries, 40 of which were on a BMW F 800 GS during a 708-day round-the-world motorcycle adventure with now-husband, Dave Sears (Trip Blog: Riding Full Circle). Heather has been a freelance writer for over twenty-five years and a book and magazine editor for more than fifteen. Aside from Expedition Portal, her stories can be found in Overland Journal, Canadian Geographic, Kootenay Mountain Culture, and Canadian Alpine Journal. She loves doing anything in the backcountry, including backpacking, four-wheel-driving, ski touring, and climbing. Heather is a Canadian now living in Bellingham, WA. Find her on Instagram at writer_heather_lea or on Facebook at Heather Lea—Senior Editor—motorcycles.