Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the tag “I-84”

4 States in 8 Hours …. At This Rate….

After a 1-day layover in the Spring Break locale that threatens to overtake Fort Lauderdale — Mountain Home, Idaho — we hit Interstate 84 bright and early. I -84 between Mountain Home and Boise is a stretch of road that I convinced myself as a child would soon be replaced my bullet trains and other lightning fast and futuristic modes of travel. Instead, decades later, we drive the same old-fashioned kind of cars, just with worse gas mileage.
But that didn’t erase the fact that we had a beautiful sunny day and everyone had gotten in the Pilot at the pre-assigned take-off time. When we got off 84 and started driving through Snake River Valley wine country, my mood soared, despite the fact that I knew an early Tuesday morning tasting an hour into our trip was most likely out of the question.
By the time we hit eastern Oregon, the Pilot was filled with an incredible harmony, underlined by the fact that Iron Chef slipped in a Grateful Dead playlist. As Jerry Garcia advised “Bertha, don’t you come around here anymore,” Her Royal Highness and Odd Number appeared not to take notice. When the Dead broke into a long, “I forgot the lyrics” jam, nobody cried out in protest. As we crossed the Owyhee River, visions of Iron Chef’s pre-kid VW microbus with the paisley curtains came to mind. This is the little family I always thought we’d have — going down the road feelin’ bad. When we reached a sort of podunk mecca — Jordan Valley, Oregon — we stopped at the Rockhouse and bought Odd a chocolate milkshake despite the early hour.

Jordan Valley's Rockhouse.

Jordan Valley’s Rockhouse.

We were a road trip family now, adhering to no rules but our own (and the drastically slow Oregon speed limit).
We ate lunch at Ormachea’s basque eatery in Winnemucca and marked Nevada off our list.
It wasn’t until we had California in our sites that road trip nirvana started to break down. A scuffle in the backseat prompted me to ask, “Did you just call your brother a demon sloth?”
“No, mom, she thought the monkey was a demon sloth!” Hmmm.
Then, after 6 hours in the car, and 4.5 hours after the chocolate milkshake wore off, Odd queried, “Are we staying at a nice hotel tonight, or a Holiday Inn?” (As incredibly loyal Holiday Inn priority club members, Holiday staff rush to the door when we come in, rewarding us with a bottle of water and occasionally an extra room key).
Thinking back on some of the MOTELS I’ve stayed in over the years, Holiday Inn ranks pretty damn high.
“What do you consider to be a NICE hotel, Odd?”
Odd thinks about it. “5-star.”
Interestingly enough, our hotel in Truckee, California, was located conveniently next to Donner State Park, in memory of the California Trail pioneers who ate their children when they complained about 3-star accommodations.
Statue at Donner State Park. Families who survive road trips deserve to be bronzed.

Statue at Donner State Park. Families who survive road trips deserve to be bronzed.

As a topper to the day, we dined at the FiftyFifty Brewery, perhaps the finest place on Earth to take your mind off 8 hours of forced family fun in a confined space.
FiftyFifty deserves its own post, but for now, I’ll say that the Donner Party Porter kept our family together and on to Day 3 of our Insane Hockey Road Trip.

Not Licensed to Drive

My daughter turned 15 on Sunday. In Salmon, we don’t celebrate the traditional Quinceanera like they do in places where they have more than one ethnic background. Rural communities tend to celebrate the 15th birthday with El Drivers Licensero, which should send a shudder down the spine of anyone who has ever been a teenage driver, witnessed a teenage driver, or god forbid, ridden with one.
My hope for our children was that we would run out of fossil fuels before they became of age. But then Carly turned 14 and the gas stations were still pumping petrol like it was going out of style. There went that idea.
But then a new diversion became available. In a community where the unemployment rate is about 10% and the underemployment rate is approximately 62.4%, we have not a single person in Salmon who will teach the state sanctioned pre-requisite drivers education class. Well, that’s not exactly true…through the Idaho Digital Learning Academy, young people can do the book work via an online course, but neither a school employee nor the general entrepreneurial public will actually get in the car with the students for the practicum part of the class.
When I was a young person and candy bars were a nickel, we could actually get our Idaho driver’s license at age 14, but we were not permitted to drive at night until age 16, which is totally backward because during the day you can see that you are sharing the road with a teenage driver which may cause you to panic and swerve off the road. My driver’s education instructor was a nice Mormon math teacher who had so many kids of his own and had been teaching so long that he could very adeptly go to some quiet secret place in his head and be completely oblivious to his surroundings. This was truly a blessing when Kellee Metier was practicing her cruising speed on I-84 between Mountain Home and Hammett and decided that it would be morally wrong to run over a whistle pig. So I’ve recently found out that outside of Mountain Home, people refer to whistle pigs as the Townsend Ground Squirrel. They look like this….
except in the spring and summer when they engage in the squirrel version of Running with the Bulls on the interstate and look more like this…

Mr. Gibbons shook himself out of his trance as our Chrysler sedan fishtailed on first one lane and then the next. He ordered Kellee to pull over on the shoulder where we all got a brief lecture on the inadvisability of swerving to miss wildlife, especially small rodent wildlife, when one was sharing the road with 18 wheelers. I quietly lectured myself on the inadvisability of wearing pastel-colored shorts when Kellee Metier was practicing cruising speeds on the interstate.
When we did get our licenses, our problems were compounded by the popularity of the hit show Dukes of Hazzard.
Even if you did not own a 1969 Dodge Charger and instead were borrowing your dad’s 1969 Volkswagen Beetle, you were almost required by law to stop on any given dirt road using only your emergency brake. Given the recent (I say 2005 is recent) remake of Dukes of Hazzard into a major motion picture AND the emergence of Texting, I would venture to say that teenage driving is now 7,000 times more dangerous now than during the Interstate 84 World Whistle Pig Expo.
The inherent limits on rural educational opportunties have never felt better.

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