Honking. Not necessary. Most Idahoans will think you’re trying to say hello to a friend. You and your fellow eclipse watchers may very well encounter something rarely seen outside of Interstate 84, Eagle Road or Idaho 55 on Memorial Day weekend: An Idaho traffic jam. Please be patient; this is new to us, too. If you absolutely must get the attention of the driver ahead, perhaps distracted by a woodpecker, a Payette River kayaker or a diving osprey, tap once gently, no more than twice. That’s all it takes here. A Brooklyn-style mash on the horn will not endear you to your fellow drivers, or (here’s a secret) get you ahead any more quickly.
“Idaho Nice.” And while we’re on driving, here’s a tip: Don’t race ahead as lanes narrow from three to two, or two to one, or try to force your way into traffic. Drivers in Idaho take turns, so everyone will get into the narrowing lanes by alternating efficiently. Thank that yielding driver with a friendly wave. Don’t be surprised. That’s Idaho Nice: Similar to Minnesota Nice, but without the umlauts.
You’ll have random strangers make eye contact and smile on the street. Or even wave. People will ask you about where you’re from and won’t be shy about recommending things for you to do. This is all normal for Idaho — as are bicyclists legally rolling through stop signs (we invented the Idaho stop law). So watch out for folks choosing to avoid traffic jams as they get to their eclipse-viewing site.
This is not Iowa. Contrary to the beliefs of many of our phonetically challenged fellow Americans, we are not flat and we don’t have transit-straight roads lined with cornfields. Expect mountains, winding roads with gravel and washboards. There’s no HOV lane on the freeway — or even many freeways. Take your time on our two-lane roads, and don’t expect four-way stops at intersections. Make time for huckleberry pie, ice cream or a bottle of Idaho wine. Take a soak in a natural Idaho hot spring.
Fences. Respect them. You won’t see a lot of them when you’re out in the path of totality, because much of the central band of our state is public land. That means it’s owned by the government in trust for all of us, locals and visitors, to enjoy equally in this great republic. So if you do see a fence, that probably means you’ve encountered private property. No worries. Just travel a little farther and you’ll find a nice patch of ground of which you are part-owner. You’re welcome to set up your eclipse-viewing picnic there. If you do go through a gate on a fence line, leave it just as you found it, open or closed.
Be forewarned: Without fences, there can still be livestock. Idaho is an open range state and if you hit a cow, horse or sheep, you pay the rancher and have to hope your insurance covers the damage to your front end.
Trash. Part of respecting Idaho’s niceness is picking up your trash. You like these clean highways and landscapes too, right? Help us keep it that way. It’s not complicated. And that means burying or bagging the toilet paper in the woods. Enough said?
Fires. Please, please, please avoid them. It’s going to be warm and dry this weekend, even in the evenings. Modern tents, sleeping bags, hand-warmers and camp stoves mean you can stay quite comfortable without building a fire. It’s super dry here and clear skies (not to mention our lungs, livelihoods and lumber) depend on no unnecessary wildfire or smoke. Ditto for the fireworks and the cigarettes. Don’t light them in the woods, prairies or rangelands. You’re in Idaho because we have clear skies. Help us keep it that way.
Guns. You will see them. Hung across pickup windows and hanging on hips. This is OK. You’ll see men and women with holsters and in outdoor gear or camouflage in restaurants, grocery stores or gas stations. In Idaho (without getting into a lot of fine print), you can pretty much carry a gun anywhere at any time. Those folks with guns could even be Democrats, schoolteachers or legislators. In the West, and especially in Idaho, law-abiding, respectable, responsible citizens own and carry guns for hunting and protection from wild people or wild animals.
Speaking of wild animals. You will see some of these, too. Not necessarily while sitting in traffic on Idaho 55 between Banks and Horseshoe Bend (although that’s possible). But if you are out camping or setting up off the beaten path in Idaho, you can expect to hear bugling elk, screaming hawks or howling wolves and coyotes. Our party in the Pioneer Mountains in the past week saw a herd of elk, two badgers and a black bear. Keep your eyes and ears open and enjoy Idaho’s authentic wildness. Remember, wild animals are more afraid of you than you are of them. Enjoy from a distance and you should be just fine.
After dark. Don’t forget our night sky. As one of our favorite Western writers put it, we have “big nights, far to the stars.” Turn off the lights, let your eyes adjust and witness the Big and Little Dipper, Cassiopeia and the Milky Way as they were meant to be seen. Revel in our universe. You can still do that here.
Our own star. Lastly, don’t forget to look at the eclipsing sun Monday morning. We don’t want you so enthralled with Idaho’s mountains, rivers, forests, wildflowers, wildlife and prairies that you forget to put on your NASA-approved eclipse glasses and peek up at the sun. When your two minutes of eclipse totality are over, you’re going to want clear, healthy eyes to keep enjoying the totality of beautiful things and people our state has to offer.
Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Statesman editorial board.