I see things differently than most people. Literally. I have a vision condition called strabismus which causes each eye to operate independently of the other. It causes havoc with parallel parking but otherwise I have no way of knowing how “normal” vision processes what it sees.
A couple years ago, my sister recently invited me to accompany her on a cross-country trip to Ketchum, Idaho to visit her newborn granddaughter. Up to that point, the only state I’d visited in the western half of the country was California. After two flights, two short layover connections that, in the case of O’Hare, required very fast walking to catch the flight, we deplaned at the diminutive Boise Airport, walked outside to the rental car kiosk, and I had my first sight of the Rockies. I don’t know what I was expecting, but two and a half hours of driving through the mountains to get to the other side and viewing what resembled desert with tumbleweed and scant signs of civilization except for the occasional herd of livestock wasn’t my first thought.
The happy surprise was that we were staying in a beautifully repurposed former bunkhouse, adjacent to the barn and silo that had been fabulously reimagined as an entertainment center. The view from the back windows showcased a small, landscaped pond and another mountain range. We dumped our gear and headed to visit my nephew and his wife, and the newest family member, barely a month old. Their charming A-frame house was at the foot of another mountain, which conveniently offered a ski lift so they could sail down the slopes and end up practically in their backyard. That’s when it dawned on me that I was in a place like no other. Even the sky is a different and deeper hue of blue. I had been warned that the high altitude might make me breathless, but I actually felt more energized than usual, and it was the landscape that took my breath away.
We made a day trip with family members, including baby and dog, visited quirky small towns, the amazing Sawtooth mountain range, ski lodges and the impressive compound at Sun Valley where Hemingway wrote, lived and died. One of the restaurants there was a German Konditorei offering schnitzel and sacher torte and that reminded me I had seen the Alps in Austria and Germany and still, Idaho is the American west in all its natural glory. I also remembered Evel Knievel’s famous, and failed attempt to soar 1,600 feet across the Snake River Canyon, which is about four hours away from Ketchum. Yeah, this is a place for mountain men (and women) and rugged individualists of all kinds. Knievel would have felt at home here back in 1974.
I picked up a copy of the local paper, The Idaho Mountain Express, and was surprised to see a classified ad for freelance columnists. Now I only spent four days in Ketchum, and I didn’t go skiing due to no snow, and oh yes, total lack of ability to ski, nor did I hike up any of the unending chain of mountain peaks, but I know people who have done that. I didn’t run into Tom Hanks or Clint Eastwood, but shared a family meal at the Pioneer Saloon where a photo of Clint, Iron Eyes Cody and Colonel Tim McCoy was prominently featured. The Colonel, according to the menu notes, was an Indian Commissioner, a silent and sound film star and toured with his own Wild West Show as a crack shot and fast draw — in other words, the “Real McCoy.” I’m sure I could get several good columns out of all that, right? But then I guess it all depends on your point of view.