Tuesday, April 1, 2014

In Search Of A Camper- Arco Part 1

A view on the way to Arco....................

Arco is a small farming town that is located at the base of the Lost River Valley.
Arco is where my Mountain Boy and I started our search for a home to buy.
We found the town purely by accident, after spending endless days and nights and weeks and months searching on line.
Trying to figure out where we are supposed to be.
Trying to find a quiet and pretty place where we could live quietly and prettily.
Trying to find something that we could afford.  That wasn't close to neighbors.  That was close to mountains and water.
It was a tall order.  
Too tall in fact, and at the end of the day we ended up compromising after first realizing that we couldn't afford it all, and then making decisions about what on the list was truly the most important to us.
Since moving to Atomic City late last summer we have begun to find our way around just a little.
Begun to find water.  Begun to explore the mountains in the Big and Little Lost River Valleys and begun to explore the buttes closer to town.
A lot of people don't seem to think much of Arco.  
As with so many small farming towns spread out in fly over country, the young people are fleeing at the first opportunity.
As with so many towns in every state in the nation, it is struggling to survive.  Struggling to stay relevant, struggling to find reasons for people to stay, struggling to pay the bills.
We like Arco very much.  The mountains begin there.  The stores are small businesses and the people are quiet and decent.
If we had held out longer we may have found a house in Arco that met our needs, but we saw so many that were in such bad shape and when we found this home in Atomic City it held so many possibilities.
A crazy amount of house for such crazy little money, and only 30 minutes from Arco.
We have met Arco people in our travels who lived in Atomic City for a time.  
Generally the men loved it out there and talked about the great hunting, and the women hated it and talked about the lack of people and shopping.
Thankfully I'm not much of a people person.  
Or a shopper.
A few days ago - before the snow and the temperatures that have again bottomed out - we drove to Arco on a warm and very sunny day.
We were on the hunt for a camper.
That hunt is turning into a bigger deal than either of us ever imagined.  As is usual, there is not a lot of money to devote to such things and even though there are cheap campers out there, the ones we have seen so far have been..........total crap.
Apparently people in this region have no idea how to care for campers.  Lots and lots (and lots) of water damage.
On this particular day we did not have any leads but wanted to go for a drive anyway on such a beautiful day.  Knowing that the owner of the Mountain Man Trading Post knew everybody in town we pulled into the parking lot.
LC and I have visited the Mountain Man a number of times (both during house hunting trips and since we moved to Idaho).  The food is always good.  The owners are always welcoming and smiling and full of good conversation, and frequently we see the same faces sitting at the tables laughing and informally helping themselves to the ever-present coffee pot.
It was late morning by the time we pulled in, and as LC and I climbed out of the Tahoe I looked around me and instantly decided that I would stay outside while LC visited.
He wandered inside and I reached into the back seat of the truck to encourage Kory out of the vehicle.
She eagerly jumped down to the ground and I let her lead the way.
The huge, weathered and iconic Mountain Man figure that towers over the dirt parking lot............

The Mountain Man is not the only icon that is specific to this small, farming town.
Looking back towards town I smiled when I again saw Number Hill.
The graduating classes from the high school have been recording their graduating year on this hill for almost the past century.
I haven't looked very closely, but have seen dates going all the way back to 1922, and locals have told me that there is usually rappelling gear and alcohol involved.
I have no idea whose bright idea it was originally, but I love this part of the history of Arco.
Arco is also the first town in the world that was lit with atomic power (it only lasted for 15 seconds or so, but still..........the first).
Between its venerable place in atomic history, Number Hill, the bright green burger restaurant called Pickles Place (that serves huge Atomic Burgers), it probably being the only desert town in the nation that is home to a submarine tower, and its proximity to the Big Lost River Valley, Arco is just a way cool town...........

Some pictures of the sub taken during one of our house hunting trips a year ago:

Kory and I wandered in back of the trading post, both of us enjoying the company of each other and the beautiful day.
Looking south I could see Big Butte, towering over the landscape as it always does.
I like the sight of it.
The lone and silent mountain in the desert dominates the landscape, and after hiking it with LC last November I cannot look at it without remembering just how deceptively beautiful and mystical of a place it is.
I stood for a moment looking out at it fondly before allowing Kory to pull me in the direction she insistently wanted to go.
OK Baby Girl........I'm coming.............

How had I never noticed this before?
And what the heck WAS it?
This seemingly random stone column was located at the edge of the parking lot and I studied it for a moment and to no avail, trying to figure out what it could possibly be............

As we wandered back to the front of the building I debated briefly whether or not I should go inside.
I wanted to be outside and was in no mood to be around people.  I didn't have it in me to make small talk, to be polite, to smile and be friendly, do all the things I was supposed to do when in the company of friendly acquaintances.  I was content to wander in the sun.............

The thing about wandering around on foot is that you see things.
Things that often get overlooked when you are in a hurry.
Things like whimsical and colorful animals made by someone who sees the creative in the functional...........

This abandoned little wooden structure always speaks to me.
It stands alone in a field close to the highway, and is beautiful against the backdrop of snow covered mountains................

A look further down the highway.
Craters of the Moon is located 18 miles from Arco in this direction............


My wayward dog has run away from us twice in the past week.
The first time, Kory and I were walking on trail close to town in Atomic City.
My athletic and sweet girl was running off leash when suddenly she stopped and focused intently on a clump of tall sage bushes on the opposite side of the fence.
I stopped walking and looked in the direction of her focus, wondering what she had keyed into.
There was nothing.
But there was something - because my pup was un-moving and totally focused.
In one split second I saw the ears pop up, my dog jumped the fence, and the race was on.
The deer was sprinting at full speed through the field.
My dog was sprinting at full speed right behind the deer.
I called her.  KORY!  Nothing.
She didn't even slow down.  Not for one second.
Within 15 seconds both deer and dog had crossed the distance of the field.
The deer jumped the fence and began to run down the center of the road, with Kory right behind her.
Within another 10 seconds they had both disappeared from sight.
It took both LC and me another 15 minutes to find her, and by the time we did she was skulking her way back to the house..................

The next day I was again walking with Kory out on BLM land.
As with the previous day, everything went fine until the moment it didn't.
With me walking and her running and happily chasing birds, we had spent an hour traveling together in the sunshine of desolate and empty BLM land, contentedly wandering from one field to the next, one trail to the next.
Close to the silos I made the fateful decision to wander off trail, cross over a field, walk the fence line, and then hit the field where the hay bales were located.
One of the huge 3-trailer-long hay trucks drove by and when Kory saw it she began to run at full speed.
"She'll turn back" I thought.  Because that's what she does.  Only this time she didn't.
KORY!!  Nothing.
A repeat of the day before.
Within 10 seconds Kory had already covered the distance of the field, jumped the fence and (still sprinting at full speed) hit the road and sprinted in the direction the truck was traveling.
Once the truck was long gone she stopped running and turned back.
I called her name, this dog looked in my direction, and then disappeared from sight in front of the silos.
I was still in the middle of the field and (as I continued to walk in that direction) made a phone call to LC for the second time in two days.
I watched his truck stop at the road intersection, and then watched as the truck disappeared in front of the silos.
By the time I got to the road our wayward dog was in the truck.
This was getting old fast, and both LC and I were angry at Kory and she knew it.
She wasn't used to either of us talking to her sternly but maybe it got through to her.
She wants to please so much, but every once in a while Kory gets into a single minded desire to run and will not listen.
Somehow we have to get her over that.............

More pictures of the area surrounding Arco and the Mountain Man Trading Post............

When I turned around I was looking at my smiling Mountain Boy.
I could tell that he was pleased.
Either he had a nice conversation with some good people, or he had a line on a cheap camper, or both.
It was both.
Someone knew of a camper for sale in Moore, but did not know much about it.
OK.......on a beautiful, sunny, warm day, we would take a drive and see if we could find a camper.............

Heading back through town..............

Humans are aware of very little, it seems to me, the artificial brainy side of life, the worries and bills and the mechanisms of jobs, the doltish psychologies we've placed over our lives like a stencil. A dog keeps his life simple and unadorned.............Brad Watson, Last Days Of The Dog-Men

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