Getting to Rebecca’s Private Idaho

In Blog by Eric BenjaminLeave a Comment

The 95 mile ride through the mountains was not the most difficult part of this race. Not even close. The most difficult part was getting there or maybe getting back, but certainly all the driving. Let’s start from the beginning.

Months ago I was lucky enough to get invited to Rebecca’s Private Idaho (RPI) which meant that I would not have to worry about registration fees. It is not because I am some big wig in the cycling industry, it’s because of the pictures I take of big wigs in the cycling industry. Like this one:

Rebecca Rusch at the Dirty Kanza 200

When Rebecca was putting her website together for RPI she wanted to use some of my images. She emailed:

“Remember me from DK200 last year?  You took some amazing shots that I’d love to use in my launch for a new gravel road event I’m hosting this year called Rebecca’s Private Idaho…” She  went on, “I’m a start up with not much funding yet, so I’m looking for the best deal you can offer me for website usage. Below is a link with a description of the event.”

Um, how could I forget Rebecca Rusch from the DK200? Is she really that humble or just being facetious? I was pretty excited about the chance to help out so I emailed back, “Rebecca, how can I forget you!? I know, kinda lame, but I went on, hopefully redeeming myself, “I would love to be a part of Rebecca’s Private Idaho. I love gravel and do anything I can to support the “movement.” Feel free to use my photos. I would love, love, love if you would give Adventure Monkey a photo credit and link back if possible.” And then I typed out a little more hopefully not pushing my luck, “So I just read the description (of RPI). Let me know if you want a photographer to be part of the pack. Seriously, you probably have great connections, but sounds like a blast… I’m no top ten racer, just a guy that can keep the pedals moving all day.”

I heard nothing for some time. Oh well, I tried right? Then I did find something in my email – a golden ticket to RPI!

OK, well, it wasn’t golden but it was enough motivation for me to want to go. I emailed a couple of other friends that we needed to do this and maybe two or three weeks before the event there were three of us from Emporia planning to go – Jeff, Lelan and of course me.

I had a couple of issues going into RPI. I just DNF’d the week before at Gravel Worlds and my ribs felt busted from the stupid mountain bike wreck I had before that. Then on top of everything else a giant bomb of a head cold was dropped on my system. I took a day and a half off work because I felt so crappy, but Friday before RPI I figured I better go into work.

I ate two oranges, bought a box of Emergen-C and a box of tissues. I figured I could knock this thing out and be fine by race day. Little did I know how bad it would get.

I suffered through a day of work, blowing my nose and sounding quite disgusting. I watched the minutes tick away in my cube until finally it was time to go. I rode home and met Jeff and Lelan at my house. Thankfully I packed the night before because they were ready to go.

Geography is really not my thing. When I decided I needed to go to RPI, I had no idea how far away Ketchum, Idaho was from Emporia, Kansas. I just knew I wanted to be a part of it.

Somewhere down the road Rusty, our Colorado rider, pulled out of RPI. After some deliberation we came up with the most glorious decision to not stop at Rusty’s or a hotel but to drive straight through to Ketchum. After all, catching four hours sleep wouldn’t feel that great and it would just get us to Ketchum four hours later. Woo Hoo, hi fives and much machismo all through the car. What’s 1300+ miles to a diesel Jetta and three tough guys like us? Nothing.

 Lelan at the helm of the mighty Jetta

Lelan drove and drove and drove. By the end of the trip he had downed way more five hour energy bottles than I believe is recommended. At some point he came down with tourette’s syndrome or something and finally lost his mind. We began to discuss the effects of no sleep on our performance at RPI. “Well, just being there is most important, it’s going to be a blast,” I said as I downed another Emergen-C laced water. Which brings me to another issue on the drive. I was downing the fluids to help me get well which led to me having to stop and pee many times. The guys were not sympathetic with my plight.

 Jeff a little loopy from being cooped in a car for hours

Lelan finally gave over the wheel to Jeff and he quickly passed out from exhaustion.


On and on we drove. It seemed to never end. We got to see Western Kansas and Eastern Colorado in the light and by the Rockies it was dark. This is hard to believe but I have never been to Colorado and now I was driving through it in the dark. So I didn’t get to see the mountains again. We passed through Colorado in darkness and kept going towards Ketchum.

The topics discussed were many. Too many to write about here and probably mostly inappropriate too. I continued to blow my nose mile after mile.

Finally the sun began to rise over the mountains of, Wyoming I think. Finally there would be something to see out the windows. When we found a place to stop for gas, it seemed a little backwards, hillbilly to me. I thought Kansas was a little backwards, but I hadn’t seen anything. We pulled up to this station and I had to get a shot of this. This is the kind of place we were. It was funny and a little scary all at once. I mean we were just three little cyclists. The Deliverance banjos were playing in my head as I got out to use the bathroom.


We took a route that would lead us up near the Tetons. It was beautiful. Cabins were everywhere. Bugs plastered the windshield and Lelan’s big sleep ended up being like a half hour. He went from comatose to fully awake in a matter of seconds and never slept again. Yeah, that should feel good as he climbed mountains the next morning. But he’s a toughie.



At some point we entered Idaho. It sounds more sexy than it really was. Idaho was pretty barren for many miles until we got close to Ketchum.

People would ask about the sexy bike on the back of the car. I should make flyers to hand out because it happens everywhere I go. One of these fatbike companies should definitely make me their spokesperson and let me test out all their new stuff. For real. I did the usual explanation of how they started out as snow bikes, yada, yada, yada now I am riding it at RPI. They are fun, stable and faster than you think. And they are fun. Aeros on a fatbike though? Yes. I never thought I’d like them as much as I do, but on longer rides, I love them. They are comfortable, get me out of the wind and even on the fatty pick me up about one or two miles per hour on the flats. Totally worth the ridicule.

I live in Kansas and thought I saw wheat fields before, but these fields of wheat were enormous.

As we got closer, the mountains began to poke through the landscape. Then we saw a sign for something called Craters of the Moon and we knew we would have to stop to check it out. We were getting close now!

Craters of the Moon National Monument was amazing. Back in the day of dinos and volcanoes there were active volcanoes there. The landscape was miles and miles of volcanic rock. Looking out at the landscape it was easy to imagine the flowing lava years ago. It was far out man, far out.




 We just had to get pictures of ourselves



 Not too far after that we were there man! Ketchum, Idaho!

We got there just in time for the parade. I was in no mood. I was tired and my head felt like it needed to explode. The amount of snot that came out of me over the weekend would most likely set records.

We went to our condo that we shared with Scott Rake. I must take the time right here to thank him for that. The condo was sweet and comfortable and saved us three Kansas boys a bunch of money. He’s a top notch guy, a helluva bike rider and a pretty cool guy to hang out with. Thanks again Scott!

We rode down to register for the race. I gotta say, for the first RPI, Rebecca did a great job with the whole thing. It was a top notch event in a beautiful setting. Ketchum was a town like none I have seen. I felt like I was in a movie or something. It is a small, quaint town with what seemed like a bike shop on every corner. It was a bicycle and dog friendly town. Nobody locked up their bikes. Once again, I had a lot of questions from the local town folk about the fat tires. I figured in a place with that much snow they would know all about it, but that was not the case.

 Our bikes waiting as we registered for the race

A little later, Rebecca talked for a bit to tell us about the race and the course. I could barely pay attention as I had to blow my nose and the sun was hurting my eyes. Man I was in pretty bad shape. I just wanted to call it a day and go to sleep. But I shot a few photos of Rebecca as she told us what to expect on race day.

 Specialized Jeans!


When it was over we went out to eat at this quaint little place and ate some delicious burgers. As we were sitting outside some ash was coming out of the sky from the fires they had fought. It was still a little hazy from all the smoke. The people I was meeting for the first time must have thought I was a snob or something because my head was so stuffed and I felt so terrible it took some effort to even talk. I just wanted to go to bed.

I had gotten my bike and number plates all ready to roll before the race meeting. I found out I had put the plates on the wrong spots, but was too tired to care about switching them. Plus it was only important if you were concerned about getting the KOM. I was entirely sure I had no chance of that. I wasn’t even sure if I would be able to tow the line in the morning.

Lelan and Jeff decided to taste the nightlife of Ketchum. I wished them well and crashed on the sofa bed. I did not even hear them come back. Luckily I slept like a rock until the morning alarm.

I got up and felt maybe a little better. I was still blowing my nose, but thought I could at least start riding and see how things played out. I put rice cakes in the frame bag, put on the arm and leg warmers, downed some more Emergen-C and took care of the first part of every race day. The morning poo. All was well so far.

We headed to downtown.


As we got there and I rode around I couldn’t believe who I saw. No way – it was Elden, the Fat Cyclist and his wife, the Hammer! I have been a fan of his super-famous blog for quite some time. I couldn’t believe I would be riding with him, well let’s say starting the ride with him. Yeah, it’s a man crush. I also found out Levi Leipheimer was riding with us too. That’s when I thought, “What they eff am I doing here?” But after a second or two I just went with it and rode around to waste time.

 Sorry for the terrible picture, Elden, but that’s what I got.

As I rode around I got many, and I repeat, many comments on my bike. A fatbike with aero bars! It’s like they’ve never seen anything so cool. And come on, it is pretty darn cool. A fatbike was one thing but the aeros really set people off. They just knew I was some idiot that would never finish the 95 miles of mountainous roads. I wasn’t so sure myself. I just figured I would start pedaling and if I didn’t feel better, I could always turn around, go back to the condo and go to sleep.

 I was towing the line with the Fat Cyclist. I was a little giddy.

We rolled out. We were on pavement for like six or seven miles as everyone passed by me. I was in no hurry. I especially didn’t want people behind me as my snot rockets were pretty impressive displays. I hadn’t even hit the hill, the first and biggest climb of the day, and I felt like total dung. I wanted to turn around. The tiny bit of a climb was enough to make my fat tires feel especially slow. I told myself I would at least get to the big climb before giving up. It didn’t come soon enough. To be continued…

Feed Your Monkey!