A project of Zach van Schouwen.


Boise, Idaho

It's painful to admit it -- and I'm sure more than a few people would laugh, but here I am to tell you, in my best impression of an older man's voice: "I'm getting older, man." And with age comes some strange shifts in taste. Not so long ago, I would have laughed if you told me I would have enjoyed a week in Boise. I think the early days of this blog would be far enough back.

But hey, you guys know me. I lean on my stereotypical blue state personality and tastes like a hip crutch. I like to be surrounded by people and old buildings at all times. People with piercings. A million Italian restaurants. You know the deal. Well, my tastes have shifted a bit. And when I just want to ride my bike, it's amazing to discover that, at this point, I'm just as happy to do it in a sprawling western city. Particularly one that's as remarkable as Boise.

A weird thing. Despite my praise, there's no denying that it's sprawling. Sprawl-y even. All the good restaurants are in strip malls. The main roads through downtown are six lanes, cutting between three-story buildings from the pioneer era. While here, I made my home base an anonymous hotel room on the upper floors of a 1970s hotel, one big window overlooking a parking lot and the woods around a creek. A creek that, as it turned out, fed into the Boise River:

The river has been, sensibly, preserved as a greenway, with an eighteen mile bike ride through city, suburb, alfalfa fields and eventually an endless straight shot down the unbelievably gorgeous deep river canyon to a reservoir. (Not pictured -- cameraphone just would not cut it.) In fact, I never got off my bike. I drove the car four times in a week. Go on, check it out.

Now that I've admitted my own stereotype, here's a few more: At the dairy freeze (there are several, of course), people wear ties. Cowboy hats are almost as prominent as the John Deere tractor hats, despite a remarkable lack of hipsters to match. Signs announcing the 45th parallel. It's 50 degrees when I wake up, 90 at 3 PM, and back down to 50 around sunset. "OPEN RANGE, WATCH FOR CATTLE." Golf courses in the middle of an unbelievably barren desert.

I know that sort of thing is an ecological disaster, but honestly, the whole thing was fantastic.

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