Touchdown in LA was the end to my solo traveling as I teamed up with Tamsyn who had just flown in from NZ. Our first destination together was Boise, Idaho, not your usual tourist destination for a kiwi in America…and turns out not your usual destination for the average American either. Leading up to the trip when I had told various Americans in NZ, Aussie and Hawaii that I was heading to Idaho it was met with amused laughter or the polite raised eyebrows of surprise, followed by a mocking tone of “and why would you want to go there?”. Well it’s quite simple, to see all the cowboys and ranches of course. Excited at the prospect of swaggering around town in some traditional hats, kicking up dust in our boots with the rest of the locals, we wanted to experience anything that was different from the NZ culture and I had been assured the US of A would reward us with just that (plus I wanted a trendy new pair of cowboy boots since they seem to come back into fashion every year). We also had what all tourists love in a new country - an invitation for a homestay and ours was with a guy, Skylar, who had come to our university hostel for a couple of weeks. Tamsyn had hosted him and his friend Ryan at her parents for a weekend.
The cowboy fairytale began to crumble when we followed a bunch of people clad in the correct attire to the wrong departures gate, and then immensely disappointed to find not one person on our flight was wearing a cowboy hat or even a steel capped boot. We perked up again when Ryan met us at the airport complete with a white cowboy hat (ok so he was heading to vegas so must be the ‘for best’ version surely?). Skylar welcomed us to Boise with Budweisers and a BBQ with his friends where he replaced our names with a collective ‘the kiwi girls’ and propelled us to celebrity status with generous compliments about NZ. Our creditability faltered when we brought up the cowboy expectations, it turns out our fantasy is more likely in Texas. Who knew a ranch doesn’t need to be run by cowboys, it doesn’t even have to have animals, from what I can understand it’s just another name for a country house with a whole lotta land.
Boise is a beautiful city built up with rusty red bricks in a logical grid of wide, clean streets and very few cars (but zero horses). We loved our new role as tourists and to the amusement of our hosts we squealed in delight at the sight of squirrels (over and over), exclaimed “just like in the movies” to cliché American sayings/items, marveled over the enormity of restaurant portions, cheered with wicked smiles at the half vodka ratio in drink pouring, coughed our way through the windowless, badly ventilated bars that still allow smoking inside and counted all the places we came across the US flag (yards, plant pots, shops, sports stadiums, ranches). All of which was, of course, documented in a photo diary of continuous picture snapping.
Our fascination with American food products lead us to the temple of Super Size Me, the American supermarket, complete with kiosks for Starbucks, a drugstore & DVD rental machine. We spent an afternoon amusing ourselves with all the foreign brands, like spushi which is spam sushi, and gigantic products that dwarfed most of the things in NZ. A cereal box the size of a carry on suitcase or 10 powerades for $10 and if you buy 10 you get 5 free! Our absurd behaviour (and hysterics) attracted the attention of a manger who asked us 3 times if we were ok? (unsure if he was alluding to our mental state). In the end we left with an armful of treats (peanut butter M&Ms, Doritos, pop tarts, Arizona green tea). Continuing on the food theme it must be said that we also had a love affair with taco bell (the king of tasty fastfood chains) that we were introduced to one night on the way home from the bars when there’s no such thing as a BP pie.
One of the best days we had in Boise was an impromptu All American Tour of Boise’s establishments. Having been dropped out of town at outlet shopping mall, where levis were ridiculously cheap and there was an entire shop dedicated to 4th July material, we were standing at the exit of the cark park trying to forge a plan to hitch home and when a young guy rolled slowly past & it turned out all we had to do was ask the first friendly, non-ax murder looking guy who came along. What started out as a ride into town escalated into a pint at Hooters, a bit of track at the stadium (plus some snooping around the locker rooms), gym and Endzone the stadium bar that, much to our pleasure, looked just like a sportsbar from the movies. The afternoon was spent mastering the art of horseshoe and shuffleboard, as Josh patiently repeated the rules and let us win a couple of games.
For our last night out in Boise our hosts took us out for a few drinks on the town and, at our request, with horse shoe in the beer garden. Complete with our ridiculous 4th July ensemble on the 5th June our hosts soon ditched us, our NZ celebrity status trailing long behind our reputation as deranged patriots celebrating an entire month too early. Two unsuspecting patrons were eyed up
and bullied into a game of horseshoe as we were desperate to show off our new sporting talents and prove our ability talk the new American lingo we’d learnt on our trip. The two guys tolerated our possible cheating and our misunderstanding that ‘we were having a bangin’ time’ was not actually an American slang for cool but actually what it means universally (pity by this stage we’d been using it around the bar for some time). They even held up their end of the lost bet by wearing our headpieces and dissolving their manhood. They weren’t no cowboys but they were bloody good sports.