August 05, 2010

Summer Road Trip - Driving to Idaho

START: 507 miles, 11:45am.
We had agreed the night before to leave at 10am, but we left at 11:45am. My normal habit is to be upset by this and I still felt this pattern in me. But just like unconscious slouching most of your life, the pattern is still there, in your body, even though now you are consciously sitting up straight. The pattern was still there, but not active. Instead, it felt like the space for more time was needed and so, I was at peace. I was a little surprised by this, but I enjoyed my calm and enjoyed watching Rose's cat, Maui, sit in the long grass under a tree, watching us pack up the cars and Rose's dog, Siena, get excited because she thinks she is going on the trip. Poor Siena.
Rose driving the Eurovan
I felt a pang, as we, Rose in her Eurovan and me in my Honda Civic hatchback, left Bend, because I wished I could have spent more time there. But the road was calling and I would be back in Bend at the end of the month. To the west of Bend are the Cascade mountains and to the east is the beginning of high desert. As we drive out of Bend the pine covered, snow-capped mountains relax into shorter mountains.
The trees become thinner and smaller and sagebrush (I guess that is what they call it) begins to cover the ground intermixed with brown, dry grass. It is dusty and hot and dry.
Even these desert mountains spread out into tall hills, sweeping up and down with longer and wider spaces between them. The trees disappear and are the pastel green of sagebrush carpets the ground. In my rear view mirror I can still see a snow-capped peak of a mountain behind me. Long stretches of the road are empty, this is the Oregon Badlands.
Oregon desert hayfield
After a while, I see some signs of human inhabitance, in the form of hay fields. This creates bright, green swathes amongst the brown, gold and pastel green of the desert. There is something about a road trip that is unlike other types of travel. By traveling so many miles, you get a greater sense of vastness, not just by huge, endless landscapes, but by the sheer number of miles there are available to cross in this country, on this planet. You are not just on it, you are in it. These places can be known, even if just a little, by you. There are so many places to know and even then, you could stay and get to know them well. Who really knows these places? Can they be known? What is there is to know? And if we do know them well, how long before we forget that we know them?
Rose and I stop in Burns for gas and lunch. In Oregon, like in New Jersey, you can not pump your own gas and so the station attendant was available to recommend RJ's for burgers. So Rose and I eat lunch at RJ's. The burger was good and does not make me feel sleepy as I digest.

Western Oregon
Desert River
After leaving Burns the hills roll in again and then whip up getting taller and move in closer in dry, brown and rocky forms. After a very long time, green-ness appears and so does a shallow river, which the road follows through a modest and narrow valley. I get caught behind a tractor trailer hauling an oversized, odd piece of metal-something. It is slow going until we get to a small town and are able to pass. After the dry hills, it flattens out again with silvery-green trees and farms begin to appear. Enter Idaho.
Golden Idaho fields
Idaho onion farm
In Idaho there are many farms, but there seem to be many fields of onions. Maybe the other fields are wheat or straw, lettuce, maybe even potatoes. The air is still, too still, it would be stale if it weren't for a surprising, sweet smell in the air which I can not identify.  We continue on Highway 20, towards Boise through farmland. I think this area is the Snake River Canyon. Sometimes it is flat and sometimes there are deep ravines, which I suppose are considered canyons. It continues to be dry and golden and hills pop up again and grow into mountains. The landscape continues this way on Interstate 84 and all the way to Boise.
Downtown Boise
In Boise we get off the interstate and drive down Main Street in downtown Boise. This small city seems to be an oasis or maybe a relief from the surrounding, dried out area. There is a river and tall, green trees. The downtown is very small and is lined with shops and restaurants where people are out-and-about, quaint. The western outskirts seemed deserted but moving in deeper there are old neighborhoods with large, well-kept established looking houses. We pass many pleasant, tree-lined streets.
Highway 21
At the eastern end of Boise we get gas and then get on Highway 21 towards Stanley, Idaho. It is beginning to get dark. Mountains appear on both sides of the road, along with a river.  A deep ravine, carved by the river, descends below the road. Trees become thick and the road takes us to higher and higher elevation. The mountains block the sun prematurely. We pass through a couple of small towns, including Idaho Falls. Darkness comes and the windy road makes driving slow. But eventually, it flattens a bit and I see the lights of a very small town ahead, Stanley. We stop alongside the road in Stanley so I can check my directions to the campground. I call Paul as well as I don't expect cell service at the campground.  Stanley is quiet and seems like a one road town. At the end of town we turn down Highway 75 for four miles before reaching the road that goes to the campgrounds.
We pull into Point Campground, site 11, only to find that it is occupied.  A youngish man is standing in the campsite, all else is very quiet and it seems many campers have gone to bed. I ask him if he has a reservation, he says no, but the campsite was not tagged with a name so he took it. I told him we had it reserved. I did not see a sign for a campground host, so I figure we are on our own. The man seems nice and apologetic and offers to let us park in the campsite. I find it a bit ironic that he is allowing us to park in the campsite that is ours, reserved and paid for with my name on it. I re-check my reservation, then I drive around the campground loop to see if there are any empty campsites, which is ridiculous because they have been booked up for weeks. Instead, we park in the walk-in tent parking. We eat yogurt as our dinner in the van and then get ready for bed. Rose pulls out the beds in the Eurovan. Rose is on the top bunk and I am on the bottom bunk and we talk this way for a couple of hours until finally, we fall asleep.
END: 1016 miles.

Bend, OR to Stanley, ID:

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  1. just do you know rose and why idaho? old friends are travels...

  2. Left at 11:45 rather than 10:00, and normally you would have been upset, but you didn't. Good thing I wasn't there ;)

  3. "maybe even potatoes." in Idaho? :)

    I'm glad you had the eurovan when the guy stole your campsite. I love your writing, it has a nice personal element which keeps me very interested. Please keep us updated and thanks for the great pictures!