I’m not really sure why I never told this story before. It happened on Day 53 of Scoot 66 in the little town of Cascade, Idaho. Here is where luck combined with an incredibly small world, saving me a few bucks.
Route 55 heads north out of Boise and basically turns into Idaho’s answer to California’s Route 1. It’s full of twists, turns and beautiful views as it winds along the Payette River. Lush, Oregon-like forests surround the road on either side. This is one of those roads that you just want to travel again and again.
As I travel, I always watch my speed. While I do exceed the posted speed limit on the open road, I never do so through a town. So when I came into Cascade, I slowed down to 35 and then stopped to get gas. After filling up, I pulled out of the gas station and within a block, red and blue lights were flashing behind me and I was urged to pull to the side of the street by a constable on patrol.
He got out of his patrol SUV, sauntered up to me and asked how my day was.
“Fine, beautiful day today,” I said to the young cop. He had to be 26 or 27.
“Do you know how fast you were going?”
I answered that I did not. That was true. I had just pulled out of the gas station, I couldn’t have been going faster than 25 or 30.
He then asked me if I knew what the posted speed limit was. I replied that I did not.
Then he asked me what most people ask me. “Did you really ride that from Pennsylvania?” I assured him that I did.
That’s when he told me about a girl that passed through his town last year on a red Vespa. She was from Pennsylvania and he thought that it might be her again. This, dear readers, is why I was being pulled over. But this isn’t where it gets strange.
He asked to see my license, registration and proof of insurance. Looking at it, he asked, “are you really from Lewisburg?”
“Yes, born and raised.”
“Really? I went to Bucknell!” That’s the university in Lewisburg. He had graduated three years ago with a degree in geology. He came to Idaho to be a geologist, but got stuck behind a desk and decided to be a cop instead.
Oh, at this point, I knew that I wasn’t getting a ticket.
We talked about the bookstore that I owned – he remembered seeing it since it was next door to the liquor store. He asked if the Town Tavern was still there. I promised that it was. We both shared our love for Venari’s Pizza.
For the next ten minutes we talked about Pennsylvania, college, life’s goals and traveling around the country.
So what are the chances that I’d get pulled over by a cop in some small town in Idaho who graduated Bucknell, remembered the bookstore that I owned and spent four years in the same town as I did? Paths from our past cross constantly. Sometimes they hold great meaning and other times they just mean that you won’t have to pay that $130 fine. Either way is okay with me.
This is the first time I’ve ever been in Montana! Only three continental states to go before I have them all! ((North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin are yet to come))
I rose with the sun (or possibly with the old guy hacking next door to me), showered and ate the last of my Might O’s Doughnuts. These are the last good vegan doughnuts I’ll get until I get back to Seattle (unless Smartz comes up with something awesome).
As I was packing up, a nice couple from Spokane struck up a conversation with me about riding. They have a couple of Harleys and ride mostly on the weekends, though not this weekend. Again, it was strange for me to say “I’m heading back to Pennsylvania.”
Some people never get to cross the country. If they’re lucky, some scrimp and save and plan for months and then cross the country. And then there’s me who is crossing the country and not really even thinking of it as that. I’m just getting back to Pennsylvania. That’s sort of obnoxious of me.
It’s not that I’m not enjoying it, or that I’m planning on not enjoying it. I love riding. I could ride all day. I’m just spent on appreciating things like scenery. I explained this to the nice couple who then talked about the sage brush they saw on their way from Spokane to Wilber. I saw that very same sage brush about an hour later. Riveting.
I packed it all up and rode off towards Montana. I haven’t really looked at a map to see how not straight this road actually is. Sure, there are long straight stretches, but it also winds its way through eastern Washington, Idaho and western Montana. Who knew?
US 2 took me through Spokane, which really reminded me of Hagerstown, Maryland. Weird, huh? But it did. It was still up and running, but kind of used and abused. I didn’t stop to take pictures.
But soon, and actually before I thought it would be, was Idaho. Going east, the mile marker numbers go up. I have no idea when they’ll end. Going west, on the other hand, you’re counting down to zero. Idaho crept up on me! ((Sneaky Idaho!))
And that’s how it was. How long would I be in Idaho? No idea, really. Couldn’t be too long, I was going through the tiny chunk of Idaho, the panhandle.
But it was longer than I thought. Maybe 80 miles. Reason? Well US 2 turned north, straight north, while following US 95. That took more time than I figured, but it was a nice ride.
I don’t think I’ve seen a part of Idaho that I didn’t really like. I’m not sure many other states can say that. And I’ve been through quite a bit of Idaho!
Idaho seemed to last forever, though, like I said, it was only 80 miles or so.
But not too long after I had given up hope of Idaho actually having an eastern border, I crossed into Montana.
And things probably got a lot prettier. I’ve heard Montana was really fun to look at. And I’m betting they were right. It’s not that I didn’t look. I mean, I sort of have to, right? I saw mountains off in the distance. Or maybe that was in Idaho. It’s all pretty mountainous.
Thankfully, it wasn’t very touristy.
Not a huge fan of tourists.
Montana was, well, so far… Montana is full of trees. Big green ones! Not California big. Not even Oregon big. But still, big. Conifers! I bet there was a larch!
One way to tell if you’re on a Montana road is that they mark their highway fatalities with white crosses. Each cross represents one fatality. They’re placed in the “exact” spot where they died (or where they were hit before being taken to the hospital where they died). It’s kind of creepy.
Usually, there were one or two crosses, signifying one or two fatalities. Those were all over. You could hardly go ten miles without seeing some.
This might have something to do with US 2 being a 70mph two-lane winding its way through hills and along cliffs. Maybe?
But I saw one that really made me pause. Actually, it made me turn around to make sure I saw what I thought I saw.
And I was right. 17 fatalities in one spot, probably in one accident.
As macabre as it might seem, I’d really like to know what happened here. I think it was near Kalispell. I could be really wrong about that, and I doubt anyone would really know (anyone who reads this, I mean). But 17 fatalities in one spot can’t be a good thing.
I shook off the grizzly reminder of how dangerous the road can be and traveled on.
Not too much longer and I was nearing West Glacier, where the KOA is. Ah, my home for the night! I entered and it was pretty busy. I didn’t figure I’d get a spot.
Honestly, I thought about just riding till dark. It was only 4pm. Yeah, 350ish miles before 4pm. And that’s with losing an hour due to crossing into the Mountain Time Zone! Go me!
But I didn’t have to keep going. While they didn’t have any spots open, they had “overflow.” What’s that? It’s a small strip of grass along the road. Hey, it’s only $20! AND I get a pretty ok WiFi connection there.
In retrospect, I probably should have kept moving. There’s this drive to not be traveling when you’re on your way home. It’s happened on all of my trips. I have an entire continent to cross! I even considered doing an IronButt Challenge (1000 miles in 24 hours or 1500 miles in 36 hours). I think I could totally do it! But I’d have to print out forms and such and don’t have that ability. And then laziness kicks in. Maybe tomorrow I’ll do 500 miles. Work my way up to 1000.
So as you know, I survived the night. I’m still cleaning dust out of things, including my eyes. Not a lot of fun. But that’s how it goes.
I shook the dust out of my jacket and thought, “I can see by outfit that I am a cowboy!” You know, the Smothers Brothers version of “Streets of Laredo.” I can’t find a clip of it or the song or anything, but the lyrics are:
As I walked out on the streets of Laredo,
As I walked out in Laredo one day,
I spied a young cowboy all wrapped in white linen
Wrapped in white linen as cold as the clay.
I see by your outfit that you are a cowboy;
I see by your outfit you are a cowboy, too;
We see by our outfits that we are both cowboys.
If you get an outfit, you can be a cowboy, too.
And a giggle started my day. Here‘s a video of someone else doing their version.
As you might know, I follow a set of directions taped to the headset of the scooter. I don’t just wander around aimlessly. Today’s instructions were made in quite the haste, but I thought they would be right.
The first part of the trip had me going on the Old Oregon Trail. I thought that was odd, since the Oregon Trail was about 10 miles away from where I said it would be. But I tried to follow it anyway.
My mistake was that I didn’t read anything correctly. Googlemaps said that I should turn left onto Old Oregon Trail Highway. I thought (for some reason) that that was the Oregon Trail. It wasn’t. It was Old US 30, here known as “Old Oregon Trail Highway.”
So I followed Old US 30 for about 10 miles thinking that it would connect with I-84. It does not. Looking at the map again, I could have wiggled my way around, followed an old dirt road (which seemed to have been Old, Old Route 30) and have been ok, but I didn’t want to risk it.
I turned around and went back ten miles and took the interstate to where I knew Old US 30 was. It lasted for five miles, but it was nice to be on an old road again. But back to the interstate with me!
However, not for long. While riding the mind-numbing I-84, I spied a sign about the Oregon Trail. Anything is better than this, so I hopped off the super slab and followed the little brown signs down a road and then up a dirt road (yeah, dirt) to a hill.
On the way to the top of the hill, I saw an Oregon Trail marker. And next to the marker was the freaking Oregon Trail! This is a first! The trail, which you could plainly see, was marked! They never do this. They never say “hey, here’s the trail, right HERE!” They always allude in some lofty way that the trail passed near this place that’s close to the newer highway.
But here it was, the trail. Wagon wheel ruts and all!
Was I impressed? Oh certainly I was.
You could see the trail to the horizon in either direction, it was pretty cool. You’re also allowed to follow it however long it goes (or until a sign tells you that you can’t go any farther).
The trail passed over this hill, Bonneville Point. Here is where Mr. Bonneville, while exploring, climbed this hill, saw some trees in the distance and shouted “BOISE!” which means “forest” in French (Bonneville was French).
And if you look to the west, you can certainly see Boise… the city. Not the forest. The forest is gone. Boise replaced BOISE. Sad, really.
Upon returning to the scooter, I met a couple who was checking out this Bonneville place. They asked me about the scooter and the trip. They asked the normal questions, but also some other good ones like “how long will the engine last.” I had no real idea, but figured it could basically go on forever with rebuilds. I really enjoy meeting people. I realize that I spend most of my time alone and have that cowboy thing going on, but I do enjoy talking to folks. I just wish I’d ask more questions about them. I’ll work on that.
This view, however, was spectacular. It overlooked the wide open prairie of Idaho and brought the song “Chant of the Wanderer” into my head.
I rode away and through Boise without giving Boise much thought. I was heading up Idaho Route 55. I had no real idea what it was or where it went. All I knew was that it lead to US 95, which led to some other road which led to another road that took me to Baker City, Oregon, my stop for the night.
I also knew that this was a very zigzaggy way to get there, but I really didn’t care. I didn’t want to resort to the interstate.
Anyway, Route 55 really didn’t impress me at first. It was a busy road that was near a river and so what. But then, all of a sudden, it narrows, the traffic drops off a bit and suddenly there area twists and turns and some amazingly beautiful scenes. Again, Idaho impressed me!
I followed this road for quite a few miles. The going was slow, but very worth it. When a car would come up behind me, I’d pull over, letting it pass so that I wouldn’t be rushed.
Route 55 is Idaho’s answer to California Route 1. It was that great. I was in a thick pine forest, next to white water and old rail road tracks. If you like, you could camp in any of the dozen or so National Forest Campgrounds along the route. Way to go, Idaho!
But, like Route 1, it climbed out of the pines and away from the water and took me to rolling golden hills and a few towns.
The towns were all pretty nice, but I wasn’t feeling in much of a town mood. I wanted to get back to the pines and nature, which is sort of weird for me.
Route 55 ends in the town of New Meadows. From there, I took US 95 South. I was heading north on 55, but now it’s time for the zag, so I headed south.
US 95 was alright, but nothing to really get me going. Actually, at this point, I got pretty fatigued and developed a headache. This is the first time Idaho did such a thing to me. But to get where I had to be, I had to take 95.
Finally, my turn off of 95 was here! Cambridge, Idaho, a weird little run down town that I probably should have explored more, gave me Idaho Route 17 North and that last 30 or so miles of this fair state. Route 95 took me south, Route 17 was taking me north. Another zig-zag.
And what a way to end! Route 71 was nearly as amazing as Route 55.
It gave me curves and views that popped my eyes out. Steep hills rose up on either side of the road as 71 twisted through the Snake River valley that led into Hell’s Canyon. The Snake River in Wyoming was fun to ride along side and the same is true for Idaho. The Snake runs for over 1,000 miles and I bet nearly all of those miles are amazing.
I was getting close to Oxbow and the border of Oregon. It was weird, the whole day, especially riding up 55, I kept thinking that I was in Oregon. I guess Idaho was so pretty that it fooled me!
Crossing into Oregon, I also crossed into the Pacific Time Zone. So, all you eastern friends, I’m once again three hours behind you, ok?
Idaho 71 turned into Oregon 86. This would take me into Baker City, first heading south, then west.
It was a pretty road, but most country than wilderness. That’s alright though. It reminded me of Pennsylvania but with snow peaked mountains on the horizon.
There were some turns and a few hills, but nothing really caught my eye. I was feeling fatigued again, my back was hurting as was my bottom. I wanted today to end and I couldn’t get to Baker City fast enough.
But that’s when I saw “Hole-In-the-Wall Interpretive Site 1/4 mile.” I really didn’t feel like stopping for anything, but I very reluctantly pulled over.
Now, one thing that I almost always notice about a road is whether it’s older or newer. If it’s newer, as this one was, I figure that there much be an older alignment around here somewhere. There was indeed.
Usually, the Department of Transportation wants to replace a road with a bigger one. They build the bigger one and then mother nature reclaims the older one.
In this case, DoT didn’t really want to build a new road. But mother nature seriously wanted to reclaim one.
It was 1984 when a huge landslide covered Oregon Route 86 on the north side of the Powder River. It wasn’t just a few rocks, but the whole side of a mountain just plopped itself down on the road and damming the river. It cut off hundreds of folks from the rest of the world and created quiet a drainage problem since the Power River was completely stopped up.
A new road, the one that I was on, was made a couple of years later. I took a few pictures and noticed that you could still see the old road on the west side of the slide. I figured that you could get to both sides, wouldn’t that be cool if I weren’t so exhausted?
Well, as it turns out, I wasn’t too exhausted for this. How many times do you get to see a landslide up close? Not too many!
I remembered seeing a road not too far back, so I turned around and followed it. It was clearly Old 86 and soon I saw “Road Closed” signs and knew I was getting close.
The road was all chewed up from construction equipment used to dig a new path for the river. And up ahead was the eastern side of the slide.
I took a few pictures that really fail to capture how huge this thing was. I guess it doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it was a cool way to finish out the day.
I tried to get to the western side of the slide, but there was no access to it by car (or scooter). So, feeling even more tired, but happy that I stayed long enough to check things out, I moved on, heading finally into Baker City.
This town is pretty nice. Oddly laid out. It’s a small town with quite a bit of business for its location. I was too beat to take any pictures, but I’ll grab some on my way out.
My home for the night is the Oregon Trail Motel on US Route 30. I can’t seem to get away from this road.
Tomorrow is Portland!
Here are my pics (check them out, the landslide stuff is pretty amazing, as is Route 55).
Miles today: 364
Miles total: 7,093 (wow)
Oh, and listen to this song. It’s one of the song-poems… but just … WEIRD (even for them).
[audio:dish.mp3|titles=Gretchens New Dish]
Ok, sorry for the whine-fest earlier today, but hey, it was REALLY freaking cold! It’s miserable to try to sleep in the cold. Geesh!
The shower was hot though, and that nearly makes up for it. Nearly. But what did actually make up for it was meeting four motorcyclists from Colorado Springs while I was typing my whine-fest. They were doing a six-day run to Yellowstone. It was nice to talk to some folks who also ride. And it was nice to be treated as an equal. Though, one fellow said several times that I was a “crazy man.” I guess I can see where he’s coming from a little bit. It probably seems a bit crazy to do this on a little scooter when I could do it on a larger cycle. But there’s just something about a Vespa…
I waited around for it to warm up, leaving the KOA around 9am. I decided to ride to Jackson to see what all the hubbub was about.
I have to say, I really don’t get it. My description in my rant yesterday basically covers it. It’s all that and basically not much else. I rode around a few blocks hoping to see something that would interest me.
Nothing really did. I guess I just don’t care so much. I bet things are really expensive here too.
One thing that really excited me was a Chinese place called Ocean City. Why it was actually called that, I have no idea. But to me, this place is Ocean City without the ocean.
The ride from Jackson to Teton Summit was pretty amazing. Before reaching the base of the mountain, I was afforded the view of the lower Tetons. Thank you. Tetons is French for Breasts. Sigh. Anyway, I catch a glimpse and they look great.
Just after Wilson, the road climbs higher and higher through several switchbacks and suddenly I’m on the snowy top! I dismounted and took a picture of Jackson from way far away. I was also asked to take a picture of a group of French tourists. I wonder if they got a kick out of Great Tetons. Hm.
Even though the border of Idaho and Wyoming is a straight line and based on absolutely nothing geographical, as soon as I got to the bottom of the mountain, Idaho appeared! Presto! And there I was in Idaho.
I have to admit that I wasn’t really stoked about riding through Idaho. I mean, it’s Idaho. Thanks to my mom, I knew that there was a huge spud on a flat bed truck in front of a drive-in theater near Driggs.
Driggs was a little out of my way, but I didn’t care. I figured that Idaho was going to suck, at least something should be fun, right?
So I saw the spud and it was indeed a bunch of fun! I’m glad someone in Idaho thinks they’re funny.
And I was ready to be bored by Idaho. Bring it on!
Between Driggs and Victor was the valley called Pierre’s Hole. This is where a battle took place between fur trappers and a tribe of natives. As the tribe’s chief extended a peace pipe to the traders, he was shot dead. Oops! Hilarity ensued.
I rode back to Victor and took Idaho Route 31 south to Swan Lake where I picked up US 26 again, but heading west this time, instead of east. As expected, there wasn’t much going on.
I did, however, stumble upon a really great view of a canyon, but in order to really see it, I had to enter an oddly closed down rest area to do it. I’m not really sure why the rest area was closed, but it was a nice view.
The next town was Idaho Falls. Glory be.
I kind of forgot that I used to love riding through towns. As I was about ready to pass it by, I thought of it and turned towards the downtown.
This place was beat. Nobody was out, nothing was open. It was sort of like an old town in Jersey or something.
I took some pictures and stumbled upon Happy.
Happy is a Chinese place and it really did live up to its name. The woman who ran it was pretty happy and the food, Ma Po Tofu, was vegan and delicious. It was actually spicy! That never happens! I was pretty excited.
On the way out, an older lady who was sitting by the window looking at my scooter asked me, “Are you the one who’s traveling on the scooter?” I said that I was and she smiled.
“I’m 70 something, but I used to have one of those when I was 15. We’d zip around North Hollywood and raise some hell.”
She told me that she grew up on North Hollywood and had an old Vespa. I guess you could ride them at any age then. It was great talking to her. I could tell that she wanted to be zipping around on a scooter again. She wasn’t sad and seemed to be pretty content where she was, but who wouldn’t want to zip around on a scooter? Especially since a happy chunk of her childhood was spent “zipping around North Hollywood” on a Vespa.
I hope at 70 that I’m still zipping around.
So, ok. Idaho was boring, but not bad. I met a great gal, had some amazing food and the broken down town of Idaho Falls was actually depressing in a good way. I guess I can say that since I don’t live there.
Speaking of Idaho Falls, where are the falls? Well, I accidentally found them while hooking up with US 20.
They’re certainly not Niagara, but they’re pretty and if I lived here, I’d be happy the falls were here too.
Route 26 took a weird detour to Blackfoot while Route 20 went straight west. I took US 20 and i’m glad that I did.
This is where I found Hell’s Half Acre. Now, there are many Hell’s Half Acres. Ohio, Tennessee, Fort Worth, Texas all have them. There’s even a Hal’s Half Acre across the river from Duncannon. ((I saw a sign reading “Hal’s Half Acre” on Route 147 once. It was more than likely put there by Hal.)) But this Hell’s Half Acre is the youngest of the Basaltic Lava Fields in the Snake River Plain.
I rode into the field on a little dirt road. Most of the lava is sort of hard to see. It’s covered by sage grass and random trees. But it’s there. And it’s a pretty huge lava field. 4,000 – 5,000 years ago, the earth cracked open and lava spewed forth over 125 square acres… so a bit more than a half acre. There wasn’t a volcano here, just a vent. I didn’t have time to walk to the vent.
Also, the temperature kept climbing it was in the 90′s now. Crazy.
Because there was a whole lot of lava in this area, there weren’t many towns. And because there weren’t many towns, wouldn’t this make an excellent place to build the world’s first nuclear power plant? It sure would be!
You can even tour it if you’re feeling spunky enough. I wasn’t, so rode on.
Right before Butte City, Routes 20 and 26 rejoined. Idaho wasn’t looking too bad now that I was actually experiencing it. I was seeing a lot and learning a bunch of fun stuff.
But I figured that would be it. Acro, where I stopped for gas, surprised me. They had the top part of a submarine in their park and one of the coolest things I’ve seen on the trip thus far.
Behold: Arco Number Hill.
What would all these numbers stand for? Well it’s tradition in Arco, since 1920, for the graduating senior class to paint their graduating year on the side of the mountain. I’ve never seen such a thing before. Sure, many towns will paint the first letter of the town name on the side of the closest eminence, but for each class, every year to paint their graduating year… well, I’m impressed. Go Idaho!
As I was riding US 20, I kept seeing signs for Craters of the Moon. I knew it was some park or something, probably nothing to see from the highway, no time to see more and no desire to pay $10 to quickly ride through it to see some hole in the ground or something.
Again, Idaho proves how much it rules.
Just after Arco, I started to see more lava. Ok, Idaho used to be a bit hotter than it was now (nearing 100 degrees, by the way). But as I rode, the formations grew in size until, not too far from the road, they were basically small mountains.
I pulled over and took in the sea of blackened lava surrounding me. As late as 2,100 years ago, lava was erupting from the ground and out of mountains. This was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen in my entire life.
You can look at my pictures and read about it here, but, like so many things, it’s something to be experienced. It is huge, 714 acres. There’s a small park with a seven-mile trail. I didn’t do it. No time, really. But I promise you, I’m coming back to see this. Amazing.
So I went from basically dreading Idaho to having plans to return. Weird, isn’t it? I certainly wouldn’t want to live here, but this lava field thing is pretty cool in my book.
A bit farther down the road and it’s lush and green, like nothing ever happened.
For pretty much the entire day, I was following an alignment of the Oregon Trail. Specifically Lander Road, at first and then Goodale’s Cutoff through the lava fields. Why he chose this route, I’m not really sure. Looking at a map, it doesn’t seem to save that much time.
And finally, I arrive in Mountain Home. It’s a small town that used to be called Rattlesnake. That was when it was 10 miles northish of here on the Oregon Trail. When the Trail died out and Union Pacific laid their line through, Rattlesnake, now called Mountain Home because Rattlesnake is a dumb name for a town, moved 10 miles and went from being an Oregon Trail stop to being a Union Pacific stop.
It’s also a stop for me! I checked the weather and all seems clear. So I’m getting a campsite and enjoying not freezing to death.
After far too much time away from riding, today I took to the open road! How was it? Well, to be honest, it was yet again wonderful!
I left the Salt Lake City area around 8:30am and took the interstates north and a bit east. Thankfully, that didn’t last too long.
However, I took I-84 east through a mountain pass where the winds, blowing against me, slowed me down to 50mph. Why the wind was blowing west, I have no idea. But it was really strong. Weirdly, it was the only wind I encountered all day.
After I cleared the interstate, I found my way to Utah Route 167. It was a pretty little road and I could see snow-capped mountains around me. This was strange since yesterday it was well into the 90′s. I thought that the snow would have melted by now. It was in the mid 70′s as I rode by.
I rode by Huntsville and then north on Utah Route 39. This road is usually closed in winter, but since it’s really freaking close to summer, it was open. No snow for me!
Route 39 is one of those roads that you pretty much have to ride to experience it yourself. There’s nothing really special about it other than it’s a fun road with a lot of curves and hills, few cars and amazing views.
As I climbed into the mountains, I started to see patches of snow on either side of me. And then I saw about a three foot drift to my left. I rode a bit farther and saw a drift well over five feet high. This wasn’t a pile of snow laid there by a snow plow. This was simply five feet of pure white evil (well, sort of dirty gray evil).
I discovered that I was at 9,000 feet. Pretty impressive. This is the highest altitude I’ve ever ridden in.
That was the peak of the mountains and on the way down, about 15 miles later, I was in what looked like Nevada or New Mexico. Sharp reddish rocks jutted out of the mountains as the road twisted down to Woodruff, the last town in Utah.
Next stop was Wyoming. But just for a bit. However, in Wyoming, I was following both the Oregon Trail and a Union Pacific Line. Could this get any more geekier?
Along the way, I saw an older alignment… with an old steel bridge! Yes, it got geekier. I practically geeked out. The bridge had a wooden floor! I couldn’t find an easy access to it, so I rode on.
That was it for Wyoming, but not for long. US 30 curves left, heads west and slides into Idaho in a weird sort of way. The railroad drips south and the road heads a bit north. I don’t think this was the original alignment of 30 (or the Oregon Trail). This was a newer road.
And hello there, Idaho! I’ve never been to Idaho before. Ever. It’s one of the few states that has not be blessed with my presence. But here we are, together at last!
Idaho was a pretty cool state. Maybe it’s just this corner of it, but whatever, Idaho was great.
First off, it’s pretty. That’s always a plus. Secondly, about five miles into it, Route 30 takes a weird northerly bend. Along the road you can see an earlier road. I thought it was simply an earlier alignment of Route 30. Oh no, it was not.
The road was the McAuley Cutoff. And, like most cutoffs, there’s a fun story behind it. You can read about it here. That’s just cool. Seriously, read it. This is why I love riding through places like this.
US 30 took me into Montpelier, ID. Montpelier was a Oregon Trail town and, like many Route 66 towns, they’re proud of their place in history. There is even a government-run museum in the town.
I stopped at it and was pretty curious as to how they’d set it up. The building itself was divided into several museums and the forestry service. It was pretty confusing.
To make matters wackier, the people who worked there were dressed as cowboys. Even the women. Some had old Colt revolvers. They all talked like they were from Texas. And then they sang a song about a cowpoke.
I wish I were making this up. But it’s true. The head cowboy offered me a tour. I declined. Honestly, how can I trust these people? Ok, if they wanted to do a first person impression of a settler traveling the Oregon Trail, fine. First person impressionists are extremely knowledgeable and fun. But these were just normal folk (or government employees) dressed as fake Texas cowboys standing in a museum that was built in the 1970′s. And they wanted me to pay for this? Come on, now.
I was hoping, as I left Montpelier, that I would also be leaving the hokey cowboy barf behind me. Sadly, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
The road, now US 89 (again, if you’re paying attention), swung me back into Wyoming. This road was certainly beautiful. Along with the hokeyness, I thought I left the Oregon Trail behind. But no. There was a leg of it called the Lander Cutoff. The cutoff was made to shorten the distance of the Oregon Trail, but this cutoff was much rougher than the original. However, the Lander alignment had food and water, a big plus when trying not to die on your way to California.
This was a pretty neat spot. Idaho, unfortunately, doesn’t really mark where the trail is (or was). They have many historical markers about it, most saying that it was near by or along side of US 89. But if there is evidence of the road itself, I didn’t see it and it went unmarked.
And that somehow lead to the hoke. From here on out, the closer that I got to Jackson, WY, the cheesier it got. And it wasn’t the good cheese like what is offered on Route 66. This was just sad.
Everything revolved around cowboys and settlers. Ok, fine, I don’t have a real problem with that. But why do it in a “if you have WAY too much money and time, blow it here on cowboy crap made in China!” It’s sort of like the Shore. Except instead of the ocean, we have the settlers.
You can spend some time and money on a dude ranch where you can hang out with real fake cowboys! You can grab a Miller Lite at a real fake saloon! You can go on real fake covered wagons where real fake settlers will tell you real fake stories about what it was like to live way back in the good ol’ days where one in 17 settlers died en route to what they were told was a better life.
I hate places like this. Why can’t we just have kitsch? Why do we insist upon cheapening (and then overpricing) such important and tragic events? In 100 years, we’ll have a 9/11 rollercoaster, I promise you.
Ok, sorry for ranting.
At least the mountains and the Snake River were beautiful. It was Friday, so everybody and their insane grandma were on the road. After a long stretch through a valley, US 26 joined US 89 and I rolled east towards the unfortunately named town of “Hoback.” Yick!
Slipping north, about ten miles from Jackson, I saw a KOA. I thought it was weird since my stop for the night, a KOA on the other side of Jackson, wasn’t all that far away. I rode on.
To get to my KOA, I didn’t have to enter Jackson. I’m actually still debating whether I should even go there. What if it brings me to uncontrollable fits of ranting? We’ll see. Anyway, I didn’t have to go into it. It was five miles down the road and another two miles north on Moose Wilson Road (one of the coolest road names ever).
I rode up Moose Wilson and back down. No KOA. I called Sarah for directions. After several long minutes of trying to connect to an incredibly crappy dial up connection, she told me that the KOA was 12 miles south of Jackson. Yes, the KOA I passed nearly 20 miles ago was my KOA. Guess who was not thrilled? This one.
I rode the 20 miles back to the KOA. While there, they informed me that they didn’t really have anything… and something about a party last night and they’ll get back to me. I was to have a seat “over there.”
I sat “over there” for about 20 minutes. They were swamped. Three people were working the counter and none of them had even a second to take a breather.
So I left.
There wasn’t much that I could do except hop on the scooter and head back to Hoback, where I fueled up and called Sarah so that she could check on motels in Jackson.
She checked on a few, but they were either booked or $100 a night. No thanks. I had her check on ones nearly an hour away. Nothing. Same story. It’s the weekend in touristland. I was screwed.
What did I do? Well, I resigned myself to riding until I found something. Anything. And as I found myself in front of that same KOA, I pulled in and crossed my fingers.
They were still swamped and people were not happy. I’m not one to get upset, so I waited my turn and asked if they had anything for the night. The lady behind the counter apologized for before and checked.
There were some spots by the river, “but they might be flooded.” And I’d have to park my scooter and walk a pretty long way. I wasn’t jumping for joy. At least I tried.
“We do have a couple of Teepees open.”
I asked what she meant. And, like she had said, she meant teepees. For some reason, this KOA has three teepees. One was being used, but I was welcome to stay in either of the others. She sent me down to pick one out.
Upon further inspection, I discovered that these were canvas teepees with a plank wood floor next to the river all by their lonesome. I thought for exactly one second before running back to the office to tell the woman “I’ll take the teepee!” in a very delighted voice.
I forked over my 36 bucks and unloaded my gear inside a real fake teepee! Look at me! I’m an Indian!
Ranting again, sorry. I do really like the teepee. It’s much roomier than my tent and it’s cheaper than a motel. I think this is the coolest place I’ve stayed so far. Maybe. Well, it’s the weirdest place I’ve stayed so far.