A couple of days ago, I decided I needed some solo time to process all the recent transitions in my life, and the ones rapidly looming on my horizon. Settled on the idea of riding the Trail of the Couer d’ Alenes. Having done the trip last summer, I knew I could handle it, and having a bike that fits me perfectly (thanks, John Wood, and Open Road Bike Shop), I knew it would be more comfortable. As this was more of a meditative trip, and I did not want it to be about work, I eliminated the first and last 7 miles. I figured 120 miles of perfectly flat paved bike trail was just the ticket for getting my head screwed back on straight. So, I packed what meager belongings are required for a credit card bike tour, made a reservation at the Star Dust Hotel in Wallace, and set off.
It was an incredible trip. Through the benevolence of the weather gods, temperatures were moderate, there was no precipitation, and I had a tail wind going both ways. Idaho is a beautiful state, and the trail that cuts northeast through the panhandle holds lakes, wetlands, ranches, a mission, rivers…and a toxic waste clean up site. Wildlife. On my ride, I spied: 2 moose, a fawn, a flock of white pelicans, 4 great blue herons, 2 garter snakes, numerous piles of bear and coyote scat, a few jumping fish, multitudes of suicidal grasshoppers, and…..2 wieners. Seriously. C’mon guys, it’s a paved trail. Someone might actually be coming by!
Technically, I was not really alone. 2 miles from any trailhead or town, I would see other bikers, folks out walking their dogs, and shoppers carrying their groceries home. The section of trail between Harrison and Heyburn on a sunny Saturday was bumper to bumper families on bicycles, most of them needing some chain lube. I ran into a friend going the opposite direction on Friday, and we had lunch. Another friend came up from Couer d’ Alene to have beers, dinner, and some local theatre in Wallace. Still, there was plenty of time where it was just me, the sound of tires on pavement, and my breath and heart beat. Just what the doctor ordered.
I learned a few things:
It’s amazing how much food a person can eat when they are bike touring. Local beer on tap is probably the perfect post ride food, and yes, there is such a thing as too much potato product.
I really like my own company. I like doing things at my pace, I like sleeping alone, I like stopping to explore when something grabs my attention. I’m not as fond of eating alone, especially when the meal is out. This is something I need to work on.
Riding a flat bike trail is predictable and perfunctory. Though meditative, I need more. I found myself drawn to the secret swimming hole, the children in awe over a moose, the climbing tree over the trail. I really wanted to know where the road behind the restaurant went…and I did not want to find out by looking at google maps.
I have a very empty nest looming in the next few weeks. I love my family and my friends (yay!), and I know I miss them when they are not here. Yet, the idea of being beholden to no one on a daily basis makes me positively giddy. Putting my legs on the hamster wheel of a bike tour got my brain off of its hamster wheel of thought. Transitions and the adventures they will create…bring ’em on!