I haven’t traveled extensively. I have been out of the United States of America a grand total of three times, for very short periods. 10 days in Guatemala on a mission trip in high school, an hour or two in Mexico on Senior Trip, and 3 days in the Bahamas on a cruise after I graduated from college make up my short list of international travel. My family took vacations when I was a kid, but if we left the state it was only to go to the ones surrounding it. Kansas City has a amusement/water park, Worlds of Fun/Oceans of Fun, which we visited several times, and the Iowa State Fair and the nearby Adventureland drew us once or twice. The largest distance traveled was to see my Aunt in southeast Utah, to enjoy the gorgeous views of Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, to hike a bit of the Grand Canyon, and to visit the Four Corners. I’ve never been dissatisfied with the amount of traveling I have done, although I of course wouldn’t mind doing more of it.
It wasn’t until my husband and I, driving our rental car towards the place in northern Idaho where his brother would be married the next day, that it hit me: this was probably the furthest North that I had ever been in my life. A road sign confirmed this a few miles later, reading, “CANADA: 99 MILES.” A scene from the much-beloved and much-watched Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring flashed through my head: “If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.”
Northern Idaho is gorgeous. Evergreen trees line the roads (but don’t crowd them, as the trees do in Connecticut, which is incidentally the furthest East that I’ve ever been), and mountains make give the horizon variety in every direction. The views are lovely, the temperatures nice (even when in the 90s, as long as there is a breeze), and the people are friendly. There were a few things, however, that threw me for a loop, and had me asking myself, “what kinda state is this?!”
It is true that when we visited it was the first nice week for quite a while (the several preceding it had been wet and cold), so maybe I should cut the residents a break when I make notice of the fact that one vehicle in four was bound to be a motorcycle. Motorcycles everywhere! I had never seen so many in once place in my life. And these were not hardcore bikers by any means (although we did see a group of maybe ten or so of those at one point), they were just local motorcycle owners, out for a cruise. In addition to the fact that there were so many about, the thing that surprised me most about the riders themselves was that out of everyone we saw (aside from the hardcore bikers), there was one person wearing a helmet. Maybe I’m just used to the state law that requires that any person who takes their lives into their hands by getting on one of those things must at least pretend like they’re going to be safe by putting on a helmet, but... what kinda state wouldn’t have a law like that? (According to the state patrol website, Idaho does have a motorcycle helmet law, but it only applies to passengers under the age of 18.)
After leaving the wedding on Friday, we stopped at a local grocery store to grab a snack for our tired two year old. I found crackers, I found drinks, but browsing through the yogurt, butter, and milk yielded no discovery of cheese. All I wanted were a couple of sticks of string cheese, come on, where is the cheese.... I finally wandered up toward the bakery and asked a disinterested employee, “Did I just walk past the cheese six times without seeing it, or what?” “Uh,” she replied, looking at me like I was a crazy person (and I probably looked it), “Well, it’s in the meat department.” The meat department! What kinda state is this?! I could understand the string cheese being next to the slim jims at a convenience store, but this was an actual grocery store. Someone ought to tell the management at Super 1 that cheese belongs in the dairy department.
My first experience I have saved for the last because, in my opinion, it is the most strange and hilarious. My daily desire for caffeine but aversion to coffee had my husband stopping at a corner gas station so that I could purchase a soda. I had barely gotten out of the car when I saw something that caused me to cry out: “What kinda state is this?!” The young man who moved away from the front doors just as I walked up to them must have been a member of a career path similar to bodybuilding or male modeling, and my agitated state continued as the woman manning the registers rang up my Mountain Dew. “You’re giggling,” she observed. “I am!” I responded, “I’m not from around here; what kinda state is this?!” She laughed. “I told him to put a shirt on,” she said, “it’s hot enough out there as it is.” I expressed the desire to know whether every resident went out in public in a similar state of undress, and she confessed that quite a few of them did, although most were quite the opposite of easy on the eyes. Now that I think of it, I don’t remember seeing a “No shirt, no shoes, no service” sign anywhere in Idaho, and I did see quite a few more topless men in our time there than I would necessarily have liked.
Our trip to northern Idaho was very enjoyable. We got to see family, celebrate its expansion (we love you, Ashley!) and discover things about a new place. I would love to go there again, and for more than two days this time.
Just as long as they put on a shirt, wear a motorcycle helmet, and move their cheese.