The summer of 2001, my travel companion, Johnie Stark, and I entered Idaho near the top of its chimney that touches Canada. After attending the Annual Life On Wheels Conference in Moscow, we headed toward the bottom of the state. At Mountain Home, we took Highway 20 to Highway 75 and drove north into the Sawtooth Mountains. Our ultimate destination? Sun Valley.
We took a site in an RV park and set out the next morning to explore the exciting place where movie stars and celebrities hang out. From Highway 75, we turned at the first sign that pointed to Sun Valley. Winding streets with wide sidewalks took us through upscale neighborhoods dotted with differently styled homes, each with windows to capture the views of tall ski slopes and rugged mountainsides. Thick carpets of grass bordered by vivid-colored flowers and leafy shrubs surrounded each house. Young families walked or biked the paved trails that paralleled the streets. Out loud, we wondered how people got to live in such awesome surroundings.
From brochures and magazines, we read about Sun Valley Village and the famous Lodge. Also, our park was located only a short distance from the mountain town of Ketchum. Our plan: tour Sun Valley in the morning and go into Ketchum for lunch and a quick pass of its streets.
After we had goggled and gasped over the mansions and the mountain views, we followed a road into a town we assumed was Sun Valley Village. We went into a market, walked past some quirky shops, and browsed a store called Country Cousins. We reluctantly left the charming village to return to the RV Park by noon check-out—in case they could not accommodate us for a second night. Once again, we passed luxurious houses and landscaped residential streets. We secured a second night’s stay in the park, walked Spot, and then headed for Ketchum, this time passing the sign pointing to Sun Valley and going straight on Highway 75.
We picked out Roosevelt’s Grill for lunch. Seated on the rooftop, we had an eagle’s view of Ketchum’s Main Street, each shop with window boxes of red geraniums, purple and yellow pansies, and tiny white and violet flowers. Sunlight filtered through the umbrella covering our table as we dined on scrumptious sandwiches. Before leaving the restaurant, we asked for directions to Sun Valley Lodge. The hostess said, “ Follow Sun Valley Road, turn right, and you will be there”
But as we walked onto the small town’s sidewalks, I noticed a market just like the one we had visited that morning. Many towns have franchised markets, I told myself. However, across the street we noticed the same bench on which we sat that morning to look over our Sun Valley Guide. Why, there was the same Country Cousins store with identically-dressed mannequins standing at the door. Johnie agreed that she recognized shops she had seen earlier. She insisted we were back in Sun Valley Village. I stood firm that we were in Ketchum and pointed to the Ketchum Flower Shop in the next block. Standing on that corner as in the “twilight zone,” we determined that while we still knew the way back to the Jeep, we had better get out of town!
I found Sun Valley Road and we followed and followed it right up a mountain and onto a dirt road. Incredible mountains, tall and brown, yet dotted with green sage, towered over the Jeep’s roof. Jagged rocks protruded through some of the slopes. A bike and walking path ran alongside the road. Yet, we did not see Sun Valley Lodge.
We backtracked, determined to not leave the Valley until we found the Lodge. After all, famous people could be there! Almost back into Sun Valley Village…or Ketchum, I saw a sign for Sun Valley Inn. In a split second, I turned to the left. We noticed a sign for the offices of Sun Valley Company. A pleasant receptionist directed us through double doors and into what she called a Mall. Feeling as though we had stepped into an enchanted setting, we looked in the windows of up-scale shops and eateries. So this was Sun Valley Village! Indeed, we had been in Ketchum both in the morning and the afternoon.
On a pond edged with perfectly groomed shrubbery and rainbow-colored flowers white swans and dark geese glided. Following a curving sidewalk, we came to The Lodge. Although the exterior lacked the magnificence I had imagined, once we walked through ornate doors held open by smiling doormen, the luxurious interior met my expectations.
The doorman directed us to a gallery in a hallway where dozens of framed photographs hung of celebrities who had visited Sun Valley dating back to the late 1930s. Through French doors at the back of the elegant lobby with massive fireplaces and over-stuffed chairs, we walked onto an outdoor dining area which overlooked the ice rink. We were told that every Saturday night from June through September, skaters entertain the visitors. In the beginning days of Sun Valley Lodge, resort employees performed. However, since 1984, every Olympic Gold Medalist has performed at Sun Valley’s Saturday night ice show. However, we were there on a Monday, so we watched cute little girls in short skating skirts whirl around the ice.
With great satisfaction, I told Johnie that now we could toss into our conversations the fact that we had seen Sun Valley Lodge. She replied, “Well, nobody we know will ever know where it is!”
Traveling in their motorhome several months each year, Arline and her photographer husband, Lee Smith, make their permanent home in Heber Springs, Arkansas. She currently is a presenter for Workamper Rendezvous, sponsored by Workamper News. Arline has dozens of magazine articles published, as well as five books: “Road Work: The Ultimate RVing Adventure” (now available on Kindle); “Road Work II: The RVer’s Ultimate Income Resource Guide”; “Truly Zula; When Heads & Hearts Collide”; and “The Heart of Branson”, a history of the families who started the entertainment town and those who sustain it today. Visit Arline’s personal blog at ArlineChandler.Blogspot.com