Thursday, June 18, 2009

Boise be cool! But keep in on the DL. True Dat!

Even though I am a born-and-bred Idahoan, I know relatively little about my capital town. I grew up in Heyburn, a small town about three hours to the east of Boise.

I think I can count on one hand the number of times my family visited Boise. The summer of my junior year in high school, I attended Girls' State, but we only had one day to spend in Boise at the capital. The rest of the time was spent in Nampa at Northwest Nazarene College's campus. Note: Nampa is not Boise.

There was another time when some friends and I decided to do our school shopping there, because we were going to be seniors, and we wanted to bring out all the trends. Stove-piped pants were a definite must. But I only made it to the mall, and granted, the Boise mall is pretty cool, but a mall does not make a town.

Probably the most memorable Boise visit was when my mom was attending BSU during the summers to get her master's degree. One summer she was there, Idaho was celebrating its Centennial. My mom took us to the lazer light show and fireworks in downtown. I was 14. I think I had to help cart around one of my younger siblings who would have been the baby at the time. (Kulani thinks my family tells time according to who the baby was during any given story. "Well, let's see. Hetty was the baby at the time so it had to be around 1984.") It was pretty cool, but it was dark and my feet were tired. My hips were probably tired too from holding a younger sibling. I didn't actually "see" much of Boise.

But I never had a hugely favorable opinion of Boise. My family was a Utah family. We watched KSL news. (Our community had three news stations: Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, and KSL. Trust me: KSL was by far the best produced.) All of our vacations were directed southernly instead of westernly. I always had the opinion that Boise was a town "butt" rockers would like. You know, the kind of person who isn't ashamed to wear a Budweiser T-shirt that has scantily clad women holding a cold Bud. And to be honest, they still don't have very good radio stations, with the big exception of classic rock. They have some great classic rock stations.

But my opinion has changed thanks to our most recent trip to Boise Town (as my friend Laura likes to call it). We traveled to Boise so Kulani could compete in the Boise 70.3 Ironman. If you have't been to Boise in say 10 years, it's changed a ton (or I never really got to know the town in the first place--probably the latter)!

Firstly, downtown Boise is no longer called "downtown Boise." It's called "BoDo." In the heart of BoDo is the Grove, where a big walking-level water feature is located. On Saturdays, the Grove is host to a Farmer's Market similar to what most major cities have nowadays. On Wednesday and Saturday nights the Grove usually hosts bands as well.

The girls on a bench in BoDo:

Much of my information comes from my dear friend Kara, who moved to Boise right after high school, and was the first of my friends to purchase a house--in Boise. Kara married her high school sweetheart Patt, and they have two kids: a feisty cutey girl and a toddler, snuggly boy. Kara and I played basketball together from 7th grade until juniors in high school, when we both got cut from the team. Ouch! We started out as the only girls even playing basketball, but in time, others caught up with our mad skills--or the coaches just didn't see our hidden potential.

Kara is also very kind and compassionate and just plain cool. I enjoyed visiting with her at her house. But I forgot to take a picture of her and Patt. Instead, because my yard has been fixated on my mind, I took a picture of her yard, because her husband is a landscaper extraordinaire and he has done a bang-up job fixing up their yard.

Kara has witnessed the changes in Boise and knows what a great town it is, but like all good Idahoans, she told me to keep it a secret: don't want outsiders overrunning the place. So I'm posting it on this blog where the five of you will also be sworn to secrecy.

What I also found surprising was what a hopping nightlife exists in BoDo. I haven't seen the likes of it in Salt Lake City or Portland. Because Boise is made up of short blocks, walking to various locations is quite easy. Many bars and clubs had lines of people waiting to get in.

And it's a super friendly biking town, as they had plaques that said the city was awarded as a "super friendly biking town." But some of the people on bikes were a bit surly and pushy, as if they had more rights to the sidewalks than people on foot. But I saw a bike that would have been welcome on the Pioneer Trail. A big basket sat in front of the bike, and in the big basket was a sleeping baby in a car seat. Western ho!

One of the very first things most Boiseans I know like to brag about in their town is the green belt trail that runs along the Boise River (which runs through the middle of Boise), and rightfully so. The trail is paved and runs for a good 10 miles on either side of the river. Many iron bridges run across the river, and unique parks are dotted all along it. One such park was the Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, that had quotes engraved on a cement wall from leaders around the world. They even included a quote from President Gordon B. Hinckley.

The girls at the Anne Frank Memorial:

The girls at one of the walking bridges over the Boise River:

Much of the run during the 70.3 race took place along the river trail, with a long finish shoot up 8th Street. People lined the entire finish shoot, which made the race quite magical. It was probably one of the best triathlon races I've ever seen.

We stayed in the Owyhee Plaza on Main and 11th Street. The girls were great troopers, as the race was rained on from start to almost finish. And it wasn't a little Northwestern sprinkle: it was desert rain that comes down in buckets. We came equipped with rain panchos, towels, and blankets. And making a quick stop into Coldstone also helped brighten their mood.

Another thing I loved about Boise, and most Idahoans I think can relate, is that the street leading to the capital is lined with little plaques from all the different counties. Idahoans KNOW their counties. A little county mark is on each license plate, and in 4th grade, all Idahoans are taught a little rap to help them memorize each of the county names. "Ada is the first with our capital town. Adam's seven devils go straight up and down. Then 10 counties that start with B: Bannock, Barelake, Bennewah, three. Bingham, Blaine, Boise, Bonner, Bountiful, Boundary, Butte make 10..." Sorry for any spelling mistakes; my mind just remembers the rhyme not how to spell. Also unique to Boise is that many of the streets are named after other cities and famous Idahoans. My friend Kara lives close to Malad street. It's like a big welcome mat for Idahoans. I'm sorry if this all sounds boastful: Idahoans are terribly proud of their state. Perhaps you can't possibly understand why, but believe me, those who know, know.

It reminds me of a sister-in-law who was very nervous about moving to Idaho after her husband finished his residency. She'd say to me, "I'm sure it will be fine, but it's ... Idaho, you know?" Uh, I don't know. I think she was trying to say that being from Idaho is like being from Hicktown U.S.A. Kara would have me encourage you to keep believing that notion. My sister-in-law later changed her tune after living there for five years. Like a Smiths tune: you learn to love it, and then you can't get it out of your system.

Lilia proudly holding up her "Beef" sign she made for Dad. The race was sponsored by the Beef Council, and they had Beef girls passing around signs to make and samples of beef jerky.

Kulani and the girls before the race waiting for the bus to take him up to Lucky Peak Resorvoir:

Girls exhausted in the van:


Leo and Jill said...

I totally remember the county song still to this day. I think that I have sung it so many times Leo might even know it!!!

Bud Greenwood said...

Lovin the 'butt rocker' reference

MarySquare said...

Hans knows the county song too.

There are several girls from Idaho here and a couple of weeks ago we had an Idaho party. Every part of the southern part of the state was represented, Boise, Buhl, Burley, Pocatello, Rexburg. We had Idaho trivia and Idaho themed treats. We even ended the evening by singing the state song. Though, I came to find out, not everyone was taught the county song. Maybe Mrs. Jensen was special in that she just was extra good in instilling the Idaho love in the 4th graders. "Celebrate Idaho she's a century old..."

Amo said...

Sadly, back in my day we were not taught the county song. Maybe it did not exist then. I'm still jealous all of you know which B is which on the license plates!

Anonymous said...

Boise is great on so many levels but just an fyi from someone who has visited boise and portland numerous times this year...boise's nightlife pales in comparison to portland. To simply put it I was amazed. Portland being the indie music capital of the US, home to 28 micro-breweries, having the fourth largest influx of college educated 20-something young professionals in the US and exstensive light rail and street cars--just to name a few--make for a funky urban vibe. Example: this past july the comic dave chappelle was in town and decided to do an impromptu show at 1am in pioneer courthouse square....5000 people showed up. At 1am on a tuesday night. He expected maybe a hundred. Oh and on the contrary downtown portland is VERY compact with narrow streets and small blocks. Its been voted one of the most walkable downtowns for years.

Wow, lol sorry for the essay but I just got back from my last trip there and love it to bits. But Montana is home and I wouldn't trade my peace and quiet for the world :)

Morkthefied said...

Thanks, anonymous writer at 1:30 in the morning. A person after my own heart! The part about Boise beating Portland and SLC's nightlife has had me reemed by many of my friends. I should excise it from the post. But my thinking was thusly:

When Kulani spent his summers in Portland, we'd hang out downtown until about 11:00 at night every weekend. It was hopping, but I never remember lines of people waiting to get into establishments. Perhaps that happened later in the night in Portland, and we were just too "Mormon" and missed it (I put Mormon in quotes because we are indeed Mormon). And maybe it was also because it was summer--not as many students. And yes, Portland is compact, but is it more compact than Boise? More compact than SLC, I'll give you that.

Dave Chappelle in downtown Portland? What? Kulani will be sooooo sad he missed that!

Mandi Ulrich said...

I too am from Heyburn, ID! Born in Burley, raised in Heyburn and now live in Rupert. LOL, I didn't get out of my city very far but that's ok because I love it!! I too remember parts of the counties song but I sure can say all 50 states pretty darn fast thanks to the celebrating Idaho program :-) Too bad my kids have yet to learn these songs though.