Days whatever #2-4

June 18, 2008

Since my last post (the ride from Juntura, Oregon) we’ve ridden three days across Idaho. I’m sitting here in a hotel in Idaho Falls, which is on the eastern edge of the state. It’s hard to believe that we’ve come this far in the past ten days.

The first day of our ride across Idaho took us from the Oregon/Idaho border to Mountain Home, which is a bit southeast of Boise. Nothing too spectacular to report here, except for the amount of irrigation that we were introduced to in Idaho. Basically, we began to notice that the amount of irrigated land increased dramatically at the far eastern edge of Oregon, and picked up significantly in Idaho. Most of this goes to growing onions and potatoes, which in turn are shipped all over the country to make tater tots and french fries. Now, western Idaho doesn’t have a climate that is much different from eastern Oregon, so the water’s got to come from somewhere. The Snake River, the valley of which we rode through on this first Idaho day, simply doesn’t have enough water for all of this, so the obvious answer is an aquifer. Turns out that’s true, as much of southern Idaho sits atop a gigantic aquifer and makes it possible to have cities and agriculture here. Yet another reminder of how so much of the west is built atop a foundation that can’t possibly last forever.

The second day took us almost due east, from Mountain Home over a couple of big passes to a town called Arco. The two climbs were absolutely gigantic, and in terms of length and grade rivaled the Cascades climbs on day three of the trip. The difference here was that these climbs were in arid country, which meant it was much hotter, at least on the lower slopes. However, upon reaching the top of the second climb (at about 5,500 feet) we were treated to breathtaking views. The rest of the ride on this day was a very pleasant affair, as the high elevation on the plateau that we’d climbed kept temperatures down. Moreover, we were given a huge tailwind that allowed us to maintain speeds of 22-23 mph for the entire day. Those were about the best cycling conditions possible. Another highlight of the day was seeing Craters of the Moon National Monument, which is a gigantic lava bed that resulted from a series of huge eruptions millions of years ago. Basically, the landscape consists of many, many square miles of fantastic black lava rock formations. While Craters of the Moon is one of the most desolate and forbidding landscapes I’ve ever seen in my life, it’s also one of the most fascinating and strangely beautiful.

Today we rode from Arco down to Idaho Falls. Nothing too special to report about today’s ride, more gentle up-and-down riding. Our tailwind abandoned us, replaced by a strong crosswind. Not enough to make our lives miserable, but enough to remind us that someday soon we are going to face a wicked headwind. So here we are in Idaho Falls, which lo and behold actually does have a waterfall (kind of a huge lateral waterfall, meaning it’s about 15 feet high but maybe a kilometer long). We are once again on the Snake River, which is kind of an apt end to our trip across Idaho.

Tomorrow we take another day off, then on Friday we head over the Tetons to Jackson, Wyoming. The climb over the pass tops out at something like 8,500 feet, which is around 4,000 feet higher than we are right now. And the grade reaches 9%, which means it will be a huge sufferfest. But we are stronger riders now than we were even one week ago, so my guess is we’ll get over the top.

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