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.
Tucked away in the otherwise uninspiring town of Pocatello is one of the most bizarre museums we've ever visited. The Museum of Clean is the ambitious venture of Don Aslett: America's undisputed Cleaning King.
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.
While we were visiting Driggs, we couldn't resist sneaking over into Wyoming for a hike in the Grand Tetons. Sure, we're supposed to be concentrating on Idaho's sights, and yes, there's plenty to see without ever leaving the state. But look at them! How could we resist?!
After two months hiking in the woods of central and northern Idaho, we still hadn't seen a bear. A major disappointment; and now, we were heading into the bear-free country of eastern Idaho. But there was one last option on the table. As dejected as a family who'd been hoping for a European vacation but settles for Epcot, we pulled up to the gates of Yellowstone Bear World.
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.