Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the category “On the Road”

Airplane Reading

The Podunks are traveling to Mexico and when I’m flying, I like to read something more sophisticated than our local newspaper, or as Iron Chef refers to it — the weekly disappointment.

I picked up a copy of the Harvard Business Review to broaden my horizons.

The smarty pants at the Harvard Business Review taught me an extremely valuable lesson before I even made it to the Table of Contents. Namely, it is possible for a magazine to cost $16.95. WTF HBR!
I wasn’t hiring you to write a college essay for me.

I was hoping to gain some 30,000 ft insight into the world of the wheeler dealers. Lesson learned, HBR. Financial wizards check out the price tag.




Choosing a title for this post made me nervous, but I can’t afford a headline writer so there we go. If you found this post doing an internet search you shouldn’t have been doing, your bad. I’m writing about Butte, Montana.

The thing is, Iron Chef and I travel to Butte on a fairly regular basis because our kids are hockey players and Butte has an ice rink. So we mostly see this feature of Butte:

The Ice Rink at Butte

The Ice Rink at Butte

But now that Her Royal Highness is 17, I drop her ass off at the rink and find a little fun for myself. For you overprotective parents, that’s not selfish, that’s good planning. Which is how I found the Maud Canyon loop and put the Butte back in Butteful.

Now I get to see a Butte that looks like this:

Hey, Butte looks pretty good from up here.

Hey, Butte looks pretty good from up here.

Better yet, this trail teased me with a sign estimating the Continental Divide Trail — Podunk’s soft spot — was just a mere 1.5 miles away. I checked the clock on my fablet, did some quick calculations, and decided I could make it, at least to put my baby toe on the CDT.

The trail was fabulous, the aspen had turned all kinds of crazy colors, and my spirits were soaring until the Fablet communicated a text from HRH. “Come get me in like 20 minutes.” Drat!

Maud Canyon trail in Butte.

Maud Canyon trail in Butte.

I had to break my “No Running” rule which complicated my “No Deodorant” rule, but I made it to the rink in time for Her Royal Highness to be 20 minutes late. Whew!

Report from the Betty Ford Resort

Thanks to those gentle readers who expressed concern about my last post. Yes, Podunk’s instincts were spot on and my sidekick Lucy and I had accidentally enrolled in professional development at a remote summer camp-like setting on an island where only herbal tea was served.
Oh, they tried to mask this oversight with really delicious and organic food, but Lucy is quite a little carnivore, so this only increased our collective anxiety level.

The view from the Hollyhock Resort dining hall on Cortes Island was soothing.

The view from the Hollyhock Resort dining hall on Cortes Island was soothing.


We attempted to calm ourselves with daily yoga classes, being mindful to keep a significant distance between us because even though we appear to be grown ladies, yoga gives us the incurable giggles which in butterfly pose leads to serious problems.
I get your point, Betty. When you eat organic vegetables and drink herbal tea all day while on a beautiful Canadian island with no teenagers, you feel like a million bucks. And yes, I did feel the leatherback tortoise shell slough off my liver on Day 3.
But then Lucy and I did a little moonlight swim in the ocean because we heard about this crazy glow in the dark bioluminescent plankton, and sure enough it was true and pretty trippy, even on herbal tea. But then Lucy hid my Tahitian wrap and I had to march around the summer camp in my birthday suit. These antics, Betty, are much better executed with an adult beverage.

Bioluminescent plankton is freaky wonderful.

Bioluminescent plankton is freaky wonderful.

Leadership Ala Betty Ford?

My sidekick Lucy and I were invited to a leadership class on Cortes Island in British Columbia (Canada). At first glance, this is an incredible opportunity. But now that we’re en route, it occurs to us that we may be being sent to rehab. Maybe it’s my own guilty conscience or maybe the subtle reference from the “training center” that we can only wear slippers in the “lodge” tipped us off. The point is we’re scared and dashed into The Pike pub before boarding the seaplane for perhaps a last pint of courage.


Podunk on Money

Her Royal Highness and I were in relatively nearby Sun Valley recently.

“I feel like Podunk could be as cool as Sun Valley if we had, like, lots of money,” she observed.

Sun Valley Lodge.

Sun Valley Lodge.

I told her I thought so too. And that if we had, like, lots of money, I would have better hair.

Havre, Here We Come

Havre, Montana is an 830-mile round trip from Podunk, so I thought I would go there for the weekend.


Besides, my kid was playing hockey there. So, aided by Snow-o-Rama 2014, I hit the road with two 9th grade boys — Odd and his buddy Goalie. Thanks to a technological mishap allegedly involving Her Royal Highness making off with my music infrastructure, I enjoyed listening to static on the radio and the chatter of adolescent boys. I won’t lie, some of what I heard was disturbing. For example:

“Wow, Idaho is 50th in the nation for the number of kids who go on to college!”
“I wonder who is 49th — Mexico?”

We had a layover in Great Falls.

Great Falls snow storm. www.startribune.com

Great Falls snow storm. http://www.startribune.com

When we arrived at the hotel, staff were unloading piles and piles of luggage from a gigantic bus. The bags were too small for hockey players, too many for a rock band. Mannheim Steamroller? I guessed. But no, the front desk informed me this was part of their steady supply of Canadian tour buses.

What are they doing here? I wondered aloud.

“They are getting a break from the cold,” front desker told me.

Criminy cripes, I thought — internally this time.

Perhaps the Siberian cold, chilled with an arctic wind we encountered was unusual, I considered.

photo(1)But no. So now I’m intrigued about what kind of deep freeze these poor Canadians escaped from. And if they think Great Falls is a nice getaway in the dead of winter, we just might have a new marketing angle for Podunk.

I’m not that great at ad copy, so these are early drafts, but I’m thinking….

“Podunk. 45 degrees north, but if you are in Canada, that’s really south, so you’re almost at the equator.”

“Visit the Salmon Riviera. Our winter temperatures are Fahrenheit.”

“Podunk. When your Canadian megaloads came through, we didn’t protest, just gawked. Tarsands are neat. See, we’re friendly, too.”

“Podunk. Take your tuque off and stay awhile.”

“Podunk. Warmer, on average, than Great Falls.”

He Said Beer, She Said Wine, and Then the Kids Started Yammering

When we headed to the Oregon Coast for a family drive-cation, I thought we might pay proper respects to Oregon’s fabulous wine industry. Pinot Noir country should almost require its own passport and I was hurtling towards its deep, smoky purple underbelly. Unbeknownst to me, the beer world had already made a deal with the Devil, and more specifically, the Devil’s agent — Iron Chef.

This is the part where you might fairly ask, “What in the hell are you talking about, Podunk?”

The answer is clear: beer vs. wine.

He said beer, she said wine.

He said beer, she said wine.

Divide by two and then multiply by FAMILY VALUES. That’s right, wine lovers. Beer enthusiasts have corked us. Big time. Let me tell you about it.

Our family shuttled towards the Oregon Coast in December.  Podunk to Oregon Coast Equation = Many miles of travel and — in a strange acknowledgement of geography and weird wilderness inconveniences — journeying through 4 Pacific Northwest states.

Our layover was in Hood River, Oregon, a highly calculated move by Iron Chef given the number of breweries within walking distance of our hotel. To be fair, there are many wineries in the Hood River area. To be clear, none of them care to see you in the winter, and if they do, they hope that you leave children and pets in the car. They don’t want to feed you, but if you beg, some of them, but not all, will give you oyster crackers. oyster_crackerMeanwhile, the breweries have discovered a magical elixir that includes homemade macaroni and cheese and artisan root beer. Under this guise, in one night, children in tow, we visited Hood River’s Big Horse Brew Pub, Double Mountain Brewery, and Full Sail.

In Portland, we found ourselves at the newly opened Ecliptic Brewery. In my opinion, Ecliptic had the appeal of a freshly hosed-down and modern airport lobby. Even so, their stainless steel and concrete hospitality out-competed any of the magnificent wineries in the area. Mediocre finger steaks and soda pop — advantage brewery.

With my heart heavy, we drove past vineyard after vineyard, finally to arrive on the Coast where expert sorcerers like the Pelican Brewing Company in Pacific City, Oregon and the infamous Rogue Brewery in Newport reminded children why McDonald’s PlayLand really was for chumps. The Pelican boasts not just beach front, but actual sand dunes, sand dollars AND world-class pizza. For years, the Rogue has served kids’ meals on frisbees, for god’s sake. We finished up what I believe was a family-friendly trip of 8 breweries back in Hood River at a fairly young establishment called Pfriem Brewery. It is called Pfriem not because that is the sound you make when clearing your throat but because people who work there and possibly own the brewery are actually named Pfriem. But this is not the remarkable thing.

So seriously, this child begged his parents to go have a pint at Pfriem Brewery, directly across the street, so he could enjoy his young life climbing rocks next to the Columbia River.

So seriously, this child begged his parents to go have a pint at Pfriem Brewery, directly across the street, so he could enjoy his young life climbing rocks next to the Columbia River.

The remarkable thing is: first, the beer; and second, the fact that as young parents themselves, the Pfriems recognized that being across the street from a totally groovy kids’ park might actually be really relaxing to the parent who would just like a frosty cold one, and oh by the way, an artisan root beer and homemade macaroni and cheese for the kids who are playing in the park kind of close to the Columbia River, but not really that close when you think of it. And especially when you think of how close to the river those oyster cracker-smacking wineries would let the kids play.

Oregon Coast Here We Come — the Unofficial Soundtrack Take 2 w/ Liner Notes

Although I admitted to liking Iron Chef’s style of creating a road trip playlist with the only intention of pleasing his own damned self, I enjoy designing trippin’ music that speaks to the passengers where they are at that moment in time. In this case, that would be within the confines of our trusty Honda Pilot for a 4-state punch card of fun to the Oregon Coast.

Here’s what I was thinking…

  1. Cadillac (Keller Williams featuring Bob Weir) On Cadillac, you can cruise along with Buddha, Allah, Jesus and Hare Krishna. When the kids are arguing over seat positions, the line, “Jesus be riding bitch because he’s good like that,”  focuses everyone on what’s really important.
  2. Shot Reverse Shot (Jack Johnson) Jack is a mellow dude, and at least at the beginning of a trip, we need to exude mellowness. Plus, it’s kind of a hockey song. At least I think so.
  3. Little Games (The Colourist) By now, we’re out of the driveway and the little, nonsensical games have started. Get off my pillow. No, get off my pillow.
  4. Better Than Love  (The Hurts’ Freemasons Pegasus Mix) So this is the easiest 2014 way to introduce the Norwegian electro 1-hit but what a great hit it was (what was it?) band A-ha into your children’s tunes diet. Besides, if it’s the Freemasons Pegasus Radio Edit mix, I’m going for it, every time.A-ha_take_on_me-1stcover
  5. Titanium (David Guetta featuring Sia) As we near the county line, I’m playing this to pump up Odd, who has by now had the crap beaten out of him by Her Royal Highness. And the weird techno beat covers up the whimpering if you turn it up loud enough.
  6. Bulletproof  (La Roux) In that last song, Sia slurred the word bulletproof and that made me think of this.
  7. The Monster (Eminem featuring Rihanna) Maybe this will be the ultra marathon road trip when one of us learns to rap. 


    Rihanna featuring Eminem

  8. Camping, Family Road Trip (Mark Gross) This is a little intermission from comedian Mark Gross, who reminds us that traveling with family is supposed to be painful. And that other people swear too.
  9. Flaws (Bastille) The Podunk family has just reached the interstate, a somewhat exhilarating experience for those of us who perpetually are on the lookout for large mammals crosswalking on our curvy roads. Belting out the words to this anthem just feels right…”You have always worn your flaws upon your sleeve, And I have always buried them deep beneath the ground, Dig them up; let’s finish what we’ve started.”
  10. Who Will Save Your Soul (Jewel) Nothing is more fun than first singing along with Jewel on this tune, and then maintaining that howly, consonant-sliding pattern of speech for at least 100 more miles.
  11. Hard Sun (Eddie Vedder) After the last 100 miles of howling like Jewel, I play this for Iron Chef, so he remembers not to leave me at the Eastern Washington rest area.
  12. Devotion (Hurts featuring Kylie Minogue) Not only did the Hurts on accident bring back A-ha, but now Kylie Minogue AND the accordion? I just missed my turn.
  13. Stereo Love (Edward Maya & Vika Jigulina) They had me at accordion.
  14. You Were Meant For Me (Jewel featuring Pistol Annies) Wait a minute! It’s not 6 a.m. even in this new time zone. Play this first.   
  15. Round and Round (Bob Schneider) There has never been a truly great playlist without Bob. The opera singer is a test to see how cool you are. Oh, you fail, Royal Highness.

    Bob. The End.

    Bob. The End.

  16. Ride Wit Me (Nelly featuring City Spud) I think it’s important for rural white people to drive in to urban areas like Portland with the windows down and Nelly playing. Hey, must be the money!
  17. Cruise (Florida Georgia Line featuring Nelly) See, these guys think that, too.  What up, Nelly?
  18. Ride (Lana Del Rey) It really doesn’t matter how much we love each other, Lana’s right, we’ve been traveling too long. As she goes all Kate Bush on us, we run screaming from the Pilot.

Oregon Coast Here We Come – the Unofficial Soundtrack Take 1

I promised some of you gentle readers that I would not even attempt to describe our Podunk to West Coast road trip without setting the musical stage. Our family members have what could generously be described as a broad range of eclectic tastes in music, none of which are completely compatible. Some of which are offensive.

Road trips — especially 13 hour road trips — beat you down. And this is the only explanation I offer for promoting Iron Chef’s playlist first. But I have to say, his decision to put a playlist together that was the musical equivalent of peeing on all 4 tires, had a certain appeal to me.

janis  I’ll spare you the reaction to each and every song, but if you travel around with kids and get a chance to spin Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz, do it. It’s fun.

  1. Voodoo Child (Slight Return)                     The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  2. Lover You Should’ve Come Over      Natalie Maines
  3. Fever (Live)     Bob Weir & Rob Wasserman
  4. Fire    Langhorne Slim & The Law
  5. Black Is the Color              The Dry Spells
  6. Sao Paulo         Deadstring Brothers
  7. Tip of My Tongue (Live)     The Civil Wars
  8. Golden State (Live)               Eddie Vedder & Natalie Maines
  9. Walkin’        I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House
  10. Down In the Flood        The Derek Trucks Band
  11. I Had Me a Girl               The Civil Wars
  12. Supersoaker      Kings of Leon
  13. Slow It Down (Live)       The Lumineers
  14. Twenty Miles      Deer Tick
  15. Mercedes Benz         Janis Joplin
  16. Never Had Nobody Like You      M. Ward (feat. Zooey Deschanel)
  17. Foxey Lady        The Jimi Hendrix Experience
  18. Raining in Paris           The Maine
  19. River Water (Live & Unplugged)        Moon Taxi
  20. Beer    HighFive

Next stop: Oregon Coast Here We Come — the Unofficial Soundtrack Take 2 w/ Liner Notes

What Price Data?

My parents, the Notorious Babs and Big L, declared 2013 the year of the iPhone, thusly granting Her Royal Highness and Odd Number their own royal instruments. I use a flip phone that is reminiscent of Captain James Kirk’s “communicator”.

My texting prowess consists of 20131229-084613.jpgprose such as “?” Or “ok” sometimes shortened to “k” if I’m feeling arthritic.

Under these conditions, one does not need a data plan. But all of a sudden, I had hungry iPhones to feed and iPhones need data. I consulted with the suave salesman Rico from AT&T to assess what kind of data plan we needed. I did not grow up around data, so my terms might be inexact, but I believe Rico recommended a gigowatt of data.20131229-084651.jpg

A few months later, a CPA helped me figure out that our AT&T bill was now consuming a higher percentage of our gross monthly income than our home mortgage. Balderdash! I decided. I phoned Rico and asked him to give us the cheapest data plan money could buy. Rico went down fighting. He told me he needed to record our conversation so the NSA could hear me agreeing that I only wanted .10 nano watts of data even though 7000 megawatts were available for only $10 more per month per phone.

I spoke to the children, who were very understanding. “So, like, could I still stream Pandora all day?” HRH asked. Probably not, I told her, keeping Rico’s dire warnings of data poverty to myself. But for the low low price of $10/month, you could go back to extravagant business as usual, I advised. She reacted to this suggestion with some of the emotions one would expect if we had just informed her Highness that we were enrolling her in the human trafficking industry so Iron Chef and I could go to Hawaii.

I announced that I would find them jobs that would enable them to offset the upgrade. Like what … human trafficking? This is how the children ended up on what amounts to a bread and water diet of the data world.

Admittedly, I don’t understand what kinds of activities consume what volume of data, other than if Chef or I happen to ask HRH or Odd to look something up on the iPhone, anything really — this immediately causes the dreaded data overage that Rico and the NSA predicted ominously.

But just think, big data could be yours for the low low price of one plasma donation per month. Streaming Pandora and spinning platelets one nano watt at a time.

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