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Monday 30 May 2011

Day 21 - Wet Welcome to Wyoming

Todays mileage: 26
Total mileage: 985
End point: Alpine, WY

Last night I set about doing some laundry and got talking to Janice the lady who runs the campground and cabins. The theme of the conversation was litigation. She told me two things, firstly her daughter had got bitten by a dog when out running down by the road close by and literally had to kick 7 bells out of the dog to get it off (see I told you this happens) and secondly not to use H&R Block as she had had a number of issues running a franchise for them. In the end it turned out the daughter didn't sue the dog owner, but she had years of litigation with H&R. For my european readers - H&R Block is a company which prepares tax returns. On the otherside of this conversation were clean clothes :)

I awoke to find a pile of messy slushy ice at the door of my cabin - appealing riding weather no doubt. With this in mind and the fact the forecast showed no improvement I planned to ride for only a few hours to make it into Wyoming; this would be a psychological boost although I haven't hit the the 1,000 mile mark which everyone has been getting excited about.  - patience please.

I left the cabin and followed the snake river up towards the palisades dam and rersevoir. The dam acts a hydroelectric powerstation to the valley and to my suprise I found it was combined with a campsite. I have never seen such a combination before, although if I remember correctly (and my ex e.on colleagues will confirm) ratcliffe poewrstation did have a 9 hole golf course in front of it.

A little climb took me to the top of the dam were there were quite a few people who had stopped to take photos. After chatting to a family, I was approached by an older gentleman who it turned out was from the Netherlands on tour. He asked me what I knew about the dam. I told him the original plans for the dam started in the 1930s, but construction was delayed until the 1950s, it was completed in 1957 and is a 175MW unit - I joke - that's the start of the wikipedia article.. but I did tell him one thing I did know which was they had emptied it as much as possible in preperation for the mega melt which would occur over the next couple of months, and hence the reservoir was 10 metres down from the top. I also got to bust my two lines of dutch:

1. how are you?
2. Its raining cats and dogs

He was very impressed. He also told me they had to change their route significantly because yellowstone had been closed - this confirmed I had made the right decision taking a southern route.

I thought the road around the palasades reservoir would be relatively flat, I mean water after all is flat. Absolutely not! I'd like to say the road was 10 'rolling' hills but they weren't, they were each a minimum 5% gradient. Everytime I went up it seemed I got physically abuse by large hailstones the size of big peas and then going down I got massive brainfreeze, like I was being force fed milkshake.

The road had loads of gorgeous chalets built next to it which leads my to my latest day dreaming proposition which is buying some random chunk of land. Looking in the local paper I've seen it advertized for $1,500 per acre - bargain, I could just whack that on the credit card easy. The problem is what do you actually get in your 4 acres, when you find out connecting this 4 acres to the grid is going to cost $37,000 you are going to be quite so happy, maybe some micro-hydro is the solution? Maybe not...

I've seen my worst road kill of the trip to date. I pregnant deer (/antelope/elk.. I have no idea) which was dead by the road with its insides completely ripped out and the two dead babies scattered in the ditch. I almost felt like vomiting but the brain freeze was distracting me.

At the end of the reservoir I reached Wyoming and said a wet hello to my fourth state and cruised into the town of Alpine. To be fair to Alpine it actually does have some alp looking buildings. I had an intresting chat with the motel owner where I am staying. He told me the 31 route which was my alternative way to Jackson currently requires snow chains. Secondly he told me about what must be the most crazy bike race ever were they race round the Tetons in a 75 mile loop. Apparently a couple of years ago they tried reversing the loop so the Teton pass happens at the end of the race. The problem was after this epic climb after several hours of racing, someone zoomed off a cliff and died and another 5 people wre hospitalized - the gradient is 10% and amateurs doing 50mph + whilst extremely tired is a terrible combination.. I won't be entering.

I'm now feasting in an Italian restaurant, and looking forrward to sunshine tomorrow and putting some miles back on the bike. Can't wait for this hail / snow / rain / snail to stop!

Sunday 29 May 2011

Day 20 - Snake River

Todays mileage: 49
Total mileage: 959
End point: Irwin, ID

Apologies to those disappointed by the size of the bell, I admit there was some hyperbole surrounding the bell, but if it was any larger then I certainly wouldn't be carrying it.

Last night I was preparing for a good nights sleep and wanted a dark room to facilitate my sleeping. Since the begining of the year I have officially upgraded myself from an amateur to an intermediate in all things to do with curtains. I successfully installed two curtain rails, hung two pairs of curtains, added to my vocabulary, used and understood the meaning of the word 'finnial'; a true sign of becoming an adult. Thinking myself some what of an expert I set to work closing the curtains. There was a white inner curtain and then a thick outer curtain. The thick outer curtain was somewhat rigidly held in place and I set to work leveraging it out. After some shaking, yanking and wiggling I finally freed the first curtain. The otherside took even more effort. It was at this point that I realised these curtains where actually just decorative features and not meant to be moved, for behind the white curtain was a black out blind which I missed at first - ooops! I was almost going to feel guilty until I saw that I had been charged $3 for the bottle of my water in the room, they are lucky I didn't take the curtains home with me.

Awaking this morning I was in no rush to exit the hotel, for I knew there was a very high chance of rain and so procrastinating was top of my agenda. Breakfast was an absolute warzone. Most of the breakfasts I have had in motels have been peaceful affairs; a retired couple with perhaps a business man in the corner. This was full family carnage, mess everywhere, kids running around and I had to make a nest on a bumpy stone slab in the corner. I felt particularly aggreived by a man the size of pluto who looked like he had stolen the last of my scrambled eggs. Everytime I go to breakfast now I am getting more and more desperate for beans and sausages - I am going to take action on this front.

Leaving Idaho falls it was soon apparent that everything was closed, no bike shop, no banks. Fortunately a couple of gas stations were open. The one I chose had just been robbed and the lady at the checkout was in deep gossip conversation with a friend about the particulars of the event. I was too focused on acquiring strawberry flavoured gatorade to eavesdrop properly.

I followed route 26 east out of Idaho falls, I had managed to find about 2 minutes of sun but the sky ahead was apocolyptic; the darkest shades of grey filling the entire horizon, I was a lamb to the slaughter. Had this been a week back I might have actually believed the end of the world was nigh. And so the rain came, intesne, heavy, shoe soaking rain that I hadn't felt since my second day on the road. Oh and yes it was cold. The only think to slightly offset this pain was the great view of the snake river which had cut a gorge through the rocky mountains and the fact that for once the shoulder was actually nicer than the road. The shoulder was about 3 feet of smooth tarmac with no debris whilst the road was rumbly concrete, the first time ever I had seen an arrangement like this.

A quick mention of 'Idaho Barns', although I'm not sure whether idaho can claim creit for them but I hadn't seem them before I got here. The sides of the walls are merged with the ground and then the roof has grass grown on top. This I assume protects it from the elements. I have two fine examples above. These remind me a bit of really old houses in the highlands of Scotland or maybe something the Vikings would have lived in.

I stopped at a rest area for a little bit of shelter form the rain before pressing onwards. The road was a long gentle climb followed by 2 miles of downhill. I cruised into Swan Valley and was hoping to stay at the bar in town (Fox Corner) but its a Sunday so no deal. I went another few miles up the road to Irwin where the RV park has cabins. I was tempted to camp but there is a good chance of snow tonight and the cabin is cosy.

With regards my route I now have two options, the high route on 31 through Teton Pass or continuing on 26 and cutting south. Chatting to the RV ground owner he told me he actually thought the southern lower route was prettier, so I am in two minds now. If I take the lower route I could do a tiny day tomorrow and make it into Wyoming and not have to double back on myself - but I will sleep on it and maybe search some forums.

One last thing before I go, last night I was having a read of some other blogs of people who have cycled across america. One 19 year old guy decided to do it as his gap year adventure. Unbelievably Delta lost his bike for 5 days at the begining of his trip - ouch! And to top it off he couldn't have any beer because he was too young. Surely in such circumstances you decide either to russle up some fake id or cycle across canada instead - I type this holding a cold can of coors light :)

Day 19 - Snowbell

Today is a rest day so don't expect too much. Firstly an apology; the Battle
of Bosworth Field was ofcourse in 1485 not 1483 as previously stated,
Richard 3rd took the throne in 1483. I'm suprised some of my history pedants
didn't catch me out on this. That's enough of the Wars of the Roses and
Shakespeare's interpretations of English Tudor History.

Last night I went to the FrostyGator as recommended by the hotel desk. Here
I ordered some hot wings. The smell hit me once the plate was on front of
me. By the third wing I was crying, sweating and suffering hot flushes. Now
I'm normally quite good with hot food, I'll take on a vindaloo and douse my
sushi with wasabi but this was next level. My condition was so bad even the
bar staff were amused by me. I pushed forward complimented by two glasses of
icy water. I took the smallest bite off the 6th and final wing just as sign
that I would not be defeated. I didn't fully recover for a couple of hours

Before heading back to my hotel I had a quick game of pool and challenged
someone on the table. The super random coincidence - the guy I had
challenged (I think his name was Ramone, not sure how you spell it) worked
at the atomic museum (ERB 1) I had cycled passed earlier!! It turns out it
was opening day, typical! But I got him to give me the 10 minute overview
and told him they needed to change the sign. I almost won the game of pool
and then scratched on the black - outch!

I haven't got up to too much today. My plan was to watch the Champions
League Final and watch Barca out magic Man U (I think it was like 30
attempts to 4 in the end) and then visit the bike shop. Shout out to my boss
who predicted the score exactly, surely some good odds on that. I couldn't
believe when I checked the bike shop website; they shut at 3pm on Saturdays.
What kind of bike shop shuts at 3pm on a Saturday? Really? They must lose
loads of business.

I went for a bit of a wander and took some photos of the Idaho Falls. The
waterfalls are maybe 2 to 3 metres high and stretch for about a 1/4 mile
through the centre of the city. The rate of water flow was phenominal and
there were many families and tourists admiring. If you fell in I didn't rate
your chances. I don't think my photo here quite does it justice. I stopped
at applebees to finally get my hands on a steak and an oreo milkshake.

I'm now trying to plan my next few days, but some bad news: yellowstone is
going to receive 6 to 10 inches of snow tonight, that's nearly a foot!!!
Aggghhh! I'm waiting to watch the weather shortly. The pass into West
Yellowstone is over 7,000ft and is bound to be effected. My alternative plan
is now to take a pass over through the Tetons slightly south. The critical
difference here is that the pass through the Tetons is an official highway
which they have to keep clear, on the other hand park roads with close much
more easily. I'm probably going to crawl up 40 miles to Swan Valley which is
at a low altitude, wait for the snow to fall and be cleared and then go for
my crossing the Rockies. This route will involve climbing Teton Pass at
8,400ft. I almost wrote that this is the highest I have ever cycled but I'd
be lying. A few years back I mountain biked with Mike Marshall off the Pic
du Midi starting at 3,100 metres.

Btw I've started to playing measurement ping pong which means quoting as
distances, heights and widths in as many different imperial and metric
measurements as possible. I say this whilst sipping a few gills of coke...

Oh and I've finally attached Idaho bell - I hope it meets expectations.
There also seems to be an isue with blogger in that it doesn't always
display the list of previous posts. I'm still trying to figure out and solve
the problem.

Friday 27 May 2011

Day 18 - Clocktower vs. Mountain

Todays mileage: 69
Total mileage: 910
End point: Idaho Falls, ID

Parental warning, if you are my parents or parents of my close friends you may want to consider twice reading this next section. It is ofcourse entirely fiction and any similarities with real life are purely coincidental. I for one am going to exercise my rights under the 5th amendmant and article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights to neither confirm nor deny any involvement. Obviously if an illegal rendition occurs where I am transported to a north african country seeking NATO membership - then yes I was involved, yes osama bin laden is my step uncle and yes I know where the fountain of youth is. There you go Dick Cheney, enhanced interogation works.

It was late May 1999 and a crack commando unit carried out a well planned and secretive paramilitary mission. Storming the western side of the main school building access was obtained through an english classroom window, using a metal ruler. From there, using stealth the commandos made there was along the main corridor past the library and scaled the stairs to the second floor. Operating in near pitch black they moved through the shadows to the chapel entrance, entered, where they sort access to the loft. Reaching this point they were nearly complete in their mission of reaching the bell in the clock tower where they would leave their names for future generations to honour. Just at this point the lights went on - and a deputy headmaster appeared! To his credit he let us complete out mission and freed us without any sanctions. This mission I might point out was relatively harmless fun in comparison with some carried out by other operatives (e.g. painting a penis on the maths block roof....)

So what the hell does this story have to do with biking across america you might ask? Well I headed out to pickles last night for a bison burger, and opposite my motel there is a large mountain. The monutain is covered in numbers, I couldn't fathom what was going so I asked my server. It turns out every high school class scales the mountain and paints their year on it (its now illegal but still happens). The server told me there were trails leading up - but seriously the size of the numbers and some of the cliffs made this a full on climbing expedition. I was impressed, and slightly humbled by the clock tower adventure in comparison.

There were a few other oddities in Arco. A large green chair outside the pickles restaurant and more important I managed to complete my 'military in parks' trifecta - finding the top half a submarine and a torpedo in their park - brilliant!

I left just before 10am this morning with the wind at my back. After going about 15 miles I got another flat. I quickly identified the culprit, a thin piece of metal wire - I suspected this was from the beading of a truck tyre which I had read about. My 'puncture resistant' tube did not live up to its title and its an absolute nightmare to get off. Whilst I was changing it a kind couple in a Ford Explorer pulled over to check on me - I told them it was all par for the course but thanked them.

The landscape today has been dominated by three large buttes: Big South, Middle and East. They really are quite fascinating as the land around is so flat and they rise up so vertically. Big South reaches up to about 2400 metres and still had snow on the top. The land which I was cycling through is owned by the Department of Energy for their nuclear research and testing and they actually had a museum on route. The sign said it opened on memorial day and with my flat pushing me back I couldn't be bothered with the 2 mile detour just to see if it was closed. I'll read the wikipedia article instead!

After the museum the road split with me continuing on route 20 due East to Idaho Falls, with the south road leading to Blackfoot. This was fortunate as it kept the wind at my back. The shoulder was now wide and smooth and there was little to disturb me with the exception of a little deer in the midle of the road (see picture above). I cruised into Idaho Falls just before 4pm, but not just before I got rained on for 5 minutes whilst it was perfectly sunny - bizarre.

Tomorrow is the champions league final so looking forward to that and also hope to find some bike shops in town to discuss routes and get spare tubes. I will also officially unveil my Idaho Bell. 

P.s. I cracked up when I saw the motoring advert above in the local paper!

Thursday 26 May 2011

Day 17 - Craters of the Moon

Todays mileage: 37
Total mileage: 841
End point: Arco, ID

The majority of bathers in the hot spring left as it was getting dark. An hispanic family and an odd couple who had driven 70 miles just to bath there! Two college kids stayed very late, however, I suspect they were a bit high from there ridiculous laughter - good for them, but just remember when you are in a congressional hearing 30 years later, you never inhaled.. Now I didn't have a problem with this, but if you are going to stay late bring a friggin torch. Giant boulders and sharp pointed rocks do not combine well with stumbling. After several yelps from these goofballs I appeared outside my tent to shine some light for them, they were very thankful.

Shortly after they left the storm kicked it. I thought I was in a fairly protected hollow - I wasn't. The wind started gusting with driving rain pelting down. Odd rain drops splashed there way inside the tent. The root cause of my problems is that I don't have enough pegs, I always need to cut some corners which is fine if the weather is nice but not in this storm. I began thinking what would I do if the flysheet went and the tent collapsed - surely it would be time for 911. If I called 911 what service would I ask for?? Ambulence - claiming some sort of hypothermia, mountain resuce - that would be pathetic, police - a glorified taxi ride with sirens. None of these people would be impressed with my stupidity.  And what would I take? I'd have to abandon loads of stuff and how would I get back?

With these disaster thoughts I braved the storm, did some repegging and then shipped about 3 large lava boulders (ok, not boulders, but these were big rocks) on the weakest points of the tent. Got back in drenched but the tent felt a lot more stable. I then got back to an interrupted night of sleep. Waking up in the morning I realized I had been lucky, looking up the hill the snow line was just a few hundred feet up from me. I wasn't too lucky though as I had to go poop natural, I'll provide no more details except my experiences in africa assisted with this task.

I set up off another brutal hill, as I reached the top it started snowing on me! This must be the first time I have had snow in May. Next time this happens I want to be skiing in Chile. Fortunately the snow flurry lasted only a few minutes.

By this point I had entered Craters of the Moon National Monument. To my left I had mountains and on my right a massive lava field as far as the eye could see. It was fairly imposing. I pulled into the visitor centre to watch a short film on the monument. So what can I tell you? Well about 10,000 yrs ago there were massive eruptions, and 2,000 yrs some more baby eruptions. The lava came out of several volcanoes and massive cracks in the ground. The original emigrants heading west hated this lava field - getting carts or horses over it just really didn't work. In the 1920s Calvin Coolidge turned it into a national monument and now its a pretty unique place in North America. Having visited White Sands in NM this place almost feels like it should be the opposite sister monument; black and white.

I left the visiter centre and had about 20 miles to Arco. A gentle down slope with strong winds behind me (it switched around again from last night) meant I was crusing at 25 mph and the shoulder was pretty nice keeping me clear of trucks. I arrived in Arco - apparently it was the first town powered by nuclear energy, good claim to fame. Although I did think the UK busted out the first commercial nuclear pwer station, maybe these two claims aren't mutually exclusive. Given the storm last night, I'm in a motel, but this is deal of the centruy coming in at $38 including taxes - that is what I am talking about.

Planning a 70 mile epic tomorrow to get to Idaho Falls and then watch the Champions League Final over lunch on Saturday. I will ofcourse be supporting Barca, especially as I've been wearing a Barca top for about 50% of the trip. After this a little break from football until August. Hopefully Everton won't get thrashed by Arsenal which seems to happen every August.

That's enough for today, I've had a request for the photo of the Idaho Bell, I will unveil my bell on my rest day with some other wandering thoughts :)

Wednesday 25 May 2011

Day 16 - Potatoes

Todays mileage: 53
Total mileage: 804
End point: Carey, ID (actually 5 miles north by the side of the highway)

Chips, crisps, fries, mash potato, sauteed potatos.. the list goes on. Life would would be hard without the potato. Its hard not to think of potatoes when every registraion plate in Idaho has them on (potentially the best thing from the american continent - go sir walter raleigh!!). This got me thinking; where are all the potatoes? For all I know I am surrounded by them. I have no idea what the part above ground looks like! Jamie Oliver would be disgusted with me. The closest I have got is root growth when I have left the potato in the cupboard to long. So my default view now is that every field is a potato field. Much more importantly when I get back to england I must start eating before potato waffles with beans - I love them and my life has been incomplete recently... maybe even some potato croquettes too, who knows!

I've also discovered another Idaho bell. The motel I stayed at last night had the exact same bell as me at reception. A second use has been found :) calling absent hotel staff.

Today has been gruelling, more prairie but the wind had swung 180 overnight and was now a strong easterly in my face. I was lucky to get over 10 mph. After 2 hours in I sat down and went through a pack of rolos in about 5 mins. Rolos are unique because they are exactly the same both sides of the atlantic - the kind of consisteny I am looking for. Milky way - different, snickers - different, skittles - more flavours in the states, cadburys - hard to find... rolos are the answer. I thought for a minute after my rolos that the wind dropped off but I was sadly mistaken.

After a few more miles I reached another historic sign - but my hopes were not high. This was not going to be the Battle of Bosworth Field, 1483, 'a horse, a horse a kingdom for my horse'. Now not to belittle american history; give me gettysburg, the boston tea party or a good civil rights march (I spent many hours in the smithsonian) BUT the historical marker signs here are slightly clutching at straws. It was here, no 40 miles away; the first gold nugget was discovered in Idaho. I need more depth, personalities and a narrative to my history. I guess that's what happens when your mum is a history teacher. 

I finally reached a rest area and took a break. I bumped into Carol and Richard a lovely couple from east Oregon who were quizzing me a lot on my journey. It turned out they were mormons, and I must say every mormon I have me have been really nice. But I had to tell them with no alcohol or caffeine mormonism wasn't going to go far in England. We also had a little joke or two over Obama and much more importantly the budget deficit!

After about 45 miles I made it to Carey but there was no where to camp or motels so I pressed forward to these little hot spings by the side of the road. Its a little pool you can swim in which is roasting hot, great after a bike ride. I'm now in a tent surrounded by lava rock (more of that tomorrow), with a storm closing in and I'm in the middle of nowhere. Typing in the tent is very very difficult so I'm calling it a day here - but one last important thing to know is that I've managed to change my computer to miles. I'm now probably going to change back because it just looks like I'm going too slow! Will write more tomorrow!

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Day 15 - Sawtooth

Todays mileage: 61
Total mileage: 751
End point: Fairfield, ID

I left my teepee last night for a wander into town. I wanted to check out the local steak restaurant as I am still awaiting my first steak. Joe's steakhouse as I quickly discovered did not have the greatest reviews. First review - you're better off driving off until find some roadkill, wait till the pavement hots up and eat that instead. Second review - the best thing about Joe's is that it went out of business. So I continued onto the supermarket to get some food there instead. Now let me tell you lots of things are cheaper in the US, but smoked salmon is not one of them, but it made my sandwich :)

I headed back for the teepee and watched some TV on my phone before heading to bed. I woke up in the morning and packed up, but way too late. Just as I was about to set off, the lady running KOA ran out with some gifts: a couple of mini key ring torches and an Idaho bell. And when I say a bell I mean a bell, I'm not sure quite what I am supposed to do with this bell but could be useful when I am bed ridden with man flu. Its at the bottom of my panniers now, and if I was being really brutal with weight it should go, but my heart says no!

Coming out of the town I saw a couple of cool things, in the centre of the city park a fighter jet. And then a few minutes later a tank. Now that's what I am talking about, forget flowers and statues, give me some serious military hardware - YES! I was expecting some sort of military memorial but didn't see one.

So I had two options when leaving mountain home, head south east following the interstate and then highway 30, or head north east on highway 20, a shorter route. I took route 20. Now I'm going to be honest and give my map interpretation skills a low score of 2/10 today. I had read and been told that the lower half of idaho was pretty flat and the north was mountainous. The way I read the map was that highway 20 went up to the foothills and then was rolling hills.

I started up highway 20 which reminded me of the brecon beacons, but I was headed directly into the wind. I climbed up for about 10 miles watiting for the road to curve round to due east. As I rounded the corner the terrain looked more like Snowdonia, and after 2 hours of brutal climbing round another corner - and there it was a full blown epic alp like mountain range. Highway 20 was like a brutal brick wall of a ride. If I had known this I would have set off a lot earlier. After nearly 4 hours of climbing (I'm giving it 4/5 of the official white pass measurement scale). I finally reached the summit. Oh and by the way the roadcount kill was high, I've finally put a photo up but I don't think we'll ever know if this was roadkill or not!

At the top it was getting pretty chilly and I was looking forward to a massive descent. I found from the sign I had climbed to 5,100 ft, I went gently downhill for about 2 miles and then to my astonishment found a huge flat mountain plateau, no mega descent. The wind was fortunately behind me so I zoomed along at over 20 mph which was just as well because it was already past 5pm. At this point my bike was feeling unstable and then I realized that it was flat tyre numero 4. Annoying but at least it gave me an opportunity to get this bloody puncture resistant tube a roll out. A quick change and it seems to be ok so far, if a little bit more difficult to get inside the tyre. This hasn't bean my only mechanical problems of the day. I managed to wrap a bungee cord round my rear derailleur when exiting the teepee (its not easy getting a bike in and out of a teepee) and I've also had some cycling computer issues which I'll not bore you with now.

On the plateau my first town was due 45 miles after Mountain Home, it was called Hill City. This is an interesting name for such a place, its funny I can give them 9/10 for the first part of the name, but I'm afraid its 0/10 for the second part. I should explain for my american readers that we have some quite rigid expectations in the urban settlement hierarchy - cities (catherdral & university), towns (townhall & supermarket), village (post office & pub), hamlet (maybe a post box)... Hill City contained 4 houses, 4 barns and about 10 silos giving this a mention of the map was dubious at best.

I finally rolled into Fairfield, population of 395. I was a bit worried about finding somewhere to stay as there is nothing on the map here. I was told it was legal to camp in the park, but saw a motel. I did some negotiating and got the rate down to $50. This has to be one of the nicest motels I've ever stayed in, the lobby had a roaring fire, wonderful hosts and big sofas and the room is gorgeous too. Given how cold, windy and late I arrived I feel no shame in being cosy indoors. I grabbed a burger across the road and had a quick conversation with a man who worked at the nuclear processing plant down the road, apparently Idaho is the central place for creating fuel for nuclear weapons and I would be seeing this huge closed off area later on the trip.

I should mention despite my complaining and pain, the views today have been absolutely phenominal, stunning and gorgeous. Maybe the most beautiful I have seen on my ride so far.

Anyway I'm shattered so its nearly bed. Two things before I forget, tim palmer has been plotting my stops on google maps, I'll try and share that link some point soon. Secondly I can't leave comments at the bottom of the blogs for some odd reason so please don't think I'm ignoring you, I do read and enjoy!

P.s. sawtooth is the name of the national park - I've only just been to the dentist!

Monday 23 May 2011

Day 14 - Broncos

Todays mileage: 45
Total Mileage: 690
End point: Mountain Home, ID

After my rest day I decided to take it fairly easy. Last night I chilled out and watch a couple of documentaries. The first one was about Mel Gibson (I didn't know he was quite such an utter and complete psycho) and the second one about the trade it dead bodies!! Optimistic stuff - but quite interesting.

First port of call was Boise State University where I had a very special appointment. Pam had contact the facilities manager and he agreed to let me onto the hallowed field (massive SHOUTOUT!) For my UK readers I should explain that college american football is as huge as NFL, some of the university stadiums in texas hold 100,000+. Anyway Boise State Broncos are unique in having a blue field. The are some other coloured fields but none of the teams play in NCAA Division 1 (basically the top flight). I'm a big fan of the blue field and as I was in boise a trip seemed essential. Scott let met me at the main gate and let me had a couple of minutes running around on the blue field :) I followed this up with a trip to the hall of fame (it appears they excel in wrestling too) and a quick pop into the shop. I enjoyed the 'our teams so good if your mom supports us' merchandise!

Leaving the university I headed over to the nearest bike shop which had some terrible gogle reviews but was just round the corner. The guy was friendly enough and upsold me a 'puncture resistant' tube. I was a bit suspicious but the outer side of the tube is 6 times thicker than normal. Any bikers out there tried one of these? It came in a massive box. I'm almost looking forward to my next flat so I can get this big boy out of my handlebar bag.

I headed out of the city on a great bike path. One thing I will say for Boise is it has great bike paths and a wonderful cycling community - impressed! I got all the way out of the city barely riding on roads. Oh, and apparently the riot on Saturday was the first time anything like that has ever happened.

Once I left the city I had to do 30 miles on the interstate as following the back roads would have been over twice the distance. The wind was pounding at my back though so I whizzed along and averaged about 25mph. I don't have too much to say about the ride. The land was flat scrubland, the tarmac was tarmac and yes there were cars and trucks.. The only odd thing that happened on the interstate was finding a range rover pulled over on the shoulder, I hate this because it means I have to actually get on the road to pass, as I went passed I saw some guy asleep. Then 5 miles later a white coupe pulled over, 2 dodgy looking guys also sleeping in their car. Is this normal in western states? Oh I'm tired, I'll have a quick nap on the shoulder, what the hell?!? It wasn't so far until the next rest area.

If I'm honest I only cycled for about 2 hours today before I got to Mountain Home, a town with not too much to it if I am honest. I had planned to camp at a KOA site which I have been trying to avoid. KOA is a massive chain of campgrounds, which means my opportunity to negotiate a discount is limited and their prices are high. But I'm going to let them off, as the manager having a look around the park and then looking up at the ominous sky suddenly decided that I should have a teepee! Pop my tent up inside to protect me from any storms. These are normally super expensive and I've never slept in one, so pretty happy and willing to let KOA of the hook.

Now all I need to do is carefully plan the rest of my route across idaho as its going to be fairly barren out there!

Day 13 - Relaxing in Boise + Equipment

So I have been having a nice rest in Boise and just noticed I'm actually a day ahead of schedule, good work from me. I've planned quite low mileage across idaho but given how scattered campsites are in this state I may have to do longer mileages and then take some more rest days. Given the rockies are coming up though I'll need to be quite strategic with my crossing points. I don't want to have another cascades calamity.

Now since Sunnyside I have been a bit cautious about my safety. Everyone said Boise was extremely safe and chilled city - I have to agree and the downtown area is really well kept. However last night it wasn't quite the case. I had a few beers and shot a little pool. When I left the bar an army of police were marching down the road. Apparently a fight had broken out, more people had joined in and the police were out numbered. At this point some bottles or something got thrown and within about 10 minutes a full on riot had broken out!! The police had to call in the state and a neighbouring police force to control the situation. Once this happened they put the whole of downtown on lockdown. You'll be happy to know I was quite far from the trouble and only a block away from my hotel. My legs didn't let me go too far!

So I think we can conclude that firstly I won't be doing a case study for the american tourist board and secondly the UK doesn't have a monopoly on drunken stupidity..

Anyway this is supposed to be a rest day and I promised to do an inventory list of what I am carrying around - so here we go!

Jamis Bosanova 2011
Brooks b17 aged saddle
Cateye bicycle computer (thanks carol and vince)
Shimano A150 SPD pedals
Two steel bottle cages
Rixen Kaul Handlebar bag
Rear rack
2 * Ortlieb rear roller panniers
2 * bungee cords, 2 * straps
Handlebar mirror
Rear flashing blinkey & front cateye light

Spare rear light
Wet lubricant
Specialized micro pump
Tube Repair kit (c. 1990s!)
2* spare tubes
2 * CO2 canisters
Multitol with chain breaker
3 steel tyre levers
Spanner - pedal sized
Spoke tuner
Onguard mini D-lock
Kryptonite cable (about 6ft)

Bear spray
Diving knife
Inflatible bed (easily my best purchase - its an alpkit numo)
North Face Draco tent (thanks to Jen Meehan)
Flannel Pillow
Travel towel (weird feeling but very effective)
Tranigia mini stove
Methylated spirit in steel bottle
2* Sporks
Metal bowl (this is my most useless purchase to date, it remains unused!!)
Vango sleeping bag - Venom 300
First aid kit (loads of pills and potions in here , ibuprofen gel most used so far!)
Suncream - factor 30

2 * tshirts
3 * cycling tops
2 * cycling shorts
cycling tights
long sleeved under vest
Pair of jeans
Swim shorts
3 * pairs cycling socks
3 * pairs normal socks
3 * pants (underwear)
Berghaus fleece
Trek Cycling coat
Trainers (tennis shoes)
Shimano cycling shoes
Specialized helmet
Sunglasses (now on third pair!)

Dell streak phone
3 * battery chargers
6 * phone batteries
UK US converter
I-connex mini keyboard

Passport / wallet / documents
Pens and paper
Lots of plastic bags
Sellotape :)
Book - catcher in the rye
Various maps

Electric toothbrush + charger
Mini deodorant (recently purchased)
Shower gel

I have no doubt this is not my complete list as I'm sure there are things which have escaped my mind. But it gives you an idea of all the crap I'm lugging around.

Saturday 21 May 2011

Day 12 - Into Idaho

Todays mileage: 88
Total mileage: 645
End point: Boise, ID

Farewell Bend was a great little campsite with spectacular views across the river and only cost me $5 as I didn't have a car. Camping next to me for the night (big shout out!) were Scout troop 421 from Ontario, Oregon - Leaders (Greg and James), Scouts (Stephen, Hunter, Nephi and Carson). I have to say a big thankyou because not only did they cook me dinner but they also provided me with maps of Idaho and Wyoming. Dinner was followed by a game of two touch american football. Play of the day award goes to Carson who running at full pelt trying to catch for a touchdown collided with a massive truck. Can't fault his commitment - but afraid to say it was incomplete!

I woke up pretty early with the intention of doing some major miles. Ofcourse another flat tyre - but really it was probably just my repair job on old inner tube. Anyway with my new Bontrager tube and CO2 I had the thing changed in a few minutes and it held out all day. About half a mile down from the campground I entered mountain time - I would woop at this but it meant I lost an hours riding time! Some of the eastern counties of oregon follow mountain time. I had about 3miles of interstate before I could follow a state highway for 20 miles to Payette where I would cross into Idaho.

Crossing the bridge I met a cycling couple (Bob and Betty Jane) who took my photo for me. They will be doing a touring ride across Oregon once their son is married this summer.

One very cool thing about Idaho is that it is the only state in the whole of the US where bicycles do not have to stop at stop signs, they only have to yield - it was nice to do legally what I normally do illegally! I refueled in Payette as the road onwards was going to be pretty empty of shops.

I got to Emmett knowing I was well over halfway to Boise, and decided to do a little walgreens stopped. I rewarded myself with a cheap clean tshirt, and as people have been so worried about my hygeine some new tioletries - including luxury of luxeries - a small can of deodorant! I need to hide my smells!!

The ride so far had been quite flat as I had been following some foothills at an even level. I now had to break over them to make it to Boise. This involved climbing 'Freezeout Hill' which is probably the most dangerous road I have ridden on. Idaho has speed limits of 65 on a two way road with a narrow shoulder. I was pretty glad to make it over. Getting over the hill I cycled parallel to a drag race! Which went off as I was going past, the winner did a 1/4 mile in 10.2 seconds - anybody know if this is fast?!?

Just after this I had the first leg of my escort into Boise. Michael and Julie out for an afternoon ride (shout out for Oregon State) got me off the crazy road and onto some quieter back streets. I managed to do some draughting and had a great chat with them. Michael took me as far as the cemetary (a cut through apparently) where another kind cyclist took over. Dr.Dave works in ER, rides a recumbant bicycle and might be doing some volunteer work as a doctor in Botswana (very appropriate given my charity). He was telling me is recumbent was super quick and that he could easily average 30mph, no one could keep up and that it was about 10 times more comfortable. I certainly want to try one out when I get back home.

Dave left me a couple of miles from downtown. As I headed down the boulevard towards downtown I saw flashing lights ahead and thought it was going to be a road closure or something else unhelpful. To my joy however it was a police motorcycle at the back of an army of cyclists. Hundreds of them wearing silly costumes, crazy bikes, everyone having a good time. It was a great feeling to ride among them and a fitting end to my most epic day of riding! Thanks to everyone who helped me out!

I'm taking a rest day tomorrow and I thought cheekily that might include the blog! What!! I have been meaning to do is do a full equipment inventory - just in case someone is thinking of doing something similar. So I'll do that tomorrow as it won't require too many of my creative juices!

P.s. all body parts seems to be functioning fine, and the miles are getting a bit easier. Groins are a little sore, nothing major but bum and stomach are now operating at 100% :)