Monday, August 8, 2011

There Is No Idaho

There is no Idaho. Have you ever been to Idaho? Do you know anyone from Idaho? Do you know anyone who’s been to Idaho? Do you know anyone who knows anyone who’s been to Idaho? Can they prove it? Idaho is a region, like the Black Hills or the Ozarks, not a state. Idaho potatoes are a breed of potato, just like Macintosh apples. The so-called “governor” of Idaho is the CEO of this potato conglomerate, elected by board members of various corporations, not by the people. He’s as much a governor as Mayor McCheese is a mayor. This whole myth about Idaho being a state was thought up by potato farmers who would get extra subsidies if they were considered a “state.” Make sense? Good. If I’ve managed to convince you even a little, you can see how some people can deny the Holocaust.

When I heard that speech 13 years ago, it was the most effective introduction to a NFTY programs I’d ever witnessed (and I’ve definitely seen more than my share of NFTY programs). What I remember of the opening monologue doesn’t do the real thing justice, because after 10 minutes of it, the leaders of the program had a room of 200 somewhat intelligent high school students absolutely convinced that there was no Idaho. To this day, whenever anyone mentions the state, my automatic response is to smile and say, “There is no Idaho,” and then explain what I’m talking about. Well, it took 13 years, but as of today I have my first bit of real first-hand evidence to refute that hypothesis. Granted, by the ground rules from the program, my telling you that I drove from Mt. Rainier through Idaho today would not qualify as irrefutable proof that there is a state of Idaho, only that I drove through the region known as Idaho.

It says something about my day that the highlight was counting down the miles Copina Jr. was telling me were left until the Washington/Idaho border, and then once over that border, stopping at the first truck stop I could find in order to buy up all the Idaho swag I could. As it turned out, Idaho is kind of the Delaware of the northwest – blink and you’ll miss it. In a region where it took me 12 hours to drive through half of California, 8 hours to get through Oregon, and 5 to get from central Washington to the state line, I drove across the entirety of Idaho in 45 minutes. The most exciting thing I saw in those 45 minutes, aside from the “Welcome to Idaho” sign, was this tiny cloud positioned perfectly over a mountain.

Then it was onto Montana.

If you notice, below the “Welcome to Montana” sign is a sight I became quite familiar with during my 250-mile journey through the western half of the state en route to my hotel in Bozeman – construction orange. Of the first 50 miles of I-90, 47 of them were under construction. This included a 20-mile stretch where both directions of interstate traffic were forced into single lanes on the same side of the road, while no work was being done on the opposite side. As the signs all over the road stated, all this was funded purely with federal stimulus money. Nice one, Washington. Maybe if you do enough stimulus, you can shut down interstate transportation altogether.

In the northeast, construction like this would be a headache, but it would be made somewhat more tolerable by the fact that the drivers would mostly know how to handle it. They’d understand that there would be a line of cars behind them, and that if they slowed down to 20 miles an hour below the already-reduced speed limit, people would get rightfully pissed. They’d also realize that, once the construction had ended, it would be time to speed up to normal highway speed once again. And they certainly wouldn’t do 55 in a 75, blocking the left lane, even as they were being passed on the right and glared at by every other motorist. Apparently Montanan drivers don’t share these values. Congratulations, Montana. You have superseded Kansas as having the worst drivers west of the Mississippi.

I feel like I may be going a bit too hard on ol’ Big Sky Country, though. Even though I’ll spend about an hour more here tomorrow, bringing my total to about 6, it will have provided one consolation prize:

Towards evening, clouds began to roll in from the east. I was hoping this thunderstorm would hold off until after the sun went down so as not to block my view (as it turned out, it held off indefinitely. Just some distant lightning but no rain). But as the sun went down, the clouds began to light up.

Since, by this point, my windshield was completely coated in bug carcass (thank you family at the gas station who decided to use all 4 squeegees at once to give their minivan a sponge bath while I was waiting), I had to pull over to get any decent pictures. Since I was going east, I could only see the reflection of the sunset on the mountains in the distance. It wasn’t until the 3 cars ahead of me all pulled over at the same time to look back to the west that I realized I might want to do the same. I’m not sure how they could tell what was going on back there, since they were doing 80 in the other direction, but they were right – it was definitely worth the stop:

So that’s about all for my day. I got to the hotel just in time to catch the new episode of True Blood (although I'm still a week behind on Breaking Bad). I was planning on discussing a bit of theology as well, but I’m just way too tired so it’ll have to wait for another day (but now that I’ve mentioned it, I have to do it eventually). Tomorrow I drive the remaining 80 miles into Yellowstone, where I’ll camp for 2 nights before moving down the road a few miles to Grand Teton. As it’s the last big wilderness event of the trip, this place had better be all it’s cracked up to be.


  1. I can't beleive you've fallen for it, Greg. Not only have you funded the Idaho "corporation", but you've freely advertised their endeavor but posting photos of their signs "proving" their existence and announcing that they have merch to purchase. I think the only thing they may be upset about is that they weren't given due credit for your blog post.
    I love that program. So far I've been doing it every 4 years with EESY so that everyone has a chance to experience it's awesomeness. how do you not love that program?
    As for the post, these pictures were the most interesting so far. They seemed like they were half photograph with half painted skies. Very unbeleivable.

  2. These pictures pretty much sold me on your buying the camera you are using.