Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the category “On the Road”

Podunk Goes Multimedia

I talked some friends into letting me be a guest podcaster for their new OutLandIsh series. I’ve listened to podcasts and they sometimes sound like journalism, a sport that I like. I will say that if you had told me when I was in college that radio journalism was going to be the thing, I would have made a snorting noise or maybe even actually snorted. We all had a crush on Edward R. Murrow, but really, radio?

outlandish_dark400aBut it is a thing, and my OutLandIsh friends were killing it. And they were gracious enough to let me give it a whirl. Liz gave me a walkie talkie-looking contraption and in May I scampered down to New Mexico to check out the part of the Continental Divide Trail that wasn’t under 6 feet of snow. I got some great interviews, and I was pretty excited to be branching out into a new medium.

Then the pain and suffering began. The process to get the audio recording from my walkie-talkie into the sound editing program required uploading the audio to “The Creative Cloud.” I now think of the Creative Cloud as more of a Creative Mirage, whereby you think you uploaded your audio but when you try to show it to someone else, they put their hand on your head like you have a fever. The Creative Cloud is Satan.

menacing cloud

What the Creative Cloud looks like while it is digesting your podcast.

My friend Rachel had clearly lost a bet in a drinking game and was assigned to be my editor. I called her on a Sunday morning, waking her with a salute of “This F—ing Sucks!” She tried to soothe me. “This work is really demoralizing. I can tell you that your experience is normal, at least as far as I can tell.” I was not soothed.

After several seances, calling on the mercy of the spirit world, the Creative Cloud and Satan finally belched up my podcast. I think I’ll stick to good ol’ pen and paper, thank you very much, but you’re welcome to listen to the devil’s work if you like.


Mistaken Identity

The Iron Chef and I recently put another notch in our collective gluttony belts. I have a new job with the U.S. Forest Service, thank you very much, and I was sent to Bend, Oregon for a workshop. I invited the Chef a) because I’m an awesome wife, and b) Bend is the beer playground of the world.  bend-oregon-beer-map-07

We managed to tag on a little weekend beercation, coming home through Hood River. So I’m not saying that visiting 10 breweries in Bend and 2 wineries outside of Hood River impaired my faculties, but something inspired me to jettison my purse at the first brewery we stopped at in Hood River.

For the record, I’m not sorry. The beers we tasted at the Logsdon Barrel House & Taproom were worth exchanging your firstborn for, much less a silly old purse with a net worth of my half empty Curiously Strong Ginger Mints.

When I realized my mistake, the nice people at Logsdon cheerfully agreed to mail my purse to Podunk. Problem solved.

Except that I had offered to take Odd Number to Boise for a hockey tournament. In a previous post, I reported on the City of Trees’ new hipster elitism. I even presented a certain unnamed establishment with the Too Big For Your Britches Jackwagon Award of 2015. I found the 2016 winner.

After watching 2 hockey games, I talked an unlikely fellow hockeymom into going to a nearby wine bar for a little nip.


The hostess asked for our IDs, which caused us both to giggle like school girls.

I explained that in a fever of approval for the Logsdon Barrel House & Taproom, I had recently jettisoned my purse. And then I showed her that I had crow’s feet that could legally vote and drink. The hostess moved back as I moved in. And then she called for the manager.

The manager tried to help me understand that Idaho state law requires me to show ID, and does not allow carbon dating or 90s trivia contests to be used as a substitute, as I was suggesting. And then, he turned me away.

The state of the world, and of the union, is in a fairly F*#@!d up state right now. Meanwhile, as surrounding states have legalized pot, Boise’s hipster elite are valiantly protecting civilization from fair-to-middle aged hockey moms sipping a glass of merlot. Congratulations, society, you’ve been protected.


Podunk — Too Complex for Pundits

My hometown of Podunk has been in the news lately. We made two Top 10 lists — one for Idaho’s #2 in the most beautiful, charming small town contest, and one for being Numero Uno in the Most Redneck Town in Idaho race. Frankly, if you know much about Idaho, the latter prize is the more hotly contested.

Which is it, Podunk? you’re all asking me. Hotbed of charm or hillbilly?

Let’s address the first issue. In the delightful and cheery Power of Positive Podunkery, blogger Jennifer Brooks mistakenly assigned Hailey the top spot for beauty and charm. Wrong. Hailey has traffic. Traffic is ugly. Podunk wins.


Frederick Marksman, who writes for the enviously named Roadsnacks.com, provides as a disclaimer that we’re not to freak out, the Redneck analysis is infotainment based on science. But then, you read the comments on the site, and you realize that Rednecks can type comments, but not read disclaimers cautioning against freak outs.

The damning evidence provided in Top Idaho Rednecks, includes a thorough analysis of:

  • Number of bars per city
  • Number of mobile home parks per capita
  • Number of tobacco stores per city
  • Number of places to get fishing gear
  • Number of guns and ammo stores per city
  • Walmarts, Bass Pro Shops, and dollar stores nearby

This is what Marksman was able to come up with for Podunk:

LanternPopulation: 4,608
High school graduation rate: 78%
Bars per capita: 7th in Idaho
Dollar stores per capita: 10th

Now while I am most definitely not freaking out, I am questioning the science. I feel like dollar stores (note that we don’t get any credit for being Walmart shoppers… a hefty percentage of our population has probably not been far enough out of the county to get to a Walmart), drinking establishments and diplomas might make us seem like Anytown USA.

Iron Chef and I spent our honeymoon in San Francisco many, many moons ago. When you’re from Podunk, navigating a big city is like going to a wilderness, but with more dangerous critters. We landed at a watering hole in the North Beach neighborhood, and when the bartender heard we were from Idaho, he asked us if we had a pickup truck.  Duh, we answered. Then he asked us if we had a gun rack in it. Where was he suggesting we would put our guns? The bartender was tickled, and we spent most evenings of that week at that fine establishment, since they so obviously understood us.

I’m curious…how do you know you’re in Podunk?


Room for Growth

We’re in Missoula for Her Royal Highness’s freshman orientation at University of Montana. We are clearly part of a generation of New Age Parenting, because I, too, am attending Families of Freshmen Orientation for 2.5 f—ing days. Here was my parents’ orientation: “Here is where your kid lives now, and here is a bill you can pay. Any questions? No? Well, consider yourself oriented.” Now, not so much. But that’s not what I’m really reporting. Fortunately, the college has the good sense to separate Families of Freshmen from the real incoming Freshmen themselves. So, we check HRH into the dorm room that will serve as her lodging for a few days and her primary dwelling for the upcoming school year. “It’s like the cells in Orange is the New Black!” HRH recoiled upon seeing the cinder block enclosure.

Orange is the New Black, campus style.

Orange is the New Black, campus style.

I concurred that the accommodations were, in fact, austere. I went to check myself in to the Missoula downtown Holiday Inn. It is a complete wonder that I am not sponsored by Holiday Inn because thanks to Iron Chef, I am completely a Preferred Member. This is very meaningful because when I check in, I get asked if because of my loyalty (which involves paying a home mortgage worth of visits), I would like a) water, b) $2 off a $10 drink, or c) a bejillion points for a point system I don’t understand. I always choose points because I understand the other two choices and they are not that preferential. But sometimes, at least theoretically, Preferred Members get insider perks. I experienced this one time in Billings, Montana, when the front desk randomly gave me salt and vinegar potato chips, which happen to be my favorite. That was cool. In Missoula on this stay, my Preferred Member status earned me a wink and an upgrade to the mega king suite.

Karma is good.

Karma is good.

To be clear, when I’m traveling with the rest of my family and/or half of the girls and/or boys’ hockey team, we do not get the upgrade. But when I am a solo unit, Holiday Inn cannot provide me with enough square footage. Is it a coincidence that HRH is sleeping in the equivalent of a packrat trap? Only if you are godless.

Podunk Fails Elitist Hipster Test

It’s been a big urban spring for Podunk. I wrote recently about cruising around Seattle, a bona fide urban American city. Just last week, I popped into Boise, a usually friendly urbural sort of place. It was, coincidentally, my birthday. A few friends and I set out to explore some of the obvious goodness Boise had to offer fun loving young women of fine reputation.

Because I am on a wicked quest for sponsorship, I can’t name names, but let’s just say one fairly new establishment earned the Too Big For Your Britches Jackwagon Award of 2015. In Boise. Go figure. Perfectly behaved, Pippi, Asskickingboots, and I entered the BBQ joint (yep, as in Bar-Bee-Cue) and found a roomful of hipsters playing trivia. Sensing that pseudo-Jeopardy would run its course sooner or later and hearing the bar made a mean cocktail, we accepted a Standing Room Only status, even though it was quite clearly my birthday. That is until an elfin Jackwagon headwaiter informed us that company policy forbid them to serve drinks to standing people.

hipsterdudesThis is where urban deviates quite significantly from rural experience. If the rural West quit serving beverages to customers standing in bars, the whole economy would double collapse in a way that would make 2007 seem like a blue light special. Ever the diplomat, I offered my driver’s license as proof of my actual birthday to the elfin Jackwagon. He shook his wee head, not even bothering to offer me a pinata filled with hard candy.

Pippi noted that this was not just a case of severe urban-rural divide, or bad manners, but pointed to a distinct hipster elitism. “How did he know I wasn’t a hipster?” I wondered aloud, with the secret knowledge that my fashion statements sometimes skip a generation and creep into what’s-old-is-new-again.

Pippi has good manners and didn’t answer, her birthday gift to me.

More Microbreweries Than Dollar Stores

After the tiniest reprieve from hockey travels, we have resumed a steady schedule of consuming the earth’s resources gallon by gallon. By that I mean I’ve located some of the most backwater Podunk breweries in the free world. Here is a roll call of three ruralasaurus places with more microbreweries than Family Dollar stores.


The Podunk sister city of Ferdinand boasts a new microbrewery.

Ferdinand , Idaho. Trestle Brewing Company aka the Halfway Bar.I am not even sure that it matters that the Jerry Garcia looking owner was not yet serving his own brew. He had swag like this:


Not only does Trestle have a great logo, this silicon pint bounces!

and was in Ferdinand. Nuff said.

Wolftrack Brewing Company, Cottonwood, Idaho.
Not only can you swig this at the famed Keuterville Pub and Grub,



Wolftrack Brewing Company tasting room in Cottonwood.

but now they have a “downtown” tasting room, too.

Bandit Brewing, Darby, Montana.
I thought the tiny sign on Main Street Highway 93 was a joke because it led me to a dead end in sort of a meth lab looking neighborhood.


I followed the wee sign toward the railroad tracks in Darby, obviously lost.


Looking back toward the Highway, I remained convinced I was lost and that the Brewery sign was a joke, but at least I had a glimpse of the Bitterroots.

But then I saw a metal shed with kind of loud music coming from it and another tiny sign indicating the shed was a brewery, so I went in to await my death.


Wait a minute…

Incredibly, very good, very inventive craft beer and Darby chic design were being served up instead.


The outside of the Bandit Brewery warehouse might have connoted images of Breaking Bad, but inside was warehouse chic.






Podunk on the Loose in Urbania

I’m spending a week in Seattle, a highly urban city. Growing up in rural Idaho, my only experience with public transportation involved the yellow school bus — the full sized one — so when I get in more populated areas I tend to spend a lot of spare change on riding the light rail around like it’s a ride at Disneyland. Seattle’s light rail couldn’t quite get me to the front door of my hotel, so the hotel staff recommended I take a lift from the train station. “No duh,” I thanked the helpful staff member Justin.

“It’s an app for your smartphone, Podunk. LYFT. It’s pretty cool,” he countered.

I put my trusty LG to work. I pressed a button that said “Request LYFT,” and within about 5 minutes, Steve showed up in his super clean SUV. I did not even have to tell Steve where I was. He just automagically knew. Creepy.

01_lyft_request02_lyft_arriveSo this is not a picture of Steve, but this is the kind of information that appears on your phone, all because you downloaded an app. This is like a cross between Facebook and carjacking. I am a little bit hooked on this feeling.


Iron Chef and I had the occasion to drive about 10 hours in an easterly direction from Podunk in search of some girls hockey action last weekend. Along the way, we made some exciting discoveries. Because round-trip tickets from Podunk to Gillette are such a hot item, I thought I would clue you in on some of the highlights.

The Western Cafe in Bozeman occupies an unassuming older building on Main Street, complete with slightly sloping floors, and a row of seating at the counter.

westerncafeThe place was packed elbow to elbow, cell phones were on the down low, and the official radio station was old school country (think Eddy Arnold and Patsy Cline).   Iron had the right idea with his chicken fried steak breakfast. This place is Podunk Approved.

Little Bighorn Battlefield, Beyond Billings, Montana. This was an outstanding locale to stop, stretch our legs, and enjoy some good old western global warming. Shirt sleeves in February in Wyoming? The tragedy of this battlefield, infamous as Custer’s Last Stand, is that you get the distinct feeling that the U.S. Cavalry should have simply installed artwork honoring the Native American people like the National Park Service has now done, perhaps avoiding the whole unfortunate affair.

Sculpture at the Little Bighorn Battlefield.

Sculpture at the Little Bighorn Battlefield.


Mounds of dirt posing as a town are NOT Podunk approved.

Prairie Dog Town, Montana-Wyomingish. OK this turned out not to be a town at all, despite signs to the contrary. No prairie dog post office, no prairie dog barber shop, no prairie dog gas station, and as far as we could tell, no prairie dogs.

Black Tooth Brewing Company, Sheridan, WY. All you need to know is that a brewery in Sheridan had a ginger infused saison they call Le Ging. Yum. Podunk approves.

Prairie Fire Brewing Company, Gillette, WY. Prairie Fire is making some stellar beers, but this roomy brewery earned double Podunk approval by having not only 4 flavors of hot wings for your beer pairing pleasure, but also a cameo appearance by random ex-pat Podunk residents. Upon entering, we found Jim and Mary, owners emeritus of Indian Creek Guest Ranch — possibly the County seat of Podunk — quenching their thirst with Prairie Fire. The hell you say! Podunk party approved.

Gillette Brewing Company, Gillette, WY. We knew this place would be a winner when we saw the brick oven pizza oven stationed next to an open window at this historic post office turned microbrewery. And we were wrong. The pizza really was quite good, but I knew when Chef asked if I thought his Pilsner tasted more like swamp gas or Chloraseptic that we had a problem. Chef did the unthinkable and sent the undrinkable beverage back, opting instead for the traditionally bullet proof Double IPA. This too tasted like a byproduct of fracking, dragging even a joint offering brick oven green chili chicken pizza firmly into Podunk disapprove territory.

Fortunately, Iron and I are Gumby resilient and we landed on our feet a couple of blocks down from Gillette Brewing Co. at the Big Lost Meadery.

Podunk approved rhinoplasty.

Podunk approved rhinoplasty.

The Big Lost building is beautifully and lovingly restored, but the real attraction here is getting to drink the provocatively named Crazy Woman mead out of a steer horn. Podunk Approved.

The final stop of our pillage before returning to Podunk was Neptune’s Brewery in Livingston, Montana. Neptune’s usually offers sushi, a somewhat unusual concept for a microbrewery in the Inland Northwest, but we were out of luck. Even so, the chocolate porter earned this funky little spot an enthusiastic Podunk seal of approval.

Eastward Ho, My Friends!

The Big Questions for 2015


I am not immune to New Year’s resolutions, and this year mine is, “think less, write more.” That might mean counting on loyal Podunk readers to help me ponder some of the quandaries that occupy my mind space.
For instance, the Podunks are in Kalispell again for one of Her Royal Highness’s hockey tournaments. By January, we are already road weary from hockey travel. I start to wonder, “What are the chances that the hotel lotion and the hotel conditioner are chemically one and the same product?”

Vacation Time

Usually I believe in losing the watch when on vacation. But the usually laid back region of the Yucatan Peninsula is throwing a curve ball at my non-routine.

As background, Big L and the Notorious Babs enticed my family to Mexico by luring, would you like to go to Mexico? Instead of going to school and work in the northern part of North America, not including Canada?

We are here with my brother Skeeter and his wife the Truly Nice Human, our kids, their kids, and no dogs.

Today, we’ve been faced with the dilemma of a happy hour that started at 2 on the Mexican time zone at a place called xpuha. Aside from the fact that this beach sounds like a really productive cough, it has the advantage of being on the Caribbean Sea and having a happy hour that starts at 2.


And the bar has swings.

But then we had to rush back to our casa because our main beach bar’s happy hour starts at 5. That bar has swings too. This is totally counter posing my August trip to the accidental Betty Ford Clinic.

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