Three-Day Cycle Camp From Pocatello To Lava Hot Springs

My cycling buddy, tlp, and I were planning to do a ride which hadn’t turned out so well for us two years earlier (see tlp’s blog about it here).  But this year, we were in better shape and had more cycling experience, so we felt ready for riding from Pocatello to Lava Hot Springs, Idaho, via Smith Canyon Road.

On Memorial Day Weekend, we loaded our bikes up with camping gear and set out on Highway 91.  I was riding my new Windsor Tourist touring bicycle and tlp was riding his trusty Surly Long Haul Trucker.  About 10 miles out of town or so, I heard a loud “tink” sound all of the sudden that came from the rear end of my bike.  Tlp recognized it as the sound of a broken spoke, since he had suffered from the same problem several times on his Raleigh One-Way fixed gear bicycle.  After inspecting the rear wheel spokes, we found that tlp was right.  We slowly cycled home silently, depressed about this set back.  I had the spoke replaced by a bike shop later that day.  At the bike shop, I purchased a universal spoke tool and 3 extra spokes, just in case this happened again miles from home.

We still had 3 days left of our extended weekend, so we set out again the following day.  And this time about 3 miles into our journey, I snapped another spoke.  It was on the drive side of the wheel, and so we couldn’t see a way of replacing it since the cog-set was in the way of threading a spoke through the hub.  We couldn’t afford to waste another day, so I decided to cycle home, transfer all my gear onto my mountain bike, and head out again.  Tlp agreed and we quickly cycled back to my place and made the swap.  My mountain bike had some old worn studded tires that I was getting the rest of their usefulness out of, but I didn’t have time to be picky!  I inflated the tires up to 70 psi and we set off again!

Cycling on the road all the way to Arimo wasn’t too bad, especially since my tire pressure was so high.  It was a nice day with a few clouds passing by and we enjoyed ourselves.  As we came to the entrance of Smith Canyon road, we took some snapshots and cycled on.  Soon, the road turned to gravel and I shifted down to my granny gear to take it slow and save energy.  Memories of this same spot two years earlier were in my mind and I knew I had better take it easy or I might suffer the same exhaustion that I had before.  Then again, it was only about 80 degrees at the very worst on this day, and the trip two years earlier had temperatures of over 100 in the sun.  I paused every few miles to pour some water onto my Sweat-Vac beanie under my helmet and this made the slow climbing up this trail easier.

Soon, we encountered an intersection in the road which marked the place where the road became oiled gravel, and this made the cycling easier.  Also, clouds had darkened and it began to sprinkle, which was very welcome.  The road became an ascending roller coaster ride as we pedalled over the hills, and then it became more uphill.  After what seemed a very long time, we apexed the 1800 foot climb and we smiled and laughed as we knew what lay before us.  We drank some water and sped down the 1800 foot, 4 mile paved decent into Lava Hot Springs.  After a good 10 minutes of going somewhere close to 40 miles per hour downhill, we cycled the rest of the way to Smith’s Trout Haven and setup camp.

The campground was more like a village of RVs, with a tent here and there.  Our nearby neighbor who was living in a camper with his family greeted us while drinking a beer and said, “hope you don’t mind living next to us, we get a little noisy!”  “Great.”, I thought.  I was hoping for a bit more secluded campground, but we were so tired we didn’t care.

We cycled back to town, bought some beer and delicatessen food, went back to camp, ate, and fell asleep.

The next day, we planned to drink beer and just relax.  We cycled to town, ate at a small restaurant, leisurely cycled around the scenic, old fashioned town, then picked up more food and beer at the local grocery store and cycled back to camp.  We then proceeded to drink and jovially talk while sitting in front of our tent.  That afternoon, low lying clouds began to crawl over the tops of the nearby mountains and it began to look like a real Memorial Day weekend.  In southeast Idaho, it rains without fail every Memorial Day weekend.  The next thing I knew, tlp and I were sitting in the tent eating our lunch while rain hammered the tent hard.  Puddles began forming in the tent from the water dribbling in from the seams while I took refuge on my inflated air mattress and tlp soaked the invading water up with a towel.  We were both pretty drunk so we laughed, ate some more and enjoyed the excitement.

After the rain stopped, we surfaced from our tent.  At this point, I had consumed quite a bit of alcohol, so I stumbled over to the neighbors camp with a couple of beers and began chatting with a guy who was about 20 years old or so.  Tlp joined us with his beer and soon we were chatting up a storm.  The guy we were chatting with was drinking from a bottle of Jagermeister and he offered me a drink of it.  After this, everything about this particular evening gets a little fuzzy.  But I do remember being half asleep in my sleeping bag in the tent, then quickly unzipping the tent door and tossing my cookies.  Note to self: stay away from the damned Jagermeister.  It is deceivingly tasty!  Oh, and to the right you can see an amazing discovery of mine: the bicycle wheel beer holder!  ;-)

The next morning, I got up, stepped outside, noticed my pile of puke, and went to the port-a-potty.  I came back and tlp didn’t look very happy.  He was complaining that I snored a lot last night, and he looked tired and expressionless.  I think we both just wanted to go home and recuperate from this expedition.

After I ate some leftover bread and cheese, we took down the tent, packed up, and started our journey back home at about 9 am.  Our spirits picked up as we cycled on up Dempsey Creek.  This part of the journey was very steep and felt about like 14% grade or so in some areas.  This was the reason why the trip down this side of the path was done at such break-neck speeds.  After grinding slowly up the steep road, it turned to the oiled gravel surface, and soon we reached the apex.  This direction was much easier than the other way since the climbing section is first, whereas in the opposite direction it requires a 40 mile ride to Arimo before the climb.  Next, we rode the awesome, but chilly, decent towards Arimo in the distance.  Pedaling home on the flat Highway 91 was easy and refreshing, and we made it home around 2:00 pm.

If you would like to read tlp’s version of this story, see his article!

Update, July 9, 2009 – Travis Poppe, my cycling partner and the Webmaster at Blue Ribbon Coalition submitted a story about this ride and we got published!

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