Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Leaving the Land of Atoms we head further east to the Teton Valley.  We stay a few days at the Teton Valley Campground in Victor, ID.  Their premium spaces are spacious, clean and level and the Tango WIFI works great. There is a great gourmet market up the road where we successfully forage for produce, meats and staples.

(note the 'sold' tag)
The town of Jackson is just over the hill, in this case the hill rises approximately 2,224 feet in 11 miles with a 10% grade.  In Jackson, we check out Wild West Designs.  This emporium specializes in (you guessed it,) Wild West Décor. Now this is not a Ralph Lauren Chaps cowboy style. This is kick ass in your face, high-end merchandise that can turn any home into an authentic Wyoming old money ranch.  Picture stuffed heads of: moose, elk, antelope and deer. Whole bears, cougars and raccoons holding Hams beer cans. AND pelts from foxes, beavers, coyotes and all kinds of fur bearing varmints displayed from hanging racks. Collections of American Western art and Native American artifacts displayed on shelves and log tables, surrounding sofas and overstuffed recliners covered in bison and alligator skins. (i.e. every member of PETA’s worst nightmare done cowboy style.)  You could say that these animals are just dying to hang on someone’s wall… ok groan… After that, we walk around town and through the famous elk antler arches.

We stop for lunch at the Town Square Tavern.  Sitting on the outside deck overlooking the Town Square, (thus the clever name of the restaurant) we share an order of the Nachos With Kick Ass Chili and a Chicken Quesadilla.  Both dishes where decent in a high standard bar food way and were definitely enhanced by the atmosphere. (Although the pile of fries on the quesadilla had us scratching our heads.)  The best part of the meal was the discovery of Moose Drool Ale, from the Big Sky Brewing Co. in Missoula Montana.
Town Square Tavern on Urbanspoon

Spud and Dave
While in Victor, we receive an email from a friend back in Santa Cruz asking if we took Dave through the “Drive Through Potato.”  Unfortunately there is no drive through potato in Idaho.  (At least not any on Roadside America – and you know that if there were a drive through potato it would be listed there.) There is however, ten miles away in Diggs, a gigantic potato on an old flat bed truck in front of the Spud Drive-in.  There, we catch a double feature of the latest Ice Age installment and Total Recall 2012.  Now we get the whole Ice Age – animation that entertains the kids without totally boring the rents thing, but who thought that the Arnold cult classic, set in blade runner land, overloaded with exploding physical effects, strapped with a weaker plot and characters who are just plain boring, was worthy of theatrical release?

The rest of this week is spent in the Grand Teton National Park. Here we stay in Coulter Bay.  We have a full hook-up space in a lodge pole pine forest with a peek at Jackson Lake.  When we check in, we are warned that a grizzly bear was spotted in the campground the previous night.  We are prepared, we have read all of the bear safety materials and we understand the dangers of leaving food or anything that looks or smells like food to bears around.  We also have our bear spray and know that it does not work the same as bug spray.  What we didn’t expect was to find huge claw tears in the Tahitian pareo that we use for a tablecloth on the picnic table the next day.  Guess Mr. Bear was checking out the fish designs…it must have looked like food to him…

Jenny Lake - smoked
Unfortunately the heavy smoke from the fires still burning in Idaho, Utah and California mars the views of these spectacular lakes and mountains.  (This may explain why this post is more of the snarky variety.)  Foraging here is excellent as the Coulter Bay General Store has a great selection of quality and organic foods and condiments.

Smokey Sunset
Ignoring the air quality, we forge ahead with hikes along the lake, photos, exploring Jenny Lake to the south, Ranger talks and films about wolves, bears, moose and Native American art.  We take an evening boat trip to Elk Island for a cowboy BBQ highlighted by cooked to order steaks, fresh Trout, cowboy beans and corn on the cob cooked in half and half, butter and thyme. (True cowboy decadence if you ask us.) After dinner we spot a pair of Sandhill Cranes flying over the island and on our return we see a couple of moose foraging in the willows at the edge of the lake.  Unfortunately, the distance and the moving vessel make for less than crystal clear photos of these huge creatures but we are thrilled to have the opportunity to witness them in the wild. 

Marina at Coulter Bay
Speaking of wild…. and this is just an observation, in Oregon and Idaho signs along the road warn of “game crossing,” (we joke about Monopoly and Candy Land dashing across the highways) and across the border in Wyoming signs warn to “watch for wildlife” (we keep our eyes peeled for biker bars.)

Tomorrow we head for Yellowstone.  Our plan is to stay for four weeks.  Not sure how good their WIFI is… but we will try to keep up with the documentation of our adventures…


Thursday, August 16, 2012


Surrounded by Lava

We head out early in the morning in hopes of securing a camping site at the Craters of the Moon National Monument.  Arriving well before noon and we have our pick of sites.  We choose a site on a slight elevation with views of the lava and surrounding area, there is a stark beauty to this place. Since this is dry camping (no connections for electric, water or sewer) we use our solar electric system and watch our water consumption and disposal.  It’s actually not bad, as the cappuccino machine fares quite well on solar power and after a full day of hiking a quick cool shower is all we need. (All matters of priorities.)

Lava Tube-caves
There is so much to see and do here.  We start off by stopping by the visitor center and watch a short film about the area. We also pick up a cave permit. The permit is necessary to help prevent the spread of white nose syndrome amongst the bat population. This is a fungus that has killed over 5 million bats in the eastern United States.  Basically the Crater’s Staff will only issue permits to folks who are not carrying any clothing or equipment that has been in any other caves, mines or bat habitats.

Limber Pine Cones
In the cool of each evening we walk to the small amphitheater to listen to a ranger lead presentation on various topics.  We learn about: the people of the lava - the early Native Americans and the pioneers, the raptors - eagles, falcons, hawks and owls that inhabit the area, The animals – bats, picas, foxes, chipmunks, squirrels, deer and antelope that survive in this harsh environment, and the plants – the expected desert sages and cacti, but this is also home to some stunning pine trees and beautiful night blooming flowers.

Weird and Scenic
When we think of volcanoes, we usually picture a mountain spewing lava.  The Craters is a rift volcano; which basically is a crack in the earth that spews out lava.  Here we climb the cinder cones, explore the collapsing lava tubes, visit splatter cones and generally marvel at this weird and scenic landscape. The bold shapes and subtle colors call out to us. The weather is hot and dry and every day we are inundated with more smoke from the wildfires burning across Idaho.

After four days on the moon we trek 18 miles east to the town of Acro.  Arco was the first community in the world ever to be lit by electricity generated by nuclear power. We stay at the Mountain View RV Park.  The place is clean and has decent WIFI.  They also have a café that serves their guests a free breakfast of pancakes and eggs and some great home-style comfort food at reasonable prices for dinner. Their specialty: a smoked Idaho potato with all the fixin’s that comes with the dinners or can be purchased as a side dish.

4 lightbulbs - representing the first
non military use of Nuclear Energy
Just outside of Arco is the EBR-1 Atomic Museum.  EBR stands for Experimental Breeder Reactor.  This was the first power plant in the world to produce electricity using atomic energy.  The tour is educational and we can now say that we stood on top of a nuclear reactor.  

Nuclear Jet Engines -
A Really Dumb Idea
Outside in the parking lot, two prototype nuclear engines for jet airplanes are on display.  Fortunately, this (really stupid idea of a project) was axed by President Kennedy, and all we have is a pile of rusting crap that cost a ton-o-money. 

Atomic City
We also drive through the towns of Springfield (which sports the Homer’s Bar and Grill – named after that well known Springfield nuclear plant worker) and Atomic City – a virtual ghost town of 25 +/- inhabitants, a bar that’s for sale and a racetrack. It has no ties to anything atomic, other than being in the general vicinity of the EBR.

More Photos...

Now the air quality is deteriorating rapidly and the Tetons are calling…

Friday, August 10, 2012


Idaho Farm
We cross into Idaho, stopping first in Fruitland at the Neat Retreat for a couple of days to take stock and research our destinations for the next few weeks.  There are some issues with the repairs to Dimples, so we head for the burbs of Boise, where fortunately Airstream Adventures Northwest has a location. They make the corrections while we wait. Also, Dave needs an oil change and this gets done the same day.  Taking advantage of the shopping opportunities here, i.e. REI and Sierra Outfitter’s Outlet, we pick up some of the things we’ll need in the next few weeks as we head to the Tetons and Yellowstone. (Cool stuff like: walking stick/monopods, bear spray, Mosquito spray for gear and Camelbak Hydration Packs) 

After checking our Urban Spoon App we stop by El Rinconcito for some “highly rated” Mexican food in Nampa.  Maybe we should have ordered something else, but the ground beef enchiladas and the tostada, taco, chile relleno combination left a lot to be desired. The meat flavors remind us of Taco Bell and their “hot” salsa was anything but for our taste buds.  Overall: pretty ordinary, but they did serve Negra Modello one of our favorite Mexican Beers. So all was not lost, as it hit the spot on a really hot day!  ;o)
El Rinconcito on Urbanspoon

Little Camus Res.
We want to spend time in the 1000 springs area along the Snake River but our resort of choice is booked up until later in the week.  So we spend a couple of nights at the Fort Running Bear RV Resort on the Little Camus Reservoir.  It’s hot, and dusty, but we get out the bikes and our new Camelbak Hydration Packs. (FYI these backpacks are extremely comfortable and work GREAT!) We ride around the resort and reservoir.  The trails are a combination of gravel, dirt and rocks with some nice climbs and great views. It makes for a fun ride.

1000 Springs Area
Next we head to Hagerman, where we stay at the 1000 Springs Resort.  This is a hot springs resort with private mineral bath Jacuzzis, large public pool, picnic areas, tent camping and a small RV park, located right on the Snake River across from the springs that pour out from the cliffs.  The day use and dry camping areas are green and beautiful with boat docks and shade, but the RV portion is all gravel, by the road, and in our opinion their weakest feature.  However, the views are spectacular and don’t forget the private mineral bath Jacuzzis!!!

Hagerman Horse
Fossil Beds
The weather is in triple digits.   This is the first time we run our air conditioner.  We hike around the Hagerman Fossil Beds National Monument.  The Camelbak Packs get another workout.  We also try out the Kafka Cool Ties from REI.  They really work and we are pretty comfortable despite the heat. The land here is dry, dusty and barren.  We don’t see any fossils on our hike, but we do see more of the wagon tracks along the Oregon Trail. In the town of Hagerman, we stop at the fossil Museum and learn a bit about the Hagerman Horses and what makes these fossil beds unique.  

Magic Valley

Shoshone Falls
We drive down to Shoshone Falls for more hiking and photos.  On our return we take the back roads through the Magic Valley and stop at Kelley’s Canyon Orchard in Filer to pick up peaches and cantaloupe. We also pick up a watermelon at the market in Hagerman.  The melons here are spectacular.  

Hatchery Exhibit
Visits to the National Fish Hatchery and the Idaho State Fish Hatchery fill out the rest of our time here.

Each night we trek over to the hot springs and cook ourselves.  Afterward, it feels quite cool when we walk back to Dimples. This is one of the most relaxing spots we’ve visited and rates a Dave and Dimples recommendation for overall ambiance and outstanding staff.

More Area Photos

Now it’s off to the moon…