Texas Hill Country
October 12, 2020
Not According to Plan
On a chilly morning, I set off from Hailey to ride into the Sun Valley of central Idaho. After a breakfast burrito, of course, courtesy of Seth.
Despite the flat, paved path to Ketchum, I made slow progress and got there about half an hour after the bike shop opened. They already had a tire set aside and immediately got to work setting up the tubeless bit. Once they were done, I opened my bag to get my wallet, then panicked. It wasn't there. I'd left it in Hailey.
Time to consider the options. I could ask the bike shop to put the old tire back on, ride to Hailey, get the wallet, come back, have the bike shop put the new tire on again, then finally pay them. But that would take hours, and chances are no one would be home in Hailey and the doors would be locked.
I tried calling Seth, but I knew he'd be at work all day and probably wouldn't get a signal where he was. No luck. Kirsten would likelier be able to help, but I didn't have her number. I might be stuck here literally all day, forced to wait until Seth got home, which would put me an entire day behind schedule.
"Looks like a day off! Maybe go get a beverage!" suggested one of the mechanics.
"Why not? You a Mormon?"
"Because I don't have a wallet!"
About 15 minutes after I'd realized I was stuck, another store employee approached.
"Are you Rob?"
"There's someone on the phone for you, named Kirsten."
I ran over and grabbed the receiver. "Kirsten, thank God!"
Indica had found my wallet on the counter, and the two of them would swing by and deliver it. It was lucky I'd happened to tell them the name of the shop where I was getting a new tire.
About 45 minutes later, my saviors Kirsten and Indica arrived, I was able to pay up, and headed out on my way. Only about an hour delay, in the end. No biggie. In that time, it hadn't gotten any warmer.
A few miles out of Ketchum, the paved bike path ends and you have to ride on a highway. Not much later, there's an old stagecoach road. The surface wasn't bad. A long climb was coming. Snow flurries started to fall. It wasn't that cold out anymore.
Not much later, the sun came out and I took off my jacket. Cue the mighty headwind. I almost cried. Why?? Why does this happen every single day? Why is there headwind no matter what direction I'm riding? Can't I get a reasonable day for once?
Thanks to the headwind, progress up the hill was abysmally slow. It got cold again. The jacket went on again. Then the gloves. Flurries appeared again. The toe covers went on again. It began snowing in earnest. And sticking.
Apparently, it can get so cold the air leaks right out of your suspension fork. You learn something new every day! I was forced to use the lockout and ride a rigid frame on an increasingly bumpy road.
When I got to the lodge five miles shy of the summit, I decided I'd ask if the weather would improve on the other side of the pass and down in the next valley. Hills are often magnets for bad weather. An entire mountain bike team was there, and they said it was better. They also pumped my fork back up.
The sky cleared up in the meantime, so it looked like the day was turning around. Still, there was a long way to go, and it was already late afternoon. In the interest of getting down the hill as quickly as possible, I switched onto the highway, which had virtually no traffic.
Almost as soon as I started, the snow resumed, and it got even colder. I'm woefully unprepared for this. I was still cold even though I was going uphill. On the ensuing downhill, it'd feel a lot colder. But I had to make it down, where it'd be warmer, because there was no way I'd survive a night in a tent up here. Worried about my own personal health and safety, I considered hitchhiking my way out. There's grit, and then there's stupidity.
This was all taking place in the Sun Valley.
Just as I pulled over to try my luck at hitchhiking, Seth came down the hill from the other direction. He pulled over and rolled down the window.
"Hey, you left your wallet at my house!"
After telling Seth about the fiasco this morning and his wife's heroics, I disclosed how concerned I was about the conditions. The snow had only gotten thicker by now.
"Well, you're almost at the top! And it gets better on the way down."
"I'm worried I'll freeze on the way down."
"You want a coat?" asked his truckmate, Ethan. He held it up. "Warm, puffy coat?"
"...yeah. I think I do."
"Just leave it somewhere and tell Seth where you left it. I'll get it tomorrow."
The thick down jacket, worn underneath my waterproof shell, was a lifesaver. I was breaking a light sweat by the time I made it to the summit a mile later, which was perfect. Stayed warm enough on the way down.
Almost immediately after cresting the hill, the weather cleared and I was greeted with a stunning view of the Sawtooth Range. This is why we do this.
The weather was much better at the floor of the valley. There were still 35 km to get to my planned campsite. I looked ahead. Dark clouds.
I'm not doing this crap again…
I found an RV park and pulled in. Happily paid $21 for a tent campsite, mostly for the hot shower that would come with it. The forecast was for -8 C that night. My sleeping bag is only rated to 0 C, but by piling on all the clothes I had, including the newfound puffy coat, I'd probably be uncomfortable, but OK. It started snowing again.
After I'd finished setting up the tent, an employee must've had mercy on me and said I could stay in the spare employee cabin. No bathroom, no bedding, no air conditioning, but it had solid walls, a mattress, and a space heater. Good enough! I took down my tent before it got any colder, then took a long, invigorating hot shower.
As I was walking to my cabin, a stranger approached.
"Are you the guy on the bicycle?"
"Wanna come in and have some dinner?"
David showed me into his RV, where he and his friends had just finished eating. Sausage, corn, salad, and a beer! After a day like today, real food was welcome, along with sometimes nutty conversation. My spirits were lifted immeasurably.
David and his friends come out here from Sacramento every year and spend a week camping and flying small aircraft. This was about as cold as they'd ever seen it. By the time I left their RV and headed to my cabin, they'd offered an invitation to breakfast the next morning.
It didn't feel as cold as expected in the morning, in large part because the wind had died down and the sun was out. Surprisingly, the California folks whipped up a typically Southern breakfast of biscuits and gravy, along with eggs and banana nut muffins. I left a little later than planned, but in better condition for it.
After yesterday's (and probably last night's) snow, I decided not to risk going up to the high pass on the official route and instead stuck to the not-so-busy paved roads. Good call. All that meant was a ride inside a majestic canyon, along a picturesque river. River roads are often my favorite places to ride.
Since yesterday was cut short, I had to make up for lost time. It was 6:00 PM by the time I got to Challis (thanks to more headwind), and the plan was to stop in, resupply, and ride past town for 30 minutes, then camp. Dark clouds were forming up ahead. Not again. Maybe it was possible to find a place to stay in town?
Almost the very first thing seen in town was a church. No one there...but the door was unlocked. Chances are no one's gonna come by on a Friday night. I let myself in. As long as I simply sleep on the floor, don't mess with anything, and leave early, it'll probably be alright.
The grocery store happened to be next door, so it was easy to walk over to get supplies. Avoided a storm, and thanks to a sink, got a chance to rinse 'n wring some clothes. Recharged and ready for whatever tomorrow would bring.
from Wild West