Wednesday, May 6th, 1998 8 a.m. With mind clear and body well rested, I slip the key into the door, unlock it, take my place in the driver’s seat, place the key into the ignition switch, pause and to myself: please, please, please, please, then turn the key. The continuous clicking of a bad starter is heard the first and second times but on the third try that wonderful sound of turning gears and controlled explosions the Volvo comes alive.
On the road just 20 minutes, I pass north of the town of Green River and the namesake tributary where emigrants crossed via ferry as it too deep to ford. The Green River flows 730 miles from the Wild River Mountains in Wyoming, takes a side step into Colorado, then into Utah where the mighty Colorado River takes in what The Green River can send. Along the river between 1825 and 1840 a kind of farmers market called a Rendezvous where trappers, fur traders, and mountain men gathered to sell, buy, and trade their goods as well as to dance, drink, shoot, and run among other forms of entertainment. As fashionable fur died out so too did these gatherings although today re-enactments occur which include the bang and boom of black powder rifles and cannon throughout the country and Canada.
Twenty miles west of Green River Highway 30 splits from Interstate 80 in a northwestern direction, the Oregon Trail heads southwest and crosses 30 than parallel with I-80 for a few miles before veering northwest at Fort Bridger catching up to Hwy 30. The fort, established in 1843 by mountain man/fur trapper Jim Bridger as a supply stop along the overland trail, is south of my position. The Oregon Trail continues northwest into Idaho as I steer southwest toward Salt Lake City where I leave I-80, which continues west to California terminating in San Francisco, and connect with Interstate 84/15 the latter carries motorist from the Canadian border south through Las Vegas and ending in San Diego California. Although on I-15 a mere 18 miles memories flood the mind as I am familiar with the section between Las Vegas and San Bernardino, California when living in the southland back in the 1980’s. Being a history buff I so enjoyed driving between San Berdoo and Victorville in the high desert as this route was traversed by many a modern migrant before the Interstate system, the faded billboards and stone guards no longer used as a stool for the tired motorist testaments of a bygone era.
Within a few miles of the Utah border I bid adieu to Interstate 15 as it and memory lane go north to Canada and I, now on Interstate 84, pass through northern Utah and the Wasatch Mountain Range where snow showers and road construction slow traffic. Crossing over into Idaho and out of the mountains I come upon Highway 30 again go west toward Oregon with Fort Hall (near present day Pocatello and once a rest/resupply stop for emigrants) on the Oregon Trail behind. Interstate 84 and The Trail run alongside of each other for the rest of the way and there are opportunities to visit such places as Milner Ruts near Burley, Idaho where portions of “the ruts” from the many wagons west can be viewed, and Inscription Rock where many names and dates keep the past alive. This and so many more spots from The Great Migration taunt the history buff to checkout (not to mention ideal places to break from driving) but I don’t risk the possibility of mechanical failure. Near Rattlesnake Station, Idaho (formerly a stagecoach stop on the Overland Stage Line now the city of Mountain Home, Idaho) with next destination Boise looming panic momentarily takes the passenger seat when a snapping noise is heard from the engine side of the dashboard. Looking out the windshield no smoke, the rearview reveals nothing fell out onto the roadway but, a glance at the dashboard and I had my answer as the speedometer now indicates zero yet just a few moments ago showed human and car traveling at 65 mph. What the @#!!!&%$** next! Well, the convenience of checking speed is gone so I keep pace with other traffic.
Boise is a welcome sight as I pull into the Motel 6 close to the estimated time of arrival of 6 p.m. under partly sunny skies and find a slight incline to park on just in case. Fort Boise (now under the waters of the Snake River) was right on the Oregon/Idaho border, once a fur trader’s outpost and due to damage in 1853 from a major flood and an increase of Indian attacks abandoned. A new fort, which gradually becomes the city of Boise, was constructed during the Civil War in 1863 due to massacres along the Oregon Trail. Walking through the Motel 6 parking lot on my way to dinner a fellow traveler from, coincidentally, Portland, Oregon stands by his car flatten in an accident on I-84 the four interlocking rings on the trunk are the only identification that it was an Audi. We talked about our misfortunes and as an act of generosity he gives me the name of an auto mechanic in Portland, and, having no need for, four quarts of unopened motor oil. We shook hands he off to somehow complete his journey to Denver, Colorado and me to dinner. Afterwards I settle in the room and watch Wild America about Marty Stouffer’s rise to filming the wilds of North America then retire early for the morning I begin the final drive into Portland.
To be continued.
If you have not done so already, check out the first three parts of Modern Pioneer