Rising Above the Fog: Day 7 of the Idaho Bicycle Ride 2017

Ride Basics

From/To: Stanley to Hailey
Number of miles: 75
Elevation: 2,877
Weather: A little bit of everything

Everything was wet in the morning. Everything. Inside our tents. Outside our tents. Jackets. Bikes. Tables. Chairs. Butts. The damp, cold fog permeated our spirits and obscured views of anything farther away than a few yards.

It was a decision point for a number of riders. Some chose to wait until the fog burned off to set out, concerned by visibility on the road (since lights can only do so much). Others considered whether their cycling attire was enough to withstand the damp cold of a morning leg, one which registered as low as 31 degrees on the road. Some set forth, others waited, and some grabbed a ride from the SAG team to the first rest stop.

Luckily, the traffic was light that morning and the shoulder relatively generous. The first bump of a hill brought us above the dewy fog, and we were treated once again to gorgeous views.

A view of the Sawtooths and the river

After the first rest stop, the climb of the day began. It was one of those climbs for which there is little option but to find a gear and fall in love with it. Three-quarters of the way up the inclination held an oasis of a scenic overlook and water stop.

The summit held the greatest reward that many riders could ask for—about 45 miles of downhill. That’s forty-five miles of “Weee!”

The second rest stop was situated along the lovely Wood River. Even with a promised gradual downhill into Hailey, it was no easy feat to wrest oneself from the abundant snack choices and company.

Bike in front of Wood River

We spent the last leg of our journey along the multi-use path through a number of smaller municipalities and past a series of parks, including one hosting an arts fair (watch out for people walking!). Rolling back into Hailey was one hand a triumphant end to the week, and on the other a sigh of regret that the week was over…until next year.

That Moment When Your Jaw Drops: Day 6 of the Idaho Bicycle Ride 2017

Ride Basics

From/To: Challis to Stanley
Number of miles: 58
Elevation: 2,535
Weather: Warm with evening showers

We left Challis by making a right turn into one of the fiercest headwinds we had experienced yet on the trip. A sign beyond the turn read, “Bighorn sheep in roadway next 2 1/2 miles” (the fraction seemed oddly specific to some of our riders, but since we are not acquainted with these wandering sheep, we can only guess at the reasons). At least three riders—Mary, Joella, and Sue—saw six bighorn sheep just after the sign in the bike lane. According to the trio, the sheep paused and then frolicked off, bounding out of the way yet sparing one last backward glance.

After our recent grumblings about the chip seal, it is incumbent upon us to state that the road surface improved a good deal from the previous day’s road.

We continued to follow the Salmon River gradually along a lazy pattern that a few fly fisherman were also imbibing. I was reminded of the Greg Brown song entitled “Just By Myself:”

And I’ll go fishin’-
Get with the flow.
I know a river
In Idaho.
I’ll catch a big trout
And let him go,
And I’ll be happy
Just by myself.

Whether folks were riding by themselves or with a few friends, the road work brought us all together as we waited for a pilot car to chaperone us over the project area. After the second rest stop, some riders went straight on to Stanley, our final destination for the day; but others stopped to enjoy the nearby hot springs.

The approach to Stanley involves rounding a bend that reveals a full view of the Sawtooth Mountains. That is the moment when your jaw drops. It is beyond description. Here is an insufficient picture:

Our final evening together began with a serenade from Touch, Wes, and special guest Dan the Harmonica Man and such crowd pleasers as, “Brown-Eyed Girl” and “Angel from Montgomery.”

Announcements took a special turn as everyone present shared their awe and gratitude for all that Sanna has made possible during her tenure as Executive Director.

There is no doubt that this organization is a family.

Riding Upstream: Day 5 of the Idaho Bicycle Ride 2017

Ride Basics

From/To: Salmon to Challis
Number of miles: 59 miles
Elevation: 2,487
Weather: Clear and sunny

Second verse same as the first…almost. We retraced our tracks back to Challis to see what we had missed, this time with about 300 fewer Ride Idaho riders. With a slight incline rather than the easy descent from two days’ prior, we enjoyed a little more gravity-fed opportunity to take in the Salmon.

Sheep, osprey, bald and golden eagles, and other charismatic fauna abounded, as did renewed views of rushing water backdropped by layered hills.

The first rest stop also offered views of our fearless bike mechanic from Sunnyside Sports, Mike Schindler, playing either host or herder to three feral turkeys. A rest stop crew member who shall remain nameless unofficially named them Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter. Vegetarians on the ride may wish to choose different monikers.

Mike herding turkeys

Then there was the famous (infamous?) toilet mural, supported in part by local agencies. Here is Rob, one of our esteemed SAG crew (SAG #2) modeling the mural:

Rob modeling the outhouse mural

The second rest stop came upon us as the oasis that all rest stops do. Not to brag, but they had an unlikely 58 menu items.

Canapes from rest stop 2

While the day held bountiful splendor, no recap would be complete without registering our ire of chip seal. It’s like the powers that be took the concept of a rumble strip and distributed it across the full expanse of the road, defying relief. While no specific line could be deemed the bronco-bucking experience of Day One’s rumble strip, there existed no line along the route that hurdled casual acrimony. This hairshirt of a pavement treatment aside, the day was a crowd favorite.

Slipping Along the Salmon: Day 3 of the Idaho Bicycle Ride 2017

Ride Basics

From/To: Challis to Salmon
Number of miles: 58
Elevation: 1,224
Weather: Sunny and warm, with some memorable winds in the evening

For a mid-week dessert, we heartily recommend riding the almost-entirely downhill route from Challis to Salmon, Idaho. Just look at this elevation profile:

Elevation profile for Day Three

The road hugs the Salmon River in a sweet embrace. With every turn, I found myself asking, “Can this scenery get any more beautiful?” With every turn, the Salmon River answered: Yes. We had some fellow admirers of the view on Day Three, since our route merged for the day with Ride Idaho’s. Three hundred riders became six hundred, coming together like the zippers on our tents.

Bald eagles and osprey were only two species of wildlife that we spotted as we meandered down the scenic byway. Reports varied widely between how many were seen of which type of fauna, but all reports agreed that it was awesome!

Riders along the Salmon River

Photo: David Nagel

The afternoon sun gave way to a brisk wind by the time a delicious salmon dinner was served by the Catering Rides Northwest team. The announcement tent threatened to take flight during dinner, but its mischief was managed by sandbags. It was about this time that some riders remembered to check that their laundry and/or tents didn’t try to sail away, as well!

We ended Day Three with a warm welcome by Mayor Leo Marshall; a representative from Visit Salmon Valley; and fascinating stories from Judy Washbon of the Sacajawea Center.

Today Is Brought to You by the Number 93: Day 2 of the Idaho Bicycle Ride 2017

Ride Basics

From/To: Arco to Challis
Number of miles: 82
Elevation: 2,981
Weather: Mostly clear and warm

The smoky haze from the previous day—while perhaps fitting in the context of volcanic landscape—was not welcome by riders on Day Two. And so it lifted, unveiling the Lost River Valley and mountains beyond as our champions along the 82-mile stretch of Highway 93.

Mackay was the first town to punctuate the day’s ride. It boasts a weekly farmer’s market, a kid’s park, and a cowboy church.

Lost River Cowboy Church

Along the way to Willow Creek Summit, we caught plenty of views of Mt. Borah, the highest peak in Idaho (12,600 feet). We even spied a little snow at the peak, hanging on in spite of the summer.

How can words properly describe Gran View Canyon? After a full day riding mostly along open farmland, to disappear into an unlikely fissure, with walls suddenly erupting on both sides, demanded glee. Riders emerged on the other side to a far-off view of Challis below.

Rider emerging from the canyon.Photo: David Nagel

While the school in Challis was a dry camp, a neighbor across the street invited us all to cop a squat on her yard and celebrate another day in the saddle. Cheers, neighbor!

IBR2017 gathers on an accommodating neighbor's yard.

Craters of the Moon: Day 1 of the Idaho Bicycle Ride 2017

Ride Basics

From/To: Hailey to Arco
Number of miles: 71
Elevation: 1,807
Weather: Warm and hazy

There is a saying among cyclists: “There are no tailwinds, only headwinds and good days.” The first 15-20 miles of Day One portended a good day, indeed! If folks thought they were going to be breaking down their tents after sunrise, it was perhaps because they had forgotten the effect the time zone change from the West Coast had on wake-up time (I was one of those scrambling to remember where she had packed her headlamp!).

The multi-use path out of Hailey was perhaps the best pavement that riders experienced all day, and interactions with ground squirrels were surprisingly few and far between. But by the second (delicious!) rest stop, it seemed at least a few riders were feeling the effects of the hazy smoke from the region’s wildfires. Luckily, the remaining miles trended downhill after the rest stop respite.

Craters of the Moon National Monument is a landscape of otherworldly beauty. To be surrounded by jutting lava formations sprinkled with plants determined to know life is to be reminded that ruggedness is its own form of splendor.

We express Highway 93 with a haiku:

Dearest Idaho
Rumble strips are encroaching
Why did you do this?

Riders ended their Day One journey in Arco, Idaho. Arco is the first city in the world to be powered by atomic energy, thanks to the world’s first nuclear reactor nearby. Whether their band name is an homage to Arco’s energetic fame, The Voltz delighted riders with covers and originals through the evening.

Feature photo by David Nagel, IBR 2017 rider.

It’s All Downhill from Here: Day 4 of the Oregon Bicycle Ride 2017

Ride Basics

From/To: Diamond Lake to Cottage Grove
Number of miles: 94
Elevation: 4,450
Weather: Big raindrops shifting to sun

The Long Descent

Group riding along the riverIf there is a cycling equivalent to coming back down to Earth, Day Four was it. The elevation profile for the day showed that riders would be descending for most of the day. The first 40+ miles were almost a freebie, since they were all a gradual downhill. A number of riders afterwards confessed that they had almost forgotten how to pedal by the time they rolled into rest stop one.

Luckily, a hill or two after the first rest stop proved a refresher course in pedaling! The ride up the Bureau of Land Management road was one that might be referenced as a “memorable inclination,” and the downhill was every bit as memorable. Most remembered their preferred braking techniques and used them liberally.

Meanwhile, at the Rest Stop…

For riders, the rest stops are magical oases that seem to pop up from nowhere exactly when one is starting to feel a bit tummy-grumbly. It’s a lesser-known fact that the elves who make the rest stops happen are packed up and out of camp no later than 6:00am in order to set up and to be prepared for that first hungry rider.

There is a great amount of fruit cut, for example, as you can see from this fruit cutting time lapse.

The breakdown is swift and impressive, ensuring that little to no trace is left and that all the remaining foods and utensils have found their way back to where they belong.

A Tale of Two Lakes: Day 3 of the Oregon Bicycle Ride 2017

Ride Basics

From/To: Crater Lake Loop (optional)
Number of miles: Up to 59
Elevation: Up to 6,350 feet
Weather: Temperate with a side of showers

Options, Options

Crater Lake

As Alice shared later in the evening, there are roughly 300 million people living the United States, and roughly 300 folks rode up to Crater Lake on Day Three. That makes Day Three’s option to Crater Lake a one-in-a-million experience. And wow, what an experience!

The road for part of the loop was under construction, so most folks heeded Stan’s suggestion to end at the rest stop at Skell Head, which was the part of the rim ride sporting the most beautiful views. The clear morning weather promised unhindered vistas of the entire lake, and the lake did not disappoint.

Most riders returned to Diamond Lake by 1:00pm with their phones/cameras laden with gorgeous photos and their bodies ready for the delicious lunch that our fearless caterers had prepared.

Diamond Lake

Ducks at Diamond LakeThose who chose to opt out of the Crater Lake loop didn’t have to go far to witness the natural lakeside beauty of Oregon. Diamond Lake boasts a 12-mile paved path around the lake’s perimeter, punctuated by a resort, pizza place, and serene marshes.

Whether folks walked, biked, or rented a boat for the morning, it’s safe to say that everyone had a full dollop of natural splendor that made Day Three one for the books.

Also, there were ducks.


Featured image photo courtesy of Jason Kuhn