Day 35: Snowville UT to Twin Falls ID: 115 miles with 1600 feet of climbing
This was the longest day of this tour, starting at 7:10 A.M. and ending after 8:30 P.M. with almost ten hours of riding in thirteen and a half hours on the road. I could have stopped more than four hours earlier, but I was having a good time riding, I was expecting to meet someone tomorrow morning in Twin Falls so I might as well get here tonight, and the sun was shining, winds were moderate an US 30 from Burley, where I could have stopped, to Twin Falls was good riding. As it turned out, riding on also meant a great encounter with a fellow bike tourist.
It was good to get out of Snowville this morning. Not that it is a bad place, but it isn't high on my list of vacation spots. The motel was OK - I got a good nights sleep and, sitting outside the office on the concrete, I was able to use my computer and make some other phone calls. Neither of the two places to eat serves very good food, but Mollies is great for listening to the locals (a rough, but nice, bunch) and The Ranch House Diner is good for meeting other tourists. I had a very nice visit there with a lady from California who was taking her high school aged daughter to a camp at Jackson Hole. There was another lady there from Moab who grew up near John Day where I'll be riding next week.
My shadow on the on-ramp to I-84
I had breakfast and was on my bike heading west at 7:10. It was chilly - low 50s - and there was a moderate north wind. I started riding at about 14 mph, but my speed dropped to 10 mph as the road turned north and later to less than 8 mph as the road started climbing. I spend almost all of the next several hours in my small front ring, cranking uphill into the wind at 5 to 8 mph. It wasn't fun, but it also wasn't that hard. It was boring.
About seven miles into the ride I crossed back into Idaho. Eight miles later I stopped at a rest stop to use the bathroom and get a snack. They had only an overpriced coke machine, unlike the rest stop on I-15 which also had a snack machine. The wind was blowing from the north at 10 mph or so. I was not a happy camper, but I kept on pedaling.
Another dozen miles down the road brought me the place I would have reached yesterday if that dirt road had been bikeable. I was about ten mile from this exit yesterday, but it took almost 50 miles of riding to get here! I stopped again for another break before reaching the summit at 5530 feet. This represented about 900 feet of climbing from Snowville.
At the summit, I stopped to take a picture and, when I rode on, my bike felt funny. Argh! My front tire was going flat. I stopped a few hundred feet from the summit, found the piece of truck tire wire imbedded in my tire, removed it, and patched the tube. My first puncture in over 2500 miles on this tour. The shoulder of this interstate were littered with the remains of truck tires and those nasty pieces of radial cord wires had little trouble penetrating my front tire, Panaracer Pasela TG with a kevlar belt and bead. My rear tire, a Conti TT with a 'thorn proof' tube was much sturdier, but also much heavier and less responsive. It could, as I discovered later in the day, take a lot more than a truck tire wire!
After the summit, my speed almost doubled and, even with the wind, I was able to cruise in the mid teens. The land, which was already pretty open, really opens up and it feels like riding across the plains with mountains in the distance. There were several warning signs for high winds and blinding dust storms, but, fortunately, the wind remained less than 10 mph. All most all of the light to moderate traffic was big trucks, including some triple trailers. The wind direction and the wide shoulder meant that I had little problem with wind from the trucks even miles though only about half of them changed lanes to pass me. I was disappointed that too many big trucks just cruised by me with their wheels near or on the white line. It could have been dangerous in other wind conditions and I felt it was rude even without much wind.
I stopped for lunch at the first, and only, place available; a truck stop at the Sublett exit. It was about 11:30 and I'd come fifty miles since breakfast. The special was 'Hot Hamburger' which made me think of riding in Quebec where that was one of my staple foods. About fifteen miles later I stopped at the second rest stop on this stretch for a snack and the choose to continue on I-84 rather than get off onto UT-81 for the remaining twenty miles to Burley. That was a mistake.
The quality of the road went down after it merged with I-86 coming from Pocatello and there was a very dangerous bridge about five miles later. The bridge is sharply elevated, so I couldn't see its surface as I approached, but I could see the railing so I knew that it didn't have much of a shoulder. I positioned my bike out in the traffic lane to let a group of vehicles that were coming know I was there and I might need the lane, and then, as I reached the bridge, I saw that its shoulder, which was too narrow to fit my loaded bike, was covered with debris. When I could see this, I was already committed to riding across the bridge, so all I could do was hope the folks coming up would give me the lane. They didn't. A big truck squeezed by at 70 mph and I was forced into the debris at the very end of the bridge. A quarter mile later I stopped to fix my second flat tire of the day. Two flat tires, both from truck tire wires, in fifty miles after no flat tires from punctures in the last 2500 miles. If you ride the interstates, bring along a good patch kit and know how to use it! Speaking of this, when I was fixing my first flat, just over the Sweetzer Summit, I ignored the traffic - focus is everything - but, when I finished, I notice a tow truck, with a car on it, had stopped just down the road. I rode past him and he started up again. I think he was waiting to see if I needed his services <grin>.
After I repaired the second flat, I checked my rear tire for wires. No wires, but there was a nail sticking out of the side wall! It was sticking out about half an inch after having gone through the tread, through my thorn proof tube, and back out through the sidewall. I don't know how long it had been there, but I don't think I got it on the interstate. That thorn proof tube, which is at least a quarter inch thick under the tread, had saved me from an earlier flat. I left the nail in place, not wanting to chance doing further damage getting it out.
I got off at the next exit because there was construction on the bridge right after it and I was more than a bit scared of riding in a traffic lane on this road! After a break, I ended up back on I-84 for the remaining seven miles to the US 30 exit before Burley. There wasn't any other good way to get to Burley, and I was able to ride on the closed lane on the bridge which made it safer. After I got off onto 30 and got away from the interstate, riding was much improved. 30 goes through Heyburn, and industrial area and the crosses the Snake River into Burley. Wow, a really pretty river with a beautiful park on the Burley side.
It was only 3:30 P.M., and I didn't feel stopping yet, so I rode though Burley and on toward Twin Falls. I had come 80 miles and Twin Falls was 37 miles further. There were two small towns in between, so I figured I could get some supper on the way. Basically, it worked out, although those 37 miles were long ones. I stopped in Murtaug at a country store for a drink and a sandwich and the lady there told me to 'take the canyon road' which run over to the Snake River Canyon at Murtaug and comes back to US 30 a few miles later. I did, and, other than some large dogs that chased me, it was a nice ride. At Burley, twenty miles south, the river is not in a canyon, but at Murtaug it is already at least 100 feet below the ground around it and the walls are essentially vertical.
When I got back on 30 I passed through Hansen - several bars - and headed toward Kimberly at 16 mph or so. Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a campsite near the road with a bicyclist, so I braked hard, did a U-turn and stopped for a visit. A medium size dog came out to warn me off, but its owner called it off and we had a great visit for most of an hour.
Jim and his dog tour most of the year. He is 66 and the dog is three. The dog rides in a handlebar basket and, Jim said, really improved his touring by slowing him down. Jim found the dog, diseased and abused, as a puppy on an Indian reservation in northern Arizona. Jim's touring style is relaxed, if riding with a dog that size on your handle bars can be relaxed, but he covers a lot of territory. He had ridden up from Santa Cruz via Nevada - he had just ridden one of the roads I had decided to avoid because of the heat - and was headed, maybe, for Michigan. A good guy and a real bike tourist. I rode on, into the setting sun, thinking maybe my setup was a bit too high tech and that Jim really knows the right way to tour.