Shoot the Breeze (USA Day 87)
The Salmon river sits in a deep, dry canyon that ignores the presence of its own cool, clear water from about five metres up. As we pedalled against the current on the shoulder of Highway 95, a busy, debris-littered road that would be pretty if it weren’t for its own presence, I longed to be able to focus on the water and not the road directly in front of me, particularly whether it contained shredded car tyres, which we all know are the bane of TATters’ lives with their needling fibrous wires and ubiquitous shoulder placement. Tom was an early casualty: he caught a flat within the first mile of the highway but urged us on, knowing we’d meet down the road.
With patience comes reward, and soon the surface became better. Just before Riggins, we slipped back into the Mountain time zone, sacrificing an hour to Kronos and suddenly feeling like we weren’t making such good progress anymore. Riggins revealed itself to be a cute town, obsessed with the Salmon river that ran through it. You could kayak, tube, raft, swim, and nothing else. We tried to upload a blog there, which is frowned upon unless it’s on one of the above topics, but after greasing the relevant palms we just about managed. The rest of the day was uphill, and hot to boot. With the help of our obedient Surlys we climbed out of Riggins a gear only cycle tourists dare to use. With the help of Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band we clocked off the miles without having to count each one as it passed. With the help of two gallons of water we just about made it to the summit without our throats cracking off. And there, waiting to greet us at the top, was our old friend Headwind.
Headwind’s an Eastbounder. You can tell not only because he’s got that smug expression and incredible muscle strength, but also because he’s constantly travelling east. He blew in our faces all the way along the ten-mile straight to New Meadows, resisting our polite (then not-so-polite) urges for him to change direction and come with us to town. I even offered to buy him dinner, but he didn’t listen. The hill was tiring, but the headwind was so much worse. We arrived at New Meadows red-eyed and floppy, failing for a good half hour to purchase anything useful from either of the two shops. I staggered between the two, scrolling up and down my shopping list, staring blankly at the aisles and wondering why New Meadows didn’t stock anything I liked to eat. No vegetables, no yogurt, no fruit, but plenty of crisps. Also they declined my card.
Armed with a disappointment of crisps and ready to retreat to our city park, we were ambushed by Dave Manley, a potentially-very-talented Father Christmas impersonator and New Meadows resident, who wanted to tell us about his great grandfather. The story was kind of cool: he left Nebraska with 37 cents to his name and no idea where to go, hopped two trains, survived by scrumping fruit, got into town penniless and starving only to find his uncle lived down the street.
We took a photo with Dave, who promised not to molest Amy before they posed together. Then we thanked him for his welcome, climbed on our bikes and bid him farewell. His way of saying goodbye was telling us another story about serving in the Navy and meeting some other locals in Hong Kong. Having enjoyed this story and said goodbye once more, pushing our bikes a little further away, he sent us off with some local information: where to find him (the pink house) and how to contact him (ask for Dave Manley). We showed our appreciation, edged our bikes really out into the road now, and listened patiently to his advice about our breakfast options. Thanking Dave kindly and properly pushing off now, we found ourselves having to brake as he gave us directions to the city park across the street and moved on to a prediction about the number of visitors they’ll have for Labor Day. I can’t remember how we finally left. He’s probably still speaking now.
Tom, his tyre inflated but his spirit deflated after the headwind, met us in the park, where we sat in the shade of a great willow and ate brown food. It felt great to shoot the breeze with an Englishman, and such a lovely one at that. Nearby, a family set up a game of volleyball with the added spice of tiny children wandering on and off the pitch. By the time we’d gone to bed, only one child had actually been hit, but they’d spiked her plum in the face so it counted for at least two points.