23 May 2016

Twelve Hours of Disco, Give or Take Ten

I've been craving novelty all year so I got a wild hair to do a new event, Twelve Hours of Disco in Salmon. I was lucky to find three guys who agreed to join my team with minimal arm-twisting: my always-intrepid housemate Alex, friend and pub regular Eric, and random kid I met skiing, Cy.

The forecast was dismal so we crammed the Subi with as much precipitation prophylaxis as possible and rolled out Friday afternoon. The venue is a pit surrounded by sagebrush hills and moto tracks. I slept warm and dry under a rainfly and canopy but the outlook was grim in the morning. Bike tires packed up with gritty mud on the trip to and from the johns and big mean storm clouds threatened. The start was postponed and postponed again. It finally got underway at 9:30 and Cy with his jammy pack and seven inch bike fought his way off the start line. I warmed up and waited. A lot of guys went off course and showed up twenty minutes early. Bummer. Cy came in late because he'd backtracked instead of cutting the course. 
At least my fender game was on point
All pics courtesy of Vivian, awesome team cheerleader and photographer
I took off and mashed as hard as possible. Fastest lap time was on the line and I really wanted it. The course was nondescript, a ribbon of dirt meandering up and down. I was wary of letting loose on the smooth descents because the trail was hemmed in by tiny cacti with vicious quills. 

The wind roared and rain fell as I finished. When Alex wasn't astride his bike in the transition zone I knew the race was on hold. While I was changing out of my wet muddy gear the skies opened and the officials made the call--no more Disco this year. 
Thanks to GTBC for keeping us dry AND well-lubricated
We had a decision to make--pack up our sodden belongings in the rain or start drinking and hope for the best. Fortunately the Teton Tailgaters opted for the latter. Alex and Eric were good sports about not getting to ride. It was a long pleasant day of draining kegs, playing dress-up, standing around the fire, hiding from cloud bursts, and eating food cooked by the Pocatello crew (the hardiest partiers of all). 
Teton Valley's finest 
When the sun came out, the costumes did too
 The next morning showed much more promise. The local shop owner gave us a guide book and directed us to a fast-drying ride north of town. We climbed out of the drainage on a mellow mining road and contoured the velveteen hills on a half track covered in elk droppings and balsamroot. The descent was a dream, alternating between alpine choss and forested loam.

Riding bikes in Salmon does not suck
Pic cred: Cy, who takes beautiful pictures for a living
The radiator on the Subi was leaking and gave off an artificial maple syrup smell so we loaded her up with goop and coolant and headed south to find a much-ballyhooed hot spring. We hiked up a canyon to reach the cascading warm pools overlooking the rocky landscape. An hour of soaking made me sluggish and happy but time waits for no man; we had to get back to "real life" at some point. The drive home was fueled by sour candy and punctuated by radiator checks.

Goldbug Hot Springs: not your usual riverbank cow puddle
I love exploring the playgrounds of Idaho and driving through its vast empty country beneath unfathomable skies. We chased huge curtains of rain into the valley and the Tetons glowed pink and azure. What did I do to be so lucky, going out to play with people who are down for adventure and then coming home to this arresting place.

09 May 2016

Hell Yeah Helena

The forecast held rain. I was already bored of the few valley trails that were free from snow. Tyler, Alex, and I brainstormed over dinner and landed on Helena, Montana...whispers have been circulating that it's a good early season mountain bike town. The Internet confirmed the rumors.

On Friday afternoon we crammed Erica's Tacoma full of bikes and camping gear, while she gracefully stayed behind with the dogs (she's a saint with a master's thesis to finish).

We didn't plan a single aspect of the trip but over and over, we would express a desire and it would manifest itself. We wanted to camp at an undeveloped hot spring en route. We wanted to park the truck, get solid beta, and ride a ton. We wanted to consume adult beverages post-ride. We wanted to camp at a lake. All was achieved with minimal effort. Our timing was good too; with temps reaching eighty, we were there at the tail end of the comfortable riding season, and we hit the lake before the summer throngs.

Nary a picture of the trip exists. We were too caught up in our own enjoyment to stop and stage action shots of each other, and pics of us standing around our bikes drinking beer on ridges above a slightly hazy sun-bleached landscape wouldn't do the experience justice. There's no way to convey with a couple tepid images the deep pleasure of pedaling from town all weekend and doing big loops on hills that immediately loft you above the city into spaces that feel impossibly remote.

A picture wouldn't express the sinking sensation I felt on Friday night as we drove and drove and drove on chattery dirt roads through cowland in the dark, sure that the cursory Google hunt for a hot spring to camp at had led us astray, and then the complete restoration of faith when we stepped out of the truck, heard a rushing river, smelled sulfur. Through the lens of my lame camera or the boys' smartphones, the hot spring becomes a muddy little rock pit and the lake fades into dazzling hot brightness. A picture can't convey the haunting loon song heard from a tent before sunrise, or the tipsy speculation around the campfire that those subtle greenish curtains of light to the north may actually be the aurora.

Extending an arm for a sweaty sun-dress selfie would not encompass the party vibe of standing on the terrace at the brewery post-ride drinking cheap beers, watching over our bikes amidst many of their companions on the rack below. We ran into Mitch from Habitat, whose Instagram posts inspired the trip in the first place. ("Helena? There's riding there? It's dry now?") My boss and his friend were spending the weekend there too and we met up at the pub without any predetermination.

It was a seat-of-the-pants voyage and it was phenomenal. We came back into the valley in time to watch the wild colors of a lightning sunset.