68 – CROSSING THE TETONS

We had no idea we were getting into dangerous territory after we left Jackson until we saw a sign reading “No Trucks Over 60,000 Pounds Allowed.” Even though our RV and that of our friends were both well under the limit, the sign did give us pause for thought. But we had studied the map and had decided that, even though the road was curvy and mountainous, Highway 33 over Teton Pass was the shortest route across the border between Wyoming and Idaho and the best one for us.

Our drive down the ten-per-cent grade, plus the length of the grade and its sharp curves, turned out to be a tense, thrilling slow-motion roller coaster ride down the road. It was only when I was doing some research on the internet after the fact that I discovered that there were multiple cautions about using the road, with warnings to drive patiently, cautiously, and defensively. I also discovered that it has some of the steepest grades in the continental United States. Also, there are several avalanche slide paths traversing the road, and in winter the road is often closed in the early mornings for avalanche control.

There was magnificent scenery to be seen (most of it straight up and down) but we were all definitely more preoccupied with the route itself. Experienced and safe driver though he is, Steve was concerned about the brakes and had to strain to maintain a reasonably slow pace, but we made it through the pass and down from 8,400 feet to about 5,000 over not too long a distance. Climbing up the grade in the opposite direction was a vintage vehicle, probably 1930s. If that could handle the grade, so could a modern RV!

Our home for the afternoon and evening was an RV park in Rexburg, founded in 1883, and now a city of over twenty-five thousand and home to Brigham Young University-Idaho as well as the third Mormon Temple in the State of Idaho. In 1976 the town had been severely damaged when the Teton Dam ruptured and left most of the city under water for several days. With the cooperation of the people residing in the area the city made an exceptionally quick recovery and has continued to grow.

We were camped alongside a sizable lake, with a water-sports concessionaire across the way, so our entertainment was provided by the participants. Fascinating to watch was a water sport we hadn’t seen before—probably best described as fly boarding on pillars of water.

Next stop: Craters of the Moon National Monument in Arco, Idaho.

Trivia Note: There are lava fields to the west and south of Rexburg, and the surrounding area is famous for its starch-rich potatoes, due to sediment deposits enriched by the former volcanic activity.

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