Nate made up oatmeal with maple syrup, along with coffee and we pored over their newspaper, The Times & Star, which had articles written by both of them (Melissa has retained her maiden name for journalistic reasons). We talked about crime; how a drug addict with debts had been rolled onto someone's lawn, dead in a barrel and how the NRA (National Rifle Association) has so much clout that even Obama won't speak out against gun ownership. Furthermore, how a sheriff who is in charge of the police department in a nearby county also runs state prisons in a business capacity. Conflict of interests? Surely not. They've had quite a few travellers stay with them, including a guy who was cycling from north of Seattle to the southern tip of Florida (the furthest distance across the US) who only camped or stayed with Couchsurfers the whole way AND raised a lot of money for charity. What did he want? A sainthood?
Wore a shorter-sleeved T shirt than of late, revealing pale pink bands as if I had a slip underneath. Rode back into the town centre, where Oktoberfest (which seems to be more of a Hallowe'en themed market than a beer festival) was in full swing and couldn't find a grocery store. Silly me, I should have known they would all be located at least a mile out of town. At last! I was saved from the twin perils of spice drops and jelly beans, for they had Bassett's Licorice Allsorts! When it comes to choosing sandwiches, I'm now looking for the one with the least filling. Cloudy again - I think maybe rain is on the way – and a nice smell in the farmland, like freshly baked bread. Mostly potato country round here I think, and this is the crop Idaho is famous for. Farms are like factories in scale and with all the machinery. I saw one vehicle with mechanical arms that flipped over the cabin, picked up bales of hay and tossed them on to its back. The sky darkened, spat for about two minutes, then the sun came out. While I was in the library in Burley, who should walk in, but Melissa, and we had a chat about American-Japanese relations, as you do.
Then it was goodbye once again to Melissa and also to Highway 30, as I turned right on to Highway 81 and towards mountains looming large out of the flat lands, prettily lit by the teatime sun. At Delco it was necessary to make a turn and I realised the road was heading straight for those mountains, looming larger by the minute. This pass was the nastiest climb I have encountered so far, even though it was only a couple of miles, as there were no trees to hide the view, not many twists either and the wind was blowing hard in my face the whole way up. On the top (which didn't have an altitude sign, but it was over 6,000 feet) there were tilled fields! Over the other side I came to the quiet, unspoilt town of Albion, where I stayed at the Marsh Creek Inn, a superior motel, reflected in the $63 tariff. I arrived at the same time as a female patron who asked me where I was from. In Britain women have initiated conversation with me several times in my entire life; here they do it all the time. We spoke briefly about what we were doing here, when she mentioned teaching women to ride mountain bikes this weekend, then disappeared into our separate rooms. I washed and changed, then came out to ride to a restaurant. She had left a note in my helmet! It read :
“My family and I went to to the park – then will walk up to Sage Mountain Grill for dinner if you want to join us. Tracy (the mountain bike lady).”
Again it was surprising to me that a woman should invite me to dinner with her - and a husband who I hadn't met and who might have liked to be consulted. I was going to the other restaurant in town, but changed my plans instantly. There was Tracy, a physiotherapist, with her husband Michael, who had something to do with public health, and their young daughter, Alyssa. I had burger and fries of course, along with a couple of pints of Sierra Nevada. Michael had a salad and when he tried to take fries off Alyssa's plate, she said, “You have to ask for permission.” They lived in Twin Falls, knew Melissa & Nate indirectly and had read a piece by Melissa on Couchsurfing recently. Michael said, “Oh, you're the Scrabble guy.” They were both boring old Democrats again. Apparently you vote for the president here directly, as well as governor and senator for your own state. I need to see the rule book about this and so many other things. Michael had built his own two-seater aeroplane, flown it everywhere in the country, where it's free to land in such planes at most airports. They wouldn't let me contribute towards the bill, especially after I'd told them about my Couchsurfing experiences. Mental note : try to drop this subject into conversations. I really wanted a milkshake like Alyssa's, but thought I'd better not. I asked Alyssa if I could taste hers and she bellowed “No!” She hadn't said a word to me until that point and every time I had tried to engage her, she would dissolve into her mother's body.
After I was safely back in my nice, cosy room, the rain came down good and proper all night long - and continued the next next day as well. On my way to breakfast Michael called to me from the outdoor hot-tub, in which he was sitting with Alyssa. Carrot, banana and zucchini (to name but a few) muffins and coffee were being served in the foyer and what with the weather I lingered here, chatting to Michael and also to another lady, Rebecca, a food stylist from Boise, who told me about her involvement in “farm to table” events, where people stay in a nice place and cook produce made on their doorstep.