With just a little over two weeks remaining of our 91 days in Idaho, we pulled into Boise. We had originally planned on using the capital as the base for our entire three-month stay, but decided Idaho was too big to be stationed in just one spot. So we went on a road-trip through the state, and left our exploration of Boise for the journey’s end. Did we save the best for last?
There are a few Indian reservations scattered about Idaho, which means that there are a few casinos. But due to rough anti-gambling laws, these are rather drab venues offering nothing more than slots. Table games are completely verboten in Idaho, even on reservations, so when it comes time to hit the craps table, Idahoans in the know head south to the border town of Jackpot, Nevada.
After exploring eastern Idaho, we slowly made our way back west. The eventual goal was Boise, but first we’d be spending a few nights in Twin Falls, to see the city and investigate the surrounding area, which goes by the promising name of Magic Valley.
Gosh! Preston is the sweetest freaking town in Idaho! Well… that might be a stretch, but at least it was the setting for one of the past decade’s most popular cult films: Napoleon Dynamite. We took a self-guided driving tour of Preston, and ended up with an appreciation for what life in small-town southeastern Idaho must be like.
After driving through Soda Springs and Montpelier, we continued along Highway 30 into the southeastern extreme of Idaho, occupied by Bear Lake and a handful of small towns. It was late October, but winter had come early to the region and a fresh layer of snow was blanketing the ground.
Towns as tiny as Soda Springs should count themselves lucky if they have one special attraction or unique characteristic that brings in tourists. But Soda Springs lays claim to at least three.
Hot springs play an important role in the leisure scene of Idaho, but nowhere are they as celebrated as in Lava Hot Springs. Since its inception, the town has been a place of relaxation for weary travelers and anyone looking for a place to soak their bones. We spent three blissful days here; allowing our bodies to recuperate after a few long weeks on the road.
The sun was hot on the back of my neck as I crouched down over another pile of rocks, wielding my hammer and garden fork. My legs were getting sore, and I kept forgetting to drink water, but the growing exhaustion didn’t matter. Every time I had almost convinced myself to quit, a shiny glint appeared underfoot. Yes, my precious, another opal!
Potatoes aren’t the only thing to spring from the fields of southeastern Idaho. In 1921, a brilliant young engineer had a “Eureka” moment that forever changed the world. While working on the family farm in Rigby, Philo Farnsworth figured out the principle of the image dissector, leading to his invention of the electronic television. He was fourteen years old at the time.
In 1955, tiny Arco won fame as the world’s first nuclear-powered city. Today, it mainly serves as a jumping-off point for excursions into the nearby Craters of the Moon National Monument. Arco is one of Idaho’s strangest little towns, although nearby Atomic City manages to be even stranger. And littler.