An Electrifying 30 Hours!

Ah, Seattle in September...

Crystal blue skies accented by the Puget Sound's cool breeze. It's a perfect time to visit the Emerald City! And this trip, by design, was a 30-hour door-to-door adventure to see Simon and Death Cab for Cutie.

Just to clarify, seeing Simon and Death Cab for Cutie were not mutually inclusive. Simon is our son; Death Cab for Cutie is a long-popular Indie Rock band. We like them both and thought we'd combine the two events into one fun TourAlong!

Yep! We are smart shoppers!

So grab a cup of the beverage that reminds you most of Seattle and join in on the fun!

And off we go!

Have you ever stayed up way too late the night before an early morning flight? You know, just double-checking preparations? I have...

After five hours of sleep, Natalie and I arrived at the Boise airport and learned that we'd been preapproved for TSA's PRE check-in! Awesome! We didn't have to disrobe! Whew! Besides, it's no fun making other people feel so bad about their bodies.

And off we go!

Whoa partner!... not so fast.....

As we taxied to the runway, our plane made an odd turn and stopped... "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. Because of traffic at SEA-TAC, we're going to hold here for 40 minutes.... I'm going to turn off the engines.... blah, blah, blah..." as my nightmare unfolded: We were going to be held against our will in this asphyxiating claustrophobic hell-tube some people call an airplane for 745 hours!

We've all read the headlines... toilets overflowing, the Cheez-It supply quickly exhausted, the overwhelming stench of body odor, and the captain defying all logic by not going back to the gate where upon passengers could disembark, breathe fresh air, and hug their loved ones once again.

In the end, this trip's traumatic tarmac torture timely terminated after the promised 40 minutes... and the Cheez-It supply remained intact. We'd been grazed by a travel bullet.

AUTHOR'S DIVERSION: During research for this TourAlong, I learned that men can buy Cheez-It boxers and women can buy A-line Cheez-It dresses! Go ahead! Click the links to order your boxers and dresses! 

Just in time for Christmas! Such Fun!

The images above are subliminal. You didn't see them. You're welcome... Your friends at Cheez-It!

And off we go!

Wait a minute! As we flew west a layer of cloud appeared. WHAT? Clouds over Seattle? The weather forecast had consistently predicted a 20% chance of rain. But that meant an 80% chance of the bluest skies you've ever seen in Seattle, right?

No... It meant there was a 100% chance of solid gray skies. At least it wasn't raining!

The light rail from SEA-TAC to Capitol Hill Station costs just $3.00 per person and takes 45 minutes. This is a MUCH better value than a taxi ride, or almost any kind of ride for that matter... even a purge-inducing carnival ride! Have I ever told you the story about the Bloomin' Onion that came back up after a particularly twirly ride? Maybe another time...

After joining up with Simon, we gathered for a midafternoon linner and ice cream with the rest of the Seattle Chavez ClanMarc, Anne, and Diana. Actually, they live in Ballardthe home of many craft breweries, coffee shops, Pilates studios, tattooed hipsters, and some crazy people... like the guy wearing short shorts riding a bike shouting an obscenity-laden stream of consciousness at the nearest person or car. Downtown Ballard is a fun place to chill... but we had other plans....

Hey! Are you ready for the concert? It's time for Death Cab for Cutie!

Since 1997, Death Cab's been a driving force of Indie Rock; their music is as relevant today. Seeing this band in front of a hometown audience was going to be cool.

And off we go!

The forty minute Uber ride to Marymoor Park in Redmond passed quickly, largely due to the uber conversation courtesy of our uber Uber driver, Brian. Though I'm a relatively new Uber rider, I've had uber luck with Uber drivers. Uber!

Marymoor Park, King County's oldest and most popular park, hosts more than 3 million visitors annually and stages a summer concert series in its outdoor amphitheater. And, being the smart shoppers we are, we purchased chair seating for optimum comfort and viewing.

Safely settled into our chairs. Do you like how I make my chin the largest object in my selfies? Skillz! 

The opening band—Car Seat Headrest—was a treat! Originally from Virginia, this four-piece indie band now calls Seattle home. At the top of their set, we headed for the beer and wine tent where we decided $45.45 was an undeniable value for two wines and two beers. Yep! We really ARE smart shoppers! 

At $45.45, and served in the finest plastic cups, these tasted VERY good.

Remember two paragraphs ago when I mentioned purchasing chair seating? It really IS the way to go... sitting in a civilized manner, calmly watching the show. This is how rock music's composers intend audiences to experience the tapestry of angelic harmonics for which the genre is known.

And so it was. Everyone sat politely during Car Seat Headrest's 40-minute set.

As Death Cab took the stage, almost everyone who SPENT EXTRA MONEY FOR CHAIRS suddenly decided that standing up would be a really good idea!

And here's the dilemma: If you also don't stand up, the sound is muffled. And not only that, the view of the band and the synchronized light show is replaced by a view of at least one, if not two or three butts! And sadly, these are typically not Olympic athlete-toned butts!

It's not quite an image of butts, but it's awfully close, and I think you get the idea.

An artist's conception of a Death Cab for Cutie Concert without obstructions.

In the end, we stood up. Inevitably, and regardless of your height, a taller
person will always be standing directly in front of you.

The problem of height differential is easily overcome by simply shifting to the left or right a few inches to gain a new view between heads... unless you're behind a "swayer." Eyes soon fatigue as they try to focus on the distant stage while continuously being thwarted by the swayer's unpredictable motion. Don't believe me? Click the video below to experience just 15 seconds of this nausea-inducing phenomenon.


Despite butts and swayers, Death Cab sounded AMAZINGLY AWESOME!

But remember when I mentioned the weather?

As gray as the skies were, the rain had held off; through Death Cab's fourth tune there hadn't been a drop. But there was a distant flicker of light... and then another... and then...

Before the fifth song could begin, Death Cab's Ben Gibbard told everyone lightning was within eight miles and they had to leave the stage. Ben's announcement was followed by the stage manager asking everyone to go calmly to their cars for shelter, assuring us the show would resume in 30 minutes if all went well.

And off we went!

Car-less, and with rain beginning to fall, we found "The Barn," where park staff was discussing the turn of events. Within minutes the concert was officially cancelled... and a good thing too. 15 minutes into the storm the pitter patter became a torrent accompanied by a flash and an incredibly loud "CRACK!" Lightning had struck the stage canopy.

See the lightning bolt icon just below the word Redmond? That's us!

This storm was unusual for the Seattle area. In fact, an estimated 2,200 lightning strikes were recorded during the event. Not only was the concert cancelled, but the Washington State Huskies' game was delayed for two hours (and they ended up losing the game... Wha... Wha... Wha!). 

Caught on tape! Natalie and Simon react to the concert cancellation announcement...Wha... Wha... Wha!

Sensing that our evening outdoors had come to an abrupt end, Anne called, volunteering to pick us up. Meanwhile, Natalie, at the ready, whipped out a deck of playing cards for a few hands of gin rummy with our new friend Bob, one of the event staff! A deck of cards? Doesn't every hip rock concert attendee pack playing cards? I admit, it was a great way to pass the time. But did you know Natalie tried to smuggle knitting needles into a Sting concert? The confused security detail made us take them back to the car. Nope... I'm not making this up!

There was nothing more to be done than retreat to Simon's apartment...

Warm and dry, and with popcorn and scotch in hand, we did the only thing reasonable people would do: Watch Death Cab for Cutie videos! And so the evening played out...

The journey home began at 6:00 a.m., retracing our route via the light rail, the chaos called SEA-TAC, and the tranquil Boise airport. By 1:00 p.m. we rolled into our garage.

So there you go!

An electrifying 30-hour whirlwind TourAlong is memorable precisely because of a storm!

Ciao! ~ Todd

And now, a brief postscript...

Outdoor performances are "rain or shine" events; you buy your tickets and hope for the best. By the time we rolled into our garage, Death Cab had announced they would refund all tickets. Keep in mind that staging an event comes with substantial sunk costs... and these guys took it upon themselves to absorb those costs. They didn't have to do that, but they did.

Shout out a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T for Death Cab!

This blog is subliminal. You didn't read it. You're welcome... Your friends at Cheez-It!


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Have you ever discovered something so odd, so bizarre, that when you do, a giant globule of gobsmack slaps you straight in the face and shouts, "Wake up! Where have you been all this time!!!?"

Welcome to Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail!

Located on the north bank of the Snake River, near Melba, Idaho, and just one hour by car from my doorstep, Cleo's hid in plain sight!

A leisurely stroll along the trail's one-mile loop inevitably elicits phrases such as...
  • "OMG!, look at THAT!"
  • "NONE of this makes sense!"

At every curve and corner, the wonders of Cleo's just keep coming. And at times it can be a wee-bit creepy, but it always entertains, and I love it!

Grab your stilts and get ready to explore Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail!

Before launching into the slide show glimpsing Cleo's world, let's get educated via bullet points! Shall we?...

  • The Swayne family came to America as Quakers... as far back as 1709!
  • Our focus on their family tree begins with Samuel Swayne's birth in 1887.
  • Sam became an M.D., was a WWI surgeon, moved to Idaho in 1920, and purchased Walter's Ferry in 1927. Way to go, Sam!
  • Sam married Bertha along the way and together they had four daughters.
  • Bertha passed away at the age of 40. Sam, in turn, married Cleo Ruth (Speicher) Heuck. Her second marriage, and she came with kids as well.
  • Sam and Cleo built most of the buildings on the site and, following Sam's death in 1976, Cleo continued to work on the buildings and the nature trail.
  • Today, the family trust keeps this crazy place going!

There you have it. Two kiosk panels crammed with detail condensed into seven bullet points! Mission accomplished! Besides, when it comes to Cleo's, pictures are worth thousands AND thousands of words!

And so, via the assist of the familiar picture-n-caption format, let's begin... shall we?

Cleo's features dozens, if not hundreds, of bird houses lining the trail, each featuring religious-leaning words of wisdom. It's not crazy religion. It's common sense gospel, like the one here. Did you know this about faith and a small mustard seed? You're welcome.

OK, that makes perfect sense... I'm good with that.

Well... they did have children!

Cleo Ruth (Speicher) Swayne (1913-2008). The matriarch of all that comprises the compound, Cleo and husband Sam created the site's campus and nature trail. Her family continues the effort today. You gotta admit, Cleo rocks those 70s era glasses, right?

The first thing you notice upon arrival at Cleo's, well, other than deer roaming around and the churchy birdhouses, are the many garden figurines. By day they're kind of cute. But by night... they come alive and CHASE YOU!!

"Hey Mister! Can I wash your car? I've got a metal hose that comes out of nowhere and never has water in it, but I'll wash your car! C'mon, Mister!"

"Hmmm... where can I pour my imaginary water? How about on THIS weed HERE. No! Wait! How about on THAT weed OVER THERE! Oh, I can't reach it... I'm a tiny statue that can't move!"

Little did anyone know before now, but Cleo's features a diorama depicting Natalie and me on our first date. Oh how I impressed her with my vast knowledge of the world; unbridled authority reciting fact. She was smitten. Nothing has changed. And that's also a fact.

Well wadaya know?! It's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves... and maybe Bambi? Halfway along the trail, the tone shifts from pious to other fantastical themes.

Not far past Snow White and her entourage, the trail opens onto a field where dozens of life-size bronze sculptures depict kids in various states of play. Here, a girl's flung into the sky on a swing with very short ropes. It's all fun and games until someone reaches the vertex of the parabola... and someone's eye ends up being put out...

Batter up! This softball game has been frozen in time for ages. Another scene of bronze features a small marching band. Really! A marching band! 

What else could there be?

How about Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, William Shakespeare, Albert Einstein, and Abe Lincoln chillaxing in the sun?! Go ahead! Take a load off and sit with your fave man-on-a-bench. Many bronze works at Cleo's were sculpted by artist Gary Lee Price. Gary's work can be seen throughout America and beyond.

Yes, that's a life-size fiberglass elephant! There are also giraffes, a rhino, a lion, an ostrich, and, for some reason, a moose! There's a moose on the loose! Oh my! 

But wait... There's more!

Hmmm.... Do you think this friendly being knows anything about our current leader? I don't know about you, but I think if he did, he'd shut that door pronto and launch right back into space! Wait a minute! Maybe I could go with him? Yes! I'm willing to take my chances.

Bring on the creepy naked devil babies! 

Are you still with me?

Yes, we're still at Cleo's!

Like their figurine brethren, these babies come alive at night and can run SUPER FAST! Try as you might, you'll never outrun creepy naked devil babies. The faster you try to run, the slower you go... as your legs... get heavier... and heavier.... and the babies get closer... and closer... and closer.. and...

The fun doesn't end at the outhouse door! Nope! This guy does his best to look the other way, but when it comes right down to it, his job stinks. Still, the outhouse is well kept and well stocked! Oddly enough, two can use this can at the same time... sitting side-by-side in an absolutely not private way (picture not included).

After the whirlwind kitsch of the nature trail, the compound of buildings strike a different tone, such as the Medical Museum. Though small, this museum is well curated. Just another odd twist in this mini adventure!

Iron lung anyone? Invented in the 1927, polio sufferers often had to spend up to two weeks in the device to make them breathe when their chest muscles were unable to do the work. Though I may make light of Cleo's, the Medical Museum reminds me of the serious side of the Swayne's work before there were bird houses and funny figurines.

I've blocked most memories of my time attending Sunday school, but I'm pretty sure there wasn't a peacock wandering through the stable at the EXACT moment of Jesus' birth. Then again, take a look at the size of the baby Jesus. HE IS HUGE! WOW! Immaculate conception? How about immaculate birth!

Register your visit at the parking lot and get up-to-date information. And note that four books penned by Cleo are available for purchase at the store: The Little Chapel by the River, Come Walk With Me, Pappy the Doctor, and Footsteps Around my Doorstep. I'm good with the first three, but Footsteps Around my Doorstep freaks me out. Why? Because those little footsteps belong to zombie garden figurines and creepy naked devil babies that have come to life in the dead of night and are right behind me!


There's just WAY TOO MUCH at Cleo's to deliver in one TourAlongWithTodd Blog post. What didn't I mention? Well, how about the many other sculptures, the three chapels, the Swayne family cemetery, the clock museum, the adobe hotel built in 1861, the albino peacocks, the giant rainbow arch on the hill, and OH!, in December it's all lit with Christmas lights! I'll be going back for that!

Do yourself a favor: Map out 1984 Hwy 45 S Melba, ID 83641 and take a drive to make your own discoveries at Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail.

Cleo's is open all year long (with special summer hours for museums and winter hours for Christmas lights), but you have to leave your dog at home!

And when you visit, drop $10 or $20 in the donation box. Cleo's Ferry Museum and Nature Trail is worth having here for a very, very long time. It's THAT good...  even with zombie garden figurines and creepy naked devil babies haunting your dreams! 


Like the TourAlongWithTodd blog and want to keep up to date? Here are three easy options!
  • Email me at and I’ll add you to my distribution list or…
  • Enter your email address in the Follow by Email box on the right at the top of this page and follow the simple verification process. This method delivers the blog directly to your inbox.
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