Tag Archives: bicycle

Swan Falls can be Fun without Petrol and Booze (pedal power)

Heading south from Boise to Kuna, I travel in constant traffic. From Kuna to Swan Falls, the road is straight with long rolling hills. The desert landscape of lava rock and sagebrush lends itself to clear views of the horizon, which makes sharing the road safe for both motorists and bicyclists.

The traffic becomes lighter, but the large SUVs are now pulling boats. Amy and I are the only ones traveling by bicycle, with panniers and a bicycle trailer loaded with camping equipment but no room for motorized contraptions or a cooler full of booze. From observing my fellow Swan Falls recreationalists, I become worried about boredom on this adventure.

Will a day at the Snake River without petrol or booze be like celebrating Jesus’s birthday without gifts, enjoying Thanksgiving without a television, or being charitable without going through an approved organization?

When I reach the rim of the canyon and look down onto Swan Falls, I feel like a vegetarian who has walked into a steak house to find a green local salad bar with a sesame grilled tofu vegetarian option.

Swan Falls Dam, built in 1901, the oldest dam on the Snake River


Swan Falls offers a park with large trees giving shade – perfect for picnics, bird watching, reading, writing, fishing and playing cards. The bathroom provides flushing toilets, a water fountain, and plenty of counter space to wash dishes. Beyond the park, a person can follow the rocky road to set up a tent in between the sagebrush.

As the boat people are getting ready to turn the Snake River into a busy roadway, my favorite activity, after a four and a half hour bike ride, is strip to my cycling shorts and go for a swim.

Quiet and Secluded Boise Foothill Ride (guest pedal power)

written by The Strawberry Girl

Dear Friends,

Greetings and welcome to the Strawberry Fields!

If you follow a long dirt path tucked secretly behind the old Idaho State Penitentiary, you’ll find a narrow paved path that runs from Old Penitentiary Road to Castle Rock Park, off Warm Springs Boulevard in Boise, Idaho. The picturesque strip of Warm Springs from Broadway to Old Penitentiary Road provides plenty to the biking set, the dear “Friends of the Field.” Though a brief excursion, your faithful Strawberry Girl and her ever-constant, asexual life partner – a 1987, single gear, brand-less, USA-made blue, named “Azzuri” – were enthralled by this quiet and secluded ride.

The two lovers found themselves enjoying this bike path not once, not even twice, but four times—alone, naturally—and not for journalistic purposes rather sheer boredom.  Strawberry and Azzuri found the unnamed and relatively unknown path to be ideal for rides through the Boise foothills with small kids in tow or a quick trip to the park for picnicking. It was among this path that your jaded and often socially inappropriate Strawberry Girl decided it was definitely time to continue her adventures and report back the findings to her precious readers.

The Strawberry Girl enjoys defying rules and law enforcement and often has no qualms about breaking the rules to get a good scoop. Therefore, the two rusty old NO TRESSPASSING signs she passed along the path did not hesitate her motion in the slightest, though she must advise that her readership, the “Friends”, take the more lawful path. This would sacrifice some dramatic views from the gothic, Addams Family-like Old Penitentiary, but is satisfying nonetheless.

Straw B.G. and Azzuri also took advantage of the reasonable $4 admission (or, free with membership) to Tai Chi in the Garden at the Idaho Botanical Gardens, taught beautifully in the main plaza, at the very do-able time of 10am every Saturday, with local instructor Dave Lewis. Following Tai Chi on Saturdays, participants may enjoy bringing a sack brunch (sorry, no mimosas! That was a rule with which S.G. did comply) overlooking downtown Boise in the lush Rose Garden.

Lastly, Friends, the Strawberry Girl would like to let the record show that summer, in all her heat and glory, has officially arrived in Boise, and the StrawB and Azzuri couldn’t be happier. Already, Azzuri has received a brand new pair of tubes to usher in the season and the Strawberry Girl even treated herself to a new (used) helmet!

Until the next adventure…

-The Strawberry Girl

Chef Lou’s at 8th Street located in Boise, Idaho

Breaking Habits

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Saturday morning, I call Chef Lou’s at 8th Street to find they serve breakfast all day. I like this because time and sleepiness are usually the biggest enemies of omelet eating. I go back to bed and sleep in peace.

My first Chef Lou experience was at the impressionable age of 12. I rode in the back of my parents’ vehicle to the Western Idaho Fair. Between the goats, amusement rides, and hordes of people, I tasted my first Chef Lou meal–an ice cream potato. As a kid, the best way to celebrate the ending to a great Idaho summer was a plate of ice cream styled with cinnamon and whipped cream to look deceitfully like Idaho’s famous tuber.

Now I celebrate the end of summer with a leisurely bike ride down the Greenbelt from Garden City. The beginning of fall is one of the best times to cruise the Greenbelt: the aspens are changing color, the water levels in the Boise River have dropped to expose riverbanks, and there is less traffic to clog the narrow paved trail. My ride takes me through the Anne Frank Memorial and past the Library! to historic 8th Street.

Something else you should know about Chef Lou: besides being the proud parent of the Idaho ice cream potato, Chef Lou runs the popular Westside Drive-in, voted Boise’s Best Drive-in for the past eight years. As you know, many successful drive-in restaurant owners tend to a pattern of clogging the roadways with more drive-ins or locating smaller versions of their restaurants in truck stops or airports. Chef Lou has broken this trend by opening Chef Lou’s at 8th Street, which is not another Westside Drive-in but a one-of-a-kind restaurant located in a pedestrian friendly area of downtown Boise.

Chef Lou’s resides in one of the old brick buildings on 8th Street. We settle into a comfy booth, and the host brings out a carafe of freshly brewed coffee. Footballs fly across three television screens placed in a feng shui way throughout the restaurant so that not a single diner will miss out on the televised action.

If you are trying to break a Saturday football habit of not showering, drinking cheap beer, eating cardboard pizza and taking long trips to the bathroom with your fantasy football magazine, then Chef Lou’s might be a needed change. A person can watch his or her favorite team while enjoying an omelet and frothy cappuccino.

The menu does not offer a predestined omelet selection. The omelets at Chef Lou’s are similar to fantasy football. I agree with the football fan who wants all his or her favorite players on one team. I like my omelet veggies and cheeses to not be limited by the Denver omelet team or the meat eaters omelet team. Chef Lou lets the omelet connoisseur create his or her fantasy omelet with a variety of different cheeses, meats, and veggies. I overheard one football fan say, “My first football fantasy was to be the player with the ball and have all those large men chase me and then pile up on me. Now my football fantasy is to have all my favorite football men wrapped up in an omelet for me to eat.”

Besides the bright televisions inside Chef Lou’s, the brick walls boast black and white photos of an older Boise. The pictures leave the omelet eater and football fan with a sense that Chef Lou’s will be a Boise establishment for generations to come.
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Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe located in Stanley, Idaho

Eating, Reading, and Drinking in Stanley, Idaho
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The self-serve water dispenser is the first thing I notice at the Stanley Baking CO. & Cafe. Having just cycled nine miles on Highway 75 from Idaho Rocky Mountain Ranch, the free water is a welcome sight. The restaurant, like all of Stanley, Idaho, does not have a bike rack. However, I’m not concerned about my bike being stolen. Maybe it’s the Tibetan prayer flags flapping in the breeze beside the Bakery and subduing my anxiety. Or it’s the looming Sawtooth Mountains that are always watching and keep the bike thieves at bay.

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The inside of the restaurant does not have the usual dead animal motif. In fact, I couldn’t find any fur or scales on the wall. The only thing dying on the wall are pictures of snowy Sawtooth Mountains and an aging Dali Lama. The Sawtooths in the pictures are covered in old winter snow that hangs on throughout the summer. Now summer snow peaks are as rare as the returning salmon. Like the rivers that need the Fish and Game fish hatcheries to help maintain a semblance of a healthy stream, the mountains will need the Forest Service to haul up snow making equipment to keep the peaks looking majestic.

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While waiting for my omelet, I notice the aprons strung across the kitchen. The aprons remind me of the recent MaryJanesFarm magazine and the words of Jeannie Pierce: “Seeing a woman wear an apron lets you know she loves to create. Her creations may be pies or paintings or pottery, but she also produces an aura of comfort, ease, and curiosity. You just naturally think, ‘What is she making?” The cooks in the kitchen created a delicious omelet made with feta, cheddar, and tomato.

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After breakfast, I follow the dirt road from the Stanley Baking Co. & Cafe towards the mountains. The road becomes steep and bumpy leading up to a plateau, and the view from the top is worth the leg burn. The view is so amazing that some sort of human structure had to be built. Instead of a large house, a meditation chapel was erected, open to weekly church services and private special events. Next to the chapel, there’s a park. I choose the swing set over the chapel. I’d like to meet god swinging through the air, pretending that I’m a teenage sparrow rather than listening to a man dressed as a politician speaking god’s will.

Riding down the hill from the park, I pick up speed quickly. In a blink, I might cruise through the town of Stanley and end up back on Highway 75. I dash madly down the hill past the Bakery, then apply the brakes and turn left at the stop sign because the library is a great place to hang out.

The library keeps unusual hours. Luckily, today the library is open with two chairs unoccupied. With the library being so small, they wisely chose to fill the space with books instead of couches or large sofa type chairs. Sometimes when I’m at other libraries and the book I want is not available, I think, “Maybe if there weren’t so many chairs there would be room for the book I asked about!” The library has a small amount of magazines, but once again the librarian was thinking about space. Instead of filling up precious room with People or Vogue, there are copies of magazines like the National Geographic and Smithsonian. I pick up a magazine and read about people celebrating the 50th anniversary of Jack Kerouac’s On The Road. I decide it’s time for an afternoon cocktail.

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There are two bars close to the library: The Rod-N-Gun Saloon and The Kasino Club. The Kasino Club has open mic on Thursday nights and it happens to be smoke free. The Rod-N-Gun Saloon is not smoke free but opens at 2PM. I’ve been a fan of the Rod-N-Gun for a number of years. When I got my first poem published, Johnny Ray (the owner) let me recite it on stage. Back then, along with two of Stanley’s former mayors, Johnny Ray used to be in a cover band that played on the weekends.

At 2PM nothing’s happening. Johnny Ray and his wife are trying to talk me into buying tickets to see the comedian, Jason Resler, who’s appeared on Comedy Central and will be appearing at the Rod-N-Gun tonight. I’d go to the show, but I don’t feel comfortable riding my bicycle at night while sharing the highway with deer and drunk drivers.

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I order a cranvodka and listen to Jane’s Addiction on the jukebox. Part of the ceiling is covered in women’s panties. I can’t find a good quote about panties in MaryJanesFarm magazine. If panties had a pocket on the front, they could act as aprons.

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Here’s another quote by Jeannie Pierce from MaryJanesFarm magazine, edited to fit the context of the panties at the Rod-N-Gun Saloon: “With my panties, I carry snap peas, peppers, and cherry tomatoes after picking. I wipe my hands while canning and baking. I store tissues for my granddaughter’s occasional runny nose. My panties even give me a place to park my thimble and quilting thread. They make me feel like being busy with my hands.” I get my hands busy by taking the straw out of my cranvodka. Now I have to bring my drink to my lips. My afternoon cocktail gets me through $1 worth of Jane’s Addiction songs. I decide it’s time to go because trying to focus on riding between the white line and gravel edge of the road for nine miles can be a challenge sober much less buzzed.

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Vangviang Organic Farm located in Vang Vieng, Laos

Journey to the Source of the Mulberry Leaf Omelet

Nutritious and delicious, the mulberry leaf omelet at the Organic Farm Café takes the omelet experience directly to my body in a nourishing and satisfying sort of way. After a few bites of speckled green omelet, I’ve fallen in love and want to meet the mulberry leaf’s source of goodness, similar to how couples who are in love become curious about the source of their partners’ good looks. After asking around, I find out that my omelet’s mulberry leaves’ tree parents live only 3 km from town at the Vangviang Organic Farm.

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From the restaurant, I walk across the street to a bike rental shop. Ten bikes are lined up on a patch of dirt accompanied by a ‘bikes for rent’ sign. I hand the man a dollar (the dollar is one of the many currencies accepted in Laos), and the popular LA brand bicycle is mine for the day.

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My route takes me through the center of Vang Vieng a.k.a. Tube Town. While riding, it dawns on me that the challenge of travel is how to maintain a familiar level of comfort while in a foreign culture. Here, it’s easy. Countless bars serve up a mind-numbing cocktail of drugs in milkshakes or on pizzas, TVs show constant reruns of Friends, and low tables surrounded by pillows invite one to lounge the day away.

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A few blocks from the bar scene, the Nam Song River flows through town. The popular tourist activity is to tube the river while wearing small amounts of clothing. Most of the men are shirtless with sculpted hair. The women wear big sunglasses that hide part of the forehead, eyes, and upper cheeks. It seems the women like to show off everything but the upper part of their faces. The bright bikinis make up for the lack of eye color.

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I leave the tourists in Tube Town behind, and continue on the road toward the farm. The road is a transportation utopia – shared by foot traffic, bicycle traffic, motorcycles and trucks. Everyone appears at ease with everyone else. This feeling of serenity must come with knowing the motive behind what you are doing. American drivers always seem perturbed when they drive. I think a lot of that frustration comes from driving without a real purpose.

A conversation between an American motorist and himself:
Self, “What the hell am I doing by myself in this gigantic Humvee driving to the store a mile away from home to buy a can of soda?”

Inner Self, “You look good in a Humvee! You can afford a Humvee, so it is your god given right to drive a Humvee!!”

Self, “This stop-and-go traffic sucks!! This street needs to be widened from two lanes to four. Look at those trees taking up valuable driving space.”

Inner Self, “You should be able to drive freely, and nature ought to be caged in national parks.”

Self, “There are no parking spaces close to the store. Why can’t the store be longer so there can be more storefront parking? I hate walking.”

Inner Self, “Leave the walking to the four-legged critters who don’t have the sense to drive, but you still want to maintain a healthy look. Don’t drink regular soda. You need Diet Coke Plus!”

Self, “I know, I drive by the billboard so many times, I have it memorized. Each 8-ounce serving of Diet Coke Plus provides 15% of the daily value for niacin and vitamins B6 and B12, and 10% for zinc and magnesium – but I only have a coupon for regular soda. I promise I’ll eat a chewable Flintstone vitamin as soon as I get home. Maybe go to the gym?”

Inner Self, “You always break promises. You feel ugly and guilty.”

Self, “I’m going to take a drive in the country to relax.”

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A Lao truck driver would never ask himself why he’s driving a gigantic truck, because the answer is obvious – the 10 chatting people in the back or the sound of a mooing cow.

When I arrive at Vangviang Organic Farm, I find more than mulberry trees. I find a business built on the philosophy of preserving ecological diversity and providing locals with accessible and sustainable technologies to earn a living. Someone here must realize that you can grow a vegetable from chemicals, pesticides and big industry, but you can’t create a salad from thousands of acres of corn.

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Even with the success of the mulberry business, the owners want more than just a mulberry tree empire. At the farm, there are goats, guest houses, and a beautiful vegetable garden. There is also a volunteer program to help build community centers, teach English, feed baby goats and many other projects. The goal of the farm is to grow a healthy community.

As I pedal back to town, I wonder what it would be like to order an omelet in Boise, Idaho and use the omelet as a guide for a bicycle adventure. For instance, would the hash browns be made from local potatoes within bike riding distance? If so, would I get run over by a Humvee along the treeless four lanes of Fairview Ave on my way to the farm? When I arrive at the farm tucked away between the suburban sprawl of Meridian and Boise, will I be greeted by a business that provides a local product and supports local people? Or will I find a dusty field growing one crop only and the topsoil blowing away in the wind?

Thinking of the traffic and monoculture farm practices makes drugs and reruns of Friends seem like a bright future. Actually, I think the future is all ready here. How many times a day can a person watch Friends reruns on network and cable TV? How easy is it to get prescription drugs? Hmmmmm….

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This blog post sponsored by Local Grub.

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Click on the logo to learn about Local Grub

Viva el Super-Burrito (short video)

Brandon rides his bicycle through downtown Boise and along the Boise River Greenbelt to enjoy a delicious bite of bean burrito at a taco truck on 42nd Street. Music by Miguel Gonzalez.

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Bicycle = Hope

A person visiting the USA and only going to Disneyland and Disney World by airplane is one way to describe the typical foreigner’s travel through Thailand. Now consider taking a bike from Disneyland to Disney World. The adventure will stimulate your imagination more than meeting a talking mouse or puking in a teacup. However, the typical foreign traveler I’ve met in Thailand would rather spend their days waking up, getting a bite to eat at a foreigner’s Thai cafe, riding in a tuk tuk to the bus station, suffering through the four hours of motion sickness to get dropped off at another bus station, riding in a tuk tuk to a guest house, then eating watered-down Thai food for dinner while watching a Walt Disney movie.

Meeting fellow travelers and hearing their tales can either make me squirm with disgust or lighten with hope. Hope is what happened when I met Nicolai from Copenhagen, Denmark and Sandy from Ottawa, Canada, both traveling SE Asia by bicycle.

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Nicolai Bangsgaard began his journey in Denmark in April 2006. I met him in Luang Prabang, Laos a few weeks ago, where he’d just arrived from cycling through Vietnam. Planning to circle the world, he shares photos and writing along the way at www.worldtravellers.dk

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At the age of 65, Sandy Mackay cycled across Canada with his daughter. Now he is 69 years old and had just ridden 182 mountainous kilometers from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Thailand. Sandy’s two day bicycle ride of meeting friendly people is the real Thailand that many travelers dream of experiencing. However, for many people, bicycle travel is not considered convenient because it might not involve a comfy guest house or foreigner’s cafe at the end of the day. I suppose it is a daunting thought being half way between here and there with no consumer familiarity in sight. The only western comfort is what it’s in your heart. Hopefully you brought lots of respect, trust, and kindness from home. And in return, you can expect lots of love and generosity. When there is no western tourist economy, you can’t rely on your pocketbook. All you have to rely on is your humanity and charming personality.

The Bicycle

The bicycle is the only salvation
For a planet choking to death
On its own convenience

from A Promise for Siam by Tom Radzienda

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