I’m At The Wrong Campground. Or Am I?

Pocatello, ID to Devil Creek Reservoir, ID

Packed but not loaded

My attempt to get to bed at a reasonable hour last night was moderately successful. It all depends on your definition of “reasonable”. In my case, it was shortly after 11:00 PM. My plan was to get up at 5:30 AM, raid the continental breakfast at 6:00 AM and be on the road by 7:00 AM. Or earlier. Although, with sunrise not occurring until after 6:30 AM, being on the road by 7:00 AM seemed like a decent enough plan.

Despite the comfort of the motel bed and an equally comfortable room temperature for sleeping, I really didn’t sleep all that well. I knew I was in for a long night when I woke after a not-so-pleasant (gross understatement) dream. At the time I thought it was probably nearing the time to get up. In reality, it was only 12:03 AM. Sigh. I hate when that happens.

After much tossing and turning with some slumber mixed in, 5:30 AM came around and my day was set in motion. The raiding of the continental breakfast went well as they had a waffle maker, cereal, oatmeal, english muffins, and juice (well, fake juice anyway). Everything to get my day off to a good start. Well, some fruit would’ve been a nice addition. Anyway, I had some of everything – and perhaps grabbed a few extra items for the road.

It was an early morning yesterday, I was up before the dawn. (Lyric alert … and yes, it was actually today, not yesterday)

My goal for the day was Devil Creek Reservoir which was only 80 km down the road. Well, down the road for MOST of the ride then it would be very much UP the road as there would be a pretty sizeable climb near the end of the day.

As rides go, this one was very much what you would kind of want (or expect) from a cycling tour. It was more scenic in nature than yesterday. There were some backroads and an interstate. There were some ups. And some downs. But neither notably drastic. There was a bit of headwind but not enough to be the story of the day. Essentially, there was just a bit of everything … in moderation.

There were also a few surprises along the way. The first wasn’t so ideal as it was more construction on Interstate 15. This time it was a little more perilous than yesterday’s situation. As such, there are no photos. The project centred around about 6 km of the southbound lanes which were being reconstructed … not just resurfaced. As a result, southbound traffic was being diverted over to the northbound lanes so that it was now just a single lane of traffic in each direction. Oh, and me on the narrow shoulder.

It certainly wasn’t an ideal situation and I’m sure the traffic didn’t appreciate my presence – quite frankly, I could think of a few other places I’d have rather been. However, the drivers ALL gave me as much room as they could and I never really felt at risk. Cozy? Yes. But not at risk. The biggest challenge came when the traffic was diverted back to the other side. Now, the cozy shoulder on which I had been riding was completely gone and replaced with pylons and an abrupt 20 cm drop to the new, but still unpaved, section of highway. The only way for traffic to give me sufficient room was for them to ride on the rumble strips on the left shoulder. Fortunately, they did. That said, I was more than a little happy when both southbound lanes returned to normal and I had a full shoulder on which to ride. I’ll say this though, construction like that certainly keeps you focused.

A different kind of truck stop

I continued down Interstate 15 when the next surprise came along. This time it was a trucker. When he passed me, it seemed like he was going a bit slower than necessary but I really didn’t think too much of it. However, I then watched as he pulled over onto the shoulder and stopped. I assumed he was having some sort of mechanical issues. The reality was he was slowing down to say hi. Apparently he was also a cyclist and wanted to know if I needed any water or anything. He even offered to cook me up a burrito … I won’t lie, I was wondering what kind of kitchen setup he had in that rig! However, at that point I was quickly approaching the day’s big climb and the thought of taking a break for some food just wasn’t high enough on my list of priorities. But I did take him up on his offer to top up my water bottles. We chatted for a bit and he even asked if I wanted a ride to Salt Lake City! I never actually mentioned Salt Lake City but it seemed like a reasonable assumption on his part based on where I was and the direction I was heading. Either way, I thanked him but told him that would be cheating – even though that will likely be my only chance to ride in a rig. Sigh. Oh well. We chatted a bit more before we returned to our respective cockpits and continued down the highway – with a honk of the horn as he pulled away.

The climb to Malad Summit was about 1,000′ over about (maybe) 8 km. It wasn’t the steepest climb of the trip but it was certainly a workout – both physically and mentally. Of course, the happiest moment came when I saw the Malad Summit sign … it was all downhill after that. And in a good way.

This isn’t the campground I’m looking for. It’s better!

I mentioned earlier that my goal for the day was Devil Creek Reservoir. More specifically, my goal was the Devil Creek state campground. I found it online and apparently it was $14 and tent-friendly. When I exited the interstate at exit 22, I followed the camping signs as that seemed like a reasonable course of action. However, as I approached the campground I couldn’t help but think this wasn’t the campground I was looking for. However, it was here. I was here. And the sign mentioned tents so I continued on to the office. Sure enough, they had tent sites. But this was definitely NOT the state park I had originally set course for. This place was MUCH better.

First off the hosts were incredible friendly and helpful. They gave me a site which had a tree for shade, an outlet for charging whatever, life-saving water … and there was even a WiFi connection. All for just $10. They even let me borrow a chair – in which I MAY have had a bit of a power nap. And later in the afternoon, as I was preparing supper, they offered a picnic table … providing I could help move it to my site. I could. I so definitely could. All in all they were really good people and I had a really nice chat with them later in the evening.

Mmmmm … buttery fried onions

As for supper, it was a BIT more adventurous today. For a couple of reasons. One, it was incredibly windy (although, apparently normal for this area) so my alcohol stove was definitely challenged – even when sheltered in the fire pit. Second, one of the aforementioned “extra” items I liberated from the continental breakfast many hours earlier was a handful of butter packets. I know, I know … butter doesn’t travel particularly well – especially in the hot days we’ve had of late – but there was a method to my madness.

I combined the somewhat … hmmmm …. mostly melted butter and the red onion I had purchased a few days earlier and fried up some onions to add to my powdered mashed potatoes. Ok, I know it probably paled in comparison to the baked potato I almost had at the Idaho Potato Museum but that moment was gone. And this moment was very much here. And I have to say the fried onion experiment was pretty successful.

The rest of the evening has been spent planning for tomorrow’s ride. A potentially dreadful ride. On the upside, there is to be a slight descent for much of the ride. However, the weather forecast is looking to negate that descent by calling for strong winds from the south. Really strong. And they are calling for them to start early. I don’t really know HOW early but I plan to get up as early as I can to see if I can beat them. Like it or not, tomorrow I will be a morning person.

Today’s totals:
Distance: 79.43 km
Ride time: 4:11:02
Average speed: 18.98 km/h
Maximum speed: 41.68 km/h


A Museum For Potatoes, Who Knew?

Idaho Falls, ID to Pocatello, ID

The hours between my head hitting the pillow and my alarm going off went by far faster than I expected. Or would’ve liked. Apparently a comfortable bed and pillows can have that effect.

The start of my day on the backroads

In order to stay on schedule for my August 12th arrival in Salt Lake City, my plan for the day was to get to Pocatello. Roughly a 90 km ride. And a ride that had a few options in terms of routing. As usual, Google’s route wasn’t entirely direct but not TOO ridiculous. However, after chatting with Ken last night, he recommended that I take the backroads to Blackfoot (i.e., the first half of the ride) and then hop on Interstate 15 for the remainder of the day. Given that I don’t mind riding on the interstate, that seemed like a good plan to me. It was shortly after 8:00 AM when that plan officially began.

The backroads from Ken’s place made for a very easy ride. There was no real traffic to speak of and navigation was super easy. Well, I say that but I still managed to miss a turn. Well, technically I didn’t MISS a turn but I went a bit further than I should have and my final remaining option for turning was a gravel road. Sigh. I reluctantly decided to backtrack to the previous road since it was faster to do that than to take the gravel road.

The first half of the day’s ride went MUCH faster than expected. The winds were unexpectedly light and it would seem my legs were well motivated to keep moving at a generous pace. As such, it took less than two hours to get to Blackfoot.

Prior to yesterday, I had no intention of making any significant stops in Blackfoot other than for a quick food break to fuel me up for the second half of the ride. However, somewhere along the line I learned that Blackfoot was the home of the Idaho Potato Museum. Seriously. It’s a thing. And they have a big sign and even bigger potato marking the location. How could I NOT stop for that?

I didn’t actual go for a tour through the museum because I knew the longer I spent in Blackfoot the more likely it was that I would get caught by the inevitable headwinds that would be joining my day. However, I did go in and peruse the gift shop for a bit and, despite the aforementioned concern about the wind, I most likely would’ve had a baked potato at the cafe had said cafe been open. I mean, what better place to get a baked potato than the Idaho Potato Museum? Side note: I’m not really sure WHY the cafe was closed … according to the hours posted online, it’s supposed to open at 9:30 AM and it was clearly after 9:30 AM when I arrived. Oh well, perhaps I’ll get to have an Idaho baked potato another day.

With my museum duties filled, I got back on the bike and made my way towards the interstate for part two of my ride. As mentioned, I made a quick fuel stop (i.e., a peanut butter and banana bagel) to ready me for the remaining ride. As I consumed said bagel I couldn’t help but notice the huge flag across the parking lot. And it was blowing quite easily. It would seem my headwind had arrived.

Indeed, when I turned onto Interstate 15 there was a lot of wind to greet me. There was also a lot of debris and a lot of traffic (relatively speaking). Oh, and later came the construction. The debris and traffic didn’t really surprise me because, well … that’s pretty typical of all interstates – although there was a LOT of debris. However, the construction that came in the final hour was definitely concerning as the shoulder was repeatedly blocked off and the barriers forced me to ride in an actual lane of the interstate. The length of such situations were relatively but they repeating nature of them was less than ideal. At one point there was a bunch of tire debris right before the barriers and a big cluster of traffic approaching from behind. I don’t really have a fear of traffic but in situations like that, I have a healthy respect for it. I opted to wait for the cluster to pass and then pedalled like a madman once it did. Some traffic did have to pass me but they all gave me a full lane of clearance. I really can’t complain about the drivers thus far – despite being warned of the contrary.

Debris, traffic, construction.
The less fun trifecta.


By the time I got to the end of the construction zone I was very close to Pocatello. And I was pretty happy about that. Between the debris, the traffic, the construction and, of course, the wind, I was very much ready to finish the day. While the first half of the ride was borderline effortless, the second half was definitely work. Much like yesterday, the terrain of the day was mostly a gradual descent; however, the wind more than offset that descent. Today’s average speed was CONSIDERABLY slower than yesterday and at one point my actual speed dropped under 14 km/h. And I was going downhill. Sure, only slightly but in the same situation yesterday I was doing well over 25 km/h. Headwinds are the worst.

Supper

On the upside, prior to going to bed last night I had pretty much decided that I was going to opt for a motel tonight because, well … I just felt like it. I also opted to get a pizza. Also because I just felt like it. Perhaps eating it all at once was a little excessive but, well … it’s a little late to change that.

The rest of the evening was pretty quiet. I did manage to plan a few days ahead and found a Warm Showers host for Sunday night (assuming all goes well between now and then). And I found a state campground about 80 km from Pocatello which I figured would be a good place to stop tomorrow. The next few days are going to be somewhat short distances so that I arrive in Salt Lake City on schedule. But, based on the weather forecasts, those short distances are going to feel much longer given the strong headwinds that appear to be here for a while. Prevailing winds are funny that way.

Post-supper

I have to say the winds have become so unpredictable. They REALLY picked up late in the afternoon today and the third hour of the ride was more than a little tough. The fourth hour wasn’t as bad as the wind shifted and became a bit more of a crosswind. That’s not particularly ideal either though as it was occasionally blowing me towards traffic but fortunately not drastically so. Then, later in the day when I was out getting pizza, the wind had shifted even more and it would’ve actually been a bit of a tailwind had I still been on the road – and that definitely wasn’t in the forecast.

So, all that means is that I’m not sure what to expect from tomorrow but my plan is to get an early start with the hope that the winds will be calm. Since the prevailing winds in this area come from the south, I’m not going to wait around in the hopes that the forecast is wrong.

The continental breakfast opens at 6:00 AM and I hope to be on the road by 7:000 AM. The trickiest part of that plan will likely be forcing myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour – something I typically don’t do when I’m in a motel.

Today’s Totals:
Distance: 89.25 km
Ride time: 4:05:13
Average speed: 21.83 km/h
Maximum speed: 35.34 km/h


Short But Productive

Rexburg, ID to Idaho Falls, ID

To say that last night was a nice one would be an understatement. The skies were clear when I went to bed and it was warm enough that I left the door of the tent fly open … well, for most of the night. At some point during the night I woke and thought I heard a few drop starting to fall. I opted to close the fly and go back to sleep. When I woke again when the sun rose, the tent was completely dry making me think I may have been dreaming about the drops.

On the agenda for the day was a short ride. A VERY short ride. I received a Warm Showers reply late last night confirming that I had a host for tonight. The host was Ken from Idaho Falls. In terms of distance, Idaho Falls was only about 50 km away. Typically I wouldn’t plan such a short day but if all goes well I’m still a day ahead of schedule for arriving in Salt Lake City by August 12th so I figure one more short day would be needed.

I was packed and ready to go around 8:30 AM. Even though I didn’t have far to go, I’d noticed that the winds tend to pick up later in the day so I figured a somewhat early start was in my best interest. Plus, there were still a few requisite photos to take as I left the campground and the gravel road to contend with before I was finally fully on the move by 9:00 AM.

Eric and Co.

At that point I had stopped at an intersection not far from the road to the campground when someone in a white pickup asked where I was headed. And that’s how I met Eric. And company (i.e., five of his friends/colleagues) also in the truck. Turns out Eric and his friends want to do a cross country trip when they finish school in a couple of semesters. Of course, I fully endorsed their plan (for whatever that’s worth!). Anyway, we chatted for a bit, I gave him one of my Mark’s Midlife Crisis cards, and even thought enough to get a photo of the crew before we parted ways. I truly hope they get to do their trip … and that they have a great time.

Beyond that early morning encounter, there isn’t a whole lot to report from today’s ride … did I mention it was a short one? Well, not only was it short in distance but it ended up being short in time as well. Once again both the terrain and weather were working in my favour and my average speed was close to 28.5 km/h during the open road part of the journey. Granted it was a short journey of less than 50 km but still uncharacteristically efficient. As usual, that average dropped significantly as I started to meander my way through the city.

Despite arriving in Idaho Falls before 11:00 AM, I still had a long day ahead of me. Yes, I had a host for the evening but he wasn’t going to be home until 6:00 PM so I had some time to fill. Not surprisingly, I found ways to fill it.

Definitely one of the better welcome signs I’ve seen on this trip


My first stop was at Walmart where stocked up on a few provisions that were running low. It seems I also stocked up on some things that weren’t running low and found myself struggling to find a place to put some of my new found stash. It took a bit of unpacking and repacking but eventually I found a home for everything. Yes, I may have eaten a few things on the spot to make room. It’s a tough job but somebody had to do it.

From there I made my was over to the Idaho Falls Public Library. A pretty nice library if I do say so myself. And I do. Google was actually having some sort of event there and I was tempted to see if the Google Maps lady was there … I mean, I’d like to have a word or two with her! Of course, I didn’t crash their event and instead found a quiet place to work, write, and plan. It’s remarkable how much time those things can take.

Before I knew it, it was late afternoon and I needed to start thinking about making my way to Ken’s place. However, I still had a bit of time and with a Wendy’s not too far away it seemed reasonable to fill that remaining time with a Frosty. And even though it was a short riding day I went for a large one. Why not? (Yes, that’s rhetorical.)

I eventually made my way to Ken’s place and in the process stayed ahead of another late day invasion of dark clouds. This part of the country certainly likes its afternoon storms.

Ken was a great guy and between bikes, touring, video and film production, drones, and more, we had plenty to talk about. He told me of the merits of Brooks saddles, dynamo hubs, and Rohloff internal gear mechanisms. I told him about the merits of my DJI Mavic Pro drone and even took said drone up for a demo flight so he could see it in action (between Brooks, DJI, and Rohloff, I think we deserve some potential sales commissions!). Oh, and we also went out to dinner where he introduced me to the Costa Vida franchise. Short review: Their smothered burritos are pretty darn big and more than a little tasty.

View from above Ken’s place


When we got back to the house we chatted a bit more and focused on my route for the coming days. He was able to give me more than a few tips of what to expect and what roads to take and NOT take (sorry Google lady). He also mentioned “Saturday Cycles”, a bike shop in Salt Lake City that tends to focus more on cycle touring and commuters. I was actually planning on stopping at a bike shop somewhere in Salt Lake City so Saturday Cycles is officially on the itinerary (vague itinerary though it may be).

Hard to believe that Salt Lake City is less than 400 km away. Hopefully there will be tailwinds for at least some of it.

Today’s totals:
Distance: 57.23 km
Ride time: 2:13:56
Average speed: 25.64 km/h
Maximum speed: 46.07 km/h


© 2019: Mark's Midlife Crisis