Route: Salmon to Gibbonsville, ID
Saya’s (age 6) quote of the day: “For an artist to paint, that would look very beautiful” (about the view on today’s ride).
As we cycled out of Salmon, Idaho, I enjoyed a sense of euphoria. It was 80 degrees, and the blue sky sparkled. Sho and Saya were in a good mood, healthy and playful. Our planned route was a relatively easy 32-mile ride along the Salmon River, passing the tall stalks of monument plants and beneath beautiful rocky bluffs towering above. We saw a kind-faced woman sitting on a 4-wheeler beside the road and pulled over to chat. Her name was Bernice Miller, and she was waiting for Shannon Weaver to arrive to pick up a box of freshly picked strawberries. Bernice grew up in the nearby hills and told us how she accidentally came between a momma bear and her cub while picking berries but lived to tell the story. She once went into town for a doctor’s appointment and walked into the waiting lounge with two guns strapped to her belt, much to the horror of the other patients. I mentioned how beautiful I thought the magpies were – large bluish/black birds with long tails and white wings that have been ubiquitous on our trip over the past 2 weeks. Bernice said, “They’re pretty, but they are scavengers that will eat just about anything. They about near wiped out the grouse population by eating so many of their chicks.”
Shannon pulled up while we were chatting and joined the conversation. She was part of the group that put up the Sacagawea Center in Salmon nearly a decade ago. I told her about our roadkill project, and she said, “Just up ahead on the highway, semi trucks regularly kill elk crossing the road. The truckers come flying through late at night and can’t stop in time. Elk often travel in groups, so sometimes dozens are killed in a single night.” When I said that Sho, Saya and I planned to sleep in Gibbonsville, Shannon told me to go to the Broken Arrow, a restaurant and campsite, whose owner was named Rosemarie Ramey.
When we resumed cycling, I thought, “Remember and appreciate this moment.” I imagined myself as an old man thinking back on this trip and realizing how precious it was – all memories gone of the regular physical exhaustion, petty squabbles between my kids and anxieties over the trip details. How perfect my life was at this moment, my body still strong, my children so happy to share an adventure with me, and so much living still to do…
Just as I had this pleasant thought, I experienced the nagging fear that often accompanies moments of bliss: “It can’t last.” An hour later, the tire on the bike trailer blew. I was horrified to see that the tread had very nearly been fully removed. And this was on the new tire I had purchased on our rest day in Salmon yesterday – after only about 22 miles. It obviously was not designed to handle the heavy load I had packed into the trailer. Luckily, we had just arrived in North Fork, which has a restaurant. As I ate lunch with Sho and Saya, I strategized what to do about the tire. I needed a replacement, but since that wasn’t an option, I put strips of duct tape along the inside, hoping that would prevent another flat (but knowing otherwise – duct tape, even many layers, just isn’t thick enough to handle this job).
After lunch, the road started to get steeper, and Sho suddenly started lagging. This is highly unusual. He usually drops me on the long climbs and is typically chatty and energetic. “I’m not feeling well,” he said, and we immediately pulled over to take a break. The air was dry, and we had been exposed to the sun throughout the ride. I suspected that he was dehydrated. We found a shady spot, where he lay down, resting his head on my lap and sipped Gatorade. After 20 minutes, he felt better, and we pressed on. Soon, I heard a mini-explosion from the duct tape-treated tire on the trailer and found an impressive hole blown out of the tube. I patched it, added more duct tape and, if bikes could limp, limped into Gibbonsville, not sure what to do. We were headed to a mountain pass with a tire that would get more flats with each hour of cycling.
As we walked into the Broken Arrow and introduced ourselves to the owner Rosemarie, we bumped into Gary Doyle, a kind man we had met over breakfast in Salmon yesterday. Saya had played with his puppy, Denali. I explained our tire predicament, and Gary offered to take the wheel back to Salmon to see if the bike shop there could fix it. The problem: the bike shop had sold me their only 20” tire. As we were discussing options, he spotted a kids’ bike lying against the back wall of Broken Arrow. “Isn’t that the size tire you need?” It was, and I quickly negotiated with Rosemarie’s grandsons Hayden and Jessie to pay $20 for the two tires. Problem solved, at least for now. Adventurers call this experience “trail magic.” Just when you need something specific, it often appears, as if by magic. Or it could just be luck. Or Gary’s intelligence. Whatever. I’m glad to have new tires for the trailer and hope that my future blog posts never use the words “flat tire” again.
Here are some pics:
“For an artist to paint, that would look very beautiful” (Saya, age 6)
Saya with Gary Doyle
Bernice Miller and Shannon Weaver with Sho and Saya
Sho: "That monument plant is even taller than you, Daddy."
Bike trailer tire shredded after only 22 miles
My desperate attempt to slow the inevitable flats to come
Saya and her favorite animal
Sho and Saya with Rosemarie Ramey
Sho and Saya with Hayden and Jessie Ramey and the bike whose tires saved the day