Day 60 Peaks to Craters

Ketchum, ID – Driggs, ID

240 miles

I started the day on a somber note by visiting the Hemingway Memorial in Ketchum. To be honest, I thought the entire town would be deluged with Hemingway memorabilia and tourist venues. Turns out most people in Ketchum and Sun Valley care more about skiing than they do the Great American literary tradition.


Hemingway has always been a strong influence on me, both as a bibliographic figure and setting the tone for literary adventure and living life fully. He was a deeply flawed man and an epic genius of an author. But he sought to fill those aching gaps in his psyche with adventure, travel, war and women. He didn’t wallow in the depression that eventually overcame him but actively fought it like the Spanish bullfights he depicted in Death in the Afternoon.


At first, I was a little surprised at how modest the memorial was. Simply a sign by the road and small path leading to a bust of Hemingway looking away, towards the peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains. And then I realized that Hemingway, who prized economy of words and despised superficial flourish, would have been quite pleased by the simplicity and weight of his memorial. Below his bust are inscribed the words he wrote in 1939 when his good friend Gene Van Guilder died in a hunting accident:

Best of all he loved the fall, 
the leaves yellow on cottonwoods, 
leaves floating on trout streams, 
and above the hills 
the high blue windless skies 
…Now he will be a part of them forever.

After reflecting for short while, I got back on the bike and headed south on Route 75. The mountain scenery was still stunning, but I started to notice that the sharp, dramatic mountains were starting to grow softer, rounder and quite a bit lower. It felt odd to be leaving the mountains that I had come to associate with “the West” and seemed to be returning to the flat farmland that I associate with the Midwest.


Route 75 which took me south through the mountains eventually intersected with Route 20 which I took East following signs for Craters of The Moon and Rexford. Craters of the Room is this crazy lava field in the middle of the high desert plains of Idaho that makes you feel like you’re in the middle of Maui. The ground is black with volcanic soil and sharp rocks. Apparently there are crazy lava tubes and caves that are open to the public and free to explore. I could definitely see spending a bit more time there on a future ride.



Along the way, I kept spying off-road turnouts that seemed to lead out into the horizon forever. I grew tempted to maybe abandon my plans for Driggs and explore some of these dirt roads just to see where they lead. My off-road experience in New Mexico had taken a lot out of me. But time heals all wounds, and I was feeling a small itch to get some dirt under my tires. Alas, I had no maps and not enough water to risk another off-road adventure at the time so reason prevailed and I kept heading southeast to Driggs.


As I pressed on, the long straight roads seemed to stretch to infinity while the golden plains of the valley surrounded me on both sides. Potato fields and dairy farms dominated the even landscape. But then, far off in the distance, I could just see the tips of two massive spires rising above the horizon. My road began winding slowly towards these two mountains, and before I knew it I was staring at the impressive Teton Range, the geologically youngest part of the Rocky Mountains. Gorgeous.


I pulled into Driggs around 5:30pm and was famished having not eaten since breakfast. I quickly made my way to the Forage Lounge for curried rice noodles with 10-spice chicken. Driggs seems to surprise you that way. The population (according to the sign) is only 1,100 but the outsized landscape seems to match the offerings in this cool mountain town. Despite living in the shadow of its larger, more cosmopolitan cousin, Jackson Hole (a few miles over the Wyoming border), Driggs has sophisticated culinary scene along with every outdoor outfitting store you could imagine.


To top off the evening, I rolled out of dinner and into my first drive-in theater to catch Apollo 18. It was a little weird on a motorcycle, but they gave me a handheld radio tuned to the audio frequency for the movie that I could perch on my tank bag while I watched the movie, munching on fresh popcorn, under the cool night sky bursting with stars. Great way to end an unexpected day.


Next Stop: Yellowstone National Park!

WHAT I LEARNED / DISCOVERED TODAY: The days continue to be more unexpected than I think. I thought today was going to be a routine, albeit scenic, travel day. Rather, the Hemingway Memorial hit me harder emotionally than I thought.  Then, I was surprised how quickly the mountains melted away into flat farmland. I totally stumbled upon the Craters of The Moon National Monument unexpectedly (I could just read a map, I suppose). And at the end of the day, I was treated to the epic views of the Grand Tetons, and the deluge of cultural offerings in Driggs. Also, I might just be the fattest person in the State of Idaho. I went from experiencing puma-like svelteness throughout Mississippi and Texas, to feeling like the fat girl at prom in Idaho. I’m pretty sure everybody here hikes 30 miles a day and is on an Olympic Team.

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