It’s been a while since we’ve visited our alma mater, University of Idaho, and it almost took an act of God to get us all in the car and on the road in time to actually get there before dark. It’s a six-hour drive to Moscow from here.
We’ve been meaning to get up there more often. At one point we’d made it an annual gig during football season. But years have gone by. Last year there was a huge snowstorm that would have made travel hellish. Other years there was work, or kids’ stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to get hotel reservations on big game weekends like this one.
It’d been a rough week. Mike has taken on a big project and has had his nose to the grindstone. I’d spent hours schlepping Jack from home to his school in Timbuktu and back again since he wrecked his car. Colin had just learned about his beloved bacon’s fall from grace. It’d been hard for him to take. He’d been peppering me with questions ever since (how MUCH bacon? What KIND of cancer? When?). It’s ridiculous. I’m not a scientist, people.
So a car trip with friends through the mountains and north to the rolling hills of the Palouse to see our favorite campus at probably the most beautiful time of the year was a salve.
Our kids are much older now than on our last visit, and college is looming rather large for them. The friends we were traveling with and several others have kids actually attending the school. We brought along a couple of exchange students, boys from Sweden and Croatia. It’s always fun to expose exchange kids to new and unexplainable American traditions, like homecoming parades and tailgating.
Halloween turns out to be a big mash-up of unexplainable American traditions. I don’t know that I’ve run into any exchange student whose home country celebrates the holiday with nearly the verve Americans do. On Friday, we bypassed the crowds in Moscow and headed toward Palouse, Washington, a town of fewer than 1,000, which takes the holiday to extremes. Everybody dresses up. There is a series of haunted houses and hayrides, and you can buy a pass to all of them or enjoy events a la carte.
After dinner at the town’s only restaurant (worth the twenty-minute drive on its own), we braved the chill, the lines and random strangers dressed as scary clowns, zombies, or headless horsemen (with real horses), for a respectably creepy haunted house. Said house may or may not have been responsible for a string of Croatian profanity from a certain screaming teenager, or for one or two grown women peeing their pants just a little.
Back in Moscow, we had far fewer headless horsemen encounters, but there was plenty of panache in the annual homecoming parade the next morning. This is an event for which I rarely pulled myself out of bed when I was an actual student here. I realized how long it had been since our last homecoming trip when I noticed the kids were no longer of an age to be the target of every candy-thrower who passed. The last time we were here, over the course of the hour-long spectacle, they collected pounds of sweets. If you ever wonder how to get kids to watch an hour of high-school marching bands, Shriners and political candidates go by in convertible LeBarons, parade organizers know it’s flinging fists full of Jolly Ranchers at anyone under four feet tall.
These big kids? We had to ply them with donuts and coffee.
We had a couple hours before the game to tour the campus and a couple of living groups, including Mike’s fraternity. The kids politely listened to us drone on about taking classes in this building or that, pointing out the library, the stately administration building, the old gym. About the time the donuts and coffee wore off and they started getting grouchy hungry, we made our way to the tailgating area to see about mooching some food.
Tailgating is a phenomenon new to this area since our time here, and we rather suck at it, with our Playmate cooler of beer and measly box of Wheat Thins. Fortunately, from friends who had this shtick down we got the kids some nourishment (i.e. we offered chili, backed potatoes and all manner of healthy-ish foods, and they opted for a couple handfuls of taco chips) before kick-off.
And the game was phenomenal, a win for our underdog team, something that was far more common when WE were members of the barely-paying-attention student body. It was nice the boys could pull out all the stops for our visit here.
Ultimately, the short trip was not nearly enough to satiate our need for nostalgia, but just enough to reignite the spark in a couple of boys we’ve been indoctrinating as future UI students, giving us cause to believe we’ll have ample opportunity for far more such road trips in the future.
We’ll be sure to work on our tailgating routine a little more before then.
A little click on the banner registers a vote for my blog, and keeps me up in the Top Mommy Blogs listing (which helps me gain readers). Thank you.