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Until Next Time, Idaho

Overview Of All Of Our Idaho Posts

When we announced Idaho as our next For 91 Days destination, the reaction among friends and family was almost unanimous: “Seriously? Idaho? Why?!” But after spending three months exploring the state, sharing our pictures and stories, we started to hear a lot of… “Oh, that’s why”.

Road-Trio-USA

Idaho was the last of the fifty states to be “discovered”, and it’s still among the least-appreciated in the country. A land of sparkling lakes, unforgettable mountain scenery, some of the country’s wildest and most rugged forests, raging rivers, hot springs, strange lunar landscapes, and abundant wildlife, Idaho is heaven for the outdoor enthusiast. We’ve never done so much adventuring, from whitewater rafting to mountain biking and hiking, zip lining, hot air ballooning, horseback riding, and more. While in Idaho, we might have technically achieved Eagle Scout status, without realizing it.

But while the natural beauty might be the most compelling reason to visit Idaho, it’s the human element that could convince you to stay. The people we’ve met here have been friendly and welcoming, almost without exception. Sometimes a bit on the eccentric side, often loud and boisterous, and usually with a dead deer in their truck bed, but always eager to chat or help out with a problem. Idahoans are notably proud of and knowledgeable about their state — as soon as we’d start talking about our project, we’d always get an enthusiastic interrogation about where we’d been, and a litany of suggestions for yet more places we had to see.

And Idaho is not lacking for places to see. I was shocked by the variety offered by the state. Whether it’s the pristine wilderness of the north, the rattlesnake-infested canyons along the Oregon border, the historic reservations, the rugged mining towns of the Silver Valley, the earnest Mormon communities of the east, the dusty deserts of the south, or the comfortable city life of Boise and Coeur d’Alene, there’s something new around almost every bend.

Three months is too a short time to truly exhaust the possibilities in a state as grand as Idaho, and although we made a good effort, we could never truly have hoped to see it all. There are some big sights we completely missed (looking at you Hell’s Canyon) and smaller towns we’d have loved to see. And we never had a chance to experience Idaho in its wintry glory. We left just before ski season: a real shame, and reason enough to come back.

Before checking out, we have to deliver a big “thank you” to Visit Idaho, the state’s tourism commission. Without their ready assistance, advice and friendship, our exploration of the state would have been far less enjoyable.

We were sad to leave Idaho, but also anxious. This was our eighth location, totaling up to two full years on the road, and it was time for a short break. But that didn’t necessarily mean less travel: Jürgen and I call a lot of places “home”, and we visited them all over the holidays: Thanksgiving in Ohio (where my family lives), Christmas in Germany (Jürgen’s family) and New Year’s in Valencia, Spain (our adopted hometown). Three months of friends, family and Spanish sun were just what the doctor ordered. With fully-charged batteries, we’d soon be on our way to our new temporary home: Istanbul, for 91 days.

Coming Soon: Our Idaho Book

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Good-Bye-Idaho
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January 10, 2013 at 11:11 am Comments (3)

Okay Fine, Here’s a Potato Post

Buy The Famous Idaho Potato Online

They’re the first thing most people think of when they think “Idaho”. And usually, they’re the only thing people think of. Potatoes aren’t just the most famous product of Idaho, but practically the only thing the state is known for. Crazy, when you consider the amazing variety of sights and experiences available here. It is, I suppose, a testament to the marketing prowess of Idaho’s potato manufacturers.

Harvesting-Potatoes

The eastern city of Blackfoot is the unofficial capital of Idaho’s potato industry, home to the bulk of production as well as the Idaho Potato Museum, which we visited with high hopes. How could a potato museum in Idaho be anything but amazing? But the tiny rooms and paltry exhibits failed to impress. One of the most feted items is The World’s Biggest Potato Chip. Pfah! The thing isn’t even a potato chip, but a crisp! A crisp, I tell you! It’s not even that big, and it’s cracked. And please don’t get me started on the museum’s heralded “Free Taters for Out-of-Staters” gimmick. Turns out that the free “taters” are just a carton of dehydrated hash browns. And they’re not even “free”, since you have to pay entrance to the museum to get them.

A better potato-centric experience came a couple days later, when we drove past a crew working in a field. They were taking potatoes out of the ground, cleaning them and then then loading them into a truck. These weren’t the perfectly oval-shaped type you can buy at the supermarket, but ugly mutants up to a foot long. Most of Idaho’s potatoes go to industries and fast-food chains like McDonald’s, where beauty isn’t a requirement. The guys found it amusing how interested we were in their work, and let us take a few giant specimens home with us.

So that’s it: our potato post. Out of 91 days in Idaho, we spent a total of about two hours thinking about them. I don’t care that the license plates brag about their “Famous Potatoes”… the state has a lot more to offer.

Location of the Potato Museum

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December 29, 2012 at 6:49 pm Comments (3)

Mormons in Idaho

The Book Of Mormon

Weighing in with a whopping 23% of the state’s population, Latter-Day Saints make up the biggest religious denomination in Idaho, beating both Evangelicals (22%) and Catholics (18%). This statistic came as a surprise to us; during our journey through Idaho, we didn’t notice much Mormon influence at all… that is, at least, until we reached the southeastern corner of the state.

Mormon/Mormons

After Utah, Idaho has the country’s second-highest percentage of Mormons. Their predominance in the eastern part of the state isn’t too surprising; Utah is just below the border, and Mormon missionaries began arriving in Idaho as far back as 1860. Cities such as Idaho Falls and Rexburg are almost entirely Mormon, with temples that dominate both religious and political life.

There’s no denying that some friction exists between the LDS and non-LDS factions of Idaho, whether it’s anti-Mormonism, or discrimination against non-Mormons. There has been a history of laws in the state targeting the LDS, including now-antiquated ones which barred Mormons from voting and holding public office. But the tyranny of the majority is a two-way street. Without thinking, I ordered a coffee in Rexburg. It was the worst coffee I’ve ever had in my life; cold and watery, at least three days old with a pile of grinds in the bottom. Coffee in a Mormon town: not recommended.

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December 7, 2012 at 8:00 am Comments (5)

For 91 Days on KTVB

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Last night, we had the honor of being interviewed by KTVB’s Dee Sarton on their evening news. If you’d like, please check out the video below!

KTVB-Boise-Dee

-Boise Hotels


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November 16, 2012 at 5:26 pm Comment (1)

Why Is Idaho so Conservative?

I recently came across a good method for discovering which stereotypes and questions exist about a certain place: just allow Google to auto-complete the phrase, “Why is [place] so _____?” I’ve discovered that people tend to wonder why Ohio is so important, why South Korea is so weird, and why Georgia is so humid. And the number one question for our current home: “Why is Idaho so… conservative?”

Blue-Girl-Red-State

Idaho is one of the reddest states in our very divided nation. In the 2012 presidential election, Mitt Romney beat Obama by over 34 points. The last time Idaho voted for a Democrat was in 1964 when it joined the rest of the nation in thumping Barry Goldwater. Idaho is currently one of only three states with all-Republican Congressmen, Senators and a Governor (Kansas and Wyoming are the others).

I’m no political scientist, and my observations aren’t in any way definitive or even very informed, but if someone were to ask me, “Hey, you spent some time there. So why is Idaho so conservative?”, I’d have three big answers:

1) Idahoans are loners. This was the last American state to be explored by settlers, and has a history in individualist industries like mining and farming. It’s underpopulated, vastly wild (over 60% of Idaho is public land), hard-to-reach and isolated. And Idahoans like it that way. Whether it’s Fish & Game agents regulating hunting, the Feds closing brothels, or Uncle Sam taking away their hard-earned cash, Idahoans tend to mistrust anything coming out of Washington DC. Far-away legislators don’t have any idea what living here is all about, and so Idahoans want to limit federal power to the fullest extent possible… a legitimate mind-set which aligns them nicely with Republicans.

2) Idahoans are white. Overwhelmingly. In much of the state, spotting a black or Asian face on the streets is an event. And in recent American political contests, white people have tended to vote Republican.

3) Mormons. A lot of Mormons live in Idaho, having emigrated up from Utah. Some cities in the southeastern part of the state are over 97% Mormon. And those are guaranteed Republican votes.

Jürgen and I are unrepentant liberals, but I never felt unwelcome in Idaho. Locals truly embrace the live-and-let-live attitude, and we never encountered any unpleasant situations, even when conversations veered toward politics or our homosexuality. If any of the people we met disapproved of us, our views or our lifestyle, they politely kept quiet and treated us as equals. Idaho might be extremely conservative, but as long as you respect the Golden Rule, it’s also an extremely easy place to get along.


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November 5, 2012 at 9:45 pm Comments (10)

After One Month in Idaho

For our first month in Idaho, we had been based in the tiny town of Cascade, which turned out to be nicely situated; close enough to Boise for things like the Hot Air Balloon Festival, and bordering the wilderness we had been so eager to experience. After just 30 days, we’d only seen a small porting of Idaho; but it was enough to form some solid initial impressions.

Most Memorable

Mike: That’s an easy one: spotting two moose in the river just north of McCall, and being able to observe them for at least ten minutes while they ate and drank.

Jürgen: It was the middle of the night when we first arrived in Idaho and drove up to our cabin in Cascade. When I awoke the next morning and saw the view we had of the mountains and valley, I knew we made the right decision in coming here.
Favorite Food

Mike: It has to be potatoes, doesn’t it? But I’m going to go for huckleberries — a fruit I don’t think I’d ever tried before, and now can’t get enough of. Huckleberry pancakes, huckleberry juice, jam… they even sell huckleberry popcorn.

Jürgen: When we picked Mike’s parents up from the airport, we took them directly to the Basque Block and ate at Bar Gernika, which serves Basque and Spanish food. I love that I can have a great paella in Idaho!
Most Surprising

Mike: I find myself surprised every day by Idaho’s diversity. Nature, cities, history, deserts, ice caves, mountains, rivers, potato fields, waterfalls; the list just goes on and on. The most surprising thing about Idaho is how surprising it is!

Jürgen: Most people weren’t too thrilled about our selection of Idaho for this 91 days, but they were all curious. It’s amazing how a state which is so gorgeous and full of highlights, can remain under the radar for so long. So the surprise is: how unknown Idaho is, outside of Idaho.
Most Disappointing

Mike: Idaho’s a huge state and, due to time constraints, we’re having to skip on things we’d love to do. Hikes and multi-day outdoor adventures, certain towns and experiences that are just a little too far away. We’re doing a lot, but it’s frustrating to miss out on so much.

Jürgen: I’m having a love-hate relationship with the smoke, caused by this year’s terrible wildfires. I love the eerie look of it, but I’m really looking forward to our first 100% smoke-free day.
Funniest / Weirdest

Mike: There’s a gift store near Horseshoe Bend, with these awful signs posted in the front yard. “No Public Toilet! No means NO!”, “We don’t call 911, We Shoot to Kill!” Stuff like that. It’s an outrageous way to welcome guests, and totally riled me up. So I marched inside and announced loudly, “We’re just here for the free toilets!” The bitter-looking woman behind the counter almost had a heart attack.

Jürgen: I’ve noticed “crosswalk flags” in a couple of towns here. What’s the point? As a driver, am I allowed to run over any pedestrian without a flag? Or if I’m holding a flag, can I just cross the road without looking? It’s what crosswalks are for! These flags are ridiculous and so unnecessary; not to mention how stupid people carrying them look!
How Expensive? From 1 (cheap) to 10 (expensive)

Mike: I’m going to say 6. Restaurants aren’t bad, but not super-cheap. Activities and hotels can be pricey, but I think overall we’ve been saving more money than expected. There are a lot of awesome things you can do here for free.

Jürgen: The gas prices are really hurting us, since we use the car almost every single day. But on the other hand, eating out isn’t too expensive. Some of the outdoor activities can be pretty pricey. I would give Idaho a 7.
People from Idaho are…

Mike: Unusually friendly and very proud of their state, but protective at the same time. Most Idahoans that we’ve talked to are thrilled we’re here, and that we’re enjoying ourselves… but nervous about our promoting it. Idaho, it seems, is best as a secret.

Jürgen: Super friendly, especially when they hear my German accent. Once they find out where I’m from, they’ll go into a detailed account of their family tree. Which I love, since it breaks the ice!
Idaho in Three Words

Mike: Underpopulated, Unbelievable Landscapes

Jürgen: Moose, Bald Eagle, Bear
September 30, 2012 at 1:11 am Comments (2)

For 91 Days on Boise’s Own KBOI 2

We woke up at 3:30am in order to make the drive from Cascade to Boise, to appear live on AM Extra on KBOI 2. Check out the video… you might be able to tell we’re not accustomed to being on camera, but it went pretty well. Especially considering that at this early hour, we’re normally fast asleep.

Thanks so much to the news crew: J Bates, Stephanie Smith and Adam Behrman (who hails from my corner of the world: northwest Ohio!)

KBOI 2’s AM Extra – Website

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August 31, 2012 at 1:49 am Comments (4)

Howdy Idaho!

After 91 busy days spent in the South Korean metropolis of Busan, we were ready for something completely different. So I grabbed a thesaurus and flipped to the “K” section. It’s a strange and little-known fact, but it turns out that the antonym of “Korea” is “Idaho”. Exact opposites. And just like that, our next destination was set!

Welcome To Idaho

A month before arriving, everything I knew about Idaho could have fit onto a potato. I mean, it would have just been the word “potato” scratched into the side of the thing. But friends had been raving to us about the state, extolling its natural beauty and surprising diversity. If we were looking for something different to a Korean mega-city, they said, we could hardly do better than wild, sparsely-populated Idaho.

And so, after a couple weeks visiting family in Ohio, we embarked on a road trip across America. We needed three full days to arrive at Cascade, Idaho: the tiny, lakeside town in the middle of the state which would be our home for a month. Here, we would fully disconnect from city life, and begin taking advantage of some of the outdoor adventures available in Idaho, such as whitewater rafting, zip-lining, hiking, kayaking, and even hot air ballooning.

After four weeks in Cascade, we got on the road. Idaho is massive, and the only way to adequately explore it is by car. We spent six weeks driving into every reachable corner of the state, resting for no more than a few days in any one spot. Our reward was an appreciation for how diverse Idaho truly is. We saw gold mines, canyons, forest fires, hidden lakes, and hot springs, and had some exhilarating encounters with wildlife — of both the human and animal varieties.

We wound up our 91 days in Idaho with a few weeks in Boise, the state’s capital and by far its biggest city. For such an unheralded spot, Boise has a lot to offer. It’s large, but not overly so, and green; with a river running through the town center, it’s not uncommon to see deer. Our time here was blissful; with great restaurants, strange and fascinating history, beautiful buildings and a young, hip population, it’s no wonder that Boise is often touted as one of the USA’s most livable cities.

Idaho proved to be an incredible home. For 91 days, the state did its best to wear us out, bombarding us with one unforgettable experience after the other. At times, it was almost overwhelming, but we persisted. (“A 15-mile bike ride, the day after zip-lining and visiting a gold mine? Bring it on!”) By the time we left, we were exhausted, but had succeeded in seeing most of the highlights, as well as some hidden gems unknown even to most locals. Please enjoy reading about our adventures in this amazing state, starting with the three-day trans-American journey that brought us there.


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August 23, 2012 at 9:57 pm Comments (17)