Stoke Factor: 7
Miserableness Factor: 1
Snot Rockets Blown: 7
Avg Speed: 7.7mph
I had my alarm for 6am, but as soon as it went off I hit the snooze button. Thinking back, not once during the course of 15 days had I ever woken up to my alarm and gotten out of bed without snoozing it. As easy at it would be to blame the cold, I was comfortable in a bed and layered with blankets. 6am was surely the earliest I had been up in months.
I put on my layers- under armour heat long sleeve, polypropylene shirt, cotton shirt, and sweatshirt. I figured I would be too warm if I used the merino wool pants under my other pants, so I just took them out of the package and packed them away. I tried on my new bandana, also made of polypropylene, and shivered at the thought of having to go into winds that would hurt my face. I got a taste of it on the way to Idaho Falls and briefly considered wrapping my cotton shirt around my face, but had gotten picked up by the time I was going to use it.
Jonathan offered me a latte and breakfast, but I couldn’t even think about ingesting anything so early. I knew that I was due for an easy day and would be spending time at a coffee shop to write and hang out, so I kindly said no. I said goodbye to Cat, and we hopped into the Crossfire so Jonathan could go to work and I could see downtown Idaho Falls. That was the second time in my life I had ever seen a Crossfire. I think if I were to ever have money in a way I could own a car (I haven’t had a car in years if you ignore the brief time I tried to live in a van), I would definitely get one of those. Such a cool little machine. And it looks fantastic in white. He took me around the block a few times to show me his favorite coffee stops. I liked that he was a man who knew what he liked and wanted- a small city with good coffee and bike paths was his ultimate pleasure. As much as I joked about giving it all up and living on the open roads, he had it all and then some. Something to work towards.
I whisked around the blocks while the sun began to rise. I was warm in my clothes and could have began my skate towards the border with no issue, but instead chose to take it easy. My last days in Idaho were wildly bittersweet. Tortured from the affects of everything Idaho prided itself in, although I outwardly spoke of my distaste, I was going to miss it. Thr idea was that I would do a “coffee tour” and see (and taste) all of the places he loved so much. I started at City Bagels.
City Bagels was staffed early by two women who were completely full of life. One of them said I looked homeless. In all senses of the word, sure, I’m homeless, but I certainly wasn’t struggling. Though a bit rude, her bubbly attitude and total interest in my adventure made up for it. I had a pumpkin spice latte and a cranberry-orange bagel with cream cheese. The latte was everything I could have wanted as someone fairly new to the coffee world. I, once again, have been enjoying everything pumpkin spice because the last girl I dated loved it so much.
I remembered how for the last two days in a row my dreams included her. The subject of the dreams was the same both times. First, she would invite me over so I could get the electronics I gave her, and then she would invite me to get a sushi dinner. We both loved sushi. Perhaps I liked it a bit more than she did, but ever since we split I hadn’t been able to enjoy it without her. I thought about her long hair and how she would lift it and pull it from under her as to not get tangled as we laid down- and I thought about how every time I was the big spoon I would get a mouth full of it but wouldn’t care. Just being able to hold onto her made me happy. The dreams were eerily real. In fact, as I’ve been lonlier and lonlier along the route, every time I had deja vu or a vivid dream I had to question my sanity. At the very least, I take pride in knowing that an alternate universe held a version of me where we were still together and she could cup my breasts as we stopped at red lights on my motorcycle.
I tackled the breakfast, but knew I could eat more. Instead of gorging down a monster meal, I took the time to enjoy the scenery. I was never the kind of person to hang out in a coffee shop, but in that particular instance I was comfortable. Back in Massachusetts the coffee shops are Dunkin’ Donuts or Starbucks. The little unincorporated businesses typically fail in towns where there are more Dunkin’ Donuts than any other business. In Oregon, there are usually as many dispensaries as there would be Dunkin’s.
The girl who was seemingly the manager introduced me to Graham, an avid skater in the town. Other than Boise, I was the only skateboarder I had seen. Though he didn’t have his setup with him, we discussed my ride and I opened up about being trans. I have decided to take more of an initiative to tell others about the meaning behind the ride and who I am as a person. Everything feels more genuine when I am open and honest. Graham told me he loved my passion and had nothing but good things to say. I noticed that the more I talked (I can literally talk forever if you don’t stop me) the more I actually felt validated in my reasoning.
The purpose of sitting in the coffee shop was to wait until 10am, for Idaho Mountain Trading to open. My idea was to get a jacket and socks in preparation for the Wyoming incidentals. Jonathan told me of Harvest Bread Co, and said it was his absolute favorite in town, but I had grown so comfortable at City Bagels (despite the constant “he” remarks when talking about me) that I couldn’t bear to move. So, instead I ordered a last minute sandwich (turkey provolone on a jalapeno cheddar bagel with veggies) and stuffed it down. I said my goodbyes to the girls and made my way into town. I thought about how one of the girls was upset I wasn’t going to Jackson, Wyoming. Ever since I touched Eastern Idaho it seemed like it was all anyone could talk about. However, it wasn’t on my route and I spent far too long in Idaho to consider rearranging it. Besides, Jackson lies just on the edge of the Tetons, and every part of me knew it would be snowing.
I got lost in downtown Idaho Falls and looked like a damn fool trying to get to the camping store. Around and around I walked. I had to rely on the compass to get there after pinpointing it on the map. I have lost all faith in Google Maps. Of course, I looked twice as foolish once I realized Idaho Mountain Trading was just one block up and on the other side of the street. Regardless, I walked in and the entire staff greeted me. I told them what I was looking for, and a nice girl, Kelly, showed me around.
I should have realized that any jacket I got was going to be expensive. Camping gear in general was expensive. You can’t get away with anything decent for under $100 no matter the article and if you do, it will fall apart (case and point: my tent). Even the clearance rack was out of my price range. Though I hadn’t looked at my bank account since Boise, I knew how unreasonable it would be to spend that much when shelter had to take priority. Anything could happen 7000ft up. Kelly showed me all of the men’s jackets. Contrary to my last statement about being bold and brash about my gender identity, knowing the prices couldn’t differ too much, I ignored even asking to see the women’s gear.
I told her I would be in Idaho Falls for a few more hours, but that was a lie. I had it in my head that if I said that I wasn’t going to buy a jacket outright, they would have shamed me for departing into the range of Wyoming without it. My thinking was that with the layers I had, I would be fine. Besides, skating with a jacket on would never work- I would sweat and take it off in minutes. Thinking about how many dollars worth of gear I already ditched over 500 miles, I had to play it smart. I bought a set of wool socks. I ditched my last set of socks back in Oregon because I liked the colors of my current ones. How insanely stupid was I? The blisters showed the answer to that question without a doubt. Thinking about how one pair of socks just cost me $20, I knew at some point before I was entirely lost in Wyoming I would have to look at my account.
Leaving Idaho Falls was hellish in nature. First I skated with the traffic, and relentlessly got beeped at. I stayed on the sidewalks for as long as I could, but eventually the sidewalk ended and I was forced onto the road. The shoulder of 26 was far too small, even for my board, on either side of the highway and I constantly ran over bits of gravel or stopped because a truck was coming. It never stopped. The road was simply terrible. The further I got from the city the worse it got- cat tracks grazed the white lines, and every available turn was choc full of gravel pits. Much like Oregon, once this trip is over I am going to write to the governor about the state of the road. Unlike Oregon, Idaho collects taxes so for the roads not to be swept or cared for and in such a poor state was surely embarrassing.
Last year, two cross country cyclists were hit by a car on the same stretch of road I was on. Jonathan assured me that the driver had a long record of poor driving history, and had no business behind the wheel, but being on the road, I could picture in my mind exactly how it happened. He said I would see her ghost bike, but I was so focused on staying alive that I had no opportunity to look for it. I was purely terrified. There was one point where a silver sedan careened right towards me- the driver was a blonde, smoking a ridiculously long cigarette, with no hands on the wheel and tugging at her hair. Remember in the Spider-Man movie where the Green Goblin ruins a parade and Toby Macguire had to save the day? A hot air balloon came firing down from above and a small child just stared at it as it fell faster and faster, until he was saved by the friendly neighborhood superhero. I remember watching it and thinking, “RUN! You stupid fucking kid! Why don’t you just run!?” In the moment where the silver sedan came rumbling at me, I was that kid. I didn’t move. I pondered whether there was a word for the situation that didn’t require an obscure reference to a scene in a movie from 2004.
Pissed off, my GPS told me I was able to turn only 3 miles ahead. Cursing and simply outrageously flipping out to myself (I began talking to myself over the course of the trip and found that I am a great conversationalist and also my own therapist), I pushed on, stepping off tbe board any time a car came. When the turn for route 26 business came, I was relieved. No traffic. Signs for Ririe welcomed me to no man’s land. I took the opportunity to stop talking to myself and to whine on Facebook live and got a bit ahead of myself, quite literally losing my mind as I talked more and more. Jonathan was a great conversationalist- I would have preferred to be back on his leather couch.
Ririe was small and I was funneled into the back country roads of the Ririe highway. My goal was to get to the Heise Hot Springs. I incessantly called but got no answer. All signs pointed to closed. I wondered what I would do if I couldn’t camp and had settled on going into the hot spring until I had to be kicked out, then camping somewhere off the property. As I got into the recreation area of the town, I saw what looked to be the most fun you could have out in Eastern Idaho- an RV camp had a dinner theater and so much to offer beyond that. I nearly stopped right there, but it was also closed. I pushed on to confirm my phone calls weren’t just being ignored.
I came to a small bridge that passed over the Snake River and ran into Karen, a local. She was in full cycling garb. I introduced myself and told her of my travels that led to that exact moment. She wanted a picture with me and I was ecstatic- I felt like Adrian. Of course, Adrian has the appeal of looking like a ninja turtle with his green…everything, so it is natural for people to want pictures (that dude is also rocking a full sized jogging stroller as he skates the world- I want a picture too). We overlooked one of the prettiest views I had gotten yet. Fishermen below stood at knee length water and cast into the current. Eastern Idaho was really growing on me in that instant. I gave her a card and pushed on. I really wanted to go to the hot springs.
Like all small towns, the signs are wildly misleading. I pushed past the hot spring because it looked like the entrance for the zip line area, and dropped at 30mph right into the pizza parlor. Looking to get sent in the right direction, I went inside. Of course, I didn’t immediately go inside because there was three doors and none of them seemed to advertise the entrance for the pizza place, but I eventually found it. The smells aroused my senses and I decided to take a break- I had all the time in the world. The cashier helped me choose what to eat, and even located the only local brew they served- Idaho Brewing Company Scotch. She gave me a taste and it was truly delectable. I hadn’t been drinking at all on this trip. I tried to drink back in Arco, but couldn’t even get through 3 beers. Getting drunk didn’t seem so important anymore.
I had a small salad, a personal buffalo chicken pizza and an oddly sized (29oz) beer. I hadn’t even considered that 29 ounces was only 11 short of a 40 ounce. By the time I finished everything, I was HAMMERED. I had to sit still, so I didn’t even think about going anywhere. I checked my bank account and all of my worst fears were realized- I was not frugal at all. How pathetic it must seem to be two weeks into a cross country trip and nearly spent. Of course, I wasn’t broke entirely so I wasn’t horribly without options, but I was getting there. Total mind shift- but I anticipated that after Idaho and Wyoming I would be back to camping like I originally intended. I called up the RV park with the dinner theater but the woman on the phone told me they were also closed for the winter. I still asked if I could just set up a tent but she had already hung up on me by the time I got the words out.
Still drunk, I stood up for the first time in over a few hours and wobbled to the bathrooms. I was nervous about going to the bathroom. Whichever I chose, male or female, was obvious to anyone who was watching me. I chose the women’s because, well, thats what I am. I used it without issue and left without issue- mission success! In truth I had to Lee back at City Bagels, but the girl kept saying “he” so much that I was afraid to go.
I left the pizza place without a goodbye to anyone, quietly. I walked back up the hill and skated down over the bridge I was at before but was too drunk to take in the view. I had no idea what I was going to do to sleep. I remembered the last lady I spoke to on the phone recommended the Aspen Grove, so I hunted for it. I saw it and couldn’t believe I missed it before- it was simply stunning. I walked around looking for signs of life but none were found. Without option, I sat down at the picnic table under a bodega and set mt board down. In the distance I could hear people talking, so I walked over and interrupted their conversation. “Hi, do you work here?”
“Not only do I work here, but I’m the owner!” The woman was cheerful and smiling. I got into the details of my trip and asked if I could pitch my tent somewhere near a power source. She completely one upped me and offered me a free cabin to stay out of the cold! My mind was swirling at the hospitality. She told me of her nephew who recently cycled across the country at the age of 56, and how she had a soft spot for people on adventures like mine. I had truly found an oasis in the rough.
She showed me to a cabin and was the kindest ever as she even offered me a ride to get groceries. I was so grateful that I had found her. I tried to take a selfie with her but my phone was dying, a missed opportunity. Regardless, even without a photo to prove that her kindness was real, I was able to experience it. I had the most amazing cabin with two king sized beds, the cutest electric fireplace heater, a shower, and a place to charge my things. When I come back to Idaho after this trip, there is not a doubt in my mind that I will come back to experience the area during a better season, right at the Aspen Grove Inn.
Once I shut the door, I was tuckered out from the screaming, crying, and drinking from the events before. I laid on the bed reading about things to do in Yellowstone National Park as my eyes sealed themselves shut. How lucky was I to be safe and sound in a cabin, on my final day in Idaho?
However much later it was, I woke up to a knock on the door. Confused, I jumped out of bed and saw it was the woman from earlier, who brought me an entire bag of goodies to snack on! I had told her that I was traveling town to town in order to receive sustenence, and answered my prayers before I made them. She even brought me an entire loaf of homemade bread! I asked her how she found me and she said, “Dude, I’m from here. Small town!” It blew my mind that just a few miles off of my projected path was so much kindness to be found. I gave her a big hug and thanked her. She even left me a $20 bill. I tried to refuse it but she insisted. Everything that left a poor taste in my mouth about Idaho was redeemed by the kindness I received in Ririe. Such a hidden gem.
Comfortable, safe, and overjoyed by the outgoing strangers-turned-friends I made, I tucked back into the bed and let the darkness take over my surroundings. I thought about going into the lodge to catch up on social media, but I was so content in the cabin, taking in this edge of the state I would have never found if not for the state of affairs I was in. After a shower and a few chunks of bread, I looked forward to what everyone was telling me was going to be the most beautiful section of my adventure.