Wednesday, December 3, 2014

By the Time I Get to Phoenix, Day 4

White Pine County Courthouse
Ely, Nevada

On this, our last day on the road, only the first 138 miles were new territory to me.  Once we got to Wells, Nevada, the rest of the way home would all be on familiar roads.  But first, we had to get out of Ely.  It was a cold morning, and we quickly packed up the truck and headed to breakfast.  Once again, Yelp let us down, as the spot that seemed most promising turned out to be a major disappointment.  Breakfast was ok, but not great, and the waitress and the cook seemed to be more concerned with catching up on gossip rather than tending to their customers.  A quick stop in front of the courthouse allowed me to get the photo I should have taken the night before when the building was beautifully lit, but hindsight, as they say, is 20/20.

On the way out of town, I checked the temperature.  According to the truck it was 19 degrees outside, the coldest temperature we had seen since the previous Spring.  We headed east a ways on US 50, then turned north to stay on US 93 for most of the rest of the way home.

I have always been fascinated by the Nevada landscape, mostly bare, with lots of mountains, and White Pine County proved no different.  We crossed into Elko County, the northeastern corner of Nevada, without noticing any change and in time reached Wells, crossing under I-80 and heading on north toward Idaho and home.

U.S. Highway 93 in Southern Elko County
Elko County, Nevada

The first town you come to in Idaho is Twin Falls, and all I can say is that this town sure has grown since the last time I went through it in 1997.  Between 1990 and 2000, the city's population increased 25% and another 28% during the next decade.  The 2010 Census showed 44,125 people living in Twin Falls--a town I thought had around 15,000.  I'm not sure just what led to such an increase, but I know that Chobani's Greek Yogurt plant isn't the only reason, even if the company's largest plant is in Twin Falls.  (Greek Yogurt from Idaho?  Who knew?)

Twin Falls sits on the Snake River whose canyon Evel Knievel attempted to jump back in 1974.  He didn't succeed, but we had no problem driving across the canyon on a highway bridge.  Didn't even notice any particularly high winds, Knievel's nemesis.

Snake River Canyon (and Bridge)
Twin Falls, Idaho

We drove through Jerome County without stopping for me to grab the courthouse in the county seat, also called Jerome, and soon we were in Lincoln County.  Shoshone is the seat of Lincoln County, and while there, I did make Kevin stop so I could photograph the United Methodist Church and the Lincoln County Courthouse.

North of Lincoln County, we entered Blaine County which has to be one of the most oddly shaped counties in the United States.  It actually looks like some gerrymandered election district, with a narrow strip of land dropping south from the main body of the county.  Blaine County is where Sun Valley is located, as well as Ketchum where Ernest Hemingway committed suicide.  Those towns are on (or near) Idaho highway 75, which used to be US 93.  We wouldn't be going that way.  Instead we turned northeast toward Arco and entered Butte County.

Craters of the Moon National Monument is a lava field that covers 618 square miles and parts of five Idaho counties.  It's one of my favorite places to photograph, but I haven't been there in years.  This trip was no different, in that we drove right on by without stopping at the visitor's center or even along the road.  Just to give you an idea of the extent, Craters of the Moon is over half the size of the state of Rhode Island (admittedly a small state), or one-fifth larger than the city of Los Angeles.  It covers a lot of ground, that is.  Looking at the hardened lava, it struck me as miraculous that anyone was ever able to get a wagon train across this landscape, and yet Goodale's Cutoff allowed travelers on the Oregon Trail to do just that.
Craters of the Moon
Butte County, Idaho

On the northeastern edge of the lava flow sits the town of Arco, seat of Butte County.  Arco prides itself on being the first community in the world to have its electricity supplied by nuclear power.  The Idaho National Laboratory, successor to that first generator, still provides most of the work for the people of Arco.  We stopped for lunch in Arco, and made a decision about the rest of our way home.  Instead of heading north on US 93, a road that twists and turns through the Sawtooth Mountains, and one we had both taken many times, we would drive east on ID 33 then ID 22 and catch I-15 at Dubois, the seat of Clark County.

Dubois has a warm spot in my heart because it is home to the US Sheep Experiment Station, one of whose projects is a scientific study of why sheep are homosexual.  Now before you get your panties in a twist, think of it this way.  If you were a sheep rancher, would you be interested in buying an expensive ram, only to find that he's only interested in other rams?  Not ewes?  I didn't think so.  Your tax dollars at work, and fine work it is.

The Pioneer Mountains
Beaverhead County, Montana

From Dubois, we got on I-15, followed it to just west of Butte, where we turned west on I-90, then got back on 93 at the Wye west of Missoula.  Thirty miles later, we turned west on MT 200 and drove the last 45 miles home.  I was so glad to see our home still standing and find the kids happy and healthy, if a bit put out with us for leaving them alone for four days.

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