Podunk Meets Paradise

Musings from Central Idaho

Archive for the tag “Salmon”

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?


Forced Family Fun: Episode 2016.1

My sidekick Lucy was out of town for the weekend and Podunk had buckets of snow. So, I strapped on some new skiiing buddies and headed for the hills. As you may know, Lucy and I, along with our friends Zephyr and Piso Mojado, form the elite mountain bike team known only as the “Lost Riders.” We have yet to find any nearby x-country ski competitions worthy of our fantastic skills, but if we did, we would most certainly be the “Lost Skiiers.” Sense of direction is not our strong suit under any climate conditions.

So, when I had the unique opportunity to ski with Iron Chef, Odd Number, and his gal, I knew I had to demonstrate best behavior because all they ever hear about is misadventure. On Saturday, I selected a known, traveled route, rich with signs and comforting blue diamonds affixed to lodgepole pine. The snow was lovely, the skiing barely invigorating, the vehicle obvious at the trailhead. Responsible recreation success!

Sunday, Iron Chef had to attend to his duties as King of Podunk Hockey, so Her Royal Highness stepped in for Forced Family Fun. I found myself recommending a new route, a trail I knew about but had not actually skiied myself. This trail not only had a trailhead, but a carved wooden map, unheard of in these parts, where our trail signing motto is, “If you don’t know where you are, you probably don’t belong here.”


Her Royal Highness is so far not concerned that we have lost the Blue Diamonds.

The skiing rookies were terrific sports as the trail, not a groomed trail but a mashed down by snowshoers and their dogs kind of trail, soon became unfettered powder. Pure, steep-slope, unfettered hip-deep powder. My colleagues remained in good humor as I expressed the benefit of being able to traverse uphill for long periods on one’s backcountry skis. And they mostly believed me as dramatic views of the Podunkian valley emerged.


Before the children lost all hope.

But then, the comforting blue diamonds went away, and my genetic disposition against retreat kicked in. “It’s not a crevasse — it’s an adventure,” I jingoed, pretending that I didn’t hear some of the words coming from my 16-year-old’s mouth.

“I have matches and a headlamp,” I offered, intending to inspire confidence in my party. Alas, the confidence was in short supply, and dejected, I led the group on a quite invigorating descent to the trusty Honda Pilot (see Honda, this could by your sponsored spot).

I believe the children questioned whether our 2 minutes of downhill bliss were worth the 1.5 hours we had plodded through the powder and pines. I missed Lucy, who like me, would simply marvel that we had ever found the vehicle.



I’m Not Sure How to Respond

It’s not earth shaking news that I broke my fabulous fablet and had to buy a new phone. Why wouldn’t you engineer a multi-HUNDRED dollar device to be super fragile, shattering at only the third time someone drops you on your glass face? I switched from my no-name fablet brand to the illustrious, black turtleneck wearing iPhone. Even with its sexy name-brand cachet, I treat my phones like an old school walkie talkie, speaking into them on the infrequent occasion when I feel the need, expecting the person on the other end to be waiting for my words, and ideally, promptly reply.


But then, in a surprise move, Iron Chef gave up his rotary telephone for an iPhone, and in true Cheffy style, proceeded to learn how to use the device. How very annoying. The only thing that I knew about Siri the Talking Phone Robot was that she sprang to life at inopportune moments just because I was holding my finger on a phone button or two. Chef immediately began to treat Siri like a trusted friend, asking for advice and recommendations. A friend of mine in his 60s (whom I call Brian for this blog’s purposes, because his name is Brian, and unlike many of my friends, does not need to hide under the cloak of darkness) demonstrated Siri’s powers to me. “When is the World Series on tonight?” he asked Her Wiseyness, and she answered, in Mountain time, daylight savings or whatever fully taken into consideration.

In the privacy of my own home, I tried asking Siri a few questions whose answers had thus far eluded me.

“Siri, why should we criminalize the construction of a whitewater park?” I spoke my question into the rectangular robot goddess, thinking of the November 3 election and the Proposition One question on the ballot.

“I’m not sure how to respond to your question,” Siri told me, devoid of emotion.

Then, like a polite family friend, she offered some things we could talk about…


I’m not going to lie, I’m creeped out. I mean, I didn’t even know I had a sister. And who is this Nikkei person?

My advice — vote your conscience on November 3rd in Podunk, and Podunk-like places all over the land. Siri is stumped on this one.

Year 4 of the Lemhi Valley Century

Photo credit: Lost Trail Lens, http://losttraillens.smugmug.com/Events/LVCR

Photo credit: Lost Trail Lens, http://losttraillens.smugmug.com/Events/LVCR

Saturday’s Lemhi Valley Century Ride served as a good reminder for a lot of things.

1.  If given two options: a) ride 100 miles on Highway 28 with 35 of those miles being a long grind up a 7200 foot summit, or b) ride 65 miles on the supposedly downhill stretch and pretend you know that roughly calculates to 100 kilometers (Canadian for “mile”) — always choose option B.

2.  Riding a bike 65 American miles on a highway is hard. We should conserve fossil fuels.

3.  Bike rides with a BBQ and a keg of Bertram’s beer at the end are better than those without.
4.  You can so get a flat tire riding on the highway, and your sidekick Lucy is so smart for bringing a spare tube and her fancy new bike tools even though there was no cactus in sight.

5.  June and Whit McKinney should get the Nobel Peace Prize for offering free wine tastings, bratwurst bites, and smoked cheese at the Lemhi Store. If they do not get the Peace Prize, nobody should.
6.   If you stay too long at the Lemhi Store with the McKinneys, old people and little kids will pass you.

7.   If you believe Iron Chef that Maker’s Mark is an electrolyte replacement beverage, old people and little kids will pass you.

8.   Next year, we truly need sponsors.

Game On — Cold Muthas v Kelts

The Salmon Hockey Association has historically had 2 adult teams — the Tuesday/Thursday night Good Guys, or more experienced, competitive players, and the Wednesday night Wheelchair League, or more novice players. The Kelts, or spawned out salmon, bubbled up from the ooze of the Wheelchair league. When they challenged the Cold Muthas to a good-natured match, I felt good about our music selection being in order, the fact that we all had helmets and most of us shin guards, and we’d all been on skates at least twice.

It was the late hour of the game — a 9:15 p.m. start — that had me worried. First, there was the issue of our coaches being middle schoolers and not being able to stay out late to line us out. Then there was my own bedtime hour to consider. I’d started the U79 beginner ladies league to avoid the late-night, bleary-eyed shenanigans amateur hockey was famous for. But there is a certain No Crybabies code Cold Muthas must adhere to, so we pulled up our breezers for our first game.

We were beginning to understand why Coach Keyra and Assistant Coach Katherine had wanted to teach us how to play offense and defense.

I won’t lie, our team had some mishaps in our first two outings with the Kelts. The inability to stop became nothing short of a hazard. And our copycat cool move of sitting on the boards instead of on the bench resulted in at least a minor disaster, with some players (namely my sidekick Lucy) falling backwards, and others (namely Pippi Broadknockings) falling into the rink in the middle of play.

But we had an unstoppable ace in the hole. Scrapper, the maker of our territorial beach towel flag, also just happened to be Salmon Hockey’s talk show personality on Podunk’s only radio station KSRA. During the Thursday morning program Penalty Box, Scrapper described our huge margin of victory and the humiliation of the Kelts. Scrapper, as it turned out, is a world-class shit talker.

We were winning the public relations war, and we had the soundtrack to prove it.

Whatever You Do — Don’t Call Me Maybe

The Odd Number, Her Royal Highness, and I are on holiday with my family — the Notorious Babs and Big L — in Oregon this week. Thanks to a new Podunk family policy spurred by Her Highness’ maniacal driving habits and the Iron Chef’s realization that Odd # represents the last chance at carrying on the Family Name, we had to take separate vehicles. Odd traveled with Babs and Big L, while I carpooled with HRH and tried to get my courage up to let her take the wheel.
While this courage building was in the works, I had a good long chance to contemplate 1) the enormity of the Columbia River System, and 2) the lack of variety on Pop Radio stations.
First, let’s just admit that the salmon and steelhead that make it past all these huge chunks of concrete then back again to my home town of Podunk (aka Salmon, Idaho) are BADASS.

Gargantuan chunk of concrete on the Columbia.

Next, let’s address Pop Music. Back in the day, we had Top 40 music. Now, as with other trends, THEY have downsized and streamlined Pop Music so now there is only Top 3 music. And unfortunately, I can only tell you what the Number One song is because it is permanently etched into my gray matter. In case you have not been driving along the Columbia River System with a teenage girl, I will let you know that song is “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen.
Most disturbing — Carly Rae Jepsen is Canadian. So what used to be America’s Top 40 is now whittled down to America’s Top 3, I only know the Top 1 and it is by a Canadian. (Please see my earlier post on North American music.)
Mark my words, this is the artistic equivalent of outsourcing all telemarketing jobs to India. Jepsen is trying to cover her tracks AND appeal to the NASCAR circuit by throwing a “Rae” in as a hoax middle name. Who does that north of the 45th parallel?
Anyhow, after forcing me to listen 48 times to the mind-numbing beat and learn the ridiculous teenage girl car dancing of Call Me Maybe, I turned the wheel over to Her Highness at Mile 840 of Mile 880.
Hey I just met you,
and this is crazy,
so here’s my number….
Call me Maybe.

A Century to Ride

The Lemhi Valley Century Ride has become something of a family tradition. It’s the one time all year Her Royal Highness rides her bike and the only time I ride mine on pavement. For the past 2 years, we’ve ridden from Gilmore Summit to Salmon (about 100 kilometers –a metric century — thank you Canada) on mountain bikes.

10 speed

Verboten Road Bike.

Then Her Highness lined up a road bike. The allure of skinny tires was completely understandable. But by 9 p.m. the night before the ride, HRH hadn’t taken the loaned bike for a spin — a major problem considering she had never been on a 10-speed in her life. After a forced test ride, the road bike was forbidden under Section 47.2 of our family safety code.  Her Highness was back on fat tires.

Meanwhile, I had broken down and put skinny tires on my bike.

In other words, I had a chance to beat her to the finish line. My Lost Rider teammate Lucy and I smoked past Her Highness and her riding mate (astride a road bike) a few miles into the ride and put enough distance between the teenagers and us that we could no longer hear the wailing and they could no longer hear our evil laughter.

Lemhi Store Wine Tasting

Lemhi Store wine maven June McKinney with Lost Riders Sally and Lucy.

Fueled by our competitive spirits, Lucy and I made a pact to limit our wine tasting stop at the Lemhi Store (Mile 36) to one white and one red,  finding ourselves in complete agreement with postmistress and store proprietor June McKinney regarding the loveliness of the Bella Sera Pinot Grigio.

That’s when my plans started to fall apart. Somehow, while we were inside evaluating the merits of an Idaho merlot, Her Royal Highness was swindling an innocent passerby into letting her borrow a sleek road bike and schlep her mountain bike to Salmon. Unbelievable!

Her Royal Highness Nets the Skinny Tires

Her Royal Highness Hoodwinking Spectator Out of Skinny Tire Bike

The obstacles continued to mount. The Iron Chef and our son, the Odd Number, returned early from an All-Star baseball tourney in Eastern Idaho, and established a supplemental Negro Modelo and Salt and Vinegar potato chip aid station just after Mile 46.

Salt and Vinegar Chip Stop

Salt and Vinegar Stop

After we’d made it over that hurdle, another one presented itself at Baker, Mile 55. Team Easy Rider joined the Lost Riders for the home stretch to Salmon. But first, they insisted we evaluate the pleasantness of icy cold vodka poured over ice and Paul Newman’s virgin lemonade. Did I mention it was a hot day? And the Easy Riders had ice?

With all this adversity, I failed to overtake Her Royal Highness. Next year, she’s mine.

Easy Riders join the Lost Riders.

Trolling for Sponsors

Salmon’s 12 Hours of Disco endurance mountain bike race attracted some serious endurance athletes. Don’t get me wrong, these were extremely nice people, but then again when you routinely run the risk of having a heart attack of losing other bodily functions in front of a crowd, it sort of makes sense to be nice, right?

My team — the Lost Riders — met our goal of not requiring the services of Salmon Search and Rescue at any point during or post-event.  We each completed two laps on the 8-mile track and were damned happy to do it. Other riders showed up with a little more ambitious agenda, however. If you look at this board…

Disco Hill Scoreboard

Disco Hill Scoreboard

you might notice that the men and WOMEN solo riders completed 13 laps or approximately 104 miles from 7 a.m. til 7 p.m.

As admirable as this feat may be, the Enduroletes pay heavy costs.

For one, while the rest of us were enjoying freshly grilled cheeseburgers with extra relish, the more passionate pedalers substituted a substance known mostly as “goo” for solid food. They must call it goo because  “asthmatic dog slobber” is already spoken for.

If your dinner looks like this:



you may need to question your life’s overall direction.

Some of the teams that came to Podunk to ride, like the illustrious MudHoneys, sported uniforms highly tattooed with sponsorships. But I saw no one with a major sponsorship from Gold Bond Medicated Powder or the like. You cannot tell me that, male or female, when you ride 104 miles on your mountain bike you have not permanently wrecked your nether regions. I won’t believe you.

One team showed us the upside to being serious riders when they set up their Ninkasi Brewing tent. In addition to the tent and team jerseys, the trio trucked in a keg each of Total Domination Double IPA and Radiant Ale. I asked how the Lost Riders might find a beverage sponsor (and not a salve or medicated powder sponsor). I was confused by the team captain’s answer and the close proximity of the icy cold brew, so I realized too late that he had said “You just need to pitch it,” and not “You just need a pitcher.” Oh well, I’ve made far worse mistakes…

Bail, Bondsman

After a monumental grassroots effort, we mustered up 49% of the vote in favor of a new school — a far cry from the 66% super majority required by the State of Idaho. The worst thing after SIX tries … I’m  impressed that we almost split the vote.

Nearly half the voting people in Salmon were willing to make a sacrifice for the next generation!

I did hear complaints the proposed K-8 school’s design wasn’t just right (as opposed to our ancient middle school with #2 dripping out of the pipes and through the ceiling). And maybe it’s possible that if we changed some key design elements, we’d attract a whole new crop of yes voters.

For instance, Salmon has a big Demolition Derby tradition. Why not use the playground as the Demo Derby site and change the school mascot from the Salmon Savages to the Wreckers. The proceeds from the gate, beer garden, and halter top and mullet contests would service the bond debt.


Photo from yellowjeeproad.com

Or Greg Mortenson could come out from under the cloak of Three Cups of Tea shame and build schools in Salmon. Image

Rotary International could join in the fun and send dentists and optometrists to provide much needed medical services for the children.

Or the Lemhi-Shoshones could be invited back to town and asked to build a casino with a school attached. How beautiful to be able to upgrade our plumbing thanks to the craps tables! For sure we’d have to drop the Salmon Savages thing, but if it keeps the taxes we pay for school buildings lower than the taxes we pay for the county landfill, the compromise might be a necessary evil (besides, we don’t have to exclude the Demolition Derby and the Wreckers idea, do we?).

There is a 66.6% chance that I just need to simmer down and have 3 cups of tea.

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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