Over the mountains

Interstate 90 crosses Northern Idaho in about 80 miles. Idaho isn’t that wide up in the panhandle. The trip is spectacularly beautiful, with mountain passes, high mountain lakes, historic mining cities, old mission churches and more. It is country where you will see deer and elk and might see a moose or a bear. When I was a child, it is how I thought of Idaho. This wonderful Rocky Mountain space. Idaho is a short drive with a couple of gorgeous mountain passes that one crosses on the way to Spokane. Before Interstate 90 was completed (and the last piece of that Interstate to be finished was the stretch over and around Wallace, Idaho) there were three US highways, highway 2, highway 10 and highway 12 that crossed the panhandle. Highway 2 was a rugged pass, from Libby to Priest River, near the Canada border. Highway 10 was roughly the same route as Interstate 90, over Lookout Pass by Wallace and Kellogg to lake Coeur d’Alene. Highway 12 was longer, over Lolo Pass out of Missoula, Montana over to Lewiston. At various times, we drove all three, though US 2 was not a common trip for us.

As a result, I grew up thinking that all of Idaho was like the panhandle. Not too big of a state (especially after driving across Montana), filled with mountains and lakes and wildlife.

When I was in my mid thirties, we received a call to become pastors at Wright Community Congregational United Church of Christ in Boise, Idaho. We flew into Boise from Denver for our interview and again for our introduction to the congregation and the congregational vote. Boise is a beautiful little city, with lots of amenities, a large face of mountains to the north of town with skiing within a few miles, and a mild climate. I was impressed with the city, the church and the people, and glad to accept the call. After a few months to finish our service in North Dakota, we loaded up the U-Haul and headed west. We drove across Montana and down to West Yellowstone to enter Idaho. From there, we swung down to Pocatello and across the southern part of the state, through Twin Falls, and on to Boise. It was the middle of the summer and it was hot. The U-Haul truck didn’t have air conditioning. The speed limit was 55 mph. The going was slow.

I got an entirely different picture of Idaho from that trip. Idaho, it seemed had a stretch of real desert across the bottom and it was much bigger than the mountains at the top. This new vision wasn’t quite accurate, either, for the middle section of Idaho is true wilderness with steep canyons, beautiful rivers and lots and lots of mountains.

This morning we are camped near the eastern end of Lake Coeur d’Alene. After breakfast we’ll make the short drive into Montana and get a big part of that state behind us before dinner time. We’ll be following the Interstate all day. We don’t go as fast as the speed limit pulling our camper, but the fact that we don’t have to slow down for towns will mean we’ll make a lot of miles today.

As is the case with every trip across Idaho, it is a time and a place for me to reset my attitude and align myself to a new reality. Symbolic of this change is the time change. As we pass from Idaho to Montana, we pass from Pacific to Mountain time. It is our last time zone change of this trip and it is only an hour, much smaller than the trip across the Pacific Ocean, but it is a return to the time zone where we have lived most of our lives. Southern Idaho, including Boise, is on Mountain Time. In fact our two moves, from Hettinger, North Dakota to Boise and from Boise to Rapid City were about as far as one can go from east to west or west to east and still be in the same time zone. The difference in daylight between those locations is more than an hour. The whole time we lived in Boise we tended to get up later in the morning and stay up later at night.

It is more than the time zone, however. Today we’ll be coming down from the mountains. We’ve got 4 big mountain passes to cross, 4th of July, Lookout, Pipestone and Bozeman, but by the time we go to bed tonight we’ll be on the east slope of the Rockies - the dry side and the windy side. At least the prevailing winds are tail winds for us and we’ll be headed generally downhill. The fuel economy is always better driving from west to east across Montana. The country is very familiar to me, having driven this way many times in my life.

We are still adjusting to the time zone change of flying from Japan so our sleep isn’t quite regular yet. In addition, we will be moving from vacation mode to work mode very suddenly this week. I need to be in the office as usual on Saturday morning. There will be a mountain of office work to tackle and I will facilitate a support group in the late morning. At home there will be a mountain of laundry to tackle and mail to sort and a household to equip with groceries after a long absence. The list of things to do is long. We often return from vacation a bit tired, but this particular trip, the dates of which were shifted after we bought our airplane tickets to allow for attending my cousin’s memorial service, means that we have to dive right in as soon as we get home.

But it is good to return to work. I’m looking forward to worship on Sunday and seeing the people who have worked hard in our absence. Many people did a lot of things to make it possible for us to take this wonderful trip. We’ll be saying, “thank you” a lot as we return to work.

Today, however, we drive. Onward!

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!