The three days I spent resting and visiting with family and friends in Salt Lake were quite nice, although I did manage to come down with a 24 hour bug of some sort yesterday that had me worried about getting back on the road. After much Imodium D, purging, and Gatoraid, toast and lots of rest, I was able to leave this morning. The weather is showing clear, sunny and hot all the way to just before Seattle, and I was not looking forward to the long hot slog up I-84 which is the only way to get out of Utah and into Idaho. I wore just a t-shirt, but it was actually cool enough that not more than a mile from my Mom's house I stopped and put on the light leather jacket and wore it all day.I spent the morning on the Interstate system, I-15 North through Salt Lake, up past Ogden, and then West on I-84. If I wanted to I could stay on this almost all the way to Washington and I'd be home tomorrow, but I won't. The Interstate is not my idea of a road trip -- but unfortunately, like across Wyoming, there's no real alternative here. But truth be told, the trip today wasn't all that bad. Throughout the West, the Interstate has killed the old roads, quite literally, by being built on top of them. It's fairly boring on the Interstate, even in scenic parts of the West. You spend time watching the trucks go by, or passing the long string of a triple-trailer rigs that are allowed in parts of the West. Sometimes you count the numbers of trucks from the major carriers -- Knight Transportation, CR England, Swift. Then there's the U-hauls -- people moving their lives across country, to start something new, or run away from something old. And the RV'ers -- folks in their Winnebagos, carrying their lives from place to place, and often dragging a car. Getting away from it all but managing to take it all with them. Everyone's heading the same direction, monotonously moving along, almost hypnotic in a way. And every now and then everyone has to make a pit stop along the artery of the Interstate to fill up one tank or drain another.My first pit stop was in Snowville, UT, a small town about 8 miles before the Idaho state line, and almost in the middle of nowhere. It's essentially a truck stop town, with a large "Flying J". The "Flying J" chain is all over the West, and an essential part of keeping the stream of commerce moving on the Interstate system. They cater to the endless number of trucks and other travelers that ply the Interstate day and night. Truckers and Moms in mini-vans mingling over the bins of DVD's and old Country and Western Cassettes and CDs. I gassed up, used the restroom, had a bottle of water, and then merged myself back onto the Interstate. Smelling the sagebrush and alfalfa fields and the miles and miles of empty space that is this part of the Intermountain West.
Fortunately I was able to bail off for a short little dog-leg of the old road, US-30. Just like in Wyoming, for some reason Idaho has left a portion of the old road, as it winds through small towns along the Snake River, while the Interstate takes a big loop in a Northeasterly direction away from all the towns. And surprisingly, the Interstate hasn't killed them.
After spending four hours on the Interstate, the contrast along the old road is immediate and overwhelming. I'm not rushing along at 75 mph. The bike and wind noise isn't deafening. I'm not battling wind vortexes from trucks. But more important, I am once again part of the world -- not drifting along like a leaf floating on the water. The old road is slower, easy, relaxed. I'm part of the world -- I can smell things like the water of the Snake River, the fresh cut hay, the manure being used as fertilizer, the smell of Idaho's "famous" potatoes cooking in the processing plants. I can see things up close, like the watering systems used by the farmers, and feel the coolness their mists generate riding past. And the giant wheels and maw of a farm combine, or the huge wind turbines turning in the west breeze generating electricity dwarfing me on the bike as I ride past.
But alas, this ninety minute sojourn on the old highway comes to an end. Ironically in a town named Bliss, Idaho. This is hardly my idea of bliss, but I have no choice between here and Boise. The old road just ends, and just like in Wyoming, turns into a freeway onramp and up onto I-84 I go. Again, I'm reminded of the stark contrast between the old road and the new -- between the slow and the fast, between making good time and having a good time.
One can't even hold the camera still as I count down the miles to Boise and my home for the evening. The only thing to attract the senses is a distant Union Pacific grain train heading northwest to Portland and Seattle. Just like me.