Monday, October 4, 2010

On a Mission

Our anniversary fell on the fall equinox (as it always does and by design), the full moon, the school board meeting that made everything even crazier (a story for another day), and a mistaken identity problem (also likely to be coming soon to a blog near you).  Huck had managed to make some celebratory mousse, but that was all.

So this weekend we jettisoned ourselves to honeymoon in Wallace, Idaho.  Our initial reservations were for the well-signed Stardust Motel.  Once we saw it in person however, we bailed for a more um... open, clean, and staffed place on the outskirts of this adorable historic little town that doubles as the crown jewel of one of the largest Super Fund sites in the U.S. 

When we lived in Pullman, we'd head for Dayton.  The first town in Washington, nestled in the bosom of wine country, a walking architectural tour through the history of gorgeousness, and bragging rites to an improbable number of  amazing restaurants.  And I'm nothing, if not a food bitch.  Do not attempt to charge me an arm and a leg for opening a can and smearing the contents all over a Costco tortilla and Rosarita beans.  Charge me a finger or two, and I'm fine, but if it's a cell more than that I myself will open a Costco-sized can of whoop-ass.  Perhaps I've calmed down a little about crap being dressed up with some old parsley and called a meal.  But Huck still gives gentle warnings like, "So... I've never eaten here before.  I have no idea what the foods going to be like.  Just so you know..."  I realize now that it is unlikely that any restaurant I can afford to eat at will be serving anything comparable to, much less better than, what I make at home for my passel of ingrates.  However, I can recognize the value of not cooking and cleaning up a meal myself... even if it is an over-priced experience that causes heartburn for a variety of reasons.

At first I was all: why are we going without the kids?  Life's so boring without the kids.  Who goes on a bike ride without kids?  And Huck said, "You'll remember.  You'll remember."  And what I remembered was how much I ADORE antique shopping.  When I was 12, I'd plead with my antique-appreciation-deficient mother to drop me off at the antique mall.  And for my 13th birthday, I talked her in to buying me a 1920's satin debutant gown which I have never worn because it hasn't fit me since. 

Oh gosh, did Wallace make me swoon.  I picked up a shiny red, super old, drill called a brace that you brace against your shoulder.  I love those things and so does Coyote who took it straight-away to the dining room table thereby reinforcing the difficult decision to decline on any more antique furniture. 

At dinner, Huck wouldn't let me touch the water.  He didn't physically prevent it, he just seriously advised against it.  He tests their water and knows all that it contains.  What happened in that valley is a disaster intentionally perpetrated by mining companies who dissolved after coating the valley with lead. 30 years later, the kids are called "leaded" and can't function.  Now the town feels stigmatized.  So they want the EPA out.  They don't want anymore tests (Huck's equipment is routinely shot up) and they don't want any more clean up.  They just want everyone to shut up about it.  It's like homophobia.  As if talking about it, as if knowing the truth were the problem! 

So, Huck packed all our water in from home.

Saturday morning, we plotted our bicycle course.  With the kids, over the years, we've repeated many parts of the Trail of the Couer d'Alenes, but not this eastern section.  Huck wanted to start at the end, in Mullan.  And I wanted to picnic at the Cataldo Mission.  And if we did both, we'd cover the rest of the trail.  And perhaps make it back in time for a tour of the Bordello Museum who's curious menu, posted out front from the good ol' days of 1988 mentioned a Straight, French, No Frills for $24, $2 for each additional position.  What did it all mean?  I wanted to find out.

Unfortunately, neither of us did the math on this trip.  No one added it all up, except for perhaps our waiter, who recommended we cut the trip 20 miles short by turning around at the Snake Pit, an 1881 casino.  But then we wouldn't finish the whole trail!  Or picnic at the Mission!  Or... um... make it back to the car before dark... or ride anything less than 65 miles.

The first 25 miles were pleasant enough. The red and yellow leaves crunched perfectly under our tires. Huck detailed all the toxins in the picturesque creek beside us.  But the eastern end of the trail is not it's best side.  Mostly, it hugs the interstate and the back sides of towns like Smelterville and Silverton.  And if these towns don't look so hot from the front, the backside is... icky. 

Huck and I traded bikes and I discovered this concept called: efficiency.  His bike was so much faster than mine, that despite being in better shape, he couldn't keep up with me!  I was furious at the fact that all those years, commuting 20 miles a day to work, I had been riding a tank, a leg powered tank, a Flintstone minivan.  I'd dangled by the crotch and spun like a crazed hampster...on a gristmill.  I was routinely passed by larger asses on skinnier bikes.  And I'd wondered to myself, "What the hell?!"  Yeah, well, it wasn't me.  It was my dumb bike.  My shiny red bike named Sinner.  Sinner indeed. 

And to make an ill-spawned journey worse, I'd forgotten Rico.  How I could forget my padded bike shorts, I don't know, but forget him I did. 

The last five miles was all about: "Not Quitting Now," - my idea.  But after we perused the Mission grounds, marveled at the size of it's beams and agony of construction, regained feeling in our butts, and ate our salmon jerky and peanuts, I was entertaining secret fantasies about hitchhiking.  When we returned to the parking lot to find a family jumping in to a big truck, I sprung into action.  Huck's ensuing confusion botched my plan entirely.  And we did, indeed, argue for a while there. After all, pre-"us", he hitchhiked the West coast and I, the Eastern Seaboard and the Rockies.  Our first vacation with Blue (then 4 months old) involved camping and hitchhiking Baja.  So...I was a little appalled when he turned up all bewildered at my plan.  But then, he currently commutes via bike 20 miles a day, whereas it's been 2 years since I did that.  So he was kind of wondering what the heck my problem was.

He eventually agreed that the whole way back, we'd try to find a ride.  We met a lot of really nice people in really nice cars with plenty of room, going the other direction.  We were miserable.  Or maybe it was just me.  And yet a quiet peace settled between us, if not between my legs.  And this is what we figured out: we would not be alive today if it weren't for our children.  Neither one of us has working brakes when it comes to adventure. After the first six months of Blue's life, we stopped doing these things, like hitchhiking in Mexico and backpacking in the Olympics without any supplies.  Since then, all of our adventures have taken into account the finicky schedules of kids, their limited stamina, their need for food and water and shelter, etc.  I mean, just this past summer, Huck and I had another night off and cruised out to Bagby hotsprings, arriving at night, via unmarked logging roads, without a map, and totally out of water and food. You see?  We need our kids to ensure our own survival, without them, we're dead nuts.

All in all, the trip was a nice metaphor for our marriage thus far:  unintentionally conceived and much longer and more difficult than either of us were looking for initially. 

By the time he dropped me off at a beautiful but whacky restaurant in Wallace to wash the bugs off my face and dine, I was relaxed, yet in total pain. 

The Jameson is just opening up and I hope they work out some of the kinks.  The "fancy" salad was iceberg with three baby green leaves placed on top because the iceberg had sinned against lettucekind and was covering up for god.  The liqueur license had yet to be procured, so the spiked grape juice was free and I'm sure the liqueur board will be very impressed with their ingenuity!  And the menu was like sifting through the mind of a schizophrenic.  It took several tries before I hit on something that existed.  I did steer clear of the roasted vegetable aspic, although it was probably gluten-free.
Huck continued on his bike to Mullan and our car, as we had only one working head lamp between us and he was not yet dead. And eventually, we returned home alive to find my parents -alive!- who had managed to keep our children alive as well!  It's a miracle.


  1. Nice hatchet job on the people of the Silver Valley.

    "30 years later, the kids are called "leaded" and can't function."

    Interesting comment, but patently false. While it is true there were some4 children who tested high for blood lead levels, it was never a universal problem by a long way. Every year the three Valley high schools graduate students who are awarded scholarships from very prestigious institutions--including every one of the military academies. My own children are Valley raised. My daughter is an emergency room nurse and has two degrees. My son is a construction project manager on some huge building projects. Neither one ever tested anywhere near the danger levels for blood lead.

    You used the "b" word to describe yourself earlier in the blog. I personally think it fits--but for more than jusst food.

  2. wow, sarajoy, you've hit the bigtime in blogging world - anonymous trolls calling you names. congrats!

  3. I hear your point, Anonymous. I really did over state that. I originally had a whole paragraph there, talking about how some slower kids are teased as "leaded." And how, when I worked in disability law, we won cases for people in their 30's who were children during the disaster and are now unable to function due to lead-based brain damage. But the blog entry was getting too long (still is!) and needed pruning. So I cut and thereby lost the explanations and qualifiers which would have clarified that not everyone was/is harmed. I am sure that many fabulous, highly functioning and amazing people have come from the Silver Valley and I'm sure that many still live there, because I met some. I did over-simply and over-state. Thanks for giving me an opportunity to clarify.

    There is a contamination problem, however, and it still needs fixing and I hope the Silver Valley allows that to continue. Because not cleaning up and not talking about it isn't going to help a very real problem that has affected some people, most potently, some who were children during the disaster.

    And, I repeat, Wallace had me swooning!



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