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I'm Baaack....

12 September 2005

Lewiston, ID

I came back into the lower 48 through Yahk, along the Moyie River, floating on down Hwy 95 to what I thought would be a sleepy little crossing. What I found was a dozen huge cattle trucks waiting in line, along with 20 cars or so, the usual assortment of Winnebagos, and an armored truck.

Took about an hour to get through there.

The cattle trucks were from Alberta, and had their own line to the right. I guess the Great Alberta Cattle Scare is over.

Most of the trucks were empty, but a few had moos coming out of them. For once I was glad it was raining, and there was not much wind. One by one they passed by me and pulled up to a stop sign, where the driver got out and went inside with his paperwork.

The first thing you see when the door opens on one of these tractors, right at eye level, is a pair of tiny stocking feet, followed by a groping hand reaching down under the seat, feeling around for a pair of slip-on sneakers. A lot of these guys drive in their socks.

The next surprise is the burly bullet-headed man that appears next. Men with big bellies, big shoulders, and no ass at all, gimping gingerly across the parking lot on vestigial feet. They look odd out of their rigs. Unbalanced. Like birds without wings.

I suppose if you drove one of these things long enough, you'd come to resemble your cargo. All torso and a pair of hooves.

"Anything to declare?" the lady asks.

"I do declare I'm happy to see you. It makes waitin' in this line worth every minute."

She laughed, asked me if I had any Fire Department patches on me, and waved me on through.

I spent the night at the Coeur D'Alene Casino, my first experience at Casino Camping. It was convenient. The far side of the parking lot was just me, a couple of motorhomes, and a semi, all rumbling away. After I got my generator going too, I went inside.

The Casino was entirely electronic slot machines and video poker. Lots of bells and whistles and ching-ka-ching. It was built like a shopping center department store, in clumps and circles, with no straight lines, and mirrors on the eventual walls to create an infinite regression of carnival light.

Intentionally confusing. They don't want you to easily find your way out. Hang around. Have a drink. Try again.

God help you if there's a fire.

Some of these people looked anemic and rumpled in the blue glow of the slot screens, like they'd been chained there for days. Like vampires in protective custody. An illusion, no doubt.

In fact they looked much like my mental impression of many a denizen of newsnet. Minus the quarts of Dr. Pepper, if course, and the stacks of empty pizza boxes.

When I finally got my bearings in there, I found the buffet. Hmmm. All you can eat breakfast, $7.99. When I showed up again a little after 7am, there were still people ka-chinging away, heavy-lidded, propped up on their elbows.

Used to be, you got a little exercise for your money, pulling the arm down on these bandits. These days the most you can hope for is a hypertrophied index finger. Watch for the signs.

Breakfast was pretty good. Lots of fruit, sausages, bacon, waffles, biscuits and gravy, eggs to order. Just me and one older couple to eat it all. And they were sensible sorts, filling up entirely on conversation and oatmeal.

So I did what I could to put a dent in it.


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