Monday (9/5) - after packing up, I headed to breakfast at Lotus Cafe and ordered for vegan reuben sandwich to go - when I was nearly done with my breakfast, I reminded the server about the rueben and got it packed up and put it on my pack.
I had fun drive over the pass - it's quite pretty and quite a quick little ride with nice broad sweepers and plenty of places to pass the slow moving Harleys. My first stop was in Idaho Falls for fuel where I met with a whole bunch of guys with KTMs on trailers and in the backs of trucks. They were not part of some special KTM event, but they were all from KTM of Aspen and also going to Stanley to camp.
The guys introduced themselves as Tino, Spencer, Mike, Dave & Joe. Tino & Spencer told me about their chosen campground and invited me to camp with them. I took them up on their offer and went into the grocery store to get some beer and other stuff to throw into Tino's cooler. We compared routes - they were planning to stay onward when I veered left at Arco to go find Craters of the Moon.
The terrain changed from rolling agricultural land with antelopes to flat desert/prairie plains as I approached "Atomic City." There were some big buttes in the middle of nowhere - and big dark clouds to my left but no rain, more windiness but it was tolerable. I got to Arco and found a little picnic bench on the side of the main road for my lunch. Sadly, I opened it up and discovered that Lotus Cafe had packed up a pastrami rather than the requested vegan rueben (grr), so handed it off to Tino for his cooler when they caught up with me.
I waved off the KTM of Aspen guys on as they head to Stanley the more direct route, and I had a chat with an Canadian ADVRider member who was doing Continental Divide (or returning home from it) - but totally am blanking on his name.
Finally, I head off to Craters of the Moon and notice that I seem to be going right into the dark storm clouds approaching me on the road. The wind really picks up and almost sweeps me off the road! This was the first time that I considered actually turning around to try to outrun the wind or a storm - I had to plant both feet on the ground and was short of anything that would look like a wind break. Then I crept along and realized that Craters of the Moon park was actually 20 feet away just past the tiny rise - so I proceeded.
As I was pulling out my maps in the parking lot, a woman and her family came up to tell me how worried they were - they were behind me and said that the last gust of wind was really scary from where they were, they were certain I was going to end up with the rubber side up. Her teenage son forgot this concern when he saw me take off my helmet and said "You're a WOMAN??" and continued to exercise his foot/mouth prerogative with various pronouncements about the badassery of being on a motorcycle and traveling "like that" and the conditions.
Needless to say - the weather conditions did not make for exciting photography, and both camera batteries died, but I did get some nice photos.
Lava fields for as far as the eye can see - looks like broken chocolate (not chocolate you dropped on the floor, but chocolate you were heating up and which had too much water in it and gets all weird and lumpy). This photo was not shot in black and white!
Nice clouds, eh?
Finally, I leave the park and head up to Stanley - via a whole bunch of dumb little towns and low speed limits - get over the Galena pass to Sawtooth Wilderness - ridiculously beautiful!
This is where I am really seriously disappointed - my batteries all died and there wasn't enough sun for my little Solio charger. I have NO photos. This area approaching and on the other side of the Galena Summit (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galena_Summit) was so amazingly beautiful - I just found myself smiling like a loon, laughing and giggling at the incredible, overwhelming gorgeousness of it all.
Passing through Stanley, I knew I was close and easily found Casino Campground where I was to meet up with Tino & his camp mates. Tino was still at the camp to show me the way - and I realized that I had passed the whole group at the hot spring on the side of the road on my way in. We went for a soak in the hot spring by the river, then returned to camp to make our dinners, stoke a roaring big fire, drink beer and have a raucous good time.
View Larger Map
Tuesday (9/6) morning couldn't arrive any sooner - my new sleeping bag was not enough for sleeping outdoors without a tent or additional blankets and I was ready for a return to the hot spring!
With all the beer dranking the previous night, Tino and Joe were a bit hung over. Since Mike was working on Dave's bike, four of us head to the hot spring and hang out for a lot longer than we intended, laughing at Joe's plumber stories.
Though I would really want to join them on the trails - everyone agreed that my rear tire did not look robust enough to go off road. With the extra weight of my gear PLUS my fat ass, it was wearing smooth. I think the rough grading going up Galena Summit and some of the roads in Wyoming helped - in addition to riding long periods of time heating up the tires.
So, when we return, the guys have to get into gear to catch up with Mike & Dave - my plans were to I hang at camp, soak in hot springs and relax while they go off to enjoy the trails. I head into Stanley for laundry, charge up my devices and find lunch at the pizza joint next door. Stanley has the most awesome views of the mountains - huge wide dirt streets where folks kick up their heels at weekly dances with live music in the summers.
While I waited for my machines, I checked out local shops. At "Back Eddy," I had a nice chat with Noelle, picked up a pretty silver chain with turquoise pendant and a recommendation for Kirkham Hot Springs.
On my way back to camp, I picked up ice for coolers, soft drinks and cool Sawtooth Recreational Area stickers for everyone. I saw more dark clouds and returned to camp in time to grab everyone's open duffel bags of clothes, bedding and other camp gear to put under cover as a storm passes over. Just as I got Tino's EZ-Up canopy assembled and was opening my bottle of wine, Mike returns towing Dave -- which was awesome because I've heard about that technique but have never seen it before! I greeted each returning rider with a cold Pellegrino limonata. Mike worked on Dave's motorcycle and I helped the guys gather wood for the fire. Dinner was a bit more subdued this evening.
Wednesday (9/7) morning, I packed up while the guys got ready to hit the trail. Mike and I talked a bit about my route - and I was starting to feel nervous about my rear tire. Plus - I was having a stomachache. I had a bit of a flare-up of queasiness the previous morning and then again after lunch - but felt fine after my udon noodles and broth after dinner. This morning, though, my stomach just started hurting and didn't stop.
So, I cruised down Hwy 21 - trying to enjoy the ride, despite stomachache and apprehension about the rear tire but there was a little matter of the air being completely grey with smoke from a nearby forestfire PLUS ongoing roadwork with the additional disgusting smell of asphalt and traffic stops (hot asphalt + hot sun = no fun!). One of the construction flaggers said she had a horrible migraine the previous day from the combination of heat, forest fire smoke and asphalt smells.
I finally did make it to Kirkham - thinking that I would miss it, but it was right on the side of the road!
This was probably one of the best hot springs I have ever visited - gorgeous, pools of all different temperatures and right on the river. A man who had visited a couple times earlier in the year said that as the summer progressed and the river got lower, there were more pools.
The water was incredibly clear - with sandy bottomed pools and large boulders for backrests:
The gorgeous river:
As I got closer to Boise and descended the mountains, the ambient temperature start going up. My stomachache wasn't going away and it was already quite late in the afternoon. Neither maps or iPhone helped me out much in trying to figure out "where do I go next?" upon arriving in Boise - so I looked for the first port in a storm. What I thought was the office of a storage unit franchise turned out to be the extremely well appointed offices of a local contractor/architect.
One of the partners was a very friendly man who set me up with some cold water and I posted around trying to find a place that had a rear tire for me. I discovered Big Twin had three tire options for me - and one of the contractor's employees had arrived on his motorcycle, and offered to sherpa me to Big Twin. 4:30 pm found me cooling off in Big Twin, drinking copious amounts of water while I waited for the tire change and repair of the broken rear left turn signal. I also ended up buying a new jacket and Big Twin's Kevin offered to shop home my other jacket (which I packed up in a box to make myself useful).
Exhausted - I didn't look too far and ended up at a super spendy Holiday Inn, showered and headed to Shangri La for dinner, Boise's only vegetarian cafe. My stomach still hurt - eating food did not help (as it does for ulcers) and I went to the ER at St Luke's. The only good that came out of it was that they determined that my appendix, pancreas and gallbladder were all fine, the doctor "discovered" that I had no spleen (though it was the first thing I mentioned in my intake interview) and I was given an Rx for ulcer medication. I don't have ulcers, I think it was possibly food poisoning but am pretty sad about the wasted two hours and hundreds of dollars at St Luke's, though I did get to meet the lovely doctor who said "You can call me Brad."
View Larger Map