Westward Bound!

 

Our first stop of the day was to pay homage to the primary agricultural product of Idaho.  Of course we’re talking about the potato and the Potato Museum in the Potato Capital of the World: Blackfoot, Idaho.
We pay our senior-citizen discounted entrance fee and step into the magical world of the potato.  We learn that 40% of the country’s potatoes are produced in this area and 80% of those potatoes are Russet Burbanks. The potato is the fourth most important crop in the world after wheat, rice and corn.The potato, which originated in Peru, took a long journey to reach North America. The Spaniards took it back to Spain in the 16th century; from there it made its way to Italy and northern Europe, then to Bermuda and the Virginia colonies of North America. The potato is now grown in all 50 states and throughout the world.  In fact, it’s considered to be the world’s favorite vegetable.
Potato Masher Collection

 

Marie Antoinette was known to wear potato blossoms as a hair decoration and yes, the French did indeed invent the French Fry!

 

Trust me, I could go on and on with potato facts, but I’ll stop for now.  (Email me if you want more!)  We ended our visit with the purchase of a couple of souvenirs.  And guess what!?  They bagged them in a potato sack!

 

Back in the car, we soon turned west on I-84.  We hadn’t gone very many miles when we started noticing unusual terrain: rolling black rock, huge fissures everywhere….it looked like the Big Island of Hawaii….volcanic!  We saw a geological information station and pulled in.  Learned that we had just driven through a fairly recent (5200 years ago) lava flow.  And, one fact sheet said that Idaho had more extinct/dormant volcanos than any other state in the U.S.  Also, we learned that this volcanic soil was very conducive to growing…..yep, you guessed it, potatoes!

 

We continued our Westward push along -I84.  I-84 follows the Oregon Trail which was used by immigrants in their Conestoga wagons, crossing the west to their new lives in Oregon. This trail leads you along the Snake River which sometimes is at road level and other times is it deep, dramatic canyons with shear cliffs and incredible beauty.

 

Perrine Bridge
Makes you want to jump, doesn’t it?!?!
Nowhere illustrates this beauty more than Twin Falls.  You exit I-84 and drive a few miles south on Route 93 to cross the Snake on the Perrine Bridge.  BREATHTAKING!  The Perrine Bridge is world famous because it is the only man-made structure in the United States where you can Base Jump year round, 24 hours a day, without a permit. In case you didn’t know “base jump” means to jump off the bridge with a parachute!

 

I asked the docent at the nearby Information Center if anyone was jumping today.  She said, “First off, you’d have to be half crazy to jump off that thing.  Second off, you’d have to be totally plumb crazy to jump off in this wind!”  Glad to hear I’m only half crazy!

 

We walked down to the nearby overlook for a view of the bridge and the deep canyon cut by the Snake River.  Incredible!  How did they build that bridge?!?!?  No wonder I love bridges!?!?!
Snake River Canyon

 

As we departed Twin Falls we could see the ramp where Evil Knievel tried to jump the Snake River Canyon on his jet motorcycle. Us oldies can still remember that day when Evil’s parachute deployed too early causing his jump to fall short and crash into the canyon hundreds of feet below.  Luckily, and unusually, he broke only his nose.  The ramp is a pile of dirt now, but there are efforts to purchase the site and rebuild it as a memorial to Evil.

 

Many, many beautiful scenes in Idaho: mountain ranges;  fields of potatoes stretching as far as the eye can see; irrigation canals winding through the valleys; and volcanic fields springing up from nowhere.  All too soon we leave this beautiful state and cross into Oregon.
Oregon’s Blue Mountains

This part of Oregon is not the lush green of the coast that comes to mind when you think of Oregon. This is semi-arid desert with stark mountains and deep canyons.  The Snake River is still beside us for much of the way, twisting and turning like a serpent through this beautiful landscape.  Again, we take lots of pictures….but most of them are obscured by the rain.  Desert?

Rain?  Yep!  And apparently, this desert gets lots of snow because there are huge snow fences everywhere and lots of signs giving snow chain instructions.  Glad it’s not snowing now, but it is cold…about 43 degrees!

Luckily, the rain had stopped before
we went down this pass.

 

We’re in Oregon for about two and a half hours.  In Hermiston, Oregon we reach the furthest west we’re going on this trip.  Just after Hermiston we stop in the border town of Umatilla, Oregon.  Here we find a geocache on the shore of the Columbia River.  The last person to find this cache was a close friend from St. Louis. Guess who?!?  (And, I must admit…we had to call that person for help finding the cache.  🙁    )

 

We cross into Washington State and head for Richland.  The scenery here is seemingly familiar to me.  I’m sure it’s because so many co-workers at Clinton Power Station came from this area after working at Handford or WPPSS (Washington Public Power Supply System).  I remember one of my supervisors who came from here and him talking about the desert and the dessert wines that are produced in this area. We’ll be traveling more through here on Sunday.

All this wilderness and westward travel has gotten me interested in Lewis and Clark again.  I’m reading another journal of their expedition along the Missouri, Snake and Columbia rivers.

As I said, we hit our western-most point Saturday.  On Sunday, we’ll travel to Spokane where we’ll hit our northern-most point and then being our 2000 mile journey home.   Lots of fun places yet to see!

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2 Responses to Westward Bound!

  1. Carol Lucas June 11, 2012 at 2:09 am #

    Did you pass through Mtn. Home and Boise in Idaho? We lived at Mtn. Home AFB for 6 years. A fabulous place in Idaho is Couer de Alene, Idaho which is far north. Also, Lewiston has a great overlook where you can see Oregon. I could go on and on. Did I see it was my favorite place I lived while my then hubby was in the air force?

  2. MNM June 11, 2012 at 4:36 am #

    Carol: Yes we went through Mountain Home and Boise…on the interstate yesterday. We went through Coeur d'Alene today. Idaho is beautiful….we never knew what a treasure this state is! Literally, every single person we met was wonderful to us and treated us like special guests. Idaho is definitely worth spending quality time in!

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