A new month - and with it 1,000 miles on the clock. It looks like I might even hit the 5,000 mark by the time I reach Charleston, what with all the wiggling and wrong turns. My bike is purring along after its Boise oil-change and although I could do with one too, this old bod of mine is faring well under the rigors of mileage, heat and hamburgers. Of course I'm tired by the end of each day, my bum is sore and my feet are throbbing; but I have no serious maladies or even niggles. The only changes are the colour of my skin, particularly on my right side and my nose; a slight numbness in my right hand after serious mileage; thickened skin on my right palm (the left hand is fine in both respects) and the unmentionable developments at the base of my scrotum, Mmm, nice! More to the point I'm happy on the road, fascinated by the landscape and people, taking plenty of pictures and really enjoying writing this blog.
Nancy had put a scrap of paper with this 'Old Irish Blessing' in with my lunch :
May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind always be at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand
It warmed my heart and it will be pinned to my noticeboard when I get home. However, what does that first line even mean? The wind was actually in my face for once and yet that was a blessing as I think today was hotter still than yesterday. Clyde had given me directions, which took me past the ugly sand dune mountains (it was hard for me to imagine them covered in snow in three months time and Nancy & Clyde skiing down them) past the Idaho State Correctional Facility and the Boise Gun Club. Phoned the Police Department, as it was necessary to ride on the shoulder of Interstate 84 (this is completely legal, at least out of urban areas, yet Clyde had said it would be a good idea as drivers would be likely to phone the police, worried by my presence). Like everyone else the policewoman I spoke to was very friendly, she answered the phone by saying her name and was interested in my challenge. The Interstate wasn't that scary as the shoulder was wide, but it was a miserable experience none the less, particularly in this heat and terrain. There was no shade at all anywhere, and I had to pull off at a service station just so that I could take a breather in a cool environment. There was noting after that for 15 miles and then a bridge performed well as a parasol. The only pleasure to be had on such a road is in gazing up at the trucks, for they are magnificent beasts, with their old fashioned curves and their jelly bean liveries. It is the pick-up trucks I like best though and when I get home I'm going to have a shiny new one delivered to my front door, even though I have no need to drive anywhere or to pick-up anything. Mainly I want it for shoving a ratty old dog in the back and driving around with it barking at cyclists for their sheer audacity of being on the road.
Came off the juggernaut express at Mountain Home, where I asked an old lady with a bandaged neck for directions to the library. She was very entertaining and told me all about the places she'd been to in Scotland. She also told me about her lace-making and I asked her to explain what lace was. “It's holes with patterns around them,” she said. She kept on going off at tangents when describing where the library was and I couldn't follow her. I found it by and by and sat at a table in the midst of well-behaved, beautifully turned out children. I couldn't get the wi fi to work though and neither did the Ethernet cable that the assistant lent me. So, I bought a glass of milk at Moxie's Java, so as to upload this blog. I asked three people for directions to the town of Hammet, for Interstate-avoiding purposes. None of them had even heard of the place. My maps aren't up to the job either, as the person who designed the Idaho map decided in his or her infinite wisdom to delineate the major roads AND the county boundaries in the same thickness of line and almost the same colour. The map-book of the whole country I brought with me is often inadequate with its scale of 25 miles to one inch. Then a lady did help me and told me it was beautiful country that way. Beautiful country? It was just the same flat, sagebrush land as anywhere else. Occasionally I would happen upon an irrigated field, like an emerald set into a base metal. Then I would stop, as the air was cooled by the spurting water, and also humid, reminiscent of my homeland.
Then at about 5.30, from having a dull and irritating day, it turned into an inspiring dusk. It cooled down for one thing and with the lowering sun transformed these insignificant weeds and bushes, and I took many photos, entranced by their subtle, pastel shades and feverish forms. For the last few days I have been struggling with why these great open spaces have no soul. Then - as I entered the wide valley of the slow-moving Snake River, along whose side I was now travelling on Old Highway 30, parallel to the Interstate and a railroad - a freight train a mile long lumbering by, its proud horn bringing the valley to life. I was moved by this power, this potent strength and how such trains have shouldered the building blocks of America. (I don't get such a sense of drama, of scale, of grandeur, on British soil.) This then is the Romance I'd been searching for. Whereas Scotland's mystique and mythology (as well as England's to a degree) is embedded in the nuances of its brooding landscape; here I found myself in awe of Man's achievements.
Tonight's destination was Glenns Ferry, for no other reason than it being halfway between Boise and Twin Falls. There really is nothing else to say about this typical small town. Checked into the first motel I saw (big mistake) and as the old lady at reception gave me the rundown, all I could think about was how she must get through a lot of eyebrow pencils. With a name like The Redford you would expect it to be a handsome place, when in fact the room was the nastiest I've ever stayed in. Tiny and smelly; it had a dripping shower, bare brick walls painted white like a prison cell, a hideous brown carpet, faded floral bedspread and no pictures or decoration of any kind. Straight out to the 'Oregon Trail' restaurant, where, yes, I sampled another burger, but they only had bland, bottled beers. Back in the prison cell I learned that Obama has nudged ahead in the polls and that there are a great many freight trains passing through Glenns Ferry into the night and all of them sound their horns over and over again. The Romance was beginning to wear off...