Thursday, September 30, 2021


We didn’t have to go looking for a place to have breakfast. By the time we got up, a trailer had pulled up in front of the Silver Sage Motel. It was Bitsy’s Brew, Bitsy being a very friendly bulldog who insisted on greeting all the customers. The breakfast burritos were bizarre pre-packaged things, but the coffee lived up to the best-in-Moab hype the woman at the desk had given us the night before.

The smoke had cleared a bit, allowing us to take off to Ogden without much trouble. We cruised Barsoomian Utah, a place to let your dreams run amok and morph into new myths. The sky was actually blue.

For a while, then suddenly it was like hitting a wall of smoke. The rampaging dreams got nightmarish.

In Ogden, we ate at the Prairie Schooner Steakhouse. 

A picturesque joint with booths that looked like covered wagons.

Stuffed creatures, and wooden Indians were all over. Good, classic Country western music played. There was even a jackalope.

The food was good too.

The next morning wasn’t as smoky thanks to a cool wind from the east.

While listening to Em and Mike talk, I got an idea for a character for a surreal space opera: a human hitchhiker’s guide to the galaxy who flies around selling stuff, who knows all the back roads and weird worlds.

We had mochas and muffins at Coffee Links. There was a FUCK RACISM sticker on a car in the parking lot, Aztec-inspired art and calaveras on the walls, and a T-shirt with a skeleton barista was sold out.

The air got clearer as we got into Idaho. We passed a sign: RATTLESNAKE PASS, NO SERVICES. My black T-shirt and ball cap had me blending in with the locals as the ambient music went from neo-hippie tunes at Coffee Links to “Redneck Yacht Club” at a gas station.

A billboard had a woman holding a mask at arm’s length, with a look of disgust on her face, and was captioned FREEDOM IS THE CURE.

This was in the wide open spaces, farm land . . .

We found a place called La Fiesta with good Mexican food and Mexican employees. This was outside of Aztlán, Saquatchlandia, a new frontier.

Hardly saw any masks in Idaho. Meanwhile, COVID cases were surging. The governor declared an indoor mask mandate.

The next morning, thanks to TV news in the motel, I found out that we were in the Gem State and the Magic Valley. Also, Cuomo had resigned and the Taliban was taking Afghanistan. I wondered if masks would come back into vogue, and wondered if my Americano from Dutch Bros. was decaf.

Mike’s van broke down so he had to rent one in Twin Falls, in a place next to a Stinker Station, from a guy who got a call, making his phone chirp, “IT’S YOUR DRUG DEALER!”

I’m also happy to report that there are taco trucks in Idaho. Later, we checked into the Hailey Airport Inn that’s next to a cemetery.

Next day we helped Mike put his booth together for the Sun Valley Arts and Crafts Festival. Writers should also be good all-purpose stooges. Being able to help out with things helps get you into places where you can get insider information, and observe people behaving naturally.

Afterward, Emily and I took a walk around Ketchum, which is famous for being the place where Hemingway blew his brains out. Now it's a place where rich people go to get away from it all, with an artistic bent.

When the festival ended for the day, Mike took us up to the Sawtooth Mountains, and the very different town of Stanley.

The next day was Friday the Thirteenth.

We picked up Barbara, the daughter of one of Mike’s friends, and a geology geek. I hope young people like her soon take over the world.

We went to the Craters of the Moon National Monument. Kind of like being on another planet, with the lava crunching under our feet.

We did most of the North Crater Trail and drove the car loop. We’ll have to go back there sometime.

It was smoky the next morning at the Airport Inn. We tried Black Owl Coffee in Hailey. They had nice cinnamon mochas and the egg bacon gruyere was pretty good.

There was also a weird artistic statement on mental health in someone’s front yard. Looks like Hemingway wasn’t the only one feeling suicidal in these parts.

The smoke was worse. We wandered around checking out thrift stores.

Back in Ketchum, Siri led us on a twisted walk in search of a place called Shangri-La. When we got there it was an empty store front.

That evening, Mike took us to the incredible abandoned mining town of Custer City. Rusted metal monsters and other relics from the past. Beyond steampunk. We didn’t get back until after dark.

Sun Valley was full of smoke the next morning. The Taliban was taking Kabul.

Mike told us about some of his weird dreams while we searched for the house of some people who wanted him to make them a $12,000 kitchen table/drum. It was a big house on a forest/golf course. When we got there, they weren’t home.

Emily and I spent the rest of the day resting at the motel, in anticipation for an epic travel day. 

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