Day 72: Oh, Boise!
In which we meet some of the world's most wonderful Warm Showers hosts, get our fill of excellent felines, and agree that bike-friendly Boise really deserves to be on the TransAm map.
We woke up on Day 72 (Halloweeeeeeeen! Spooky, scary!) excited to head towards Idaho's capital. Boise is packed with Warm Showers hosts, and I was psyched that a lovely-seeming couple named Rachel and Patrick had kindly agreed to take us in for the night. They looked like they lived centrally and had a ton of touring experience, enthusiasm, and advice — and they'd also given us some good tips about the route into town from Mountain Home. "Google Maps will put you on the goat paths," wrote Patrick, "but I wouldn't ride those. They're all gravel and very hilly. Most cyclists just do a stretch on the highway shoulder." Thank you, Patrick. We've had it up to here with gravel hills.
We planned to grab some donuts before leaving Mountain Home, but before we'd even managed to make it to the bakery—less than 2 miles into our day—Beau felt his back tire go soft. Oh, flats. Thank you for joining us. For once we did a pretty speedy and successful tube change — the culprit was a tiny little shard of wire. (Apparently these are fairly common on road shoulders, especially where big trucks often drive through; they come from disintegrating semi tires.)
Fortunately, the donuts at The Donut Tree and Bakery were excellent and got us back on track. We ate... several. And also bought a small loaf of sweet chocolate chip bread and an enormous apple fritter for the road. Carbs are our friend.
As we took off out of Mountain Home we buckled down for a stretch of medium-strength headwinds and not-particuarly-beautiful landscape. The smaller roads north towards Boise—which pretty much parallel 84 (the highway) through scrubby ranch land—kind of reminded me of Kentucky. Not the landscape itself, but the feeling of the homesteads. There was none of the vast, bleak glory of the high plains here. Instead, there were hardscrabble dwellings, rusted out husks of cars in the yards of trailers, places that looked half-abandoned... We've seen so much of this kind of living on this long, long ride. There's plenty to be said about it, plenty of essays one could embark on. But mostly, it just fills me with sadness.
We puffed up and down these rolling side roads until we reached Regina — sort of a town? Mostly a highway intersection and a large, tourist-y gas station. The kind complete with a restaurant, a shop full of t-shirts and magnets, trucker showers, even a small wine shop — which meant we could sample THE FINEST WINES OF IDAHO. (We didn't. But anyone who got that reference, we're best friends now kthnx.) The vibe inside was pretty festive: lots of employees in Halloween costumes, and we got giant sandwiches (plus the mandatory Idaho keychain) and sat outside to refuel.
Frustratingly, Beau's tire had been feeling squishy throughout the ride. We'd hit it with the pump a couple times, but we took the time at our lunch stop to take the tube out again. More holes. More patches. We're back in goathead territory.
After patching up, it was time to brave the highway shoulder for roughly 12 miles. Not so bad — and besides, the TransAm had already thrown us on several bigger roads. I still can't believe that it makes you ride a 20+ mile stretch of I-80 into Rawlins. Which is basically just a gauntlet of semi-trucks inside a wind tunnel. WHEE. But it's funny: in Charlottesville (where I grew up), there are signs at the highway on-ramps that warn you that no bikes, pedestrians, scooters, etc. are allowed. Out here, they don't give a shit — and cyclists ride many a freeway shoulder when they have to.
It's mostly flat or slightly downhill into Boise, and we quickly got up to a good speed — the highway miles whizzed right by. With the help of a little headphones time too. I'm still No Such Thing As A Fish-ing whenever I have the signal to stream podcasts, and Beau's deep in it with Gabriel Oak and Bathsheba Everdene. The Brits are really helping us beast out the miles.
About 10 miles outside of Boise, you can take an exit that eventually leads you right onto one of the city's many (we were soon to discover) excellent bikeways. The Federal Way bike path is an easy, refreshing jaunt right into the city center, and it was a lovely way to finish up our ride. It took us all the way to the doorstep of our Warm Showers hosts, with plenty of daylight left to spare.
And, OH, what Warm Showers hosts they are! Y'all, it's time for A Song In Praise of Rachel & Patrick! We pulled up at their beautiful house—which we soon learned Patrick has spent years remodeling and adding to—and are immediately greeted by two of the most welcoming humans we've encountered on our travels, and that's saying something. Rachel is originally from Illinois and Patrick is Dutch — they met in New Zealand when both of them were individually riding their bikes on long tours (we're talking a year at least) back in the 90s. Since then, they've ridden around the world pretty much twice, and travelled by cycle in places too numerous to count. All on the same two steadfast bicycles they've each been riding for over three decades. Their home is filled with incredible pictures and little treasures from their travels, and the room they put us up in had a dresser covered in various maps and guidebooks and a basket full of goodies. As soon as we walked in, Rachel was putting ice waters and beers in our hands and serving us delicious cheese-stuffed peppers as an appetizer to the full Indian dinner she was making. We were also soon greeted by two of their three adorable cat-friends. I owe our own fuzz-buddy, Henry, many apologies, but I admit to indulging in some much-missed cuddling with these kitties. Especially the prodigious, intensely chill, and criminally adorable Yedi. Oh, Yedi. What a prince.
Rachel and Patrick immediately offered to let us stay for a rest day, and it didn't take us long to decide to take them up on it. Throughout the evening, we chatted about bikes, travel, politics, the country, the world; Patrick taught us to play billiards on the amazing old billiards table that used to belong to Rachel's grandfather; we bonded over our affection for The Boss and sat down to watch part of Bruce Springsteen live at Madison Square Garden with the E Street band back in 2000 (a favorite DVD of Patrick's) while Rachel brought out homemade chocolate chip banana bread and ice cream. I'm sitting here listing the things — but really, it's not about the ice cream, or even the warm shower, though we were and are incredibly grateful for both. Meeting Rachel and Patrick took us beyond gratitude. They are truly inspiring, extraordinary people. Listening to their many stories, something I've been thinking for a little while started to crystalize... There are plenty of types of cyclists out there, but in a general sense, I think you can divide them into two categories to start with: there are the Bike People and there are the Travelers. Bike people are stoked about bikes. They own lots of them. They like tinkering. They like buying and selling and trading. They like stuff. They know all the brands and all the new models that are coming out and all the lingo. They're usually good mechanics, sometimes excellent ones. They can run the gamut from using their favorite toys every day on all sorts of rides to not really riding that much at all. Then there are the Travelers. These are the people who, to paraphrase Patrick, have decided that a bike is the best way to explore the world — because it's fast enough to carry you along at a reasonable pace, but slow enough to take things in, to change course, to stop and look around, to adjust, to meet people, to learn places. Travelers don't really care so much about stuff. They may only have one bike and it may not be the fastest, fanciest, newest model, but it's theirs. They ride to expand their experience of the world, to remain students of existence. I like bikes. But I'd rather be a Traveler.
So, after delicious Indian food and great conversation and billiards and BRUUUUUCE, we settle in for the night. Grateful for an upcoming rest day, and hearts filled up by Rachel and Patrick's kindness. I tried to convince Yedi to sleep in our bed — but I wanted it too much. He could tell, and—like a true cat—demurred. Well. There's always tomorrow.
Day 72: Mountain Home to Boise, ID, 47.7 miles, 1000 feet of climbing, some flat tires (boo), some cats (YAY!), a pretty excellent bike path, two extremely excellent hosts.