Monday, September 19, 2011

Six years ago

Today is what a newspaper editor would call a "slow news day."  We've already pretty well covered yesterday's bases.  So, what's a blog author to do this morning?  Ah, we can hark to the Sunday Garfield cartoon and scrape and scrape until we generate some serious "ZZZZ's"!  So let's step into the Way Back Time Machine and rewind six years.  Okie, dokie?

Back in the last half of September 2005, we finished up our second season out at Bowery Guard Station.  Susun made the earth shake under my feet by declaring she was adamant about selling out of Arizona and moving to Idaho.  Once that Girl makes up her mind about a place to live, well you better get onboard or get left behind.  We were none too happy with our situation at Bowery that summer and swore we would never go back.  HA!  There were two more summers there in our future.  But we didn't know that when we drove away from the Upper East Fork as early fall snows capped the surrounding mountain peaks.  We knew we were eventually going to Kamas, Utah, that fall but otherwise we didn't have a travel agenda.  We were simply heading south in the big truck with a pop top camper towing our first Suzuki Samurai.

Since we knew we were going to Kamas, we had already decided to take the back road route through Wyoming's Star Valley.  That meant we had to go through Idaho Falls.  Six years ago, I had a very low opinion of Idaho Falls and wanted nothing to do with the city.  Even the thought of passing through the place put me in a bad mood but there's really no other way to get to Western Wyoming than right through the heart of Idaho Falls.

Sure enough, we arrived in the city's downtown when the weekday afternoon traffic was at its peak.  We hit every stop light red and got lost not once but twice.  My dislike of Idaho Falls reached a much higher level that afternoon.  It seemed like it took forever to find a way out of the confusing streets that often change names without changing directions.  I felt about as claustrophobic here that day as I can ever recall.  Fuming as we finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel on the northeast side of the city, I told Susun, "I'm never coming back to this city and I hope I never see it again."

As LBRs know, the use of the word "never" is very inadvisable as it casts a magic spell over fate and destiny.  Simply put, if you are silly enough to use the word "never," you are 100% guaranteed to do what it is that you swore you would never do.  Perhaps it is a phenomena somehow connected with Never Never Land.  I really don't know but I've seen it happen so often that I am very, very cautions about using the word "never" ever again.  In any event, as noted, I uttered the fateful word "never" about Idaho Falls and was immediately cast into a Ground Hog Day deja vu rewind for day after day after day until we both became completely smitten with Idaho Falls.

Here's how it unfolded.  After finally escaping The City of Confusing Streets, we drove out on US Highway 26 toward Wyoming, not really sure where we were going to spend the night.  As we approached Palisades Dam just past Irwin, we spied a great little campground perched right beside the Snake River below the dam.  That campground had our name written large all over it so we pulled in and found a gorgeous site under a canopy of stately cottonwood trees.  It was a very sweet and charming site.  We actually go to that spot once in awhile to recall the changes that took place there.

Anyway, we made camp and commenced to relax in a pleasant Happy Hour mode.  As often happens our conversation took unexpected and interesting turns. I started talking about my dislike of Idaho Falls and how glad I was to be on the far side of the city.  Somehow the conversation morphed into a curiosity about Idaho Falls.  I even heard myself saying, "You know, maybe I've been unduly unfair to that city.  Maybe we should drive back in there tomorrow and give it a fair shake, what do you think."  Always the optimist, Susun readily agreed.

And so the following morning just about precisely six years ago today or tomorrow, we drove off in our little, slow Samurai to check out Idaho Falls.  That's the day we "discovered" the Greenbelt and the city's awesome library and the charming downtown with the equally charming array of art benches and also Great Harvest bakery where the free bread samples cast a spell over us.  We picked up the obligatory bushel basket of brochures from the Chamber of Commerce and trundled back to Palisades all atwitter about Idaho Falls.  I remember apologizing profusely for giving the city a bad rap.  Somehow we did a total 180 degree attitudinal change in the space of a mere 24 hours.  That's the danger of using the word "never," you know.

As we sat in camp that second evening, we made a decision to really, thoroughly check out Idaho Falls as it just might be the kind of place we might want to live when we moved out of Arizona.  That's where the Ground Hog Day deja vu comes into play.  We drove back into Idaho Falls each day for TEN straight days!
Each day we carried a "hit list" of topics to research, questions to ask, places to go and things to see.  We delved into the inner most workings of Idaho Falls and dug up the most obscure and esoteric minutia about this place than you can imagine.  Day after day we probed the city, its taxes, utilities, crime rates, media (such as it was at the time), and more and more.  Finally, we were so smitten with the place we actually decided to buy a house in Idaho Falls without having even listed our own Arizona property.  That's just how complete of a turnaround we underwent six years ago this week.

We found a Realtor willing to be a buyer's agent.  We prepared a detailed, totally Type A spreadsheet with all of our specific desires for a home here and we actually signed an agreement in the old ReMax office building on 17th Street on our last day in Idaho Falls.  In doing so, we crossed the Rubicon of no return as far as selling out of Arizona and moving to Idaho.  From that day forward six years ago there was never any doubt where we were going.  It was no longer a matter of "if," simply when.

Neither of us will ever forget those ten days at Palisades--they changed our lives forever.  We often wonder how our lives would have unfolded if we hadn't made the fateful decision to give Idaho Falls another chance during our Happy Hour the first evening in that delightful campsite.  Who knows where we would have wound up?

We now look back at the things we once disliked about Idaho Falls and happily call them "creative population control."  If you can't see past the superficial annoyances of this city to grasp its beautiful inner core, then, well, stranger, keep right on moving, ya hear? We hear from passing travelers that Idaho Falls is an ugly city ringed with industrial blight.  We hear disparaging comments about a prominent white building downtown.  We hear about how the streets that change names without changing directions drive people batty.  We hear these things and we smile because we also once felt that way, too.  Luckily, we looked past all those things and found a fabulous place that's easily the city of our dreams--even better than Never Never Land!

After our intense ten-day research project, we headed on out into Western Wyoming and thence down through Cokeville to Evanston and on to Kamas, Utah.  We signed on as volunteers for the Forest Service there and lived in the historic Soapstone Guard Station for two weeks while we wrote a successful grant to build a monument to the CCC on the fabled Mirror Lake Highway.  We lived in a canopy of golden aspens, a true picture postcard place.  However, by and large, despite the beauty of The Soapstone Basin and the Upper Provo River, our conversations always turned to Idaho Falls.  We already missed the place!

After leaving Kamas, we headed down through Heber City and over the hills beyond Spanish Fork to once again perform as Secret Shoppers for the Forest Service.  That's when we were able to thoroughly check out the 100-mile-long Wasatch Plateau and all the quaint communities strung up and down both side of that huge wanderland.  Then we drove on south to Moab to serve as Secret Shoppers for the BLM before heading  through The Navajo Reservation to spend a few days at The Hogans near Chambers, Arizona.  By that time, we were so convinced it was time to leave the Verde Valley, we even rented a post office box in nearby Sanders.

Within two days after arriving home in Rimrock, we had a Realtor visit to begin discussion about selling our place.  But that's edging into yet another story we will tell down the road sometime later.

Six years ago--Palisades Dam--Idaho Falls--Ten Days--fond memories--Many Cheers!  jp

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