Bowling in Boise, the Goosesh!t Capital of the World

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December 22nd 2018
Published: December 24th 2018
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So we made it to Boise (pronounced BOY-see by the locals) and had a really good time. Truly, this was one of the best American cities I’ve ever visited. They are apparently known for being the “most livable” city in America.

If there was an impetus for this entire trip, then I suppose it would be the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl that we attended on Friday. My alma mater, Western Michigan, was playing against BYU in this game. When I first saw that this was our bowl destination, I was not particularly thrilled. Living in Georgia, I have really no easy/inexpensive way to get to Boise, Idaho. But when I decided to make it a bigger trip than just a bowl game, and to invite someone along for the ride, then attending the game became much more feasible.

We arrived in Boise around 5 PM on Thursday, with the game set for 2 PM the following day. So we had some time to explore a little bit. We checked for movie times and found that the new Bumblebee film was playing at several places and at several times, so we decided to do that. We found a theater in a big mall-type area, and after we checked in to our hotel, we made it over to that part of town. The movie was good, but not really all that amazing. It’s gotten some fantastic reviews, but I don’t see why everyone is losing their sh!t over it. Maybe they’re comparing it to the other Transformers movies. Anyway, after that, we walked across the street to a place called “Mad Mac,” and their tag line was “mac and cheese to die for.” It was pretty good stuff. Bowls of their mac and cheese as the base, with all kinds of added ingredients to choose from. If I lived in the area, I would definitely go back from time to time.

On Friday, we had a couple of things to accomplish before going to the football game. First was checking out the campus of Boise State University, and the second was acquiring some Boise State swag. We found a parking deck where they were accepting canned food in lieu of money, and since we had acquired a couple of cans while visiting BYU on Wednesday, they let us in without having to pay any cash. We also got there earlier than most other game attendees, so we had our pick of spots within the deck. The deck was located across from the campus store as well as one block from the stadium where the game would take place. So it was a pretty good find.

After the swag was acquired and we were well caffeinated, we took a walk to the stadium to see what was up. The Fan Fest was being set up but none of the booths were open yet, so we walked through that area and made our way down to the river that runs along the length of the campus, effectively cutting the city of Boise in two. We found SO MANY geese and their accompanying droppings everywhere. It really was a goosesh!t paradise. But we walked about half a mile until we found the Friendship Bridge, which we took to the other side of the river to what we thought was going to be the zoo. It was labelled as such, but it looked closed, and definitely as if it had seen better days. So we kept walking along the river until we got to Capitol Avenue, at which point we crossed back over to find ourselves at the entrance to Boise State University. It wasn’t a bad walk, but it really wasn’t too impressive either.

So we walked back through the campus toward the stadium. More goosesh!t, and a pretty empty campus otherwise. We checked out the tennis stadium, the quad, and then made our way to the Fan Fest, which hadn’t officially begun by the time we were back but was already open anyway.

Despite not having lots of free cheap stuff—coozies, key chains, etc—this was probably one of the better Fan Fests I’ve ever attended. The free stuff was quality, because it was good food. Albertsons, the local grocery store chain and namesake of the Boise State stadium, was giving away free chips and guac, as well as smoked sausages on buns. Further down, there was a big tent set up that offered free French fries. And you could come back to both of these places as many times as you wanted! No shame at all. Also, the fry tent had fry sauce, and that always makes things better. Plus they had a huge Idaho potato on a trailer, since it was the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

We naturally ran into a couple of Georgia fans (at least they were wearing the G), and we discovered that the only drawback to all this free food was that it had lots of sodium and there was no sign of free drinks. So we went to the Dutch Bros coffee tent and got some cold beverages. Yes, the temperature was pretty cold out already, but coffee doesn’t really hydrate you after taking all that sodium in. The crew running the Dutch Bros was pretty amazing; they answered our questions, since we had never had their products, and when my drink order got messed up, they made me a new one and made sure I didn’t have to pay for it. They were very concerned about me not paying anything extra because of their mistake. And then later, when we were about to go into the stadium, I walked past their tent and they remembered my name! Service.

Since we still had about 45 minutes before the stadium opened at this point, we walked to the student center and found some nice heated seating. We watched some bowl game on the TVs in there and, when it got close to the stadium opening, we went back that way. When we got there, we got to watch the Western Michigan band perform, and when they finished, the stadium was opening. I had been looking forward to seeing the blue field in this stadium very much. It’s kinda legendary around college football. So that was another reason to attend this game.

The blue field did not disappoint. The first time you see it over the edge of the seating is pretty wild. But it’s remarkable how quickly you get used to it. During most of the game, I didn’t even notice that it was a blue field unless I made myself think about it. But every time I would leave my seat for a drink, or bathroom break, or whatever, it would be kinda fun as I peeked over the rails and caught a glimpse of the field again for the first time.

We sat behind a couple of BYU fans; basically, the atmosphere of the game was one of a BYU home game, since so many of them were there. Several of their fans made remarks similar to that. But it was funny how basically all of the locals said they were pulling for Western Michigan, since they didn’t want BYU to win. We were happy to have these local supporters, too. But the guys in front of us were pretty nice and talkative, at least pre-game.

And for the first half of the game, it looked like it was going to be a close one, and one that might end up in Western Michigan’s favor. Certainly the first half was pretty awful, both from offensive and defensive sides. The Broncos managed to sustain a drive to start the game that lasted half of the first quarter, but they came up empty. After another couple of terrible drives by both teams, our punter only punted the ball 9 yards, and BYU easily got into the end zone, and the score was 7-0 BYU at the end of the first. Our guys finally got going in the second quarter, and by halftime, we were winning 10-7. Things were looking up.

And then they went south very quickly. It was like the BYU team figured out how to score at halftime, and we kept doing the same old things. They scored 28 points in the 3rd quarter, and we got a big fat nothing. We did manage to score a touchdown in the 4th, at which point it looked like we might be able to make it a game again. But then BYU scored a touchdown to make it a done deal. And then when we thought it was over, BYU decided they needed to add on to what was already a certain victory. So we lost by a score of 49-18.

This was probably one of the coldest games I’ve ever attended. And I’ve had quite a few. Auburn in 2014, and the Belk Bowl that year. Jacksonville was pretty cold that year, too. Maybe it was just 2014. But I’m pretty sure that this was the lowest temperature that we sustained for the whole game. And the fact that we were in the shade, with the wind, didn’t help. We did layer up, but it really wasn’t enough. But it did keep us from freezing, so there’s that. Plus the bathrooms were heated, and even the sinks gave out hot water, which is pretty rare and very much appreciated.

I was glad to see a few Western Michigan people at the game, but it was a long way to travel. BYU fans could’ve done what we did, which was drive from Salt Lake City or Provo (only 45 minutes south of SLC), and I assume most of them did just that. And they probably had quite a few fans from Idaho. But I remember going to the Cotton Bowl after the 2016 season, when Western Michigan was undefeated and MAC champs, and seeing all those Western fans and being amazed at the turnout. I guess this was a different situation, a different era. It’s harder to get excited about a 7-5 team going to a bowl game in Boise. But the atmosphere was fun, and the BYU fans weren’t too terrible.

Or were they? After the game, we ran into a couple of BYU-haters at our restaurant of choice, called Big Jud’s. They had driven up from Logan, UT, which is what we had done the day before, and they were driving back as soon as they finished eating. They definitely had no love for BYU or its fans. They gave us quite a few laughs, and I probably shouldn’t repeat any of the things they had to say about BYU fans. Pretty NSFW.

On Saturday, we checked out what downtown Boise had to offer. After meandering around the Capitol for a little while, we headed to the Basque block, where several buildings that show off the Basque heritage of Boise are located. On our way, we stopped in at a couple of bakeries, one of which was a donut shop called Donut Daze. They had good quality donuts. And then there was the Freak Alley Gallery, which was a place for graffiti art all along a couple of blocks of alleys. Cool stuff. But our goal was the Basque Museum, which opened at 11. It’s nothing major, but it has a pretty good overview of the history of the Basque migrations to this part of the country. Lots of photos of everyday life, some life-size displays, and a gallery of spectroscopic photos from the early 1900s that you need 3D glasses to see. After going through that, we got a private tour (because no one else had shown up) of the Basque boarding house next door, and then we got to see the fronton court, where some people were actually playing this traditional Basque game. I would say it was $4 well spent to see all this Basque heritage.

When it came time to eat, we had plans for the Boise Fry Company, but first we walked across the street to the Basque Market, where Nick got some apple cider (a bit heavier on the alcohol than what most people consider apple cider to be) and I picked up a couple of desserts for the car ride back to Salt Lake City. It was a fun little market.

But the Boise Fry Company was one of the better culinary finds of this trip, Their main draw is their fries, which come in multiple colors, shapes, and sizes, depending on what you’re in the mood for. And of course, since these are the entrees, then anything else is a side item. So I got a turkey burger as my side, and Nick got a bison one. With the fries come loads of sauce options as well as seasonings. The don’t put salt on their fries, thankfully, since they want you to season and sauce them to your own taste. We tried quite a few sauces, but we didn’t feel the need for seasoning since the sauces and fries themselves were already good enough.

And that was our final experience in Boise. After that, we hit the road and made it back to Salt Lake City around 6 PM. It’s such a boring drive between these two cities. But Boise is a place I wouid definitely come back to, and one that I wouldn’t mind actually living in.

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