We are lucky to have friends who RV full-time and spend their summers just north of Boise. On Tuesday they came down and picked us up for a quick tour of the area. Always good to have locals take you on a tour of “their town”. We got to see the home of JR Simplot who actually founded an empire on raising potatoes and developed the technique for frozen potatoes. Next time you eat a French fry in a restaurant thank JR! Born in 1909 in Iowa and moved to Idaho the next year, he became one of the richest men in the US and at the time of his death in 2008 he was the oldest billionaire on the Forbes 400, and was estimated the year before to be worth over $3.6 billion. Built in 1970s, his home was donated in 2005 to the state of Idaho for the governor’s mansion but remains unoccupied as the current governor refuses to live there, having been married to Simplot’s daughter whom he divorced in 1992. The house is not hard to find as it is marked by a 200 ft tall flagpole and a 30×60 ft American flag (possibly the largest in Idaho) standing on top of the hill overlooking Boise. Sad thing is it takes over $170K a year to maintain the property and no one lives here. Just mowing this huge property on a hill is a big task! Click this link for an actual account by JR Simplot of his early years. http://idahoptv.org/productions/idahoportrait/about/simplot.html
We then drove down to the site of the old Idaho Penitentiary which is a beautiful stone structure and complex of several buildings built in 1870 from sandstone by inmate labor. It operated until 1973 and is now the location of beautiful gardens and tours through the buildings.
We then drove over to Caldwell and Kuna, also suburbs of Boise. They raise lots of corn, sugar beets, hay, alfalfa and mint there, all irrigated from the Boise River storage system. Why mint? They raise both spearmint and peppermint for the oil which is used in toothpaste, candies and pharmaceuticals worldwide. The weather here and the soils are perfect for this crop. One acre of mint yields 100 pounds of oil at about $18-25 a pound. Brush your teeth 2x a day and chew more gum to help these growers! We ended our day with supper at El Gallo Giro (The Fighting Rooster) which is a well known Mexican restaurant in Kuna. Great food and big crowds so if you come plan to wait. Then we had a peppermint after our meal!
The next morning we drove back into Boise and ate breakfast at Goldy’s Breakfast Bistro on the corner of Main and Capital Sts. It is an institution in this part of the world since 1999 and tucked into a historic building on the side of the street. Listed by Bon Appetite Magazine as one of the Top 10 Breakfasts in America! Small inside with a tiny upstairs and tables placed carefully to allow pathway, the food is very good and Dawson Taylor coffee always hot. They serve Basque sausage and their location is near several Basque hotels and restaurants. An especially nice one is around the corner and really unique. It is called Leku Ona (Good Place) by its founder Jose Maria Artiach who immigrated to Idaho as a sheepherder from Basque country. It is actually a small hotel and restaurant with beautiful flowers outside. Basque Country is actually in northern Spain and France and many of the people there raise large herds of sheep while others are sailors, some of which helped Magellan sail around the world. Many of them came to America in the 1800s and became herders and cowboys since it did not require knowledge of English. Many are still working herds in Nevada, Idaho and Colorado.
Geothermal wells and systems are located under the streets in this part of Boise and one indicator are the manhole covers. This one is near Goldy’s. How about this? There are many thermal springs in Idaho and some are in the area near Atlanta up on the Middle Fork of the Boise River. Reportedly you can actually climb into them and sit away your sore muscles if you find one while hiking or skiing.