Our drive from Portland to Boise took nine (9) hours. No kidding. Well, that does include stops. Most of the road is incredibly beautiful, along Interstate 84, paralleling the Columbia River for a good portion. Emmett got more of a break from driving. Some of those sections were pretty curvy! Oregon being Oregon, the maximum speed limit at any time was 65. And for the most part, the drivers we encountered were courteous. Surprisingly, there wasn’t a whole lot of traffic. We wouldn’t hit 75 limits till after reaching Idaho.
One of the big challenges of driving through unknown territory is the question of how and where to take breaks. Rest stops are an obvious. But when you want to eat and find something fun and local, it can be a challenge. Our pick for this segment was Baker City. The initial visual when getting into town was not encouraging. We parked the car near the first open (as in, not boarded up) stores and walked the street. The Corner Brick Bar and Grill fit the bill. That feeling of “miles to go before” we sleep kept gnawing in the backs of our minds. Now matter how nice the weather, or the great feeling to stretch the legs, the matter at hand was getting to Boise. It was back to the car, making it to Boise, then filling our empty tummies at a local place near the hotel, at the WillowCreek Grill.
Next day: Idaho State Capital. Very impressive in color and design. Closed for almost two years for major renovations, it is a spectacular building that Idahoans display with pride. Local artist displays with wood carvings and historical artifacts made for an interesting and learning experience. We were fortunate that it was open on a Saturday. Good move on the city’s part, to encourage locals to come in and visit, with the farmer’s market two blocks away (which gets a lot of action) and church thrift shops as well.
One point of interest I always look for is a botanical garden, and that was our next stop. Idaho Botanical Garden isn’t huge, but it is geared for functionality – film nights, catering events, educational series. There is a nice balance of showcasing the local flora, history, vegetable and herbs. Lots of bird and squirrel activity that I always find entertaining. Seating areas, a lawn maze, benches, and a wilderness trail made for a good leg stretch.
Right next door is the Old Penitentiary. Closed in 1974, it has a very interesting history. It hasn’t lost that ambiance of solitude, despair and anxiety of confinement. This picture is of the women’s building that housed about 20 inmates. No one knew what to do with women criminals, so a lot of them turned to knitting to have something to do. Ten of the eleven of the hanging executions occurred in the rose garden of the main grounds. There was also an interesting exhibit of weapons throughout the history of man – from the middle ages through re-created WWII trenches. The prison-made contraband weapons confiscated had their very own exhibit hall – there were that many of them. Well, enough of that. A rendezvous with Emmett’s buddy from the old days at work was in order, enjoying grilled surf and turf in his back yard.
The Idaho Historical Society did a really great job with the two story Idaho Historical Museum. I loved the sense of daily life they were able to portray. And they were not afraid to display the less admirable events of the shaping of our country as well. One need perspective. As was the case for most of the pioneer times, Victorian era goods were in abundance as well. Caear was thrilled when there were instructional posters for various beading methods. There was also a gold medal from the 2012 Olympics, stuffed animals galore, Victorian Room recreations (a nice saloon – could they have been that nice back in the day?), a vintage car, etc.
I an wondering how many public rose gardens there are throughout the United States. “A lot” is an understatement. Right across the street from the museum is a wonderful collection of roses. It must have been the height of the season because they all had gorgeous blooms. This one is called “Hot Cocoa”. You can imagine why Caesar showcased this one!
All too soon it was time to once again hit the road. So we blasted out of town, saddles all ablaze. Twin Falls, Idaho, was a good point to stop for a stretch and some grub. A promising place in the historical downtown area was closed. (On a Sunday???). So we we forced to the more obvious choices close to the freeway and ate at Idaho Joe’s, which is a family restaurant known for its pies. They do sell Indian Fry bread, yum. The stop was not without rewards, as Snake River Canyon is located a few miles away from the main drag. A mini grand canyon. Very nice. And we managed to get to Salt Lake City before dark.