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Monday, July 12, 2010

Owyhee 5-0

Doesn't everyone want to spend a birthday in Owyhee? In case you question my spelling, note that Owyhee is an older English spelling of Hawaii. It was used in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, when groups including native Hawaiians explored the Pacific Northwest.

But no, I didn't spend my birthday in our 50th state. Rather, I spent it in our
43rd. So why am I rambling on about Hawaii? Because I stayed at the Owyhee Plaza Hotel in Boise, Idaho. Said hostelry is named after the Owyhee River, discovered by those wandering Hawaiians.

There was no luau in Boise, nor did I get lei'ed there. But let me tell you, little spuds, while the Owyhee Plaza is no place to shake one's hips about, Boise isn't such a bad little place to birthday. Allow me to yammer on a bit about the Idaho state capital.

What does Boise have that other places don't? For starters, one can bask in Basque culture. Aside from hosting the only Basque museum in the United States, there's quite a sampling of food from Euskara (the region of the Pyrenees which the Basques call home). I dined on paella at the Gernika Basque Pub & Brewery and was as happy as a clam (albeit not the particular clam embedded in the rice dish).

Boise and its surroundings also provide adventure travel opportunities for weenies such as myself. Anyone can easily bike the Boise River Greenbelt, a 25-mile swath of flat pathway. The Greenbelt connects many popular sites, including the M.K. Nature Center, Zoo Boise, and 12 city parks. Soft adventurers can also play Lawrence or Laura of Arabia at Bruneau Dunes State Park, the home of the tallest sand mountain in the United States. For those who prefer aqueous adventures, whitewater rafting, waterskiing, and fly fishing options are nearby.

Speaking of fishing, my understanding is that it is now legal to fish from the back of a giraffe or a camel (just in case you had the hankering). At one time, it was illegal to cast a reel from an animal's back in Idaho. However, despite urban legend, it appears the bicameral state legislature has shelved the law. If you know otherwise, please comment.

But I digress. The Saturday Farmers Market downtown offers visitors a typical slice of Boise life. While the crowd is pretty white, at least the victuals are colorful and diverse. There are opportunities to nibble on locally-made/grown goodies ranging from mulberries to potato chips (naturally).

Speaking of spuds, I would be remiss if I didn't include a hash of potato trivia in this post (despite the state's recent efforts to downplay the exalted tuber). Yes, the potato is Idaho's state vegetable. The was first planted there in 1837. Idaho is responsible for one-third of the country's potato crop. Finally, according to a researcher in Ireland, potatoes are a powerful aphrodisiac. While I can't confirm the science, do note that the Irish know their potatoes and they are known for their large families. Just sayin'.