Day 3 – Wednesday, June 16th
Blackfoot, Idaho, to Arco, Idaho
We started out the day by checking at the only bicycle shop in Blackfoot, trying to replace my uncomfortable handlebar grips. Unfortunately, they didn't have any suitably padded grips, so I would have to make do with what I had.
We ate at a Subway Sandwiches shop, having them make an extra sandwich for each of us for our lunch. This would be a long day. We had to cross the 60 miles where there were (as far as we knew) had no stores, nor water. At the end of the day (in Arco), we could find food and lodging, but not before.
Based on my prior experience cycling in the summer heat, we each carried two 2-liter water containers so we would have plenty of water for the trip. As it turned out, we would end up pouring out some of this water as useless 'ballast', keeping us from climbing hills at the end.
The day started out on a hopeful tone, with the headwind light to moderate, and any ominous storm-clouds far in the distance.
Leaving Blackfoot, heading to Arco, headwinds light, and storms but a distant rumor
I remembered this section as flat, so I didn't do a profile on it – a decision I came to regret, as there were in fact, significant hills. Also, I would have known that we would be basically climbing until we reached Atomic City (a semi-ghost town), after which we would be mostly descending. This fact (if known) would have tempered my discouragement that increased with the headwinds.
Entering the Snake River plain lava-flow
There were scattered farms in this stretch. In one field, there were horses that watched us as if we were the most interesting thing that happened in their otherwise boring morning.
The horses were watching us
As we went farther, the headwinds began to get stronger. Although the wind wasn't from directly ahead, its angle from about 30 degrees to our front left still impeded our progress as the winds strengthened.
I knew we had to have an average speed of 6 miles per hour to make it to Arco before dark. And as the speed indicated in the speedometer dipped to 5.5 miles per hour, and even 4.4 miles per hour, I told Malcolm we were not going to make it to Arco, and that we were going to have to camp in this cold, windy, rainy environment.
We stopped for lunch at what appeared to be a junk-yard, which had a solid fence we could get behind to get out of the wind. After this brief respite, we cycled on into the wind.
Storm-clouds were threatening, and we got occasional drizzles along with the wind. There was nothing in this empty plain to shelter under. I told Malcolm there would be no shelter until the Atomic City semi-ghost-town, about half-way across the plain.
It started raining harder, and there was nothing to shelter under, with Atomic City maybe five miles away. I convinced Malcolm to try cycling in the rain. We put on our rain-ponchos, the front of which we held on the handlebars with our hands, keeping the rain off of us from the front. The problem with this arrangement was the strong headwind that was also a cross-wind. It blew the rain onto us from the side, and our left legs got wet and cold, along with our hands.
This was probably the most discouraging section of the trip.
At long last we saw buildings in the distance, which were, in fact, near Atomic City. It was actually a bar, called Magee's. We parked our bicycles under the bar's veranda, and went into the bar to dry out (a strange thing to try to do in a bar).
[Malcolm – On first look, this was your Classic Redneck Bar, with the You-will-get-beat-up-in-here, look. The first room had a dirt floor, and there were some pictures of almost naked women on the wall. Not just one or two, but at least 2 dozen. I wonder how many beer ads they had to cut up to get these. That is the visual. But on paying attention, the men in here were watching PBS Idaho, which especially in this area, would be pretty liberal. There was also a man with a gray beard telling a hunting story, not the 'I blew the deer away' variety, but rather a down home story that a grandfather could tell kids in a church. So, stereotypes do end, in some places.]
We did dry out and warm up inside, and I eventually ventured out to see what the weather was doing. To my surprise, the rain was gone, and more importantly, so was the head-wind. I had Malcolm (who is more of a weather-person) come out and confirm my observations, and he agreed.
Leaving Magee's Bar, the rain (and thankfully the headwind) stopped
As we resumed cycling, I checked my watch, and told Malcolm that if we didn't get any more storms or headwinds, and if we pushed it, we could still make it to Arco before dark. Our backup plan was to make it to the rest-stop where the Lost River disappears under the lava flows, and camp there, since they had rest-rooms.
Knowing there were motels and restaurants in Arco, and not particularly wanting to camp in this wet, cold environment, we both did push it to near the limits of our capabilities.
Fortunately (in addition to the headwind being gone), it was generally downhill, which helped considerably.
About that time, we encountered rush-hour traffic headed east from a shift ending at the Idaho National Laboratory, and though the traffic was going the other way, it induced a significant head-wind where there otherwise would have been none.
We made it to the rest stop (our plan-B camping place), but according to my watch, we could still make it to Arco before dark, so we pushed on without stopping.
As we got closer to Arco, there were significant hills that we had to climb, and then glide down the other side. To get a little edge in performance, we poured out one of the two 2-liter water containers, since given the cold day, we weren't using much water.
Butte City first came into view, and we rejoiced at the sight of civilization, and a few miles farther we came to Arco, still in daylight.
We didn't stop at the first motel, as I was trying to find one recommended by my daughter. This could have been a mistake, since we passed more than one motel with no-vacancy signs. Fortunately, we did find a motel before the end of town with a vacancy, and got a room. It was cash-only, so we had to use some of our emergency cash, but it was warm and nice.
We ate at a nearby restaurant, and I called some relatives (from my prior marriage) with whom I hoped to renew the friendship. They came over and talked with us in our motel room. It was a good visit, and I was glad that I had called.
It was this day of the trip that I learned a new (to me) life-lesson: No matter how discouraging things look according to the mathematical projections, don't give up on your goals until it's over, because things can always change, allowing you to yet achieve your goals.
On this day, we traveled 59.5 miles according to the bicycle odometer, at an average speed of 7.7 miles per hour. It may well have been the most difficult day of the trip.
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