Left Ogden heading north on Highway 89 to Logan and then out the back door of Utah on Highway 91 through Preston, Idaho. Two-lane blacktop, wide-open country. Discovered no batteries in my camera at Red Rock Pass. This is where Lake Bonneville broke out one day a hundred million years ago, creating what we know as the Snake River Plain. Also creating the route for I-84. Driving it is a fate to be avoided, if possible.

redrock_pass    SnakeRiverPlain

Fortunately, I had Mieka’s FlipCam with me as a backup for this dramatic scene:

Hidden behind the big hill with the obelisk on top is a patch of grass surrounded by a chain-link fence. Up against the fence is the weathered headstone of Capt. Jefferson Hunt, founder of Huntsville, Utah.

Jefferson Hunt (January 20, 1803 – May 11, 1879) was a captain in the Mormon Battalion, brigadier general in the California State Militia, a California State Assemblyman, and a representative to the Utah Territorial Legislature.

Just up the road on your left is Downata Hot Springs. Not my kind of place, but you might life the family-friendly vibe.

Took at wrong turn at Blackfoot and figured it out at Idaho Falls. Proceeded west on Highway 20 through Butte City and Arco, stopping at the Mackay Ranger Station to ask for a map of hot springs. The lady ranger laughed, and said:

“Oh, sorry! It’s not here. The last copy is with a guy working at the Challis Ranger Station. Ask for Ben. He’s working on updating the map.”

Then lots of up and down, among and through the Sawtooth Mountains.

roadworkBen-at-the-Challis-Ranger-Station turned out to be a tall, thin, young, pale, ranger with an expensive haircut and serious expression. The map was a single white sheet of paper marked with highlighter and penciled notes: the only available copy.

“Here,” he said, printing-out a length of tape with an internet address, and pasting it onto a handout of hot springs. “You can view it on Google Maps.”

Ketchum/Stanley/Challis/Salmon Area hot springs

Moon Over the Sawtooths

Moon Over the Sawtooths

It was getting dark when I finally got to the Long Valley Motel in Donnelly. The Subway shop was closed, but there were Triscuit crackers and a 1/2-liter recyclable container of Cabernet Sauvignon at the grocery store. Too late to make it to Gold Fork Hot Springs, I had a bath and slept until dawn.

Payette Lake

Payette Lake

Two pots of weak motel coffee and on the road again, pausing at that little park on Lake Payette, in McCall, Idaho. Everything was Awesome for two miles…then I made a wrong turn at New Meadows, heading South instead of North on Highway 95. It was eerily beautiful driving this switchback mountain road in the early morning calm. Got all the way to the Council Ranger Station (nope: they don’t have hot spring maps) before I figured out why nothing looked familiar.

Flipped a U-turn and headed back up the winding, switch-backing mountain road to New Meadows. People were up and about now, traffic increasing. Highway 95 becomes a major arterial. Turned left at Lewiston. Crossing the Snake River on Highway 12, I followed it all the way to Walla Walla. Main Street was jammed in auto-gridlock.

Now we know WHY Jannelle recommended May 2 for an author appearance at The Book & Game Co. May 1-3 was the annual Spring Release Weekend for Walla Walla Valley wineries. Thousands of visitors were in town, enjoying the warm weather. Students from Whitman College mixed with locals and turistas, wandering the streets, sampling wines, stopping traffic.

I found The Olive, recommended by my brother Tom as the best in town for catering Seven Hills Winery events. Waiting for my dinner, I wandered upstairs and around the gallery in a deja vous daze, watching the revellry inside and out, wondering: what have they done with my town? Didn’t this use to be a dry goods store? Who would have imagined that someday you could buy a pizza with fresh, “locally-sourced” asparagus & bacon, served with a snifter of wine from local vineyards? Something between Thomas Wolfe and The Truman Show is what it felt like. You can’t go home again…and nothing is real, anyway.

Tom and I both arrived at his house about the same time. He caught up on some business while I unpacked, then he fired up the Honda 2000 SE and we zoomed across town to The Green Lantern. Conveniently located near Whitman College, it was jammed with party-hardy Friday night Townies, Whitties, and Twitties. (Twitties are Walla Wallans who attend or have attended Whitman College, such as my sister Dorothy and my ever-loving late brother Karl.)

Saturday morning started quietly with the Farmer’s Market and old folkies singing that song about Lefty. I walked uptown and checked-in with Julie, assistant manager. The Book & Game Co. commands the corner of 1st and Main and was known as The Book Nook back in the good old days.

The Book Nook

The Book Nook

I was stationed at the front door, welcoming wanderers to our Publication Party with a ginormous tray of antipasto from Olive (located just down Main Street.) (Thanx & a tippo the hat to our sponsor: Tom Sawatzki.)

The first family connection was Sharon Schiller, who attended school with my brother Karl about 40 years ago and currently is Facebook Friends with my sister Mary. Among the partying throng making personal appearances were celebs from the DeSales High School Class of 1970:

Tracy Hedine, Walter Keyes, Donna Maiden and her friend, Phyllis Bowe and Steve, Jane and Steve Kirkendall. Here’s what happened when Chris Waggoner came by and photo-bombed us:

Bob Sawatzki, Tracy Hedine, Tom Sawatzki

Bob Sawatzki, Tracy Hedine Killgrove, Tom Sawatzki

Bob & Phyllis Bowe Schreck

Bob & Phyllis Bowe Schreck

Some of us gathered again later at The Mill Creek Brew Pub, including Jeff Klundt, Gerard and Joan Schille, Wally Keyes, Phyllis Bowe & Steve Schreck.  I highly recommend the Inmate IPA, at 7.5% proof and rated 70 on the International Bitterness Scale! I didn’t even know there was an international scale for Bitterness, but this beer is more bitter than Long Days Journey Into Night and Journey to the End of the Night combined.

It was Wine Release Weekend in Walla Walla, but we were celebrating at a brew pub. As Joan and Gerard Schille say:

“We’re not going there if they don’t serve beer!”

Keeping it Real is what the Class of 1970 has always been all about. We all agreed to meet again for the Class Re-union in August and then adjourned.

After 3 months and 3,500 miles, the Return to Circa ’96 Book Talkin’ Tour is over. Copies of the book are available at:

Planet Rainbow, The Queen Bee, (Ogden) Weller Book Works (Salt Lake City) Orca Books (Olympia, Wash.)

35 remaining copies of 1st Edition c/o the author.

Also available on Amazon.com

You may now return to your regularly schedule program.