Miles traveled today: 346.0
Total miles traveled: 5236.0
I Was Expecting Trees
I wasn’t in any particular hurry to leave Ogden this morning. Not because I was in love with the Utah town, pretty though it may be, but I knew I only had about a 4.5-hour drive to Boise and if I left too early, I’d arrive well before check-in time. I have a hard time parking my car full of all my stuff and leaving it unattended, though I had no choice back in Clear Lake, Iowa. Still, that was a soybean field off a gravel road a million miles from anywhere, and this is Boise, the biggest city in Idaho. So I “slept in” (a little bit past 7:00) and took my time getting ready. I pulled onto the interstate a little after 8:30, decided I’d kill some time by checking out the Great Salt Lake, pulled off the highway and got in line at a state park, saw the entrance fee was $10, did a u-turn and got back on the freeway. It just wouldn’t be worth the price for, what? Thirty minutes tops? Plus, the morning was overcast and humid, so it wasn’t the greatest photo opportunity anyway. I managed to snap a quick pic as I was flying down the interstate, though. At least I can say I saw it!
The lovely Wasatch Front receded and the landscape gave way to more gently rolling green hills as I crossed the Idaho state line. I passed through Coeur d’Alene, in the panhandle, on my way east eleven days ago and the beauty was stunning. I was expecting more of the same, but my route through the southern portion of the state was the complete opposite: the hills gave way to a dry, barren, featureless desert. And the sun came out. It wasn’t the most scenic stretch of highway, that’s for sure. Good thing I only had a short drive today! I could have gone farther and gotten closer to home, but I’ve always wanted to visit Boise, and wanted to be somewhere big for the 4th of July. Also, too often on this trip I’ve pulled off the freeway and checked myself into a motel room, only to stay there with nothing to do the rest of the evening. For my last afternoon and evening on the road, I wanted to get out and do some things. Boise did not disappoint.
The city is, first of all, quite beautiful. Surprising, considering all that desert surrounding it. It’s like an oasis, and is both clean and modern while clinging to its historical roots. There are skyscrapers downtown, and an older historical district with period-looking buildings. After checking into my motel – yet another Super 8 (I have been pleased with my accommodations there, and find it’s a good value if you’re budget-conscious and not expecting The Ritz) – I drove downtown and parked in front of the State Capital building. It was sunny and hot, in the mid-90s, but by now I’ve become accustomed to the summertime heat. I’m not saying I’m a fan of it, but I can walk around in it without grumbling too loudly. Maybe that’s because I know there’s inevitably going to be an icy-cold room waiting for me when I’m finished?
Anyway. I admired the domed capital building, then walked through downtown Boise for a while. Because it’s the 4th of July, most of the businesses were either closed or closing early. Still, it was nice to see. Boise reminds me a little of Portland – it’s sort of a PG-rated smaller version of home. After exploring downtown, I hopped back in the car and drove to Boise Depot for a picturesque little stop with a stunning view of downtown and a very nice garden area with water. The train museum was closed, but there was a steam locomotive on display with interpretive information. When I was finished there, I stopped for an early dinner at Sizzler. I sort of thought they all went out of business, as the one near my house closed years ago. I haven’t been since I was a kid! I know Sizzler isn’t exactly the epitome of haute cuisine, but I wanted a steak on this trip, and while I envisioned a nice place in the midwest, that just didn’t work out. It was fitting that I had a good dinner on my last full day of traveling, anyway. I’m pleased to report that Sizzler is still good (and the salad bar still rocks). I returned to my room after dinner to cool off. There’s a big fireworks display in one of the downtown parks at 10:15 tonight, and I plan to drive around and find a decent spot to watch them once the sun sets.
Fun Things I’ll Miss About Motels
I can’t believe I’ve been on the road for thirteen days. When I was 11 years old I spent a few weeks that summer at my grandmother’s house in New Jersey, but other than that, this is the longest I have been away from home in my life. It feels like I’ve been gone forever. Naturally, I’ve gotten quite used to living out of motel rooms, and while the saying “there’s no place like home” is true, there are some things I’ll miss about the motel experience. Such as…
Fresh towels. Cleaned and neatly folded. By somebody else.
Not having to worry about making my bed every day.
“The Arc” shower curtain bar that makes your bath appear larger and keeps the curtain dry and mildew-free.
Fresh, free coffee every morning.
Tissues that disappear unobtrusively into the wall and are easily dispensed whenever you need them.
There are other things, like tiny bottles of shampoo and key cards that you swipe to open the door and ice buckets, that are fun but not necessary staples of life. How weird will it be to fumble around for keys again when I want in the front door?
A Few Random Observations from the Road
One thing I noticed out west – particularly once you hit Montana – is the abundance of motorcyclists who don’t wear helmets. Something about those wide open spaces apparently inspires them to believe they’re immune from having their brains splattered all over the asphalt. One glance at all the roadkill – and there was lots of it, everywhere (mainly deer and raccoons, but I even saw a badger and a porcupine) – should be enough to make them think twice about feeling the wind in their hair. Back home, helmets are the law, and you never see anybody riding without one. Once I hit the midwest, the helmets returned.
Practically every city in America of any substantial size whatsoever has a water tower with their name painted on the side. I saw this everywhere. Most are simple, a few, quite artistic. My favorite was this one in Box Elder, South Dakota. Probably because it’s right next to my old high school and gives a shout-out to my school team. Go, Patriots!
The more ambitious towns actually paint the first letter of their names on the side of the nearest hill. I first noticed this when I spotted a big white “L” while passing through Livingston, Montana. Maybe these places have visions of Hollywood-like grandeur?
Bugs are stupid for getting in the way of your windshield. When there are thousands of acres of corn for hundreds of miles in every direction, why do they choose to fly across the middle of the lone strip of freeway and end up smeared across your glass? The worst were the locusts in Missouri. They were big and, apparently, suicidal. Every stop for gas involved a corresponding squeegee wipe across the windshield. Five minutes later, it was dirty again.
The Home Stretch
This is it! My trip comes to an end tomorrow. As fun as it has been, I’m ready for home again. Two weeks is a long time to be gone. I miss my townhouse and my bed and my cat and my kids and I miss lazing around doing nothing if that’s what I feel like. Plus, it should be noted, I am sick of driving.
My next post will be from home!