Texas Hill Country
Plano, Texas, United States
Nov 26, 2019
Leaving Blackfoot Reservoir, it looked like it should be a nice easy ride along the Blackfoot River, downstream all the way into the city of Blackfoot. No such luck. Pointless ups and downs all day.
By the time I finally made it down to the valley in mid-afternoon, still 20 km from Blackfoot, I was already exhausted. Cue the headwind. Of course.
After having rotten luck finding places to stay in towns, I didn't want to bother. Since this was an agricultural area, that would mean riding 40 km past town before finding public land where camping is allowed. That's about 4-5 more hours of riding, into a headwind the whole time. I didn't like it, but it might be the best option, and I could make it before dark.
I hadn't heard anything from Carey about the possibility of staying with her brother in Blackfoot, but I had his number. I decided to call him out of the blue. Worst that can happen is a no, and I'd ride on.
On the phone, Mark sounded apprehensive at first.
"What are you looking for?"
"If you know of a church, or fire station, or school, or anything similar that could offer a floor to sleep on, or set up a tent out back…"
"Well, you could do that here."
When I arrived, Mark showed me right to the guest room, lovingly decorated in purple. Took a hot shower and managed to get literally all of my clothes washed. Spent time talking on the deck with Mark, and later, was treated to grilled trout he'd caught himself. Fresh, non-instant food is always something welcome, and this was especially good.
Mark made sure I left full in the morning, and sent me off with a pack of homemade jerky, smoked cheese, and a 32 oz Gatorade. My food bag wasn't full before, but I still had trouble fitting everything on Teeder.
To get to Arco, you have to cross the Snake River Plain. A wide-open, flat area with no trees and a lot of lava rocks. And headwind. But that goes without saying. Even though I was moving at a reasonable pace, it felt like it took forever to get to Arco, since nothing went by.
Arco was the first city in North America to run on nuclear power, and the names of some of the businesses in town reflect this (Atomic Burger, etc.).
In Arco, there's a guy who runs a free campground on his property. He lives in a converted school bus, and he's converted another into a "hostel", with a few mattresses laid out on cots. And there's even a hot shower and WiFi! There are a few rules about waste and water use, but the main rule is don't be a jerk. Which, in most situations, could suffice as the only rule.
A motorcyclist from Switzerland showed up later and set up his tent. I slept in the hostel, but not before joining the Swiss and our host for a beer.
Knowing the forecast was not merely for headwind, but for gale-force headwind, I left Arco at 6:30 to get plenty of distance in before it picked up.
I was at Craters of the Moon National Monument by 8:30 and made a point of trying to see things quickly. It would've been nice to spend more time there, but I didn't want to be stuck riding mostly in the afternoon, AKA the windiest part of the day.
Based on the name, I'd expected to see something resembling blast craters everywhere, but not so much. Instead, what stuck out to me was how black all the rocks are.
By the time I left Craters of the Moon at 9:30, the wind was approaching full force. Nothing to do but keep pedaling.
Along the way, while on a paved road, I met my first touring cyclist of the summer. His name was Jon and he was enjoying the hell out of the tailwind behind him.
"Don't you know you're going the wrong way? The wind always blows from the west!"
Everyone seems to know this except Adventure Cycling.
This summer, Jon was finishing up a coast-to-coast tour he'd started another year. Looked like a guy who know what he was doing. Not packed too heavy, and appropriately dressed in a lot of bright yellow. During the daytime, wearing bright colors might be the one piece of gear that makes the biggest difference, safety-wise (at night, it's lights).
Two-thirds of the way through the day, I had to turn into the hills. Good, I thought, at least the hills will block out the wind.
Oh, how naively optimistic I can be…
The hills, being bald, did nothing to stop the wind, which only got stronger as the day went on. All it meant was now I had to deal with an insufferable headwind and steep hills.
After fighting through wind for a few more hours and struggling up a giant climb, there was a screaming downhill into a valley, followed by a nice, easy ride on a bike path. In reality, I still had to force my way down the hill, and upon arriving at the bottom, the bike path was nice. There was considerably less wind here in Sun Valley.
Just that morning, I'd noticed my front tire looked like it was growing a tumor. The layers of the tire were separating, and while it was holding up for now, it was a matter of days before it blew. This area held the last bike shops I'd see for weeks. Time for a new tire!
Neither shop I went to had my size, but one store had another location in Ketchum through which I'd pass tomorrow, and they had one. My tire should last that long.
For the third night in a row, I had a host! Seth, Kirsten, and their daughter Indica. Had a massive dinner involving a burrito with a homemade tortilla and stayed up late talking about bike stuff. All three of them, including a very young Indica, had toured all over the world. Seth had a lot of good things to say about Japan, especially the people. I'd already heard something similar before about Japan, and South Korea as well. Onto the list it goes!
from Wild West