Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Potato Diaries Wrap-Up

It's taken me a few days to settle back into life and its routine back home, but I wanted to post a bit of a wrap up, or some thoughts about exploring and riding in and around the Boise area. Perhaps it's unnecessary, but I had some things that kept repeating in mind throughout the trip and some that occurred to me after returning home, and so, here we are with a bit of a final post in reference to the trip to Idaho.

•  Like many cities (both large and small), the available trail systems in Nampa and Boise had both highs and lows. There were some things I preferred about riding the Idaho systems and others that I think Colorado has done a better job creating and making user-friendly. Of course, from city to city in any state, this can vary so wildly.

•  We (just generally as humans) need to chill out a bit. During my 10 days in Idaho, I heard only two car horns directed at another person - and both were toward the end of the trip. In comparison, I hear horns blaring daily here at home. Maybe some deep breathing exercises are in order for some (most?) of us.
•  The Boise River Greenbelt/MUP is pretty incredible, especially given the relatively small size of the city. I think I could've spent days exploring and riding areas just off the greenway and still not have seen everything.

•  Not only is the river trail system really great, but there are so many other areas to explore by bicycle in the hills that back the city, as well as other paths around the area. There seems to be an opportunity for both city riders and off-road riders in this area.

•  I (and apparently some others) have lazy speech habits. Most of the people I encountered or heard say the city name pronounce it BOY-see, whereas I find myself saying BOY-zee (with a soft "z" sound). Some made a particular point to emphasize the "sss" sound, so I picked up on this very quickly and will try to be better with pronunciation in the future (though I've read since being home again that this is often the way locals tell the difference between "outsiders" and those who have lived there for some time).

•  For anyone who thinks the cost of education isn't increasing, when I was ready to enroll at Boise State University several years ago, the cost for a semester of undergrad would've been $982. It was one of the reasons I was looking at going to school in Boise. For the current school year, one semester of BSU tuition is $4,107. It's been about 23-24 years since I was looking to enroll there after finishing up my general ed requirements elsewhere, but that seems like a significant jump in cost (though admittedly, still quite lower than many other universities).

•  Since I'm experiencing 90's-versus-today thoughts, the city looks nothing like I remember it from my visit years ago. I remember the locals being very excited about the mall that had just been built during my visit then and having them insist upon us visiting it. The city felt quite small to me then, but it has definitely grown and expanded. Of course, the population has increased too. Though I think it remains a very easy-to-navigate city with a relatively low population.

•  There is good and not-so-good just about everywhere. It can become easy to romanticize a particular city, but I think many places are trying to balance out positives and negatives; and, what is a positive to one person may be the exact opposite to another.
•  When I visit other cities, I find myself wondering what it would be like to live there, so I tend to seek out the areas where I'd want to be if I did live in that particular city. I could see myself living in Boise, I think, but I suppose that is true of many other cities too. I personally liked the size of Boise - neither too large nor too small. It doesn't hurt that I'd have relatives living nearby either.

•  When I returned home to Colorado, the first thing I thought was, "Man, everything is so green here! Did that happen in the brief time I was gone?" There was a lot more dry/dead scenery during my Idaho visit than I expected, and I think it warped my senses just a bit to the point that anything green really stood out. Anything close to the river was green, but outside of the city, unless the area was being purposefully watered, there wasn't much green to see.

•  I am incredibly spoiled to have pretty decent roads to ride in Colorado, especially many with, at minimum, wider shoulders, if not bike lanes to utilize. I definitely take them for granted, and while there is still much room for improvement here, I am reminding myself now to be more grateful for my surroundings and the paths and roads I have to ride.

•  If you get a chance to ride in Boise, I'd recommend riding on Harrison Blvd (it's a tree-lined street with turn-of-the-century houses that stretches about 1/2 a mile long), Bogus Basin Rd (Harrison Blvd turns in to Bogus Basin on the north side of town. There is a bike lane for the first couple of miles, but then it gets a little tricky riding with the cars, but the views looking back down into Boise -- even if you only ride up a mile or so - are spectacular), and definitely take the time to check out the River Greenbelt.

Overall, I had a fantastic trip that afforded me an opportunity to explore the area with few interruptions, and both on foot and two-wheels. I'm sure I will be heading back at some point, and I look forward to discovering new treasures then. Until that time, I'm thankful for what is available to me locally and look forward to riding through some lovely (albeit warm) days here in Colorado.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Potato Diaries, Days 5-7: Connecting Loose Ends and Finally Riding in Boise

I've ended up combining days five through seven together here. I just couldn't get to posting and I've had some issues with connectivity on the computer, so it is what it is. But, here we are now. Three days, smashed together. If you've missed out on the prior posts, Day 1 is here, Day 2 is here, Day 3 is here and Day 4 can be found here.

Day Five:

I keep saying that I have plans to get to Boise to ride, and it just never seems to happen. For one reason or another, there's always an excuse not to get there. Now, time is slipping away and I don't want to miss out on riding in the actual city before I'm gone. Not that I can't or won't return, but it would be nice to actually ride there during this trip.

Yesterday, I was supposed to go into Boise to ride. That didn't happen. The day just got away from me and it was one of those when an hour feels like a minute. Those days are rough because nothing seems to get accomplished. Since things were moving a bit fast, I decided to go back and further explore the Nampa greenway system to try to make some sense of it.

An earlier post highlighted the fact that the map I received shows not only the path that is currently constructed, but also future plans for the greenway. I wanted to see how well the current version works and if the actual greenway is less confusing than the map makes it seem.

The plan was to ride from one side of the city to the other, hopefully only using the greenway, but that didn't quite work out. From the southeast side of the city to the northwest side, there are several locations that drop off suddenly. One of the connections uses surface streets, but the main artery is actually on a very busy road (it's a highway that turns into a street in the city, and spans five lanes through town) and users really find themselves sticking to the sidewalk unless they want to take a pretty great risk of getting hit on the road (I did see one person doing this, so it's not impossible). There are several cars pulling out of parking lots too, so riding on the sidewalk is probably just as potentially dangerous.
One part of the Nampa trail system. The dotted lines indicate future pathways, but unfortunately the map doesn't seem to be entirely accurate and it also leaves riders and walkers in random places without directions in certain spots.
As I was trying to calculate where to go (the signs are somewhat usable, but seem to be placed in areas that make it a little difficult to find them in some spots), I was pedaling on the road and saw a woman in front of me who looked vaguely familiar, but I passed it off as a coincidence. This happens often when I travel. I frequently see people who look like other people I know, so I tend to not make much of these situations.

As we came closer together the woman smiled and said, "Hey! Dog lady!" Realizing that she recognized me too, I took a better glance. It was the same woman who had stopped on Day 3 to help find the owner of the loose dogs roaming the street. We had a very brief conversation and off I went, still trying to connect to the next portion of the path. Had I had any sort of awareness, I should've asked the woman I'd just been talking to, but that hadn't occurred to me in the moment.

Eventually, I found a path again - whether it was what I was looking for or not, I'm still not entirely certain. But, then I was soon back on roads again as it just dumped me in the middle of nothing. I ended up riding the streets for awhile and then heading back to the house.

Ultimately, there are several sections of the Nampa trail that seem to drop off into nothingness. It's unfortunate because it seems like a great way to actually get through this area, but at the present time, it appears to have limitations for usability throughout different parts of the city.

Day 6:

The plan (as had been the plan for several days to this point) was to get the dogs worn out early so that I could go and ride in Boise. I took an extra amount of time to ensure that they would be nice and tired so that leaving them for a few hours wouldn't be a huge deal. Unfortunately, my plan seemed to backfire and when we returned from what should've been an exhausting walk for the dogs, they seemed to have more energy than before we left. Ugh. My plan to shape up these two little pups was definitely working against me.

Instead, I took the dogs with me to Boise and figured we could walk the greenway together and get an idea of what it's like. Plus, I figured if it didn't seem like a good place to ride, I could always choose another spot when I came back without them.

The timing of our arrival could not have been worse though. We arrived to the greenway just about the time everyone was going to lunch, so there were walker, joggers and cyclists everywhere. On one hand I thought this was so fantastic. To have such a great space that so many people want to use is truly wonderful; however, I had three dogs pulling in three different directions and people trying to pass us, especially those on bicycles, weren't too happy with attempting to avoid running over the dogs.
Boise Green Bike docking station on the greenway. What a perfect place to have these for visitors and locals alike!
I noticed right away that Boise's bike share has a dock on the greenway (and several others as well). If only I could've thrown the three dogs on the bike with me, things would've been so much easier!
It's so cool to see a large river running right through a city. I know there are other cities with large rivers, but it's been awhile since I've experienced something like this firsthand.
There was so much green all around. This had been what I remembered of Boise from years ago, so it was exciting to see that the green still very much remains. Green and more green was definitely the theme. That and people. Lots and lots of people.
The Boise Greenbelt path ... and a Golden Retriever who just couldn't resist staying out of my photo. I took advantage of the brief moment when there weren't people passing in every direction.
The pathway itself is really nice too. There are spots that are in need of some repair, but I think that's a typical find on most MUP's of any significant length. Overall, it seemed to be in pretty decent shape and the fact that there are so many outlets to get users to various destinations around the city is truly fantastic.

Although I really wanted to explore the path more on foot, the dogs were being particularly bad, so I knew that the trip was going to get wrapped up quickly, unfortunately. We said our goodbye to Boise and headed away from all the people and the green.

Day 7:

A week in, and I was pretty convinced that riding in Boise just wasn't going to happen. The universe seemed to be working against me. Today, it was supposed to rain, so that didn't bode well. I don't mind riding in the rain, but it's also been quite windy, so I wasn't sure if I wanted to venture out into that sort of weather. Still, I was determined, so I went to work wearing out the pups and then prepared to get on my way to Boise to ride -- finally.

I got all that I would need together and went to grab the bike. I figured I should probably check the air pressure in the tires (since I hadn't checked it on any of the other rides), but when I went to attach the nozzle, I realized the front tire was completely flat.

Dammit, I thought. The old me would've freaked out and decided it was a bad omen and skipped the ride, but new me decided that this wasn't a big deal (because it isn't) and at least it happened at home so that I could take my time and not have to worry about it on the side of the road. Still, I have pretty puncture proof tires, so the fact that I got a flat was a little annoying. I can't even remember the last time I had a flat on this bike with these tires.

Deep down, I knew it was a goathead without even looking at the tire. Damn you Idaho and your thorny little spiky weeds. We have them at home too, but they seem to be everywhere here in much greater numbers. As I changed the flat I couldn't help but think that Sam would be so proud. There was a time when I would've been calling him crying about the flat tire and telling him I couldn't deal with it. He would've had to talk me off a ledge and then I would've used it as an excuse to avoid riding.

As it turned out, it was in fact a goathead that had broken off and was poking through just the very smallest amount, but enough to puncture the tube. Like I said, I knew what the issue was without even finding it.
The Boise River
Finally, I was off and headed to Boise. I ended up arriving just about the same time as I had with the dogs the day prior, but it would be far less difficult to maneuver through people on a bike than it was with three dogs at my side (or not at my side as the case was). 

My plan was to ride a good portion of the greenway and then head off around the city and possibly up into the foothills. It was probably a little ambitious, but I really wanted to see as much as possible of the city while I was there.
Cottonwood fluff -- This was not even close to the worst of it, but I took this picture while I was stopped so that there would be some kind of photo reference.
The first thing I noticed were the enormous number of Cottonwood trees. We have these at home as well and when they are blooming it is one of the most horrible things to deal with for allergy sufferers. Plumes of white fluff littered the pathway and air. My eyes and throat were definitely feeling it.

Nothing would deter me from my ride today though. Not allergies, nor rain or wind, or flat tires.

Remember that lovely Boise bikeway map I'd picked up a few days earlier? That map that was going to see me all around the city and help me out if I happened to get lost? Yep. I left it sitting on the counter at the house. So, I was on my own and knew I'd have to figure out how to connect to places using whatever was available on the trail system.
Different types of river and pond-use items can be rented in this spot.
This greenway in Boise is really a treat to ride. There are so many things going on in various areas and I should've taken far more photos than I did, but you'll just have to take my word for it that it's not only beautiful, but a great spot for all ages to use and hang out. There are different little pond areas, beach areas, spots where people kayak and use stand up paddleboards. People fishing, swimming, using rafts or other flotation devices were all over too. There is even a little shop that rents different river-use products and a place to grab a bite to eat. Frankly, I couldn't help but be a bit jealous that there are so many possibilities in such a central location in the city. 
People were "surfing" in this area of the river
Tried to get a photo of one of the surfers, but he was a bit too far away for a decent picture
When I passed one area of the river, I noticed a lovely area where people were "surfing" in the river. Who would've thought? I guess when you want to surf and you're not on a coast, you make things work.

Another really cool feature of the greenway were signs that directed people toward various attractions around the city such as art, food, and other things people would want to see or do. The city (or I suppose county, as I've been told the system is taken care of by Ada County) does a great job of making this a very user-friendly system. There were a couple of times when I wasn't entirely sure what direction to go, but it also didn't matter as I really just wanted to explore the area.
As I continued to ride, things got a little more quiet. I wasn't seeing quite as many people, though there were still walkers, joggers and cyclists to be found. I thought it was extremely pleasant that the majority of the greenway has a lot of trees, so there are few times when there are long stretches of being exposed to the sun.

Continuing on, I wasn't really sure where I was or when the path would end (Note to self: Remember the map next time and you won't have this problem!), but since it was still going, I decided to keep on riding.
I couldn't help but wonder if there were snipers in the bushes, waiting to shoot at me as I rode through this area
Then, things changed. There weren't as many trees and I was exposed much more to the sun. The path was still going though, so I persevered. Signage changed and then became non-existent. Where was I exactly? I hadn't traveled that far. At that point, I was only about 13 miles from my starting point.
The map told the story later - I had wandered into another city.
When I got home later, I would realize that I was almost in Eagle, which is just outside of Boise. Had I continued on about another mile, I would've hit the end of the path, but at that point I was concerned that I needed to get back to the pooches, so I started heading back to the start. I would loved to have had more time to explore. The other side of the river has an entire other stretch of path, and there is a portion that runs farther south-east as well. All told, I believe I read there are approximately 45 miles of pathway to run, walk, and ride. Pretty cool.

Having water next to me for nearly the entire stretch of the ride was really quite a nice feature. At home, there are several cities that have waterways and MUPs that run parallel, but I don't think any are quite like this, even in Denver. Though, the Cherry Creek path is awfully nice and nearly as long, it still can't compare to what is available to users along the Boise River greenway.  Of course, Denver is a completely different city that has built up in a way that made sense for the area.

If I had more time, I would like to have the opportunity to explore Boise more by bike and to ride up to Bogus Basin. I received word that my folks have wrapped up their to-dos and should be home late Friday evening, so I don't know if I'll have that opportunity on this trip -- but, there's always next time. I have one more day to see what I can in this area, so whether it's on foot or bike, I look forward to another day outside.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Potato Diaries, Day Four: Information is Power

Today, I found myself quite tired. There's plenty to do in and around the area I'm staying, but my body is physically tired. I'm not sure if it's just being away from home, the fact that I've been pretty well constantly moving since I arrived last Thursday evening, or if perhaps I'm coming down with some sort of illness, but today my body just wasn't cooperative in the least.

This morning, I awoke feeling as though I hadn't slept, despite having a solid seven hours of rest. I'm not one to give in to the feeling of tiredness regularly, but I was having difficulty getting moving. Taking the dogs for a walk seemed to loosen things up a bit, but I could feel that my body was rejecting movement. I really had wanted to explore Boise today by bike. In reality, I knew that it just wasn't the right day, and so, I decided I would use it instead to get as much information as I could about biking in Boise and the surrounding area.

Several years ago, I purchased my Rivendell Sam Hillborne from one of Rivendell's shop partners. At the time, the shop was called Hyde Park Cycles, but they closed up shop and re-opened in a revamped manner calling themselves Bike Touring News, which is how things stand today. Over the years, I've purchased random parts from the shop online too. From handlebars to bags, they've always been easy to deal with and ship quickly, so when I've needed something, I take a look there to see what's in stock.

As it happens, the physical store is located in Boise, and since my body was rejecting self-powered movement, I thought maybe it would be a good day to stop by the Bike Touring News store and check it out in person.
The view north from outside Bike Touring News. Just to the east of this photo, it looked as though there are some potential trails to investigate.
The shop is located on the north side of the city, right against some dirt climbing that looked interesting. The space for the bike shop is on the small side, but as Ryan shared (the current owner - former owner Jim and Stacy have retired and are happily bike touring, from what I've read), the shop model changed several years ago, making it based more for an online market than a retail, brick and mortar type of store.
Outside Bike Touring News retail establishment (the shop is a bit hidden, but is right behind the tree on the right side of the photo, under the white/yellow striped awning).
I would guess that the retail space is no more than 400 sq ft (possibly even less), but Ryan is making good use of what is available. If one is looking for racks, bags, tires, handlebars, or saddles, there is a decent amount of product to view, especially for a small space. The shop also sells and stocks Surly Bikes, so of course I had fun checking out various models in person. I couldn't help but wonder if Sam would strangle me if I came home with another bicycle. Never fear, Sam, I controlled myself and made no impulse purchases (though there is still time for bicycle indiscretions, I suppose).
Pictured here is about half of the shop space. Certainly, the shop is geared toward dirt riders and tourists, but it also makes a lot of sense, given the location of the shop.
It was quite nice to chat with Ryan, who was forthcoming with the highs and lows of biking in Boise and the area. I found it interesting that the streets of Boise are not owned by the city, but rather by Ada County, which, from the sound of it causes some issues with getting bike lanes and paths integrated into transportation around the city, as those who reside farther out in the county don't see the value in adding biking infrastructure. Ryan did mention that there are some great people who are fighting the fight and attempting to get and keep bike lanes in the city.

As someone who has been riding for the last few days out in slightly more rural areas, Boise roads seem like a paradise by comparison. Most of the roads I saw in the city had bike lanes and/or wider shoulders - nothing remotely close to what I've dealt with farther outside of Boise. I couldn't help but think that if I were going to live in this area, I would definitely want to be in the city so that biking in and around would be more practical. While it is apparent that there is still work to be done, it is a far better situation to deal with than those living a bit farther out in Meridian, Nampa, Caldwell, etc.

As for possible bike routes to investigate, apparently Bogus Basin (a ski resort) is a fun place to ride. I was told that the lift is used to take cyclists up the mountain and then they ride down (As an aside -- Blasphemy! You ride up the mountain first, Idahoans! Then you enjoy the downhill). The resort opens for the summer to cyclists; however, I was told it's typically open only on the weekends. Cyclists are able to ride there any time though, whether or not the lift is operational. I don't know if I'll make it to this spot while here for a couple of reasons - the most important of which is that I own better suited bikes for that type of riding and the one I have with me is probably not ideal - though it might be fun to try and it's not completely ridiculous to consider using it.

There are also about 200 miles of dirt trails to ride in the Boise area, which could make for quite a journey if one desires. I am learning that mountain bikes, touring bikes, and other dirt-type bikes seem to be the most common in the area. Although I have seen a few road bikes out, it's not a terribly common sight. Having ridden some of the roads, I understand why (though, Boise streets do seem better suited to road bikes).
Is it just me, or does the cover of this map seem dated? It was printed a little over a year ago, but it feels older based on the image... but, perhaps that is just my perception - or maybe because it was taken in winter?
While in the shop, I picked up a bike map and was told that it's a little out of date and that some of the suggested cycling routes are actually not the best. I appreciated the heads up, but thought it would be interesting to compare the map of Boise to the one I'd picked up in Nampa a couple of days prior.
Apologies for the poor photo, but I think it illustrates that there are paths to be selected in Boise when riding.
I would say the Boise map is definitely more complete and has more options for bike paths, but I suppose this should be expected from a true city, even if it is among the smaller "big" cities.
The reverse side of the map is full of information too. I particularly took notice of the Idaho Stop Law, of which I was aware but had forgotten about while riding in Idaho, until I saw it again in print. Many cyclists seem to implore this method of "stopping" regardless of location, so I'm surprised more states don't take this on as a legal method for cyclists to proceed through stop signs.

In short, I'm not exactly sure where I'll be exploring in Boise by bicycle, but I have a feeling it will be more street than dirt based for this particular trip. I'm actually considering riding the Boise River greenway system, as it's supposed to have about 30 miles of bikeable pathways. To complicate matters further, I may also be taking the three dogs on a mini-road trip to Montana due to some personal matters that have come up. Nothing like taking a faux-vacation from a faux-vacation. So, there may be a delay in posting about (and riding in) Idaho if that takes place.

I would love to ride into Boise and then explore, but it seems that getting to the city by bicycle from my current location is more than a tad challenging. Not impossible, but also not really practical, particularly given that I have some four-legged friends depending on me to get back in a somewhat reasonable time frame. I have read that there is work being done to attempt to construct a system of trails that would allow users to easily travel through each of the cities and into Boise. It sounds like it could be wonderful if that actually comes to fruition, but for now it's still an idea waiting for action.

**Days 5-7 can be found here.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Potato Diaries, Day Three: On a Mission to Rivendell

As I wrap up day three of wandering in Idaho (if you have interest, day 1's entry is here and day 2's post is here), I'm starting to feel a little more relaxed. Things that were unnerving initially (such as the lack of space to ride next to cars), are less so now. Which isn't to say that the roadways aren't severely lacking, but I think - as with most things in life - we adapt to our surroundings and figure out ways to make it work.

We've done a great deal of walking since arriving (we being myself and the three dogs), and it's taken a toll on my hips, so I knew that today would need to be more activity on wheels than on foot. The dogs were grateful for a break too, though we did take a short walk this morning, just so they didn't feel completely neglected.

As mentioned yesterday, I picked up a map of the Nampa trail/path system and decided that today would be a good day to try to piece together what I could to get to a destination on the other side of the city. The pathway, that I mentioned in an earlier post, runs through my folks neighborhood and has a forking off point about a mile up the path. As it turns out, this direction is well suited to actually connecting to places people want to go.

The bike map leaves something to be desired though. Perhaps my expectations are a little off, but I find that when using a bike map, I want it to be easy to read quickly so that I don't have to spend much time staring at it while riding (or stopped on the side of a road/path somewhere). There seems to be a lot of future MUP information on the map, which at quick glances can be confusing. Though the legend does indicate the differences between currently available paths and planned paths, it's something that takes some time to decipher.

Personally, I think future plans should be left off of maps like these as it can be confusing to users. Perhaps a website notation for people to be able to see where the paths will go in the future would be better, but placing them on the map just causes users to think the path is already there -- especially when, like me, one doesn't bother to look at the legend for differences in path lines.

Anyway, I had a specific destination in mind when leaving on bike this morning. I had noticed a road that was called "Rivendell Court" on an online map and the wheels in my tiny brain started to turn. I couldn't help but find it interesting that I happen to be riding my Rivendell bicycle on this trip, so wouldn't it be fun to get a picture of the Rivendell bicycle on Rivendell Ct? It's the little things that both motivate and amuse me, I suppose.

Since the road is on the opposite side of the city, it seemed a good opportunity to attempt to piece together information from the bike map with roads that would get me to Rivendell.
There is green to be found, despite what I'd initially thought. There are still a lot of dry, tan colors to be seen too, but it seems the green and brown seem to stick to their individual areas.
The pathway is actually quite pleasant, on the whole. It winds around both farm areas and more planned (both newer and older) housing. It's interesting that this city can feel both rural and urban in a span of just a couple of miles, sometimes with the two literally abutting each other. For example, my parents purchased their home in a newer subdivision (less than 10 years old), but as I sit typing, I can see a huge farm and hear donkeys braying and cows mooing right across the street.
There were a ton of cats crawling all around this barn. I'm not sure if they call it home or if they were looking for food in the form of rodents and other critters.
The MUP, at least in sections, is in great shape but is also in need of some massive repairs in others. Like the roadways, it seems to be kind of hit or miss in regard to whether the path section is well maintained or not.

I had kind of an "aha!" moment today when a section of the trail dumped me out about a block from the nearest grocery store. It's great to explore a city by bicycle because I think things like this come together quicker in my mind and connecting roadways seems to become more obvious when riding. I have a pretty decent natural sense of direction, but not knowing a city's particulars, it can still be confusing in the early stages of getting to know it.
It got up to 92F degrees today, so the trees were especially welcomed!
There were breaks in the path that were a little confusing, but nothing that couldn't be figured out fairly easily - at least to the extent that I rode the path today.  When I arrived at a familiar road, I decided it was time to take city streets from that point and try to maneuver my way to Rivendell.
This is the widest shoulder I've come across thus far. The fact that there's any kind of shoulder is a novelty, but to have so much room was exquisite (plus, there was hardly any traffic)! I elected to ride on the cement portion though to give my hands a break from the chipseal for a short amount of time.
As mentioned prior, there are a ton of chipsealed roads here. This surface definitely doesn't do my already troubled hands any favors, and much of the time it feels like riding on miniature cobblestones. I can still feel my teeth chattering now hours after the ride. I was pleasantly surprised though to actually find a road that (although still chipseal) had a wide shoulder to ride in for some distance.

A couple of miles up this road, I happened upon a loose Golden Doodle. He was a massive dog that was galloping across the street. Back and forth he ran, as if he was chasing an invisible friend. As I got closer, there didn't seem to be anyone around who was responsible for this curly haired woofer, but there were several cars speeding up and down the street. Having concern for his safety, I turned around and tried to settle him on one side of the road.

Just as I was stopping, a vehicle pulled up beside and asked if the dog was okay. The people in the car said they would call the number on his tag as I had just spotted a very small, perhaps no more than 6-8 pound, dog on the opposite side of the street. The Doodle's "invisible" friend, I was guessing at this point.

"I assume they belong to the same person," I stated, half as a question, and went to corral the little dog.

When the owner arrived, he didn't seem at all concerned that his two dogs were out roaming the streets alone. I'm never quite sure what to make of these situations. If it was my dog out roaming, I'd hope that someone would call so that I could pick them up, but I think I'd have a bit more concern than this owner did. Oh well. At least they were back where they belong.

I continued on my mission, pedaling up some somewhat steep hills (though nothing in comparison to home in Colorado) and eventually arrived to Rivendell.

"It's real!" I exclaimed aloud, half surprised that Google maps wasn't trying to send me off on a wild goose chase.
It really does exist!!!
I pulled out the phone and snapped a photo of the Rivendell Sam Hillborne on Rivendell Court. The day's work was complete. The ride home was pleasant, though I will say the wind is nearly as bad here as it is at home, so the push against it was a bit of a struggle. Still the time in the saddle was enjoyable and I was happy to have made the short journey to find Rivendell. I had initially planned a longer route, but due to the hip situation and my forgetting to pack some food, the ride was cut shorter than planned.

When I arrived back at the house, I noticed something in the distance of the Rivendell photo that I hadn't seen while standing at the actual location. When viewing the left side of the photo, about half way up, just above the power lines, it looked to me as though there was a giant potato flying through the air.
I don't have my usual software to use here in Idaho, but I'm convinced this is a P-UFO or Potato UFO.
Okay, I know, I've got potatoes on the mind at the moment (speaking of, I haven't eaten a single potato since I've been here... I'll have to get to that soon!), but when I tried to crop it a bit and look at it closer, it does almost look like a potato UFO - but then again, my imagination tends to run away with me more often than not.

Tomorrow, the plan is to head into Boise to check some things out, assuming that my hips are doing better than they are today. I think it'll be fun to see the city again too. I spent a few days in Boise about 23 years ago -- the city is nothing like I remember it from that time. Sam and I also visited very briefly on our family trip here in April, but we didn't have bikes and didn't get to spend more than a few hours looking around, so I'm excited to have a little more time to investigate areas we didn't get to see.

**Day 4 can be found here.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Potato Diaries, Day Two: No Bike for Me!

As you know after reading yesterday's post, I am dog sitting for my parents in Idaho. What I didn't mention then is how very (very, very, very, very - and did I mention, very) attached my parent's dogs are to them, and specifically my mother. One of the two dogs simply gets mopey and doesn't want to move from his perch where he can look longingly out the window, waiting for her return. The other, while also sad that she is gone, is easier to get moving. However, he has a horrible habit of waking in the middle of the night and alarm-barking at nothing in particular. Of course, being fast asleep myself, this extreme and sudden noise scares the bejesus out of me and then I can't get back to sleep.

So, after being woke a few times this way overnight, I finally got up in the wee hours of the morning, feeling as though I'd been drugged and beaten. I decided that it probably wasn't a great choice to be out on a bicycle since my balance felt off and I feel the need to be very focused on what I'm doing riding the roads here.

Instead, the dogs and I explored the area on foot. Mom's dogs are pretty out of shape. They get regular walks, but very short ones, so taking them any sort of distance becomes an exercise in patience as they need to stop every quarter to half a mile for a breather (thankfully, they're both pretty young, so they recover fast). It makes things challenging to actually get anywhere though. Still, I want to see what is around, so off we went to explore an area around Lake Lowell which borders Caldwell and Nampa, Idaho.

While looking at maps for possible bike routes, I saw that there is a lake in the area and thought it might be an interesting place to visit on a warmer day, so we were off and walking at a spot called Deer Flat National Wildlife Refuge. What I didn't expect was that everything would be so dry. The weather has been moderately wet over the last several weeks, so I assumed that there would be more greenery. Instead, we were greeted by what felt like endless desert tan. I know this area is considered a high desert, but then again, so is Colorado, so I was bit shocked to see so much dryness so early in the season.
There is a certain interest to me though, even in more desert-like scenery. I was taken a bit off guard by how much it reminded me of camping in the California deserts as a kid. But, then again, I'm always a little surprised by how similar different states appear in regard to the terrain and plant life. I suppose it's all more similar than different, but the little differences are what make it interesting, I think.

After the fact, I learned that the greener areas are on the other side of the lake (leave it to me to find the barren land), so I suppose it could explain why more lush plant life seemed to be missing from much of our hiking time.
Early on, we spotted a fenced off area that appears to be a track of some sort. Whether it's used to race dirt bikes, dune buggies or perhaps neither of these was uncertain, but I couldn't help but think the entire hiking trail would be a good place to test out a mountain bike. Unfortunately, that is not the bike I brought along for this trip.
It seems this area is a bird habitat/observatory, as there were several signs that warned users of the path to stay on the trail and to leave the birds alone.  We didn't see many birds (at least up close) while we walked, but they could be seen flying in the distance. Not being a student of fowl, I have absolutely no idea what type of birds were around, but if we get out that way again, I'll try to take better notes and/or photos for those who have interest in such matters.
We took the path up to this overlook because I could see the binoculars for viewing while approaching; however, when I tried to take a look through them, they didn't seem to be operational. This could be entirely user error as I tend to have problems with even the most basic equipment and having three dogs pulling in multiple directions wasn't helping matters.
Much of the trail is dusty - or at least the portion we walked. Again, I'm told that other portions of the lake are greener, so if we get out that way again, we'll have to investigate. I'd also like to figure out a good path to ride here, if possible.

Having stopped into one of the bike shops today to inquire about rides that shouldn't be missed in the area, they didn't have any helpful information to give, but rather provided me the city bike map. The problem is that while the map's helpful to find the paths around town that allow riders and walkers to avoid city surface streets, I was hoping to find some longer rides to experience.

My hope is to also get in to Boise proper at some point. Perhaps early in the week when the weekend traffic has dispersed back to 9-5's I can find a way into the city to see if there are better rides there.

Of interest to me personally is the difference in how the day's temperatures progress here. Being approximately 800 miles away from home (which isn't so great a distance to make me think things would be terribly different), I find that the days start and stay cool much longer than at home. For example, this morning was in the low 50F degree range and it stayed fairly cool until about 2p or so before it really heated up. At home, as soon as the sun is visible, things start to warm quickly, and even if the actual temperature isn't too high, it feels hot much sooner in the day during spring and summer.

My guess is that it has to do with the altitude difference. I've kind of taken the elevation in Colorado pretty lightly over the years, as it doesn't affect me on a day to day basis, but I hear people joke about being closer to the sun, so perhaps there's validity in these statements and explains why it takes a bit longer to warm up here in Idaho.

I'm looking forward to getting back on a bike tomorrow and hopefully finding some roads better suited to traveling by bicycle. While traversing the city today I actually exclaimed aloud, "Hey! A bike lane!" Nearly as soon as the words were spoken, the lane disappeared, but it was nice to see that they actually do exist. Maybe that bike map will come in handy after all.

**Day 3 can be found here.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Potato Diaries, Day One: Testing the Roads

I am currently in Idaho. Why am I in Idaho you may be asking yourself (or, perhaps you couldn't care less)? Well, a little over a year ago, my mother and step-father moved away from California and settled into the land of potatoes for some yet-to-be-deciphered reason. They had no one living in Idaho and it seemed as arbitrary a place to pick as any, so I'm still not certain what prompted it. I "get" that it's expensive to live in California (and has been for a very long time) and for retirees it's even more difficult to stretch their dollar, but I'm still stewing about the abrupt departure and selection of location for their home. Of course, it's not my home, nor my life, so I suppose it doesn't really matter one way or another what I think or feel.

There is also nothing worse to me at this present stage of life than driving. Oh, how I despise it. Particularly any sort of distance driving. It seems as though I hate it more the older I get. Spending 13 hours in a car is not my idea of fun (and I'm reminded that I'll be doing it again in order to get home). ::sigh::

But, enough of my personal issues. As I was saying, I'm currently in Idaho. More specifically, about 20 miles outside of Boise, pet sitting my parents dogs (along with one of mine who came along to keep me company and to harass their two dogs - Our other pooch stayed home to keep "dad" from feeling lonely). The folks had several things they needed to take care of in California and had an undetermined timeline, so they asked if I'd be willing to come out and stay in their house and attempt to keep their pups and plants alive (so far, so good - but then again, I'm only on day one, so I won't throw a celebratory party just yet).

Since they didn't know how long they'd be gone, I decided to bring a bike along too. No reason to let my legs have some kind of respite, I figured. Sam suggested bringing two bikes with me, but I figured one was enough. I can't ride them at the same time and I figured I could choose one that would be able to do any of the rides I'd want to do.

So, after tiring out the dogs as best I could (see above for a brief visual of the 3 hour exhaust-the-dogs session), I decided that today would just be a short exploratory ride to see what the roads here in the 'burbs of Boise are all about. Even though it was a short ride, I have to say that I have never in my life been so grateful for the roads, paths and infrastructure that is available to me at home in Colorado. I've definitely taken for granted the fact that motorists are used to seeing people on bikes, and even if they don't like it, they (for the most part) accept that bicycles and the people riding them are a part of every day life. I wish I could say the same for this area, but thus far my short, near-death ride hasn't given me the greatest confidence that Idaho drivers understand that bicycles are able to use roadways too. I believe the roads here also leave much to be desired for those on two wheels... but I'll get into that shortly.

I had taken the dogs on a walk this morning down a path that runs right through my parent's neighborhood. I figured I'd start there on the bike and work my way up to deciding which roads seemed like good choices. Having done a bit of research before arriving, I realized that not many of the roads have 1) bike lanes, 2) wide shoulders (or any shoulder for that matter), or 3) easily navigable bike paths. It may be a bit easier in Boise proper, but being about 20 miles away from the city, I'm struggling to find places that work for riding.
The path started off quite nicely. The city has used asphalt for the MUP, which is great for walkers, runners and cyclists alike. I expected this to continue and was enjoying it until just a couple of miles in when the path turned into dirt and gravel. I have nothing against dirt and/or gravel, but it's apparent that this portion of the trail is not as well maintained as the piece that has been paved.
After navigating my way through some tricky rock portions that I wasn't expecting (not pictured, unfortunately, as I was focused on not falling over), I decided I'd better make my way onto some actual roads. The issue was that I had no idea where I was or which direction to go. I did have my phone with me, but with no way to attach it to my handlebars for use as a map/directions, I decided to travel in a rectangle shape so that eventually I'd end up back where I should be.
The gated portion has the "pool" area for dogs to swim, while the surrounding area has a walking path to keep everyone moving around.
I passed what has to be one of the coolest dog parks - ever. It's hard to see everything in the photo here, but there are separate areas, a walking path within the park, a swimming area for the pups, plenty of benches, and lots of shade, water, and balls for dogs to play with. I can't help but think more dog parks should be designed this way.

Dog park aside, the road I was riding was quite busy with motorized traffic and it lacks an appropriate space for bicycles to travel, so unfortunately (much as I think it's the wrong place to be), I spent most of the time on this road traveling on the sidewalk. Maneuvering around left-out trash receptacles, fallen branches (the wind has been blowing quite hard the last couple of days as I'm told), and other debris was less than fun.

The decision was made to head south, in hopes of getting away from much of the motorized traffic. Although the traffic somewhat lessened, the road was still difficult to travel, changing from loose rocks at the side of the road to rougher-than-usual chipseal that was in terrible shape. There wasn't a shoulder to speak of which made riding with the cars a bit more challenging too. Unfortunately, the cars and trucks passing weren't horribly cooperative, but I wanted to get through a short ride to see if there are any streets somewhat close by that would be better for travel on two wheels.
As my surroundings changed slightly to more rural views, I found that I loosened up a bit and started to accept that the cars and I would simply have to share the same lane. Although this happens at home too in certain spots, it was bothering me more in my current location - perhaps because in a very short amount of time I'd been yelled at by multiple passing vehicles.

Still, I have to admit that the visuals were lovely in areas, which did help make up, at least somewhat, for the occasional cranky person passing by. I should also say that not every passing vehicle was difficult. Many of the cars provided a huge amount of space when passing, which was much appreciated.
The ride wasn't as flat as it appears from this and other photos. There are definitely rolling hills all around.
I haven't quite yet figured out where people ride here. I've seen only a handful of individuals on bikes thus far (and a couple of those were middle-school-aged kids), so it's been challenging to ask others for thoughts on the matter. There are a plethora of bicycle shops within a 15 mile radius though, so I'm guessing there are places that are more hospitable. My plan is to pay a visit to a couple of the local shops and inquire as to where people ride in the area. Hopefully, that will give me a better idea of where to go on the next portion of this mini-adventure.

If you are familiar with Boise and the surrounding areas, let me know any spots that might be a good place to check out. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to seeing as much as I can while I'm here in the state known for its potatoes.

**Day 2 can be found here.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Climbing Hills or Mountains: The Ride to Jamestown

My personal history with climbing on bicycles is a tempestuous one. I have had years during which I've tried to force myself to climb, even when I didn't desire it, and other years when I've avoided it entirely (or at least as much as is possible while living at the base of the Rockies). No matter my intent for the season or year, there's a reality that some amount of climbing is going to take place on just about any ride; but as stated in the past, I am surprisingly skilled at avoiding climbing in a place that has quite an array of opportunities to head upward.

My reality, however, is that I am a horrible climber (is there a term worse than horrible to use here, probably - perhaps, 'appallingly shameful' is better phrasing). One would think that with the terrain surrounding our geographical locale I would improve at riding uphill, but that never seems to quite happen.

I believe this is due to a variety of factors that include my lack of regular, concentrated practice, riding heavier-than-average bikes, having knees and hips that frequently decide to quit on me, and of course, the extra meat on my body, which certainly doesn't do me any favors when fighting gravity.

Since acquiring our tandem, I believe Sam has made a purposeful attempt (though he will likely deny this) to cajole and sometimes nearly force me into riding places that I have managed to avoid during our 15 years in Colorado. The thing with riding a tandem is that two people have to agree on where they are going because where one goes the other must follow.

Often times I leave planning the ride to Sam (with some exceptions) because I frankly don't enjoy the process of thinking about where we'll be going. Sometimes, I request an approximate distance maximum or have a request not to climb much if my body is being uncooperative on the given day, but other than that, it's kind of a happy moment to not have to plan the route.

There is another reality though in that our weighty tandem is not truly set up for road rides. Positioning is such (out of necessity due to its large size and our vertical challenges) that we sit quite upright. While it can be comfortable to ride upright, long climbs or traveling longer distances on roads can become more painful in this position, we've found.

Still, we've attempted to not allow this positioning to deter us from using the tandem. Although we've found that there is a maximum distance that is realistic on this bike, we've done a fair amount of riding on it in our relatively short time owning it. So, when Sam wanted to join a group ride that was heading up (meaning, we were going to climb) into a local, tiny town called Jamestown, I was on the hesitant side of the coin.

"As long as the group understands that they can't wait for us because we'll be slow," I replied to Sam's idea. In truth, I've wanted to ride to Jamestown for a number of years, but haven't. Initially, I didn't feel that I was capable, then we had flooding which destroyed the road to this little hamlet, and then -- well, there's just the fact that I have continued to make excuses. While the road still isn't completely repaired since the 2013 flood, it's repaired enough that others have continued to ride it.

The descriptions I've overheard from other cyclists make the climb to Jamestown sound difficult, and the thought of riding a heavy, slow tandem up something like this did not sound appealing in the least. But, it's also true that I tend to push myself more on the tandem than on my single, so I figured this was as good a time as any to give it a try.
This is what the ride looks like. Some might love the looks of this, but I fear it - though it is admittedly not nearly the elevation (or steepness) that could be gained in our location.
The ride itself consists of climbing to Jamestown and then, assuming one is returning to Boulder County, a descent back down. So, from the moment we leave our door, it's an uphill battle (literally), but the good news was that we'd have (hopefully) a fun down hill all the way back home, which would make up for the extremely slow speeds ascending.

We met up with the group that was riding and prepared to be left behind. I wasn't entirely sure why we were riding with the group because we both very well knew there was no possibility of maintaining the speeds they would, but still we stood, waiting for the ride to begin.

As predicted, we were left behind at about mile 5-6. It's just a reality of riding this way, but I was actually happy to be alone. I was not feeling the ride at all. My knees were cranky, my whole body felt tired, and before we'd even really begun the route, I felt mentally over this little adventure.

Sam, sensing that this might not be a good day to attempt this ride, suggested that, since we were on our own now, we could head in another direction that wouldn't have so much climbing, but we'd have to get up the road we were on in order to do so... and so, we cranked on with me whining about how incapable I felt.
The road we were riding to get to the base of the mountains -- looking back down at the steady, though not-as-horrible-as-it-seems-while-riding incline.
The road we were on is one of those that just tends to be irritating. It's not particularly difficult necessarily (though there is constant climbing for the approximate 7 miles), but it just mentally gets me each time. We'd been on that road a few too many times in the weeks prior as well, and I don't think it was helping the situation. The thing is, I actually do better oftentimes when it's a short, steeper climb than when it's a long, drawn out one that isn't quite as brutal - but, I knew what I'd signed myself up for, so we kept on pedaling.

Eventually, we reached our decision spot: We either continued on the path to Jamestown, or we could head another direction and away from the climbing.

"Well, we've already come this far," I said to Sam, "Might as well keep going. Besides, we can always turn around if it gets to be too much, right?"

Sam responded in the affirmative and off we went, continuing our quest to ride to Jamestown on this beast of a tandem.

By this point in the ride, my mental state had improved. My body was not as cooperative, but I didn't expect it would be. We had a short bit of travel on a somewhat busy highway and then a quick westward turn to head up into the Rockies.

As we rode, Sam pointed out all the cars parked at the base so that they could ride from that point instead of riding to the base and then starting the climb. I somewhat envied them, but there is something to be said for pedaling to the destination and then completing the goal. Plus, it would feel like cheating living so close, at least in my mind.
Indication/warning that the road is still not completely repaired from our nearly-5-year-ago flooding
The ride was pleasant and the temperature, while cool, was actually nice for the climbing portion of this ride. Other cyclists came and went, passing us without much effort. Some waved as they went flying past us down the hill, others who passed us going up the hill asked where we were headed (apparently, we look like complete fools decked out in lycra yet riding this upright bike on the roads, so I'm supposing that's why we received so many inquiries).
A brief stop on the climb up to Jamestown - I still haven't mastered drinking while riding this tandem.
My mood had improved tremendously from the beginning of this ride and the climbing really wasn't bothering me, despite our incredibly slow pace. Occasionally, I'd inquire as to how many more miles we had to cover to arrive at our destination, but it was out of curiosity rather than out of need to stop.

We still hadn't seen our group head back down the mountain, and I reiterated to Sam that I genuinely hoped they weren't all waiting for us at Jamestown. Just about the time the words had come from my mouth, the front of the group came racing down the hillside. "Hey! Have fun!" we yelled out as they went tearing past us.

One of the last riders came back to check on us before heading the rest of the way down with the group, and we assured him that we were fine, just slow on climbs.

Truthfully, I was enjoying this portion of the ride. It was not remotely as bad as I'd anticipated it would be from stories I'd heard. While there were brief moments that were a bit more difficult, on the whole, it was pleasant and doable, I thought.

Soon after, we pedaled our way into Jamestown, an adorable, small little pocket in the mountains. We took a few moments to appreciate the change in scenery from the low lands of home and then decided we'd better not spend too much time as it had taken quite a bit longer than we'd anticipated to arrive.
Trees and other foliage were just starting to bloom, but I can imagine how beautiful it would be when everything turns. Guess that means we'll be heading up again soon!

Standing outside the post office in Jamestown
For some perspective, it took us a bit over an hour and a half to climb to Jamestown and about 20 minutes to come back down (and that was with riding the brakes a good portion of the way down).

One of the things I realized during this ride is that I have such a tendency to talk myself out of climbing because I hear stories about certain places and make assumptions about how it will feel or my belief that I am incapable of completing the ride to whatever the destination. This ride was nowhere near as bad as I'd expected and I actually enjoyed it. I have a tendency to forget that with climbing often comes a great view of surroundings, and a sense of accomplishment. It's much easier to distract myself when there's something of interest too.

Although this ride is not in a category I'd term epic (though climbing on our HHH tandem can make any climb feel "epic"), it was a good reminder to self that, especially when we're pedaling together, anything is possible. Sam may make a climber out of me yet - particularly if we keep heading to such beautiful end points.