4th of July Weekend Part 2: Boise to McCall, Idaho
Odometer (Legend): 530,040
Odometer (ILX): 88,114
Leg Distance: 173 Miles
Every day that I’m behind the wheel is an independence day. Drive time means freedom from the stresses of the workplace, freedom from chores, from worries, and from problems. It’s a time when the most pressing concern on my mind is keeping my vehicle between the white lines while making sure I don’t miss out on any amazing roadside attractions. For this year’s July 4th holiday, I swapped car keys with my friend Josh Clymer of TSX Travels and spent a hundred miles at the helm of his 2005 Acura TSX. Our route took us from the Boise, Idaho metropolitan area through forested, curvy highways escalating to 7,000 feet in elevation in the mountains northeast of town.
From our meeting/departure point near the Boise airport, Josh ensured that I made myself comfortable by helping me get the seat, mirrors, and steering wheel just where I wanted them. “The nav is already programmed,” he said, “You’re going to lead the way.” And with that, we were off to explore the open road by about 9:00 in the morning. Our first attraction was Lucky Peak State Park shortly after we got on Highway 21 and started heading north. The two-lane highway progressively got more technical and it required full attention most of the time, but I couldn’t help but steal a few glances at my own ILX in the rearview mirror periodically.
My two-way radios were nothing but a static-fest, but that’s okay because I was glad to shut mine off. The only sounds I wanted to hear were the harmonious growl of the TSX’s finely tuned 2.4 liter and the buffeting of mountain winds throughout the windows-down cabin. Every so often, the smell of fresh pine trees would be overtaken by the scent of campfire and it brought back memories of so many nights I spent in the great outdoors as a kid.
About 40 miles into our drive, we entered the town of Idaho City and pulled into the General Store. A young man was sweeping the front porch. I asked him to take a photo of us, and then inquired, “So what’s there to do in Idaho City today?” To my surprise, he laid out the entire weekend’s schedule for us, including the plans for a parade which was to begin at noon. He wondered where we were from. When I asked him if he knew where Phoenix was, he said, “I’ve heard of it.” Josh piped up immediately with, “It’s like a frying pan with sand.” I nodded in approval at that description.
Now armed with my GoPro video camera mounted up, we started our next leg: Idaho City to Lowman. Here’s where the road started dishing out some real surprises. Josh had told me to go ahead and ‘open up’ the TSX if I felt so inclined. My better judgment told me I probably didn’t want to ask too much of a car that had 408,800 miles on the odometer. But the car begged for a little torture, so I obliged. Sweeping banked curves of Highway 21 provided the optimal place to test out the suspension tuning. I remember coming into a 25 mile per hour (“recommended”) curve at probably double that. “Whoa, Nelly,” I thought. But aside from a howl from the TSX’s tires, the switchback was easily managed and Josh stayed right on my tail in the ILX, rowing through its 6-speed gearbox. I found the manual mode in the TSX seamless and handy, especially on the downgrades where I wanted to take it easy on the brakes.
I found it miraculous that on a holiday we had the road almost entirely to ourselves. By the time we arrived in Lowman, my stomach was ready for fuel and Josh had just the right place in mind: Sourdough Lodge. A place he discovered by chance when stopping during a traffic back-up, I dare say the Sourdough Lodge now ranks as one of my favorite restaurants to get an omelet. Midway through our breakfast conversation, Josh said, “Oh, wait a sec – I have to show you something,” and he headed for the door. He brought back a white envelope and threw it on the table. I opened it up and saw that it was the original purchase contract for his TSX, dated December 29, 2004 when the car had 5 miles on it. Josh knows that I go crazy for documentation, so this was a real find.
I got a kick out of the phone booth in front of Sourdough Lodge: A sign taped above it said, “Will eat your hard earned money. Courtesy phone inside.” Full and happy, Josh and I headed out to take a cutoff road that would get us to Highway 55. Along the way, we stopped and admired the sights and gushing sounds of the South Fork of the Payette River. It was time to swap cars again, and I thanked Josh for allowing me some seat-time in his TSX. The next 70 miles took me through more heavily wooded forests. Parade traffic in the town of Cascade cost me a 20-minute delay, but I didn’t mind one bit. How could I complain? I had my windows down and moonroof open, and it was July. Try doing that in Arizona without getting cooked.
It was a great evening in McCall, Idaho with my family at my brother’s cabin. As I drafted this blog entry from a lounge chair on the back deck whilst admiring a glass-smooth lake, I can think of very few places I’d rather be spending the holiday weekend. Ice cream and a phenomenal fireworks show over Payette Lake capped off an amazing Independence Day.
Here are the rest of the photos and a video from this piece of my weekend journey.
First, Josh taking the wheel of the ILX.
Odometer of the TSX. I forgot to get one before we departed, but I have this in-motion shot from once we got going on I-84 at the beginning of the day. Yep, that says 408,823 miles.
Idaho City, Idaho.
Highway 21 northbound in all its wooded glory.
Pull-out near Lowman so we could re-group.
Most of the day, there was little to no cellular service. Having a reliable car is critical.
Like an oasis in the desert, the Sourdough Lodge shone like a beacon along the road. We were hungry.
I got a kick out of Josh’s mileage log. Daily he records his business miles for the road-warrior TSX.
Sourdough Lodge omelet. Two thumbs way up.
Following Josh back toward a cutoff that would take us to Highway 55.
Unmatched scenery as the road winds along the South Fork of the Payette River.
Water levels are high due to spring runoff. The sound of water rapids is something I could listen to all day long.
Looking west along the river.
Goofy ol’ me.
Here’s where Josh and I parted ways. I headed north to McCall; he headed south to Boise.
I took this for my friend Chris who shares a last name with the name of this (very small!) town.
Finally, I arrived in McCall.
This is how I spent much of the afternoon, sprawled out in a lounge chair at my brother’s cabin.
Later that night, ice cream with my niece Addy.
And fireworks over the lake. Couldn’t have asked for a nicer evening!
Come back next time for the wrap-up of my Idaho driving adventure.