Click for larger imageWhat potatoes, blizzards and sex have in common:

Before breakfast and before leaving Salt Lake City, I walked through Memory Grove – in more than one way.  Memory Grove is a magnificent park located directly below the Utah’s capitol dome.  On sunny days, it is also the crusiest gay spot in Salt Lake City.  Sixteen years ago, as a young sailor stationed in Idaho Falls, I would come to Salt Lake City and hang out in this park.  I met a muscled farm-equipment salesman turned bartender here and we spent weekends running around Salt Lake on our motorcycles.  Today, the park is empty, the farm-equipment salesman gone off to greener pastures and I climb in the MINI and head north.

Click for larger imageMonths before I discovered Memory Grove, I came out…in a blizzard.

In 1987, the Navy sent me to Idaho Falls to complete my nuclear reactor operator training.  Arriving late in the fall, I took a small upstairs apartment in Ammon, Idaho, where I’d live when I wasn’t climbing around a reactor plant. 

When winter arrived, so did a story among the sailors about someone being court-martialed for raping his roommate.  In a small town where alcohol was the best source of entertainment, such rumors were generally passed around with little regard. 

Click for larger imageI met the purported rapist, Ed, at a Christmas party (held by my friend Eric, who had posters of naked men in his room which he explained away as “inspiration for my workouts”).  Ed and I chatted briefly and then parted company.

Fast forward six days to New Year’s Eve.  My New Year’s party was rapidly deteriorating as a blizzard slammed Idaho.  Snow drifts four feet high blocked most of the roads and one guest after another called to cancel.  Stranded in my remote apartment, I resigned myself to a night alone watching television.  But one guest I had forgotten to mention did arrive – Ed.  Alone on New Year’s Eve, I officially “came out” with Ed.  And for the record – it was entirely consensual – and how!

[In case you are wondering, Ed didn’t really rape his roommate and was found innocent at his Courts Martial.  Despite being the most “out” sailor I’ve ever met, Ed stayed in the Navy and was approaching retirement eligibility last time I spoke with him.]
Click for larger image
Shortly thereafter, I moved in with Ed.  It did not last long – six weeks, if I recall correctly.  I then took an apartment above a motorcycle dealership whose management took a dim view of Ed’s repeated late night attempts to regain my affection.  Believing my story that Ed was crazy, they assertively encouraged him to stay on the other side of the river.

Idaho Falls is larger than I remember.  My isolated Ammon apartment is now just blocks from large tract homes.  The Mormon Temple still serves as a landmark and presides over the falls of the Snake River.  The sailors are gone, as are many of the scientists who once worked on nuclear reactors (return tomorrow for more on this subject).  The Army/Navy surplus store where we bought spare uniforms now caters primarily to “survivalists”. 

Click for larger imageIdaho Falls was my college town.  It was here young sailors first gained independence – living free from family and the direct control of the Navy.  It was the place we partied, played, laughed and fought before we headed out to the fleet and to the jobs the Navy hired us for in the first place.  It was the last summer – or winter – before we had to really grow up.

Here, among the potato fields and reactor sites, I kissed my first man, made love for the first time, and learned organic chemistry – in two very different ways.

Tomorrow – flying reactors, exploding reactors, and an Atomic Raceway…

P.S. - This Idaho Falls street sign is for the Bears of San Francisco.  Iona Bear.
P.P.S. - Thank you Frank Stewart and Kevin for joining the Change for Change Campaign!

Click for larger imageClick for larger image

Road Trip 2003 Statistics
Day Number
Idaho Falls
Miles to date
Funds Raised
Guess odometer readings, win a valuable prizes.  [More]
Help Sister Betty raise money for some nifty charities...[More]
Join the Road Trip 2003 email newsletter list... [More]
Road Trip 2003 Email Newsletter

The Plan - Road Trip 2003
It’s time for a road trip - a really, really big-ass road trip...[More]
The Route - Road Trip 2003
San Francisco to Maine, twenty two states, two countries and 8,000 miles...[More]
The Vehicle - Road Trip 2003
An itty, bitty car with just enough space for a suitcase, GPS unit and...[More]
Road Trip 2003 Captain and Crew
Who would be crazy enough to drive 8,000 miles in a really small car...[More]
Join in - Road Trip 2003
Read along, ride along or follow along...[More]


Scratchings Archive    Stairways of San Francisco     Rail Tripping     Contact Sister Betty