FIVE DAYS IN STANLEY
THE BACK STORY:
“Guess where the coldest place in the country was yesterday?” I asked.
She of course knew the answer, having heard the question many times before; many times, as in every morning for the past five years.
“Uh, Stanley, Idaho?” She replied.
“Yup,” I would say. “Thirty six degrees.”
This being the middle of June in Florida, where heat and humidity could wring sweat out of a corpse, thirty-six degrees was something to be coveted, almost worshipped. For at least the next three months, sweat and outside were synonymous. Even a trip to the mailbox could cause beads of perspiration to envelop the skin.
“You know…” I started to say.
“Don’t say it,” she interrupted. “We should go visit Stanley someday, right?”
“Yes. We could rent an RV and drive cross country and…”
“Forget it,” she interjected again, “You know I don’t do road trips.”
I had practiced medicine for over 35 years, most of it in Florida, and was on the cusp of retirement. One of my goals was to travel more, but my wife, Denise’s profession as an art teacher would at least over the short run, damper that somewhat. She and her daughters had carefully planned a retirement party for me on June 28, 2014. I never expected what ensued.
As music, drinks, and food flowed, my youngest daughter, Emily, tapped a spoon on a glass to get the crowd’s attention. My praises were spoken and then Denise presented me with a colorful folder. She briefly gave the inside story we shared daily about Stanley, and inside the pamphlet were beautiful color pictures of the tiny town with the Sawtooth Mountains in the background. I laughed as I flipped page after page filled with pictures and fun facts, 2010 population 63, elevation 6253′ above sea level, and no stop lights.
“We’re loosing the audience here,” I complained. “I think they got the joke already.”
“Keep turning,” she insisted.
Taking a deep breath, I finally got it. On about page five or six, was a series of reservation numbers for flights, (in and out of Boise, Idaho) and car rentals. She had recently been painting furiously and had made enough money to pay for our “dream vacation.”
What had a first been a “groundhog day” type joke, was now an imminent reality. The crowed laughed and our combined five daughters giggled at my shock and surprise.
Having grown up in rural New York State, I was familiar with small towns. However, Middletown, NY, (pop. ~20,000) was a bustling metropolis compared to Stanley. I had been a boy scout and camped in the woods, cooked my own food over an open fire, washed my mess kit in a stream and even got up at 4 AM to watch beavers build a dam. But since then I have lived in large cities, Cleveland, San Diego, Houston, and now St. Petersburg. My travel was less tent and RV, but upscale hotels, B&B’s and fine restaurants. Was I now ready for almost a week in town with six dirt roads in the middle of a national forest?
The only part of the trip Denise had left to me was lodging. Tapping in hotels for Stanley in Google, yielded eight choices, (not including cabins and guest ranches). Some were even reviewed on Tripadvisor! After a few phone calls, a pattern emerged. The weekend of our trip someone was planning a wedding and most rooms were booked. With sixty-three residents I assumed this was most likely a “destination wedding,” From where? Boise? I finally got room at the Sawtooth Hotel that looked lovely, but there was no TV. The Riverside Motel had vacancies but after two days we would have to relocate from a riverside unit because of the wedding. The temptation to fish off my front porch directly into the Salmon River was irresistible. Reservation made.
My neice in Ann Arbor’s boyfriend knew someone who they said had grown up in Stanley––really. She contacted her and she wrote back to say alas no she hadn’t been born or grown up there, but had spent time there with family and gave up some useful tips. Everyone seemed to mention McCoy’s Bait and Tackle shop and after emailing them we got a reservation with a fly fishing guide Mary Ann Dozier. So we booked her for Sunday August 17, my birthday.
I nervously monitored the temperatures in Stanley daily and saw they were having a “heat wave.” To us however this was wintertime Florida weather with highs in the 80′s and lows in the 40′s. The key was the humidity was less than 40% so no worries.
“I think we should get a Go-Pro for our trip,” Denise said.
“No,” I said. I’m not wearing that thing on my head and besides my small Canon Powershot will be fine. I’d rather spend $300 on fishing then another electronic device.” In truth part of me wanted to do this and then I found out a friend’s son owned one. Could we borrow it? Yes. Eureka!