Here it is folks: Travis' genius at work. I never imagined a career in film, but give me something to gripe about and turns out I'm a great film subject.
I'm in the Boise airport, getting ready to fly back to good old FLA. As you can imagine, I have a few thoughts and comments about this trip, and I've had a couple of days back in civilization (air conditioning) to mull it all over. So we'll get started with the basics.
Let's start broad. I will leave with a great impression of Idaho. When I told people that's where I was going on vacation this summer, they were like.... okay? We visited some pretty touristy areas, and we only ever saw Idaho license plates, so this is not a major destination. Everyone we met here was very nice, and I think it comes from the Western mentality of taking responsibility for your own well-being, and helping your neighbors when they need it. In urban areas, it's someone's job to help you. Not here, you and your neighbors are on your own.
Idahoans are hands down the most courteous drivers we've ever encountered. In Boise, drivers stop for you to cross the road, which is pretty disconcerting for Floridians. Yes, they are just being polite and waiting for you to cross. WOW. We had ZERO honks, the whole trip, and most folks waved at us as they passed. Additionally, Idahoans love ATVs, and they love taking their dogs on their ATVs. Extremely cute.
Now does that mean I was totally comfortable in rural areas? Not completely. Every homestead has a no trespassing sign. We were out of water quite a few times, and we waited to find a creek before knocking on a homestead door. This sums up rural Idaho pretty succinctly.
Also, would people have been so friendly if we weren't a nice white couple? Apparently, Northern Idaho has the most Nazis per capita than anywhere else. They've been kicked out of every other state, and are populating the panhandle. But honestly if the election taught us anything, racism is everywhere in the US, and we can't just blame it on rural places and the South. It's pervasive in every community.
That being said, Boise has a pretty vibrant refugee population, despite the whiteness of the city. We checked out the farmers market this morning and I teared up a couple of times looking at the booths being run by refugees. We can bet that most of them were escaping desperate violence, but some of them might have grown food at home. It was very inspiring to see families learning to grow new vegetables in a new country, and making some kind of living at it. Way to go, Boise, keep welcoming refugees.
Idaho- The Land
I am more ambivalent about the physical landscape out here. Our host Jen said she hasn't seen a heatwave like this in Idaho since she moved here in 2007. WELL GREAT. I got sunburned on the backs of my knees. Do you know how hard it is to get sunburned in the kneepits while riding a bike? Also, it is extremely dry, like think ashy legs 110% of the time despite lotion application. Furthermore, there is a reason that Travis used Hot & Cold in his tour video. There are no happy mediums here. It is 50 degrees in the morning and 100 degrees in the afternoon. The hot springs can be scalding and the rivers are freezing cold. You’re either biking through a flat valley or straight up a mountain.
There was a lot of variation in scenery, from alpine lakes to mountain meadows, from rocky mountains to scrubby hills. But when I think back on Idaho, I will remember scrubby hills. Lots and lots of dusty roads and scrubby hills. That's probably not fair because there were some epic hot springs, and we only saw four of the 50 or so springs listed on the route. And we did see some epic wildlife as well, from elk to pronghorns to deer friends to beautiful songbirds. Alright, Idaho was beautiful, I just wish it hadn't been so hot. At least there weren't any wildfires.
This is the second backpacking trip I've been on, but it was by far the longest. I never really explained how this trip was different than our others. We're using mountain bikes instead of road touring bikes, so we have fat knobby tires and heavy bikes that are great for gravel roads but heavier and clunkier. We didn't have any racks on the bikes, and all our bags attached to the bikes directly. So that means much less room to carry gear, and a lot less room for food. Subsequently, we basically ate out of convenience stores for two weeks. I call it the Vegetable-Free Carboload Bikepacker Diet: lots of instant mashed potatoes, pasta, dehydrated refried beans (my fav), and Cliff bars. Jesus I could really go a long time without eating a Cliff bar again.
Poor Travis carried the majority of our stuff because I’m so slow. We probably averaged 6mph for the trip, even slower for climbing. There were very few camping amenities, so I got really good about filling up water at creeks and pooping in holes. Travis said that the ultra-light traveling style is probably better suited to shorter trips, and then you wouldn’t even need to carry cooking stuff, it would just be Cliff bars for three meals a day (gag).
What we decided on about halfway through is that maybe we need a van. Travis has been talking about getting an adventure van for a while, and it would really make adventuring much easier. I mean we like hiking. When we bike tour, we don’t have hiking gear. It sucks walking up mountains in cycling shoes. We had to ride through some boring stuff to get to the cool stuff, and that takes a lot of time and energy. And you know what? Bike touring is hard. Like really hard. I just turned 33 this year. I might be wussing out in my old age.
BUT you know what’s awesome about bikepacking? No cars! We saw some places that just wouldn’t have been accessible from the road, which offers a very unique travel perspective. Usually at the end of these long trips I get very car-weary, and my head takes over and I imagine how each car that passes us will actually hit us and horrifically mangle our bodies. Not so on this trip! We went hours without seeing any cars at all, and as I said, Idaho drivers are very courteous so there were zero car issues.
Idaho Hot Springs Loop
Throughout this journey I kept thinking, “Would I recommend this route to people???” Honestly, I don’t know. I guess it depends on the person. This was definitely the hardest trip we’ve ever been on. The route is no joke. I guess I would say go for it, but really lower your mileage expectations, upgrade your bike for the max amount of gears, prepare for the heat and cold, take some breaks to enjoy stuff off-route, and most importantly be on the same page with your riding partner(s). You could smash out the whole route in two weeks if you wanted a legitimate suffer-fest. We're on vacation, and we prefer some fun with our suffering. As hard as it is, traveling by bike is really empowering, and I learn to push myself to new limits with every journey. You just don't get that same feeling from finishing a road trip. Travis and I managed to suffer just enough, and included just enough rewards to make it worth it. So are you up for it??