Saturday, August 23, 2008

Scenic Byways

After the funeral, the family started going their separate ways. I headed to Boise with the girls to visit a friend of Kayleigh's who moved there in June. We decided (rather, I decided) to take a scenic byway to get there.

As it turned out, it wasn't as scenic as I would have hoped considering how much extra time it took. Still, there were some interesting spots along the way. Huge canyons, some waterfalls, spots to walk along the Oregon trail.
The Oregon Trail was pretty amazing, really. Think of how many people walked there or sweated in a jostling wagon, trying to make it ever further west. They didn't travel at 75 MPH in air-conditioned comfort with a convenience store plopped down every 20 miles. It was so hot, so dry, so windy, so shockingly free of wildlife – so shockingly free of anything edible. We saw the occasional tiny lizards that moved so fast you couldn't focus on them until they sat still. Scarcely a bird, seldom a river, never a deer or antelope or even a gopher.

There were warnings about rattlesnakes, scorpions and deer ticks, but we didn't see any. I thought it was a little funny to equate a deer tick with a rattlesnake, but my brother, the E. coli-infected one, has had Lyme Disease twice, so he might not find it so amusing.

It made me grateful for the wet green of my home.

Boise turned out to be different from what I expected. It had a big-city feel, even though it's only around 180,000 plus its rapidly expanding suburbs. We never saw a cloud, nor was it awfully hot – in the low 90s, which, with the breeze and nonexistent humidity was thoroughly bearable. People always talk about the dry heat being more tolerable, but I always thought, Right, ovens are dry, too.

We sent Kayleigh off with her friend and Kelsey and I wandered around town. The downtown was quite nice. It had loads of places to eat, and most offered outdoor seating. We found a funky little coffee shop where we both had rather odd iced mochas. I think they must have used whole milk. I noticed on our walk around the city that it must not get as cold there as I thought it did. They had outdoor escalators, which would be laughably impractical around here – snow, ice, salt, torrential rain equals no way. There was something else, too, but I can't remember anymore. Regardless, the winters seem as if they must be milder there than here.

We visited an old prison on the edge of town. It started as a federal territorial prison in the 19th century and closed as a state prison in the 1970s, if memory serves me. It housed men and women. We certainly treated (perhaps, treat) our prisoners poorly. We saw the isolation chambers, which were about 5 feet by 10 feet and held up to six men. There were no lights, no toilets, no windows. Solitary confinement, a spot for one man, was about 3 feet by 8 feet, and again, no lights, toilets, or windows. There was a hole in the ceiling about as big around as a coffee can for fresh air and light, a hole in the floor for the toilet, and a tiny grate at the bottom of the solid cage door for a little more air. One man was held in one of these rooms for 8 months.

Our last stop was the gallows. I stood there and looked up and looked down and looked out at the observation room. The trap door opens to a large room with a huge door where the ambulance can pull right up and take the body away.

I don't believe in capital punishment.

My mom thought a prison was a peculiar place to take my 8-year-old. Kelsey thought it was interesting, though. I'm glad it didn't scare her.

In the afternoon, we stopped at Sierra Trading Post, one of my favorite catalog/online stores. This was a little one. The one in Cheyenne was much bigger. Kelsey got a Stetson, a perfect memento of our westward wandering.


MJ Krech said...

Now, Kelsey in a Stetson! THAT I gotta see!

Crystal Jigsaw said...

Quick catch up. The photo in your previous post is really good. That was a great post.

The prison sounds absolutely dire! We could do with some of those over here for all the rapists and murderers!

CJ xx

Amy said...

Marcia, I'll get a photo up eventually.

CJ, years ago I was in Lincoln, I think. Maybe it was Norwich. Can't remember. Anyway, we walked up to the top of the cathedral, and there was a woman along who asked every few minutes if we'd be able to see the prison from the top. When we got there, sure enough, she looked all around, searching for the prison. "Is that the prison? Is that the prison?" I'd guess she knew someone inside.