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What comes to your mind when you hear someone mention "Idaho?" Yeah, that's right, potatoes! ...and probably not much else, to be honest. I mean, what else do you know come from Idaho, other than potatoes? Can you name anybody famous from Idaho? Do you remember any significant historic event, anything at all, happened in Idaho? I tried, and tried real hard for a few long hours but still couldn't come up with anything, as we drove through the boundless, mostly featureless, mind-numbing plain of our great potato state. We were on our way to Yellowstone National Park via Interstate 86. During that incredibly long and uneventful drive, often with nobody in front or behind us for miles, we couldn't help but wondering what do we have out there in this vast but most empty state.

I have no intention of spreading offense, but you see, even the name "Idaho" itself is a bit of an obscurity: nobody knows exactly where it came from. Different theories exist. Some claim that it originated from the Native American Shoshone language, meaning "the sun come up from the mountains" or "gem of the mountains;" but others quickly point out that the name and such alleged origin was more likely a hoax (known as the "Idahoax") created by a 19th century lobbyist George M. Willing. In the early 1860s, when the congress was considering constituting a new territory in the Rocky Mountain, Willing first suggested the alleged Shoshone-derived name "Idaho," but later in his life, he admitted that he fabricated the whole thing out of thin air. But no matter, the name seemed to be quite appealing and it sure stuck.

Well well, maybe I was a little harsh... For all we know, Idaho does have more than just potatoes if we do a bit of research on the web. The Idahoans actually call their land the "gem state," referring to the fact that almost every known gem stone has been found here. And in case you don't know, America's oldest ski resort is right here in Sun Valley of central Idaho. The state also has some of the best sites in the country for whitewater rafting and kayaking -- this is the place you can have fun if you know where to look. And in terms of economy, I myself certainly cannot pretend that I didn't know about Idaho's emerging high-tech industry, with Micron Technology in Boise leading the way.

But by and large, Idaho is an agricultural state. And yes, potato is a big part of it. The state produced some 13 trillion pound (can you count?) in 2008, almost 1/3 of America's potatoes. The state is also an important producer of wheat, corn, and animal hides.

And I have to say, the Idahoans we met along the way are all good people. Like most people in a quintessential agricultural state, they're tough, warm, friendly, deeply religious, and immensely proud of their state and their country. Heck, just look at their governor, Mr. Butch Otter. He's probably the only governor that appears on the official web site of the state government in a cowboy outfit (as of Dec. 2009), which makes him uncannily resemble Mr. Mick "Crocodile" Dundee. What's more, sitting in his arm is his charming "first lady Lori Otter." The two look as if they'll rise at any moment into a swirl of Ten Step Polka in country music. Haha, don't you just love that?

Last stop before Yellowstone is Idaho Fall, a small town of some 50 thousand residence sitting beside the Snake River. Established as a stopover for the westward migrants in the 1860s. the town was named after the rapids in the Snake River.

Like many small agricultural town deep into the west, Idaho Fall is consist of a couple of community churches and a small, quiet, and neat town center and a huge military surplus store. That handsome little white church building, for whatever reason, was awkwardly named Idaho Fall Idaho Temple.


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