Daily Archives: July 31, 2013

GART Day 23: Burns and Bend

Monday was perhaps the most boring drive on the entire trip. We drove from Mountain Home, Idaho to Bend, Oregon via Highway 20 passing through Burns, Oregon. Much of this drive follows the Oregon Trail. This drive was monotonous at 65 miles per hour with 160 GB of iPod playlists. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for weeks at a time at perhaps 5 miles per hour via a covered wagon watching scrub brush after scrub brush passing by as you noted and named such landmarks as Stinkingwater Creek.

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What this drive lacked in landscape it made up for in meaning. We were on our way to visit my aunt, uncle, cousin and her family in Bend. Along the way we drove through Burns/Hines where my grandparents had lived when I was a kid. It completed a circle of sorts for me in that my friend Ross and I had made a similar trip when we were 17 and drove from Seattle to Albuquerque and back during a mid-winter break. During that trip we had first stopped in Moraga, CA (where my aunt, uncle and cousin had lived at the time) before next driving all the way to the south rim of the Grand Canyon. Later on that trip we had driven from Twin Falls to Burns to visit my grandmother who doted on Ross as if he were a celebrity grandchild. On this trip we first stopped in Burns for lunch at the Broadway Deli, which was unfortunately overpriced, and underwhelming. Apparently, the four of us being added to the local economy had overwhelmed the deli staff so much they kept apologizing for the slow service because they were “so busy”. The comment made us gaze around at the few scant tables occupied by a smattering of a few other patrons who were mostly lingering after their sandwiches had been consumed.
As we left the deli I realized I didn’t recognize Burns although I had been here many times before. All my memories of my grandparents home was of my grandparents home, a nice home and yard. But I remember it always been very hot there (which it was today as well) and we didn’t go outside much. And clearly, Burns didn’t have much to offer for reasons to go out. It was interesting to go back to Burns and it stirred some memories for me, like when my grandmother gave Ross and I my grandfather’s collection of Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Frank Sinatra and other Big Bands and Crooners cassette tapes for us to listen to on our drive back to Seattle. It was my first exposure to this genre of music at 17 and it had a tremendous impact on our musical education and appreciation. I shuffled the iPod on the way out of town to pull a few swing songs into the mix.
The drive from Burns to Bend was perhaps the even more boring and desolate than the previous 150 miles. We tried counting the scrub brush but lost count around 7 billion. There is no shortage of sage brush in this world. We have plenty.
But Bend was an oasis. My cousin’s new home was beautiful. The view of the Deschutes River gorgeous and relaxing. So much so that we took the kids (and their super sweet dog Ginger) on a walk along it and Cody tried his luck (no luck) again at fishing. The walk along the Deschutes played out like a brochure for moving to Bend, couples walking the river, people kayaking, fly fishing, swimming in the river, or walking their dogs. It was picture perfect and topped only by the fabulous meal my cousin’s husband George cooked for us. And the insalata caprese with nasturtiums my aunt made with exquisite tomatoes from her friend’s garden. It was a very lovely evening with family and nice to see Clara connect again with her cousin Emi and for everybody to meet Cody. It was also very nice to sleep in a real bad again, but I must admit I was a little melancholy about not sleeping in the r-pod and the winding down of our Great American Road Trip.

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Thanks for hosting us, cousin Jill. Great to see you, your family, and Mary and Dick again. Cheers!

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GART Day 22: Craters of the Moon

With Johnny and June Carter Cash’s “Jackson” on the iPod we lit out of Jackson, Wyoming across Teton Pass. Its the route our GPS “Delores” told us to go. Although last night in the hot tub chatting with a few about our route they had told us “You don’t want to take the Teton Pass with a trailer”. But Delores hadn’t failed us yet and WYO 22 was the shortest route to Craters of the Moon National Monument. At over 8400 feet we’d been on passes just as high, so I didn’t think much of it. But when we saw the 10% grades I started to reconsider. As luck would have it we had no traffic over the pass so nobody was inconvenienced by my strained 35mph trying to reach the top. The route paid off as the drive through western Wyoming into Victor, Idaho had beautiful light, color, and western character.

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As we started across the desolate high desert of Idaho we noticed some restricted areas on either side of Highway 20. A sign informed us it was the INL (Idaho National Laboratory). which is huge 890 square mile energy research facility. Mysterious buildings in the distance, small towns beyond the security fences, and large checkpoints captured our imagination. The only part of INL open to the public is that of the Atomic Museum for EBR-1. We didn’t stop there but we did stop for lunch in nearby Arco. After seeing this sign for Pickle’s Place on the road we had to stop and check it out. And looking across the street at the nuclear submarine tail with the numbers 666 on it I felt compelled to order myself the Atomic Burger.

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Unfortunately the Atomic Burger was a disappointment (although the tater tots served with it were fine). Tawny and Cody insisted their French Dip was excellent while Clara’s tuna melt was soggy and was left uneaten. We headed out of Arco (which looks to have seen better days) and on toward Craters of the Moon National Monument
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At Craters we went to the visitor center to learn more about the history of the lava field here, and then walked amongst the cinder cones, lava flows, and scrub brush of this unique high desert landscape with trails names like “The Devil’s Orchard”.

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We continued across the high desert of Idaho, passed long or soon to be abandoned ranches and towns making our way to Mountain Home, Idaho for the night. We had planned to go to Nampa, Idaho where we had been told there was an old roller skating rink, but on Monday they weren’t open in the hours we’d be in town. Clara was disappointed not to be able to get her skates on, while Cody may have been secretly relieved.
It was hard to find a good RV park in and around Boise, but in Mountain Home there was one that was so highly rated and reviewed it was nearly off the charts. They weren’t mistaken, the Mountain Home RV Park was definitely one of the nicest, cleanest, levelest, green grassed, and quietest RV parks we’d ever been too. Unfortunately, its in Mountain Home which didn’t seem to have a lot to offer except a place to put down your head for the night that wasn’t Boise or work yourself into a patriotic fervor. The town is also a bit of a misnomer. While there are plenty of homes in Mountain Home, there is no mountain. It sits in the high desert Southeast of Boise, and due West of the Middle-of-Nowhere. While driving in from the desert and scrub and greeted by the tank on the side of the road as we entered the town near a ginormous Walmart rising from the desert like an corporate oasis, we questioned if this was the best town for us to be staying in. Even so, we picked up some Idaho Potatoes at the local Safeway and had baked (well…microwaved in the RV) potatoes with all the trimmings in honor of our one night stay in Idaho. Idaho does produce one hell of a fine potato.

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Categories: Great American Roadtrip | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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