My latest stop on the Seize The World tour was Boise, Idaho. After pedaling through the lonely, barren wastelands that make up Eastern Oregon, I really did not think that there was anything out there to top the experience. But then I rolled into Boise. I went there to give a slide show presentation to the Epilepsy Foundation of Idaho, which is headquartered in Boise. As it turns out, the slide show wound up being just one small part of a much greater experience.
My contact person in the city was Diane Foote, who I came to know because she is one of the directors of the Epilepsy Foundation, and also the elected Secretary. Through one of the strings of connections which, afterward, can seem intricate and bizarre, but which initially seems humdrum and familiar, Diane’s supervisor at a different job, Kim Bunning, put the two of us in touch. Kim initially read a magazine article about Seize The World in The Coloradan, then she handed it across her desk to Diane (I am taking liberties here, as I did not actually ask for this much detail when I inquired about how things initially went down) and then Diane read the article, and wrote me an email. A couple of weeks later, I was in Boise, posing for the above photo in the very office where Kim had first handed the magazine across her desk to Diane. To read the article yourself – and to see how it might change events in your life too, click here!
When I first arrived in Boise, it was clear that things were a bit different. I noticed that something was a bit off there: on day two, I spotted a drifter walking along through town, on a crossing course with a police officer riding a bicycle. The drifter was a man with a scraggly beard, tape all over his jacket, and a slight limp. Traits which could be used to describe me at many points along this journey, in fact. As the drifter neared the officer, my nerves tensed slightly, wary of a confrontation. To my surprise, and relief, the officer responded to the man by saying, cheerfully, “Hi John! How are you?” The man replied, only slightly less cheerfully, “Hi Jim!”
Both men continued along their paths… This encounter now defines my overall impression of a city in which people look out for each other, care for one another, and are, generally, good people. Sort of a Pleasantville of the high mountain plains.
My stay in Boise began at Tom Foote’s house. Tom is Diane’s ex husband, and they are the parents of Adrienne Foote, their 23 year old daughter who has epilepsy. She is the big reason that Diane is involved with the Epilepsy Foundation of Idaho. Returning to day one, I arrived after a 20-mile day from Caldwell to meet Tom and Dianne at a book store in downtown, Tom with his pickup truck, Diane with her car. Tom was kind enough to load my bike into his truck and drive my stuff out to his house, where I stayed for the first night. Unfortunately, Tom couldn’t join Diane and me for dinner that night – work to do – so we went out to a local brewery (or was it just a place that had like 80 beers on tap???) for beer and sandwiches. So began the first night of having drinks in Boise, and making friends with new people.
I learned that night that Adrienne also has seizures every six months or so, the last of which began at the top of a flight of concrete stairs. She hit her head, hard, and lost a bit of memory. Though she has gotten it back, I could not help but feel nervous and amazed as Diane described horrifying events that her daughter had recently dealt with over a beer, and with a cheerful tone of voice. Scary as hell was all that I could think. Order another beer was all that I could do. It felt great to be speaking to a person who understood everything really well. Pretty rare to have that.
Later that night, I found myself back at Tom’s house, after being driven up a long steep hill, which I would ride my bike up the next day, thankfully sans panniers. After saying bye to Diane, Tom and I wound up staying up for another three hours or so talking about various outdoor adventures – including one of Tom’s which involved an off-trail descent into the Grand Canyon in the middle of summer on a route that involved almost no water. For the second time in the evening, I found myself grateful to be sitting in a comfortable place with a cold beer in my hands. Later on, Tom told me a little bit about his job – he is a tax lawyer – which sounds completely awful, but which also sounds entertaining enough in story form. I am hoping that he might get the chance to speak with my Dad, also a lawyer.
The following morning, I was off to meet Diane for lunch, cruising down this monster hill that I had been driven up the night before. A nice roll into downtown Boise, passing friendly people, rolling along on orderly streets, being greeted by anyone with whom I made eye contact.
In a way, these characteristics make me feel a bit uneasy – almost like, “what’s the catch?” I suppose the answer to that question would have to be Meth billboards. And, of course, users. The government of Idaho – or is it Boise? – has decorated an area surrounding 50 miles of the city with billboards that depict people with their faces falling apart in an effort to discourage the use of methamphetamines. Nice. Reminds me of when I was in Phoenix, where governments have responded similarly to meth. However, I suppose that all of this is a small price to pay for being in a great place!
My spirits were lifted once again when I started rolling past the various (hundreds!) of drive-thru coffee shops that protect the northwestern approaches to the city. THE HUMAN BEAN, which reminded me of Roald Dahl’s “The BFG,” was my fave. Boise is at the heart of the Drive-Thru coffee shop craze that has swept certain parts of the nation.
This is what the State Capitol Building looks like in Boise.
I made a visit to the Epilepsy Foundation of Idaho during my rounds of the city as well. www.epilepsyidaho.org. The ostensible reason for my visit to Boise was to see the Epilepsy Foundation of Idaho, and to give a presentation to E.F.I. about the Seize The World Tour around the world. Looking back on my visit now, it feels as though the slide show and the stop that I made at the E.F.I. office were details within a much-greater experience in which I became friends with the Foote family – the Foote Clan? – the Epilepsy Foundation, and the state of Idaho at large. Maybe that’s a bit sappy, or maybe it’s too-broad a generalization. But it’s to say that one event can become the nucleus (hah – used nucleus in a sentence…will try to avoid doing so in the future!) around which other things build.
Returning to the Slide show, Marcia Karakas, the executive director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Idaho, was a huge help in setting up the slide show together with Diane Foote. I was blown away by the reception that I got in Boise, by the Footes, by the Epilepsy Foundation, and by anyone else I met there…amazing. Directors of the Epilepsy Foundation, Robert and Casey Wechsler provided a digital projector for the show – making it into a slide show. Dr. Robert Wechsler is, as far as I know, the only epileptologist practicing in Boise. A valuable resource for people with epilepsy in the area!
Debbie Snow, who works at the office 20+ hours/week, was at the slide show, and she was also on hand at the Epilepsy Foundation offices to give me the tour! Debbie has epilepsy herself.
Chris Beeson, another director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Idaho, arranged a place for me to stay while I was in town. I was quite surprised when I discovered that it was the Hotel 43, which is a really awesome hotel. They give you a free entrance pass to get into the Boise Art Museum, as well as a guide book to arts and entertainment in Boise – info about the Boise Balet, the Boise Philharmonic, Jazz venues, etc. Very, very cool place to stay. Lots of artwork, and photography of Boise on the walls – e.g. Boise Depot, Library. I commented several times to my hosts in Boise that I am rarely surprised to fiind myself sleeping in a sketchy/dirty/weird places, but that it came as a total shock to find myself sleeping, together with my bicycle, in a room at a place like Hotel 43.
By this point, you may be asking, “What was the slide show actually like?” Well maybe you weren’t… But I am going to tell you. There were about 25 people there, all from the Epilepsy Foundation as far as I know. It was a great atmosphere, the show was at Bardenay, a distillery where gin and vodka are made in Boise. We had the back room to ourselves, with appetizers, candles, and a projector. Quite similar to the slide show that my Aunt and Uncle put on in Seattle, on a somewhat smaller scale.
All of the ingredients… People mingled, then at some point, they sat down and I spoke about the tour for about 10 minutes while showing slides. This was an audience that already knew basic seizure first aid, what epilepsy is, etc., so I did not talk about those things, but kept the focus on travel and on travel with epilepsy. A few people did have questions about health care systems in other countries, and there was a question about India. It was a good show from my point of view, made that way by a great audience!
Importantly for me, Adrienne Foote was there, who I had still not met. Until I got the chance to speak with her I really did not realize what it might be like to meet someone else with epilepsy. It is strange to consider the things that you have not thought about before you think about them. Meeting someone else with epilepsy is one of those things. Strange to consider that I had not really met anyone else with epilepsy, particularly not my age. So meeting Adrienne wound up being, completely unexpectedly, a powerful experience. Similarly, it was very good somehow to have Debbie Snow in the audience, who also has epilepsy. I do not know if others there might also have had seizure disorder, but I am now regretting finding that out. It would have been good just to get a show of hands of people with epilepsy who were there.
The following night, Adrienne rounded up a bunch of her friends to go to a fundraiser in support of employees of a local restaurant, Barbacoa, that had recently burned down in Boise. She invited me along, and naturally, I said went. We went out at 8 or so, but never made it to the fundraiser. Six of us made rounds of several bars in Boise, and I learned a bit about Adrienne’s experiences with epilepsy throughout the night as we got increasingly hammered. It did not occur to me that I was, myself, right on track to have an experience with epilepsy pretty soon: my seizures are caused by lack of sleep and lack of food…and alcohol just makes it all more likely. Between shots, mixed drinks, and beers, I took opportunities to chat with the various people in our party about topics ranging from working at the Boise State Book Store to the absurdity of Gerard Butler’s role as the Phantom. By 4a.m., Sean – one of our group – was able to demonstrate proof of this on YouTube, by which time we had switched to beer…it was Miller Time.
The following morning, it was seizure time. In my conversations with Adrienne’s Dad, Tom, we had talked a bit about the importance of determining your priorities and figuring out acceptable levels of risk, where to draw the line in your life when making decisions about those priorities, etc. The above example is a case of an easily-avoidable seizure. The question then becomes, “is it worth avoiding t?” That is a very personal decision. It varies completely depending on your priorities in life. For me, I would repeat the evening, but that’s just me. I live my life in a style which includes a seizure every six months or so. It’s still important to be safe: to be aware of where you will be the following day, to not be in a dangerous place, etc. I could, potentially, live with fewer seizures. But to me, it is not worth it to be so closed off.
One day, we will have dumped enough money into finding a cure, and researchers will have come up with enough solutions for controlling seizures so that there will not be a need for compromise. But until that day, it is important to determine a series of creative solutions to keep yourself safe enough to do the things that you love, and to then decide what your priorities are in terms of how often it is appropriate to risk seizures.
I am glad to have gone out that night in Boise and to now have a friend with epilepsy. Not so psyched to have had another seizure, but they happen.
Moving along, past Boise, I did, eventually, have to depart. I am now on the road once more, nearing Salt Lake City. On the way, I passed through Twin Falls, Idaho, where I met a friend of Diane’s, Kathleen Olmstead, for lunch. It wound up being a surprise great encounter, Kathleen driving me around for an hour or two to show me, in rapid succession, the sights of Twin Falls. They include a dirt launch ramp that Evil Knievel used to attempt to jump the Snake River, the Perrine Bridge – one of the best legal spots in the world for BASE jumping – and, most notably, Shoshone Falls (pronounced “SHOW-shone” Falls). Take a look at some pics below… Before I took off, Kathleen gave me a Zip Lock bag full of home-made Caramels. I finished the last one yesterday, and have not eaten anything else besides caramel since then. I believe that the single bag moved me about 140 miles or so. Incredible. And incredible good taste. We are still in touch through text messages, and she has said that she will mail finish line caramels to Telluride. I do not know what I would do with them without an outlet for such insane energy. Grow I suppose.
The rest of the riding through Idaho and northern Utah has been quite empty, with valleys full of . . . emptiness. I remember asking my friend Dustin, who was, at the time working at Telluride Sports with me – Dustin also witnessed a couple of seizures – what he thought was the greatest invention ever. After a moment, he replied, “Center Pivot Irrigation.” “Oh.” Well, he might enjoy Northern Utah, and SE Idaho. Huge, wide valleys with nothing but center pivot irrigation systems and raptors circling overhead to observe them. Not even any cars or tractors or houses…just center pivot irrigation and raptors. I would look up occasionally after hearing a “whoosh whoosh whoosh!” to see a massive hawk taking flight from a center pivot system next to me, and then I would see it circling above for five or six miles until I had exited his or her valley. I kept looking over my shoulders throughout the day, somewhat concerned that I might see, all of the sudden, some sort of bird with a 40-foot wingspan swooping from behind to pluck me from my bike and haul me off to its den, somewhere out among the center pivot systems. Fortunately that hasn’t happened yet. Still a couple more days to Salt Lake…
These two dudes jumped off the Bridge about 45 seconds after the picture was taken. They have parachutes on their backs. People are a bit different in Idaho I guess.
Off he goes…
Emptiness in Idaho.
It could be emptier, but not much.