Daughter and Mother on Bikes
(Sarita and I)
It’s been Sarita and I from the beginning. We committed to doing this trip in December. That’s when we bought our bikes and started training.
Everyone asks us if we have a cause for our ride. We do.
Our cause is ART IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS.
I will tell you how to donate once I figure that out.
This is a picture of Sa as one of the winners in an art contest. The contest was to make a poster that speaks positively to youth. Her’s says “KEEP FAITH IN YOURSELF” So that is what we are going to do. All the way across.
Changing the Bike Route
The route changed just a few days ago, when I realized that the western express route has
more than one hundred miles between grocery stores or trees. That and the fact that the pony express used that trail, not the covered wagons. The grade (steepness of climbing incline) in the Sierra Nevadas is twice what it is in the Oakland Hills, our training ground. Therefore, we start in Oregon with what we think will be softer shade and smoother slopes.
Changing One’s Mind about Biking
Noah has not been as committed as Sarita and I.
First he wasn’t interested and then he was.
And then he wasn’t.
He was trying to decide in an all or nothing way. We bought stuff. We returned stuff.
Recently we discovered the half-way option
He can do part of the trip.
He is starting out with us and at some point we will ship him back. This will depend on his mood and the proximity of a good airfare. Maybe Missoula Montana, maybe farther.
Packing for a two month bike ride over the Mountains and such
It's hard to pack the one or two outfits That you will wear all summer Actually it's not hard It's a relief
No locking mechanism
It seemed like a miracle or at least an answer to an unasked prayer, the way friends can be. When I decided not to go across the hot desert but to leave the west coast from farther north, my friend volunteered to drive our bikes up North for us. I was thrilled and I ordered a 3 bike bike rack online. It didn't come in time so at the latest moment I bought another one in a store here as my friend was leaving that night When we unboxed the rack we both saw that there was no way to securely lock the bikes on the car so she couldn't take them. The next day the online bike rack came in the mail. I put it in my car to return it. That night my car was robbed. They took the bike rack.
I’m no boy scout and I wasn’t prepared
To find hotels so lifeless and expensive
as I am now researching this for the first time.
Two days before we leave,
I have changed my mind from inside to outside. . From hotel to campsite.
It’s more work, but will also be more fun and more people.
Today I got what we need to camp our way across.
I spent a lot of time in REI balancing out money and weight.
The cheap heavy tent or the expensive light one? Over The Cascades? the Rockies?
I got a solar recharger (sans hotel walls)
I bought a Solar flashlight and towels that weren’t really made of cloth.
A purple titanium spork so as not to engage in the plastic throw away kind
I was in an altered state moving through the sections of the cavernous store.
Resisting lots of etc
I was surprised when I got out to see that I’d spent almost the entire day there
And came out to a parking ticket.
June 18th, Airplane Day, San Francisco, CA to Eugene, OR
This is us at 5:30 in the morning. Jon took this photo after dropping us off at San Francisco Airport.
We flew to Portland and then took a tiny plane to Eugene.
In Eugene airport we put together our bikes. Which took hours. They were more taken apart to fit in the boxes than we expected. Brett at Mikes Bikes in Berkeley was fantastic in helping us over the phone. Noah’s disk brake retailer was completely detached from the bike and the chain was all twisted up. We took photos of it and sent the photos to Brett’s iPhone in the Berkeley bike shop. He recreated the situation and then sent us a video of him fixing it!!! It was mostly Sa and her physics who did this. Noah and his noticing skill figured out that the fork had been turned around and bit by bit we put the bikes back together
We left the airport and biked the wrong way 5 miles but it was so incredibly beautiful it hardly mattered. We were so happy just to be on our bikes and riding.
After about an hour we biked into Eugene and had a fantastic guy at a bike shop go over the bikes and fine tune everything for practically nothing. After that, we had dinner and went to sleep in an over priced two star hotel with a bathtub.
June 19, Day 1, Eugene to Rainbow OR
Today we rode fifty miles along the McKensie river
We are camping in a nice spot by the river
We have a lovely set up with nice pads and sleeping bags in a nice tent.
We are all so tired we are going to bed at 7:30!!!
Wilderness is everywhere and there is fifty miles before food tomorrow. Nothing we’d call real food here. We are grateful for chicken pot pies for dinner. Fifty miles before food tomorrow and thirty of that is a 4,000 foot climb. Really? Really. At least that’s how it looks from the info we have. We have stocked up with power bars. Hoping to leave camp at six and be to food by lunch
June 20,Day 2 over McKenzie pass
There was no bus
We rode 4 miles and found a deli !!!
There I had a miraculous cappacino and after that it was 35 hard miles up a mountain!!!
There were times when we thought we couldn’t make it.most of the ride really. When we were just at the top riding wheel to wheel going soo slow a band of Mosquitos attacked us visciously. Wow! Soon After that it was down down down down into the town of Sisters Oregon which is a really nice town. We got to a bike store and realized as we pumped up our tires that we had been riding on 60 pounds of pressure instead of 100!!! AND wE DID IT!!! I’m very proud of us
After that we slept in the city campground which was nice and even had a shower
June 21, Day 3, Sisters Or to Prineville OR
Great breakfast in sisters Oregon. There was a health food store there too.
A couple of people in sisters told us to detour from our map and go on ” the road less traveled” with less traffic.It was beautiful as is all Oregon. It was a bit tricky feeling like we knew where we were going but we did.
It seemed to go on and on however and we were way too hot. We are eating out of tiny grocery stores (what would be called “corner stores” in the city) and quicky marts and it’s cheap but a drag. These towns are so small there is not much in them and fifty miles between towns. It is hours and hours of gorgeous wilderness.
There is water everywhere. Fairy tale like lakes and literally always a river beside the road.
Just when we thought we couldn’t continue from being so tired, and thought we had another 14 miles to go once we got to the freeway, when we got to the freeway intersection, we were over joyed to see we were one mile outside of our next town which was Prineville Oregon.
We found a super candy and ice cream store that was air conditioned. We had milk shakes that we’re fantastic and then we went to the Laundrymat. There wasn’t any deterrent to buy so we hand washed with our soap and water bottles then threw them in the washer and dryer.
While they were in there, we went to the grocery store and bought dinner and breakfast and lunch for the next day.
The people in Oregon are super nice but the economy looks very depressed. It seems like fifty percent of the homes on the beautiful rivers in the country are for sale ($150,000) and a lot of the farms are too.
It is all white people in Oregon and they all seem to be Christian (Protestant variety) There are no African Americans at all, every now and then there is a Russian type. But so anyway, they are all very nice to me (a white person).
June 22, Day 4 ochoco reservoir to Danville Oregon
First off, ive lost my glasses and cant see the text, so please excuse the mistakes
Also, since qe are camping we dont have power to power our devies even though i have a solar power iphone case
It still doesnt really powere enough
Thats why its a long time between blogs
And picture are shot on the iphone
And sometimes theres no power but the real deal is
The landscape is so huge and magnificent you cant begin to get in on a camera
Truly i am 24 /7 surrounded by magnificent nature out here
That’s over 80 miles!
Seems like a week has gone by since this morning.
I woke up to rumbling. Took me a while to figure out it wasn’t a new apple sound or people in an apartment above me moving furniture but long overly persistent thunder so
I got out of my sleeping bag and started to cover the panniers with the plastic bags I bought just in time in the supermarket last night(just in time)
As we were packing up camp it started to rain and by the time we left camp, all in our rain gear, the shower was over.
We did a long slow , not too steep thirty five mile climb to Mitchell. At the end, we kept thinking it was around every bend. Our anticipation and exhaustion level was high. The descent into Mitchell was an intense grade down ( the kind with the yellow warning sign for trucks) half way through it it started to pour. We pur our rain suits on again. When we got to Mitchell, there was hardly anything there! 2 cafes and a convenience store. We got there at noon, had chicken noodle soup (out of a cam?) at a cafe nd got some protein bars at the convenience store and heaedd out on the “8 mile” which is what they call it around here.
It was a lot of straight up for 8 miles but we actually managed it okay. The summit came before we were dead and then there was some forty plus miles of gradual descent. Those eight miles were non stop pouring sweat wearing a t shirt in coltish weather
The descent was smooth except that in the middle of that there was aHUGE downpour
So much so that we went through a rains tunnel as we were at the bottom neat rattlesnake creek ( saw one dead and one alive on the road) and the wind was coming straight up in our faces and we could hardly move and then it started to hail!!! It was super intense. Finally after some 80 miles we end up in Danville which has a nice family hotel and we have a private bath
That is where I am now finally blogging because we finally have electrical outlets to charge our devices
Depending on who you talk to out here or what map or sign you believe
We did between 80 and 90 miles with two mountains yesterday
We were beat (Especially with the hail and all)
We had a nice rest in the Fish Ranch Inn with a cherry tree out our window
We were hoping for dinner but had only the mini mart
We went to sleep sure we’d find breakfast in the cafe we remembered seeing the day before
I got his coffee from a machine and we all managed to buy something that resembled breakfast (like yogurt and a banana) the kids went back to the inn but I remained talking with grandpa while I drank my coffee and heard lots of stories about the ghost that lived in the store named Bill.
Well nourished we went on thru John Day and finally landed at a campground in Prarie for six bucks a night. We set up tent and then did our laundry with detergent this time at “the washing well” which was painted blue.
I am blogging from the oxbow restaurant and bar that has a wooden floor a hundred years old and two gigantic wooden frames complete with half nude women.
It was an easy day being relatively flat, not too hot with good food. Forty five miles which we started at eleven. Tomorrow we have lots of climbing. Three mountain summits. At dinner we bowed our heads and prayed for a ride over. That kind of climb and seventy miles to the town we are trying to get to.
At one point today amidst the unphatomably huge landscape, I felt like “what’s the point of all this?
Then two bikers came along from the other way carrying there own gear, “self supporter” as it’s called. One of them said, “where are you headed?” we said “Virginia” and they said “we just came from there!”
“just” as in 3,800 miles. Love that.
June 24, Day 6 Prarie to Baker City part one
This is us this morning after breakfast in Prarie. The waitress at the diner who was neither young or old had a full restaurant at seven in the morning being the only place of its kind for miles and miles. Still, she came out and offered to take a photo of the three of us. That’s how nice people are out here. I’m attributing it to the spaciousness of it all.
June 24, Day 6 part two
So we started out a little late 8:30ish after breakfast.
We were looking forward to what looked like a town called Austin junction after the first mountain. On the map it said it had a restaurant, a gas station, a post office and a grocery store. When we got to Austin junction it was the intersection of two streets with one store and since she was the only game in town it cost us $45.00 for three sandwiches and some power bars and cookies. Gas there was $4.90 a gallon. A. 44 cent stamp was 50 cents!
We had to eat so we had to pay.
The food lasted us over the next two mountains. It was a super hard day
After some 70 miles and three mountains we were beat as we pulled into baker city which has as many Christian churches as San Francisco has cafes and it was Sunday so Main street was closed.
We managed to find a fantastic RV campground with a beautiful granite bathroom and shower and a super clean laundry room. We set up tent and then went to the truck corral by the interstate for dinner. Super nice waitress. Awful food. Sorry there is so much emphasis on food in this but when you are exercising full on 12 hpurs a day there is a lot of focus on sustenance and how to get it
Noah is completely done, spent, exhausted and can’t go on. The next stretch to Missoula is way harder than what we have been doing.
Noah wants to go home. We are taking a day off in baker city to figure out a bus or something to Missoula do Noah can go home from there.
He has ridden a heroic week and his leg muscles show it
Other things (day 6.5)
In eastern Oregon, there are so few people and so much land, the silence is only broken by the sound of our wheels turning and the wind blowing through the trees. We were surprised to find that when we go under electric wires, they are making a buzzing sound. We thought maybe we were mistaken but it happened more than once.
We pass all kinds of roads with funny names like “Telephone Road” and “Screeech Alley Loop”
And lots of others I can’t remember. We were in for sure the middle of nowhere in the forested mountains when all of a sudden there was a brown (like National Park Service brown) that said “Social Security Point”. It seemed dangerously out of place like a camouflage for the KKK or something. I have heard that OR has the largest KKK membership but why? there are no African American people here, really.
We’ve passed through rattlesnake Creek and Murderers Creek and always there is a river running by our road. We are now by the Powder River and often go to sleep with the sound of a river running by. We are riding on back roads which is why we are hardly ever near a real town but today we are in a 9,000 person town and it feels gigantically awful and crass (although we are looking forward to the health food store and I am at a cafe where I am having the first real cup of coffee in a week).
We are hanging here as we are taking the bus to Missoula, Montana tomorrow because Noah wants to go home. It’s amazing to have some free time. When we are on the road we are doing everything as fast as we can. Taking down camp, packing, riding furious to get to our destination in daylight, then setting up camp. Now we are relaxing and it feels right.
June 25, Day 7 in Baker City trying 2 get Noah home
Basically, we just couldn’t do it. There’s no bus and no U Haul to rent , No nothing to Missoula
A brick wall one way or another
june 26, Day 8.Baker City to Weiser IDAHO
Noah, in his persistence to go home, figured out that we were close to Boise Idaho and that it had an airport.
We found a flight for $80 from Boise to Oakland, so we booked it and went to sleep after buying state maps from a truck stop.
In the middle of the night it started to rain so I jumped out of the tent and put the fly cover thing on and got the bikes and all the packs and shoes under shelter and I was hard to wake up in the morning especially as it was still raining.
We had sent back a lot of stuff from the post office in Baker City to make us lighter on the hard climbs. Noah’s rain jacket was sent as he was only riding 2 more days and as Sa had checked the average rainfall and it didn’t seem we needed it. So I set out in the rain primarily to get a good cup of coffee and also to get a rain poncho (which unfortunately will act as a sail) for Noah. There was no place open to get him a rain jacket.
It took us a while to figure out a route. We didn’t want to do any interstate but we couldn’t make it to boise in time without it. So we finally started out around eleven on a course that involved ten miles of interstate in a seventy plus mile day.
The ride in general was easy as there were no mountains and we were on a frontage road with hardly any traffic and beautiful scenery which I am shooting with the phone from the bike.
We were scared to get on the interstate so we all wore yellow and had our flashing red rear lights on and took Bach’s “Rescue Remedy” drops but it wasn’t dangerous at all as the shoulder was huge. However it was unpleasant as the 18 wheelers were noisy.
Just as we were getting used to the interstate, Sarita had a flat!!
We carried on and Sa got a wasp caught in her shirt and it stung her several times!!! 😦 But she (as usual) was a hero! We contined on (on and on and on) miles upon miles and through a time change and into another state!
June 27, Day 9 Weiser to Boise ID
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
June 28, Day 10, Noah leaves, Boise to Mountain home
Here’s Noah in the bike store as he’s staying and we’re leaving.
And Sarita checks out the map trying to figure out how to get out of Boise going East without having to do it on an interstate.
There was no way out but the interstate which was 40 miles. We started at 4:00 and got to Mountain Home at 6:30. We were flying in intense heat with no shade or shadows except our own..
Shout out for the great saint guys (and gals) in the bike stores
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!
June 28, Night 10, Mountain Home
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.
June 29, Day 11, Mountain Home to Fairfield
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.
June 30,Day 12, Fairfield to Arco
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!.
July 1,Day 13, Arco to Blackfoot Idaho
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.
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.
July2, Day 14, Blackfoot to Lava Springs
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.
July 3rd, Lava Springs
We hung out here for the day at the Lava Springs Mineral Bath Inn. It is a very old place and not kept up too well. It’s ten bucks more than the campsite and has everything in one place so we are down with it.
It’s sort of like belonging to a club. Room comes with an all you can eat for breakfast which is where we met the clan which is this huge white multigenerational family staying here for a family reunion. We pass them here and there around town which is six blocks of “Main Street”. We share a bathroom across the hall.
All the towns we’ve been in have their initials marked on a hill above, this is just the first time I’ve documented it.
There is native American influenced splashed around here and there as well.
The mineral baths pools, of which there are many of different temperature and sizes, are super relaxing. They have lots of minerals in them, those being manganese, calcium bicarbonate, sodium, zinc, sulfate, potassium, magnesium and fluoride.
The other BIG thing here is to “float” down the river in an innertube
When we were having lunch at the taco truck (after being told there was no Mexican food in town), we encountered a guy who had very badly scraped his foot so that clued us in about needing shoes when tubing down the quickly moving river.
We rented our innertubes, which were huge, and walked up to the put-in point of the river, resigned to soaking our specialized pricey bike shoes.
There is a reason you sign a piece of paper with lots of small print absolving the tube people from anything that may happen on the river. The lady explained that this is not a theme park tide but a real river with rocks and trees and such. We were told since we were new at this not to go down the difficult waterfall but we were clueless and went over everything because we didn’t know any better. It was super scary and fast and I could never get the thing to point in the right direction so I was continually swirling and going over rapids backward. All in all it was fun but too scary to do more than once and we were super glad we had our shoes which dried by dinner time in the intense sun.
After the “float” we had the massages I’d scheduled for Sa and I! My neck and upper back feel locked into a permanent biking position and I’d been hoping for a massage for a while now.
It was the best oil massage I’d ever had! and that’s saying a lot since I’m at Esalen often.
This town is a strange mixture of conservative redneck (general area) and new age (mineral baths) and we’ve enjoyed it tremendously.
Here is another shot of the square scoop ice team shop. By the way, you never say “soda” in Idaho. It’s “pop”.
July 4, Lava Springs to Montpelier Idaho
Everyone warned us that there was a huge climb over a pass out of Lava Springs so we got out (somewhat reluctantly) right after breakfast.
The climb was twelve miles of up but since it was early, the sun wasn’t merciless and we made it up just fine.
After that it was 2.5 miles of 5% grade down (just like the yellow-orange sign said) and for me, that’s the scary part. Over and into the shoulder of the road at that downhill speed can really do you some damage. The climbs can be brutal but no chance you’re going to hurt yourself on one.
Anyhow I break a lot in the downhill, Sarita flies and no one gets hurt.
It’s always amazing to me how the landscape on the other side of the pass always looks completely different.
A little more than twenty miles puts us in Soda Springs where we make our usual grocery store stop. Or not so usual.
After the grocery store we went to the geyser which is carbonated naturally. In the early 1900s people were drilling for warm water and tapped into this majorly explosive source. They could not use the water for anything as it was so heavily laden with minerals. The geyser was so powerful that soon after its discovery the Secretary of the Interior (US Gov’t) contacted the city of Soda Springs because their geyser was upsetting the schedule of “Old Faithful” which was world famous. Therefore Soda’s geyser is now artificially regulated and goes off every hour on the hour.
We were there for it.
We knew what we were there for and we even had a watch but I was shocked almost to the point of screaming when the thing went off. It was so powerful and 70 feet high!
There was a 4th of July Fair going on and we bought a homemade chocolate chip cookie bigger than a salad plate and a paperback novel for only a dollar. We passed on the quilt raffle and continued our way under the now hot sun of 6,000 feet plus.
We rode on another thirty miles with no shade so we stopped by a tree on someone’s yard and ate the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches we had made at our Lava Springs all-to-can-eat buffet breakfast.
We did another surprise summit before the town of Georgetown, Idaho. I don’t know why the photo is so hazy. Perhaps the heat?
We were very tired by then and hoping for some cool drink in Georgetown even though it only had a population of 200.
We came upon this building there that had “EAT” in big letters on it’s roof but when we got closer, it was closed and for sale. This happens to us several times a day.
Finally we made it to Montpelier and there was nothing there either even though it’s name on the map was in bigger print as the town’s huge population was 2,100.
We couldn’t find the KOA so we called. It was 2 miles off the highway and I called to ask if there was any food there and the lady said there was food, like breakfast burritos and pizza. She made it sound like food. We went the 2 miles and found the KOA and the “food” was packages (of chemicals) in the freezer box ready to be microwaved.
We rode back to the grocery store and got food. As it was 4th of July and there were red white and blue decorations everywhere.
There are always lots of flags around these parts and usually a black MIA/POW flag flying with them. There are also many yellow ribbons tied on trees. If there are no trees, then the ribbons are tied on posts.
The police were out in force in Montpelier giving tickets to drivers for precious little. When we were biking back from the grocery store we saw them pull over the people in the tent site next to ours.
For the last two weeks we have seen countless fireworks shacks on street corners but now that the 4th is here there’s a $500 fine for setting them off as the unusually high temperatures and winds are making fires that are demolishing homes.
Sarita and I did our clothes in the laundry as usual. To save time, we changed quickly in the laundry room as everyone else was at the campground 4th’s activity. We locked the door as we did this and then went back to the site. It happened then that Sarita couldn’t find her cell phone so we went back to the laundry room to find it but we had locked it shut. We went back to the office to tell the lady who didn’t know what food was that we had locked the door by mistake and even confessed that it had happened as we were changing. She advised that we should never do that as there is a surveillance camera in the laundry whose images are shown in the office!
Why have a surveillance camera in a small room with two washers and two dryers and one sink?
In the bathroom there was 24/7 CNN news program on a screen in the wall!
It was a weird KOA that had a sign at the entrance (pretty much in the middle of nowhere) that said, “No public restrooms” as if you couldn’t “go” anywhere around there. I was looking forward to getting out of there.
We went to sleep in the tent listening to private fireworks.
July 5, Montpelier Idaho to Randolph Utah
We woke up to light rain and that was a huge relief. The mega heat wave at this altitude was really taking it out of me. If I never see another “Power Bar” that will be alright for me. On the road like this, you have to resort to them to keep going.
We had a wonderful first ten miles into Paris Idaho.
We ate breakfast at the Paris Grill. The place was mostly empty and we talked with our waitress for quite a while. She explained life in small towns here to us. Basically, everyone is related to everyone. At her annual family reunion, there are literally hundreds of people. Her father was one of thirteen kids. There were 16 kids in her graduating class and most of them were related.
Perhaps this explains the large faded billboard in town which declares “Get the US out of the United Nations now! – John Birch Society”
Maybe we can blame this mentality on the fact that they haven’t discovered dating outside the family yet?
Most of the people here can trace their families back to the founders! The people came and they stayed. We see covered wagon remains everywhere proudly displayed in front yards. We are traveling on the Oregon/California Trail. I can’t begin to imagine how difficult it must have been for these people. They had to drill for water and had lots and lots of jugs (not plastic) of water all along the sides of the wagons. I’m talking now about the wagons being pulled by two oxen. Some families pushed their own carts and the folks that made it, did so by eating each other. 😦
Our waitress was just out of high school and shared with us the dress code here in public school. Shorts must end below the knee (like capris) skirts must reach the knee and shirts may reveal no more than four fingers below the collar bone. In the picture she took of me and Sa in her cafe, my shirt is zipped down too far. For this I would be sent home from school.
From Paris, we had our pleasantest day yet as the turf was flat and small towns with something open every ten miles.
We stopped at a small store which sold semi antiques and we got six mechanical pencils that work from the 1940s! They are so cool. The store was in the original jailhouse from 1888. (that’s the silly jailhouse picture).
The above picture is a tabernacle built in 1888 (completely put of place if you ask me) by the Mormons or the Church of Jesus and the Latter Day Saints (can’t tell between the two even though the difference has been explained to me.)
Either way, both groups eat “fry sauce” which is put on everything fried, which is everything. It is a mixture of mayonnaise and ketchup. Saves time I guess to have it pre-mixed.
The reason why there were so many active towns on the ride today is because we were riding beside the beautiful Bear Lake and it’s turquoise water.
Along the side of that lake we changed states.
Thirty miles put us in Garden City where we stopped for a Mexican lunch ($10 covered both of us) as it was starting to rain more. We researched hotels as thunderstorms were predicted and we didn’t want to set up the tent in that. One thing money will buy is shelter from the storm, provided there is a hotel, which there wasn’t in Laketown the south end of the lake where we were going to camp. Researching in the Mexican place on the iPhone we found a family hotel thirty more miles away. When we first called them, they said it was fifty miles away. I was talking to one woman on the phone who was conferring with another woman and a man in the background who she was ignoring.
On Mapquest it said their hotel was thirty mules away so we went for it. By then it was pouring which I preferred to the sweltering heat and sun but Sa didn’t.
We found out that what the man was saying in the background was that there is a mountain between their town of Randolph and the mexican restaurant town, Garden City.
The climb was so hard that it was the only mountain where I considered walking my bike. Locals say they think the summit is 10,000 ( from the 6,500 at the lake). There was NO SIGN! At the summit so I can’t say if they are right but it was the most never ending climb we did. (Again I say, thank god in the rain).
It went up and up and up at a pretty intense slope. What you do in that situation as a bicycle rider is, you don’t look ahead because it is too overwhelming and discouraging. You just look at the ground and do one spin at a time over and over and over again.
After a lot of this, around each turn I was hoping for the descent. That’s when the run away truck ramp on the other side appeared and I knew I was way far from the top. There was so much rain and so much sweat I couldn’t distinguish between the two.
I started to think of every person I had ever hated and why. I wondered about the possible catharsis or transformation that might occur from something like this self induced trial. I remembered the science experiment Sarita did in 3rd grade. We tried to lift a person who was thinking negative thoughts (photographed it) and then tried to lift the same person when they were thinking positive thoughts. When you are on a bike ten hours a day there’s a lot to manage in your mind.
Miracle upon miracles we finally made it to the top (and there was no sign).
For a while, unusually, we stayed on the top. It was like a plateau and we could see for miles and miles. Like the “Birds” song: miles and miles and miles and miles and miles.
We are not masochists. The thrill of the top is incredible. The experience of riding through wilderness without homes or electrical wires or anything but land and sky is beyond words which is why I haven’t tried to describe it yet.
The overwhelming beauty of an endless horizon in truly majestic land is so breathtakingly overwhelming it’s like one ceases to be themselves but just dissolves like a dot of nothingness in the great expanse of supreme nature. The essence of life is so glaringly obvious and simple next to all our complicated personality fabrications. One is just whole heartly grateful to be part of it all. So much of the day during this trip we are surrounded by nothing and that is the juice. Like a sign we saw “sell the sizzle, not the steak”: it’s about the experience of being IN all these out-of-the-way places; so much so that the summits are just things to get over.
I will say however that when we are in a hotel room and see an ad for the Olympics we completely identify. Not that we are great athletes or anything but that we are giving it our all, our 100% and that’s a wonderful feeling.
Anyway, we soon left the top and had a gradual descent into Randolph pictured here.
The hotel turned out to be four cabins behind a drive through burger joint where we had grilled cheese sandwiches for dinner after our sixty mile day. Here is a picture of the cabins. Ours was the second one. The green plastic furniture was bolted to the deck.
July 6,Randolph UT to Evanston Wyoming
We stopped at a small “country store” as they are called here. They are as close as you can come to a grocery store and we bought yogurts and bananas for breakfast.
We weren’t going fishing but I couldn’t help but to photograph the worms for sale in the fridg as I’d seen it a lot.
In the back rooms of these country stores are hairdressers. Ladies come from as far as fifty miles away to have their hair done.
Around here, gun control means using both hands and men enjoy having lawn mower races and kids have names like “Gunner” and “Pixie”.
While eating outside in the shadow of a country store we saw a black bear go by in the back of a blue pick up truck!
We crossed over into Wyoming….
and made it to Evanston still early in the day.
Here’s where it starts getting sad. This day is the last day of the long ride which totaled 985 miles which is almost a third of the country but not the entire thing.
When I was 21, quite a while ago, I bicycled from San Francisco to Washington, DC. I have done this once and have no great need to prove myself. Maybe any proving to myself I had to do, I’ve done from Oregon to Wyoming. I feel younger and more capable than ever physically and very cleared out mentally.
The highest part of the trip clearly was doing it with Sarita (and Noah when he was with us.) We were more like comrades on an adventure that constantly needed readjusting rather than a parent with children.
I want to continue but really there is no point in doing it alone, especially not with the unusually high temperatures and wind and fires.
The last couple nights I have been open to dreams for guidance and twice I dreamt about yoga and once I dreamt about putting an engine on a bike.
As if that wasn’t enough we met firefighters at breakfast. They were huge and rough. They were recruited from the west coast of Oregon to fight the fires in Colorado and Wyoming. Their descriptions of these situations was brutal. We met firman at lunch as well. They were helicopter fireman and said that firemen were being recruited from all over the country to fight these western flames. I can’t see riding through all that around me alone. In the morning, the firefighters short circuited the electricity by using the microwave, toaster and waffle iron all simultaneously. I thought that was kind of funny.
So with a saddened grateful and accepting heart, Sa and I went to the thrift store and got new old overalls and changed into them.
This is us in the dressing room (no camera here but ours).
In our new outfits we got boxes from the thrift store and boxed up our bike clothes and helmets and everything else except for our toothbrushes and soap and sent it all back home as Kaline doesn’t have much room in her car. We hope she will have room for me too if I don’t have a lot of stuff.
Then we got the cheapest room in town and headed out for the rodeo!!!
Wow! For us it was a phenomenal experience as we’d never been to one before!
Whatever you think of a rodeo, think again. It’s totally a family affair with kids as young as eight riding horses and roping calves. Girls too! Here’s a quick candid shot of one of my favorites.
Most of the families out here seem to have four kids and there’s lots of blue eyed blonds. When the rodeo announcer would call the name of the contestant and the town they were from, we often had ridden through the town.
I now know why there are all those beautiful horses I saw in the pastures.The rodeo was like a different culture in another country. There
are even college rodeo scholarships in this other country.
The cowboy fashion was fantastic. Big cowboy hats on the tiniest boys and all the girls in pearl covered snap button blouses, fantastic belts and embroidered boots; jeans with rhinestone stitched pockets. I wanted to photograph the crowd as much as I wanted to photograph the horses but doing either was hard due to the angle of the setting sun from where we were sitting in the red section (cheaper) stands. We were sitting next to 2 kids who were with both sets of grandparents.
Once or twice when the announcer would call a name and a town he’d say “well now, that fella must a changed zip codes because that family name belongs in such and such a town”
We saw the intense events (which is what the ambulance is on hand for) like the bucking horses and bulls. That stuff is about exciting as pure power gets and when those guys fall off it seems like just plain luck that they aren’t trampled. We saw one guy get a little trampled but he amazingly got up and wobbled off on his own.
There are less frightening events like roping cattle and running the horses around barrels (which was one of the events the little process in pink did) and best of all: trick riding.
An event Sarita and I laughed our heads off watching was the “chicken catchers” for kids five and under. They lined up all the kids and then they simultaneously let three chickens and all the kids (about thirty) go at once. The chickens ran and darted around and the kids fell all over each other trying to catch them which they eventually did but not easily. It was hysterical.
The tremendous belonging and success of family and community is profoundly felt out here. Even with the bus loads of Christian field trip kids, you get the sense that these kids have something to do and something that holds them in place.
I am not advocating organized religion or oppressive conservative politics or anything. I’m just saying I think people do benefit from belonging. Here in Evanston this morning we saw a parade of sorts. At first I thought it was an old car parade.
It was a parade of “Red Devils” the mascot for the high school and the cars were from all the graduating classes and there were a lot of people of all ages in the parade.
At the rodeo when we were locking the bikes they were playing the National Anthem and I thought, “oh no… I guess we’ll have to put our hands over our hearts or who knows what might happen”.
Looking up from locking the bikes I was amazed by the hugeness of the symbolism. Handsome young men and women on heroic horses prancing around with large Flags complete with a lady in the announcer’s box singing the lyrics in a forceful yet elegant voice. It surprised me so much it brought tears to my eyes.
If only I could understand and believe in this “freedom” these conservative politicians talk about. Is this the right to kill Trevon Martin in Florida or what? What about the 500 times (or however many more than any other country) people we have in jail?? Is this freedom?
Well, it’s complicated I guess. Like this cafe where we have been hanging waiting for Kaline to pick us up.
The husband of the woman who runs the cafe is this guy
His brochure is written like someone running for a position in junior high school student government. He is running for senator of the state of Wyoming. Quoted here is the back of the tri-folded folder.
“Pro life. Pro family. Pro liberty.
Pro 1st amendment , 2nd, 3rd, 9th and 10th and some of the rest.” And the front; “Conscience, constitution and common sense”
The sign in his wife’s cafe however says this