There’s nothing like a whirlwind weekend county collecting trip. Before you know it, the whole thing is over. That perfectly describes my recent visit to the mountain west. My car rental lasted exactly 47 hours and 6 minutes, during which I covered 1,327 miles in three states (well, four actually, as I crossed into Montana for a few minutes on Sunday) and visited 16 county seats. Also of note, I made my first Marriott stay in Wyoming, at the FFI in Afton/Star Valley. This marks the 40th state in which I’ve stayed at a Marriott property.
With all the counties within a few hundred miles from home already complete, my county collecting trips now begin with a flight (or two) before the driving begins. The fights to reach my starting point this time were unremarkable with one exception. Because of strong headwinds between PHX and SLC, we flew at 22,000 feet instead of the normal 37,000 feet. The low altitude made for a spectacular view of the Grand Canyon.
Regular readers may remember I visited northwest Utah last October (Four days, Four brands, and Four states - Whew!) so rather than linger around Salt Lake City, I headed east on I-80 toward the southwest corner of Wyoming, picking up a couple Utah counties on the way. In Kemmerer, WY, I happened upon the original J. C. Penney store.
By the time I got to Afton, sunset was only an hour or so away. Enough time to get settled and have some dinner. The town is a somewhat odd location for a Marriott, as there’s not much to see, though Afton is famous (?) for having the world’s largest arch made of elk antlers, which crosses the main street in the center of town. It’s 75 feet across, weighs 15 tons, and consists of 3,011 antlers. For perspective, the population of Afton is just shy of 2,000 people, meaning there are more antlers in the arch than there are residents.
From Afton, it was into Idaho. I’d visited most of southwest Idaho last fall, so this trip focused on collecting the remaining counties in the south and east of the state. If you asked folks what Idaho is known for, my guess is that most would answer “potatoes.” Even the Idaho license plates feature the slogan “Famous Potatoes.” Well, if that’s what you’re known for, why not embrace it? In the city of Blackfoot, tourists can visit the Idaho Potato Museum (I passed by on a Sunday morning, when sadly, it was closed). In Driggs, there is the Spud Drive-in theatre, complete with a potato truck parked out front. Don’t believe me? Luckily, I have proof.
My second evening was spent at the FFI in Idaho Falls where I was upgraded to a lovely spa suite. This might be the first FFI I’ve visited that included bathrobes. One other curiosity at this property. Along with the usual toiletries, there was a small rubber duck. The fine print is probably too small to read, but on the front it says “Fairfield Inn, Idaho Falls.” I’m sure some of these rubber ducks end up going home with guests. I settled for a photograph.
While in town, I found a nearby family restaurant and enjoyed a lovely dinner of grilled Idaho trout. The next morning, it was time to head back to SLC for my flights home. I had two last counties to visit, one in Idaho, the other in Utah. I happened upon the old Cache county courthouse in Logan, UT which now houses the local tourist and visitors’ bureau. The new courthouse, which is also brick, though not quite a lovely, is right next door.
All too soon, I was back at SLC and heading home. I mentioned at the beginning that I visited 16 counties over the course of the 2-day trip. I’m making progress in this part of the country, but there is still plenty more to see. Here are the before and after maps.
Despite the short and somewhat hurried nature of this trip, I enjoyed the scenery immensely. When I lived in western Washington, I almost took mountains for granted. Now that I’m in Ohio, seeing snow-covered peaks is one of the joys of traveling west.
In just a few weeks, I’m off again, this time to Arkansas. While I don’t expect to find any “famous potatoes,” I have no doubt there will be something worth blogging about.