When the boss said Boise, I wondered what was there beyond work and potatoes. When I asked if any of my friends lived there, only one in several thousand responded that he had originally come from Idaho, the others pondered potatoes and mountains with me. Did anyone really live there or was it just a weird silhouette on the instant potato packets?
Boise wasn't a huge city. Idaho is one of the least populated states. I found a brochure boasting of museums, many free or low cost including military, state, black history, penitentiary, mining, and the World Birds of Prey center. One picture showed a lady mugging for the camera as if she was in a giant baked potato with a butter pat melting on her brow. I pictured myself in the baked potato, prepared myself for the absurdity. I arrived to find the State history museum closed for renovations, all the tantalizing truths and trivias of Idaho and the baked potato set locked away and dark.
I was distracted from my melancholy by a beautiful rose garden, the scent of roses was the scent of Boise. In October I seemed to find roses everywhere instead of potatoes. I wandered into the BAM, Boise Art Museum and enjoyed a myriad of well displayed ceramics, glass, paintings, photographs, and sculpture with absolutely no potatoes. Ansel Adams was well represented.
I enjoyed delicious sushi at Superb Sushi Downtown. I strolled past the Egyptian Theater showing Army of Darkness, and looked at the Capital building.
The next morning I started by visiting the Nature Center at the Department of Fish and Game. I stood on a bridge watching a seven foot long sturgeon slide through the water below, adept at moving without rippling the surface after twenty five years of swimming. I learned what science is doing to bolster Idaho salmon populations in the face to dams and other obstacles beyond current and waterfalls between Idaho and the sea. I went to the Mining museum on the State Penitentiary grounds. I learned about what stones come from Idaho, examined various stones with a handheld microscope that showed what it saw on a television. I appreciated an impressive black light exhibit.
I was deciding where to go next, hours to go before my flight when a man in uniform gave a bright smile and asked if I was going to stop at the Penitentiary. I wasn't, but seeing others going in, and such gregarious tour guides I decided to. I walked into the State Pen. I paid to get in. It closed in the seventies before I was born. I stepped into the courtyard. The walkways were surrounded by roses. Lovely, bright roses against stark stone and rusted iron. I went to the rose garden, a sign told me five prisoners were executed there. I snuck in to the buildings in the allowed areas and looked at the cells. My imagination was working overtime on escape plans even though I was free. I learned the history of prison tattoos and of events and colorful characters including escapees. There was a weapons display in one building with everything from grease guns, shoulder cannons to an early gatling gun. It was an Impressive display of grenades, mines, guns, swords and various accessories.
I left there with images of shells and mortars dancing in my head. I wandered next door into the Botanical gardens which were where one of the prison yards had been as well as several graves.
Scarecrows hinted at Autumn, roses, vegetables, pumpkins, sages and many vibrant landscapes unfolded as I explored. An oriental chime which requested I toll it three times and make a wish. I wished that no challenges we face this year be greater than our strength and may our friends know our hearts.
I finished my exploration by seeking out the Bogus Basin park. I pictured a basin, water. I was dead wrong. I drove a ribbon of switchbacks higher and higher out of Boise. I ended fifteen miles out at a ski resort that still had up to go. Golden fall grasses were worn by soft edged rolling mountains around the basin were Boise nestled. Evergreens accented the heights, golden sage flowers and rust colored dried grasses played in the breeze at lonely vistas where I stood alone surveying miles without a soul in them.
Still no potatoes.
I had Mediterranean food, they tried giving me fries instead of rice but I turned down the potatoes when they finally tried to slip incongruously into my meal.
Lewis and Clark came through, geography happened from earthquakes to bottles of ash from Mount St Helens and the ground spreading and stretching with time, where once the Pacific shore was in Idaho.
Hard to get lost, not so many people and lots of wild places where perhaps once people worked in remote areas striving to bring the golden blood that brings a deadly fever of greed with it out of the ground.
That's where I went, where would you go?