Day 27 miles 1035-1095
Today was a day! I guess that is true of all days but especially this one. Today I crossed a new state off my list: IDAHO.
We started out with the massive downhill from the top of Keeney Pass. Those fast five miles put us in a good mood for the next twenty we wound through farm land in search of the Oregon/Idaho border. We finally arrived at the town of Adrian where we planned to cross the Snake River, a mere 4 miles from the border according to the Google. We stopped at a park on the outskirts of town to play with Ru for a little while. A woman was milling around the park and soon jumped into a blue pick up that pulled into the parking lot. After what Joey and I assumed was a mid day drug deal, she got out of the car and walked toward us. Here’s what she said:
Her: you guys biking across the country?
Me:(to end the conversation as soon as possible) yes!
Her: you are about the thirtieth couple we’ve seen today!
Me: Ha, that’s great. We have to go, about to cross the border to idaho and I’ve never been.
Her: girlfriend let me tell you, Idaho sucks, I’m from Idaho.
Me: ohhhh ok
Charming! We then went to the only marketing town. While they did have gratifyingly cheap airheads (must replenish my anxiety candy) I asked if we could fill up water and was told “not in this town” due to dangerously high sulphur levels. Everyone in this lovely little Oregon town drinks, cooks, and bathed in bottled water. Whoa.
So we left. We checked the map every so often and sometime between farms in the next 5 miles we crossed the border! There was no triumphant photo op like there was with Oregon but I swear we did it. Once we were solidly in Idaho it was time to focus on today’s ultimate challenge; Boise.
Our plan to start the morning was to camp at the KOA Google told us was just west of the city. Joey took a closer look and saw that it seemed to be exclusively concrete on the satellite view and we started to get worried. It was already over 90 and if we had to wedge ourselves between big rig RVs running generators the heat would likely cause our tarp and tent to fuse to the ground. Also we’d be miserable. So I called the campground to ask if it was safe for humans only to be told that they were full…..and so were all the other campgrounds the owner knew about in town. Panic set in a little bit then. Urban camping in strange cities with a puppy is not one of my fortes. We checked a few more places and sure enough they were all full. We thought about warm showers (there are tons of hosts in Boise) but decided that it wouldn’t serve our current need. We wanted somewhere with running water we could get to, use all facilities, drink beer, not talk, and recoup not a place where we would make a new friend, spend some time and have some fun. And the. The idea dawned on us. We always said there would be a day when we would reach the end of our ropes ,throw caution to the wind and just get a hotel room. As we saw the options dwindling before our eyes it became clear that today was that day. We were in the biggest place on this leg of the journey with no where to go and a borderline over heating dog. We needed air conditioning and showers. I found a Howard Johnson by the airport (still on our way though) for $46 and jumped at it. We were buoyed the whole afternoon by the prospect of a bed and pumped through the alternating sugar beet farms and strip malls that dot the Boise suburbs. We arrived around 4, tumbled into our room, took showers, ordered pizza and watched Chopped. WORTH IT
Day 28 miles 1095 to 1147
Today I woke up in a bed for the first time since Laytonville. It was a good feeling but also bittersweet. I doubt we’ll do that again until meeting Joey’s parents in Canada. But it did give me a little pep in my step as we set off into downtown Boise. With complimentary continental breakfast in our bellies and pilfered butter packets in the trailer pockets, we found the Boise agree belt bike pTh and set out on a pleasant 15 miles of multi use path. We went straight through downtown and the civic center and Boise seems to be a well put together city. If I learned nothing else it’s that they take a lot of pride in their bike infrastructure and city parks and that is enough to endear the whole city to me. Also everyone in Boise bike tours, or wants to. One of our fellow bike path users, a disheveled looking twentysomething man riding with no hands dancing to dub step, struck up a conversation with me at a stop light. He did a 3400 mile tour starting in San Francisco last year, small world.
After we left Boise we climbed up, up, up almost a thousand feet over a giant dam emblazoned with “KEEP YOUR FOREST GREEN” in 20 foot tall white letters and up a ridge over the lake the dam creates. While this climb provided spectacular views and an altogether awakening reminder of what it means to do a mountain day, we lost all the elevation on the other side within 2 miles and had to slowly and windingly gain it back by following the river up for the rest of the day. Oof.
The rest of the sleazy passed slowly and Joey and I both agreed we couldn’t do much more after we hit the 50 mile mark. We found a forest service road and a. Obvious looking rogue camp spot (it has a fire ring so not so rogue) and settled in for the night. Delightfully salty taco Mac for dinner and then I took a glorious nap while Joey played with Ru.
Some updates on Ru before I call it a night. He now hops in his trailer all on his own! We say “get in the trailer” or “time to go” and he hopes right in and looks up for a treat. He also is calm enough that we can leave both the front and back flaps open so he can get a better view. He has been more actively participating in the rides, and while he still sleeps a lot (puppy problems) he spends a lot of his time sitting or standing with his head out the front poking around Joeys pannier to watch our progress. He hasn’t liked the hot days but a combination of almost forced hydration and covering him in a wet towel have kept him sane. He is just such a good boy.
Alrighty, climbing the rest of the ridge in the Sawtooth National Forest tomorrow. Watch out world.
Day 29 miles 1147-1200
Two years ago today, Joey and I graduated from the college on the hill. A good many of my friends and Joey’s sister Anna are preparing to do so now. While I spent this day in 2014 getting sunburnt and listening to Shonda Rhimes tell us how to live our lives, today today was spent getting sunburnt and peddling up the Sawtooth. At least I know that June 8th will always bring mild skin irritation. Nonetheless this anniversary was sentimental in its way. I thought a lot about the people I spent this day with two years ago and where they all are now. I had a good amount of time to think due to the terrain, but I’ll leave my melodramatic conclusions for later.
We woke a little later than planned in our campsite by the creek. The sky was already fully blue when I awoke at 6:30 and I know this to be the hottest (and hopefully final) day of the heat wave we have been fighting through since Bend. I decided to nestle into my sleeping bag for 5 minutes of preparation before emerging into the day. At that moment Ru and Joey were both asleep and I could grasp these few unadulterated moments to plan the day. We entered the Sawtooth proper today and had a couple of 6000 ft passes to wrangle. After thinking through the magnitude of this I decided it was time to wake Joey. I called to his hammock not far from the tent and woke Ru in the process, two birds, one stone, no complaints.
After an hour of puttering about and bungy-ing things to our bikes we set off. We climbed along a river, Morse Creek I think, for the morning. We had in fact gone 2.5 miles before we saw a car in either direction and took advantage of the low traffic all day to meander back and forth to ease the climbs of the day.
After following the river for around 10 miles we shot upward to around an s-bend and set of steep switchbacks. Well we shot up in elevation, speed wise we hovered around 4 mph. That is something I have had to get used to about bike touring. A steep hill means a slow climb almost no matter the circumstance. And while in this granniest of all granny gears, it never quite feels hard enough for you to balance right, you know you will fall if you stop and the very act of peddling caused the most uncontrollable wandering a of the handlebars, BUT it is the only way to get up the hill. So you push on. Because staying in the middle of the hill indefinitely is not really an option. Action must be taken! And so went today’s hills.
After the first summit we were rewarded by a couple mile downhill. After a short hill to hop into the next drainage system we dropped a little more to find ourselves in the second pass of the day. I guess this doesn’t count as 2 passes, probably more like 1 1/2 I’d say. There was a major milestone for Ru on this climb though. He ran next to joey up the switchbacks for about 3/4 of a mile! Newfies and Pyrenees are both working dogs and they thrive on having a purpose. Ru could not have been happier to run along and lighten the load for Joey. After a couple turns we saw he was getting tired and put him back in the trailer. Better to not risk the hip problems than to have a lighter load for now. None the less we climbed 1000 ft back to 6200 for the summit and dropped down into our town of the day: Lowman! The descent lasted over 10 miles and we averaged 25-30 mph the whole way down. This hill is what Joey has described as the best descent of his life. It was winding s-curves and switchbacks pouring out onto limitless views of the ponderosa coated hillsides. As you rounded a bend the road would come into view, not ahead but 50 ft below to your right. Before you could wonder how you’d get there the road would seemingly spiral down to the destination. It was beautiful, it was thrilling and it was fast as hell.
Our excitement was dampened as we entered Lowman. Unfortunately turns out we are pretty much the only people with our eye on this town. Every business we passed had a for sale sign right next to the “closed.” We started to panic a little because we didn’t have food for dinner. Due to our limited capacity and proximity to society we carry only a day or two worth of food at a time. We had seen Lowman on the maps and signs and we’re counting on a pit stop here to get us to Stanley tomorrow, as of that moment about 57 miles away. We had enough pb+j to get us through the night, we wouldn’t starve, but we probably wouldn’t be happy either.
We decided to keep on going and hope for a shop sometime within the next 20 miles. We stopped to ask at the ranger station on the east side of town. The only employee there was a very friendly petite brunette woman with a pink shirt, jeans, and a very wide embroidered belt. I asked her tentatively if there were any stores with groceries within 20 miles an held my breath. I didn’t know what I was going to do if she said there weren’t any. Does the forest service have kits for this type of emergency? Would I start asking her for her lunch? Luckily she said there was a market in a motel 11 miles down and gave me a map to a free campsite a few miles further on. Joey hugged me harder than I think he meant to when I told him the good news.
Those next 11 miles were the fastest all day. We cruised out of Lowman and wound around the canyon with the Payette River and gradually up up up to the store. We bought chili fixings, bread for more pb+j, a double scoop of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and a six pack. Then we began the 4 miles to our campsite. This is what the forest service calls a dispersed campsite. There are no bathrooms, water spigots or trash cans but it is by the river, publicly owned, and FREE. Huge bonus there. Now we cook chili and watch the sun get low….one more day of pass tomorrow and then on to Yellowstone!
The anniversary of our graduation from Dartmouth has made me revisit many of my choices and since that fateful day. I am proud to be part of a generation that values personal fulfillment and freedom over conventional notions of success. I have struggled sometimes with a feeling of wasted potential as I climb the next pass or zip down into a valley. I think sometimes about the good I could be doing with my education and skill set back in the “real world” and all of the plans I made before this bike trip became a reality. These feelings of guilt come from years of being told that helping others or building a career are more important than doing the hard inner work that will help me lead a life that is both beneficial to my community and my personal conscience. I feel good that Joey and I chose this path when faced with dead ends in Portland. Without choosing to take a step back and evaluate the meaning and context of the lives we were living we wouldn’t have been able to break the cycle created and reinforced by walking across that stage two years ago. Although all the work I am doing now is either through force of pedals or in my own head, I still feel like I am doing good in the world.