Loathing for Idaho: A Road Trip Horror Story

Contrary to popular belief, we travel within our own country as well, so I thought I’d share one such adventure.

While many might fly to reach their destination faster, there is merit in making an adventure out of a road trip.  The United States is a vast country with many exciting locations along the way.

Idaho is not one of them.

Along the path

Aaron and I hold a special loathing for the potato state; it has it out for us.  Idaho lies in the middle of a very long drive between Portland, Oregon and Colorado Springs, Colorado – one we did quite frequently when I was living in Colorado and Aaron was in Oregon.

To save on costs and to see some of the American countryside, we drove those 1300 miles.  At first it was just Aaron, coming to visit me.  Then after I moved to Oregon, we both made the trek down and back to visit my family.

We were fine two thirds of the time.  The other fraction?  Well….

A wintery road in Idaho under a cloudy sky

The painful pattern

The first time, Aaron was returning from a visit to Colorado during spring break.  The distributor went out, leaving him stranded on the side of the road… in Idaho.

He had to be towed to Twin Falls and wait for a day or so for the shop to get him running again.

The second time, he and I were making the trek in the other direction, popping down for a summer visit.  The radiator blew… in Idaho.

That one didn’t leave us completely stranded, but we lost the AC.  And to make matters worse, the only way we could keep the car from overheating was to blast the car’s heat – under the scorching summer sun.  I was never so happy to hit Utah and rain.

We were setting a pattern.  The first two treks were fine.  Then the distributor.  Another two uneventful passages.  Then the radiator.  Two more.  And then?

Third time’s the charm

That next trip…. that was a doozy.  That was what forever blacklisted that accursed state, made us long to rid the planet of that malignant expanse – blast away the wretched eyesore and seer the trauma of its existence from the innocent minds who had the unfortunate luck of experiencing it firsthand.

We knew the pattern.  We should have seen it coming.  And we should have known the universe was done playing idle games with us.  Our mishaps thus far were mere child’s play.  Obviously, we weathered the storm (literally), and we came out on the other side (literally), but we didn’t escape unscathed; Idaho left scars (figuratively).


Given our past, we opted for the newer of our two cars for this trip – a visit to see family for Christmas – but something about the day just filled me with foreboding.

Welcome to Mountain Home

We were making excellent time, passing Boise, Idaho a little after 10am.  We got as far as Mountain Home before the car began to chug.  We decided to pull off, thinking it was possibly a timing belt issue.  Fearing to drive the car farther, we took on the quest of finding a shop.  Now, this was a Saturday, so while better than a Sunday, few places are open… especially in the tiny town of Mountain Home.

Sure enough, there weren’t any places open there except lube and tire shops, but they’d never take on such a large job as this.  Our only option was to get the car towed to Boise (40 miles away), and see a mechanic there.  So we dutifully called a towing company and waited.  I called our destination shop to make sure they could handle the job, but they said we’d be lucky to even get the car diagnosed that day.  This meant waiting until Monday just to figure out what was wrong with the car (shops are almost all closed on Sundays), then add in the time it would take to fix it.  However, we didn’t have much choice, so we bit the bullet and agreed.

Somehow, it all works out

Meanwhile, Aaron was understandably getting all stressed out over the situation.  Mind you, we were heading to Colorado for Christmas; the last thing we wanted to do was kill time in a state we already hated (the loathing would come later).  Quite strangely, though, I was calm as a breeze.  I’m not quite sure why, but I knew it would all work out somehow, and I kept relaying this to Aaron.

A winter highway in Idaho under cloudy skies

We were camping out in a gas station restaurant, and one gentleman approached us, mentioned he overheard our dilemma, and asked if he could offer us a ride anywhere.  We politely declined, saying we had a tow truck on the way.  About half an hour passed, and the tow truck was due to arrive any moment.  The same man came back to us, and he said he knew a guy who works a shop up the street.  He was closed that day, but he was at the shop looking at another car, and he said if we could get the car there, he’d be happy to take a look.

Of course, with the heightened stress levels, this was a blessing from the gods!  These people even drove Aaron down to the shop (they couldn’t remember his name, phone number, nor the name of the shop for us to call him) to talk to him and describe the problem, to see if it was worth hauling down there.  We managed to get it down to his shop, and stood there for about 3 hours while he tested a multitude of things.  He eventually pinpointed the TDC sensor (a vital component for timing).  He could fix it, but he’d have to order a part, and it wouldn’t be in until Tuesday.

Christmas in Colorado

We, of course, thanked him up and down, especially when he said he’d only charge us $100 for the day’s labor, despite his obvious ability to charge anything he wanted.  He then drove us down the street to a car rental place (which was barely still open) so we could continue on our way to Colorado, spend a week with my family, then pick the car back up on the way home.

The rest of the drive was eventless, and we had a pleasant holiday in Colorado.  Of course, as each family member came to my parents’ house, they all inquired “who’s from Idaho?”  This sparked the tale of the generous people of Mountain Home going out of their way to ease our rough situation.


Given the fortunate turn of events, and how things could have turned out MUCH worse, we elected to give a little to karma to avoid our luck turning bad. We bought a couple of gifts, both for the family who led us to the shop, and the mechanic. We would drop them off upon our return.

The nightmare had yet to begin

I seldom experience such kindness from strangers.  And in all places!  Perhaps Idaho had redeemed itself somewhat in our hearts.  Maybe it wasn’t such a bad place?

Oh, no no no no.  This was merely a false sense of security – the calm before the storm.  It would get worse.. so much worse….

We had no idea what was in store, and we never could have anticipated what evils this accursed state had  planned for us.  If we had only known… I might have just cut my losses and left my abandoned car as a sacrifice to the demons.

…But I’ll save the exciting conclusion for the next post, as this post has already gone too long.  You can read part two here!  Be warned: it isn’t for the faint of heart or those about to embark on any kind of road trip!

What nightmares have you had during your travels?

Psst… do you love reading about road trips?  You might also enjoy these:


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