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Pocatello, Mocatello, Potatoes & Mo — Wi-Fi Idaho Blogging

April 2nd, 2018 · Tags:Uncategorized

Blogger’s Rendering

It is so unusual that two of my favorite bands are so polarized and so different and yet, I love them both … Over the years, I have seen numerous examples of one of these band trashing the other and scoffing because they used the same producer despite the different genres they represent. Well … I love them both for different reasons … Blue Öyster Cult for its heady, bizarre sense of humor and musicianship — “Joan Crawford has risen from the grave …” And The Clash … well, for being The Clash — should I stay (and justify that with an explanation) or should I go?

Why just the other night, I watched a documentary about Paul Weller, — British solo artist and former front man of The Jam and Style Council — in which he made a snide remark about BÖC. What’s up with that? … well it figures, since everyone credits The Clash for influencing The Jam.

I digress …

What’s this got to do with today’s topic — Idaho? Well, I’ll tell you. One of these favorite bands was plastered all over the side of the road everywhere I went in Idaho. No, not from a car jam while under the influence … “plastered” as in its group photo was all over the place on billboards. Yes! Blue Öyster Cult has arrived. The band is scheduled to play a mid-April date at the Fort Hall Casino north of Pocatello, Idaho — which would be several weeks after I left. Who knows, had I hung around, I might have worn a gas mask and attended the show in an almost sure-to-be-smokey casino. The smokey haze would probably create a nice effect, complementing the laser show during “Godzilla.”

Mostly it is the musical prowess and clever arrangements I like in the Blue Öyster Cult catalog, but there is also a special reason. In the beginning of this blog, guitarist/vocalist Buck Dharma gave an interview. Furthermore, since that time he and I have been business connections on LinkedIn — you know, the serious business networking site. Ha … I take much joy from having a rock star for a business-not-social contact. Sadly, I never made a selfie with the BÖC billboards.

All The World’s An Oyster … Blue Öyster Cult Embraces Cowbell, Etc.

I digress …

So … to wrap up the Pocatello visit. What a beautiful place in a high-desert/mountainous sense. The town is surrounded by decent mountains and there are sizable peaks visible in the distance … and the place is only a hop/skip/jump from the famous Snake River … the river that proved to be Evel Knievel’s nemesis when he unsuccessfully attempted to fly a rocket cycle over that chasm.

Evel Jumps Snake River

More important than the scenery and the weather, was the calendar during the visit. “The Sweet 16” NCAA Men’s Basketball playoffs were in full swing, and I was pretty excited because my team — Texas Tech — was in the thick of things. I hadn’t watched much basketball in 20 years or so, but this year, I overindulged. And I could tell it was having a strange effect on me. Every time I turned around, it seemed I was throwing away some water bottle, or paper-wadded memo or gum or whatever … and I was “air dribbling” the item, giving a headfake, and shooting the object into the trash can. Ha … reliving the “glory days” one piece of recyclable waste at a time.


Then I noticed a second thing. I was making everything … I was on fire … in the zone … I couldn’t miss. If I “shot” from 20 yards away, the paperwad found the center of the target. Water bottles were defying all known properties of aerodynamics and wind resistance, and twirling in the air … and dropping in dead center. I couldn’t miss. “Silly,” I thought to myself. Then one night while lying in bed, after turning off the sports channel, I finished a bottle of water. I grabbed the featherweight plastic bottle by the neck and threw it hard and high across the room, an impressive arc in the general direction of the trash can. The bottle hit the lip of the can, bounced up high and landed on the desk nearby … and then it spun a second, rolled off the edge of the desk, fell down toward the trash can, again hitting the rim of the can … and then it dropped in.

I have seen the same thing happen once in all of my basketball diary days — for real — when a young Randy Roark (my teammate) was in the zone during a road game in Hart, Texas. He took a shot that bounced high off the rim, hit the top of the backboard, rolled on the edge of the glass, dropped off the front side of the backboard, hit the rim again, bounced against the backboard … and went in. Randy was in the zone that night (even if he didn’t “call ‘glass.’”) I digress …

Yes … I was in the zone this time. So naturally, I assumed this was an omen that my team was supposed to win the NCAA Tournament this year. Well, the team made it to the Elite Eight, but the referees, or whoever picks the team that is supposed to win games had ruled against Texas Tech. I digress …

Back to blogging on location … In Idaho, there were only a couple of days for me to explore. Day one, I rushed to what appeared to be the most interesting attraction in the area — Craters Of The Moon — a national monument celebrating the other-worldly terrain created by lava flows a handful of millennia before. I was so intrigued. Purportedly, NASA has used this place as a site to test Mars rovers and the like. Travel tip: call ahead to see if it is open, before you drive a couple of hours. It wasn’t … the park ranger said the roads inside the park were closed by snow. But he invited me to hike on in, through the snow, to the nearest lava flow, which was covered with snow. Pass.


Craters Of The Moon


Another day, I drove to a trailhead up above the town of Pocatello, which included a driveby on the dirt road beside the women’s prison. Ha … I laughed about the signs warning me not to pick up any women walking alongside the road in that neck of the woods. I saw the saddest thing behind the barbed wire crowned fences. The basketball goal for the inmates looked like the cheapest pole and backboard available at some discount sporting goods store. I mean … a crappy, plastic goal is just cruel and unusual punishment in my books. I waved at what must have been two “trustees” who were hanging out by themselves behind one of the small storage buildings, with no one else in sight … hmmm …

My quest for coffeeshops in Pocatello began on day one, just after checking into the Hampton Inn. Ha … best name in town went to a drive-in called MocaTello … pity I don’t do drive-ins. From the hotel staff, I had a lead on a place called CoHo. So, my first free afternoon — a Sunday — I zipped on over by Idaho State University. But the shop was closed … and therefore forgotten.

I found 2.5 Starbucks locations, counting the pseudo-bux in the neighborhood grocery store. The other two were legit, but just okay. One lacked any comfortable chairs, and the other lacked any customers for people watching. Unimpressed. The Wi-Fi was better than most of the hotspots I find in Starbucks these days, for the record.

Then after several jaunts, I found a little place called College Market. Surely it was a coffee shop, since it had a few cars parked outside on a Saturday morning. Ha … there were a few parking spots available, however, they were reserved for “compact cars.” I assumed the Chevy Suburban wasn’t down to those standards, so it took a minute to find a place … But College Market, at 8th & Clark (yes as in the explorer) was worth it. They whipped up a frappuccino-like drink on one visit and a hot coffee on another. I liked both. AND … yes! … College Market had excellent Wi-Fi and easy chairs. A minor deduction on the score though. One point penalty because they close so darned early — six pings.

Another afternoon, the troops were turned loose early for the day, and a friend and I headed to what we hoped would be the definitive Idaho experience — The Idaho Potato Museum. Calling ahead, we were encouraged that the museum was supposed to be open until 7 p.m. (That didn’t sound right, but my co-pilot assured me …) Well, I am going to blame the person on the phone at the museum. In fact, the potato exhibits actually close at 5 p.m. Naturally, we pulled up beside the giant fiberglas potato (crowned with a dollop of fiberglas butter and/or fiberglas sour cream) at 4:55 p.m. It was not looking good. The doors were locked. So we peeked inside to try to catch a glimpse of potato greatness. Ha! There was a woman still inside, and eventually she saw us and opened the door. But she wouldn’t let us in. I mentioned that I am a journalist, but this didn’t matter. “No potato soup for you!” (The museum received no score on the PingWi-Fi meter, and the staff member received poor marks in media relations … I mean … how did she NOT know there are some very important, thought-leaders in the Ping blog’s 30 readers???



So … I have blogged several times about Idaho, but I still haven’t seen the Potato Museum in Blackfoot, Idaho. One can only wonder what treasures are inside. Are there lots of Irish artifacts? Are there Devo spud collars? Is there a special section dedicated to The B-52s and their new wave hit “Private Idaho?” Is hot potato just a game or a time honored ritual? We may never know.

Devo Spud Collars

By the way, PingWi-Fi blog and all was in Idaho for what I like to call “The Dirty Gig.” (Hard to say which is the “day-time job.”) This time the clean-up job consisted of a crew of technicians cleaning machines and computer controls at a food processing/packaging/shipping plant. My team was small, and we had little interaction with the crews of laborers who were there cleaning the walls of the facility. I did take time out, however, to point out a sign to the non-English-speaking workers I met. I explained to them that one particular machine — a giant, industrial-strength dough mixer — could be deadly. So of course, I added they should never clean any machine if it had power. (None were powered up … but safety first and all that …) To emphasize my point, I directed their attention toward the small warning sign, with one of those funny stick figures, who had ran afoul with the machinery. In my best broken Spanish, I told them … “Don’t let this happen to you. DO NOT do this dance with death!” Ha … can avoiding tragedy be humorous too? I digress …


No, No Baila Con Muerte!


On a second Sunday excursion, I headed northeast to an area with more active volcanic activity … or at least geothermal activity … the healing waters of Lava Hot Springs, Idaho. Lava Hot Springs is definitely “commercial” but wonderful all the same. There’s hot steam with a pool temp. for every taste … 102, 105, 112 … It seemed prudent, so I started at the “luke warmest” and proceeded up the thermometer cautiously … In the last pool, it’s definitely a bit more difficult to linger … What a great facility! …


Soaking in the steamy water, leaning back … watching remnants of snow falling on the hot water, and the rugged cliffs, directly above.  Pretty peaceful.


Hot Lava Springs

But, I was a little shocked at the unfriendliness of the staff. It was a Sunday morning … who knows, perhaps they were nursing a hangover, and/or mad because they were not nursing the cigarette of their dreams. I went in and enjoyed anyway … even if I was the only happy person there. Eventually others filed in.

Ha … I got out of the hottest pool to go grab my iPhone for a quick photo or two, and that was when I learned there is a sharp edge somewhere inside the locker room. Well, I found out a few seconds later, as I returned to the pool, looked at my hand and saw blood gushing. Crud, I couldn’t get back in the water, although I am sure there was a little bit of everything else boiling in the water.

“We’ve got a bleeder!,” I imagined some other bather announcing in horror …



I wrapped the finger with a towel and dressed, and went and asked for a bandage at the front desk. They couldn’t care less that I had a minor injury at their facility. It wasn’t a big deal, but in my customer experience, I always tended to be attentive if someone injured themselves in my workplace. The attendant kind of threw the bandage at me and another seemed as if I were putting her out when I asked to throw the wrapper in the hidden garbage can. But I understand, it was rush hour … two or three people were waiting to pay. The one and only customer-oriented person I encountered at the hot springs was in the adjoining gift shop. It was so obvious she liked her job, when she literally sang out “one, two …” and so on as she counted change for my $20 bill. Unfortunately, no Wi-Fi hotspot at the hotsprings. Five pings of varying temperatures.


Surrounding the piping hot pools, a great small town with a ski-bum, film-festival feel to the place … a few restaurants and bars, museums … the usual on one long, main street.

Lava Hot Springs




Previously, on the same day I struck out at The Craters Of The Moon, I also turned off the highway when I saw signs promoting the oldest nuclear power plant. “Now there’s a collectable t-shirt,” I thought. Well, the world’s oldest nuclear power plant museum and gift shop was also closed. But I poked around anyway to see if I could take home some souvenir radiation.

Nuclear Reactors

The very last day in town, I finally found what I was looking for in a coffee shop. CoHo was open this time! What a funky little place … like a bachelor pad or college apartment that is designed to generate revenue. I’m just saying, the place was empty, and some of the loud, off-color conversations by the staff were a bit offensive … but they were nice when they visited with me … So I stayed for a bit. I really liked the decor and the Wi-Fi … there was an old, hand-me-down, circular/modular couch, a Grand Funk album sleeve on the wall, and music coming from an old-but-beautifully crisp/clear-sounding set of Klipsch speakers — some of the very best high-end speakers back in the day.



Interesting, but sad … CoHo offers boba tea — on the menu anyway — but they were sold out of the tapioca-ball concoction on this day, which kind of ruins the whole boba thing. Good Wi-Fi though — five pings!

During my very last hours in town, I scored the best. The Bru House — where I met the nicest, smiley barista I encountered in Pocatello. The place has quite an eclectic vibe — Native American art juxtaposed with found objects and contemporary art. The cafe has a creative layout, with side rooms, funky hand-crafted table tops, creative booths … just fun. Good Wi-Fi too, although the smiling barista said it had been acting up. I saw no acting. It was solid — six pings!

Know what I sayin?