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Monday, September 6, 2010

A Taste of a Western Summer in America

I'll be back in Tanzania in less than two weeks now. I expect I'll feel disoriented for a few days when I get back. I say that because I felt quite disoriented for about three weeks after I came home to Utah in July. The two places are worlds apart from each other, and the speed of travel between them leaves me feeling displaced. I spent a couple of weeks visiting Idaho and working with my brothers and various funeral directors and lawyers and accountants because of my mother's passing. Then I spent a couple of weeks hiding out inside my house resting and recovering from a mild case of pneumonia.

But when all of those sad, difficult things were finished up, I headed outside and hit the road in the beautiful western American summer. Here are a bunch of pictures and a few comments on the stuff I saw out there, which was a nice taste of all the different stuff you can see Out West. This post is really not about Tanzania, except as an illustration of how the two places are, indeed, worlds apart.

First stop, Alpine, Wyoming, and the Grand Targhee Bluegrass Music Festival with my friend Megan. She always hosts me at her idyllic log house with a view of the Tetons from the front porch. She is also known as "the Martha Stewart of the Wilderness" because of her thoughtful, enthusiastic hosting of as many guests as she can round up.

The drive from Sugar City to Driggs, Idaho, with the Teton Mountain Range drawing nearer.

The audience setting up lawn chairs in front of the stage. The music lasted for over 12 hours. Of course, all the good bands played last and I had to stay awake past midnight, which is hard for me--but worth it this time.

My group of friends, all former coworkers at the Forest Service. Megan, Carol (who also frequently hosts me at her house in Idaho), Carson (actually the daughter of a coworker), me in the big hat, Lisa, and Heidi. That's Doug, Heidi's husband, lying down in front. He was a good sport and spent the day with five of Heidi's funnest girlfriends and just smiled no matter how much we harassed him.

Megan and Heidi settling in for 12 hours of bluegrass.

One place in Wyoming where you'll see more "hippies" than "cowboys."

She might be both a hippie and a cowboy, 'cause she's got the hat, but she's wearing it with batik.
All hippie. No cowboy.

Grand Targhee is a mid-size ski resort on the back side of the Tetons (if you concede that Jackson is the front side). I skied here all through my teenage years. My little brother used to get me to follow him through that clump of aspens on the left (the trees with the white trunks). He was fearless, and I always thought I might die. Anyway, it's a beautiful spot for a summer concert.

Next, I drove to the Seattle area to visit family. (You can read more about that in a previous post .)

My cousin Jerry with his cat Milo. That's a typical thing about Americans--we love our pets!

But how could you not love handsome Milo? (Photo taken by my cousin Chris)

 Snoqualmie Falls in Western Washington state. The power company is currently modifying the hydroelectric facilities, so there's less water and more construction equipment than usual. Still an impressive waterfall for those of us who live in the desert!

 (Photo by Chris)

 (Photo by Chris)

 The Austin-Healy Club of Portland, Oregon were all in the parking lot at Snoqualmie Falls.

Another typical thing about Americans-we love our cars, almost as much as our pets. Even if they're British.

 The sun through the Doug-firs in the temperate rain forest near North Bend, Washington.

 Me in a typical pose, outside pointing my camera at something. (Photo by Chris)

 Here's what I was pointing my camera at. Another favorite of Americans, a cute little chipmunk.

Driving home, I took the interstate freeway through Eastern Washington, Eastern Oregon, and Southern Idaho.

 Eastern Oregon, between Pendleton and the Blue Mountains.

I spent a night in Baker City, Oregon, not far from the Idaho border (which does not require any immigration formalities to cross). I ate dinner in a really good Mexican restaurant and had a chicken mole enchilada. I miss Mexican food when I'm in Tanzania! The waiter/owner was from Guadalajara, Mexico, so I practiced speaking Spanish with him. Every time he asked me a question, I would say, "Ndiyo (Swahili for 'yes'). Si (Spanish for 'yes')." For example, "Quieres mas agua?"  "Ndiyo! Si!" Which translates as, "Do you want more water?" "Yes! Uh...I mean...Yes!"

Here are some pictures of historic downtown Baker City, Oregon. For my Back East, European, and Tanzanian friends, we count historic as anything before about 1910 out here in the West.


 Looks like I missed a summer fair, the Miner's Jubilee. I had also just missed the Highland Games, so there must have been some Scottish miners who settled here.

 We also love our pickup trucks Out West.

The next morning when I stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere to use the bathroom and buy more coffee, in that order, I saw this sign.

I didn't know you could use those things for bait! After writing an emergency environmental assessment for killing hordes of them before they got to the wheat (or was it corn?), and getting a driving tour through a smear of them on the road (to help me understand the urgency of keeping them out of the corn), I would not be one to pick them up and handle them. Just give me some earthworms. Or maybe those bright pink marshmallows that don't squirm at all.

 And then on the outskirts of Boise, another surprise. Americans also love outlet (discount store) shopping, and here's one that carries outdoor gear. K2 has been looking for a down coat to wear on Kilimanjaro, but the selection is not good in Arusha. I got a bargain on a beautiful one in here. The winter gear was just out on the shelves, plus, it was the start of the Labor Day Sale. Two more things Americans love: Monday holidays that result in a three-day weekend and shopping a holiday sale! Woo-hoo!

I also got to partake of another favorite end-of-summer American activity: the State Fair. My big brother Bob and I spent a day together at the East Idaho State Fair in Blackfoot, Idaho. We both remembered it fondly from childhood. Fairs are bittersweet because although you celebrate the fullness and beauty of summer (you know, by competing for the best vegetables, fruits, and flowers grown all summer), you also start to grieve the end of summer, which is the sweetest time of year in North America. Even if you do love to ski.

 The flower competition.

A lady strolling past the sunflowers in her matching tee-shirt.

State Fair Icon: the biggest pumpkin. This one is 460 pounds, which I think is not very big compared to other parts of the country with longer growing seasons. But still, it's a big pumpkin!

The cake decorating competition. Looks like some serious competitors here!

 The 4-H kids' cake decorating entries.

 The quilts were gorgeous.

 The antique competition. They were judged on rarity, age, and condition. Bobby and I noticed several items that we could remember as part of our childhood, so I guess we're getting old! Or just rare...but our condition is still very good.

 OMG! Where did she find that hat?

Must have been here...

And since it's a fair, and it's Idaho, you gotta have cowboy hats.

 Lunch time! With the traditional selection of special state fair junk foods that we look forward to all summer. And then feel a little sick afterwards.

I'm not sure cotton candy's really a food, but I sure loved it when I was a kid.

Even at the fair, this is going too far. I've been seeking out bacon while I've been home (because the bacon in Tanzania is not good), but even so...chocolate? That's just weird. Battered and deep-fried, maybe...

Riding the giant ferris wheel with Bobby. I'm trying to remember to call him "Bob," because he's a 53-year-old auto mechanic and people laugh when I say "Bobby." But this day we spent a lot of time reminiscing about our Idaho childhood, so I'm going with Bobby.

The view from the top of the ferris wheel. You can see Southeast Idaho stretching off into the distance beyond the midway.


Why is Sponge Bob wearing a diaper? Is this Baby Sponge Bob? Before he got his Square Pants?

My favorite part of the fair: the livestock!

Grooming a cow in preparation for judging.

 A sheep all covered up to keep her clean until judging time.

 That's a pretty ratty-looking t-shirt...don't let the judges see thaaaat!

 Who knew? Sheep got dreadlocks!

 Does this really count as livestock? Miniature horses.

 The sign said, "This area closed for rabbit judging." goats.

 Back to the horse barn after judging in the arena...

 You can see why the horse was a bit jumpy--look at the size of that cow watching the barn...
 Future dairymen? Or just future men?

Y'all come back now. Ya hear?


  1. Chocolate bacon, Mormon crickets, hippies, cowboys and chipmunks. Sheep in tee-shirts, 400-lb. pumpkins, miniature horses -- and Milo! It doesn't get any better than that! Thanks for such a terrific post, Barbara. The West may never be the same!

  2. great photos Barb! Really looks like America!!

  3. Barb - you bring our American west to life! Things I just take for granted look great in your blog :-) I am so sorry to have missed you while you were stateside. I'll just keep reading your blog. Carol Brown

  4. Carol, I thought about you as I was driving from Twin Falls to boise and briefly wondered how far to get to Sun Valley and thought how fun it would be to get together, but just didn't have time. I only got to see about 2/3 of my friends while I was home. Should have stayed 3 months, I guess! I'm heading back to TZ on Wednesday.