Friday, 15 May 2015

Trapped in the Wind

Location: Leadore, ID 83464, USA
We left Sugar City and called in at the supermarket in Rexburg for supplies.  The previous day we had called in at a Ranger Station to get an Idaho map and they had suggested a route up through Salmon, but warned that it was ‘the loneliest highway’ so to carry all the food and water we needed.  They’d said we’d have no bear issues out there, our only problem would be the wind.  So fully stocked up we aimed for a random spot we thought was about 70 miles away, in the middle of BLM land where we knew we could camp.

The morning’s ride was mostly through farmland and the roads flat and straight.  There was a few small towns along the way and we stopped for lunch in one and refilled all our water.  The farmland soon gave way to desert sagebrush and we turned north on to highway 28 to begin the lonely stretch up to Salmon 120 miles away.  Cycling in terrain like this is tough, you’re pedalling all the time as it’s mostly flat, but you don’t get a sense of getting anywhere as all the surroundings are the same.  Luckily it was a quiet road so we could ride next to each other and talk.  Looking ahead the road stretched away in a mind-bogglingly straight line up a slight incline and we could make out a junction way up ahead.   So we made bets on how far away we thought the junction was; I said 13 miles, Tom went for 19.  Time went by and it just didn’t seem to get any closer.  We tried to time cars making the journey, they took a long time.  I narrowly won the bet.

We were getting close to the distance we wanted to cover so we started keeping an eye out for possible camp spots.  There was nothing but sagebrush and hills off in the distance.  We pushed on.  We knew there was a creek which ran close to the road a little way on and thought this would be a good bet as we could then refill our waters using our water filter.  We spied some willow and other little trees up ahead and guessed this was where the creek ran.  There was some machinery parked on the far side of the creek and a track which led to the left which we chose to head down.  There was a bit of a parking-cum-horse corral type area, but the creek was behind a barbed wire fence.  We snuck through the fence to climb up the bank of the creek to see if we could spot anything better.  On the other side of the creek there appeared to be an open area with easy access to the water.  Bingo!  We’d found our campsite for the night.  We rode back down the track and back up past the machinery.  We liked our spot and decided to put the GoPro on time-lapse to capture us setting up camp.  We did our warm down stretches and started to get the tent set up.  It had been a cold night the night before and the tent was damp from condensation so we decided to just put up the inner for the time being to give it time to dry out while we made dinner.  We pegged it down, though the ground was very poor, but didn’t put our stuff in as the ground sheet was a little damp too.

I got on with making rice and rasam for our dinner and Tom got the bikes sorted and was checking the camera was working.  All of a sudden a huge gust of wind picked up the tent, ripping out and scattering the pegs, and tumbled the tent towards the barbed wire fence, somersaulted it over the fence and carried it along, like a tumbleweed, towards the trees lining the creek.  I screamed to get Tom’s attention and followed it as quickly as I could, negotiating my way under the barbed wire and chasing our beloved tent down.  Tom was quickly at my side and we managed to catch hold of the tent and with some effort wrestle it against the wind back to our spot.  The wind had not died down and we fought to get the fly sheet on and get all our stuff in the tent to weigh it down before retrieving our far-flung pegs.  We ate dinner by the creek and talked of ‘what ifs’ and how lucky we were that we’d not lost the tent and that the only damage it had incurred was a small rip near the door in the ground sheet.

We decided to lay the bikes down for the night and covered them with the tarp as usual before heading to bed.  I got woken up just after midnight as the wind seemed to be increasing, but soon fell back to sleep.  Then at 3:30am someone cranked the wind up to 11 and it hammered us hard.  Tom and I lay, arms outstretched, bracing the end of the tent against the attack for over an hour and a half.  At one point I sat up to get our shoes in from the porch as we worried about losing them and the wind got under the tent and made a good effort to lift us up.  I was scared.  I honestly worried that we may get picked up and thrown about.  I watched, fearfully, as the wind raged around us, battering the tent, sand blasting it, yanking it from side-to-side and the poles and material fought to keep their form.  I wondered if we’d missed warnings of tornados or hurricanes in the area.  We were miles from anywhere, no one knew where we were and I had no idea what we would do if we lost the tent.  The wind finally eased enough for us to feel we could safely stop holding the tent up and try to get some more sleep.

We snoozed later than usual and then ate a cold breakfast in the tent while deciding what to do.  The wind was still pretty blustery, but when we finally ventured out it wasn’t too awful and amazingly we hadn’t lost the tarp on the bikes.  We packed everything up, quite an ordeal in the wind, and got on the road around 11am.  After about an hour of tough riding in the wind we came across Lone Pine which consists of a cafĂ©/shop and a motel.  We decided to treat ourselves to a drink, maybe a pastry and a break from the wind.  The Rangers had joked about Lone Pine, but it went over our heads at the time.  We get it now.  We walked into a dimly lit room, TV blaring in one corner and an elderly lady sat in a comfy chair in front of it reading the paper.  She informed us that they were in the process of ‘deep cleaning the place’ and were ‘low on stock’.  Oh that’s ok we said we’d just like a drink and a break from the wind really.  Tom inquired if she had any soda, ‘oh no, that machine is broken’ she replied.  I could see she had a pot of coffee on so I asked if we could have coffee.  ‘Sure,’ she said and got up to get us sorted out.  ‘Oh no I’ll have to see if I can find you some sugar’, I replied we didn’t take sugar, but did she have any milk?  ‘Oh no, we don’t got no milk’, she said.  OK, well black is good.  We took the coffees outside (it would have been weird to just sit in her living room with her!) and chuckled in hindsight at the Rangers joke.

Feeling somewhat revived, we got back on the bikes and continued north.  The wind had died down a little and we were getting over the drama of the previous night.  We’d decided that if we could just make it to Leadore that was enough for today and we’d push on to just past Salmon the following day.  We had a long, gentle climb up to Gilmore Pass and the wind had eased enough that the downhill wasn’t a fight.  The hills were closing in a little, but it was mostly just sage brush still and we were pretty nervous about camping anywhere too open in case we were subject to another windy battering.  We rolled into Leadore, past an RV park and found the library.  After a little while of looking at maps and researching possible campsites we decided to enquire at the RV park.  At $10 a night it was as cheap as any other fee charging campgrounds so we pitched the tent.  It was attached to a motel and the owner let us use the showers in one of the motel rooms.  The seven year old son of the lady looking after the RV park comes and introduces himself as Garrett and joins us doing our stretches.  He is a real livewire and reminds me of a character they may have had in Oh Brother, Where Art Thou.

We felt we deserved a treat after the ordeal we’d been through so we headed to the local bar for a beer and maybe a burger.  It was fairly dark inside and we got the full ‘you’re not from round here’ stare as we entered.  Undeterred we ordered two Bud and sat at the bar.  We asked if they were serving food but were told that no they were not.  Sat, feeling uncomfortable, at the bar we look around at the myriad of humorous stickers they have on the walls and talk quietly amongst ourselves.  That’s when I noticed the crucified, zombified, semi-corpse of the President they have hung above the bar with ‘FUCK YOU OBAMA’ written across his forehead.  I squeezed Tom’s hand, we finished our beers and left.  Not the treat we were after.

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