Leg 36 – Across the Vast Emptiness of Inner Idaho to the Craters of the Moon

6/12 (posted late)

I made 86 miles today, to Craters of the Moon National Monument west of Arco, Idaho. Plus five miles for touring the lava cones.

Got a seven am start this morning after the best motel breakfast yet at Motel West in Idaho Falls. Real fresh eggs, sausages, tortillas, fresh fruit salad, and an enthralling pancake machine that made not half bad pancakes on demand.

I left Idaho Falls on US Rt 20, and old friend that took me most of the way across Iowa and Nebraska, and much of Wyoming. After a few miles of irrigated agriculture, the landscape opened up to flat open range. It’s a long way between towns out here – there are not even any place names on the map between Idaho Falls and Arco, some 70 miles west. The flat sagebrush range went on forever, and only the snow topped mountains in the distance reminds the rider that he is not in Nebraska.

At around mile 40 or so, you see the gateways to the Idaho National Laboratories, a nuclear energy research facility. The isolated industrial structures on the barren range look like the location for a James Bond villain’s desert lair.

Robin met me at the Big Lost River rest stop at mile 51 with sandwiches, cold lemonade, and ice cream from the dairy just outside Idaho Falls. I had to fix a hole in my tube – last night I changed the tube with a slow leak, but forgot to check the tire for thorn inside, and the new tube started leaking too.

I missed the shortcut and rode through Arco, famous for being the first city to be lit with electricity from a nuclear power plant. Robin drive ahead and got us a campsite at Craters of the Moon National Monument, the hopped on her rental bike and rode 15 miles downwind to meet me outside Arco and ride back with me, riding windbreak for this tired rider.

After setting up camp, cold beer, and short nap, we went exploring by bike in the lava flows – climbed Inferno Cone, checked out the spatter cones, and dropped into dewdrop cave, where a pile of snow kept things cool.

Tomorrow will be a big day – I need to make 104 miles to Camas Reservoir

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