Barb and I scheduled a nine-day vacation – two weekends and a five-day work week, and set out for somewhere south. There was no valid reason to head in that direction. It just seemed like the places south of home offered more of what we enjoyed.
Barb seldom complained. I wasn’t aware of how miserable she was until we stopped at a rest area north of Salt Lake where signs of the long-gone Bonneville Lake were still visible and explained on a bronze plaque. The dry wind was not kind to her.
“You’re not having a good time. Let’s turn around and head to Montana.”
She agreed to the change and I built a fire in the Goldwing. By late afternoon we were in Idaho along the Salmon River with the intention of following US 93 into the Montana woods. But north of Challis we encountered wood smoke. A local resident informed us of a forest fire between us and our destination. If we’d been in a car we’d have rolled up the windows and pressed on. But we weren’t so we turned back to Challis for a steak dinner, a motel for the night, and time for a change to occur.
We were up before dawn. With the smell of smoke still in the air we decided to follow the course of the Salmon River (the famed “River of No Return”) and head into Sawtooth Mountain Recreation area. But at this early hour there was no place for breakfast, or even coffee. With only a rough notion of our location, but a full tank of fuel, we set out on State Route 75.
About fifty miles from Challis we came to Clayton, a wide place with fuel, and a small general store … and hot coffee. The bakery man was leaving as we dismounted. Inside were three large picnic tables, two populated by friendly locals, the third piled high with fresh pastry. We helped ourselves to the pastry, coffee, and fielded questions for an hour: Where was home? How long were going to be out? What brought us to the Salmon River. We made a dozen friends we would never meet again.
Further west another thirty miles we came to Sunrise, a town that, to the last stick, had vanished, but the name had survived. Following signs from there, we traveled a dozen miles over a road left behind by placer-mining. It was a rough and dangerous road filled with round stones the size of baseballs – risky for motorcycles – until we reached a ghost town called Bonanza.
The forest service was in the process of recreating the town. They still had a very long way to go. The only intact building was the one-room school. A bronze plaque told the story of an avalanche that had occurred in the mid-1850, and the names of two children who perished where listed thereon.
The day was exhausted by the time we’d once again reached the highway, and the non-town, Sunrise. Across the highway was a primitive campground where we cooked our dinner and spent the night. I still don’t know the altitude of Sunrise, but it must have been high because we awoke to a frosty morning. To our surprise, hot water leached from the roadside embankmentqqq, pooling in the ditch. Before continuing our trek toward Stanley, we had the luxury of washing up in fresh, steaming water that emitted a slight odor of rotten eggs.
As we approached Stanley the gleaming granite peaks of the Sawtooth Mountains burst from behind a stand of aspen, creating a sudden surprise I shall never forget.
We dined on cheese and crackers at a picnic table at the edge of town, and then headed for Boise. Mid-summer was upon us, and the temperature rose accordingly as we dropped out of the mountains. Somewhere short of Boise we found a dam from which a giant plume of water was discharging. The spray was carried at least a quarter-mile and across the highway where we sat. We tarred there until we were soaked through, then we motored on into Boise in search of a motel.
Out play time was growing short. Tomorrow morning we would have to head toward home, and jump back on the treadmill.