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Wheeling Solo on the Road: Craters of the Moon, ID

The morning of August 19, I got into my rental car to begin my second solo road trip since being confined to a scooter or power wheelchair full-time—and actually, since my MS diagnosis in 2005. You may have read my blog posts from my Canyonlands trip back in November 2015; that was an adventure I’ll never forget, and didn’t think I could ever duplicate. But here I am trying! The different with this trip is that I’m more anxious (and more than a bit scared) about dealing with breaking apart my scooter and putting it into and taking it out of the rental car trunk. This concern was exacerbated by the fact I haven’t been walking at all since I got my accessible Ford Explorer MXV in late May. To make myself feel more secure in the short hobble between the driver’s seat and the trunk, I bought a very lightweight folding walker in Boise, and that has made a huge difference.

Okay! I’m in the car. I have my walker in the front seat, my GPS, my SPOT GPS emergency beacon, two bottles of water, snacks, my phone charger, and selfie stick/monopod. Time to roll! My first objective would be Craters of the Moon National Monument, about three hours to the east of Boise. The drive was mostly uneventful; a few golden hills here and there, many treeless plains, a few foothills off in the distance, and an ever-present low amber haze—a byproduct of forest fires.

As I approached CotM, I could tell I was getting close by the black rocky mounds all along the roadside. CotM is a huge lava formation that wasn’t even considered a notable discovery until the 1930s. It was created by lava seeping up through fissures in the earth and through “splatter cones,” where lava would literally splatter out of small volcanic cones. Much of the park basically looks like 75,000 dump trucks came in and unloaded millions of tons of coal every day for a year. In addition to the rocky formations, there are hills made of black sand, much like in Hawaii. But the landscape isn’t lifeless; there are white lichens and flowers growing everywhere, as well as sagebrush and other greenery. Honestly, it’s the most bizarre place I’ve ever seen in my life—and that’s saying something.

After CotM, I had to drive another 3 ½ hours or so to my next hotel in Victor, Idaho. This second half of the drive was far more interesting than the first half. The landscape was more diverse, partly because I saw a wheat field for the very first time! I have been to roughly 35
US states, and while I’ve seen WAY more than my fair share of corn, I have never seen a wheat field. And apparently Fridays are watering days for every farm in east Idaho; every ginormous irrigation rig in the state must have been spraying, from what I saw. And then there was the harvesting absolutely everywhere! This may not sound like a big deal to many of you, but watching a huge combine harvesting wheat is something I consider to be so American (yes, I know wheat is grown in other countries)—blame it on all those EPCOT movies in The Land.

My (new) GPS showed I only had about half an hour left to my hotel when it was making me turn on this horribly rough dirt road. My fault—I forgot to set dirt roads as an avoidance in the navigation settings. I started freaking out because it showed me on this road for 20 miles, and I had no idea how far it would be unpaved. I was more freaked out at the prospect of getting a flat tire on this isolated road. But just when my anxiety was about to max out, I got the view of a lifetime (second photo below).

And the rough road ended only a quarter mile after that. My best friend reminded me of that Robert Frost quote, “I took the road less traveled, and that has made all the difference.” I made it to my motel a short time later, and although I was disappointed that my rather Spartan (but clean) room did not have a roll-in shower as stated, it had a fold down bench that I felt I could work with. I was just so happy to be out of the car that I would settle for a sponge bath!

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