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The Wall That Heals

August 25, 2013

Idaho – Friday, August 16

Tula and I took a short walk around the campground and then I started packing up. I met a couple who was going to be using the campsite next to mine, and we got to talking a bit, and it turns out they’re headed for Alaska with their young son. We talked about the drive up there, and they’ve got some family there. They were interested in my journey – in fact, the guy had mentioned a 50-state road trip even before I said anything about mine. There are other crazy people who like to be out on the road as much as I do!

Tula and I then headed to the waterfront in downtown Coeur d’Alene. I was lucky to have another gorgeous summer day, and we set off on a shady lakeside path. And then I walked another mile and a half or so on the longest floating boardwalk in the world – it basically goes around a large marina and resort area, and at one point there are a couple sets of stairs and a short little “bridge” up high so that sailboats can get out of the marina, yet people can still enjoy walking on it. Lots of boats were coming and going on this pretty day, including a big all-wooden highly-varnished speedboat. Then I did a little walking in town, and it seemed to mostly be restaurants and gift shops.

Then I was ready to retrace my path a little bit, and head to Hayden, a town just north of Coeur d’Alene. Yesterday when I was driving through, I noticed a lot of detour signs and other information about The Wall That Heals – one of 4 traveling Vietnam Memorial Walls, that can be transported to different cities – which allows veterans and other family members a chance to see “their” wall in case they’re unable to travel to Washington DC. I wanted to go check this out – I thought it was a nice opportunity for veterans who live so far away. They had closed down a couple streets and had a big parking lot available, and it wasn’t quite as crowded as I expected it to be, although it was only early afternoon on a Friday. One of the volunteers expected bigger crowds on Saturday and Sunday. The wall was about a 1/2 scale replica, and even though it wasn’t full size, it still took up quite a bit of space and was very effective. All the names were engraved on it, and there was a booth with volunteers who could help people locate the name they were looking for. The names of the soldiers who gave their lives are not in alphabetical order – they are listed by the date they died, starting in the center of the memorial. The first year that casualties are listed is 1959, and I don’t think I realized the conflict started quite that early. The memorial area was going to be open 24 hours a day through the whole weekend, and they had installed lights along the top of the memorial for evening viewing. Even though the dedication had only taken place a few hours earlier, people had already left mementos alongside the base of the memorial, just like they do in Washington DC. (In Washington, the national park rangers collect the items daily, and catalog them, and I’m not sure where all those things are, but they have included a wedding dress [very sad] and a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in addition to the usual flowers, flags, candles, poems, notes, stuffed animals and other items). There were already flowers and balloons here, as well as some handwritten notes, including one from an anguished medic who hadn’t been able to help everyone on one awful day – he seems to still be haunted by the lives that slipped away before he could do anything. It’s a very emotional place for people, even after nearly 40 years. Women were walking out sobbing, and men were kneeling in front of the names of their lost comrades – it’s a very touching exhibit to see. One of the volunteers told me she was very grateful to have the opportunity to see the wall because she knows she’ll never be able to get to Washington DC – which does seem very far away from Idaho. There were also some exhibits – uniforms and helmets and quite a few letters that had been written from back then. There were several donation boxes around, and it was my donation-of-the-day and I was happy to help a little. The wall was clearly having a big impact on people.

Then I was going to be heading south to Lewiston, but on the way I stopped in Coeur d’Alene again – at Tubbs Hill Park by a different part of the lake where there were several miles of nature trails on the bluffs overlooking the water. It was a nice shady trail with beautiful views of the lake, and Tula and I walked another 2 1/2 miles. There were a couple beach areas, and we walked down to one of them, and Tula got in for another swim. It’s been hot here in Idaho – temperatures in the upper 80s and lower 90s. So far I think it’s the hottest state I’ve been in! And Tula’s been enjoying her quick dips in the water! I try to not let her swim unless I know we still have some walking to do so she can dry off. We finished off our walking for the day here.

Then I was going to head south – I’ve been dawdling a bit in the panhandle because it’s so pretty, but I wanted to see some more of the state. I headed down to Lewiston, and we passed through another area with endless golden wheat fields. Later we stopped in the town of Moscow (pronounced MOSS-co) on the way – a college town that was lively in the evening and we got out and did a little extra walking for the day. Even though it was dark out, the town was lit up, and it was nice to get out and stretch before finishing up the drive for the day.

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