08.25.11 – What I Know About Idaho Pt. 2

An early morning departure from Boise sent me north toward the small town of Cascade. Just outside of Boise I spotted some roadies ahead and tried to catch up to them. After about three pedal strokes I remembered the four small children attached my bike racks and gave up. A big hill kicked my butt to but I hit a new high speed on the descent into Horseshoe Bend! Okay, so it was only 1mph more (46mph) but it was still awesome! Riding along the Payette River was really nice. Idaho has a beautiful landscape of trees and hills. The river was so loud that I could barely hear cars around me. In Cascade, I found a wonderfully secluded spot that provided me a personal view of the lake. As I set up my tent, an enormous bird flew over head; I mean the biggest flying bird I’ve ever seen. I’ve come to the conclusion that it was a young bald eagle (pre-baldness). A quick dip in the lake was needed to clean up and cool down but blood thirsty mosquitoes encouraged me back to camp where there were no mosquitoes and my meal (with 62 grams of protein!) awaited me. The evening was cloudless and the stars were as bright as could be. Far enough from the noise of others and the light of town, I was surrounded only by the natural world; where the trees, hills and animals here were the majority and I was the minority.

The next morning was in the high 40s but I was ready and wore all of my clothes. On my way to the next town I was given a ride through a construction zone by one of the workers. I can’t remember her name but she told me she’s writing a book about being a roadway construction worker. I think it’s going to be called Life on the Road and it sounds like interesting insight into a lesser known occupation. After breakfast at a diner, I made my way through McCall, which was very nice town. Lots of nice boutique shops and a lake on which to do lake things made for a bustling little town. Any town is cool with me if there are couchsurfers there. From here I made my way up a short hill and then a long descent awaited me in a national forest. For seven miles I got to enjoy the scenery instead of grunting and grinding out each pedal stroke. Somehow I ended up in a deep river valley about 20 miles further down the road. I couldn’t avoid it this time but I again found myself in a valley in the afternoon. If you remember from Price Canyon, I said never to be in a narrow river canyon in the afternoon unless you’re going with the wind. At least this time I was going downhill so I didn’t want to kill myself, perhaps a small animal would have sufficed. I reached Riggins and at the closest bar ordered a BFD (burger, fries and draft) for $7. A cold one in an iced mug is exactly what I needed to forget that last windy couple miles. I then stopped by the farmers market and picked up some jam for Richelle as a thank you for hosting me.

Richelle runs the local newspaper and since Riggins is right on a very popular rafting river, she posts the river speed everyday on the cover. When she got home we hiked up to a low ridge to get a good view of the river and town. Apparently this canyon is the second deepest in the country next to Hell’s Canyon, which is right on the other side of the western valley wall. This canyon actually beats out the Grand Canyon for depth. A half mile from her house is where I crossed into the Pacific time zone, which is weird because I was heading north. The canyon riding in this section was beautiful for 30 miles but then I had to climb out. It’s 2,500ft of climbing in 10 miles. That’s 250 feet every mile – ten times! I took the old highway to avoid cars and a steep grade but it still took me 2 hours with breaks to go that ten miles. When I descended into Grangeville, a road cyclist was riding up and with a huge smile gave me a good old congratulatory fist pump. I felt pretty good, to say the least.

Grangeville involved eating an entire pizza and meeting a few other cyclists. Another word of advice about eating an entire pizza pie – enjoy it slowly. Joey and Jessica flew from home in North Carolina to bike from Portland back home. I can’t recall why they were doing their ride so late in the summer but I think they’ll be okay if they get out across Appalachia before December. Unbeknownst to me, Grangeville is on one of the ACA routes and allows cyclists to camp in the city park for free. Not only should I make a list of all the places I’ve slept but also how I came to find those places. In the morning I was finally not the last person to break camp but before leaving, they shared some eggs and I gave them some of the New Belgium pant-leg straps. Hope you guys have found good use for them!

From Grangeville I rode to Lewiston, which is on the Idaho/Washington border. The ride was pretty uneventful except for two things. There was a large wildfire in the area, which put a light blanket of brown haze in the air for several square miles. I didn’t have any problems breathing but it smelled like a wood fire. Some light climbing led to an amazing descent through an interesting mix of hills both with and without trees. Above the road, an old train track crossed several times and sometimes went as far as 500 feet up one of the hillsides. If this is any sort of hint as to what I can expect on my train ride back east, it will be amazing. Once I reached the Columbia River, the riding alongside the river was full of cars, hot, and boring. It was great to finally reach Lewiston but when I arrived I discovered that it’s on a big freaking hill! Now as Murphy’s law has and will always have it, every host that I find seems to live up some sort of hill. More often than not have I had to do a final climb to reach the residence and the one here in Lewiston has to take the cake. In two miles I climbed almost 1000 feet out of the Columbia River valley and at one point, hit 13% grade. You know you’re legs are burning when the ice for knees melts immediately. Holly and her family were my kind hosts for the night. The good thing about living at the top of the hill is the amazing view they had out of their window. All night I got to stare at the 1000 foot winding climb I would get to do the next day. After a pasta dinner, we all went out on their speed boat and I realized how nervous I get going so fast in an open cockpit. After a while it was cool but those first few moments, as the boat starts to plane, are pretty tense. After we returned, I downed a few glasses of chocolate milk and passed out in my private basement room on a very comfortable couch. As I set up the camera to take a group picture the next morning, their children enjoyed a mini photo shoot, which you can see in the photo album. If there were a giant bridge spanning the entire river valley from their doorstep to the other side, I’d be happy. No such thing existed and so I was forced to descend to the river and travel up the Old Spiral Highway, a longer but easier and safer climb. As the motorcycles passed me and enjoyed the plethora of banked, I knew they were wondering what the heck made me want to ride a bicycle! I know this is what they were thinking because I was thinking it too. I had half a mind to reach the top, remove my bags and ride back down for the fun of it.
I reached the top, claimed ownership of the hill and continued onto flatter lands. It was a short day to Moscow where Clay, whom I met in Riggins, offered me a place to stay. I passed the town of Genesee and would you believe they had Genesee Beer from Rochester!? If I hadn’t been miles from Moscow, I would have picked up a 6-pack. A back road to Moscow kept me off the main stretch but put me on a steep gravel road. Damn you, Google Maps! I arrived in town, took a shower and headed to a coffee shop for some route research. In Boise, I planned to go up to Spokane and take highway 2 to Wenatchee but for the first time I noticed a long bike path that went over the cascades in southern Washington. After a little more research (because Google Maps cannot be completely trusted), I decided to change course and head west instead of continuing north. Doing so would knock two days off of my arrival time in Seattle! To celebrate, I used up one of those rest days right there in Moscow. It was good to rest the legs but I ended up getting sick and wouldn’t feel better until 3 days and 200 miles later.

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