Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sweet getaway to Birds of Prey Area via Swan Falls Road

It's been a while since I went out to the Snake River Birds of Prey National Conservation Area, and I needed to ground-proof travel time and mileage from Kuna to Swan Falls Dam and back on my road bike, so I went for it last Sunday. It's 21 miles each way.

There was a brisk NW wind -- it blew me out to the Snake River canyon in about an hour. I dreaded the headwind on the way back, but I figured if I could average over 20 mph on the way out, maybe I could average 10 mph on the way back. It wasn't that bad, actually, more like 13-16 mph, until the wind kind of dissapated in the late afternoon.

The ride from Kuna to the Birds of Prey area is cool. You'll see hawks soaring along the way, maybe eagles, falcons and hawks along the cliff's edge. From a road riding perspective, the road is nearly empty, so it's a great place to get away from traffic.

The 2-mile descent to the dam is quite steep, so you zoom down, knowing you'll have to climb back out of there on the way back. But it's doable in low gear. Seemed to be a 10 percent grade in places.

Travel time was 3 hours, including a stop at the BLM interpretive site at the canyon rim, a great place for lunch or a snack.

I must admit that during the ride, I thought about my friend Morley Nelson, who was most instrumental in protecting that canyon for birds of prey forever. Congress has been working on changing the name of the raptor sanctuary after Morley, and there is a grade school in Boise that's been named after Morley. I wrote a biography on the man, Cool North Wind, and he left a lifelong impression on me. I feel fortunate to have known him.

I saw a golden eagle flying low near the canyon rim, hunting at the sagebrush level, and I thought of Morley, knowing that his spirit will soar in the wind above the canyon forever.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Exciting, freezing ride in the snow

Some people were caught off-guard on their bikes by the snow storm on Friday night. I actually went out for a ride on my road bike on purpose! It was exhilerating, but I got coated with lots of ice and snow on a 1.15-hour ride.

I put on warm clothes, rain pants, wool hat and a jacket. But my gloves were too lightweight, I didn't put on long underwear, my feet totally froze, and I wore my Smith sunglasses instead of full-on ski goggles. Even after all these years doing all kinds of things outdoors, I still make mistakes and either underdress or forget stuff. Oh well, it's all part of the fun. :)

I needed to log a loop that I'm going to put in a new road biking guide/map that I'm working on, so I thought, what the hell?

I rode from Municipal Park on the Greenbelt, out to Barber Park (mile 5), and then cut through Surprise Valley to the Idaho 21 connector. The snow kept hammering big flakes, and by the time I hit the Idaho 21 connector, my hands were getting pretty frozen. I climbed to East Lake Forest Drive in Columbia Village, zipped over to Federal Way (mile 10.7), and then rode slightly downhill on that new Greenbelt on the rim.

The only problem was the large amount of traffic coming home from work, and it was quite dark, and I had no bike light. There are some pretty major intersections that cut across the Federal Way Greenbelt, including Amity and Bergeson, and my hands were too frozen to hit the brakes real hard, so I just kind of coasted into to those congested areas, hoping for the best. I couldn't see very well, either, but I basically just bolted across while traffic was paused for a millesecond, and I made it.

At Federal Way and Protest (mile 15), I decided I couldn't stand the pain much longer, so I peeled off Protest and went down the hill to Boise State, hit the Greenbelt to the Broadway Bridge, crossed the bridge to get to the north side, and pedaled back to Muni (mile 17 at finish).

It took my hands about 10 minutes to warm up with the heat going full bore, but even after a hot shower at home (our hot tub is down for repairs; dang!), my feet were still cold (toes were purple). I hadn't experienced that feeling for quite a while, but it reminded me when I used to do a morning paper route in Minnesota, and I'd come home and sit in the tub and watch my toes go from white, to purple and then back to normal, grimacing the whole way.

Oh well, at least I earned my dinner on Friday night. And it's always great to see the snow.