By Ben Coughenour
Today we rode 88 miles from Tremonton, UT to Malta, ID. The morning as well as the night before were unique for all of us, because we all split up and stayed with host families for the night rather than staying in the local church. Although it felt strange to be separated from the rest of the group for the first time in over six weeks, the amazing generosity and care of the host families in Tremonton and nearby Garland was truly a blessing. Alex and I stayed with a man named Denny and his wife Jerry, and were each given a room and a bed to sleep in for the night – only to realize in the morning how much more difficult it is to get out a bed at 5 a.m. rather than just get off the floor. After omelettes for breakfast (we really were spoiled), we got back to the church, said our goodbyes, and then were ready for the day’s ride.
We all knew before riding that we wouldn’t have any real climbs on our way into Malta – hello, false sense of security. After an early morning of riding on the interstate, we found the longest, flattest, straightest, and most barren stretch of road I have ever seen in my life. With nothing but power lines and distant mountains to look at, we rode 30 or more miles into a stiff head wind before we finally made a slight angling turn, and had to deal with a crosswind before reaching the Idaho border. After a few stretches of gravel and a lot of painful pedal strokes, a small green sign appeared, welcoming us to our destination and proudly proclaiming that Malta’s booming population was 171 – one local would later remark that the sign was only accurate if you counted all the dogs and cats.
I rode into town with Kurt, Pete, and Landon, and after stopping at the town’s one convenience store for some cold drinks, we wandered across the street to the local pizza/convenience store, ‘Bake Central’, while we waited for the van to arrive. I had no idea when I walked through the door that I was about to face my second greatest challenge of the day – the local pizza challenge. Kurt easily talked me into taking the challenge, and after one hour, 12 slices of pineapple, onion, and ham pizza, and a liter of cherry Pepsi, I earned a place for my picture on the wall at Bake Central, and the meal was free. Kurt also took the challenge, and although he ran out of time and didn’t finish one last slice, he bought a ice cream fudge bar to enjoy as we rolled the final two blocks to the high school.
That night, after watching cheerleading practice in the school gym, we were fed by some of the locals who had prepared lasagna and salad. Although I didn’t really eat much for dinner (I was still digesting pizza after four hours), it was a wonderful meal and another wonderful example of the generosity we’ve seen along the way on this trip. Some of the riders went to visit what the locals called ‘rock city’, and I settled down on the gym floor and enjoyed some rest after one of the longest days we’ve had so far this summer.