Powell Junction, ID to Kamiah, ID: 93.83 miles, cumulative miles 3,041.40, elevation gained 696
I get up early, dismantle and pack up camp, use the facilities available to us campers in the lodge, and race out at 6:45am into the cool mountain air. Frans is just getting going as I wave byeee. Ears still ringing with Carrie’s m.o. of let’s hang out tonight but not on the road. We three said our goodbyes last night just in case we were seeing the last of each other.
Day 50 (aka July 11, 2018) is marked by continued gorgeous Rocky Mountain conifer-licious vistas and an overall loss of elevation (starting at 3,500 ft and ending at 1,600).
I don’t know where I’m headed exactly. Syringa, a non-town (unincorporated, pop. literally 0) named after the Idaho state flower is about 70 miles from Powell Junction where I’m starting from today and has campgrounds and cabins, Kooskia (pop. 607) likely named for a variant of a Nez Perce language diminutive referring to the Clearwater River is 15 miles further and has services, and Kamiah (pop. 1,295!) named after Nez Perce fishing rope is onward 12 or so more. Options abound! My phone doesn’t have service—I guess AT&T is about as useful in rural Idaho as it was in rural Montana—so I can’t call ahead to reserve a campsite or room somewhere. It’s a Wednesday, so I feel pretty safe I’ll find somewhere when all is said and done for the day.
Did I mention how fucking crazy-beautiful it is around here in the last minute?! As much as I prefer to be riding alone and not desirous of anyone catching up to me, I stop several times to try to capture the majesty of the forest and the Lochsa River—and later the Clearwater River—I’m pedaling alongside of on Route 12, which I’ll be traveling on again allllll dayyyyy.
Because of the downhill trend, it only takes 5.5 hours to get to Lowell, 65 miles in. At some point during this part of the day’s trek, I hit the 3,000-mile milestone. Yippee! In Lowell, there’s a motel with a busy café—aptly named Wilderness Inn—where I rest, refuel and refill water. This town has a sense of humor: check out photo. I guess someone died? There’s a gang of Harleys (or some other make of motorcycle, fuck if I know, check out photo) parked in the gravel lot in front of the restaurant. Whitey stands proudly in front of them, tougher than all those posers. Frans comes in to eat, just as I’m leaving. He doesn’t have specific plans for the night either but thinks he’ll stop in Kooskia.
By the time I hit Syringa (I keep typing “Syringe”—too many years of working for syringe exchange programs and writing grants to fund them—it’s a flower, not a drug consumption modality!), it’s much, much warmer, up in the 90s again. I’m at 1,500 feet, haven’t been down this close to sea level in weeks. Feels for sure like I’m heading west, as the forests are thinning out and it’s drier and grassier and even deserty (though I’m no climate expert). This is the Camas Prairie (which was the agricultural/food hub for the Nez Perce and stolen from them in an 1863 “treaty”) and we are now riding with the Clearwater River. (Photo of route shows the change in topography.)
I pass the turnoff for Kooskia and ride toward Kamiah. At about 94 miles there’s a big yellow KOA campground/resort sign. I think of KOA as family-oriented glamping but what do I know? BTW KOA stands for Kampgrounds of America which begs the question, why the “K”? Like, was COA taken? A brief google search results in Coat of Arms, Change of Atmosphere, Cryogenic Optical Assembly, and the Cities of Austin, Amarillo, Anaheim & Albuquerque, and 127 additional acronyms, whereas there are only 9 total KOAs listed. So yeah COA def busy. Knocked On [my] Ass for being a snark. There are so many options at KOA…kabins, RV and tent sites, a motel, a pool, a dog park, and Wi-Fi! The kampsites aren’t as cheap as ya’d think, so I opt for a motel room and plan on a jump in the pool.
But, as I lounge in the AC, I ponder, do I really wanna get wet after sweating all day? I’ve been so horny these past few days (as discussed in this post) and, more so, curious…what or who could possibly happen in a place like this? And seeing as I have Wi-Fi for the first time since leaving Missoula, why not try to put the ‘d’ in Idaho, and the ‘ho’ as well?…Luckily I don’t know that COA also stands for Center for Online Addiction, and I tap Scruff open. After a brief exchange of chat messages with a local Kamiahan—a white guy pushing 40 with an adequate profile photo and a doable dic-pic and nothing informative written in his profile—it’s on and crackin’. Near-blank profiles are very common, I have come to understand, in rural areas. It’s not like in LA where guys often write A LOT, including me, not surprisingly (I feel compelled to put something in each of the boxes, otherwise it’s cheating and/or I don’t get an ‘A’ on my homework assignment). Privacy is critical, no duh, in small towns, but also there’s not a ton of choices, so you don’t necessarily need to do what the LA gays do, i.e., explain all your preferences, your social justice bona fides, your affinity for urban hikes (which is 99% of Angelenos, it would seem), and specify your LA hustle (actor, writer, in-a-band, fashionista, hyphenate, or totally anti-all-the-hustles-and-hustlers).
My prospective hookup of course knows precisely where the KOA is and, in what seems like seconds, is right here rapping at the window. He arrived so speedily I barely had time to shower and dig out my scrunched-up shorts and t-shirt from the stuff sack interred in Whitey’s front traffic-side pannier. I don’t feel comfortable answering the door wrapped in a towel. It’s not that I’m worried about presumptuousness (the point of the meeting is to fuck around, we’re not exactly planning on tea and teacakes wrapped in a tea towel)…but safety first, right? I put my shoes on in case I need to make a run for it. I mean, what if this is a setup from the getup? Like some demented homophobic closeted axe murderer who’s gonna slit my throat and steal my bicycle? Presuming I can get away, how far can I run and maintain the KOA’s Wi-Fi signal to call 911? Or, worse than the above being true, am I STILL merely hardwired to be prejudiced against rural white people? I’ve now had tons of exposure that has been pretty fuckin lovely…tho there was the SAY A PRAYER AGAINST MARRIAGE magnet from ten days hence that has perma-magnetized to my brain. Or, maybe, just maybe, this dude will be the answer to any and all prayers and be hot af! Maybe it’ll be a Kamiahan Otherworldly Adventure at the KOA…!
I open the door, and… meh. Konception Overzealous Absolutely at the KOA.
It was brief. Not hot. He shot his load in like 60 seconds…I couldn’t. Damn meds. Plus, not hot. Trick was game to leave 60 seconds after Kumming Overly Abruptly at the KOA but I was like wait a sec, tell me all about being queer in a small town: GO! (Wait wait wait, I mean, GO and tell me, not LEAVE!)
Here are the takeaways from my brief ethnographic qualitative interview: A) there’s about a handful of gay/bi men round here and another handful who don’t identify but are at least willing to swing it this direction (this dude’s been there/did them), B) I’m a unicorn (a rando connection doesn’t happen very often, and it was nice to be told I’m like beyond an 11 in Kamiah, not to toot my whatever too much heeheehawhaw but I’m Komparatively Oozing Allure at the KOA today!), C) the local Mexican spot is good and they deliver, and D) Kamiah is pronounced KAM-ee-eye (and Kooskia is KOO-skee—2 syllables). Not exactly Margaret Mead-worthy but then again she’s prolly canceled. Knot Official Anthropologist over here!
I don’t order Mexican food. I eat whatever is on Whitey figuring I can stop at a supermarket early AM. For the nth time on the trip I get my own self off and head to bed. Maybe I should have hit the pool after all.
[Note from the future: when I drove through Kamiah in October 2022, I thought of reanimating my Scruff account and trying to find this dude—I do remember his name btw but…privacy/not wanting to be a jerk with my Konnection Officially Average at the KOA yelp review—and ask follow-up questions. I seriously am interested (ethnographically, I mean). But, I thought, nah. Closed chapter, plus it didn’t seem right to do that without having had a real connection, ya know? And I wasn’t at all desirous of reengaging sexually, so what was in it for him? A chitchat with an almost complete stranger not willing to offer another hit of that Komparatively Oozing Allure who wants to probe you for more info about your life and incorporate it in a book about himself? Nah. Kompleted Onetime Association. Kute(-ish) Once (but not) Again at the KOA in Kamiah, Idaho.]