Tuesday, 19 May 2015

There are only Two Gods of the Mountain

Location: Salmon, ID 83467, USA
The road from Leadore to Salmon was slightly downhill and pretty straight.  Mainly because of this I cannot really remember much about the route at all.  The wind was at our backs and we covered the mileage quickly and without any moments to write home about, literally.  We cycled through the 45th Parallel which was a sign by the road which was probably the highlight of the morning.  Coming into Salmon we noticed a swarm of bees above our heads but because of riding through a swarm of bees on Route 66 this again hardly bares a mention.  But this is the funny thing.  The days that are good weather, favourable winds with easy mileage are hardly noteworthy; it's a shame because they are the kind of days you wish for for hours, if not days, when things are hard but when you have them they just fade from your memory.

In Salmon we had a break, got ourselves a snack from the bakery and we were sat outside eating, when a guy walks up and introduces himself as Dan.  He had just moved to the area and had cycled toured in Italy. After a brief chat he invited us to pitch up in his yard.  We um-ed and arh-ed because we had been warned about a long, hideous climb to get into Montana and wanted to get further north before camping but decided that it might be nice to hang out and talk to Dan and partner Mindy.  We wanted to hear more about his job, he works for the Salmon Heli-Rappelers (he is helicoptered into forest fires to put them out, how cool is that?!) and about his trip to Italy (which he went on because of a suggestion on the back of a Clif Bar).  After a snooze in their yard we met Mindy and had a beer with them both and were introduced to their massive dog, Archer.  Sophie and I had a great evening with Dan and Mindy just chewing the fat about pretty much everything and had loads in common.  They also had a very similar experience of the bar in Leadore and had left at pretty much the same speed as us.

After going to bed late we were pretty sluggish in the morning but needed to get a move on since there was this foreboding climb.  Depending on whom you talked to it sounded longer than Cedar Mountain and steeper than Teton Pass so we wanted to get going.  Stopping for a toilet break at the bottom of the climb we found out that we were in fact on the Pan American highway as it made it's way from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina.  We both thought that at some point in Central or South America we'd probably hook up with it but never really considered it in the U.S. or Canada because of our random, bouncing around route.  With photos of road signs taken we started the worrying climb towards the state line.

Sophie and I have rules to climbing, (until now) unwritten and untalked about rules but (I assume) we both  try to follow them.  We can both climb at our own pace, we can stop when we want, we are supportive and we don't impede the other person's climbing technique.  It's sometimes hard, but it's fair.  I like to climb.  There are always exceptions to this, like when I'm really tired, or ill.  Or when it is really windy or I'm cold.  If I'm in a bad mood then climbing is tough and at the end of the day when I just want to "get there" it starts to get to me.  In these cases I don't like climbing, but this climb did not fall into any of these categories so all was good. As we neared what looked like a summit, Sophie called out "Look.  It doesn't look too far to the top!". This broke the rule about impeding climbing technique.  I don't like searching for the summit, there are so many false summits that it is demoralizing when you hit them and you see the road winding evermore skyward.  So I had to reply "Don't worship fake summits like false idols.  There are only two gods of the mountain; left calf and right calf!"  This made us both laugh and we carried on to the top; which was the actual summit.  When we got there we looked back and saw the sign for the grade at a pitiful 5% (no where near as steep as Teton's 10%).

The downhill was fun and we were stopped by a car that turned out to be our Warm Showers host for the night.  They gave us directions and we carried on down towards Darby.  The mountains were covered in burnt trees but the headwind meant we focused on that more than the scenery.  But after swearing my way through the valley we arrived with Haley and were greeted with beer and a smile.  After chilling out and showering we found out that it was Haley's birthday and that we were having a barbecue with friends and family.  Haley's husband, Patrick, was away with the reserves for the weekend but she suggested that if we stayed an extra night and had a rest day we'd get to meet Patrick, we could have a few more beers, and mead, and that she would drive us to some hot springs.  In the time it took to open the bottles for mead tasting we had decided that we deserved a rest day and it'd be great to meet Patrick and get a soak in some naturally occurring hot water.

In the morning Sophie and I were introduced to the critter collection.  Brin, Haley and Patrick's daughter, had a love of tiny rabbits and would often ask "can I get a baby bunny?" which resulted in Brin carrying around one of the rabbits, while stroking and petting it.  After being cooked fantastic biscuits and gravy by the duo that was Haley and her mum we helped move some sheet metal and proceeded up the mountain to the hot springs.  There was some uncertainty if we could make it all the way up because of snow, but we tried all the same.  We wound our way up dirt roads into the mountains and forest, most of which had been destroyed in a massive forest fire.  As we neared the summit the snow alongside the road got deeper and deeper but the dirt track was clear so we managed to get to the springs.  A hot spring is an amazing thing and Haley, Brin, Sophie and I enjoyed the water for a long time.

After a daring dash into the cold river water and a warm plunge in the pools we dried off, had some food and had a brief introduction to the guns.  Sophie and I shot a rifle and a handgun under the close supervision of our minder.  The two cans we found lying around and used as target practice were shot full of lead (I think we shot maybe 15 rounds and had 3 hits, our next profession is definitely assassin).  Heading back down towards home for the evening we stopped and had a brief snowball fight at a junction and tried, and repeatedly failed to hit the sign with snow balls.

We got home and enjoyed the chicken that had been crock potting throughout the day. When Patrick arrived home we chatted about his weekend, hunting and guns whilst eating a glutinous amount of ice cream and fresh cookie sandwiches. The rest of the evening was taken up with Mario Kart and Duck Dynasty. In the morning we missed Haley because of heading off to work early but Patrick made us some venison that he had shot (with a bow) and butchered himself for breakfast. It was delicious and gave us the energy to cycle on up to Missoula.


  1. Assassin and then motivational speakera. That's a classic Tom quote there.

    1. I love that saying and for once it was an original phrase and not a rehash from a film. I am not too proud to admit it but I am impressed at my own imagination on that one!!

  2. A real "top gun" cyclist? Mr P

    1. Cheers Mr P, I don't think I'll ever win any medals but if one day I get to shout that saying at a professional then I'll be happy