Summer Travels 2016 – Alpine, Wyoming and Black Foot, Idaho

July 5th I took my motorhome into the RV repair shop in Idaho Falls as scheduled. I was able to park on the side of the repair shop and stay living it while the repairs were being done. I was there to get some brake work done……after an inspection by the mechanics, I needed new brakes, pads, and calipers which was to only take a few days. So we mostly hung around the motorhome, walked to the corner where there was a deli, and had lunch. On the second day ( July 6th ) another woman came into the shop with her motorhome that was also in need of repairs. She parked her motorhome next to mine and was able to stay in it as well. Over the next couple of days as we were waiting on parts and repairs to get done we had become acquainted and got to know each other. Her name was Gail, she was about 5 years older than me and was traveling by herself with her cat. Gail had a convertible Volkswagen that was on a trailer that she pulled behind her motorhome. I did not have a car, so with my motorhome being my only mode of transportation, we decided to take a little road trip together in her convertible to Alpine, Wyoming which was about an hour and a half drive. What fun it was to be zipping along the highway with the top down and the wind blowing in our hair.

We stopped off in a tiny town called Swan Valley that has a population of about 200 people. What caught our eye as we were driving through was a Rainey Creek County Store/World Famous Square Ice Cream. Inside was an ice cream bar with 20 different flavors that are served square-shaped. It is a strange way to serve ice cream, but it is incredibly unique. A special scoop is used to serve the ice cream which gives it the one-of-a-kind square shape. The ice cream comes from a company called “Farr’s” from Idaho Falls and is “yummy”

Alpine, Wyoming is a small town with a population of about 828 people that sits against the mountainside at the convergence of three rivers, the Greys, the Salt, and the Snake River. All three of these rivers merge and flow into the Palisades Reservoir. Alpine is also the gateway to Jackson Hole, Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone.

Along the way we came upon some beautiful water scenery, so we stopped to check it out. This was just such a beautiful view from up on the bluff and a really pretty little waterfall that was fed by the creek.

On our way back to Idaho Falls we stopped so the kids could swim in the Palisades Reservoir just outside Alpine, Wyoming on the Idaho/Wyoming border. The water was warm, with beautiful scenery, and even an amazing hawk sitting on a tree limb near the water.

Black Foot, Idaho

The next day July 8th I borrowed my friend, Joann’s car again. We made the short half-hour trip to Black Foot, Idaho………Home of the “Idaho Potato Museum,” what an amazing little museum this was with everything you ever wanted to know about potatoes.

The museum shares the history of the revolution of the potato industry, from the original potato planted in Idaho, to the largest potato crisp made by Pringle’s Company in Jackson, TN. The museum also takes you through the growing and harvesting process, nutrition, trivia, and educational potato facts.

Some Potato History

The Russet potato…….a famous Idaho potato is known for being large in size, white, mealy & delicious. It was developed by Luther Burbank, beginning in 1872 when he planted twenty-three seeds from an Early Rose parent plant. All produced tubers, but one was superior in yield and size. Originally smooth-skinned, the familiar Russet potato is actually a mutant of the Burbank. It is more resistant to blight than the original.

Joe Marshall became known as “Idaho Potato King” because of his untiring efforts in improving the industry. He first came to Idaho in 1902. Over the years he was an overseer of all aspects of potato growing, harvesting, storage, marketing, and shipping. He was always ready to pass on his knowledge to other growers, and his reputation as a potato expert became widespread.

Men such as Marshall are given credit for establishing the principle that quality was an important factor in marketing Idaho potatoes. Marshall took great pride in his crop and insisted it be handled carefully and he put only merchandise of which he was proud in bags bearing his brand.

Other shippers soon followed suit when they realized that the introduction of the Russet Burbank had given the state of Idaho a unique product to sell, and quality began to be the watchword of Idaho potato shippers.

Another man, John (Jack) R. Simplot became the largest fresh shipper of potatoes in the state, the largest grower of Idaho potatoes, and the largest processor. He began building his potato empire in the 1930s as a fresh shipper. He aggressively sought new customers and bought out competitors. In 1940 he was the largest single shipper of Idaho potatoes. He had thirty-two packing warehouses from American Falls to Jamison, Oregon, and in 1940 shipped 10,000 cars of Idaho potatoes to receivers all over the United States.

Simplot started a system with growers from whom he bought potatoes. He would buy certified seed and encouraged each one of his growers to purchase ten or more bags from him on credit. They were instructed to plant these ten bags of potatoes late in the season which caused the tubers to be small in size and relatively immature at harvest time. This lot of potatoes then, which had been grown from the certified seed and multiplied by one year’s growth, served as the seed for the next year’s crop. The practice, which Simplot developed, proved to be so superior to using “year out” seed that it became almost a universal practice in the potato-growing areas of Idaho.

Simplot also discovered the value of chemical fertilizers one year when he purchased a carload of fertilizer to try as an experiment. A portion of the field was planted with the plant food as far as it went. When it ran out the rest of the field was planted without the fertilizer. At harvest time the portion of the field where the fertilizer had been applied had a beautiful crop of potatoes. They were large, of good quality, and yielded a heavy crop. Where the fertilizer supplied had run out “was where we ran out of potatoes” according to Simplot.

The fertilizer industry was in its infancy and supplies of nitrogen and phosphate fertilizer were difficult to obtain. This led Simplot to build his own fertilizer production plants which had become a large and lucrative division of his enterprises. Simplot also developed a system of dehydrated and frozen potato products. He has plants in many locations and markets all over the world.

The Guinness Book of World Records qualifies this as the world’s largest potato “crisp.”

The invention of the Spudnik

Potato Facts

Potato Heads

Mr. Potato Head was invented and developed by George Lerner in 1949 and was first manufactured and distributed by Hasbro in 1952. It was the first toy advertised on television and has remained in production ever since. Originally, Mr. Potato Head was offered as separate plastic parts with pushpins to be attached to a real potato or other vegetables, but due to complaints regarding rotting vegetables and new government safety regulations, Hasbro began including a plastic potato body with the toy set in 1964.

Potato Sack Clothing

When the Great Depression hit America, millions of people were forced to rely on their wits and creativity to survive. With everything being in short supply, making do was the only option and clothes were an example. Clothing could be made from things lying around the house. Almost 100 years prior to the Great Depression there was a change in the way goods were transported. Potatoes, flour, and animal feed had previously traveled the world in barrels, now those sturdy wooden containers were replaced with fabric sacks. Eventually, the potato sack had a use for more than just shipping potatoes as it became a necessity for clothing attire.

Lots of potato mashers!

I suppose the first potato masher was a rock or smooth stone, followed by a hand-shaped masher made of wood. With the machine age, the wood masher evolved into a hand or machine-turned wooden mallet. In the mid to late 1800s, two masher styles we see today emerged. The most popular has an S wound wire that is flat at the bottom, or sometimes a round or square wire grid that is flat at the bottom. This is probably the potato masher our grandmothers had. Because of the room between these S winds, there was never the worry of over-mashing the potatoes.

Outside of the museum, you will find many different eras of potato equipment……..potato harvesters, potato planters, potato cultivators, plows, etc. Lots of fun and interesting potato history, so if you are ever in the area be sure and make this one of your stops.


Summer Travels 2016 – Idaho Falls and 4th of July

We arrived in Idaho Falls, Idaho on July 2nd as I had an appointment to drop my motorhome off on July 5th to have some work done as well as visit and spend time with friends who live here. I grew up and went to high school with Joann. She lives here in Idaho Falls with her husband, Scott. Another friend who lives here is a young man, Brady, who I know through my youngest son when they became friends at the age of 12 and are now 25 years old. We had taken a trip to the dunes and met this young man, his uncle, and friends who were also camping and dune riding. The boys hit it off, became friends, and have kept in touch all these years.

4th of July we spent with Joann, Scott and their extended families. We attended the Idaho Falls 4th of July Parade which was really awesome, and afterward, we were went to Scott’s sister’s house where we visited, had a BBQ and my grandkids were introduced to “Corn Snakes.” I do not care for snakes, I will look at a distance but will not hold or be to close. Corn Snakes are generally docile and make a good snake pet, very colorful and the kids were very intrigued with them. That evening we went to a location near the river to watch the fireworks. It was a really great 4th of July.

Idaho Falls 4th of July Parade – Home Town Heroes

Corn Snakes


Summer Travels 2016 – Lava Hot Springs, Idaho

On July 3rd, Joann let me use her car so the grandkids and I could go and spend the day at Lava Hot Springs, which was about an hour and a half drive from Idaho Falls. Lava Hot Springs is located in the Portneuf Mountain range in Southeastern Idaho and is one of America’s most unique resort towns. It is a charming town mixed with hot spring pools, river tubing, and an Olympic size swimming pool with diving platforms up to 10 meters high and twisting water slides. The kids and I spent the majority of our time in the pool and the kids did a couple of the water slides and just had a blast. Since it was the middle of summer and a warm July day we did not indulge in the hot springs because it was just too warm, but I would love to come back when the weather is a bit cooler and soak in these amazing pools that are covered with canopies to block the sun and the rain during the winter months.

After swimming in the pool for most of the day we decided to wander around town, have some ice cream and check out the raft tubing. The Portneuf River flows through the town of Lava Hot Springs and raft tubing is hopping with people walking or riding in the back of pickup trucks through town with their tubes, and trailers hitched up behind trucks stacked sky-high with tubes that have been picked up and are being hauled back to the rental locations. There is one place in town where a bridge crosses over the river and it was a lot of fun to stand on that bridge and watch the rafters coming down the river.

Our day at Lava Hot Springs was a lot of fun!

Summer Travels 2016 -Sun Valley/Ketchum Idaho,

Our travels after leaving Oregon took us to Idaho and our first destination we were heading to was Sun Valley/Ketchum, Idaho. I and my family had moved to Ketchum Idaho in 1983 for a job with ACI campgrounds. We were to be running the North Fork Store and Campground outside of Ketchum before heading up into the Sawtooth Mountains. At the time of our move from Washington state, my husband and I had two children, our 5-year-old daughter, and a 4-month-old son. Our home was attached to the back of the store with the kitchen and dining room area downstairs and the living room and bedrooms all upstairs. The grandchildren that were traveling with me on this trip were the children of my daughter, so this was a place where their mother had lived for a year. I may have to share this story on another blog as this blog is about my return visit and my grandchildren’s first visit. One of the unique things about this particular place was that it was famous for the filming in 1956 of the movie “Bus Stop” which Marilyn Monroe starred in. And just a few miles down the road was Steve McQueen’s Idaho home in which his sister-in-law was living at for a time. It has been so many years I have forgotten her name but we met her and became acquaintances during our time there and I was able to visit the home which had on display the motorcycle Steve McQueen rode in the movie “The Great Escape.”

Driving into Sunvalley it had changed so much in the 30 plus years since I had been back that I was wondering if I was in the right town. There is no distinction between Sunvalley and Ketchum, the area has grown so much that it just all blends into one now. As I drove out of town many things had changed there as well, more homes had been built, trees and bushes had grown. I tried looking for the small log cabin driveway of Steven McQueen’s home, but nothing looked familiar……..I read later when I searched the internet that it had been sold a few times, remodeled, and additional square footage added to the point that the original small log cabin home it once was, was gone and had become this huge home that was unrecognizable. As we drove up to the North Fork Store and Trailer Park my mind went back to many memories here. I was saddened by how run down it was and no longer in operation as a place of business. The gas pumps had been taken out at some point. I took a few pictures and shared some stories and memories with my grandchildren.

Here are a few pictures from we lived here in 1983-1984. The first picture is downtown Ketchum, a view of Bald Mountain and the North Fork Store.

Since it was late in the day I drove down the road a short distance to the North Fork Campground where we stayed for the night. The next morning I fixed us all some breakfast and we went on a little walk around the campground and to the river.

EBR-1 (Experimental Breeder Reactor 1) Atomic Museum

Our next stop was to visit the EBR-1 located 18 miles southeast of the town Arco, and 50 miles from Idaho Falls. Looking out over the flat landscape that is mostly sagebrush it is pretty to see why this place would be picked to be used for nuclear reactor experimentation and development. EBR-1 is a decommissioned research reactor and became a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1965. It was the world’s first breeder reactor and on December 20, 1951, it became one of the world’s first electricity-generating nuclear power plants when it produced enough electricity to light four 200-watt light bulbs. EBR-I was able to generate enough electricity to power it’s building, and continued to be used for experimental purposes until it was decommissioned in 1964. EBR-1 was not only the world’s first breeder reactor, it was also the first to use plutonium fuel to generate electricity.

We took a self-guided tour which is “Free” and found EBR-1 to be an interesting and educational visit that we really enjoyed. When you first enter the building there is an area where you can sit, like a waiting room. The decor is definitely straight out of the ’50s.

Uranium was the first nuclear fuel that is mined from the earth. Less than 1% of naturally-occurring uranium ore can be used as fuel. Well after World War II, uranium was thought to be a rare element. There did not seem to be enough for both military and civilian needs, and certainly, not for all the reactors, the U.S. government planned to build. The military controlled the uranium supply and planned to use it for weapons. A man named Enrico Fermi developed an idea for a reactor that would “breed” plutonium, another nuclear fuel while consuming uranium by creating more fuel than it used. EBR-1 was built to test Fermi’s concept.

When the fuel rods were removed from the reactor, some radioactive NaK remained on them. The rods were lowered into the basement through holes in the floor covered by the metal plates. the NaK was washed off with acetone and alcohol. When clean and dry, the rods were then stored in the rod farm in evenly spaced storage locations in concrete with individually numbered holes. The chalkboard was used to keep track of the inventory. Past the rod farm is the hot cell, this was used to visually inspect the used fuel rods. Each window consists of 34 layers of lead glass totally 39 inches thick, with mineral oil filling the space between each layer of glass to provide clarity. The walls are also 39 inches thick for radiation protection. The manipulators are some of the first-ever devised for handling radioactive materials. Mechanical “fingers” inside the hot cell duplicated the operator’s motions.

This was the control room where operators started, controlled, and shut down the reactor.