Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the tag “road trip”

My Urban Triathlon

I should have spent last week training for one of my favorite Podunkian events — the 12 Hours of Disco mountain bike race. Instead, hockey reared its head again and I found myself taking Her Royal Highness to a player development camp in Salt Lake City. So while my teammates, the Lost Riders, were pedaling away, I was doing a little cross-training as a triathlete in Utah.

When you live in Podunk, finding one’s way in a metropolis is a challenge to say the least. It’s true I used a performance enhancing GPS (complete with Homer Simpson voice), but HRH added layers of complexity to our daily sojourn to the Utah Olympic Oval. IMG_5344She signed up for an AP English test at a Salt Lake City high school, for example, and only wanted to eat at restaurants where a left-hand turn was required. Then, Iron Chef joined us, and assuming I’d memorized the route from hotel to Oval, he “borrowed” Homer. People say Salt Lake was designed on a grid so there’s no way you can get lost. They fail to mention that the interstate system was designed not on a grid, but on a Spirograph. Needless to say, I considered Orienteering as the first event of my triathlon.

Then, there was the driving portion of the competition. I went from “watch for deer” to “holy shit I need to cross 5 lanes of traffic and could someone please ask all these semis and minivans to get out of my way!” I’ve never really considered NASCAR a sport, but I think I do now. The mental agility and the constant physical puckering required to motor amongst the masses qualified Driving as Event #2.driver view

The third and most difficult leg of my urban triathlon was IKEA. IKEAMy mom, the Notorious Babs, joined us for our Salt Lake outing, and we discovered that she had been to Tahiti, Peru, Austria … but never IKEA. “How hard could going into a furniture store be?” I applied my podunk logic. It turns out IKEA is swedish for “I KANT EXIT ATALL.” The IKEA concept, as best I can tell, is to fill a massive 2-story warehouse with futons and book shelves, and then create a funhouse-type path through every square inch of the store. Walking from end-to-end would be athletic, but do-able. But the IKEA maze helped me visualize how a human small intestine can actually be 27 miles long. By the time we got to the drawer pull part of the store’s intestinal tract, HRH had a racehorse-going-into-the-chutes crazy eye and Babs was limping. Unfortunately for all of us, our progress was impeded by the multitude of strollers in our way. IKEA had obviously advertised “Bring your unchanged baby to store day,” and not being locals, we came to the store unaware of this promotional. It was harrowing — I won’t lie — but I do feel somehow a little more prepared for my mountain bike race. The Lost Riders might not take the trophy, but I’ll always have the satisfaction of knowing I got out of that damned store.

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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.

Road Tripping without Wings

Hockey has made my family crazy, and now it is taking us to San Jose, California, which is Spanish for “near San Francisco.” Her Royal Highness’ Big Sky Wildcats team re-paid me for driving to Gillette, Wyoming by qualifying for the national tourney, extending what is the world’s longest sports season. Without a doubt, this is a cool development for HRH. And as a supportive family, we decided we would turn the trip into a funtastic spring break for all.

Soon after, HRH and her brother the Odd Number found out that we intended to drive the 18 or so hours to SJ.
They were incensed at our madness. The same child that acted like she was contemplating turning me into Health and Human Services when I suggested she find a ride for the 3-day, 20 hr-roundtrip to Gillette, Wyoming — fun factor Zero — had apparently imagined we would charter a plane to the Bay Area.

Odd Number, quick with his math skills, wailed, “That’s 36 hours in the car!”

My thoughts drifted to the Oregon Trail pioneers, explaining the journey ahead to their children. Since history misses so many details, maybe more than a few pioneOregon Trailer children got left back East because they carried on. Or maybe they started out with good attitudes and by the time they got to Craters of the Moon. the wagons just left them with their little pile of electronic devices. “Good luck finding batteries,” the dads would say.

Or the Joads in The Grapes of Wrath. What Ruthie and Winfield wouldn’t have given for the spacious backseat of the Honda Pilot! I’ve included a handy map for your convenience so you can track our progress and start your betting pools on which kid gets left behind first and where.
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Menu Planning on the Metolius

I am the reason they serve free drinks at silent auctions and accept credit cards.

But when I packaged my recent “win” — fishing for 4 on Oregon’s famed Metolius River — as Happy Father’s Day, there was all-around approval and merriment.

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Photo by Michael Hatten, www.sacredearthstudios.smugmug.com

When I conceded the fishing on the Metolius sounded a little too serious for my don’t-know-how-to-tie-a-knot flyfishing style and suggested the Iron Chef should go with true angling aficionados, a quiet elation filled the room.

That was back in March and now Iron and his fishing buddies, Bo and Zo, are probably assessing the green drake hatch right now. In

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between, however, there have been countless hours devoted to trip planning — what kind of flies, which rod weight, what route to take, which breweries to visit, and finally, menu planning.

Now I’ve taken my fair share of road trips with girlfriends. Those of us who are mothers just pack up in the middle of the night when we hear we’re going on a roader responsible only for our own damned selves. We forget a lot of stuff, but the freedom of not having to pack toddler snacks, woobies, a 1,000-piece collection of Hot Wheels, and a library big enough your car gets mistaken for the Bookmobile is intoxicating.

My best friend Lucy once hopped in the car sporting only a soft-sided cooler, a stuff sack that couldn’t have had more than a Kleenex box, and the excellent non-fiction The Bad Girls Guide to Road Trips.Image

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Jumbos in Bruneau, Idaho — a great place to get Slim Jims and Salt and Vinegar chips.

Menu planning is not on the list. Lucy and I have survived for days on convenience store meat and potatoes (Slim Jims and Salt & Vinegar Chips), a Spicy V-8 doing double-time as salad, and Snickers and a lottery ticket for dessert.

Yet somehow I’m married to a man who most likely has a travel-size bottle of capers in his pocket, just in case.

Happy Fishing, man.

Remote Possibilities

I don’t mind living in the middle of nowhere … it’s leaving that sucks. You have to get serious to leave Salmon, Idaho. The Idaho State girls hockey championship in Idaho Falls last weekend was one of those serious occasions. Luckily for me and my two 15-year-old passengers, the breathtakingly beautiful part of the drive — 60 miles of Highway 28 that follows the Lemhi Mtn Range — featured visibility of about 3 feet courtesy of an incredibly rare 2012 snowstorm.

Once we’ve passed Leadore and been blown sideways on Gilmore Summit (elevation 7169 ft) about 60 miles east of Salmon, the realization that Idaho Falls is still 100 miles away hits the passengers in the back seat like a ton of bricks.

“Why do we have to live 8 million years from anywhere?” the one who shares my DNA wails. I’d like to assure Her Royal Highness that she is overreacting, but — although I grew up on the Snake River Plains, for god’s sake — I have to admit that somewhere between the Idaho National Lab desert and Mud Lake I’m in need of a suicide watch myself. I picture myself living in Mud Lake …
 and I get the weepies.

Right before I slipped into a despondent stare-straight-ahead-and-drive coma, it occurred to me that my attempt to listen to the entire Mumford and Sons Sigh No More album was not helping matters at all. The quartet’s driving banjo and haunting vocals on the single White Blank Page had the three of us moaning Why do we live 8 million years from anywhere in unison. I unplugged the iPod and threw it in the back, breaking the hypnotic spell. “Fix the music!” I commanded.

By the time we passed the Mud Lake LDS stake center, the Pilot’s windows were vibrating with the Lemhi County teen girl version of club music — desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that. It is truly best to not even try to pay attention to the lyrics of Ke$ha’s Booty Call. We were able to limp into I.F. with a concessionary Shut Up and Drive ala Rihanna.

On the return trip, Mother Nature was in a more cooperative mood, and the Lemhis provided their own soundtrack welcoming us home.

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