We spent the entire day yesterday driving across the Great Basin desert. It was a first for the kids, but a landscape I have always loved. Six hours crossing a dry and dusty, seemingly barren place is a lot. But to my eyes, it was constantly changing: the light, the plateaus, the dark earth, the white sand? salt? deposits. The way the land plays tricks on your eyes and mind. I love the desert in a way that's weird and mysterious even to me. I find the smell to be intoxicating, and I love imagining the early men and women who crossed that land, on horseback, by foot and with wagons. On their way to a magical place called California that they had heard about, where delicious things grew year-round and plentifully, first they had to cross the unforgiving desert. It's hard enough in an air-conditioned car with good music and a gallon jug of water; imagine how crabby those poor souls were at the end of the day.
We eventually headed north into Idaho, left the desert and made our way through Really Big Farm country. Coco schooled us on the famous Idaho potato and Nate became excited about seeing the canyon where Evel Knievel made his failed attempt to jump using a rocket powered motorcycle. That made for some fun car talk, that crazy Evel.
So now we're starting a new day in Ketchum, better known to most as Sun Valley. My brother lived here for a while in the 90s, but I had never been, so it's fun to finally see all the things he's talked about over the years. After just a few hours wandering around, I can see why it's always been one of his favorite places. I found myself breathing differently, walking back to the lodge after dinner last night; I'm pretty sure I've never breathed air that felt this clean. The people are friendly, the mountains are interesting and it's quiet here. It feels like we wandered into some kind of Shangri-La in southern Idaho.
Or maybe it's just that we love ski towns and the vibe they almost all hold so much that we're always happier in them. We could have stayed almost anywhere along this route, from Tahoe to Bozeman, but we keep being drawn to the ski mountains and towns. Go figure. I guess the thing you're taught when you're really young, the thing you do your whole life with the people you love the most is what really digs itself into your skin and bones. Skiing is weird that way. It burrows into you, and if you're lucky, it never leaves. When we were walking through town to the burger joint--Grumpy's--last night, that's what I told the kids: "The great thing about a place like this is that almost everyone has come here because they all love the same thing; you automatically have something in common with everyone who lives here." That's no small potatoes in a world where humans are increasingly isolated by their insistence on using devices to communicate.
We've seen a lot of incredibly beautiful things on this western adventure. And we've met a lot of beautiful people and we've eaten some of the best burgers of our lives. But in my heart I am harboring my own secret joy around one of the best things of all that's been happening: Nate's laptop charger broke and my camera battery charger stopped working and the car phone charger broke. We could be frustrated that all of our electronic support systems are failing us, but we're not. We've adapted by...hold on...reading books and talking to each other. And taking pictures using only a crappy, dying iPhone.
A to the m to the e to the n. Time to go grab a chairlift to the top of a summer ski hill.