Today was a day that didn’t hold many promises for us. Yesterday had been a tough day, but even worse, a boring one. It had been hot and the road had a slight grade upward for the entirety of the ride. And the day had began with me breaking one of the tent poles by accident, which made me a bit upset to begin with. (Lucky for us just a few miles down the road was a small gas station that doubled as a hardware store, and they happened to have some copper pipe of just the right diameter to serve as a socket for the broken pole.)
But all in all, yesterday wasn’t our finest hour.
And that was how we expected things to fold out today as well. Another day of moving the bike from one point on the map to the next.
But there were also some positive signs in the air.
The first of which was that we awoke in a nice small town in a nice small park, and had some leftovers from last night for breakfast. Which on a trip like this is a real treat, even though it might not sound like it.
Also the night had been cool enough for a good night’s sleep, but not freezing cold. Plus when we awoke the tent was all dry and nice, as the humidity here in the desert is very low. All of which makes us happy, as packing a damp tent always feels like something of a failure.
And the previous night, when rolling into town, we had located a small laundromat that doubled as a shower facility. Go figure! But it was just what we needed.
So those were the upsides to this day. The downsides were aplenty as well. Or actually not that many to be honest, just two: One, a heavy headwind that seems to be haunting us, and two, the slow grinding uphill that would go on for another 30 miles.
And at the risk of offending some of the local Idahoans, the scenery didn’t really do it for us anymore. (There’s just so many days of desert plains and dying small towns you can take in before it gets a bit repetitive.)
But as we are cyclists, and cyclists ride their bikes whatever lies ahead we rode on westward. And to our happy surprise the endless uphill that everyone in town had been warning us about turned out to be more of a series of rolling hills. With a strong penchant for being more up than down, but still. You take your small victories.
About one and a half hours down the road we were in for the best surprise of the day, meeting our friends Lila-Mayi and Justin!
Well to call it a surprise might be overselling it just a bit, since we had been planning meeting each other for a few days after learning that we would be in the same neck of the woods. But still, it was a surprise that we were able to make it happen!
And what a wonderful surprise it was! Lila-Mayi opened the trunk of their Prius, and produced some amazing tofu-avocado-pesto-sandwiches for us hungry cyclists, all while Justin patiently listened to us going on about life on the road.
We sat together for the better part of two hours in the shade of a tree, eating, chatting, relaxing and for a brief moment forgetting about all the hardships that still lay ahead. A very called for diversion for two tired tourers.
We also learned that the slight discomfort we had been feeling the previous days were due to something called a heat dome that was sitting over this particular area of Idaho, making the temperature close to unbearable.
But all good things must come to and end, and in due time we had to part ways. They went south-east, we headed north-west. Uphill, just to make things clear.
Now let me tell you a curious detail about cycling in the midst of mountains. As you lack any visual frame of reference as to where the horizon happens to be and at which angle it is, you begin to imagine the you are riding on a level surface even though it seems to drain all your powers. Or an uphill will look like a downhill in front of you.
Up here, the senses are not to be trusted. Other than those in you legs – they will tell you whether or not something is an uphill or a downhill.
So we climbed. And climbed. And climbed. Even though it looked to us like we were just grinding away at a dismal speed on some flat road.
But as good things come to an end, so too do bad things. (Not that this was particularly bad.)
Meaning we reached the pass. At some 7160 feet. It would be all downhill from here. And you know who loves those – yes, that’s right! Kaisa does!
Even while climbing we had to take back all of our complaints about the scenery being bland or boring. It was anything but. Majestic mountains appeared on both sides, and the gloomy clouds hanging low in the skies enhanced the experience.
But upon reaching the pass we were really taken aback by the beauty of what lay in front of us. Nothing short of amazing! And also something I intuitively knew no camera would be able to capture in a way that could depict what we saw in front of us. So I focused on letting the bike roll freely down the seemingly endless mountain road. You had to be there, let’s leave it at that, okay?
And you know when you think things are so great they couldn’t possibly get any better, but then the magically do. Well that happened to us on our decent. We rolled into what I honestly think is the most beautiful place I have had the privilege of cycling trough – a canyon so breathtaking my words could never do it justice. Again, I implore you, ride down this road yourself, and then you’ll understand the feeling I am trying to convey here.
And then some more downhill followed. With nature like straight out of the pages of National Geographic.
But all downhills end at some point, an so did this as well.
Luckily for us it happened only two miles outside of a small town called Challis. But I’ll have you know that those two last miles were long miles. And arduous.
But we made it into town and into the local grocery store. That’s when Lady Luck decided to cast another spell upon us poor wretched Finns.
You see, in the produce section we happened to bump into a man looking for avocados. Kaisa was on the same quest. But to no avail – due to the drought in California there were no avocados to be found.
But the sorry fate of our favorite fruit made us strike a conversation with our fellow avocado hunter. He was of course a bit curious about us and our journey, and asked us where we would be staying for the night. As we told him we were thinking of camping at the local RV park or staying at some motel, he made a counterproposal.
There were some hot springs just 8 miles outside of the town that had a camping area attached to them. He strongly recommended we would go there.
We had actually seen the sign for the hot springs as we rolled towards the town, but as we at times need to be sensible, had decided to not go there, as they were somewhat far from the town. (Far as in far for a cyclist.) You see, we needed to get some groceries, as this would be the last shop for some time, and we also desperately needed our laundry done.
So we thanked the man for his kind suggestion, but told him we wouldn’t be able to make it there anyway before sunset.
This didn’t deter him in the least – he simply told us that he had a pick-up truck on the other side of the street, and he would be glad to give us a ride up there. And that it wouldn’t even be a inconvenience for him, as he happened to live really close by.
Again, we thanked him, this time for the kind offer, but told him we also needed our laundry to be done, and needed to stay in town for that.
As he clearly was intent on us experiencing the hot springs, he now told us that he would do our laundry. And that we should think about his offer while finishing our shopping. He ran a microbrewery just across the street from the shop, and should we change our mind we could just pop over and let him know.
Now we have our principles. And we have adhered to them quite ardently. The first of them being ”No Car Rides During Bike Trips”. Meaning we cannot pack our bikes on a car and hitch a ride. That would be cheating. At least in our minds.
But there are times when principles turn into boneheadedness, counterproductive to the rules initial purpose. And this seemed to be one of those moments.
We reasoned for a moment with Kaisa that we would anyway be riding the same roads, the town being off the road we were continuing. We had already crossed the intersection where the hot springs were, and had decided not to turn there because of more pressing necessities.
There comes a time in every person’s life when it it time to say ”principles be damned!” And this very much seemed like such a moment for us.
So we told the kind man that we would take him up on his offer. He had succeeded in selling the place to us in such a vivid manner that it now had to be experienced!
After which we loaded the bikes on top of his beat up Ford’s (model 1987!) truck bed with gear and all, while he did some finalizing of the products in his brewery. (Even offering us samples of his ales, which we kindly declined, to the utter horror and dismay of many of our readers I presume.)
And then we rode. In a car!
Some ten minutes later we emerged in front of the campground office, stripped out of our dirty cycling gear, handed over our laundry bag to George, as we now had come to know him, thanked him profusely, and scooted off to pitch our tent.
The day was growing older, so we were in hurry to get to the pool. Which turned out to be nothing short of amazing. In an instant it took us back to our days on Iceland, where we got to enjoy the same wonderful hot springs experience.
So we soaked in the water until the sun set, then made our way back to our small dwellings, falling asleep warm and clean.
So a day that looked like it would be another boring nondescript one turned out to be a day full of wonder and amazement. It is nice to know that the road can still surprise you (and do so in the best possible way) after almost two months on it!