When I was married, I enjoyed one of the few perks that I have ever derived from the marital union: Being able to afford the sort of nice vacations you can afford on two decent incomes. Travels with my first husband included Rome, Tuscany, and a month in New Zealand. With my second, once The Child was old enough to travel easily, it was Belize and Paris.
This year, though, I am on just one income – one that is stretched to the limit trying plug all the holes in the dam between me and financial ruin, the debts and bills The Departed so generously left behind for me to deal with, alone.
Suffice it to say, I didn’t worry too much when The Child’s passport expired last month: She won’t be needing it any time too soon.
But at some point, I realized I need to get away. That point was when my coworker suggested maybe I could use “a bit of a break.”
I cast about for ideas, and rifled through the pile of maps and brochures I acquired at the Seattle Bike Expo. And then I formulated a plan: Idaho. Specifically, the Idaho Panhandle.
I know what you’re thinking: Potatoes. It’s an obvious thing to think, what with “Famous Potatoes” on all the license plates. I didn’t know much more about it either, but a little bit of online research and I learned that not only does Idaho have potatoes and some wicked cool bike trails that are easy enough for even me to handle, it has the retro town of Wallace where you can still eat at a drive-in and stay in an space-themed motel.
I could use a few days in Smallville.
And here’s something else they’ve got in Idaho: Garnets.
There are two places in the world, it so happens, where star garnets may be found: Idaho and India. Who knew?
Not only do they have them, the website says, but you can pan for them yourself. People find garnets as big as golf balls. Or so it says on the intertubes.
Note to Idaho: You might want to consider a new license plate slogan. Glittering Garnets, perhaps?
Now this is all sounding too good to be true. I’ve been spending all this minors schlepping around the planet, and the whole time I could drive through a time warp, and mine garnets to boot?
I call and ask, is this for real? It turns out e garnet mine is run by the National Forest Service, and the park employee tells me – yes, it’s for real. $10 for me, $5 for the kid. We can pan all day.
But, do people really find anything? I ask.
Yes, of course, she says, but you are limited to five pounds each, per day. If you want more you have to come back a second day.
I ask a few more questions about what we need to bring , which is not much: just lunch and ziploc bags. “They work best for carrying out your garnets. We don’t provide bags.”
Good to know. To Idaho we go.