Friends: For the first time since leaving Telluride twelve days and 850 miles ago I was within close enough range of a town when I began my day that I could arrive before breakfast time had expired, allowing me to stop at a cafe and gorge on a stack of hotcakes for breakfast. I didn't need to munch on the usual peanut butter sandwich or two as I broke camp in anticipation of a feast.
I needed the high octane fuel as the Lost Trail Pass on the Idaho/Montana border awaited me. I was at 4,000 feet elevation, the lowest I'd been since leaving Telluride. It will be a 3,000 foot climb to 6,995 feet, then down hill to Missoula, one hundred miles further.
I camped along the Salmon River last night in a farmer's field hidden behind a stack of bales of hay. It was a gentle twelve mile descent to the town of Salmon following the river, but a cold one with the sun hidden by a ridge of mountains flanking the river. I needed to wear my tights for the second time. I ought to get used to them with the days only getting chillier as I head due north to Missoula and then another couple hundred miles north from there to pick up route two along the Canada border to Minnesota before heading south to Chicago. I passed the 45th parallel shortly before camping last night, putting me closer now to the North Pole than the Equator.
As I head east and begin my descent to lower elevations the mornings ought to be not so cold, but the days are growing shorter and winter is approaching. It takes several hours for the sun to warm the air. At least there is little wind at the start of the day. I've been battling late afternoon winds from the north and west. If the westerlies continue, I'll be gobbling up the miles once I begin heading east from Missoula.
I may not have another chance for food or water all day so I stocked up at the local Safeway. After ringing up my purchases the sales clerk congratulated me, "That's a lot of food for six dollars." I took advantage of what items I saw on sale--a pound of tortilla chips for a dollar, a pound of corn flakes for a dollar, three yogurts for a dollar, three ramens for a dollar, two cans of baked beans for a dollar, and a pint of chocolate milk. I still have half a loaf of bread and peanut butter and honey as well as a stash of Luna bars left over from Telluride, rations for two days if necessary.
I made the great discovery a few days ago that I don't need boiling water to soften up ramen noodles. I took the risk of purchasing them even though I don't have a stove when they were one of the few items in stock at a small general store. I knew from my travels in Japan that the even skinnier noodles in cups of soup could be made edible with cold water. Fifteen minutes in my Tupperware bowl with a cup of water is all it takes to make the ramen noodles edible. Two or three packs a day has dropped my food expenditures to well below ten dollars a day.
I had another first in these travels yesterday as well--the first dog to give me chase, or at least the first one not tethered to a tree or barricaded by a fence. I wouldn't even have known I was being chased if I hadn't heard the dog's owner shouting "Lacey come back, Lacey come back." I looked back to see a medium-sized mutt bounding after me without barking. Usually dogs that don't bark are the most serious, but this one wasn't much of a threat. He put up a feeble chase and hardly looked menacing.
It was just beyond the town of Challlis where I began a 58-mile ride along the Salmon River, a designated scenic route. From one outskirts of Challis to the other there was a series of home made Tea Party signs, almost as much of a joke as the mutt--"Next on their agenda--our guns," "Government Takeover--No States rights, no constitution, no drilling, no logging, no grazing, no border, no mining, no roads. Wake up America," "BLM--friend or foe. Wake up Idaho."
It was the most politicizing I'd come across other than a gigantic billboard in Utah with a burly police officer snarling, "If your parents don't catch you, we will. Zero tolerance for drinking and driving."
The wall of a thrift store in the small town of Moore, Idaho was adorned with a mural featuring a heart with an arrow through it and a crying teen with the warning "Meth breaks up families."
There are none of the church message boards so common in the Bible Belt with their preachy and punny sermon titles.