First, the bad news. Pamelia and I didn't have time to stop at the Idaho Potato Museum, home to the world's largest potato chip (a 25-inch-by-14-inch Pringle made in 1991) and what a visitor's guide describes as "an army of Mr. Potato Heads." We also did not have tickets to last night's Boise State-Louisiana Tech game (Tuesday night college football!), so we didn't get to see Boise State's famous blue artificial-turf field or the undefeated Broncos, potential national champions.
We also, while leaving Utah in the morning, were unable to get a photo of the science-bashing, Darwin-ridiculing billboard we'd passed the previous evening. We were too busy driving a computer-technology-rich car invented by scientists and engineers and listening to a digitized recording of a Teaching Company lecture by a ridiculously brilliant Stanford neurobiologist on how evolution, genetics, hormones, environmental factors, the frontal cortex, the hippocampus and the neurological system combine to shape human behavior and our ability to learn and remember. Fortunately—here's some good news—a scientific force known as gravity was holding us and our vehicle safely on the planet.
But yesterday had plenty of other highlights. The vastness of the landscape and the tumultuousness of the weather combined to put on a wonderful cloud show that changed throughout our four-hour trip from Ogden to Boise. While driving through sunlight, we could see columns of rain or snow falling in the distance in front of dramatic walls of mountains. Hundreds of millions of years of geology were on display in the rock we saw. Southern Idaho's land was shaped by eruptions by the super-volcano that now lies beneath Yellowstone National Park. Since scientists discovered that continental plates are constantly moving (ours is headed towards Asia), we have learned that the same volcanic hotspot now under Yellowstone once sat beneath Idaho—as evidenced by the otherworldly lava fields at Craters of the Moon National Monument not far from Idaho Falls.
After a midday hailstorm, we spent a whole afternoon at the World Center for Birds of Prey. Backed by The Peregrine Fund, the organization that led the effort to restore peregrine populations across the U.S. after DDT nearly wiped out the species between the 1950s and 1970s, the center perches atop a hill overlooking Boise. Inside (and in some cases outside) are superb exhibits and a variety of rescued birds of prey.
Today we're driving to Malheur Lake, a famous birding spot in eastern Oregon (though one that is suffering because of a carp infestation). We'll then return to Boise because we have to switch rental cars here tomorrow. Besides, I happen to be wearing a rain jacket that is almost exactly Boise State blue, so I fit in pretty well around here.