June 24-25, 2011
After the well-planned pavements of Portland and the scenic splendor of Seattle, it was a bit anticlimactic to end a seven-hour drive with the subdued skyline of Boise.
‘Twas a small city. The end of I-84 just kinda turned into one of the main streets. Literally less than a minute after entering the city, we were in our host’s parking lot. Less than an hour later, we had seen the majority of the downtown area by foot.
Ian and I were fortunate enough to get a response on CouchSurfing.org from a young man named David a couple days before leaving Seattle. This successful Idaho native was just out of college with one of them career-like jobs and a two-story apartment to himself. He actually had just moved in three weeks prior to our arrival, so the place had scarce furniture. David apologized for only being able to offer two mattress pads on the floor, but that was more than we needed. We didn’t have to sleep in the Honda Civic, so we were happy.
Our laid-backed host was ready to relax for the weekend after ending another stretch at his 9-to-5 job, so he hung back at his place after giving us a key, some directions, and a few suggestions. I am still awed by David’s generosity and willingness to open his home to two strangers. Thank you, Internet.
David’s place was about a five-minute walk from Downtown Boise. The area was clean and quaint and reminded me of Downtown Livermore. Wide sidewalks lined locally-owned restaurants with outdoor patios. Having just come from a few big cities, I made many tongue-in-cheek comments on how Idaho’s biggest city was tiny and dead. However, once I readjusted my false expectations of the capital city to be an urban city, it quickly grew on me as a nice mid-sized town. And once we turned onto 8th Street from Main, I saw that it was not dead at all.
Although it was about 9 PM by the time Ian and I started exploring the town, the sun was still out and Boise’s main drag was bustling with activity. Many young families were eating dinner on a sidewalk patio or strolling about with their small children at the same time college-aged kids were arriving at the bars and pizza joints via bikes or taxis. Ian and I grabbed a cheap slice of pizza and good beer at a place called Pie Hole (apparently a chain, since we saw one in Salt Lake City later). Bellies satiated, we headed next door to a bar called Fatty’s. It featured beer pong, shone party lights, and stood as the destination for several of the college-kid-filled taxis.
Fatty’s was spacious, though a bit emptier than expected at first. We chilled with some good beer for an hour or two while the place filled up. Linda, our waitress with a nice smile and kind eyes, answered our questions about Boise and offered some suggestions. Even drew us a little map. She pointed us in the direction of China Blue, a surprisingly hopping dance club. It was surprisingly racially diverse, too, though David had told me earlier that Boise is where the government sends refugees from around the world. While Boise in the daytime reminded me of Downtown Livermore, Boise by night was closer to the active college town of San Luis Obispo.
The next morning, after driving to Boise State to get a peek at the football stadium’s famous blue turf, Ian and I made a point to check out the weekly farmer’s market before leaving. The farmer’s market was another one of Linda’s suggestions.
Ian and I expected maybe a block or two of vendors selling food we wouldn’t buy. Instead, we were greeted by a parade of clown cars, costumed mascots, and old marching men in fezes. The parade cut through maybe four to six blocks of what amounted to more of a sprawling street fair than a farmer’s market. And it was crowded! People of all ages and stereotypes were milling about the hundreds of street vendors, who were selling everything from fresh vegetables to hand-made crafts. It felt like Berkeley’s Holiday Street Fair on steroids.
Though Boise isn’t a skyscraper-laden concrete jungle, it surpassed my expectations of enjoyment with its college town vibrancy, active nightlife, and progressive street fair. I must say, Idaho, you impressed me. You turned me from a judgmental, big-city cynic into a true admirer of your quaint capital city.