Rebecca's Private Idaho

This is an excerpt from a story written by Chris Klibowitz that originally appeared in the January/February 2015 issue of ROAD Magazine.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 29, 2014.
The darkness is thick beyond the beam of my light. As I roll down the bike path into town, the lightning reveals so much hidden in the darkness. I then step into a bar where they are cleaning the open kitchen. It is about 10:00 p.m., and they inform me that I am unlikely to find something to eat anywhere at this hour. I step back outside as the next lightning flash shows me the mountains all around—I hadn’t seen them in the daylight yet, having just gotten to town. This storm is closer than I thought. I stop at the corner store, just down from the bar and buy a six-pack of local beer and a packet of local, homemade beef jerky and quickly head back to my lodging. I make it through the front door, just as the sky opens up. The rain falls, thunder rumbles, and lightning illuminates the night as I sit on the back porch, listening and watching.
Welcome to Ketchum, Idaho.
The storm from the previous night lingers as I walk to town for breakfast. It is Labor Day weekend, and there is a parade this afternoon. Wagon Days. People are all over town, staking their spots for the festivities on the main street. They say the whole town is either in the parade or watching the parade. I find the nearest bookstore. I read a little about Ernest Hemmingway and his connection to this town where he lived and died. This sends me searching for a—possibly the last remaining—saloon that he used to frequent, the Casino Club. There is still a lot of day ahead, so I promise myself only one drink. I belly up to the bar and order a boilermaker. Later, emerging into the afternoon sun, I am ready with my sunglasses. I walk to the outskirts of town and visit Hemmingway’s grave. Then I find a nice spot in the grass and watch the parade.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 31, 2014.
My housemates and I find our way down to the town square early for coffee and a doughnut. There is a lot of Lycra in the coffee shop. People are mostly discussing the weather—it is cold, around 45 degrees, but expected to warm to about 70 degrees during the ride. The start is as timely as they promised, and the road is strung out with the nearly 300 cyclists, ascending slowly out of town. The road turns to gravel a ways out and continues to climb and climb. People are riding at their own pace—you simply must. I have short conversations with folks, until they or I slowly ascend away. At the top of the climb, I find the first aid station where I
eat a couple small roasted potatoes and refill my bottles. Idaho. From here, there is a short, steep descent followed by a long gradual road into the heart of the valley. The dirt road is smooth, and I am moving fast. The world opens up around
me. This road continues so far out that I begin to wonder if I made a wrong turn. I pass streams and cattle. A man in a pickup truck points me down another dirt road to the right where I eventually find the second aid station. Just beyond, I find the turnaround and go back the other way. The long, gradual road now works against me. I stop to admire the scenery. I stop to take photos for groups of riders passing me. I watch as a cow in the adjacent field looks at me and jogs along, matching my pace, eventually accelerating into a sprint to his companions. Seeing this is among the highlights of anything I have seen while riding. I find a riding partner as we near the crest of the final climb. She struggles as I do. Perhaps, I was over-excited at how well I felt earlier. When we reached the final aid station—which doubled as the first—I eat another potato, because why not? I begin the final descent, which they have warned us all of. The wash boarding of the gravel is not as bad as expected. I still proceed with caution, only having one close call, almost losing my grip on the bars. This causes me to grab too much brake, and I pull over to compose myself. I snap a photo of the valley ahead. This canyon leads back to town and presents a magnificent view. A group of women on mountain bikes pass, and I find myself jealous of their suspension. Moments later, when we hit the pavement, I enter an aero tuck and that jealousy passes as quickly as I pass them. Working together, they catch me and we cross the official finish line outside of town together. A friend of theirs on a scooter meets them and paces us back to town. This is a welcome respite from effort. Once back in town, I quickly change from my riding clothes. I find food and beer and coffee. The celebration in the town square gets under way. I learn that I succeeded in my goal for the day—to finish the short route faster than the fastest riders finish the long route. A band plays, and they award the winners of the race, as well as the King and Queen of the Mountain. After this, the locals take over, led by the folks from Smith Optics, with a Gelande Quafing competition. On top of all the free beer all afternoon, this is most confusing. It seems to involve sliding beer mugs to each other, and pouring them into your mouth or a Yeti suit. We then disappear into the night, inevitably ending up at the Casino Club again.

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