Cool nighttime temperatures provide our main destination point for truck camp navigation. After leaving Phoenix, AZ about seven weeks ago, we wondered how long we could live in the truck. Little did we know that campsites and scenery keep getting better.
Each time we discover a new campsite Marilynn and I react the same way. “This is paradise. Maybe our best site ever.”
Not today. Time for a clean-up motel stay. Rather than spend upwards of $300 for a room in Stanley or Ketchum, we find a $60 stay in the rural ranch town of Challis, Idaho. The only problem is that the motel office is located in the attached bar/restaurant.
No problem. Nothing like a cold beer after a long drive. Who cares if the cowboys at the bar are already lit-up with laughter and stories? In our minds, it would be foolish to pass on an opportunity for some local flavor. After more beers on an empty stomach, we join the convivial cocktail party in rural USA where social distancing concepts do not exist. Must admit, it feels really good to feel somewhat “normal” again in a social setting.
Retired truck drivers/lifelong cattle ranchers fill our end of the bar. One cowboy, married to a retired Vegas casino worker, brags about never turning away from the other pickup truck while playing chicken in his youth. “I had two head-on collisions.” He laughs loud and high pitched. “They reconstructed my back twice and I still can’t walk a straight line.”
The man next to him wearing a “Trump” hat suffers total blindness. He drove a semi after the Vietnam war, but went blind either after or during a stretch in the penitentiary. His friends drive him to the bar and back and he does not appear to suffer at all, at least not this evening.
The man who resembles General Custer has the best voice. The kind of voice you like to listen to, no matter what is being said. When they found out what we are doing, they got excited about a little known, off the beaten path roadway. “Custer” even retrieved a detailed map. Ever watch a drunk cowboy try to fold up a large map? At least we now have tomorrow’s destination.
I suppose that they got too comfortable with us, and the “N” word racist jokes started. A perfect cue for us to go grab a table and devour a delicious local ribeye. We have not even checked-in to our room yet.
This room will do for a quick shower in the morning and that is about it. Could probably grow mushrooms on the moldy rug. You get what you pay for. But oh, Idaho, what an interesting evening.
At a gas station in the morning, (I don’t know how to act when there is a gas station with service) the attendant tells Marilynn that the Idaho governor passed a law where they could take your children away for any felony offense, including a DWI. “This town is crowded with Vietnam vets,” he says. “We’ve got enough guns and ammo to start a war if they ever tried something like that.” Time for us to head back out into the woods.
My four-wheel-drive comes in handy a couple of times along the rough Custer Motorway. Hours later, we find paradise at Mosquito Flat Reservoir. The best campsite ever. We have it to ourselves.
Let’s catch some trout for dinner and let the scenery pull us into a trance. Eagles hunt while deer and cattle roam and we be total chill.
Thank you for the great advice, cowboys.
Before leaving in the morning, I catch one more trout to sauté in butter for breakfast.
Then the Custer Motorway takes us on a slow, bouncing roll through dramatic and devastating scenery the “back way” into Stanley, Idaho.
We realize how lucky we are to make it with such worn tread on my tires. Quite a bit luckier than the epitaphs reveal at a cemetery in Custer, a ghost mining town transformed into a tourist destination.
Our next destination reveals itself to us in the form of overdue truck servicing and the need for new tires. Oh, Idaho, we have plans to backtrack through here to experience more of your camping, hiking, and fishing delights.
Thank you, Abundant Universe!