Idaho Falls ID

First up today…a little story about transition. Nope…not that whole gender transition thing…there are only 2 of those, they’re determined at conception by whatever DNA you have, and you can’t change the one you are. We’re talking about RVing transition…and nope again, not ours but some friends.

We’ve got two very good friends that we met RVing…way back when we first attended Howard and Linda Payne’s educational rally back in 2011 we met these folks and after we bought our New Horizons we asked them some questions as they’ve decades of RV experience…then lo and behold they bought themselves a New Horizons too…they may have seen ours and it gave them an idea or maybe not (probably the latter…they’re pretty good about researching things on their own and making up their own minds). A few years later we both bought RAM 5500HD trucks with Classy Chassis hauler beds with ours being delivered 4 months or so later than theirs. We’ve seen them at multiple New Horizons rallies, 2 of Howard and Linda Payne’s rallies, and went to Alaska with them as well as the Albuquerque Balloon Festival. They’ve even visited us down in Fort Myers during the winter and we’ve been to their house as well…and we’ve fixed many a problem on various rigs at the various rallies we’ve been to. They’re not full timers…still owning a sticks and bricks house…but for the past few years have been on the road 4 or so months a year on fairly extended trips. They’re definitely not weekenders…we’ve always called them part time full timers because when they’re on the road it’s not just a week or two…but a more extended period which although it isn’t 12 months a year in the RV it’s extended enough so the lifestyle they follow on the road is similar to what a lot of full timers do.

Anyway…they’ve sold both their New Horizons and their RAM 5500HD…both to friends that we both have known for years. They’re not sure exactly what the transition will entail…whatever is to follow hasn’t  been fully determined. But they’re happy, the new owners of their rig and truck are happy, and we’re happy for them as well…and that’s pretty much all that counts.

That got us sort of thinking about our own eventual transition…when and to what is still undetermined so don’t read any more into this than random speculation. Neil’s guess is that we’ll stop full timing before we get to as old as our friends are now…so that’s probably 7 or so more years on the outside. It could be as little as 2…as we’ve got the next two summers at least cocktail napkin planned out…and obviously it depends on our continuing good health. How many more than 2…who knows? We know we still want to visit some other places besides the US of A…there are lots of places and things we want to see that have water between us and them so we’ll have to get on an airplane to get there…and we want to do that before the inevitable body decline that we all get eventually. Connie mostly agrees…he thinks…with him on general plan but I don’t think she’s yet tried to assign any numbers to it. It could be that we eventually get a smaller RV and tow vehicle as there are places we would like to go park that our New Horizons just won’t fit…how that fits into the time available after we schedule 2 or 3 or whatever international trips every year and have some time at home in whatever we live in next…well all of that is still under what we used to call “dynamic observation” back in the Navy days.

So…enough of that. I just wanted to acknowledge our treasured friendship with the folks I talked about above and then that segued into their transition and thence into ours…another of those gosh darned ratholes I’m always looking for.

Anyways…after our 3 night stay in Boise…we headed out early Sunday morning for the 250 mile trip over to Idaho Falls. It was 2 lane highway almost the whole way with a few spots on some of the grades having a passing lane…some curves but by and large the curves were not really slow down curves so we pretty much stayed at our normal 64 mph except on the uphill grades and there were plenty of spots for faster traffic on the 70 mph limit road to pass.

Neither Connie or Neil felt very well in the morning…so we skipped lunch and just grazed on some snacks…arriving with just 3 stops around 1500 at Snake River RV Campground in Idaho Falls where we quickly got pulled in and setup in a long gravel pull through site R10. 

Nobody felt like going out for dinner even though it was a travel day…so Neil just baked a couple of shepherd’s pies we picked up from Walmart a couple of grocery trips ago…we had never seen them before and like the dish so gave them a try. Mighty tasty…needed a little salt on the taters on top and next time we’ll add some butter and cheese to the top the last 10 minutes or so of baking time.

Our first stop was at Goodale’s Cutoff…which was a wagon train trail that bypassed part of the Oregon Trail to the south that had heavy Indian activity…named after Timothy Goodale who pioneered the route in 1862. There really isn’t anything to see except the sign that marks the spot…and this is a lousy photo but it was mostly blocked by the first entitled butthead of the day…a guy in a class C RV who parked (a) right in the middle of the pullout instead of to one end so that another RV could get in as well…Neil ended up parking inside him next to the road and would have blocked his exit except we didn’t stay long.

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There are…supposedly…some old wagon tracks still visible down there…but all we could see was water and lava type rocks.

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Continuing on eastward a few miles…our next stop was Craters of the Moon National Monument…we had been there back in ’77 when Neil was stationed here for his nuclear prototype training but wanted to get the stamp in our passport (which we did) and watch the movie (which we didn’t since nobody felt good and there was another 20 minutes before it started. The place was jammed anyway…and the RV spots were full of entitled buttheads who left their cars there…Neil ended up parking in a pullout just outside the visitor center entrance off of the highway and walking into the center. It was hot, it was 7,000 feet elevation, and we felt poorly so we moved along to our final stop.

Last stop was just a drive by…we were originally going to come back out to Arco to see this…but that’s 50ish miles from Idaho Falls so when we drove by it Connie pulled off for some photos…Neil found a convenient gravel area just down the road and waited.

Located in the small town of Arco Idaho…which is about 15 miles from the old Nuclear Prototype Training Unit site which I guess is the reason it ended up here…is the sail (what used to called the conning tower on WWII submarines) of the USS Hawkbill SSN 666…known throughout the fleet as the “Devil Boat”. She was built just one hull number after Neil’s second submarine USS Guitarro SSN 665 and is a Sturgeon class SSN some 300 feet long.

So…wheat’s the difference between a sail and a conning tower? In the olden days…the conning tower which sticks up above the deck was where the skipper and attack party conned (or steered) the boat from. It was watertight and had the bridge on top of it and when the periscope was raised for attack observations the bottom of the periscope was at eye level in the conning tower. Here’s a photo of a Gato class WWII submarine.


The Conning tower you can see is about 30 feet long and 8 or so feet wide…with the majority of it being a water tight compartment. Periscope shears or supporting structure stuck up above that and the bridge is just to the left of the shears. The periscopes themselves were unprotected from water flow when lowered except for the shear structure…but since the maximum submerged speed was pretty slow for a diesel powered submarine that was fine.

When nuclear submarines came about with their much higher submerged speed…protecting the periscopes, radio antennas, and other masts from damage by flowing water at high speed became an issue…along with flow noise caused by irregularities in the outer structure of the submarine…so the sail was invented. Deck guns were no longer needed so their drag and noise inducing shapes were likewise eliminated.

The sail on a modern submarine is mostly not water tight… there is a 4 foot diameter vertical cylinder known as the bridge trunk in the forward part of the sail but it’s mostly used to just get the conning officer when surfaced up above the water about 20 feet or so…since the ship is rarely surfaced the conning party for surfaced operations is smaller than in an old diesel boat which spent the majority of it’s time on the surface. The sail is actually smaller than the old conning tower was…20 feet high, 5 feet thick, and 30 feet long.

The sail itself looking from the top is tear drop shaped…this is done to minimize drag and noise, and all of the remaining part of the sail aft of the bridge trunk is open to the ocean and floods when the ship is submerged, that space is reserved for the periscopes, masts, and antennas when they are lowered.

The old bow planes that a diesel submarine had were moved to the sail…and then moved back to the bow in 1990 era designs for better under the ice performance. The sail planes rotate up and down 30 degrees in normal operation but rotate to vertical in what is known as the under-ice position for surfacing through the ice pack…normal surfacing operations are allowed up to 6 feet of ice but emergency limits are somewhat above that.

You can make out a few features on the sail…the ladder on the starboard (right side that only goes down to the plane where a lookout is placed for port entry/exit evolutions. The corresponding ladder on the port side that you can’t see goes all the way down to deck level. Since the deck is only 3 feet or so out of the water out in the open ocean…there is a safety track along the port side and personnel on deck wear a harness that is hooked into the track. The little bump up on top of the said is the underwater telephone transducer. Just forward of the 666 numbers…which are no longer painted onto the sail and hasn’t been painted on since sometime before 1978…Hawkbill was commissioned in 1971 and wikipedia has a photo with the number painted on but the practice was stopped by 1978 when Neil got to his first ship…is the side running light for surface operations which retracts to eliminate flow noise when submerging. At the front of the sail just about even with the planes you can see the rectangular under ice sonar dome which extends around to the other side as well. There are some other features that he can identify…but I would have to shoot you if he told you.

Sail equipped submarines are conned when submerged and attacks conducted from the control room which is located just below the sail, the periscope when extended sticks about 17 feet above the sail with the eyepiece then located about 6 feet below the bottom of the sail int the control room. Modern submarines would rarely…at least that’s the standard guidance although the only war shot torpedo fired by a nuclear submarine was the one that sank the Argentine cruiser during the Falklands War and it was fired the old fashioned periscope bearings method due to rough seas…anyway they are supposed to rarely attack from periscope depth and even against a surface ship the approach and attack would almost exclusively be done via sonar sensors. Neil has always thought that the guidance was BS and that most if not all skippers would take at least one look before attacking a surface ship to make sure it’s a valid target and not some innocent or neutral merchant ship. Sure…there are auditory clues that give you about a 98% chance of positively identifying at least the class of ship and in some cases which ship within the class…but in anything less than an all out non nuclear WWIII you don’t want to be the skipper that sinks a neutral ship. Given that…and the increasing attitude from the press to hang people for innocent mistakes…most skippers would likely take at least one look, leaving the better sonar conditions deep to go to periscope depth…that will give you (a) an eye look at the target and submariners train on identifying ship class by silhouette as well as (b) identification of electronic emissions from the target which again help you identify it. Given the longer range that modern torpedoes have…conducting a bearings only periscope approach is less likely since engagement ranges will be significantly longer than WWII submarines. Back then…torpedoes did not home but just went out in a straight line and you had to physically hit the ship with the torpedo before it would explode…this meant that you rarely launched weapons from outside of 1,000 yards or half a mile. With modern homing torpedoes…hitting the target with the torpedo is not the goal…you launch from farther away and the goal of the fire control system is to get the torpedo close enough so that it picks up the target and homes to impact on its own.

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Monday morning we headed off to the Japanese Friendship Garden in downtown Idaho Falls…located in Pederson Park right near the waterfall from which the city derives its name.

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This is just a manmade overflow near the garden…not the actual falls.

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Looking upstream towards the Mormon temple in the background along about 2/3 of the whole waterfall section. Like Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe…this isn’t your traditional waterfall where the river comes up perpendicular to the precipice and then falls over. Rather…the precipice is mostly parallel to the flow of the river and the water angles in to the edge and then (at least from the river’s perspective) sort of falls sideways over the edge. In this view…the river upstream passes very near the temple in the background…this shot is about 30 degrees from being straight up river…you can see the sideways falls geometry pretty easily.

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Panoramic shot of the entire falls area…it’s artificially curved a bit by the panorama process in the iPhone…the edge of the falls is a relatively straight line.

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Neil took a short video of the falls…it is available here

Dinner today…both of the humans felt pretty good…was at the Roadhouse Saloon…which is maybe a 50 yard walk from our site R10…tough commute I know.

We each had a pint of Irish Death…a dark smooth ale at an alcohol content of 7.8 which is pretty high for beer…but it was really more of a porter to our thoughts…from the Iron Horse Brewery…and it was really good. To go along with it…Connie had a garlic-jalepeno grilled cheese and Neil a bacon cheeseburger…he was really looking forward to their garlic cheese steak…but it was Monday and they were out of a lot of stuff. The food was outstanding…the folks in the bar which was really a biker/dive bar…were also outstanding, and the beers were cold so how could one complain. This is the best dive bar we’ve been in many a month…after our dinner, from which we brought home some of Connie’s tater tots for breakfast later in the week…we went back to the house for recliners, TV, and bed.

The bar had three of the best signs we’ve seen in months displayed…Neil and Connie especially liked the first one.

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It is a biker bar after all…so patriotism is naturally pretty high on their list of priorities.

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Sort of a different take on possession of alcohol…we liked it.

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Tuesday morning we had breakfast then headed off for a hike down at Hell’s Half Acre Lava field…it’s about 20 miles south of Idaho Falls on I-15. We had a short navigational error as we punched the GPS and said Go…then about 2 seconds after we made the turn per GPS directions onto I-15 North we figured out we were going the wrong way. So…7 miles up the road we found an exit and got off/on heading south.

The whole area west and south of Idaho Falls is the result of ancient lava flows from the same heat source that also produces the Yellowstone Caldera, the Yellowstone Super Volcano, and the thermal features in Yellowstone. It wasn’t produced by a volcano as one normally thinks of volcanoes with massive eruptions and smoke clouds…but rather by a multiple millennia long series of lava flows at a more sedate pace from cracks in the mantle. Eh…that sounds like a volcano to me…but what do I know. The field ranges up to about a mile thick and has many hundreds of layers. The northern section is preserved as Craters of the Moon National Monument where we briefly visited the other day…if we had more time here and it wasn’t so darned hot and high in elevation we would have gone out there for a visit as we were last there in ‘77.

Hell’s Half Acre is a joint project of the Park Service and the state equivalent and is located at a pair of rest stops on I-15…so it’s an easy visit in and out with a paved 3/4 mile trail through the landscape which is technically defined as high desert…it’s mostly rocky, dry, and hot but the many underground caves, tubes, and eroded lava passages provide plenty of places for wildlife in addition to the plants that have evolved to succeed in this environment.

This eroded crack is about 4 feet deep and 18 inches high at the left end…just one of many thousands of similar formations.

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Some sort of grasshopper family…that’s the best either us or google can do.

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Junipers are the most popular tree type found here.

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Along with common sagebrush…so named because they smell exactly like the fresh herb sage.

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Prickly pear cactus.

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Lots of deep collapse sections where lava pockets formed and then after the surface cooled the lava drained out leaving an open area that eventually eroded enough for the ceiling to collapse. Several of these were 50 yards across and 40 or 50 feet deep.

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Rock wren…along with the grasshopper this was the only sign we saw of wildlife…well we did see some sort of small animal poop but we have no idea what it was from. This guy has breakfast for his chicks in his beak and shortly after this photo flew downing the crevice just below him.

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We spotted this really cool looking dead tree.

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As well as some thistles…which again we were not able to identify any better.

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With that we got to the end of the trail so it was back home for lunch and rest…after a quick stop at Albertson’s to get some pastries for the next two days breakfast on travel day. 

Wednesday we’ll be off 110 miles to West Yellowstone MT straight up US-20 from Idaho Falls for an overnight stop…then Thursday we’ll press on to Cody WY. We decided not to try and take the road through Yellowstone National Park…even though it’s almost 150 miles shorter than going ‘round the long way north of the park we decided that it’s July and 100,000 of our closest friends would also be in the park…and unlike us they will stop for every elk, bear, rabbit, bird, or anything else they see…and none of them will pull out of the road. Nope…this time of year people just stop their cars in the middle of the 2 lane park road and get out for photos then move on. So it’s stop, wait 5 minutes, inch forward 2 or 3 car lengths and then rinse and repeat ad nauseam. We figured it would take at least 3-4 hours to traverse the 80 miles through the park…and by that time we’ll have gone ‘round the north side and be parked sipping a beer in Cody.

I read today on the news that Kamala Harris announced that when she is elected President she will abolish the filibuster in the Senate. Now this woman is a lawyer and a current US Senator…and she doesn’t know that the President has absolutely zero ability to affect Senate rules. So…either she’s completely incompetent…or she is deliberately lying to stir up the liberal base. My guess is that she’s simply lying in an attempt to catch Joe Biden in the polls…after all her lying attack on him over busing during the debate a couple weeks back did gain her a few points…then she quietly the next day said that she agreed with his position. God help the country if the Democrats ever get complete control of both the legislative and executive branches.

Other interesting political news today…the House has condemned the President for his “racist attacks” on the 4 freshman women representatives…ya’ll probably saw that on the news as well. While I agree that his tweets were stupid as 3 of the 4 were born in the US and the other is a naturalized citizen…there was no mention of them specifically or of race in his tweets…but apparently freedom of speech for the Democrats means freedom of speech for speech they like. Where was the hue and cry over Ms. Omar’s anti-Semitic comments awhile back?

Interesting stuff found on the net.

You know what they say about idle hands…




Bad Ass of the Week…haven’t seen anything in awhile worthwhile for this category.



About Gunther

The full time RV travels and experiences of Gunther the Bear and Kara the Dog…along with their human staff neil and Connie.
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2 Responses to Idaho Falls ID

  1. Pete says:

    Thanks for sharing the photographs of your visit.
    I fished near there and drove through Idaho Falls once when I was heading back to AK but wish I had taken the time to visit like you did.
    Again thanks for showing me what I missed.

    • Neil Laubenthal says:

      Thanks Pete…Idaho Falls has certainly changed a lot since we were here last in ’77…much larger it looks like than what we remembered. We ourselves were up in AK back in 2015 although we only got as far north as Fairbanks on the highway…flew up to Anuktuvik Pass and then east through Tok and Chicken to Dawson City after we finished up the southeast quarter of the state with the RV.

      I see from your blog that you’re a Mac guy as well…we’ve always been an Apple household since 1976 when we married even though I was a Windows System Admin for 20 years in my third career after being a submarine driver and then an acquisition program business manager in the Pentagon.

      Keep on keeping on…from one old guy to another.


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