Saturday, August 08, 2009
After breakfast and my leftover cookie, we headed out into the very cold morning. We passed a thermometer sign that read 47 degrees, and it felt even colder with the on and off rain.
When we got out of town, we felt like we were riding through the apocalypse; thorny, black plants creeped on the side of the nearly empty road.
Luckily there were signs of brightness and happiness ahead.
Now where is my MarioKart?
True to Idaho's reputation, we passed several potato fields.
We had beautiful views of expansive farms set against the mountains.
And we finally saw some of the larger wildlife I'd been anticipating, though they weren't exactly wild.
The random elk resort was interesting, but I was way more interested in riding on the OREGON TRAIL! Fording the river, hunting rabbits, trying not to die of dysentery... childhood dreams realized. Ok, we didn't actually do any of those things (well, I guess technically we did avoid dying of dysentery, but moving on) but we did ride on the old trails, which had a nice view and a bloody history.
I love that when the misused indigenous population kills a whopping 10 pioneers it can be called a MASSACRE, but I digress. I did like the other displays.
We also wanted to see Register Rock, a boulder that hundreds of pioneers etched their names into on their way west. Unfortunately it was in the middle of a gazebo in the middle of a park where a crowd of guests was in the middle of a party, so we did an awkward bike-by photo and moved on.
We rode through a great deal of nothing much, passed another ghost town, changed a flat tire, and then bushwacked our way to a reststop. We spotted it from the road, but there were prickly bushes and a barbed wire fence between it and us. Undeterred, we walked back and forth along the fence until we found a spot where the wires had been bent enough for us to sneak through them, being careful not to cut up our clothes and skin. Clearly I'll do a lot for a bathroom. On the way back I was actually happy for the fence, since it kept us safe from three energetic dogs and allowed us to get on our way.
We rode into the great wide open, the great nothingness.
I never thought I would say this, but it was worse than Kansas. Kansas at least had cows, trucks, and the very occasional tree, but this road was utterly vacant of cars, animals, and even telephone poles. There was no motion, no signs of life or growth for mile after mile. A random stack of haybales and a low fence were the only evidence that humanity had set foot there at all.
Like so much of our travels, it was enough to make a person crazy. Desperate for distraction, I asked Kyle to give one of his lectures from class. He traced the history of computer programming languages from Fortran through PHP, describing their characteristics and creators in detail and answering all of my questions about them. When he was finished, the view still hadn't changed.
But there is beauty in barrenness.
That photograph of an empty crossroad is one of my favorites from the trip, though I was certainly tired of the view at the time. I think everyone should experience the simultaneous vulnerability and liberation of a truly wide open space at least once in their lifetime. There is something about being in such a deserted place that changes you, that cracks you open and exposes you to life.
We made our way through the vast nothingness, riding for Rupert. Not our delightful British friend, who is somewhere ahead of us on his way to California right now, but Rupert, Idaho, the next town on our route. Unfortunately the outskirts were populated by unfenced and unchained dogs. We convinced two dogs not to chase us, and then had to give everything we had to outrun a very large and very fast mutt. A little later several horses ran alongside us, which was much more enjoyable. It also spawned a bizarre brainstorming conversation about raising attack ponies, but I doubt the genius of our plans would make sense to anyone else.
Between complete barrenness and the outskirts of civilization came another of my favorite photographs of the trip: a pair of animals in stark contrast against the vastness.
We followed the main road into Rupert but barely spent five minutes in town before getting back on the road. After more tiring miles -- which always seem longer when the sun is setting -- we could finally see the florescent lights of Heyburn and Burley in the distance. After riding in a circle (thanks Garmin) we had to decide between alternate routes; Kyle was adamant about taking the back roads, and he eventually talked me into it even though I was tired of bushwacking and backcountrying, especially at night.
It turned into a miserable ride, and not much of a shortcut after all. I was jumpy and kept flinching and letting out little shrieks whenever a dog barked, expecting a beast with gleaming teeth to lunge at us out of the blackness. We rode under a spray of water and I started coughing and gagging as we realized it was actually pesticide. When we reached a crossroad, we started to fight over whether to take it back to the highway, and nothing improved to make our anger dissipate. Night rides are rarely enjoyable, and this was turning into one of our worst.
We finally made it to the Super 8 and started searching for dinner. We weren't impressed by the convenience store's offerings, so we ordered pizza. It tasted like cheesy cardboard, so I made a sad dinner out of breadsticks and went to bed, glad that today was finally over.← 53: What We Need Is Another Winning Lottery Ticket...and Cookies | Home | 55: Lacking Karma and Desperately Seeking Bliss →
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