I woke at 6:00 am without an alarm, feeling fresh and alert even though it hadn't been six hours. The little window had been open all night and the mountain air must have done its thing. I packed up, put on street clothes, and went for a walk down the gravel streets with camera and thermos in hand to find the bakery. Breakfast was a bit pricey at $14, but delicious, and the homemade oatmeal pancakes were worth the wait of slightly more than one minute.
Stanley was a charming little mountain town with a tangible ski vibe, and the only place in smalltown Idaho where the TV didn't default on to Fox News Channel (actually, there weren't TVs, but I could tell they wouldn't have). I geared up, scraped frost off my seat and instrument cluster, and went for a tank of gas.
The gas station attendant was just being friendly when, around this time, he wandered back out to tell me about these phenomenal natural hot springs just five minutes up the road, "Start your day with a nice relaxing soak!," and in my helmet I'm thinking, "Gee, that sounds like a great way to spend the next 20 minutes, but instead I'm going to crawl around on my knees right in this here parking lot, in my arctic astronaut suit, did I mention I'm sweating?, and see how greasy I can get my hands, OK, how about that plan?" But my chain was dry and dusty after yesterday's trail riding, and with two days of mile-making ahead, it needed to be done.
My pity party over, I headed south on 75 through the Sawtooth National Recreation Area, stopping frequently for photos. The fall colours were electric towards the park boundary, and through the manicured multimillionare mansions into Ketchum in the Sun Valley. I slabbed it into Twin Falls to personally request my refund for last night's cancelled hotel, and I caught the manager at the front door; she was very friendly, spoke fondly of Canada, and also spoke motorcycle, and gladly waived my charge, and I pledged to stop in and stay with them on my way northbound, though she didn't even force me to play that barter card. In the parking lot, I removed three of five layers on top; it was already 20 C by noon.
I pushed on, through the changing landscape, with my paranoia lobe refocusing from daydreams of large predatory cats to lights in the sky, The X-Files, and Area 51. A truck with US Government plates passed me, a nondescript gold Chev pickup driven by a simple-looking guy with a beard and a ballcap, who I got to imagining maybe wasn't so simple. I crossed the state line at Jackpot, then stopped for a burger, vanilla shake, gas, and water at the junction in Wells, NV. I was tired of the heavy semi traffic on 93, and their rough seas, so charted an alternate route over lunch. 30 miles south of Wells, I diverted west on secondary highway 229, which became the 767 towards Ruby National Wildlife Refuge, starting as pavement, then becoming 5th-gear gravel through open range cattle country. I crossed over the Ruby Mountains through heavy hunting traffic at Harrison Pass, then tracked southbound in the next valley west, parallel to 93. Surprisingly, there was more heavy traffic, which turned out to be from Barrick Gold's Bald Mountain Mine; I speculated it must have been crew-change day, as I must have passed 50 pickups, a school bus, a coach bus, and two CAT service trucks before 5:00 pm.
The last 80 km surprised me with good pavement, being indicated as all gravel on my map, and was like my own private highway all the way to US 50. The afternoon sun was getting low, and I passed the miles by watching the shadow of the mountains on my west advance across the valley to my east, singing "Home, Home On The Range" to myself in my helmet.
I hooked into The Loneliest Road as the sun set, and rode the last few miles up to Eureka in the pink twilight dusk.
Day total: 699 km, 10h00m
Trip total: 4545 km
Start: Stanley, ID. End: Eureka, NV.
Soundtrack: Nothing clicked today. Finished with earplug silence.