« Return to this article

Know the West

Seattle’s highway hell; crazy river questions; a sweet spill

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


ARIZONA: Willy Wonka’s chocolate road project.
Arizona Dept. Public Safety

The Weekly Sun in Hailey, Idaho, has a surefire hit in its “pet obituary” page. The family of the deceased writes the obit and pays $1 for every 16 words, with a large color photo included. We enjoyed reading about an adopted Jack Russell terrier-rat terrier mix named Frankie, who passed away “in his daddy’s arms,” aged 15. Frankie, a Bellevue resident, was both “king and baby of the house.” He enjoyed many interests and hobbies, said his “parents,” Aric and Mandi Iverson, including the games “Bally” and “blanket monster” and “destroying all toys to get the squeakers out of them.” He always looked forward to Christmas because he could “unwrap presents that weren’t his own,” and he also liked to “jump up and wrap his arms around your neck and lick your face.” Survivors include friends of various species, among them several iguanas.

Unfortunately, not all dogs are as winsome as Frankie. In Grand Junction, Colorado, an alleged “service dog” inside a gas station turned out to be a biter, and his human parents failed to accept responsibility. In the Daily Sentinel’s “You Said It” column, the victim pointed out, “Claiming that your dog is a service animal doesn’t actually mean it’s a service dog. Service animals are to aid in a specific task, not bite someone completely unprovoked. … A little apology goes much further than blatant excuses.” 

Seattle’s 65-year-old Alaskan Way Viaduct, which cut right through the heart of the city’s downtown, is closed. About 100,000 daily drivers will have to find other ways to get around until its replacement, a $4 billion tunnel, opens in several weeks. But some residents seemed goofy with joy, standing on the deserted road Jan. 15 and singing as they bade good riddance to it. Writing in the Urbanist, Doug Trumm noted that the highway wasn’t built to withstand earthquakes and had always been a “death trap.” His concluding words constituted an anti-eulogy: “I hope the viaduct’s concrete spirit burns in highway hell next to a bunch of other overbuilt freeways that have fueled massive carbon emissions and paved our way to a climate-change crisis.” 

Boatman’s Quarterly Review likes to profile the river guides who raft people down the Colorado River and through the rapids of Grand Canyon. Asked, “What’s the craziest question anyone has asked you?” guide Stephen D’Arrigo, 32, recalled a doozy: One of his passengers, while gazing at the ancient walls rising above the river, speculated: “So … the miners dug this part of the canyon?” D’Arrigo said that what keeps him guiding after 12 years is seeing the dramatic effect the canyon has on people, with some experiencing “life-changing trips.”

Who didn’t relish hearing about the delicious rollover of a tanker truck in Flagstaff, Arizona, (see photo above) which caused 3,500 gallons of chocolate to flood the highway. “This will be a sweet cleanup!” chortled the Arizona Department of Public Safety, as CNN showed a tide of the bubbling brown goo. We hope drivers waiting for the tanker to be towed away had the chance to stick in a finger — or maybe a bucket, or two . ...

Meanwhile, The Daily Record in Virginia cited a British study that found chocolate to be an excellent cough suppressant; a dose can apparently calm coughs quickly and is on a par with store-bought remedies. We love science. 

WFSB-TV in Anchorage did not explain how the hefty moose gained entry to the hospital, but it showed a video of it strolling through the waiting room. The animal snacked on some of the room’s potted plants — “Oh, he’s hungry,” an employee guessed — then turned around and moseyed out the open front door.

In Montana, a similar story involved a bison named “Tonto the Buffalo,” which escaped from a backyard pen in the Bitterroot Valley. Walking at a “leisurely pace,” reports KPAX-TV, Tonto visited backyards until his owner appeared, whereupon the bison “followed his owner back home.” 

Doug Clegg has been a volunteer for 10 years with the Deer Flat Wildlife Refuge in Nampa, Idaho, cleaning up garbage and noting damage to fences. Recently, he noticed a handwritten sign fixed to a recently vandalized gate. (“Someone hits it every year,” he explained.) The sign read: “Make America great again … destory (sic) ‘public lands.’ ” Clegg told the Idaho Press that he simply added the note to the 70 pounds of waste that he and his wife removed that day.

The government shutdown has been especially hard on Joshua Tree National Park, just two hours from Los Angeles. With no one on duty for 1,200 square miles, people have been chopping down the iconic trees, illegally off-roading and spray-painting rocks. Longtime visitor Rand Abbot told the Washington Post he goes every day to clean park bathrooms and to “kindly persuade people to not destroy the park. … People think they own the park. They don’t own it. They’re guests in the park.”

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.