Don's Bike Across America
Astoria, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
June 19 to August 7, 2006

Don's Blog: June 28: Ridin’ Down the Highway

e-mail E-mail this page
print Printer-friendly page

One aspect in which the Western states we are visiting differs from the East is in that cycling is actually allowed on interstate highways, in those locations where there are no other roads available. On today’s ride, from Boise to Mountain Home, Idaho, there was a very long stretch of about 30 miles where we rode on Interstate Highway 84.

The prospect of pedaling on the highway was certainly not one I was relishing. I mean, who wants to have cars flying by them at 80 or even 90 miles per hour? To tell the truth, it was not that bad, at least in the way I thought it might be. The shoulder of the highway was very wide, and within a few minutes I became used to the cars and trucks whizzing by. The vehicles even provided a bit of a help in the form of the wind vacuum they created, which helped pull us along in their wake.

It was not all positive, however. The highway shoulder was littered with debris, much of it lying in wait to pounce upon unsuspecting bicycle tires. Several members of our group incurred flat tires from the scattered debris. The main culprit turned out to be pieces of old truck tires. When a truck tire blows out, it blows into hundreds of pieces, and the pieces include not only rubber, but steel coils that are built into the rubber. Thus, the pieces on the side of the highway, with the wires sticking out, can easily pierce and bicycle tire and cause a flat. In addition, there was the usual assortment of broken glass and other junk.

I did not suffer a flat today, in large part due to the heavy duty “Armadillo” tires I had installed as part of a bike maintenance and overhaul I had done on the day off yesterday on Boise at George’s Cycle shop. The Armadillos are bigger and have a sturdier tread than regular tires. That helps avoid flats, but it also slows down the bike considerably. For the time being, it is a concession I am willing to make, but I am not sure for how long. When we get back into the mountains, the beefier tires may prove to be too much of a liability.

Although I did not have any flats today, I stopped several times to help others that did have them, including young Steven Leh (with whom I have been riding, along with his father Ted.) Steven had two flats on I-84. Changing a flat is not something I am proficient at, but undoubtedly I will have a chance to become so before the ride is over.

Today’s distance was a modest 50 miles, and with the highway riding it did not require too much of an extended effort for most. I felt more energetic than on Monday, but not by a whole lot. Tomorrow’s ride is a healthy 97 miles, into Twin Falls, so it will surely require a significantly higher energy output.

The Vandals

As we cycled along I-84 today, there was a sign that said, “This section of highway supported by Idaho University Vandals.” No, it was not a misprint. The nickname of Idaho University is indeed the Vandals. Although the primary usage in the English language is of destruction of property, the Vandals were an East German tribe from the fifth century.

According to Wikipedia, the term "vandal" has come to mean senseless destruction as a result the Vandals' sack of Rome under King Geiseric in 455. Historians agree that the Vandals didn't damage the city any more than did other invaders. During the period of Enlightenment, Rome was idealized, so the Goths and Vandals were disparaged. The word "goth" has gained other associations since that time, but "vandal" has not. The abstract term vandalism is from the French vandalisme, first used by Henri Grégoire, Bishop of Blois during the French revolution. "I created the word, to kill the thing," he said. The verb vandalize is first recorded in 1800.

Interstate 84

Are there two I-84s? I guess so, since the description of the I-84 on which we rode our bikes on today is a 770-mile interstate highway that runs from Portland, Oregon to Echo, Utah, along the Old Oregon Trail (More on that in a later installment.) Well, this highway is referred to as I-84 West, while the I-84 I am more familiar with, the one in Connecticut and New York, is referred to as I-84 East.