Sunday, August 13, 2017

Potatoes, Cleanliness, Mormons, and Salt (Lots of Salt)

We departed Swan Valley and headed for Blackfoot, ID, Potato Capital Of The World.  We rode back through the farmland we posted about previously, still beautiful, so I'm posting another hayfield.

Enroute to Blackfoot, we began to see lots of lava flows along the roadway.  Turns out this is one of the things that makes Southern Idaho so suitable for growing potatoes.  I guess the minerals in the lava?

The other ingredients are plenty of water (24 inches per growing season) and the right temps.  While Idaho does not have significant rainfall, they do have lots of snow melt, large rivers like the Snake River, and some very productive aquifers.

So, here's a potato field.  Sounds like most of the farms are family operations, they enjoy that life, and most have been doing it for many generations.  One farmer commented that they just love potatoes - "If everybody ate as many potatoes as we do, we couldn't grow enough for the rest of the world!"

So, Blackfoot, ID has a potato museum with lots of history, artifacts, and data about the business, (you know, like museums have).  But, I'll save you from all of that (except that McDonalds french fries are sliced by a machine that fires the potatoes down a tube at 60 MPH), and just show you a large baked potato with butter, kinda like the huge pistachio we found down in Alamagordo, New Mexico.

Well, one more interesting fact - most of the Idaho potatoes are the Russet Burbank variety, discovered and developed by Luther Burbank from a single seed (eye) he found in a New England garden in 1872 to combat the potato famine that killed over a million people in Ireland.

From Blackfoot, we headed to Pocatello, Idaho.  I attended an FAA managers class many years ago and met a guy from Pocatello.  He made it sound like a really cool town and I've always thought I'd like to go there. Come to find out, it's also the home of Idaho State University, home of The Bengals. College towns are usually pretty nice.

We rode through the campus and should note that their "Holt Arena" is the first enclosed college football stadium.  Hey, we all need to know a little trivia, don't you think? So, if you had the opportunity to go back in time, go back to college, and relive your life to now (not knowing what you know now), would you?  Keep in mind, that would require going to class, taking tests, doing stupid stuff, but a lot of fun also.  I probably would not. Pretty happy with things as they are.

But the main attraction for stopping in Pocatello was "The Museum Of Clean."  We thought that would be pretty interesting and definitely applicable to Rhonda, her sister, Kelly, and her Mom, "G." They are all OCD about germs, dirt, and cleanliness.  Now, that's not a bad thing, especially compared to the other extreme.  But if there was a "Hall Of Fame" at the museum for cleanliness, they would all be listed there!  

The museum was built by a Pocatello native, Don Aslett, who also graduated from Idaho State.  Don apparently came from the same gene pool as Rhonda's family and had a serious affinity toward cleanliness.  While attending ISU, he started a cleaning business, hired some of his classmates to work for him, and by the time he graduated he had "Varsity Contractors" cleaning businesses in 4 states.  He made a career of it and was obviously very successful.  Don has written several books on cleaning and has done seminars and TV shows on the topic.  He decided a museum of clean would be appropriate, bought an entire city block, and restored a 3-story 75,000 square foot building into a tribute to all things clean!

You start out the tour by viewing a typical cluttered and pretty messy garage/storage building.  If you can identify 5 things in their storage area that you also have in your own garage/storage, you get to pick a free book from his writings.  And, of course Don conducts seminars on how to unclutter your home and storage areas! Even though we live in a condo without a garage, we have a storage building and were able to get a free book!  Our five items were an old vacuum cleaner, fan, can of paint, sprayer, and propane tank. 

Turns out Don has a really corny and gimmicky sense of humor.  So, while the museum provides lots of history and artifacts about the topic (you know, like museums do) a lot of the displays are a little silly and corny, like Don.  Artifacts include things like a 1600-year-old bronze Roman toothpick (for CLEANING teeth) and a Roman terra cotta juglet from the Jericho area, circa 50 BC to 50 AD, used in the WASHING/CLEANING of feet!

There are some odd topics covered like chimney sweeps (for CLEANING soot from chimneys) with the Mary Poppins video playing of course! But most of the topics covered are everyday things like vacuum cleaners, brooms, detergents, tubs, toilets, toilet paper, etc.   Here are some examples. Note that this display of vacuum cleaners is only specific to "hand pump" vacuums. The museum has more vacuum cleaners than anything else, numbering around a thousand.


Toilet tissue and fixtures.  

And we could go on forever with the different topics he covers.  In the washtub section, here's an example of his sense of humor.  That's a dust mop on top.

And in the bathtub section, he notes the oddities of a cowboy tub - no need to take off your hat or boots.

And we thought this was pretty funny - the "Clean Politics" section, no such thing.  So, you get the idea.  You see the history of cleaning materials and have a few laughs as well.

We departed Pocatello for Salt Lake City but the closest campsite we could get  was  in Ogden. This was the first time we were given "state laws" concerning swimming pools. The laws, often with detailed pictures were posted all around the RV park. Along with the no running, etc. type of rules were many unique ones: If you have been sick with (list of assorted illnesses) in the last 2 weeks, you can't use a public pool. You must take a CLEANSING shower to enter the pool enclosure. If you go to the bathroom, you must take another CLEANSING shower. Baby diapers must be changed in the restroom and then the baby must be given a CLEANSING shower. And with pictures - you would not swim in your toilet, so don't do this in the pool. Obviously, Don has given his pool hygiene talk to the Utah State Assembly.

Welcome to Utah!

We had planned just a short touch-n-go in SLC but as soon as we hit the Temple Square of The Church Of Latter Day Saints, we were very intrigued - not with their doctrine and some really strange ideas, but with the beauty, organization, and the vastness of their location in Salt Lake City.  I don't know that we have ever seen so many flowers in one place.  They go on and on forever and the grounds (and the city itself) are immaculate - no trash, no gum on the sidewalks, manicured lawns/trees/shrubs/flowers, lots of infinity and reflection pools, etc., etc. The Temple Square complex occupies 35 acres in downtown Salt Lake City.

They have some seriously strange practices and ideas about weddings and they have lots of them - we were there about 3 PM and they had already performed 40 weddings that day, almost like an assembly line operation.  One of the 40 couples for the day below.  (Sorry about the workers in the background).

Another couple with the fountain up and running in one of the infinity pools.

But let's get to some of the buildings and architecture.  The Temple and reflecting pool.

The original Tabernacle (outside).

Original Tabernacle (inside).

Temple and Tabernacle side-by-side.

The church and choir have outgrown the old tabernacle which could only seat about two thousand.  So, most of that is now done in their conference center which can seat twenty-two  thousand.  Here's the interior of that building.

We were able to go up to the 26th floor of their main administrative building for an aerial view of the campus and the city of Salt Lake.  

The east side of SLC which includes some of the 2002 Olympics venues in the distance.

The State Capitol on the north side.

One other interesting note - they have a free genealogy service to track your family history.  One caveat - there has to be a Mormon somewhere in that history.  Pretty sure that disqualified us from the search  so we moved on to the other main attraction in SLC - Salt Lake itself.  We chose Antelope Island State Park for that.  Looks like a statue of an antelope would be more appropriate here although there are bison on the island.

A little info on Salt Lake.  It is actually a small remnant of the much larger Lake Bonneville that covered most of the area in the past.  Salt Lake is fairly shallow, is slowly receding, and the salinity varies from 10-27%  (the oceans average 3.5%). The lady that took us up to see the aerial view of Salt Lake City told Rhonda one reason it is receding is because the city tries to capture all of the snow melt for the city's use, so the lake is not being replenished.

It was quite a hike out to the water after an already long day.  The sand was not packed sand by any means and not conducive to an easy walk - it was more like a workout, but we made it out and barely made it back! A young boy we passed on the way out told Rhonda, "It's a LOT harder coming back!" We are definitely getting too old for all this foolishness.  Yes, that's the shoreline way out there.  Glad we visited before it recedes any farther!

Rhonda had sandals on so she ventured out into the water like many others. The water is too salty for any marine life except for brine shrimp, and the air definitely has a shrimpy smell, so we opted out on floating in the lake.

Reflections on a smaller portion of the lake.

And associated with the "salt" theme, we headed west for Nevada the next day and passed the Bonneville Salt Flats.  I mentioned the original Lake Bonneville previously and as you leave Salt Lake City you see salt for almost 100 miles.  Morton Salt has some of its industry there (since 1918) and we thought that was cool after viewing the Morton Salt history in Nebraska City, NE a few weeks ago.  Their name and logo with the little girl on the box is on this plant but Rhonda missed it with the camera.  The whiteness of the salt piles is almost blinding.

Another view of Salt Lake heading west on I-80 from SLC.

This reminded us of the Atchafalaya Basin section of  I-10 west of Baton Rouge, but with salt on both sides and in the center.  Salt everywhere.

This is a typical site along the highway - more "hold my beer and watch this" moments.  A vintage Dodge Charger had made it out a good bit farther than this truck and a large trailer had just unloaded a large track vehicle of some sort that was on the way out across the flats to retrieve it.  The owner was standing by his Charger looking a little bit helpless and shall we say, stupid (which you know cannot be fixed!).  Rhonda missed that camera shot too but they do happen quickly at 60 MPH.

100 miles of salt gets a little boring after a while, so people that aren't stupid but still want to contribute to the landscape, do so in other ways.  Lots of these along the roadside with an assortment of messages.  Most are done with rocks but some use upside down colored bottles.

One very creative one that Rhonda missed with the camera was two very large black shark fins protruding above the salt.  But this one topped them all and is known as the "Tree Of Utah."  No idea???? 

This was a Bonneville Salt Flats speed runs weekend but we just did not have the time to check it out.  However, there is a visitors center just a few miles east of the race track that provides great access to the salt flats.

Just like you have to touch the water at the Great Salt Lake, you have to walk out on the salt flats for yourself - this was extremely cool.  Below, I'm already out there a pretty good distance and Rhonda is headed that way.  The flats at this location are not completely dry.  There is a layer of moisture and a few pools of water throughout and the ground kinda crunches as you walk across.  The visitors center in the distance even has covered parking and picnic tables. Couldn't quite get the RV in the shade. And of course, the "all things clean" rule applies here so everybody is sure to wash their feet before getting into their cars. As Don says, "80% of all dirt in your house comes in on your feet."  That was for you, Scott!  (Our younger son has some of the cleanliness obsessions also and is a bit phobic about people wearing shoes into their house.  He makes a good argument though with "think about standing there at men's bathroom urinals!")

And the salt of course.

In the pictures below, you can see some of the standing water at the edge.

So, that about it it.  We are enjoying our travels, though admittedly a bit tiring for a couple of older folks, but we are learning so much about this portion of the country that we were not familiar with. We miss our friends and family but glad we are making the trip.  We'll be home in about 6 weeks we think, and you'll hear from us next in Nevada.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Grand Tetons and Swan Valley, ID

I just want you to know that you are witnessing history with this blog post - the first time on this trip that we are leaving a stop with the blog posted before we pull out of the parking lot!  That may not happen again.  

We departed Glacier National Park (GNP) 4 days ago and backtracked a bit.  We had planned to continue westward from GNP 230 miles to Coeur d'Alene, ID (the "jewel" of Idaho on the Washington state border) but there was nowhere we wanted to go from there (we've been to Washington and Oregon years ago), and some of the roads south of Coeur d'Alene continuing through Idaho cannot accomodate big rigs through all of the mountains down toward Boise.

We decided previously when we were at Yellowstone not to make the long trip down to the Tetons, but to try and catch them later from the west side.  So, that's where we are in "the plan" which  really isn't much of one.  After GNP, we spent one night in Deer Lodge, MT, then picked up I-15 southbound toward Idaho Falls, ID, and found a campground in Swan Valley, ID only 40 miles from the Tetons.  And from Swan Valley and the Tetons, we will be making stops in Pocatello, ID, Ogden, UT (through Salt Lake City), and across northern Nevada into Reno and the Lake Tahoe area, then into California. Dang, I'm tired just thinking about all that. 

Oh yeah, welcome to Idaho (I ventured into ID for the first time on the Lolo Pass bike ride, but this is Rhonda's first time).

The ride down to Idaho Falls was pretty much what we have already experienced, but the farmland between there and Swan Valley was a little different.  As best we can determine, hay is still the big crop supplemented by wheat and barley. Rhonda asked the locals what the crops are and they all said, "We don't know...maybe barley for beer, or wheat, or something else." The pictures here and in the Tetons are all hazy because of a huge fire around Idaho Falls, but these fields are the prettiest farmland we have seen anywhere.

We believe the dark section on the bottom is wheat and the lighter section is barley.

And here's our campground for 3 days - "Rendezvous at the South Fork" - (South Fork refers to a section of the Snake River).

It's a small and very quaint RV park and we made even more history here - NO TV FOR 3 DAYS! Usually if there is no cable we can get some over-the-air channels via our antenna.  Not this time and we missed "The Bachelorette" because of it.  Yes, it's true, we watch that show, sorry to disappoint some of our friends and family.  By the way, of the three at the end, we kind of liked Eric the best.

They also have a few log cabins, tent campers, and lots of evergreens here.  

The leaves are starting to turn yellow here already.

We have crossed the Snake River numerous times since arriving here and these "drift"  boats are common for the shallow waters of the river.

So, let's head to the Tetons through Teton Gap.  Nothing that we haven't already seen as far as scenery, but in addition to the runaway truck uphill sand exits for the steep downhill grades (10% grades on this one and the steepest we have seen), they have catchnet cable systems.  The runaway vehicle heads between the barricades and is slowed down by a series of cables and nets - pretty cool. 

There were a couple of these antler arches in the town of Jackson, WY.

The Tetons are beautiful in their own way, but you are always looking at them from a distance - you do not ride through the Teton Mountains.  That was a bit disappointing, and with the haze, they were not as captivating as we had heard.  Also, what you see is more of the same single range of mountains, not much variety.  But here goes, enjoy.

And a couple of shots with Jenny Lake in the foreground.

Just to be fair to the Tetons, I borrowed a picture from the internet to show what they could look like on a clear day.

We had a little fun with a "sound study" in progress inside the park.  IMHO, this is another worthless government project, of no value to anyone.  The equipment is positioned right next to the road so you can see how your vehicle rates in terms of "sound pollution."  You will find yourself in green, yellow, or red categories.  From these indicators, we know who the good, borderline, and evil drivers are.  We actually pulled over and monitored cars passing through for awhile and there was no rhyme or reason to the indications - small cars registered just as high as others and the big boys registered low as often as anyone else.  Then just to test it, we pulled our 6.7 liter Dodge Ram Cummins diesel right up to the system, put it in neutral, and revved it up.  (For those evil noise polluters out there, you know the Cummins diesels are loud.) The best we could get out of it was about 65 dBs, but that's in the yellow range, so we will go trade in our truck, motorcycle, and RV tomorrow for a Prius and a tent I guess. Of course, the small car in the picture below registered higher than our truck and often the reading was in the yellow when there was absolutely NO traffic. (You can tell we sat here for quite a while.) A couple of Harleys had some fun with it also and revved their bikes up as they passed by. (We googled the study and motorcycles are one of the main targets to make them aware of their impact. That's really going to change some things.  Heck, one of the main attractions to Harleys is their sound!) And that's the absurdity of the whole thing.  The readings appeared to be erroneous as often as not, but even if they were accurate and reliable, it's not going to change a thing.  More tax dollars wasted, nothing accomplished.  Well, I guess they could close the park and let the animals listen to the breeze blow through the trees.

We finally got a little bored with that and decided to check out a bakery in Jackson that Rhonda was interested in. It was rated as the best bakery in town, but there was not a single cinnamon roll, doughnut, or pastry - just a few loaves of bread. She said it was a little pathetic as far as bakeries go and was leaving when she saw a jar of cookies. They were pretty good, but she really wanted raisin bread or cinnamon rolls for breakfast.

We headed to Alpine where we were told we could find a meat and vegetables meal at Yankee Doodle Diner. The website said "Southern cooking" and listed meatloaf, fried chicken, vegetables, and all that good "homecooking" type of food. Rhonda went in to get a table and was told, "Sorry, we don't serve dinner anymore. We can't get anyone to work the evening shift, so we had to stop serving those dinners! We just serve hamburgers and sandwiches now for lunch." Maybe the old evening employees are all working on sound pollution studies somewhere now instead.  Folks, we are in a mess. And remember we have been trying to find real meals for a long time, so I am kind of grumpy. Rhonda called one of 2 restaurants in Swan Valley and the first said, "Yes we have vegetables. Our meals all come with a salad." So, feeling even more food deprived, we headed home along Palisades Lake which is a dammed up portion of the Snake River. Beautiful.


In closing and just so you know, not all workers have decided to quit the evening shifts and vegetables do exist out West. We were able to get a nice meal at Snake River Roadhouse back close to our campsite - salmon, sauteed squash, and spinach. And did I mention the temperatures today remained in the mid-70s?  Low tonight 48.  Not so grumpy now.  Off to Pocatello tomorrow.