The collision of global markets and social mood

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Road Trip -- Day 4: Sun Valley

The view from my hotel room.

As Lao Tzu said of the Tao, words cannot describe the incredible beauty of Sun Valley. The country surrounding this special place must be seen. It’s easy to understand why Averell Harriman invested heavily to develop the area years ago. It feels like a one-of-a-kind spot on the earth.

Right away, you know you’re entering someplace different when you pass the nearby airport and see the Gulfstreams lined up. SUVs sport license plates from all over the country. High-end restaurants abound. Galleries are everywhere.

It’s not until later that you notice how much retail space is available. Some of the galleries are using the word “Sale." There is no construction. More than a few condos are listed for $2.5 and up. Ranches for multiples more, and there are many offered. The line cook at the local burger ‘n’ beer joint flips out at a customer for not starting out with a tip . . .“I’m broke too, dude!” While several bistros have employees standing by who look bored.

I felt drawn elsewhere. I found the Pioneer Saloon and had a fabulous dinner there. It was crowded with well-heeled people eating and drinking and enjoying a warm summer evening. I did not have to tip first to get good service. Mark the bartender was a real pro who made me feel at home. As did the waitresses in their jean skirts and cowboy boots. Even Barbie was there. Barbara McQueen. Steve’s widow. I never would’ve known if Mark hadn’t casually mentioned it with a twinkle in his eye as she was leaving. “I thought you’d like that,” he said.

The next day I headed north on 75 through more beautiful country and came to the small town of Stanley. No galleries. No condos. No bistros. Only one crowded gas station/convenience mart. A couple of restaurants. And a bunch of new buildings being built.

It’s a simple theme not confined by geography, as true in China as the middle of nowhere. Real growth is sustained in the absence of overcapacity.

Side note: because I consider Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to be one of the finest novels ever written, another purpose of my visit was to pay my respects to him. I like that his posthumous role is very low key in Ketchum/Sun Valley. I was able to visit his grave in the Ketchum cemetery -- ironically on the anniversary of his death -- and be there totally alone. Unlike the circus-like nonsense surrounding Jim Morrison’s grave in Père-Lachaise, I was extremely thankful for the peace and quiet, and I suspect Hem is too.

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