In Which We Get Away

We got out of town about midday on Friday and started driving up toward Cascade.

About 2/3 of the way there, my car’s gauges started acting up. We laughed – my dashboard has been known to go temporarily demonically possessed – until all of the gauges hit zero and stopped bouncing. Soon afterward my stereo cut out, followed by the fans, followed by turn signals, dome lights, and windshield wipers. Our battery was dead. We got to the edge of Cascade and pulled into the first gas station we saw to ask for directions to the nearest mechanic – and the car died. Dead as a doornail.

A kind passerby gave us a jump-start and directions to a mechanic, and we began limping through town. We ended up at an auto shop right across the street from our hotel (the beautiful Ashley Inn) where, once again, the car died. Luckily for us, we’d managed to stall out at the one auto shop in the entire country where not a single person knew the first thing about cars. (Really, folks, when Ryan and I are closer to diagnosing the problem than you are, you’ve got a problem.) The man who owned the shop didn’t even want us to leave our car there, but frankly, we didn’t have a choice. We grabbed our suitcase, walked across the highway, and checked into the hotel.

(A quick tangent about the Ashley Inn. The place isn’t old, but it’s decorated in Victorian style, and feels like being in a century-old mansion. The beds have footboards – footboards, people, can I tell you how much I love footboards? – and everything is done up in toile. Every room has a fireplace. Most have bay windows; some – be still my heart – are in turrets. Most exquisitely, certain of the rooms have rain showers and enormous two-person jetted tubs with colored lights and marble surrounds. I swoon, even now, just thinking about those bathtubs. The Ashley Inn serves a real complementary breakfast every morning and seemingly unlimited hot cookies and cold milk in the evening. Pricey, and not the sort of thing we’re likely to shell out for too often, but definitely worth it for a special occasion. I can just imagine getting married there.)

Sans car, we wandered Cascade on foot that afternoon. We walked a couple “blocks” north to a river beach, acquired a canoe, and set out across a wide spot in the river. As if to prove that Friday was going to be a bad day for transportation, we quickly realized (although not so quickly that we weren’t in the middle of the river) that we were taking on water. We paddled to shore before our electronics got doused and traded in our “two-seated canoe with leak” for a more water-tight model with, alas, only one seat. Being hardy types, this didn’t dissuade us. A stack of life jackets served Ryan just about as well as my precarious perch above the water.

My parents (who, fortunately, are gypsies) came up to Cascade so that my dad could fix the car. Although my car has a brand new battery and a brand new starter, it apparently wanted a brand new alternator, too.

The next day we got up and had fresh waffles for breakfast, then headed down the road a ways to the flea market. We’d often driven past it but had never stopped, and I was curious. Other than amethyst and orange-opal rings that caught my eye, it was basically a great big “knives and blow guns” festival. After that, we drove up to McCall and wandered around for a while, playing tourist. I was looking for things you can only get in Idaho, but the closest I really got was “things you can only get in Idaho but that are technically produced in Montana when you buy them from this particular line of stores.” We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant on the lake and made snarky raised-eyebrow faces at our fortune cookies, and at the classy sailboats on Payette Lake.

On Saturday evening we walked out the back door of the inn and up a wooden ramp onto the train station platform, where the Thunder Mountain Line was waiting for us. For some inexplicable reason, the passenger load was relatively light that night, so we got our choice of seats and plenty of socialization with the conductor and crew. (Crew? That doesn’t seem right for a train, but whatever.) The scenery was just beautiful – places you can’t see any other way, places that you know haven’t been touched by man since they laid those tracks a hundred years ago. We passed under a steel trestle bridge built in 1913 and through the world’s shortest solid-rock tunnel (37 feet). Finally we stopped next to an abandoned farmhouse, where a delicious chicken barbecue was laid out for us. A young lady played guitar and sang for us all – she was really good – and we enjoyed a beautiful evening in the mountain before climbing back aboard the train. The trip back was cool on the open-air cars, and I had to pick more than one bug out of my plastic glass of champagne, but it was absolutely divine…

On Sunday morning we had breakfast again and then drove up to McCall… past McCall… off the main road… and down a bumpy, twisty dirt road to the Ya-Hoo Corral for a trail ride. Ryan had never ridden a horse before, and it had been a long time for me, so we were both very excited. They gave him a placid mount named Skip, and me a willful mare named Roha (shouldn’t that have been a J?), and we headed up into the mountains for yet another trip that you could only experience given our particular mode of transportation. I don’t know if it is true for everyone, but Ryan and I marveled at how natural it feels to be on horseback. It’s like we were designed to do it. (Maybe that’s just good saddle design, I dunno.) By the end of the trip, my city boy was talking about buying horses and moving to Valley County (to a house with an enormous bathtub).

The day, and the weekend, ended all too soon… but I feel so much better, having escaped for a few days. Ryan isn’t feeling very well today, so we’re hoping he didn’t catch some kind of a bug (literally or figuratively – we don’t get many ticks out here, but it is possible). I’m having a helluva day at work, but it’s over now, and I can go to class and think about horses and evening train rides through evergreen mountains… well, and classroom management, but that’s what multitasking is for.

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