2 Weeks In The West – Day 10

In Travel by AbhiLeave a Comment

June 27th, 2016 – Idaho Falls, Idaho to Twin Falls, Idaho ~240 miles.

Vy and I were not expecting much from Idaho. I’m glad to say we were wrong.

Missed Day 9? Vy and I spend another day at Yellowstone National Park. June 26th, 2016 – West Yellowstone, Montana to Idaho Falls, Idaho ~230 miles.

I had no idea Vy took this photo, but here’s a good summary of each morning: me staring at a GPS trying to figure out where we need to go after having packed up the GS. Vy has a great sense of direction. I do not.

Before we left Idaho Falls, Vy wanted to go back to the riverfront park for one last view:

Ask someone who knows nothing about Idaho to name something about the state and they’ll still know about potatoes. So it was inevitable that we checked out the Idaho Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho. Right out front, a recent Boy Scout project had resulted in a mount so that you could take a photo of yourself:

Baby Jack took advantage of the mount to take a selfie of himself:

Potatoes are delicious, but I don’t necessarily find them particularly interesting. We had a somewhat tight schedule so instead of touring the museum we spoke with a couple of attendants and poked around the gift shop. I typically don’t buy trinkets because they just become clutter in my already-messy apartment, but if I would have bought something it would have been this “when potatoes go bad” shot glass:

Every visitor gets a Idaho Potatoes gift bag. I have no idea why the potato is sort of dressed up like Santa.

Our destination for the day was the home of a Bike-urious reader named Rick V. Rick’s place was a straight shot down the highway from Blackfoot but Vy and I decided to take the long way there by detouring to Craters of the Moon National Park first. On the way, there were a few dirt roads that looked interesting, but each one had a sign that looked like this. I decided to stay on pavement.

As we headed north towards Arco and Craters of the Moon, we saw a sign for something I had never heard of before. Figuring that it would be a while since we’d get the chance to go back out here, we pulled into something called EBR-1:

I didn’t know what to expect, but seeing these machines in the parking lot definitely got my attention:

Then I saw this sign and I got extra excited. For an instant I thought it might be something radiation-related, though I figured if it was actually radiation-related then this place would be locked up a bit more securely. Turns out hantavirus is a bit boring, though still serious: it’s spread by wild rodents and it’s a family of viruses that cause respiratory and kidney issues.

The front door:

This sign greets you once you walk in – I haven’t made it clear yet, but EBR-1 was instrument in nuclear history – back in 1951 it was the site of the first usable electricity from a nuclear source. Later on it became the site of the first self-sustaining chain reaction with plutonium, not uranium, as a fuel. They were also the first place to use liquid metal as a reactor coolant.

They have a great self-guided tour to follow. One of the stops is a plaque commemorating December 21, 1965, the day that EBR-1 was named to the list of Registered National Historic Landmarks. It’s one of just 10 in the state of Idaho.

This delightful Dow-Corning product made me think of the video game Fallout:

One of the stops on the tour was a booth that showed off “manipulators” – see the metal arms in there? Manipulators are mechanical devices that act as your hands inside of a dangerous area. A precise set of gears let you work a set of controls, and your actions are reflected inside of the vault-of-radiation-poisoning. There’s approximately 20 panels of glass to keep you safe but still let you see inside. I desperately wanted to play with the manipulators, but the sign on the glass didn’t give me much leeway.

Thankfully, the next stop was designed for nerds like me! They setup a manipulator people to play with, but instead of handling nuclear rods or something important, I got to play with wooden shapes like a fancy 2 year old. Doesn’t matter, I still had way too much fun with this. I must have looked like a simpleton.

Then Vy took over the reactor. I got scared that her Viet Cong blood could take over, so I ran away.

Just north of EBR-1 is the town of Arco, where we were greeted by this pleasant sign outside of the Fire Department:

Arco sounded familiar to me while Vy and I were rolling through it, but I couldn’t remember why until I saw this hill off in the distance. Vy’s uncle and I had actually ridden through the town on Day 21 of our trip up to the top of Alaska and back two summers ago, and the hill looked awfully familiar. I’ll recount the story as I told it back then:

“We stopped to get gas in a small town (I guess that’s redundant for this part of the country) when we noticed a bunch of numbers on a large hill across the street. I asked the gas station attendant about it and she said that it was tradition for each high school graduating class to hike up and paint their year on the hill. It started in 1925, and only 3 years have been missed, including the year the attendant graduated (about 5 years ago) because “my class was too lazy.” I didn’t bother trying to figure out what other years were skipped, though I am curious to know what happens when they get to 2025…”

Turns out I was wrong the last time I wrote it up – thanks to this official sign, I now know that the tradition actually started in 1920:

Vy and I were getting gas when these hooligans showed up.

We arrived at Craters of the Moon to find a sculpture that was not there two years ago. Called Spur, it’s a 75 foot long representation of a lava tube:

The sculpture was created by John Grade, and it’s made out of Alaskan Cedar. It was installed as part of the National Park Service’s 100 Year Anniversary.

This month it’s scheduled to be moved to the Wood River Trail, a bike path in Wood River Valley.

Vy took a much more relaxed approach in her enjoyment of the sculpture:

Unfortunately, our timing at Craters was a couple of days after the flower bloom had died off. I call this photo “Vy is unimpressed.”

We left the park and headed south towards Rick’s place. I’m exposing my big city lifestyle now, but I can’t recall the last time I saw a train crossing without the arms:

Something else you don’t see in the big city:

Rode through the town of Shoshone, which had a nice mural:

Vy was amused by the name of this gas station. Turns out it’s the “#1 marketing company of ethanol-blended gasoline in Idaho for over 25 years.” As much as I don’t care for ethanol-blended fuel, it’s just about impossible to avoid it in California.


Pulling into Twin Falls, we had to stop at the overlook for the Snake River. Must be a great place to play golf!

As nice as that view was, we were in Twin Falls to meet up with Rick. I pulled into his driveway to find a van with a classic Husky in it. Turns out Rick was about to buy it – his first non-Honda in quite a while!

Only problem was, the bike was advertised as running, but when the seller brought it over, he could not get it to start. They spent at least 30 minutes trying to sort it out, during which time I determined that Rick was a much nicer guy than I was. If someone came to my place with a non-running bike that was advertised as running, I would have politely sent them back within a few minutes. Rick felt bad as the seller lived a couple of hours away. Eventually even the best of us run out of patience, so Rick passed on the bike and gave the guy some gas money to get home.

While Rick was dealing with the Husky, I poked around his shop. It was quickly evident that we were going to get along:

Walking up the stairs leads to an attic full of Honda parts and other goodies:

Meet Rick and his dog, Buddy:

Rick took Vy and I to a car-themed restaurant for dinner. The bathroom featured appropriate decoration:

During dinner, Rick mentioned that we were close to the site of Evel Knievel’s failed attempt to jump over the Snake River. He suggested that we try to get to the top of the ramp before sunset, and Vy and I were happy to oblige. Unfortunately, it was a little dark by the time we got there, but this is a view of what’s left of the ramp:

We caught the last few moments of sunset while Rick educated Vy and me about Evel’s attempt. Though Rick has lived in the area for a while, he had never ridden his bike up to the top of the ramp. So he and I decided to come back out in the morning and enjoy a view where we could see more than silhouettes. Vy decided she’d finally get a day to sleep in…

Continue on to Day 11? I finally get the chance to see Rick Van Vooren’s shop and learn more about his passion for small vintage Hondas.