- Where We Started: Twin Falls, Idaho
- Where We Ended: Jackson, Wyo.
- Miles Driven: 337 (14,569 total).
- New States: Wyoming.
- States So Far: 23 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
The FHMA crew had a full Tuesday, covering a lot of ground and hitting a wide range of cool sites, encountering natural beauty around every turn. Even a bizarre day of weather that ping-ponged between sunny and stormy, and even included a hailstorm, could not dampen our spirits.
We started out by visiting Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho. Now, the town is called Twin Falls because, in addition to Shoshone Falls, the town also features Auger Falls. So there are no actual falls called Twin Falls. I found this all very confusing. We hadn't planned to go to Shoshone Falls, and were really just using Twin Falls as a bed. But when everyone we encountered at our hotel kept asking if we were there to go to the falls, our keen instinct told us that maybe we should. The reason everyone was so geeked up about Shoshone Falls is because, sometimes, it isn't a fall at all. The combination of a dry seasons and summer irrigation can sometimes turn Shoshone Falls into Shoshone Dribble. But we hit the jackpot, as the irrigation season hasn't begun yet and the region has seen more moisture than usual this season. The result...
At its peak, Shoshone Falls runs at 15,000 cubic feet of water per second. This week, it's been running at near 11,000 cps, and the lovely woman at the entrance booth to the park said this is the fullest the falls have run in years. Soon, farmers will start diverting water out of the Snake River for irrigation, and the falls will lose steam. So we considered ourselves lucky to have hit it at the right time. I guess this makes up for Crater Lake.
Waterfalls are very hard to capture in photos since the movement and the sound are such key elements, so we pulled out the trusty old video camera. You might not be able to hear what I'm saying here, and a few of you might even think that's bad news. But, even if you can't, the scenery is what matters.
Here are some additional photos from Shoshone Falls:
From there, we hit the road to Craters of the Moon National Monument, near Arco, Idaho. A lava field stretching 618 square miles, Craters features a bizarre terrain filled with cinder cones, spatter cones, and lava rock. Apollo astronauts trained there so they could learn how to collect rock samples in a harsh environment, although no other training was useful, since the moon's craters were formed mostly by meteorites and not volcanic eruptions.
It had been a bit chilly at Shoshone, but more because of the driving mist created by the falls than anything else. We'd then encountered intermittent rain on our drive to Craters of the Moon. By the time we arrived, though, things had cleared up and Joan and I did a short hike through a lava field called The Devil's Orchard. It was sunny, and all was right with the world.
A short time later, we decided to hike up to the top of Inferno Cone, a cinder cone in the middle of the park, which affords great views of the surrounding area. Joan took this picture as we were walking up the cone.
About three-quarters of the way to the top, it started to drizzle. That quickly turned to heavy rain, which immediately turned into driving hail.
Ten minutes later, it was clear again. This was typical of the day.
After a three-hour ride that once again featured schizophrenic weather, our last stop of the day was Grand Teton National Park. We decided to hit Teton late Tuesday after finding out the main road that connects Grand Teton to Yellowstone National Park doesn't open until -- yes, believe it or not -- Friday, i.e. tomorrow. That means we need to undertake a 150-mile drive to get to Yellowstone, instead of the normal 60. But we wanted to see Grand Teton, and it didn't let us down. Immediately after entering the park, we had our first moose sighting. We saw him, then put the car in reverse to get a better look, all the while trying to keep the dogs from barking. We failed miserably in the latter mission, but we lucked out, as the frantic barking of the dogs caused the moose to look our way quizzically.
We ended up seeing a bunch of moose before the evening was up, and also some antelope. But we didn't see any bears. Joan has only two wishes left to fulfill on this trip: she wants to see a bear and she wants to see a truck use a runaway truck ramp. She may get her bear wish at Yellowstone today; thankfully, I don't think we'll see the latter.
After our initial moose meeting, we headed to the park's main road, where we took full advantage of a setting sun and breathtaking scenery.
Having caught Grand Teton at the perfect time, we decided to declare victory and hole up for the night in Jackson Hole.
Here are a few bonus photos from what was an overall great day.
A truck crosses the Perrine Bridge in Twin Falls, Idaho. The bridge is the only man-made structure in the United States where BASE jumping is allowed without a permit. If you don't know what BASE jumping is, believe me, you don't want to do it. (Photo by Jim)
- One of the funnier stories of our 2003 trip occurred in Jackson, so I figure I'll repeat it here. I was taking a much-needed nap at our hotel, when I woke up to an incredibly nasty smell in the room. I inquired as to the genesis of said smell, and Joan informed me that Fred had pooped outside during my nap and, since she could not find a garbage, she'd brought the bagged poop back into the room until she could find a proper way to dispose of it. It was a hot day outside, so let's just say the smell wasn't exactly well-contained. Being only half-awake, I could not fully understand what she was telling me. Once I fully understood, I could only look at her incredulously. Notwithstanding the fact that Fred's doodle basically served as the smelling salt that ended my nap, one can only imagine Fred's confusion: "OK, so they spent months training me not to go to the bathroom inside. So she leashes me up and walks me outside, and I do my duty properly, and then she bags it up and brings it back INSIDE? This sure seems like a waste of time; maybe next time, I'll just crap inside and save her the extra work."
- On the subject of bathrooms, on the way to Grand Teton, we stopped at a gas station/convenience store in Idaho Falls. It looked clean and quite promising, so Joan headed into the ladies' room and found a one-room job, i.e. no stalls, just one toilet out in the open. Looking to the left, she noted a sink, garbage pail and toilet -- all clean. She looked to the right and noticed a fake ficus tree, there for those who like to feel like they going outside, I guess. But what was next to the ficus stunned Joan: two table chairs with red vinyl seats. While us men are aware of the relative plushness of women's bathrooms, and the occasional presence of a lounge, I'd never heard of a lounge being in a bathroom with a toilet not surrounded by a stall. Joan spent much of the next hour trying to figure out under what circumstances she would be interested in having an audience while on the can. Other than Lyndon B. Johnson, I can't think of anyone who would.
- One of the great things about touring the United States is you pick up on some of the rivalries between tourist sites. In 2003, we visited the two largest balls of twine in the United States, in the aptly named Darwin, Minn., and in Cawker City, Kan. The former was constructed by one crazy person, the latter by a group of crazy people. In Darwin, there was a guy in a small office at the twine site, and while nice, he complained it wasn't fair that Cawker City got credit for a larger twine ball, since a bunch of people had worked on that one. We didn't find a curator at the Cawker City site, but I'm sure he would have said the word "biggest" is pretty self-explanatory. You can tell that the folks at Shoshone Falls have a thing against Niagara Falls. On the front of the park brochure we got upon entering, it proudly proclaims "50 feet higher than Niagara Falls," even though it's actually only 36 feet higher. At Idaho's official tourism site, this author of this page decided the "we're bigger than Niagara" claim was worthy of the second sentence. But, to be honest, the Niagara jealousy is unfair. While Niagara's flow is active 24/7/365, Shoshone Falls is only sporadically in the full form we saw Tuesday. And going to Shoshone FALLS State Park when there are no falls seems like a bad idea. But when it's in full form, it's spectacular.
- Sign of the Day: "Warning to Tourists: Don't Laugh at the Natives." Located just north of Idaho Falls, this billboard came with no explanation, and we could not determine who was responsible for it. Ironically, we'd just been laughing when we saw the sign, as we were debating the logic of naming your gas station/convenience store chain Stinker. If you're getting into the food business, seems like that name -- and the giant skunk logo -- could be a detriment. On the plus side, you can go to Stinker's site, and suggest a slogan. Be nice.
- Another leftover cool town name, from Sunday: Klickitat, Wash. Bonus: The county around the town is also called Klickitat!
- Our stop at Shoshone Falls put us only a few miles away from where Evel Knievel failed in his attempt to jump the Snake River in a rocket-powered motorcycle in 1974. All that's left of this site is the dirt ramp Knievel used for the jump, and that's located on private property. So while it would have been a perfectly kitschy thing to see, we didn't think a trespassing charge was worth it.
- We saw a sign we'd never seen before on Tuesday: "Frost Heaves." Assuming this wasn't a cousin of dry heaves, I looked it up. As many of you probably know -- the same way you knew cars had two axles -- a frost heave occurs when freezing dirt causes an upward thrust of the ground, which can crack road pavement and damage the foundation of buildings. This marked the first time I've ever seen a warning sign on a road where I had no idea what the hell I was looking for.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "The Joker," by Steve Miller Band. Great song, even if I didn't know what the "pompatus of love" meant until -- well, about five minutes ago. For an interesting story about how that mystery was solved -- which features, in a central role, actor Jon Cryer from "Two and a Half Men" -- check out this link.
- Here's the Day 6 report on our A-to-Z iPod Exploration:
- First Song of the Day: "The Ballad of John & Yoko," by The Beatles.
- Last Song of the Day: "Beaver Town," by Tangerine Dream. No, it's not about what you think. Shame on you.
- Best Songs: "Band on the Run," by Paul McCartney & Wings; "Basket Case," by Green Day; "Be My Baby," by The Ronettes; "Beast of Burden," by The Rolling Stones; "Beautiful Day," by U2.
- Pleasant Surprises: "Barbary Coast," by The Steve Morse Band; "Barra Barra," by Rachid Taha (from "Black Hawk Down"); "Beat Box Guitar," by Adrian Belew; "A Beautiful Mine," by RJD2.
- Guilty Pleasures: "Beat It," by Michael Jackson.
- Bad Songs by Good Artists: "The Ballad of John & Yoko'," by The Beatles; "Beautiful Bluebird," by Neil Young.
- Lunch: McDonald's, Idaho Falls, Idaho: Because we each had a slice of pizza from Tuesday's dinner before leaving the hotel on Tuesday, we chose not to get lunch. But, by about 4pm, we were both dragging, so we stopped and got some McDonald's, then ate in the car while we headed toward Grand Teton. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 stars (out of 5). When I eat while driving, I always get Chicken McNuggets and fries, and this was no exception. Joan got the chicken selects, which she has fallen in love with. We were both quite happy, even by McDonald's standards. Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5, on the fast-food scale).
- Dinner: Mountain High Pizza Pie, Jackson, Wyo.: We returned to the scene of one of bad moments of the 2003 trip. I was a cranky bastard when we arrived in Jackson Hole then -- for reasons I have long since forgotten -- and we were here for lunch. While the food was good, Jim was not, and after royally pissing off the incredibly patient Joan, I sentenced myself to a long nap at the hotel. That was the nap that was disrupted by the famous poop incident detailed above. Our 2009 visit was not as successful, as the pizza was light on sauce and mediocre overall. We probably should have returned to the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, where we went twice on the 2003 trip, and listed as one of our best meals of the trip. But because that's a big-time steak place, and we'd had a 4pm lunch, we didn't have the appetites for a huge meal. We should have planned better. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1.5 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 2.5 stars (out of 5).
- Homewood Suites Jackson, Jackson, Wyo.: We stayed at one Homewood Suites -- part of the Hilton family of hotels -- back in 2003, but haven't encountered many on this trip. But this Homewood Suites took dogs, plus we had a bunch of Hilton Honors points to burn, so we ended up there. Like almost all Homewoods, our room had a small living room, a kitchen and a bedroom. The bathroom was big, the room clean and the hotel in a quiet part of town, about a half-mile off the town square. The bed was among the most comfortable we've slept in, so much so that I fell asleep for 20 minutes with my laptop on my lap. The only down side: an exorbitant pet fee of $100. But most hotels have "forgotten" to charge us for the dogs, so we're hoping the same happens here. Hotel rating: 4.0 stars (out of 5). Based on the room itself, this would have been a slam-dunk 5, but the crazy pet fee and the fact it cost $100 to get a late checkout were too much for us to ignore. I blame Paris Hilton.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
JOAN PIC OF THE DAY
Fred and Hank chill out at Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho. Don't worry, we didn't forget about them. And, yes, this is the only beagle photo of the day. Hey, give us a break, there were like 10 on Tuesday.