Day 178 – Catch Up

Hours of Daylight – 11:59

Another equinox has come and gone. The actual day of the equinox turned out to be simply gorgeous. Also it was a day where i had virtually nothing to do. No assignments were coming in from the students in Health Info 120, i’d caught up with the grading, i had no pressing changes from any of my loosely affiliated web clients, and i had a BMW 1200GS sitting the garage. There was only one thing to do: ride to Silver City.

Silver36Silver14Silver24Silver City, Idaho, was the center of the mining industry for many years. More than just a center of commerce it was a large piece of the engine that powered the continued westward expansion of this country. Silver City and the various mining companies operating there caused legislation to be passed, wars to be fought, entire ecosystems to be upended and fortunes to be won and lost.

An example of the reach of mining can be found along the Snake River, specifically the Swan Falls dam. A while ago, on another day where i found myself at loose ends, i rode the motorcyle down to the former agricultural center of Kuna, and there i found a sign pointing to the Swan Falls dam. I rode the 30 miles or so and found the dam; a small project when compared to the Brownlee, Oxbow, and Hells Canyon hydroprojects. What i didn’t know at that time was that the Swan Falls dam was constructed specifically to power Silver City. Well, not to power the town, but to power the mines. Specifically to power the compressors and the hoists.

Getting to Silver City is what i’ve come to define as "easy." You might
recall an earlier post where i described the rather intimidating sign
at the beginning of the 26 mile road to Silver City. Well, it turns out
the road is pretty good. I’d not want to try it in winter nor when it’s
wet, but on a nice sunny early fall day it was an easy ride in.
Ironically a couple of the roads in the town were worse.

Silver City proper is a bit hard to describe. The majority of the town is situated on solid rock, so foundations and plumbing was a bit of an issue. Outhouses were constructed over vaults cut into the rock. Lots of lime and other chemicals were used to breakdown the waste as it had nowhere to go once put into the ground. The only soft ground was where they put the cemetery.

The houses are mostly very small and placed pretty close together. There is the obligatory big white church on the high point overlooking the town, a Masonic Hall, an Oddfellows Hall, a huge public school in the midst of a massive renovation, and a big old hotel/bar in need of a massive renovation. The owner of the hotel is slowly doing the needed renovations, but it’s a big undertaking. He’s added some new beams for added support and they’ve helped. "Used to be when you were walking across the upper floors and stopped the building would keep walking." He’s found some marvelous items in the hotel including an Edison Victrola in near mint condition.

However, I didn’t stay too long in Silver City. Frankly i felt a little weird, sort of like i was hanging out in somebody’s living room. It’s not like it’s a thriving tourist town with lots of gifty-shoppes and coffee emporiums. Being midweek there were only a handful of people around. Somebody was hammering nails somewhere. Given the severity of the winters i’m thinking Silver City is like Minnesota in that there are two seasons: Winter and road/home repair. In fact, i learned that nobody lives year round anymore. There is a caretaker, but he may not be back for this winter.

We’ll probably go back next year for the next annual "Silver City Open House" when all the owners who are so inclined open their homes to the general public for the day. The only thing to watch out for during that day is traffic on the one lane road!

Several days after my modest adventure in Silver City i found myself back at the local Fred Mayer buying some groceries. As i emerged from the store i heard a train whistle. Normally this isn’t a big deal since the train tracks run right behind the store and proceed two blocks back from my house. But this whistle was different…. something about this whistle caused me to hurry outside and turn toward the tracks. Imagine my surprise when a massive steam engine roared by!
Upsteam0005Upsteam0036Upsteam0037I didn’t do a very good job of capturing the sense of scale. This was a BIG engine. Even with my limited knowledge of functioning steam locomotives i recognized this one as significantly bigger than others i’ve seen. Sure enough it turns out this is the largest steam loco still in operation. Union Pacific sends it around on "heritage tours" and Boise is lucky to be one of the stops. Ironically there was a wedding slated for the Boise Depot on Sunday, the day the train was to be on public display. Seems the happy couple demanded they get the train out of their wedding. So the crew backed the train out of the depot and back across Peasley Road. The chief engineer kept prowling around saying "if we can’t go to their wedding then they can’t come to our steam engine." I purposely avoided going anywhere near the depot that day. Anybody who wouldn’t want such a magnificent thing to be part of the their wedding ceremony is nobody i would ever want to know. Neil Peart once said the saddest thing about our culture as we move forward is a pervasive lack of imagination. The folks running the wedding at the depot that day were a good example of that sentiment.