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Heading Back to Seattle

I realized the other night that I've spent less than three weeks in my Seattle home since I left for the winter on December 20th of last year!  Now here we are midway through July, and I'm headed back there. It's a weird feeling when I think about it. I've never spent that long away from home before. I feel at home in Palm Springs, and in Salt Lake, as well as on the road -- in addition to the "home" in Seattle. Its said that "home" is wherever you are, so in my case I suppose that's the Holiday Inn Express in Nampa, Idaho. However it doesn't "feel" like home.

I left Salt Lake early Wednesday morning. Mom and Ron weren't awake when I got up to have a bite to eat and load up the bike, but they were when I was ready to go. It's not easy leaving, and Mom doesn't make it any easier with her sad look and a text later in the day saying "Sad you left and missing you". I miss her and Ron as well. It was quite nice when I left Salt Lake -- perfect riding weather with temperatures in the 70s and sunshine. There was some residual morning rush hour traffic as I worked my way North out of the Wasatch Front metro area, and it had cooled down considerably by the time I took my first pit stop of the day in Corrine, Utah, 80 miles North. I pulled into the only gas station in town to fill up for the drive across the vast empty NW quadrant of Utah. The place was crawling with ranch hands getting coffee and donuts from a clerk who looked like Lulu Roman from the old Hee Haw show. In a very Southern drawl she asked where I was headed, and I told her Boise, but on the back roads. "Why?" she asked, "the Interstate is so much quicker". "Yes it is," I told her, "but it's also quite miserable on a bike."

Heading West out of Corrine, the road gets quite desolate very quick. The only thing out this way is the road to the Golden Spike monument where the first transcontinental railway was completed, and the huge complex of rocket engine testing sites where the Space Shuttle solid rocket boosters were built as well as the engines for the Apollo missions. The things tended to explode during the development and testing and construction phase so they had to put the facility somewhat close to a population but far enough away that they wouldn't be hurt in a catastrophic explosion. This place certainly fits the bill.
I could see some morning thunderstorms off in the distance, and they became very black and very dark as I rode further North and West. Fortunately I stayed pretty much dry, although the wind carried the rain towards me and I got sprinkled on. Where the highway merged with I-84 I pulled off and parked at the underpass to put on a hoodie as the rain had also dropped the temperature. The freeway was wet since the storm had passed over, and all of Utah is remarkably green for this time of year as it has been unusually wet and cool for most of the summer. This made things smell quite nice on the short, very quick at 80mph ride up to Snowville, where I exited off again for another back road up into Idaho.

About this time my i-Pod played an old Johnny Rodriguez song where the lyric says "this old highway seems so lonesome when you're going where you've been, and a lonesome song can make you cry, time and time again..." I have driven and ridden this route many times -- most recently back in August of last year when I came to SLC for Mom's birthday. The song is right. The desolation of the West, the weather, my Mom saying she missed me, and headed back to Seattle which is now kind of a strange place, all had me feeling kind of blue the rest of the day.

I stayed off the Interstate for all but about 20 miles in Idaho, the route taking me over the mountains and through a number of small towns, like Albion, and Buhl, and Burley and Bliss. It's rodeo season in the West and I would see young girls practicing their riding and barrel racing from time to time, and all the small towns would advertise their summer rodeos on banners across the main street. This tradition of the West seems to be alive still and I'm glad.

I stopped for lunch outside of Twin Falls, and I got a text from my best friend Dave whom I just spent a weekend with. Over the weekend we learned his mother had cancer and they were doing surgery today. His text said they found she was riddled with cancer and couldn't do anything, so they just sewed her up. He said "Hopefully she'll have a few months for goodbyes."  What can one say to news like that other than "I'm so sorry". It's going to be tough on Dave and his siblings and it seem so unfair.
Where the road comes down into Burley it meets up with the Snake River. Its here I realize that I'm really headed home. The Snake runs through Idaho and meets up with the Columbia in Washington and rolls out to the Pacific. The Snake and the Columbia are the lifeblood of the Northwest -- this water I was following now would eventually take me all the way back to Washington and home, whereas the water in Utah either stays that way, going to the Great Salt Lake, or to the Colorado and down into California where I have been.

The final 150 miles up to Boise were along the river, far away from I-84 and all the traffic. It was quiet, like my thoughts of my Mom, and of Dave's Mom and of how long I've been away from home. The weather was nice, but it did finally warm up to the upper 80s by the time I got to my hotel on the outskirts of Boise. I called my step sister to see about getting together and she reminded me that home is wherever I am. However this hotel doesn't feel like home. In fact I'm not entirely sure where feels like home at the moment. When I'm in Seattle I miss my family in Salt Lake and my friends in Palm Springs. When I'm in Salt Lake and Palm Springs I miss my friends in Seattle. When I'm on the road at least I get to look forward to wherever I'm going. Maybe that's why the road feels like home.

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