The morning breakfast plans are shortened - we count on having a cup of coffee "in town."
By now, our routine to set up and break camp is ironed out to the smallest details - we can be cooking mere five minutes after stopping, or have everything packed up and ready to go in slightly more than that. All activities that require another person's hand are nicely dovetailed with the others, so very little time is lost.
Are we getting too antsy to get moving again?
Coffee and gift shop in Silver City is open and welcoming. We buy our drinks, I procure some trinkets, and we're off to the porch to watch the hummingbirds. The majestic Idaho Hotel
is also open - we are not yet hungry to go for another breakfast, so we ask permission to take photos inside - given - and buy some T-shirts.
In a while, we find ourselves rolling downhill - towards paved roads, cell phone coverage, and civilization in general.
A few miles out of town we meet the first casualty of weekend pilgrimage from Boise to the mountains - a minivan with a hood open, and a busy mom with three girls of assorted ages, from about 8 to about 16. Come to think of it, this minivan weighs barely less than my Land Rover, has the engine of almost the same size, no low range, no engine-driven fan, and the radiator barely half the size - and I am pretty sure it sees less attention and maintenance. The ladies are upbeat, however, and their only problem appears to be the folding trekking poles ... unwilling to unfold. Out of four, we have success with one, partial - with two others, and couldn't do anything with the last. The ladies are on their way to gem hunting in the woods; we part our ways hoping for the minivan's mighty motor to cool off, eventually, and take its fare to Silver City.
I am amazed at the transition to pavement. My truck, ever so soft, pliable, and accomodating in the rough, becomes outright unhappy - I've witnessed this behavior countless times. We pull off to the side of the road halfway to Boise - I get under the truck and ask Chris to roll it back and forth a little. The matter becomes clear at once - one of the rear axle's control arms' bushings is done in. It was barely a year and a half old!!! What do they make them out of?
We proceed at somewhat tolerable speed; Chris makes a few calls around Boise, but no Land Rover shop has the part in stock. I am not sure if I do, either - so we make a stop at an Autozone and I procure some polyurethane bushings in hopes to be able to whittle them to the necessary size. We also stock up on food, I marvel at the variety of flavors of gasoline in Idaho... "Honey, remember the last time we had to top off our tank with that dreadful 87.5-octane gas? I'll never go below 87.7 again!"
We motor on...
... To Interstate 84. Our destination for the day is the hamlet of Atlanta, Idaho; Garmin shows only 100 miles from Boise to Atlanta, but lists about 4 hours' worth of driving. We're pushing 70 on concrete - how could that be?
The speed limit on Interstate is beyond what we are comfortable maintaining, so we are relegated to the right lane, and passed by roaring semis. It is frightening. My truck wants to go to the left lane when I step on gas - not entirely unreasonable, and to the right lane when I let off - which is not. Fortunately, it does not last very long - we split to Idaho 21 and head up to Sawtooth Mountains. We pass Lucky Peak State Recreation Area - seeing all these people swim in the lake makes us green with envy. Fortunately, the road snakes along Mores Creek; we spot a beautiful swimming hole, slam on brakes - and into the water we go.
The next stop on the Idaho 21 happens in Idaho City; we fuel up, and splurge on ice cream - and Wi-Fi nearby. Curiously enough, a sign on the door of a convenience store warning the would-be robbers of electronic surveillance is... in French. I wonder how did that happen.
The map shows a spider web of dirt roads leading to Atlanta; the day's still relatively young (late afternoon), so we pick the longest way. A little North of Idaho City on the 21, we hit the dirt. The road - as all others in Sawtooths, and pretty much any mountains anywhere, - winds along the narrow canyon carved by a creek. The road is pretty good - but the combination of washboard, dust, and blind turns ten times a mile, does not inspire confidence in early arrival.
This is the first time I see a suction dredge for gold in the river - then we see one every mile or two along the creek. Isn't that nice? Park one on near a shallow spot with sandy bottom, fire up the two-stroke powering the pump, and go fly-fishing for hours and days at a time.
Traffic on the road is nearly inexistent. We squeeze by a couple of pickup trucks towing horse trailers at breakneck speed; the road climbs up, the woods thicken, and a few drops of rain appear on our windshields. We are spared rain, however, and only get to see a rainbow in the mountains.
The rainclouds drift away and we are treated to a quick show of alpenglow.
Late in the evening - pretty much as Garmin predicted - we roll into Atlanta.
Nothing suggests that a bar or saloon is open; one house that could be mistaken for a watering hole is in fact one, but only for a tight group of grizzled locals.
Locals aren't all that friendly - one inquires if he could trade a quad and some livestock for the keys of the 110; Chris politely declines, and the local wanders off mumbling something like "oh hell, he must have several more like this where he came from." Atlanta, Idaho, is not Jarbidge, Nevada.
We turn around; I admire a collection of two Willys pickups, a 1979 full-size widetrack Cherokee (that looked like a twin brother to the one I owned for many happy years), and another full-size jeep - 1982-83 narrow-track, four-door Cherokee. I have to stop and take a bunch of pictures.
The campsite is found on the creek a mile or two from town - complete with a wooden table and a fire ring. We level off our trucks and repeat the ever-improving performance of unloading the trucks and setting up camp.
Life is good.