Friday Crap Roundup XVII

Wow, there’s not much to go on for today’s FCR. Although most of my week has been monopolized by an eight-year-old, my Facebook feed usually provides more than enough weirdness for me. Not this week. It’s almost as if everyone was as lethargic as my daughter and I were out at Camel’s Back Park this afternoon. Idahoans generally don’t do well in hot, humid conditions.

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This ain’t exactly Cherrapunji, you know.
Image credit: Greg Harness

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Tales From Parental Purgatory

I’m back in the 2T this weekend. For a variety of reasons I’m staying longer than normal this time. Among other things, Beachy is days away from closing the book on second grade for good.

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The 2T traditionally being the last place in the Western Hemisphere to finish its school year.
Image credit: KEZJ.com

That’s the exciting part. The decidedly unexciting part is thankfully behind me.

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Electing for Obscurity

It was election day in Boise today. Seriously. Three Greater Boise Auditorium District board seats were up for grabs. As you can imagine, it was a heated campaign.

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You practically had to fight your way to the polls.
Image credit: momboleum

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That Thermopolis Junket, Part 4

Sunday morning in Riverton, Wyoming. My work here is complete. It’s time to head back to the Command Center and hope I don’t have a full-on feline insurrection on my hands.

But first, a nine-hour drive home awaits. Unlike Friday’s journey, I get to see the rest of western Wyoming in daylight. I’ve been looking forward to this.

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Jackalope museum? Now we’re talking!

My first stop on the return trip was the hamlet of Dubois, unfortunately named for a rabidly anti-Mormon U.S Senator from Idaho after the post office vetoed the preferred local name, the much more entertaining “Never Sweat.” The jackalope museum doubles as a convenience store, offering plenty of swag lampooning the Forest Service, but unfortunately no Oberto Bacon Jerky. Oh well, the A.1. Steak Sauce flavor will have to do. The helpful clerk apparently hadn’t heard of EBT before (hey, I’m a starving artist type), so I dutifully paid cash.

Grand Teton National Park looks much, much better during the day. Even if you’re not particularly impressed by mountain views, you really should check this one out someday. It’s quite stunning. You’re also not going to encounter a herd of bison grazing along the roadside in Center City Philadelphia, that’s for damn sure. Like in the dinosaur museum in Thermopolis, I sent Beachy pictures.

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“Daddy, pet them!” Um … no.

Once in Jackson, I managed to correct the navigational mistake I made on the way out Friday evening. While the Teton Pass offers a more direct return to Idaho, it isn’t all that much quicker than the more circuitous route I inadvertently took Friday night. Being tailed by a Jackson cop all they way to Victor didn’t exactly expedite things either.

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But then again, there’s no speeding through here in a 2004 Ford Focus to begin with.
Image credit: Dana’s Rocky Mountain Excursion

After a quick bite to eat in Idaho Falls (which never seems to be quick enough there), I passed through increasingly familiar territory. Although I drove with the “check engine” light on from Carey onward, the staff car didn’t appear to suffer any ill effects. It’s done that before for no good reason, some sort of cryptic transmission complaint which mysteriously clears itself up after awhile. Anyway, the Pyramid Brothers were particularly glad to see me upon my return.

And thus concludes my Wyoming saga. My next trip of note is scheduled for late July, when Beachy and I head to the Vancouver, Washington, area to see Rush. That’s just as well. Frankly I’m a bit tired of feeling my inner Rick Steves for the time being.

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And no, that’s not a pot reference.
Image credit: Andrew Bossi

That Thermopolis Junket, Part 3

At some point after passing through Shoshoni, it dawned on me that the highlight of this trip wasn’t going to be in Thermopolis after all, but in Riverton. Yes, Riverton. A town I didn’t even consider until I checked out the hotel rates in the area. The small-town weirdness I was looking for on this trip was there.

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A place where they take their building materials VERY seriously.

With a population of approximately 10,000, Riverton is the largest city in Wyoming’s expansive Fremont County. It looks larger than that, as it reminded me somewhat of the 2T back in the 80s. The downtown area near my hotel proved to be very walkable. Shortly after returning from Thermopolis I came across a secondhand store known simply as the Flea Market. It had all the stuff you’d expect to find at such a place, and the pricing policy seemed to be very simple. “When in doubt, it’s 20 bucks.”

Nothing really caught my eye until I wandered into the back of the store and came across a complete 1970 Fisher-Price Play Family Garage, with its original box no less. I had one of these as a kid, but unlike the Sesame Street play set – which after me was owned by my sister, my cousins, Beachy and now by my twin nieces in Portland – the garage is long gone. I seriously considered picking this one up.

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But alas, I don’t have enough storage as it is.
Image credit: Judy’s Vintage Fisher Price Toys

Eventually tiring of picking through brick-a-brac, I noticed it was approaching twilight on a Saturday. Although my hard partying days are well behind me, I remain a sucker for a good craft beer. There are plenty here in Boise, and even the 2T is beginning to produce some good local stuff. I figured Wyoming couldn’t be too far behind.

I figured … incorrectly. I don’t touch the ubiquitous American style pale lagers such as Coors and Bud, and trying to find anything more highbrow than a Michelob Amber in Riverton is an exercise in futility. I came across a single bottle of Guinness, but it was so old it must have been brewed by Arthur himself. Blech.

While on this wild goose chase a woman came in and ordered a martini. Despite it being a long-established standard, I could tell right away the barkeep wasn’t familiar with this particular cocktail. I was a bartender for a short time in Center City Philadelphia, so I cheerfully offered my assistance. First, use the right glassware (which they obviously didn’t have).

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Eh, close enough.

Second, if you’re going to make a gin martini Bombay Sapphire is the way to go. “Tanqueray will be fine.” Well, whatever.

Finally, use just a little bit of dry vermouth. “Vermouth … vermouth …. We don’t have that. Would you like some gin in a glass, ma’am?”

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Wait, seriously?
Image credit: fortinbras

And thus this junket’s moment of Zen was attained. Me, the kid from the 2T who lives in the teeming metropolis of Boise, Idaho, is now the big city asshole. With that, it was time to call it a night. Oh, how I looked forward to seeing that teeming metropolis again.

To be concluded on Saturday ….

That Thermopolis Junket, Part 2

I’m almost never awake at 9 am anymore, especially after a horrendous multi-state drive which took several hours longer than expected. Ah, but this is Wyoming. I’m here to do things and see stuff!

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But not everything though. Drive-through Bud Light? Nah, not my style.

Although the original intent of this journey was to stay in Thermopolis, the lodgings there proved to be just a bit spendy. I stayed in Riverton instead, which is about an hour away. The drive from Riverton to Thermopolis is quite nice. In particular the last part of the drive through the Wind River Canyon. It’s a must for all you armchair geologists out there. And tunnels? Yeah, they have those too.

The first thing I do when I visit a town for the first time is check it out as much as I can. Thermopolis struck me as kind of two towns in one. The “real” Thermopolis, which anyone who grew up in the American West would find very familiar, and the “tourist” Thermopolis. Yeah, the geography and the hot springs were cool, but even on this Saturday morning in early May the swimming areas were jam-packed. Once the summer season hits I imagine it’ll be cattle call time. In short, I was underwhelmed. When it comes to hot springs, for my money Lava Hot Springs out by Pocatello is a better choice.

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“Sulfur? Pfft, seen it.”

Fortunately I didn’t go there to relive my Hydrotube days (even though Thermopolis still totally has one). I went for more Thoreau-esque purposes, to suck the marrow out of life or something. Speaking of marrow, Thermopolis has plenty of bones for public perusal. Where? At the Wyoming Dinosaur Museum, silly!

“Dinosaurs,” I thought to myself. “Of course!”

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“Wyoming is world-famous for dinosaurs!”

OK, I went to the dinosaur museum mainly to take some pictures to send to Beachy. Still, I was quite impressed with the place. They have a triceratops, a T-Rex, a nest of baby dinosaurs and even an aptly-named supersaurus. It was actually worth the $10 admission.

The gift shop? Not so much. Damn. Beachy is lucky I found something for only four bucks.

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Good thing there were baby dinosaurs.

I spent about three and a half hours in Thermopolis, which as it turns out was about as long as I wanted to be there. My curiosity sated, it was time to head back to Riverton to check that town out. Riverton turned out to be a rather surreal experience.

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Thermopolis was just the warmup.

History Wednesday is tomorrow, so, um … continued on Thursday!

That Thermopolis Junket, Part 1

Another pointless vacation is in the books. I’m glad to say my trip to Wyoming inspired all sorts of great material for SB. I’ll be spending the better part of this week writing about it. So settle in, this entry is the first of one of those muliti-parter deals.

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Grab a snack or something.

As mentioned earlier, I have an an atrocious sleep schedule. This bit me in the ass in a big way on Friday. Late Thursday night I had everything packed and ready to go. I set an alarm to wake up at a reasonable time for what I expected to be an eight-hour trip to Riverton. However, a few minutes later I said to myself, “Nah. I don’t need an alarm. I’ll be OK.”

Next thing I know it’s 2:30 pm. Dammit!

After scrambling around the Command Center for a full half hour looking for my glasses (the cats hid them), I bolted out the door. Taking care of the standard going out of town tasks (i.e. gas, cash, Oberto Bacon Jerky, etc.) took another half hour. Oh yeah, I was looking at a late night.

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With only big buttes to keep me company.

The first half of the trip to Idaho Falls was uneventful. I’m very familiar with most of southern Idaho; directions to Idaho Falls weren’t necessary. However, I had never been east of Idaho Falls in this manner, so I printed out some Google directions beforehand. This is all fine and good, as the directions tell you what street to turn on. What they don’t tell you is what TOWN said street is located in. That would be helpful, Mr. Google, especially when in unfamiliar territory at twilight.

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As I found out later, the answer in this instance was “Swan Valley.”

Having missed the turn, and not realizing it until well over an hour later, I found myself traveling through areas not on the itinerary, such as Irwin, Palisades Dam and finally an unexpected entry into Wyoming at Alpine in Lincoln County, nearly 40 miles south of where I expected to be.

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Dammit.

As it turned out my detour cost me 30 minutes at most, but that was no comfort given I pulled into Jackson well after dark. Although it wasn’t THAT late, and Jackson is a fairly large city by Wyoming standards, I had difficulty finding an open store. This proved to be a recurring theme.

Immediately past Jackson is Grand Teton National Park. Being stupidly late I didn’t find this terribly interesting, especially considering I couldn’t see anything anyway. I found this even more annoying:

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The last thing I wanted to see.

Increasingly tired and in an unfamiliar area, by the time I exited Grand Teton I was ready for this drive to be freakin’ over. It was still well over 100 miles to Riverton, though. Driving across the Continental Divide at the snowbound-even-in-May Togwotee Pass is a challenge even in the best of conditions, but even worse when sleep deprived and attempting to pass a clearly confused motorist bearing Iowa license plates. Iowa not being known for its mountain passes, you know.

At 1:30 am I finally reached my destination, the extremely small and basic Riverton Motel 6. No one should be that glad to see a Motel 6. This day is OVER.

Continued tomorrow ….

Friday Crap Roundup XIII

It’s the 13th installment of the Friday Crap Roundup! Like its predecessors, it’s more cheesy than scary.

Prediction: Total Crap

Although he can be a bit of a crank, I’m a fan of James Randi and his efforts to expose people with “supernatural” powers for the frauds they are. Earlier this week he called out noted “psychic” Sylvia Browne over her latest epic fail. To wit, on national TV in 2004 Browne told Jouwana Miller – mother of the long-missing Amanda Berry – that her daughter was dead. The problem is Berry was found earlier this week, traumatized but very much alive. The worst part is her mother died several years ago.

I try to keep an open mind about everything, but Randi’s logic is sound. There is simply no scientific evidence whatsoever supporting supernatural phenomena. If someone proves otherwise, great. Until then, can we please dispense with all these idiotic ghost hunter shows?

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And for a variety of reasons, don’t even get me started on the goddamn Blair Witch Project.

Accentuating the Positive, or Something

Tuesday’s post on regional accents was a big hit if my stats mean anything. I wrote that post on a spur of the moment basis after seeing the map on Facebook. Funny how topics like that become popular, while posts I plan days in advance get fewer views than an Abe Vigoda striptease.

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You’re on your own with the visuals.

I was hoping for a response from Rick Aschmann regarding my southern Idaho speech sample by now, but a couple days after my post The Huffington Post ran a story about his site too. Since they get a few more hits than I do, I suspect he’s pretty inundated at the moment. No fair! I wrote about it first!

In response to Duke’s comment, people are telling me things like that all the time now. Perhaps they feel sorry I’m turning 40 in a few weeks. Who knows?

Track of the Week

Since I’m on the road today (this FCR was written in advance), I figure some good travel music is in order:

Fitting, given that Atomic City is on the itinerary.

SB is Wyoming Bound!

The time has come. Tomorrow morning I leave the Command Center for a couple days to go on my annual pointless vacation. Last year, it was to Salmon, Idaho. This year: Thermopolis, Wyoming.

“But Lane,” you might say, “you’re a city guy. Why the hell would you drive eight hours to a small town in Wyoming where you don’t even know anyone?” Well, the main reason is because I’ve never been there before. While I’m unquestionably more city than country, I also like to go off the beaten path every now and again. Why did I go to Salmon last year? It was because it was the largest city in Idaho I had never been to. I believe that distinction now belongs to Orofino.

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Home of the Maniacs (and a state mental hospital too).

Speaking of crazy, that’s main reason I chose Thermopolis this year, because of its crazy name. Of course, the town is actually so named because of the hot springs surrounding it. It’s in Hot Springs County, after all. Duh. I should have realized hot springs make the place somewhat touristy, which in turn means lodging in the area is a bit pricey. The best rate I could find was $70 a night, and that was at one of those places where I suspect the mattresses are older than I am. Yeah, I don’t want to go THAT bad.

Nevertheless, I’m still going to Thermopolis. I’m just not staying in Thermopolis. Instead, I’m setting up camp at the Motel 6 in the lovely town of Riverton, about 50 miles away. That’s as large as I wanna live right now.

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Yee haw.
Image credit: MoEaFaTi

So what am I going to do there? Same thing I did in Salmon last summer: avoid the touristy areas and just hang around. I’m pretty easy to entertain.

What has me really jacked about the trip is the route I’m taking. Instead of going through the 2T, I’m taking a more direct route through locales such as Fairfield and Arco. I’ll be visiting some places I haven’t been to in nearly 20 years and others I’ve never been to at all.

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Gives you kind of a warm feeling inside, doesn’t it?
Image credit: Squelle

Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter for real-time snark updates. A full travel diary will appear next week.

Idaho Has an Accent?

I spent my entire childhood in the 2T. I didn’t live outside of Idaho until I was well into my 20s, when I spent almost a year in the Chicago area. I suppose that means I grew up with an “Idaho accent.”

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It also probably explains why I have recurring dreams about wind.
Image credit: Wagner Christian

I personally don’t think the Idaho accent is much of an accent at all. For what it’s worth, corporate America seems to agree. Purportedly they¬†base call centers in Boise and other cities in the region because of our friendly, “neutral” speech mannerisms.

That said, I’ve always been intrigued by the differing accents and dialects in the English-speaking world. Indeed, there are obvious differences in accent between the 2T and places like Chicago and Philadelphia, both of which I lived in at one point. I lived in Las Vegas too, but I didn’t notice much of a difference there.

During my time out of state I began to pick up on several different accents I wasn’t exposed to as a kid, notably the Boston and Long Island varieties. In my estimation the Philadelphia accent wasn’t as “strong” as those, but it was stronger than the accent heard in, say, Washington, D.C. As I noted when I lived in Philadelphia, it seemed like the further northeast one went up, the thicker and more unintelligible the accents became.

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Until one eventually hit Francophone Quebec.

Earlier today I came across a terribly interesting site created by linguist Rick Aschmann. Aschmann has exhaustively researched and mapped the various English accents and dialects spoken in the United States and Canada. It’s an impressive work. Unfortunately, like many other works of a national or continental scope, it’s a bit lacking when it comes to Idaho-specific material.

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A Mike Crapo speech sample? C’mon, people, we can do better than that!

Now I could sit here and complain about it, because that makes for good blogging material. However, I could also do something about it, which … makes for good blogging material. On his site Aschmann asks for voice samples from native American and Canadian English speakers like me who spent most or all of their childhoods in a particular place. I was happy to oblige, especially since the ever-so-slight Chicago and Philadelphia accents I used to have are long gone.

Naturally, I pointedly informed him there is no “Z” in “Boise.” I’d be horribly remiss if I produced something like this and failed to do so.

I also read him a bedtime story. You’ll probably fall asleep too.

This turned out to be a fun afternoon project. I encourage others to try it as well.