What is BOI2CotM? It is Boise to Craters of the Moon and that is as far as I got on my cycling trip across Idaho. At 8 PM on day two I made a reluctant phone call to Tory.
“Hey, babe.”, I announced.
“Hi'”, she replied. I knew she knew why I was calling.
“That’s it. It’s too dark to continue today,” I declared.
Up to that point in my ride I had stopped at every historical marker on the side of the road. It was something I never do while driving. The historical marker I was now sitting under has no name for me. I just realized I never bothered to read it.
I ended the phone call and unloaded my gear. The first thing to come off was the CamelBak I had been lugging across the dessert. I started with 2 â€“ 2L water bladders and the added 8.4 lbs. of weight had been contributing to a lower back ache. I then pulled off my helmet and my HeadSweat (a bandana designed to fit under a helmet). My HeadSweat was stiff from all the sweat that had evaporated. I stopped my heart rate monitor at 9 hours 13 minutes. It was reporting I had consumed 6,570 calories. Finally, loosened my cycling cleats and I sat down under the sign with no name to wait.
Sitting under the sign I watched the final glow of dusk disappear behind one of the hills I had just rode over. Oddly, I am often asked what I think about while riding these long distances and that question was the first thing that came to my mind. On the bike the majority of my self talk is small talk.
“Have I finished my water for this hour?”
“I need to eat before I am hungry.”
“Make it to the top of this next pass and you’ll get a break.”
“My butt kills! Stand up you fool.”
“Aaron, you have not seen another cyclist all day. Are you crazy!”
“Come back here you jerk and let me beat you with my frame pump! You and I are the only people on this road! Use the passing lane next time you pass a cyclist.”
“Here comes some more road kill (on a bike you can smell road kill well before you see it).”
Looking back, “I cannot believe I just road my bike up that!”
“I haven’t peed in a long time. That is not good.”
“Hey, I am ridding as fast as that hawk!”
“Just another 10 miles and you can take a break.”
“Die, grasshopper, die!” Going through the dessert the grasshoppers would jump on you and give you a pretty good scare.
One would think I would contemplate the big questions in life, but I don’t. Maybe it’s because I am already satisfied with the answers or maybe cycling is it’s own distraction. Either way cycling leaves me feeling satisfied and my mind clear afterward.
I looked back the hill had now fully hide the sun and had was feeling mixture of satisfaction, sadness, and exhaustion. I was satisfied with what I had accomplished in my last two days.
On the first day I rode to the edge of the Snake River basin and had my first view of the adventure I was about to embark on.
Most of the Snake River basin consists of wide, arid plains and rolling hills, bordered by high mountains. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_River)
What Wikipedia doesn’t tell you, is that there was going be a 15 – 20 mph wind blowing out of the southeast that day. I took on the wind like a long climb and settled into a rhythm. The Snake River basin had some beautiful views, new pavement, and only a couple places to stop for water. I arrived in Mountain Home 1.5 hours later than I expected and a slight headache from dehydration. I knew I was already in trouble for the next day, but thought if I hydrated that night I would be okay.
I meet Tory and the boys at Mountain Home RV park. Being with my family after a long hard day was amazing. I showered off the grime of the day, setup the tent trailer, and we went out to eat. We planned on cooking tin foil dinners in the fire that night, however, we discovered that “RV parks are NOT campgrounds.” Once we got back from dinner and we played one of our families favorite board games, Small World, and I drank water until my headache finally drifted away.
We slept in until 8 AM that next morning and opened the trailer door to another windy day. I looked across the horizon and in the distance saw a large American flag waving vertically over Mountain Home’s Walmart. My heart sank. This was already going to be a long day and the wind was going to make it event longer. I knew this was a possibility and my legs were feeling pretty good, so I prepared for the day. I started by drinking a packet of VAAM, a supplement recommended by a nutrition specialist at George’s that was made from hornet extract. It’s purpose was to help the body clear lactic acid more efficiently. Placebo effect or not I felt much better starting the second day’s ride. Knowing that the first place to stop for water was 60 miles away in Fairfield I loaded up 2 water bladders in the CamelBak, two 24 oz. water bottles, and my food.
Mountain Home’s name is appropriate, because the climbing started right away. It’s a much better name than â€˜Rattlesnake Station’, which I learned from a historical marker was the name of the town prior to the railroad coming through. Near the top of the first mountain pass I overtook the one and only person on my entire ride (everyone else were in cars passing me).
“How are things going?” I asked.
“I have had better days.” said the grayed haired man in cowboys boots.
“That must be your trailer back there.” I stated.
“Yea, two blown tires. I am hiking up the hill to get cell service.” he replied.
“Can I help?”, I questioned.
“Not unless you have a spare trailer tire in that pack,” he said with a smile.
“Fair enough. Good luck!” I wished as I road on.
I crested the hill and had a short decent into Camas Prairie â€“ a plateau valley at 5,000 feet. This was by far the best part of day 2’s ride. Exhausted from climbing the flat terrain of the prairie was a welcome break. The prairie is surrounding on all side by mountains, which makes for some beautiful scenery. It is also where Fairfield is located, the half way mark, and the first place to get water. I was feeling really good at this point and took the opportunity to have an ice cream sandwich, muffin, and banana. I refilled all of my water using the tap on the outside of the Camas Creek Country Store and was back on the road.
After Fairfield the prairie slowly changed to Idaho dessert and a really long, straight road. I was still feeling pretty good and was confident I would be able to finish the day. I rode across the rest of the valley and over the pass at the other end. I took a short break at the top of the pass to look back across the valley. I could hardly make out the mountains at the opposite end and felt impressed with what I had accomplished.
I then descended a short distance down through Picabo and then took another break in Carey. I made what I though would be my final phone call to Tory to let her know I was feeling strong and would see her at Craters of the Moon at around 7:30 PM. With only 25 miles remaining I just filled my two water bottles and got back on the road.
Leaving Carey the road started to gradually climb up to Craters of the Moon. I expected some climbing at the end, but didn’t realize how much was actually left. It’s one thing to see the elevation gain on the map and quite another to actually travel over that same terrain. My average across the Camas Prairie had been between 18 â€“ 20 mph with a 145 heart rate, but as the climb became steeper my speed began to drop. I was now going 13 mph with a 185 heart rate. I was working hard because I knew I was losing the sun.
I finally realized that I couldn’t maintain the present pace for much longer and would need to slow down some more. Normally, I would just settle in at a comfortable, slow pace, but I was in the middle of the Idaho dessert on small, windy two lane highway with cars going 70 mph, almost no shoulder to ride on, and almost no daylight left. The ETA (estimated time of arrival) on my GPS reported 9:14 PM.
I found my sign and made the phone call.
I guess I’ll need to ride by that historical sign some day, so I know what it says.