We got out of Blackfoot as fast as we could and were on the road when it was still cool at eight. Blackfoot was nowhere in a big way. It was a quick stop of giant chain stores at the end of the nuclear reactor zone.
What does the US Government put next to miles and miles of unattractive, nuclear zone, desolation wilderness? An Indian reservation, of course. this is home to the Shoshone and Bannock tribes.
We went to their gas station/store just a little after eight in the morning. On the way to the bathroom we passed the casino which had very low lighting except for the brightly colored numbers and symbols on all the machines.
We biked on to see that the tribes knew exactly what to do with the parched land. Fizzy rainbow moments happened repeatedly from all the spraying irrigation going on. The land was beautiful with lots and lots of horses. We saw so many horses today in almost trite like situations it was so pretty. Horses galloping through pastures like they were playing and pairs of gorgeously groomed horses drinking at the rivers edge. This continued throughout the day, even after the reservation. Gorgeous horses in every landscape.
In Pocatello, Idaho we had an amazing experience at a store named Barrie’s Ski and Sports. We were passing by and I noticed they were a Specialized dealer so I had us go in. We went straight back to the bike repair area and explained ( the way we do) that we are biking across country and could they (pretty please) check over our bikes. (fill our tires, clean and lube chain, check breaks and derailer etc) so this saint like vey cool (and good looking) young man named Bailor got our bikes from tired to good as new. Also I wasn’t sure my big fall hadn’t done damage to my bike of which I was unaware. We chatted with Bailor and also a fellow named Dennis who had two very very top of the line racing bikes with him. These fellows told us how to get to Lava Springs using back roads which was great as all the maps made it look like we’d have to do some miles on the interstate. Wondrously Bailor did not charge us for any of his work! and Dennis bought us four packs of Cliff Shot Block (energy chews)! Their kindness was breathtaking and we felt hugely supported.
Most of the trip today, a fast moving small river has been beside us. We ate our lunch by it today and tomorrow we are not going to bike but float in innertubes down the river.
We have seen a lot of animals on the trip. We see many cows and they always look up with curious intelligence as we pass. We’ve also seen alpacas and gazelles and lamas and antelope and elk.
Today, on the reservation, we had a pack of four scruffy black dogs chase us barking. Often dogs start barking and running for us when we pass but until today they’ve been contained by chains and fences. We had to outrun these black dogs with them yapping at our feet. It was scary but quickly over.
The landscape today was fantastic even if under a harsh hot hot dry sky. Rolling hills weren’t difficult but the heat was. Twice today I noticed elegant large wildflowers blooming by the side of the road and they gave me encouragement to continue on under the merciless sun of 6,000 feet elevation to our Lava Springs destination (only a 60 mile day).
We made it to
Lava Hot Springs and are staying at a place over 100 years old that has five mineral bath pools. There is also a giant swimming pool with everything imaginable. It is like an amusement park itself.
Idaho apparently is the land of the square ice cream scoop. Go figure.
Well there is no food or water or shade for the next 65 miles so we are stocking up in Arco.
Had a home cooked breakfast at the local place (Pickles Place….painted bright green) and then we went back to the site to do laundry.
We had a lovely stay at the KOA which is way more expensive than other campsites (same as hotels here) but you get what you pay for.
We left Arco at one pm after breakfast and laundry and going to the grocery store and getting food and water to last us the next 65 miles.
We liked Arco and everyone was very dressed up; men in suits and all for church today. The buildings there were all original and here are some of them. This town continues to exist because people go to “the Craters of the Moon” National Park.
Also, there was this cool rock hill above town and every high school class since 1920 has carved their date into the stone.
The first ten miles out towards Atomic City were okay even in 100 degree heat until the wind hit.
A mostly flat with periodic gradual climbs would be an easy day even without shade but we had super intense wind like the kind when you’re on a sailboat going fast and it was coming at us from the south relentlessly.
We couldn’t make any good time so the 65 miles which originally seemed like a shortish day started to seem like a can-we-make-it kind of day.
We stopped at a highway rest stop where the motorcycle guys (lots of them on these roads) had guns (yeah, real pistols) on their belts. THEY were complaining about the wind so given how hardcore they are, you can imagine what the wind was doing to us on our bikes.
We were riding slanted into the wind so we’d keep our balance.
It wasn’t the completely weird lifeless landscape of yesterday’s lava land but it was truly desolation wilderness. Not pretty. No homes. No telephone wires. No nothing just sun and desert.
The “historic market” at the rest stop clued us in. There are more nuclear reacters on the land that we biked through today than any other place on the planet! Take that, North Korea. (just kidding)
Finally that nightmare ended and the last fifteen miles there was irrigated land and businesses and homes and we very very slowly slid in exhaustion into Blackfoot.
Blackfoot is a large city of 10,000 and has none of the charm of the past that all the other big and small towns have. Practically the entire downtown is for rent and all of the action is out by the interstate. That action is WalMart and chain fast food places.
The closest campground is 25 miles from here so we are in a Super 8 hotel watching “The Incredibles” GO PIXAR!
Go digital art!
By the way, those of you who know me in my non-bicycling regular artist life, the de young museum in golden gate park, say San Francisco! Say Bay Area, say HOME hired me for the Friday Night party to do my digital art thing August 31st! Yippee!
So I’ll be back before then. Sa wants to leave in a week. We have a friend driving from Chicago to San Francisco and we are going to meet here near interstate 80 and she is going to drive Sa back.
We thought Sa would be able to do her summer school and college prep stuff at night on this trip but there is no way she can get it done even with MP3 downloaded summer reading. She is currently listening to Jane Eyre which seems kind of comical in this time and landscape.
Also, it is just too hard. And Colorado is on fire which is where we are headed so….
I am not sure what I will do. I can’t go home with the friend as there isn’t room so I’ll bike on but if I get too lonely I will bike to an airport and fly home.
We’ll see. It’s all an adventure and already I have benefitted immensely from this experience.
Sa and I started out early but the day ahead seemed hard. We had 90 miles ahead of us on a road with absolutely no shade. The only shade available was that from our bicycle panniers.
It was over a hundred degrees and it all just seemed too hard.
We stopped at a stream in order to break up the day with some fun. The river was running fast with snow melt and we hung out there a while and it was fun.
After that we made it to Picabo (pronounced peek-a-boo) which was one very cool store. We hung out there a while avoiding the heat and waiting for it to cool down before we started the next 43 miles which included the “Craters of the Moon” (black lava on both sides of the road) strip.
That was super weird. A long mostly flat stretch of nothing but deset and black rock. There was nothing else. Not even telephone wires. It was still a hundred when we were going through there even though it was 8 pm!
Because it was flat we got through there pretty fast and made it to our KOA campground destination by nine where we took our second swim of the day!.
The day started out a bit slow with a flat tire from my wipe out the day before which we fixed easily. As I was locking my bike against the post, to get my morning cup of coffee, an entire bus load of teenagers on a Christian field trip went into the coffee shop before me. “Oh my fucking God” I say under my breath and then a hand places itself on my shoulder. I turn around and a male twenty-something counselor type says, “Don’t worry, you can go ahead of us”. Thankfully, I do. The sign on the tip jar says, “If you tip, less children will have mullet haircuts”. I liked that.
Sa and I set out completely clueless because we no longer have our “Adventure Cycling” elevation maps. Hwy 20, the same small road we were on in Oregon, was a straight red line on our map and it looked flat but it wasn’t. It just went up and up and up out of Mountain Home. Around each turn, we thought it would start to go down but it never did, for twenty five miles! There was a quick mile of down named “Devil’s Dip” but it only lasted one mile. Eventually, the climb did stop and 44 miles later we made it to Hill City where there was a building which was open and had a bathroom Yea! We got water!
You had to go through the saloon (which is often behind the store out here in these parts) to get to the bathroom. About six people of various ages were hanging out and talking and eating lunch. Seemed like they all enjoyed each other and that the saloon was more about being together than drinking.
We bought an electrolyte drink from a young hip lady in skinny jeans from Britian. Like the Indian family you can’t help but wonder what brought them to the middle of nowhere.
We drank our drink outside on the bench and one of the old men in the saloon came out and he talked with us a while. He explained he was running for office and gave us each a wooden nickel. The other side said, “What’s freedom worth?” and had his name and campaign website. He was real nice and drove off in an old beat up white pick up truck.
It’s hard desert like land out here. Even if you are wearing shorts, on your feet you have cowboy boots.
We rode on and made it to Fairfield where we camped for free in the city park. That city has the best water from public water fountains I’ve ever tasted.
We meet two kids who explained to us that winter had just ended and that it was spring and not summer yet which was why they had such good water. This didn’t make much sense but I believed them anyhow. They were very welcoming and happy.
After we set up our tent we met two nice young ladies walking with a stroller who showed us there was an owl above our tent.
He is very well camouflaged and in the middle of this picture.
We have all fallen off our bikes more than once. A very easy way to fall off the bike is to have to stop suddenly and not be able to get out of your cleats in time. It’s awful because you KNOW you are going to fall and that second and a half seems more like ten right before you go down to hit the pavement.
A stupider and less necessary way to fall is from moving unintentionally into the gravel shoulder while trying to get a good photo as riding.
I had a bruise or two from that and since the charge for the campground and the hotel with the big bathtub was almost the same we opted for the Thunderbird Hotel.
Sometimes we are just so hot and tired we can’t go even a step out of our way to get a good photo and that is why I don’t have one of the huge towering pink and blue and neon sign. Picture it as a cross between the “Ahwahnee” in Yosemite and “The Jetsons” old TV show.
The Native American imagery was present even if greatly faded on every turquoise door .
The sign on the office was a torn price of yellowed paper taped from the inside and it said, ” ring the bell and wait”. The word “wait” was underlined three times so we waited, but for long enough we couldn’t help ringing another time.
Finally a middle aged woman answers.She is India Indian with an accent. She gives us room 21 and tells us if we want to swim we need to see the manager who will be here later. She asks us where we are from and we tell her the San Francisco bay area. She says “ahh yes . The bridge. Golden gate. Me too. I went to high school in San Francisco.” I say where? She looks confused because she’s already told me where, San francisco. Then she says “and college too” and goes on about how very very important it is to go to college and that she went. Of course we are wondering why that was so important if this is where she is.
We don’t say that but instead we agree with her but what I am more interested in is getting ice for my bruised parts. There is a large ice machine by the wall.
“Oh yes, that. But it is not turned on.” She will turn it on and the manager will tell when there is ice.
I am good with that and Sa and I go to room 21 and then to the grocery store “Albertsons”. Mostly we live out of that store. Every day almost the same things: bagels, avocado, hummus, yogurt and grilled chicken breasts from the deli. This plus the occasional comfort food (Pepsi fountain soda and chocolate milk shakes) and power bars and nuts.
This time I also get Epsom salts for my bath!
When we get back, I go to the office and ring and WAIT. This time another Indian woman answers, apparently the other woman’s much older mother. She is wearing the same half plastic brown with a flower print apron that the other lady wore. I get the feeling that the rule is: if you are going to open the door, you are going to wear the apron.
This woman speaks not a word of English so I hold up my ice bucket and smile a lot. She smiles a lot back and shows me how to open the ice machine door. At first I am confused, the ice box is huge and I am not sure what to do; then I see in the corner a pile of little ice cubes so I gather them up, smile again and leave.
As I am waking down the outdoor corridor from 1 to 21 (there is only one other guest in a dusty orange low American sports car from the 90s), I encounter the manager who is clearly the older woman’s husband. He sees my ice bucket and asks me how I got ice in sort of a domineering way. He explains that HE is the ice man and He makes the ice and that he called our room repeatedly and there was no answer and maybe he should come in to fix the telephone. I explain we were at Albertson’s and he wants to know if we want to swim which by now we don’t. Then he asks if SHE told us about the air conditioning and I say no so he comes in and explains in detail how the blue button turns it on and the red button turns it off and he demonstrates this several times as well.
Next he explains in detail exactly where to leave the key when we go. He is clearly Papa or Grandpapa of the place and I have realized this and we have warmed up to each other. I thank him and tell him we will do it all right and are so happy to be there. To which he responds that he is so happy to have us. Our eyes meet definitely as he closes the door to our room and I realize he is Bengali.
Here’s Nick who basically boxed Noah’s bike and looked over and fine tuned up Sa’s and my bikes and took Noah to the airport for next to nothing.
Last night I couldn’t figure out how I’d be able to trust anyone to leave Noah with and to take him to the airport but as soon as I met Nick I knew he was way more than OK. I can’t say how.
Rod in Eugene OR was extremely kind and gave us super advice, told us to loose the locks (weight) and mailed them back for us. He also just threw In a bag of screws for good measure along with sound advice.
Brad in Sisters OR cleaned and pumped up our tires and our spirits after we survived our first big summit of MacKenzie pass.
Jerry in Baker City took our three bikes and tuned them up and spent a lot of calm time trying to figure out with us how we could or couldn’t get Noah to Missoula.
Brett at Mikes Bikes in Berkeley is our wondrous homeboy as is Charlotte at Tip Top Bile Shop in Oakland which is sponsoring Sarita so she can get PE credit for doing this bike trip. She’s also an artist !!! Yea ! Also Charlotte changed our tires to Bontragger tires which is why we have so few flats and I bought both styles of her cool shirt and both Sa and I got super cycling shorts there all at a great price. Tip Top Bike Shop is owned by Charlotte and her husband Richard who is also an artist. They met in art school and they have the coolest shop with the most artistically unique and sophisticated hip signage and she has designed the t shirt she’s wearing and a FANTASTIC bike shirt (sorry no picture) that she had made in Italy!!! Tip Top is exactly that, an over the top combo of art and cycling. Go team!
The ride from Weiser to Boise was mostly a flat 80 miles through beautiful farmland.
It’s like Idaho figured out what to do with all that river water running through.
We got a great camp site next to a river and did a gigantic load of laundry. We repacked everything so Noah could leave and now my load is super heavy I guess cuz of the tent and seven innertubes.
The lady in the camp site next to us is from Nevada. She is camping here while she has radiation at the hospital in Boise where her husband thinks the best neuroscience is. She looks at the river and is dressed in interesting colorful clothes. She gave us each two water bottles for our ride.
All along the way we have met with enormous well wishing and kindness from strangers.
We are in a radically cool cafe now in Boise which is a surprisingly hip city
Complete with hot pink diners and art on utility boxes better than Berkeley’s
(soory I don’t have photos of any of that but I passed these while in intense city traffic and couldn’t do the drive by photo thing safely).
This cafe we are in is so cool that they have uncooked pasta for coffee stirrers. It gets better: They are non profit here with fantastic food and sophisticated coffee drinks. Say what? The workers are volunteers and all the profit goes to “chapel missions” in India.
The radio station playing is great and the guy who serves us our food has a seven inch tattoo on the inside of his forearm that sort of looks like a dagger and sort of looks like a cross. Goes both ways I guess.
The guys in the bike store here are especially nice. nick is especially nice and is boxing Noah’s bike for $35.00 and taking him to the airport for free.
In the Bay Area, they’ll box your bike for a hundred and go figure how you are going to get it to the airport