Stanley and the Sunbeam

Click to read story with text only

July 2005

Jean's Stories

Provence

Grandpa's Cabin

Pay-It-Forward Latte

England and France

N. Italy - 1

N. Italy - 2

N. Italy - 3

N. Italy - 4

Lessons from 4 Corners

Mexico

Going to the Dogs

Don't Embarrass Me!

Letter from Siena

Arrivederci Roma

Joining the Matriarchs

Living History

Newlywed Game

Chaos Theory

Zach on the Road

Huckleberry Season

Stanley & the Sunbeam

I Dare Say

Middle School Relay

Grad Party

Yellowstone

Moving On

Newlywed Couches

Visitors

Old Faithful Inn

Snowbound

Sweet Potato

Mother Bear

Two Blondes in Iberia

Revisiting Spain

Curly's Truck

Old Buildings

Chelsea's

Split Seams

All Nighter

Talent Show

Travel Photos

England

France

Siena

 

McCall

I’ve discovered that if you stand on the very end of our dock, you can get sufficient cell phone coverage to call Jerry’s Motel and Country Store in Stanley, Idaho.  Despite our isolation, I silently thank Grandpa Gregerson for selecting this site for his cabin in the 1940’s, a spot far enough from downtown McCall to retain some semblance of peace, and set just far enough from the lake as to not qualify for “lakefront” status.  Few cabins like ours remain on the lakefront anymore; they’ve been replaced with the million dollar mansions of out-of-staters, and the government taxes them accordingly.  We are happy to still have this place.

For decades, McCall was largely populated by folks from Boise seeking an escape from the summer heat.  In the winter, they come for the town’s ice sculpture festival and a day of skiing at the modest resort of Brundage.  I don’t believe you’ll find more normal people in the world than those of Boise.  Just south of McCall sits an old Finnish community called oseberry.  You can imagine how Finnish immigrants felt instantly at home in this lush green valley, cradled by mountains, dotted with hot springs to heat their winter saunas.  You could say my grandpa, a Norwegian man who could fix or construct just about anything, was destined to build a cabin up here.

The latest immigrants to the area don’t fit in quite so nicely.  A notorious millionaire from San Diego has purchased McCall’s beloved Shore Lodge, changed its name, and turned it into a private and pricey retreat for his wealthy Southern California friends who fly in on their personal jets.  And now McCall has Tamarack. 

Tamarack, across from Roseberry, is a new ski resort funded by out-of-state investors with deep pockets and visions of creating the next Vail or Aspen.  Buildable lots there (without houses) start about $650,000.  We had to check it out for ourselves. 

Annie in Roseberry; Roseberry Finnish Church; Payette Lake from dock

Tamarack constructions trucks have decimated the picturesque three and a half mile campground-lined country road into the resort.  Now Tamarack management demands that the state of Idaho repair the obliterated road, “the #1 complaint of our guests!”  During the building of the massive “member’s only” lodge, enormous Mars-like domes temporarily house the resort’s hotel rooms and services.  We stopped at the market for a Diet Coke and found an impressive array of imported wine, Brie cheese and frozen organic pizzas, “made with soy cheese.” 

The only other visitors to the store were construction workers looking for regular-guy snacks.  They brought to mind McCall’s soaring property values, a crisis which prices locals out of their homes and eliminates the middle class.  Service workers can scarcely afford to live here; there aren’t enough people around to clean the hotel rooms and wait tables anymore. 

 

Stanley

Despite the jet ski waves, my phone call from the dock got me a Friday reservation at Jerry’s Motel in Stanley, a place I’d wanted to visit after seeing my brother James’ eyes light up while describing its beauty. 

Stanley is about a three hour drive from McCall into some of the most spectacular scenery around, bordered by the largest wilderness area in the continental United States.  It also routinely ranks as the coldest spot in the mainland, but that’s not a problem during mid-summer, and the tiny town (population 100) swells with white-water rafters.  We ate a delightful outdoor lunch on a deck filled with families, friendly dogs and a few young, fit raft guides who radiated coolness, without even trying.  Diners and staff held doors open for one another and spoke sweetly to their children.  They had Idaho license plates.

Rafters at Stanley; Sunbeam Resort

We easily found the charming Jerry’s (on recommendation of James and my parents) but upon check-in, learned they’d somehow expected us Thursday night and had no vacancy.  The clerk promised to refund our credit card, then called the Chamber of Commerce, who located the only available room in the valley:  the Sunbeam Resort, ten miles down the road.  We took it. 

I was a bit concerned by the parlorish upholstered chair on the front porch of our Sunbeam unit.  It reminded me of Zach and friends’ purchase of a ten dollar garage sale couch for the outside of their rental house at Oregon State this fall.  (“It’s a front porch couch, Mom,” Zach reassured me.  “Everyone at school has them.”)  Perhaps I simply needed to adapt to the local culture here at the Sunbeam. 

Inside we found clean sheets and towels, but it might tell you something that I elected to spend most of my time outside on the cushy front porch chair, reading novels. Jim meandered off to take photos while I bonded outside with my environment.  I eavesdropped as the senior pot-bellied raft director explained his weekend itinerary to the retirees gathered in a camp circle, surrounded by their bullet gulf-stream trailers.  (“It’s ten dollars for a trailer hook-up; twelve with electricity.”)  I listened to the grandpa upstairs, whom I suspect was hard of hearing, ramble on for hours; the guy was like radio.  I watched some kids build a fire in the nearby pit. 

Jim rolled into the Sunbeam along with the thunderclouds, with a virtual digital roll of photographs like I’ve rarely seen.  (I can’t wait to see what paintings come from this.)  The resort (I use that term loosely) office was closed for the evening but the manager offered Jim use of her personal phone to check on our kids indirectly through Grandma in Salem.  The manager also briefly opened the store for Jim to purchase an Almond Joy.

Stanley vistas; Jim's painting of sunset over valley

That night the ceiling and doors above us creaked so loudly that I thought some river rafters had entered our room.  Later when I got up for a glass of water, I sniffed and worried that our kitchen was ablaze, but it was just smoke from the campfires on the property.  Our windows didn’t shut properly so we just left them all open for the night.  We used the fan to drown out radio grandpa and the squeaks in the building.  We had an infestation of moths.  And we slept deeply. 

At checkout, the manager asked how our stay was.  I smiled, said it was great, and laughed about the moths.  She said they’d just hatched with the heat and last night she slept with a bedside candle in her trailer.  The moths’ wings singed in the flame and to her delight an army of them lay dead on her nightstand by sunrise. 

Hairy Chests and Gold Chains

Not long ago, Jim and I visited a splashy new resort many miles south of here.  One evening while I sat alone in the lobby, an older man who’d obviously been around the block a few times approached with two goblets of dark wine in hand.  I looked up at his capped teeth, slicked-back dark hair, silk shirt and hairy chest with gold chains.  OK, I didn’t actually see the chains, but they had to be there.  He purred, “You look like a lady who would enjoy a glass of Merlot.” And then, extending his hand, he said, “Hello, my name is Vincent.” 

My skin starts to crawl as I type this, the memory skeeves me so. 

Scottsdale, Arizona

Jim later suggested that Vincent had a thick wallet and was accustomed to getting his way.  (Another wave of nausea overtakes me.) 

I thought about Vincent while sitting on that golden living room chair on the Sunbeam porch, and then about Tamarack.  I thought about the sense of entitlement that people of extreme wealth sometimes have.  How money teaches people that they can upset the normal order of society, that they can take what they want without regard to the local culture.  They can bypass propriety in their own ego-centric pursuits.  And I considered how wealth wields the power to change a small community forever.

Recently, a friend teasingly suggested that I was something of a princess.  I plead guilty, as far as shopping and salons go, anyway.  But the truth is that I felt infinitely more comfortable at the Sunbeam with the moths than I did at Tamarack with the gourmet rice milk ice cream. 

And I hope that nobody ever, ever tells Vincent about Stanley, Idaho. 

UPDATE 4/09: Tamarack went bankrupt and closed last month. Last fall, Shore Lodge got its name and local ownership back. Their first act? Welcoming home the McCall public. As for Stanley, I've heard no news...but something tells me that's good.