Truth Be Told…

It was July 21, the 71st day of our journey, and at long last (although that makes it sound as though we were actually eager to change direction…and we weren’t), we headed East, well, sort of!  We had planned to visit relatives in St. Paul, Minnesota after leaving California, but arrived via the states of Nevada, Oregon, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Nebraska and Iowa (yep, 7 states), and (pay attention!) having decided we needed to revisit Boise along the way.  “Ah,” you might be thinking, “they’re going back to Boise.”  And, you’d be right if you’re a tad suspicious about the reason.

YES – We have a number one “our spot” contender (for now) and it’s:  Boise, Idaho!  All this really means is that we know we’ll be going back to visit again, for longer, and in a different season.  No hasty decisions here, although truth be told, we did make a spontaneous offer on a house in downtown Boise, and perhaps for the best, we didn’t get it.  (Why we would make an offer that seems impetuous is a topic I’ll explore in another blog, especially because we did the same thing somewhere else!)  A close second is Fort Collins, Colorado, which feels welcoming each time we visit…but again, must go back for longer and not in the summer.

The feeling in the dusty red RAV4 is surprisingly different now that CW and I are driving into the rising sun in the mornings.  Some of the sense of excitement and exploration is muted – we’re covering a lot of territory quickly, and for now, spending time with friends and family instead of mostly on our own.  Only a few days of the remaining month will be in parts unknown (Canada, again.)

Three weeks after leaving Lake Tahoe, we drove away from St. Paul, rested, happy to have explored family roots and having reconnected with cousins, and now actually eager to travel on to Chicago and Detroit, with a few more visits to friends we hadn’t seen in quite a while.  Enjoy a small sampling of the photos I’m using both to record the journey and remind us of just why certain spots have seemed so very special!

Reno Diner - Right This Way!

Reno Diner – Right This Way!

Lonely Nevada Road

Lonely Nevada Road

Home for an RV!

Home for an RV!

Boise Downtown Lake

Boise Downtown Lake

Utah Agriculture

Utah Agriculture

More Utah Ag...

More Utah Ag…

Utah Sky

Utah Sky

Colorado Sky and ...

Colorado Sky and …

Softball Sized Dandelion

Softball Sized Dandelion

Colorado, Yes!

Colorado, Yes!

Fort Collins Suburb

Fort Collins Suburb

Larimer County Fair

Larimer County Fair

Fresh Eggs...Fort Collins

Fresh Eggs…Fort Collins

Nebraska Road

Nebraska Road

An Old Coca-Cola Sign

An Old Coca-Cola Sign

Wind Power in Iowa!

Wind Power in Iowa!

Minnesota Apples at the St. Paul Farm Market

Minnesota Apples at the St. Paul Farm Market

Cherry Tomato Bonanza

Cherry Tomato Bonanza

St. Paul Blooms at the Market

St. Paul Blooms at the Market

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The Wonderful State of…Idaho

Uh oh, this is going to be a long one!  Grab a cup of coffee or tea, and enjoy!

There’s a long narrow strip of western Idaho that’s lush, gorgeous, and green, all the way from Boise in the south to tiny Bonner’s Ferry up in the panhandle near Canada…and after 4000+ miles, it’s along that route that we found a few places to add to an “our spot” list.  Let’s start with Boise!

But, wait…long before reaching Boise, Idaho’s capital city, we drove across the southern part of the state from Jackson, Wyoming.  We traversed miles and miles of high desert, with occasional cows, scruffy grass, and dusty hills interrupting the ruler-straight highway vista, until before our eyes, as if in a science fiction movie, appeared the following signs:

Mystery Signpost

Mystery Signpost

A Must Visit

A Must Visit

How could we not stop and visit?  What the heck does EBR-I stand for?  We learned it means Experimental Breeder Reactor One – the very first in the U.S.  In 1951, EBR-1 created enough electricity from nuclear power to light 4 200-watt bulbs.  The EBR-I museum is a time capsule of the 1950’s, and a superb short lesson in the U.S.A.’s nuclear power history.  Even with the warning that residual radioactivity (“not harmful”) was still decaying away but bound to certain places in the facility (those areas marked so helpfully by a purplish triangle), we spent about 45” wandering through the original nuclear power plant, exploring the former core of the breeder reactor, playing with the “grabbers” used to handle the fuel rods, and murmuring over the antique looking chains, pulleys and massive hooks that were used to move material around in the new atomic age.  The pioneering scientists who worked here were at the very edge of technological exploration, and it was a remarkable and unexpected lesson along our road.  If you’re ever on Route 26 in Idaho, do NOT pass this by – you may learn something, and you’ll certainly feel like you’ve become an extra in the 1964 film, Dr. Strangelove. Curiously, the film was made the same year that EBR-I was decommissioned…

The Twilight Zone TV

The Twilight Zone TV

Dials, Switches & Buttons

Dials, Switches & Buttons

Pretty Nuclear Lights

Pretty Nuclear Lights

 

Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion

Aircraft Nuclear Propulsion

 

 

 

 

Atomic City

Atomic City

 

 

 

 

 

We reached our stop in Sun Valley not long after the EBR-I visit, travelling from desert to the mountains and through the small towns of Hailey and Ketchum, both towns growing rapidly and increasing in price for real estate – thus not candidates for “our spot!”  We were generally dissuaded of any thought of settling in the Sun Valley area, though it was beautiful and there are great community activities (concerts, films, book talks) many of them free due to the beneficence of the Holding family who now own the resort.  They’ve built a wonderful outdoor concert venue and continue to play a major philanthropic role in the town.  For those with any political or U.S. history interests, here’s a tidbit:  Sun Valley Resort was developed by Averill Harriman, when he was chairman of the Union Pacific Railroad in the 1930’s, long before he begin his famed political career.

Back to the trip!  Two days passed quickly with friends who are long time Sun Valley residents and gave us a good look at what life in this lovely mountain retreat might be like.  We had a great hike in the lower mountains and an even more fun time participating in trivia night at the local dive bar…how lucky for us that many of the first questions were about Japan!  CW continued his local/craft brewery tour with a visit to Sawtooth Brewing in Ketchum.

Sun Valley might have been our spot – 20 years ago, when prices were lower…  We left for Boise after an amazing breakfast in Stanley, Idaho, a rafting and hiking base about an hour northwest of Sun Valley… with all that sunshine, an outdoor deck, great coffee, and good friends – it was a very hard combination to leave.

Stanley Bakery Menu

Stanley Bakery Menu

Eccentric Idaho City

Eccentric Idaho City

Misty Road to Boise

Misty Road to Boise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’ve been to Boise a couple of times, and always left with a lingering feeling that we could perhaps find our spot there.  How does it meet the informal checklist? (A checklist that is going to have to take on substance soon, if we’re going to keep track of the growing number of locations that have whispered to us “stay here” or “come back…”)

Let’s recap some of the criteria:  access to hiking and the outdoors; culture; cultural diversity; a sustainable economy and food system; community; education; health care; climate…among a few others.

It seems CW and I are not the only ones exploring.  I was amused to read this article in the New York Times!  www.nytimes.com/2014/06/14/your-money/Finding-the-Right-Place-to-Retire.html

The Boise farm market was great fun, as was the Boise Art Museum, which has an exhibit called “Crafting a Continuum” until August 9, 2014.  (http://www.boiseartmuseum.org/)  The ceramics, wood and fiber exhibit explores the permeable boundary that has developed between craft and art, asking us to accept functional, beautiful items as pieces of art (I have no problem with that – in fact, if a piece of art can be touched, caressed, and drawn into daily life, all the better!)  Anyway, a gem of a museum, and an unexpected and appealing part of downtown Boise.  More on Boise if and when I recap all those “our spots” that we find along the way.

We travelled north and enjoyed a few days on Lake Coeur D’Alene, again, courtesy of some very kind friends, and yes, “C D’A” is also an “our spot” candidate.  The drive was gorgeous all the way there, and while we’ve been super lucky with the weather so far, I think it would be great even in the rain.

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge

Farm near Kootenai

Farm near Kootenai

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bonner's Ferry Building

Bonner’s Ferry Building

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After a couple of days on the water and exploring the towns of Coeur D’Alene and Bonner’s Ferry, we got our passports in order and headed for Canada.  À bientôt!

The Road to Canada

The Road to Canada

Into the West…

Welcome, Wyoming!

Welcome, Wyoming!

Much of the drive across Wyoming was flat flat flat, with the glorious presence of vast cloud banks.  I’m reading “Open Road” by Phil Patton, and he says “At 65 miles an hour, experts say, the driver sees five times as much sky as at 45.  Roads are drunk with the principles of perspective.”  So far, so true!  We’re not home-hunting in Wyoming, but headed west for the Grand Tetons and more camping, so we we’re testing the 65 mph views (or better, as speed limits here hover around 75 mph and so the perspectives must be that much better!).

About the Clouds...

About the Clouds…

Though we’re on a local food/farm to table/craft-brewing oriented journey, we’re learning that “local” doesn’t necessarily equate to “good,” though it more than often does mean quirky or quaint, and usually “nice.”  The Broken Wheel Truckstop and Restaurant was a refueling station, with a basic truckers’ breakfast (we passed up on the steak and eggs) and kind waitresses who kept pouring the coffee.

Breakfast Spot

Breakfast Spot

On the other hand, sometimes local means both kind people with a mission and really really good coffee.  Being “West” also means they get to have some real fun with their branding.  I liked the cowboy-themed packaging of the Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery in Riverton, Wyoming (http://brownsugarcoffeeroastery.com/)  and their coffees are FairTrade USA certified too!  NOTE:  if you’re curious about why I care about Fair Trade, check out :  http://fairtradeusa.org/  for more about what Fair Trade means to the small growers and farmers around the world.  Also, my earlier blog about our visit to the Fair Trade/organic farmers in India might be of interest!

Howdy, Pardner!

Howdy, Pardner!

Primed by Brown Sugar’s coffee, and hours and hours of driving later, we gained our first view of our home (tent) for the next two nights in Grand Teton National Park.  And found there was a little more snow than we’d planned on!

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons

A Little Snow...

A Little Snow…

Here’s where words, at least mine, can’t measure up.  Our hike around Jenny Lake…

And the Hikes!

And the Hikes!

And then, we were off to Boise, Idaho and a wonderful weekend of wedding celebration activities!  Was it the wedding and reuniting with friends, the farmers’ market and wonderful museum that gave us pause, and had us house-hunting?  More on this, next time…

2,000 Miles, & “Across the Wide Missouri!”

Travelling miles and miles in a car with a companion who enjoys trivia and musical tidbits just as much as I do is great fun – we’re struck every once in a while by something that starts us humming or singing a song that perfectly fits where we are…such as when we crossed the Missouri River, and “Shenandoah” came to mind.  Then there was discovering Daniel Boone’s last home (in a beautiful stretch of land between St. Louis and Jefferson City – he lived within miles of where Lewis & Clark travelled, and there is no record that they ever met), and remembering “he was a man, he was a biiiiig man, with an eye like an eagle and a…..(I’ll bet you can fill in the rest!)  “Kansas City, Kansas City, here I come,” and of course, even though we were in a car:

As I was walking that ribbon of highway,
I saw above me that endless skyway:
I saw below me that golden valley:
This land was made for you and me.

Here’s a link to a wonderful YouTube video of Pete Seeger (at 90!) and Bruce Springsteen at the Lincoln Memorial singing “This Land is Your Land” – if you’ve never heard or seen Pete Seeger, who died earlier this year, please watch!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HE4H0k8TDgw&feature=kp

Our Ribbon of Highway

Our Ribbon of Highway

This map is from the Museum of the Westward Expansion at the St. Louis Arch, and the red line depicting the Lewis & Clark Trail starts in the east in St. Louis, where we really start to parallel the Trail and follow it for a couple of days. We’ll pick it up again later in the trip, after a long detour to Idaho and British Columbia.  The “Voyage of Discovery,” commissioned by President Thomas Jefferson was ambitious and extraordinarily successful – they started out in May 1802.  Lewis & Clark returned after nearly three years of exploration having lost only one member of the Corps of Discovery, and with massive amounts of information about the vastly expanded country.  Having read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose years ago was great preparation for exploring some of the areas in which the Corps of Discovery passed.

Driving through these regions and realizing just what those men and Sacajawea had to endure is my outdoor classroom – truly “learning it all, over again!” (So fitting! That’s the subtitle of my blog:  Read. Travel. Learn it all, over again!)  We followed the Missouri north and westward, to visit tiny St. Charles, where the journey began.  (Some would argue with reason, that the journey began far to the east, where Meriwether Lewis had the keelboat made in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but it wasn’t until St. Charles that the two leaders finally joined forces and the expedition began.

The Lewis & Clark Trail

The Lewis & Clark Trail

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Organized!

Organized!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides generally following the Lewis & Clark Trail, how else are we managing on this trip?  By perusing our well-worn edition of “RoadFood,” which has traversed the country now at least three times!  It shows just how enduring those classic old-timey restaurants and diners are when our 2005 edition still points us to great spots for a bite to eat.  We’ve written something by the listing for each of the many places we’ve stopped, and I love reading notes from other years…I write in my books – you might want to try it!  Yep, whether a food guide, a cook book, travel guide, poetry, fiction or history, my books are lined with marginalia – books which someone, sometime, will pick up at a used book sale, and puzzle over, perhaps wondering who wrote the sentences, exclamation marks, and sometimes ever-so slightly critical words scribbled in the margins.

The Road Food Book

The Road Food Book

From St. Charles we roughly followed the Missouri and the Corps of Discovery’s route to Jefferson City, where The RoadFood Book directed us to Central Dairy for delicious, and cheap ($2 for an overflowing pint of scoops)ice cream break – the best deal of the trip so far.  Then, as CW so delicately puts it, we “beat cheeks” to Kansas City MO. (This phrase apparently refers to a horse’s flanks – contrary to what you may be thinking…)

Kansa City was a great stop, where I was delighted to find “The Roasterie,” (http://www.theroasterie.com/) an amazing coffee roaster/wholesaler/retailer with an airplane and flight theme (check it out!) whilst CW enjoyed a private tour with the Lead Brewer at “Boulevard,” (www.boulevard.com) a major craft brewer – they were within blocks of each other, and we cheerfully split up for a couple of hours to each enjoy our own “brews.”  That’s another good tip for long term, close quarters travel – make sure to build in time to pursue independent activities!

The Roasterie

The Roasterie

Boulevard Brewery

Boulevard Brewery

So far, no one place has called out to us as a potential landing spot, though some are full of history and a vibrant culture; in fact, crossing Missouri, I had glimpsed a sign for Rosebud, MO, and I longed for a moment, to live in a place called “Rosebud.”

 

 

Detour for Architecture!

The middle part of the country is not-so-kindly referred to as the “flyover” zone – but we’ve enjoyed the drive.  And though it’s not an area that we’ve considered living in, we did take a full day to detour from the direct route to St. Louis, and headed north to Columbus, Indiana, one of the most important cities for architecture in the U.S. – right behind places like Chicago, New York, Boston and Sand Francisco.  The generosity of institutions like The Cummins Engine Foundation and individuals, including J. Irwin Miller, has created a community that enjoys a cornucopia of buildings, sculpture and gardens created by some of the world’s best architects and designers. (http://www.columbus.in.us/)

Columbus Indiana Fire Station

We started at the Columbus Visitor’s Center  and picked up a map to take our own walking tour.  We saw a library by I.M. Pei, and church by Eliel Saarinen, and a Henry Moore sculpture before we’d walked two blocks.  A quick stop at the Zaharakos Ice Cream Parlor was a treat for our taste buds and a feast for the eyes – an amazingly restored shop from 1900 with original marble counters, Tiffany-like glass,  charming syrup dispensers and an old-timey candy store.  And the ice cream was pretty special too! (http://www.zaharakos.com/)

Zaharakos Decoration

Syrup Dispenser

Syrup Dispenser

The afternoon ended with a superb guided tour of The Miller House (http://www.imamuseum.org/visit/miller-house)- a 90 minute visit to a wonderful example of Modernist architecture, and a lived-in family home.  I wanted to leap into the conversation pit and invite friends over for wine and talk!  The house is starkly beautiful and the Alexander Girard interior design filled the house with color, joyful fabrics and folkloric collections.

Miller House Perimeter

For the evening, friends pointed us to the ramshackle Story Inn, (http://www.storyinn.com/) a former general store in a town that almost disappeared, but didn’t.  The winding and rolling back roads were beautiful and we arrived in time for a walk and exploring.  Breakfast was great!  House made raspberry jam and apple butter, smooth Brown County coffee, biscuits and local eggs and best of all, a leisurely hour in conversation before the long drive to St. Louis, Missouri.  Haven’t found a place we’d like to settle yet, but the exploring has been great fun!

The Story Inn