Woo! We made it! Here's a short timeline of what we've done today. Things with stars* have a more detailed story below.
At 3:00 AM, the alarm goes off. We leave the house by 4:00, head to Arizona Shuttle, get to the Phoenix airport (somewhat delayed due to the nasty accident on I-10 from earlier in that morning), fly to Vegas, fly to Boise, rent our car*, drive out of town, keep heading east through middle-of-nowhere Idaho including the area around Crater of the Moon NM*, through some pretty gnarly construction*, into Idaho Falls, where we find a hotel and dinner.
Story number one - The car.
First thing you need to know about the Alamo counter at the BOI airport... ...there isn't one. You have to ask the Budget people where the hell Alamo is, and she politely points you to a courtesy phone to use to call them for a ride to their location.
Second thing is that when they send the van to pick you up along with the other customers, you'll be dropped off and one employee will try to process all 7 of you. By himself. Including inspecting the car for dents, dings, scratches, etc. You'll get the car, but it may take a while.
Third thing. Chevy Cobalts are crap. I'm trying to find nice things to say about the car, but so far my positive things are limited to the stereo having an MP3 jack, and the odometer computer giving you instant MPG numbers. Most of my complaints are nitpicky, but they add up - The doors don't feel right when you close them, the armrest in the middle either hits you or gets in the way, the A-frame obstructs your vision, the Service Air Bag warning comes on three times during five hours of driving through Idaho - you know, little things like that.
Fourth, which really is To Be Continued at this point. The guy I talked to on the phone says that the local Alamo will replace this car with another at no cost and with no hassle. I plan on making sure that's the case, and at ever-increasing volume as needed. We'll report back on how that goes in the morning.
Story number two - gnarly construction.
In BFE Idaho, we were stopped on the highway for about half an hour, "traffic" backing up (all 12 cars), and made to wait for some mystical go-ahead. When we got it, it was in the form of this car leading us through one of the more thoroughly destroyed construction sites I'd ever seen. No pictures of it unfortunately, but basically we had to follow that car because they were actively scooping, mining, and apparently blasting the road right next to us. The confusing part is that this is the only highway connecting this part of Idaho, and cutting it into pieces doesn't seem very friendly. Also, there wasn't a flow coming out as we waited, so i think both ends were just waiting for backhoes or cranes or whatever else to finish breaking the road so we could very slowly follow the awesomely marked car.
Story number three - Moon Crater NM.
If we'd had more time to stop here, I would have loved to. There are some pics here of the strange combination of areas that they have in Idaho. It changes from rolling green hills to pointy black lava rock from one side of the road to the other.
There's more to share, but it will have to come later. We went past a mountain where the local high school paints their year on boulders, the first nuclear power plant, as well as what is apparently a pretty active archaeological site, all without the time to really investigate like we should have. Hopefully the next legs will give more time for exploration. For now, I'm going to bed, since I've been up for about 21 hours now. More to come!