Idaho Falls to Fairfield: 160 miles across the Arco desert

I did it in a day. And what a hellish, grueling, windy day it was. At least while I was on my bike, which amounted to 8 hours in the saddle. (my longest day on the trip)

I left Idaho Falls at 6:30 AM and set off to Arco where I was planning on camping at nearby Craters of the Moon. And it was windy. I mean this was soul-crushing, face-chapping, make you want to get hit by a truck and die wind. I was about 35 miles from Arco, right next to the INL nuclear sites, when I stopped for a drink of water. I had to stop because if I tried to drink while riding, the wind would either almost knock me over or blow the water into my throat. Either way, it made me choke. While I was drinking, a pickup pulled up next to me, the window came down, and an old lady leaned over and said, “You look like you could use a ride.”. We got my stuff in the back of the truck and we sang Merle Haggard and Gene Autry songs as she drove me up to Arco.
After she dropped me off, I stopped and got some lunch then headed on towards Craters of the Moon. As I was leaving town my chain skipped a little. I switched gears and didn’t think much of it. Then about five miles later it happened again. I switched gears again. Then again. Then again, until I had tried every gear combination. It got so bad that on every pedal my chain would skip. I was now about 10 miles out of town. There was nothing else to do, so I stuck out my thumb. Finally, after I had decided I may as well start walking my bike across Idaho, a truck stopped. We tossed my gear in the back and threw my bike on his rack and drove away, past Craters of the Moon.
Jason is a larper from Iowa who was on his way to some big fight in Hailey, ID when he picked me up. As we drove, we swapped talked about making chain mail and swords.

We got to Hailey around 4:30 and I went straight over to the bike store to beg some chain lube. They cleaned up my bike, lubed my chain, and at 5:00 they sent me on my way. They told me about a good camping spot just about 20 miles down the road, and a bike trail that would take me almost all the way there. As I was riding, the main roadkill I saw was coyotes. I knew that if I camped, coyotes would immediately come tearing through the thin nylon of my tent and rip my body to shreds. Or worse, they’d smell my food and tear apart my panniers. So I pushed on another 45 miles to Fairfield where I was going to stay the following night with Randy, a warmshowers host. We talked on the phone, and he said it was fine if I came in a day early. I finally got in at 10 and stopped on the edge of town to try to get something to eat, either at the store (closed) or at the hotel’s vending machine (didn’t exist). Some people staying at the hotel came over to me and gave me bananas and coffee cake and water! Then Randy met me at the hotel and led me back to his guest house where I ate for the rest of the night until I passed out.

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3 thoughts on “Idaho Falls to Fairfield: 160 miles across the Arco desert

  1. Your trip has been great to follow Mike. Congratulations. If nothing else, your “wind” stories are a reminder to bike from west to east.

  2. “I knew that if I camped, coyotes would immediately come tearing through the thin nylon of my tent and rip my body to shreds. Or worse, they’d smell my food and tear apart my panniers.”

    panniers with food > self

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