Friday, July 31

South wind

Back on highway 395 heading south: after just 15 miles, I am riding in California! Not much difference as I carry on along the Goose lake that also dries out.

Yet it feels like getting real close to the destination of my long trip. After stopping in Davis Creek for a hot dog, I got back on my bike. I thought the wind was supposed to come from the west. A little south wind seems to tell me: "you aren't done yet riding to San Francisco..."

Thursday, July 30

Sunrise on the desert

The desert is quite chilly when you get going a little before 6:00 am. The sun just showed up above the horizon.

Silence is everywhere; real silence. I spot a coyote crossing the road a hundred yards / meters ahead of me.

There I am ready for an 85 mile / 137 km ride on Hwy 395 until Lakeview. I want o be there early enough in the afternoon to avoid the wind that picks up then; and still take the time to enjoy the unusual scenery:

On the left inside of the road, some cowboys have settled: few houses and facilities to handle their cattle at the end of a dirt road. The place is called Juniper.

Lake Abert is like an inland sea in the middle of this desert. Its northern part is drying in the sun whereas hundred of seagulls gather along the shore and cry. With the typical smell of drying mud, it feels like riding along the sea.

Wednesday, July 29

Wagontire café

Highway 395 is lonely and streches between Riley and Lakeview where I am heading. It's a long long ride in a deserted area; no town to cross, no house in the distance, nothing over 113 mi / 181 km. Not even birds singing; the wind or coyotees howling is the most you may hear.

28 mi / 46 km south from Riley, I hit Wagontire: a place with just a café, few rooms and even an air strip. Cherry has recently taken over the place and is running it. I decided that this would make a good place to stop for the night in the middle of the desert.

She offered that I use one of the empty rooms instead of my tent; which is especially nice as the weather seemed to be stormy and windy tonight. From time to time, I hear a car darting along the highway; and then nothing. Time slowes down.

It feels great spending this evening in the middle of the desert, like on a boat in the middle of the ocean and away from everything.

"A desert road from vegas to nowhere,
some place better than where you've been..."

More info:
* Wagontire Café

Tuesday, July 28

Word of mouth

Yesterday I stopped in the lonely gas station of Harper along hwy 20/26. As I talk with an old lady, Brian the owner of the gas station confirmed me that three girls on bicycles passed by few days ago. After Pennsylvania and Fairfield ID, we still seem to be on the same tracks.

Today after riding two passes, I 'find them' again in Buchanan. There's a little museum and gallery of art craft, right at the bottom of a downhill. As it is the only place to stop on the 58 mi / 93 km between Juntura and Burns to get a refill, I guess all bikers still brake (grrr...).

The museum looks more like an Antique shop but it's full of fun old staff. Here is my favorite, "a buffalo skull found in Malheur lake when it went dry in 1932" says the sticker.

The lady also has a guest book for people to sign and as I browse through the previous pages, I find 'Liza, Melissa and Freda: biking coast to coast'. So I investigate it and find out from another lady, a regular customer of the gas station, that she had talked to them and still had somewhere the link to their web site.

So they truly exist and that was not just a plot to get me to ride faster.

Btw info:
* By the way, I just made it to the Pacific time zone as well, that is 9 hours difference with Paris, France

Monday, July 27


This eastern county is named 'Malheur', which inspires also the name of the river which valley I followed today. I guess the name was given by some French pionneers and its meaning was just forgotten to the point that in Vale, the drugstore is also named after it:

On the other end, note that even the less French speakers I have come across remember the meaning of Teton National Park.

Nevertheless for our happiness, the Malheur river has digged a canyon thru the red hills that spread between Vale and Juntura and the road winds along the river to discover cliffs and steep slopes of rocks surrounding a green valley with seldom ranches.

I wonder sometime if Indians warriors are not hiding right on the top of theses hills overlooking the road.

More info:
* Extracted from Malheur county website: "The name Malheur is French for 'bad hour'. Legend has it some French trappers and traders were in the area searching for furs. Their trip was unsuccessful and they were attacked by Indians, a portion of the party was killed and others wounded. Because of the misfortunes of their trip, the French named the river Malheur, or loosely translated, 'unhappy river'."

How cute!

Riding bicycle allows to surprise quite some wild life along the road, with yet the paradox that deers don't flee with cars; but do as I pass by with my bicycle.

However, as I spend quite some time also watching the shoulder of the road on which I ride, I also see animals that fast cars would miss; snakes for instance, three so far.

Here is my morning surprise riding up the Vines Hill pass:

Since a morning in Ohio when I pulled a little too hard on the mosquito net of my tent, there had been a hole big enough to let my little finger thru. I fixed it tonight.

Sunday, July 26

'Born and raised on the Oregon trail'

The Oregon trail splits in multiple trails. One of the them is the so called "Goodale's cutoff" that I have been following these past days.

And there I am tonight in Oregon, at Vale, where the Oregon trail is almost a way of life.

Yet the destination of these emigrants was rather the north west of Oregon, in the area of Portland; which meant that they were not yet done. Nor I am. Here is the progress on the map:

For this weekly review, the bike and the biker seem to be doing well.

Real cowboys!

And cowgirls! You may be biking along Wyoming and Idaho, even on back roads, it's not that easy in the country of cowboys to come across with cowboys actually horse riding. By chance, my path came across today with the Canyon county fair.

It was early morning and families from around the county were getting there for the third and last day of this event. Exhibition of animals, music, food and... rodeo; actually junior rodeo this Sunday morning!

Laura just next to me helped me with the rules: in a limited amount of time and attempts (which depends on the category), the little calf's got to be caught. Her daughter is running in the junior girl division.

And there it goes with the various divisions:
- Senior Division: Ages 14-18
- Junior Division: Ages 11-13
- Pee-Wee Division: Ages 8-10
- Mini-Mite Division: Ages 7 and under... as young as 3 or 4 year old!

I guess you need to be born cowboy or cowgirl.

More info:
* Idaho Junior Rodeo

Friday, July 24

Just around the corner

When I was in Fairfield, and this morning in Mountain Home, I heard again about these three girls riding from New York to San Francisco. Remember? They stopped in the same Sinclair gas station two days ago the lady tells me.

I was told that they would take the Interstate towards Boise, and not the nice back roads I had been planning. Nice, yet longer: my detailed map shows also a back road that runs along the Interstate for 19 miles.

That's enough to convinced me to ride the remaining 17 miles on the Interstate. There it goes for 10 miles until I get to this road end.

There's no one around to ask. I ride to another intersection and try to stop a car; the first one doesn't, the second does stop: "you just go this way, you will get to a Y crossroad and you take this one" says the lady as she points it with her left hand. "it's just around the corner here".

The road was running over a slight hill so I figured that 200 yards / meters away, I would find my corner and make a left towards the road that leads to the Interstate.

Yet passed the bump, there was just a long long road and I rode for 2 or 3 miles / 3 to 5 km before I get to a curve. The other branch of the Y is a dirt road that leads towards the hills in the background.

I guess when you live in such open spaces, you develop of different sens of distances.

Thursday, July 23

Oops!... I did it again

The light on Fairfield was soft as I left early this morning, quite confident that I will have my breakfast in Hill City, some 14 mi / 22 km ahead, on the way to Mountain Home.

Nevertheless when I got to Hill City, the 'city' seemed quite minimum. Oh sure, it must be hidden behind the hill, hence its name!

No one around, just cars from time to time heading fast on highway 20 in both directions. On the left side of the road, a lonely phone booth: Oh sure, they deliver!

Eventually I came across with an old man and another chap. I could at least refill my bottles. They confirmed that Hill City was just a bump in the road; although it had been bigger when he was young and breeding cattle was bigger. Fairfield which is left today with just one gas station had four at the time.

The next town was my today's destination, some 43 mi / 69 km ahead. After more than 6 weeks on the road and various experiments, I arrogantly assert that "riding is easier if you have well slept and properly eaten breakfast".

More info:
* Oops!... I did again

Wednesday, July 22

Small is beautiful

After a good night sleeping and a proper breakfast, I felt radiant as I left Arco to Carey, just 44 mi / 71 km away: I knew that I would want to extend my trip a little further. Yet I was not too sure where I would be able to sleep tonight.

Passed the craters of the moon, Carey, Picabo ('shinning waters' in native american), I made it to Fairfield, a small town of 395 people on highway 20 on the way to Mountain Home.

I like this kind of small town out of the over-organized world that we are used to in larger cities. There's a building of the Forest Service as you get there and it invites visitors to ask for information. I went to the ranger for a campsite in Fairfield:
- "you are welcome to camp at our town park if you want"
- "do you have showers as well?"
- "no we don't... but there's an RV park with a somewhat old laundromat... you find one there... they are not exceptional but..."

And that works. I found the shower in a wooden building that looked abandoned; found also the park along a dirt road, just across from a little Church. It feels like in the former time, say when my father was "young, free and handsome", when you could go camping in the field of a farmer. I guess there were not so many people touring during their vacation.

My tent setup, I laid in the shade of a tree. A little squirrel came to investigate this new neighbor.

Tuesday, July 21

Adopt a highway

You find it all over the US roads, at least those I have been riding so far:

And it was some kind of a mystery for the French that I am. Sure, today between Idaho Falls and Arco, there was just a long lonely highway of 66 mi (106 km), bushes and three 'buttes' as they are called.

And it's not this so called "lost river" that could help the highway feel a little less lonely. Anyhow, the Idaho Transportation Department has developed a volunteer program for groups or organisations to 'adopt' a 2 mile section of highway. By 'adopting' it is meant that the volunteers will clean their corresponding section of highway; and get their name on a sign.

All kinds of organizations adopt it to serve their community: churches, boy scouts, employees of a company, individuals... You can also decide to pay a company that will do it for you... but "c'est pas du jeu!"

Monday, July 20

My little 'mont Ventoux'

This Saturday, the Tour de France 20th stage will end up on the top of the 'Mont Ventoux'. I therefore had my little 'mont Ventoux' this morning, as I took the Teton pass out of Wilson. It is 9 km long with a 6 km section of a 10% grade. Right, it does not compete with the real one! ;-)

But here in Jackson Hole, it is some kind of a little legend as many people warned me against the steepness of the slope. They even have a climb race and it's this Saturday, the day after (corrected) the Tour de France will reach the 'mont Ventoux'.

From what I was told, the best one make it in less than 30 minutes. I made it in 1h and 20 minutes... but got there before BOB... you know, BOB... my trailer!

Detailed notes:
* As I did not find that many information on this ride, I consolidate here some of my experience.

* To get to the Teton pass, there are actually two roads available, the old one closed to cars and the regular one. I therefore took the old one. The ride through the old road leads you in the middle of nature; birds are singing; the view on Jackson Hole gets better and better as you go up... you just need to spin a bit.
* The valley floor elevation is 6,234 ft / 1,900 m. Wyoming highway 22 gets you from Jackson to Wilson and then to the Teton pass (8,431 ft / 2,570 m).
* The Teton pass is 5.6 mi / 9 km away from Wilson village by the old road. The steep part is 3.7 mi / 6 km long.
* From Wilson, you can find the old road by riding the Wyo highway 22 for a little less than a mile (1,500 m) (there's even a bike path on the left side of the road). On the left, you then find a road leading to the 'Trail creek trailhead' (elevation: 6,480 ft / 1,975 m).
* Again for a little less than a mile (1,500 m), you get to a parking; in the back of the parking, there's a gate: once you pass it, you are on the old road and it gets a lot more steeper.

* As you go up, after 1.2 mi / 2 km, the steepness gets softer for a little rest. On the contrary, 0.6 mi / 1 km further, it gets tougher for few hundred yards / meters.
* Eventually the road gets to another gate and a few hundred yards / meters further, the old road joins with the new road and you get to the Teton pass.

* Generally speaking the quality of the asphalt is good for road bikes. I only experienced some gravel on the paved road after the second gate.

* Going down towards Idaho, there's only one way: the new road. It is pretty steep for about 2 miles / 3 km. I stopped several times to let my wheel cool down.

Sunday, July 19

Rodeo & jetset

Jackson WY was my target for this week: from what I was told by other bikers on my way, this town is some kind of a 'St Tropez' in the country of cowboys and rodeo. Stars and politicians fly into the airport just a few miles away. The national parks and outdoor activities make it attractive to many. The town is nice, well put, with plenty art galleries and outing opportunities; and quite touristy of course.

I end up this afternoon in Wilson, just a few miles further on the way to Idaho. Here it is on the map at the end of this 6th week:

On the biker side, it's been the toughest week since the beginning, especially with the stage from Riverton to Dubois that worn me out. The bike & trailer seem to be doing well.

More info:
* Jackson WY
* To attend a rodeo show in Jackson: apparently, it's on Wednesday and Saturday... I missed it.

Saturday, July 18

Be bear aware

Good opportunity for another day off: Grand Teton National Park is just south from the renown Yellowstone and offers a magnificent landscape of mountain range:

It also hosts plenty wild life other than the many tourists that visit it during the summer. Therefore the rangers teach you in handling this wild life, especially the bears at the campground. For instance, the brochure says poetically:

"A leaf fell in the woods,
The eagle saw it,
The deer heard it,
And the bear smelled it."

'Be bear aware' it says everywhere. On my campsite, I have a dedicated 'bear box'; a big iron box rooted to the ground in which I have to put away any smelly items like food, toiletries, water bottles, trash... To be on the safe side, I even included my dirty clothes.

With Sandy my neighbor in the hiker & biker section of the campground and two other bikers, we decided to be beer aware as well.

Friday, July 17

Exit the 'Mississippi valley'

It's been a few days that little by little I have been riding up the mountain. Some days, you hardly notice it but still you can read that the elevation of the towns you get to is increasing. Some others with a strong wind and some more steepness, you know it the hard way.

Nevertheless, Dubois is 6,940 ft high (2,115 m) and road 26 runs thru Togwotee mountain pass 9,658 ft high (2,944 m) very close to which the Wind river springs at the other end of this lake by the same name:

I entered the Mississippi river drainage basin more than a month ago, when I was in Pennsylvania around Curwensville. This pass marks also the limit of the 'Mississippi valley', including its many affluents like Missouri crossed in Omaha, Nebraska. This limit is known on the west side of the country as the 'continental divide'.

The upcoming rivers will not eventually flow into the Mississippi and therefore into the gulf of Mexico; but rather into the Pacific ocean. And that's another confirmation that I am now right in the middle of the Rocky mountains.

* From a biking point of view, the average steepness is less than 2% which is not that big of deal. As the road goes up and sometimes also down, the steepness is a little greater but never gets into the 10%. It's just a long way up.
* There were some road work as almost reached the top and the procedure is that bikes should be carried in the pilot car that directs traffic from one end to the other of the works. Still I managed to avoid the pilot car and rode to the top; even hide a little in the woods where the Wind river springs. Yet for the second portion of road work, down-hill, I had to load my bike and trailer in the pick-up. I wasn't happy at all and gave the poor lady driving the car a hard time about biking, freedom, lawyers, responsibility... Oops, sorry.
* On the way down, I met with Bruce and Ryan Pesch, father and son, riding up to the continental divide. Exchanged info. And they made it to Lander that same day... with the wind!

Thursday, July 16


Yep, I was speechless when I reached Dubois, Wyoming; stoned by the magnificient sceneries of Wyoming as I rode along this long river, getting into the mountains up to that winter sport little town?

Or rather stoned by the front wind I rode against for more than 35 mi (50 km)? No surprise that they called this river 'Wind river'.

Wednesday, July 15

Into the wide open

It was chilly this morning, at around 5:30, when I hit the road. Slowly but surely, the altitude is rising as the road takes me towards the Rocky montains. Wyoming offers wide spaces of prairies hardly bounded by the horizon. A dirt road crossing, some cows or horses in the fields, a ranch in the distance or few hills are most of the entertainement you get on the road.

Yet today, I knew that I was heading for long day on the road as the map showed just few towns on the way to the next important one, Riverton, some 120 miles away.

Still I had planned to stop in Powder River to take my breakfast: it seemed big enough on the map to host at least a gas station. After riding some 35 miles (50 km) it felt like reaching an oasis when I spotted the sign of a gas station in the distance. When I got there, a paper on the door read 'out of business': the next gas station is 20 mi ahead...

Eventually I found some kind of a breakfast in a small shop headed by an old lady 10 miles further. There was nothing there other than that and bunch of rusting cars. I made it to Riverton having crossed just 3 towns with at least one shop open in 133 mi (213 km).

Although the road runs through the open wide, it offers great scenery such as this canyon, Hells Half Acre,

or just past Boysen State Park,

And I bet that in the winter time, when the immensity is covered with snow and blown by the wind, there are even less tourists and crazy bike riders around. I guess inhabitants develop a sense of belonging to this infinite land of Wyoming which also translates into this humoristic sticker:

Tuesday, July 14

Off the road trip

I was so enthousiastic about last days landscapes and encounters that I kind of forgot to take a real rest. I started to pay it on Monday; and the upcoming days are quite challenging: so Bastille day is the occasion for a holiday off the road in Casper, WY and to take a deeper look at the city.

There's this exhibition of Jorge Santos at the Nicolaysen Art Museum. Here is 'road trip with pets' for instance:

"Animals take control" mentions the museum flyer. Hum?

Monday, July 13

It feels like a truck driver

I mean a real truck driver; not a wannabe truck like...

... but a truck with a real trailer, such as this one!

I have acquired some experience now riding my single wheel trailer behind my bike and it's not always that simple to handle. Generally speaking, it's nice, easy, fun. Yet in some situations, it may get a little tricky.

On the trailer, it says that the limit speed is 40 km/h. Of course, you soon want to test this limit and I did it just once, the first day. As you go fast with a heavy cargo, breaking can become quite tricky. And somehow going down steep roads becomes as complicated as going up. I would even recommend having disk brakes to enhance braking with the trailer (I don't have such brakes).

I especially feel like a truck driver when I am trying to park my bike and trailer. Try to ride backwards for a few meters and you suddenly realize the skills of a truck driver.

Say you are in the middle of the countryside and you have a sudden urge to admire the landscape while wistling. You can not just let your tricycle on the ground as you may do with a simple bike: all wheels are in line and you need to find something to hold it against which may delay your wistling for a while.

In the wind, especially side wind, the trailer gets also somewhat delicate to handle, amplifying the push that you already get on the bike itself. Sometimes, you get this side wind effect from heavy trucks running past you and it happened a few times that it pushes me out of the road onto the shoulder.

Yet the best thing with this little black and yellow trailer on one wheel is that everyone likes it. Some people driving stop to discuss it. And you can even carry some personal items with it.

More tips:
* Have disk brakes
* Wear a stronger tire on the rear wheel of the bike as it handles the weight of the biker, the weight of the trailer as well as propels the whole tricycle. I currently use (which seems to be a good combination):
- front wheel: Bontrager road warrior select slick, 26 x 1.25
- rear wheel: Michelin city, 26 x 1.4
* Get a spare tube also for the trailer; you can also get flat tire with it.