Who da ho? I da ho! Jul12

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Who da ho? I da ho!

In those moments that I was actually living the Yellowstone experience, I knew it was a special time. That land is quite simply, magical with its wild beasts, water falls, and colorful miracles steaming out of the ground. But today, a month later, looking over my shoulder at those 4 days with Portland, Washington, D.C, and Vancouver at my back, it stands out even more – a distant beacon, brighter than all the city lights and even the fireworks that have filled the weeks since. I MISS THE WILDERNESS!

But it’s not time to write about today. Hopefully, today will age well over time so that in its official telling it will have developed a wonderfully fruity nose, a hint of spice on the tongue and a have a delicious “finish”. Right now, today is grapes in a big vat and Ali and I are holding up our skirts like Lucy Ricardo, stomping around on them vigorously with our hot, tired feet.

Smaller towns called Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Twin Falls and Boise – southern Idaho, that’s what I’m supposed to be writing about. Look at the beautiful falls and blossoms.

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It was hard to come off the high of Yellowstone and be satisfied with riding our bikes around a small, simple town and staying in a KOA campground right next to the power station, even though it did come with a hot tub. Not much can match the adrenaline rush of being sauntered at by an enormous bison in the backyard of your campground. But since we’d been dry-camping, no cell reception or internet and only an hour, at most, of generator-powered television per night, I thought I’d be over-the-top excited to be back with all the amenities. A bevy of electricity was a fair trade for wild things in my mind. I guess I was pleased on some level, but there was another part of me, a then secret part, that had really connected with the wilderness. Wild open gold.

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Before we took long hot showers, Ali and I made a woman-blossom soup in the hot tub that night, the tree above us was relentless with pink droppings. We’d both finished the books we were reading on our last night in Yellowstone. Ali had read Merle’s Door which is about a found dog and the lessons Merle teaches his friend/owner as they carve out a simple life in a remote area of the Teton Valley. Aproppo to our travels to say the least. I had gobbled up both Daniel Suarez’s novels, Daemon and Freedom at Tori’s recommendation, followed by a dessert of the recently released last trilogy of Silo Stories by Hugh Howey. It was an apocalypse feast, also relevant to our lives. There’s nothing like a good nightmare tale of how the world goes horribly upside down to lend support your choice to quit your career and spend a chunk of your savings traveling in an RV. Live it up now people, World War Z is coming.

And so without a bison herd in our backyard or our books to tempt us otherwise, we indulged in lots of cell phone twiddling and television watching in our first nights back in civilization. The electronics performed their usual trick, tuning us out quite sufficiently, dulling us into our familiar couch-shaped lumps. I don’t think TV is all horrible. We adore the HGTV network, where backyards or kitchens get made over in 48 hours and dumpy houses get turned into glamorous dream-homes by either a handsome twin or a beautiful Brit. And honestly, a book turns me into the same couch-shaped lump so I’m not quite sure how to put the sharpness on my point here, except to say that Yellowstone had exhilarated me like nothing has before. It’s just that this rare state of being must be acknowledged.

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My mother spent a few years as a toddler growing up in “Idafo Halls” she called it then, and my grandmother was born in Pocatello so for me there was a nice warm personal hue to these pretty, country towns. We would drive through miles of green, gentle risings and cow-speckled farm land and then a city would bubble up, just a few stories tall at the center, spilling houses up onto its hillsides. Idaho was doing its best to frame itself around our mini-farm dream. We’d already started playing “the real estate game”, looking for properties for sale in the areas we were visiting, trying on new towns for size. Pocatello had a listing for a home on a 5 acre parcel that looked “real nice” in the photos, so when we pulled in to the campground early that afternoon, we hopped in the car and drove out to take a look. Fifteen miles out of town, passed the University campus, twisting up into the beautiful hills we finally found it. Unfortunately, it was in a gully. The driveway dropped down at a 10% grade from the road to a long, narrow patch of shadowed land. It was five acres alright, but stretched out like a ribbon that followed the road and they must have taken the photos during the only 10 minutes of sunlight available that day. Oh well.

Back at the RV, we had settled in, eaten a nice dinner and were about to pop in a DVD, when a threesome of brightly painted box trucks and matching cars pulled into the upper part of campground to use the dump station. Uniformed teams jumped out of the trucks and a crew of people milled around them while they each dumped out water and talked loudly – lots of laughing. From our couch, we had a front row seat to the whole show. With a little quick research on the internet we confirmed that it was the contestants from a Food Network TV show called “The Great Food Truck Race”. A little later two other truck teams pulled in for a total of five. They had spent the afternoon in downtown Pocatello competing in a challenge and were dropping off their trucks at the campground for the night.

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Allison was fascinated. I eventually started the movie, but she barely watched. Granted, it was Lincoln, which would have been hard pressed to engage her deeply even if colorful food trucks hadn’t swooped in to peak her curiosity. She spent the entire night dreaming about them, so our breakfast conversation that next morning was decidedly focused. Look out farm dream, a purple food truck just pulled up the driveway. HONK, HONK!

We got an early start that next morning so that we could follow the trucks downtown and try to catch them while filming. The crew had blocked off traffic to a quintessential small town intersection of Main street. Their black cases, tripods and cameras crowded all four street corners and black cords snaked everywhere. The director paced around telling various camera men and women what he wanted them to shoot, mostly long shots down the narrow street, or ten minutes of a vertical drug store sign with blue sky and clouds behind it. “We’ll time-lapse that,” he kept saying. I guess half of a TV show is the transitions or filler stuff between action shots. We stood around for more than an hour watching almost nothing happen and finally decided to hit the road. We were headed to Twin Falls that afternoon and a campground called Nat-Soo-Pah.

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The lure of this remote, Indian-owned, middle-of-nowhere campground was the hot spring and boy did it deliver. We rolled up onto our lush, grassy RV spot, plugged in, slid out, suited up and headed straight for the pool. It was a big, normal-looking rectangular, cement-bottom pool. It even had diving boards and a water slide, but it was fed by warm, delicious, mineral hot spring water. The crowd was a typical slice of western America, families of white and brown skin, all sizes and shapes, with country accents where grammar is like powdered sugar – just a mere dusting of it for decoration. We swam around for an hour, dried off long enough to fix dinner in the RV and then went right back over for a night swim. By then the crowd had thinned out quite a bit so in the mostly empty pool, we PLAYED. Allison did front flips and handstands off the diving board, we dared each other to swim the length of the pool in one breath and various other challenges. By about 10pm as we were boiling ourselves off in the separate super hot tub, a light rain started up. Time to “put a bow on it” as my friend Jeff Costello would say – what a great day.

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Ali’s Aunt Pat and Uncle Bob had suggested an alternate route to us, towns called Hailey and Stanley, Idaho which are up in the Sun Valley Ski area, but we had decided to keep our plan at Nat-Soo-Pah and just do a day drive up that way instead. The weather was a bit rainy so it made the long drive and the time in the car a decent choice. On our way up north we stopped and visited the absolutely fascinating Shoshone Ice Cave. Through a random convergence of natural forces, this particular lava tube from the Black Butte Crater shield volcano houses a perpetual floor of ice. It was discovered in 1880’s and for years it was mined by children who were small enough to fit in the tight spaces. They would bring out large blocks of ice for beer for miners. It almost became a National Monument, but is now a privately run tourist attraction.

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Up HWY 75 another hour we stopped in Hailey to have our picnic lunch, and then continued driving on to Ketchum. When the sun finally broke out for a few minutes, we pulled the car over into a small park along the side of the road. After crossing a bridge over clear untroubled water, we headed out on the aptly named Fox Ridge Trail for a short hike before heading back home to Nat-Soo-Pah.

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We had a small delay in our departure the morning we headed out to Boise. You see, there’s a minor downside to Ali and I wanting to share in all of the tear down duties equally and on a random schedule. If the same person isn’t responsible for doing the same task every time, you run a small chance that neither of you has done the task that particular time. It’s business management 101 actually – despite the halo we’d like to put on our communal strategy, it came up short big time. With clearly visible items like hoses attached to the rig, or bright orange things under the tires, there’s not so much of a vulnerability. It’s the sneaky black stabilizer jacks that hide underneath the rig out of sight that cause us the most trouble. That morning, we pulled forward off our orange blocks without cranking up the jacks and bent the shit out of ’em. We tried backing up to straighten them out again, but in a soft grassy spot, that strategy has certain flaws. We were able to fix the bend in three of them, but the jack behind the driver’s seat insisted on keeping its jaunty angle and just dug itself deeper into the grass. After minutes of unfruitful huffing and grunting with the hand crank it was decided that our only option was to take the jack completely off.

Half and hour later, after multiple apologies and several rehashing’s of lessons learned, bruised knuckles, grass stained shorts and worn out biceps were what we had to show for that unfortunate mistake of ours. The jack did come off fairly easily in three basic parts which we stowed in a cabinet under the rig and soon enough we were on the road again.

Boise is up next!