Tuesday, October 9
Mountain Home RV Resort, Mountain Home, Idaho
It is raining and blowing cold wind and so we are staying an extra day in a fancy – the bathrooms! The bathrooms would make you weep with joy! – RV resort in Idaho. I have a troubled relationship with Idaho. Until I crossed the US slowly, it had never occurred to me that one day I might have relationships with states. But now I know better. I have tremendous respect for Nebraska but we’re not friends. Iowa and I are on good terms. Wyoming is like the relative everyone worries about – there might be a twelve step program for Wyoming, actually. And Idaho and I just can’t quite get it together. I mostly like Idaho and Idaho likes me okay but every time I’m here something goes wrong, usually the weather.
We have been crossing back across the continent at the breakneck speed of 300 to 350 miles a day. It’s exhausting. Traveling with dogs is vastly more complicated than traveling without. And this camper is tiny and things keep breaking. But it is what it is! And what it is is mostly awesome. There is also a real joy introducing someone you love to a place they have never been. My daughter had never seen the West and it is wonderful to watch her be awestruck by the scenery, gobsmacked by the wildlife, astonished by the weird and wonderful and delighted by Del Taco. We have done quite well, actually, except for Wyoming. Oh Wyoming. You are so beautiful, but.
We went from Saint Louis to Katy Roundhouse in Missouri. Did I talk about this yet? It is fast becoming a blur. From Katy Roundhouse (the Katy trail is a two hundred some odd mile trail across Missouri and Katy Roundhouse is a lovely, mellow, rural campground right on it in the middle of nowhere) we went to Wilson Lake State Park in Kansas. It was utterly beautiful, if confusing – the map, the absence of signage, the everything – and the dogs, who got to go offleash (I deny everything) were ecstatic. They went swimming and Perdita announced that she loved the prairies. It was hot and very windy and I was scared, but all went well. The stars were
spectacular. The next morning, in an exciting moment which caused my daughter to shout “NATURE!” we saw a snake chase a frog across a gas station parking lot! Audrey wouldn’t come out of the truck for a long time after that. The wind kept up, so we took back roads for many miles – I am a fool for a rural highway – and we even stopped at a little park to have subs from the Casey’s General Store.
Kansas leads to Colorado; we spent the night in an adequate if uninspired KOA in Limon, Colorado, where we did laundry. Audrey wanted to go to Boulder. She was born there – yes, I have been lying this whole time: I had been to the West a couple times before 2017. Not a lot but I did in fact spend 18 months in Colorado in the early 80s. I was 19, pregnant, newly married and miserable, away from the ocean for the first time in my life. I didn’t like Boulder then and this time around? I didn’t recognize it. It’s a creepy feeling to come back to a town where you know you used to live, albeit 30 years ago, and recognize. . . basically nothing but the Pearl Street Mall and it looked different too. I don’t know which of us has changed more, Boulder or me. Dogs, by the way, are not allowed on the mall, and finding a parking space and a place to eat with dogs seemed unnecessarily complex. But we managed it and then stayed at the Boulder County Fairgrounds, refreshingly full of hippies in buses and beat campers.
And the next day we did Wyoming.
Wyoming! As my daughter observed, it is just WOW every time you turn around. But the weather changed every time we turned around too, from sunshine to rain to sleet to snow and back again. There were pronghorn antelopes on the sides of the highway – more than you would believe! – and deer! And cowboys, whoa! And wild horses! And deserted motels! And the weather reports just kept getting more dire, so we kept on going, on and on.
Eventually we got to Rock Springs. Rock Springs is a horrible place. Sorry, Wyoming, but it is. It’s where I spent the night at the $50 KOA in the shadow of the vast chemical tanks last spring. In an effort to avoid a repeat of that miserable experience and to stave off a mother daughter contretemps that was brewing, we tried to go to a motel. Well. Rock Springs is more expensive than Hollywood or Manhattan, pretty much, and the motel was . . . um. Not $74 worth of motel, for sure and certain. I mean, for $74 one demands more than three cigarette burns in the mattress and perhaps a bit more nauseatingly strong chemically fragranced carpet cleaner. It was unbearable and, anyway, long story short, along with half the campers and all the semis in Wyoming, we ended up spending the night at WalMart. It was about 30 degrees. Semis are loud. Lights are bright. Saturday night in Rock Springs is kinda raucous. Mothers and daughters, even perfect ones like us, occasionally have words. Let us draw a veil over that evening and all pretend it never happened. But we did get Perdita a sweater, which she loves!
From Rock Springs we went to Antelope Island and Antelope Island is still and always one of my favorite places in the entire world. Now, despite the lack of amenities – Antelope Island is no hookups all primitive all nature all the way camping – it is one of my daughter’s as well and that makes me very happy. It is just incredible. It is possibly the most beautiful place on earth although it’s hard to believe it is ON earth. It feels like a video game backdrop or New Zealand or Iceland or something, not a prosaic place like Utah. It is not, however, a great place for dogs. There are bison. There are a LOT of bison. There are bison EVERYWHERE. Bison are huge and bison are unpredictable and one suspects that bison do not love dogs. Dogs, however, or at least my dumb citified dogs, are fascinated by bison, which is how we learned that Perdita has a bison dance. It is the same, by the way, as her cattle dance and her horse dance and in the manner of the best interpretive dance it expresses an ineffable longing to run amongst the large herbivores. Django just barks. So the dogs spent a lot of time in the truck where they were extremely good, even when we ended up in the middle of a herd of bison. That was exciting – we thought we had become bison blasé, but it was not so – and all of us, human and canine, made squeaking noises and happily freaked out a little. Later, we saw pronghorn antelope, declined to eat buffalo burgers at the Buffalo Grill (does it seem a little tasteless to serve bison in the midst of bison or am I just too Asheville for the real world?) and Audrey and I invented a game to play called Bison or Bush? The stakes are high in that game in the middle of the night on the way to the vault toilets. And the dogs went to the “beach” for the first time in their lives, which led to this video.
And now we are in Idaho. Where it is raining, but we had breakfast in a cafe that’s been there since 1913 and the omelettes were huge and delicious.