Tag Archive | Boise Road Trip

Boise Roadtrip: The World Center for Birds of Prey

After visiting the Old Idaho Penitentiary with me the day before, it was Jon’s turn to choose a touristy activity.  Of course, he hadn’t really done any research ahead of time, so he is lucky that we drove past an informational road sign on our way into Boise, stating that the World Center for Birds of Prey was nearby.  That got him curious enough to look it up online and declare that that’s what he was interested in seeing.

The center is a couple miles outside of town, a pleasant drive through strip malls, urban sprawl, and then agricultural land.  It is located at the top of a hill, and it overlooks the valley below, which is designated as a wildlife preserve.  The World Center for Birds of Prey was founded by the Peregrine Fund, as a conservation and education center for… well, duh… birds of prey.  I had heard of the Peregrine Fund before, but had never really thought about what their mission is – I learned that they are actually a group dedicated to the ancient sport of falconry.  That’s right – the Peregrine Fund is a sportsman association for hunters who use falcons to kill other birds – including other birds of prey.

At the center, they are pretty candid about this sordid connection and explain that conservation is part of their mission, because they need the prey birds to remain at healthy numbers in order to be able to continue their sport.  That got me thinking – I really don’t agree with the concept of sport hunting (using birds or otherwise) but I suppose they do have a point.

Their first conservation mission began in 1970, to save the Peregrine Falcon from extinction – the Peregrines and other birds of prey had become threatened due to the agricultural pesticide DDT, which causes birds to lay eggs with thin shells.  The breeding program and legislation to ban DDT were so successful that the Peregrine Falcon was removed from the Endangered Species list in 1999.

We bought tickets (AAA got us a discount) and listened to a kind, older gentleman give the intro before heading through the double doors back outside into a fenced area.  The man explained that the birds are not able to be released into the wild for various reasons; either they have been injured or because they are too imprinted on humans.  The center doesn’t take in wild birds though; because they are a breeding center for critically endangered birds, they cannot afford to risk diseases getting into the center.

Once we stepped outside, we were in a sunny courtyard with several benches and natural landscaping.  Around the edges of the courtyard, there were several gorgeous birds on perches in enclosures.  The center has two Bateleur Eagles, native to Africa, who were raised from birth by humans and are imprinted.  They were hatched in 1966 and 1968 – making them 45 and 47 years old!

Bateleur Eagle - Native to Africa

Bateleur Eagle – Native to Africa

I had never seen a Bateleur Eagle before (nor had I even heard of them), and I was struck by how beautiful they are.  They are considered medium sized eagles, but they seemed large to me – and they are all black with red orange feet and faces.  Also on display were a Bald Eagle, an Ornate Hawk Eagle (native to South America), and a Peregrine Falcon.

461

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

In another enclosure, the center has three California Condors, two adults and a juvenile.  The story of the California Condor is an interesting one.  Over the last hundred years, the condor population declined significantly due to habitat loss, hunting and lead poisoning because Condors eat the carcasses of animals discarded by hunters.  The shot used to kill other animals often contains lead, and the pellets were ingested by the Condors as they were feeding on the carcass.  Add to that the fact that Condors only raise one chick every other year – although they will hatch a second egg in a year if something happens to the first egg.

As a result, the wild population plummeted to 22 – that’s right – there were only 22 California Condors remaining in the world in 1982.  The drastic decision was made  to capture all of the remaining Condors and begin breeding them in captivity – the capture was completed in 1987.  The World Center for Birds of Prey has 20 breeding pairs of Condors – and they have released several Condors near the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  To date this year (as of June when we were there) the center had hatched 14 eggs!

California Condor Adult - Native to California and Arizona

California Condor Adult – Native to California and Arizona

The program is not without some controversy, but there is no way to deny that it has had success.  Currently, there are 226 Condors in the wild and another 179 in captivity.  And they are beautiful to see – these birds have the largest wingspan of any North American bird, about 9.5 feet!  They eat carrion and have the characteristic bald head of a vulture, and always worth mentioning, they poop on their feet to keep cool in the hot desert sun.  How’s that for making good use of your resources?!  In their enclosure, they have enough room to do a bit of flying, although in the wild they will soar at altitudes of up to 15,000 feet, looking for their next meal.  Amazing!

After seeing the birds outside, we went inside, where there is a small museum and some other birds.  The museum contains exhibits on falconry, the captive breeding program and specimens of many bird of prey, ranging from the very small to the very large.  It is disconcerting to see dead animals preserved, but it does allow you to compare the different birds to each other to see differences in size and appearance.

Orange Breasted Falcon - Range from Southern Mexico to Argentina

Orange Breasted Falcon – Range from Southern Mexico to Argentina

Inside, we saw:

  • Gyrfalcons – native to the Arctic and threatened by global warming
  • Eurasian Eagle Owl – the largest of the tufted owls – native to Northern and Southern Europe
  • Turkey Vulture – native to the Americas and the Caribbean
  • Orange Breasted Falcon – native from Southern Mexico to Northern Argentina
  • Aplomado Falcons – Endangered – native from the Southern United States to Southern Mexico
Eurasian Eagle Owl - Native to Northern and Southern Europe

Eurasian Eagle Owl – Native to Northern and Southern Europe

The Center also breeds Aplomado Falcons – in 2012 their 24 breeding pairs hatched 74 chicks!  These falcons are released in Texas and New Mexico to repopulate areas where the birds had not been seen since the 1950s.  During our visit, they had demonstrations of various birds they care for – we watched one with a Western Screech Owl.  That little guy was super cute!  It was an opportunity to see the bird up close and to hear a bit about what they eat and how they live.  I did kind of want to take him home though!

251 (2)

I really enjoyed our visit and learned a lot – if you are in the area, you should definitely go.  It is well worth the time.

Boise Roadtrip: Old Idaho Penitentiary

After I finished cleaning out shopping at Hastings, it was time for some touristing.  The first place on my must-see agenda was the Old Idaho Penitentiary.  I’m not sure why I have a fascination with old prisons – perhaps it is because I likely will never see the inside of a new one (knock on wood) because I lead a pretty boring, plain-vanilla life (which I’m totally fine with by the way).  And my family doesn’t really have any run-ins with the law either, so I’ve never had occasion to visit anyone in prison either (again, I am not expressing any kind of regret for not having had this experience).

But the reviews describe Old Idaho Penitentiary as better than Alcatraz, so I had to find out.  The Old Idaho Penitentiary was built in 1870 and housed prisoners for an astounding 101 years – from 1872 to 1973.  The site was chosen because of its proximity to the growing Boise area, and the cheap building material – sandstone.  The prison began with a single cell block, and most of the buildings were built by inmate labor.  It eventually grew to an entire compound with over a dozen buildings.

The New Cellhouse - Built 1889

The New Cellhouse – Built 1889

From the beginning until Idaho became a state, the prison was operated by the Federal Government.  This was the rough and tumble West, so many of the prisoners were hardened criminals, there for murder, assault, horse thieving, and a host of other crimes.  In its history, the “Old Pen”, as it was affectionately known by the locals held over 13,000 prisoners, with a maximum occupancy of 600 at one time.  The prison was known for being a pretty harsh environment; if you have ever been to Boise you know that the summers are hot and the winters are very cold.  The sandstone provided shelter, but didn’t keep you warm…

In the early years, women were housed with men, but after one female inmate told the Warden she was pregnant (I’m sure she was just trying to stay warm in the winter), they figured they had better get cracking on a separate cell block for women.  Women were separated from the men in 1906, and a new building was built for them in 1920.  Women on the frontier were often as tough as the men – on infamous lady prisoner, Lyda Southard, became known as Lady Bluebeard, because she was convicted of murdering several of her husbands to collect on life insurance policies.  Another lady was incarcerated there when she drove her wagon by the house of her husband’s mistress and tried to kill her.  Is is one of history’s first drive-by shootings?

The Women's Ward - Established 1906 - This Building Built in 1920

The Women’s Ward – Established 1906 – This Building Built in 1920

The prison did have a gallows, and over the 101 years, ten prisoners were executed there.  The first nine were carried out in the rose garden, which was planted there in order to give the inmates some worthwhile pursuits.  Interestingly, the rose garden was a test garden for the Jackson and Perkins Company.  If you have any Tropicana roses in your yard, first sold in 1962, they were tested here at the same site where prisoners were executed.  That’s a little creepy!  The roses were kept well trimmed so inmates couldn’t hide among the shrubbery and use the bushes to help them escape.

Old Penitentiary Rose - Where Executions Were Carried Out Early On

Old Penitentiary Rose Garden – Where Executions Were Carried Out Early On

Buildings were added over the years to house the growing number of prisoners and make the prison more modern – the original cell block from the days of the territorial prison was converted to a chapel in the 1930s.  Three cell blocks were added in 1899, another in 1952 and the last building was built in 1954.  The 1899 buildings were still not someplace I would want to stay; the only facilities were a bucket that was stored in the ventilation area behind the cells.

Cellhouse 2 - Built 1899

Cellhouse 2 – Built 1899

A Row of Cells in Cellhouse 2 - Built 1899

A Row of Cells in Cellhouse 2 – Built 1899

The 1954 building was the maximum security prison, it had its own walled recreation area and these prisoners were not allowed to mingle with the general population.  It was inside this building where the final execution was carried out.  Raymond Snowden was known as Idaho’s Jack the Ripper, due to the way he brutally murdered a young woman by stabbing her repeatedly in 1956.  Snowden was executed in 1957 in the Maximum Security Building.  The gallows have been removed, but the “Drop Room” is still there along with the mechanism for opening up the floor.  Not a pleasant thought.

Solitary Confinement - These Cells Are About 2 Feet Wide and 6 Feet Long

Solitary Confinement – These Cells Are About 2 Feet Wide and 6 Feet Long

Apparently, there are rumors that the “Old Pen” is haunted, and I can see why.  13,000 angry, suffering men and women, 10 executions, and likely countless other deaths, from violence and disease might leave some ghosts who have trouble moving on.  Apparently visitors have seen an inmate tending the rose garden, and have experienced being shoved, along with the sounds of voices and heavy footsteps in the various buildings.  The prison has been investigated by Ghost Adventures.

We loved our visit – it was really interesting to see the progression of the buildings over the years.

We Went to Antiques Roadshow!

Finally, the day had arrived!  It was the morning of Antiques Roadshow!  I had literally been waiting for years for this day! (Yeah, get it out… If you must say to yourself what a huge nerd I am, so be it!  I can take it – I know I’m a nerd.)

We had the 8 am time slot and the instructions said to arrive at the venue a half hour before your scheduled time.  That would be 7:30 am.  We ate breakfast and headed out, arriving in plenty of time (Of course!  Because we had made sure we knew how to get there the day before!)  We parked and walked into the expo center, getting mentally prepared for “The Long Wait…”  I even brought snacks…  Jon is not very patient about crowds and lines, so I made sure to prep him on the fact that there would be crowds and there would be lines, and I explained that he had decided he wanted to go, so I had better not hear any complaining….

Other people were walking in too, and as we passed several of them, we checked out their items.  I can’t help it – I walk fast – I learned from my father who has much longer legs than I do.  I had to keep up with dad or I might have gotten singled out by the lions as the weak gazelle.  Ok, maybe it’s not as dramatic as all that – I just walk fast.  We saw all sorts of neat things – an antique chair, vases, a metal model car in a big glass case, but of course, nothing would be as valuable as my items!

We Were Some of the Younger People There!

We Were Some of the Younger People There!

We got to the entrance and they tore our tickets and let us in to the staging area…  The first room was set up with a huge snaking queue line.  There are signs indicating the entrance time, and then you snake back and forth until you get to the beginning of the line.  Since it was still early in the morning, the line really hadn’t gotten very long yet…  So far, so good.

At the beginning of that first line, we found several volunteers who are there do to a preliminary assessment of your items.  The appraisal area is divided out by categories and the volunteers take a quick look at your items and assign them to categories.  We showed the gal our artist proof print (Posters and Prints), my bracelet (Jewelry), my great grandmother’s glass cosmetic jar with a silver lid (Silver), and my father-in-law’s small glass vase with the silver inlay (Silver).  Once we were assessed, another volunteer took us into the main room.  They don’t allow any photos inside the main area, so you will just have to imagine it for yourselves (hopefully I can do justice with a verbal explanation…

Jon Practicing Patience - Luckily the Line Wasn't Long (You can see by the barriers behind him what it might have been like later in the day...)

Jon Practicing Patience – Luckily the Line Wasn’t Long
(You can see by the barriers behind him what it might have been like later in the day…)

When you enter, you see a big circle in the center of the room with the Antiques Roadshow royal blue curtains hung all around.  There are spaces between each curtain and the category lines begin in this area.  At that point, you pick a line and wait until a volunteer comes to collect you.  Then you are in the main appraisal area.  The appraisal tables are set up around the perimeter of the circle, and the filming area is set up in the middle.  There are also big flat screen TVs hung up around the center area to give you a good view of any filming that is going on in the filming area while you wait.  The volunteer who collected you at the category line drops you off to wait in another short line at the appraisal table.  There wasn’t much of a wait in the line we were in, so before we knew it, it was time for an appraisal!

The appraisals are brief (I wasn’t really expecting anything different) – if the appraiser doesn’t know the manufacturer or anything about your item, they aren’t going to do much research as you stand there.  We went to the silver category first.  The appraiser let me know that my great grandmother’s cosmetic jar isn’t worth that much, other than the sentimental value, but that it was made in the 1890s by an American manufacturer (he couldn’t say which one).  He also explained that it would have once been part of a set (long ago lost, I assume, since I was only given the one jar).

Next he took a look at Jon’s dad’s “Louis XIV” vase (as he likes to call it); the one he picked up for a steal at the Goodwill where he worked in the 1960s.  The appraiser didn’t know who made it, but he did know it was American made, not French, turn of the last century (1890-1910), not Louis XIV period, and not even a vase at all.  It is actually a perfume bottle that is missing its original stopper.  Suddenly it all made sense why it was such a small vase!  Jon’s parents aren’t going to be striking it rich from the proceeds of the sale…

For my silver and scrimshaw bracelet we had to get in a new category line.  There wasn’t much of a wait in this line either, so before we knew it, we were back at another appraisal table!  The jewelry appraiser was very pleased with my bracelet, although he didn’t know the artist.  My mom had gotten the bracelet in the early 1990s, back when they had classified ads on the radio.  She got it from a woman, and believed that it had been made locally in the 1970s.  The appraiser said what he saw in the piece matched up with the story my mother had been told.  It was made in the 1970s, from silver and mastodon ivory, and was most likely made in the Northwest.  He said there was a lot of that style of jewelry being made here at the time.  It won’t ensure our early retirement, but he appraised it at quite a bit more than my mom paid, so that made me happy.

Which left us standing in the line for posters and prints.  It made sense, considering we brought an art print, but when we got to the front of the line, the appraiser frowned and said he wouldn’t be able to tell us anything about our print.  Apparently posters and prints is more the concert or travel poster variety.  He pointed us over to tribal art, so we got in line over there (we didn’t have to go back and stand in another category line).

And tribal art was where it was at.  We brought in a 1960s print by a woman artist living and working in Alaska.  The theme show of the print shows strong women and a whale; very forward for the early 60s.  The man at the table lit up when he saw our print.  He took a look at it, and explained that it was very unusual for art to show women in such strong roles during the time period.  Our artist proof is numbered, and he explained that it isn’t common for artist proofs to show a run number, and a run of only 5 (ours is number 2) increased the value.  He let us know what he would value it at now, and told us it will certainly increase because of the scene depicted.  We were pleased with the information that he gave us.

All in all, it was a great experience.  We learned a little more about all of items and everything is worth more than we paid for it!  All of the appraisers were very friendly, and treated us kindly even though our items certainly wouldn’t knock anybody’s socks off.  We didn’t ever feel like anybody was snooty or condescending and the other folks in line were all friendly and personable too.  To be honest though, we didn’t have much of an opportunity to stand around and chat with other Roadshow-goers, because the lines were short and moved so quickly!

In fact, the lines were so short, we were shocked at how quickly we were done!  Jon didn’t even have time to get grumpy about the crowds or the lines!  We were back in the car and on our way at 8:26 am!

The Rest of the Way to Boise!

After a relaxing sleep in Pendleton, Oregon, Jon and I got up so we could continue on our way to Boise.  Our hotel for the night, the Red Lion, didn’t include breakfast, so we headed downtown to find some quick and easy breakfast before getting on our way again.  But quick and easy it was not.  First of all, it was about 9:40 am when we got downtown, and we could only find one place open!  The coffee shop/cafe didn’t open until 10.  What?!  So we settled on the only open restaurant we could find – which seemed to have not seen a tourist since last year’s Pendleton Roundup.

The View Behind our Hotel in Pendleton, Oregon

The View Behind our Hotel in Pendleton, Oregon

We ordered breakfast – the 2 egg breakfast for Jon and a ham and egg bagel breakfast sandwich for me, and then we waited while they hatched the chickens to lay the eggs to collect the eggs to scramble them up.  It was the longest short-order cooking I have ever experienced!  And no, they weren’t busy.  There were a couple other tables in the place that already had their food, and while we were waiting one elderly lady came in to order her daily cup of tea…

After making our way ALL the way through the Pendleton Real Estate listing magazine (I swear – 10 more minutes and I might have made an offer on a second home just out of sheer boredom!), we finally got our breakfast, scarfed it down and got on the road.  Our route took us through miles of fairly desolate grazing lands filled with scrub brush and tumbleweeds.  Then we headed up into the Blue Mountains.

An Interesting Hotel in Pendleton, Oregon!

An Interesting Hotel in Pendleton, Oregon!

The Blue Mountains were the last large mountain range that the pioneers had to traverse before reaching their final destinations near what is now Walla Walla, Washington or the Willamette Valley, Oregon.  For many pioneers, who had been on the trail for months, reaching the west side of the pass was a welcome sight.  I-84 in many places follows the same route as US Route 30 and US Route 30S, which largely were built on the Oregon Trail.  The highest point on the highway is 4,193 feet, reminding us that this could be a completely different drive in the winter!

It was neat to see the beautiful mountains approaching in the distance; they really do look blue!  I know it has something to do with the atmosphere scattering blue light, but we still enjoyed pondering whether it was the type of trees or grasses on the mountains.

We made a pit-stop in Baker City, Oregon, a town of just under 10,000 residents located in the mountains.  It is named for Edward D. Baker, the only U.S. Senator killed in military combat.  He died leading a charge of U.S. Army soldiers in the battle of Ball’s Bluff, Virginia, during the Civil War.  We only stopped long enough to get gas and some snacks, but I would have loved to have more time there.  Baker City has a historic downtown with several historic buildings, many of them built between the late 1880’s and 1915.  It is also home to the National Historic Oregon Trail Interpretive Center, a museum of sorts offering exhibits, living history demonstrations, and four miles of interpretive trails.  There are still visible wagon ruts from the Oregon Trail on the site.  That will have to wait for another trip though…

We continued on our way and we stopped briefly at the Upper Perry Arch Bridge.  The bridge was designed by Conde B. McCullough, the first State Bridge Engineer for the State of Oregon.  The bridge was built in 1924, and restored in 2008.  It is located off the interstate, on the old U.S. 30, and crosses over the Grande Ronde River and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.  This section of U.S. 30 was bypassed in the 1960s when I-84 was constructed, but up until that time it was heavily used.  The bridge was constructed from concrete, with a total length of 312 feet and a main span of 134 feet.

The Upper Perry Arch Bridge - Built 1924 - Arch Bridge with Reinforced Concrete Deck Arch

The Upper Perry Arch Bridge – Built 1924 – Arch Bridge with Reinforced Concrete Deck Arch

It’s pretty amazing to think that this concrete bridge has been standing for 89 years, and even more amazing when you realize that this bridge now leads to a dead end.  That’s right, after the bypass, crossing over the bridge takes you to a dead end – transportation experts estimate that 10 cars per day use the bridge.  It’s a good thing that they completed the restoration by the time the economy collapsed – I’m not sure the State of Oregon could afford this kind of project now for such a little used bridge.  I found this bridge fascinating – we are capable of so many great things that we take for granted.

After a bit more time on the road, through largely agricultural areas, we finally made it to Boise and got checked into our hotel, a Residence Inn.  We had a room with a living room, separate bedroom and a kitchenette.  They even stock the room with complimentary popcorn (it doesn’t take much to make me happy)!  We were hungry, so we decided to get some sushi – considering the hot day we thought that would really hit the spot.  We hadn’t done any research, so we looked online and found Sushi Joy near downtown Boise.  Jon decided to try some low carb sushi rolls, rolled in cucumber instead of rice; he thought they were delicious (although they did seem a bit difficult to eat with chopsticks).  My dragon roll was very good too.  The service was fast and friendly too; I would certainly visit again!

We finished off our night watching some TV, something I rarely have much time for at home.  I went to bed with anticipation, because the next morning was our visit to Antiques Roadshow!