Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Graduated at last!!

Nancy graduated May 7, 2016
At last!!!!! I (Nancy) graduated from Idaho State University after a 30-year break!  I returned to school as a college junior, when our youngest of six children was a senior in high school.  It took me nine more years and 26 more courses, but I finally earned a BBA in Finance with a Standard English Minor.  When I originally asked the registrar's office at Utah State University (USU) for an official transcript to transfer to ISU, they couldn't find my records.  I asked, "You wouldn't have thrown them away or lost them, would you?" No, but they weren't in the computer system.  About a week later they called to tell me they'd found them--in the vault!

My most intriguing course was an eight-week summer class taught online.  It was called, "Critical Analysis and Creative Problem Solving."  We were at the end of our vacation in southern Utah, planning on arriving home just in time for me to begin it, when the transmission died in our camper van.  It took us an extra week to get home, so I had to "creatively" figure out how to get my first assignment done (worth 20% of my grade!) in three days' time.  It was an analysis of an amazing chapter called "Where Have All the Criminals Gone?" in a book called Freakonomics by Levitt and Dubner.  The chapter was really long, on "reserve" online at the college library.  The trouble is, the password didn't work the first day, and we were in a borrowed car that week, extending our vacation from southern Utah up to Boise ID and back to the Grand Canyon, with spotty Wi-Fi for my computer.  I nearly dropped the class, but the assignment was so fascinating, I persevered. 

Potentially, my most helpful course was Real Estate Finance, in which each group had to design a complicated Excel spreadsheet for a company that was outgrowing its current, leased facility.  With all sorts of requirements and stipulations, we were to present numerous options, all interconnected to show whichever "bottom line" was requested, either by the lessee, the owners, or the bank.  There was also a page to show "our" commission based on all the above.  There's a very real possibility that when I again find time to "study," I can begin to put together a spreadsheet showing us options for leasing the motel to an interested party so we can take off for a year and regroup, deciding on whether to continue leasing, to return to the business ourselves, to sell out, etc.  After 25 years of running the motel, we'd certainly like some extended time off!  Interested?  Let us know!

Nancy and John

Sunday, August 2, 2015

A Fleeting Summer and the Pleine Air Art Festival

Wow--it's already August.  I sneaked out for one little hike to the top of Devil's Staircase in June, and in July walked with my mom (age 85) to the first waterfall up Teton Canyon.  I will make time to go once more this month before school begins again. 

Thank you everyone for our frenetically busy summer season!  It's a good idea to make reservations ahead at least through Labor Day this year.  What with Teton Park and Yellowstone Park so close, with the hiking and biking and fishing and music festivals and artists' gatherings and various summer races and car shows and the Spud Drive-In, great little airport, and excellent restaurants, our little valley is filling up nearly every night.

It's been a very wet summer, so everything is still a beautiful green and the wildflowers are abundant.  We came home from the Pleine Air art show yesterday with a gorgeous painting of wildflowers in the aspens painted by Teton Valley's own Bob Harper.

I had always dreamed of having Thomas Kincade stay with us and paint us a romanticized version of our place.  Pipe dream, I know! So last week, Pleine-Air artist Stephen Henry of  Clinton, UT stepped up to paint it for us.  It's a lovely piece.  Thanks Stephen! 

We hope you can make a trip through Driggs this summer and spend a little time with us.  We've got an acre of lush green lawn out back, the firepit and gas grills with picnic area, a croquet set and horseshoe pit for the asking, as well as our enzyme-treated, over-sized, outdoor Jacuzzi.  Bring the family and enjoy Teton Valley this summer!
Nancy and John 

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Last Winter Storm

So it's the end of March already, and John has enjoyed many days this month skiing in the early afternoon and golfing towards evening!  It's been the mildest winter and earliest spring I can remember in my 35 years here in Teton Valley.  We're glad that our guests are still enjoying the skiing at Grand Targhee.

John and I did find time recently to sneak away and soak in a couple of hot springs:  one old favorite and one new one.  So take a peek at our photograph in "Where in the world are John and Nancy #4?" on our home page and see if you can be the first to figure out where we are for a free night for two at the motel.  We enjoy sharing one of our favorite pastimes with all of you!

Now the daffodils are beginning to bloom in the flowerbeds and the snow has disappeared from town.  The first robin showed up on February 10th this year!  I think I'll be able to hang the sheets on the line again this weekend, and to hike in my beloved mountains soon.

So here's a poem you might enjoy about winter's last snowfall:

The Last Winter Storm

     Birds like pepper sprinkled on a winter sky, dive and twist
                             as grey-brown branches stir,
                                         tearing the grey-white depths into jagged layers.
     The clouds regroup, piling one atop another,
     shoving and squeezing
     billowing into shades of angry grey.
     Dark and ominous in their hurry to stuff the narrow valley
     and overfill every meandering canyon,
     the blackening clouds expand,
                             drawing strength from strength,
                             inhaling with a growing wind,
                                         intensity and power.

     Then the silent blast begins,
                             as thickly, quickly,
                             the mute whiteness surrounds and reshapes
     the dirty brown remains of previous storms.
     Long, lovely minutes stretch into a magical hour until
                             suddenly still, the air, crystal clear,
                                         carries tinkling laughter,
                             and the whiteness blinds as shards of twinkling crystal
                                         burst in all directions.

     The sky flaunts her new blue robe
     with the golden orb about her neck.
     The heavy trees bow to her beauty,
                             then toss their limbs high toward her
                                         as they shake off the twinkling crystal dust
                                         and laugh their tinkling bell laughter.
     Robin Redbreast stands fluffed and perturbed
     in a sheltered spot,
     indignant at being caught yet again—
                             greedy to be the first red robin spotted
                                         on the greening grass.

Nancy Nielson

Saturday, June 7, 2014


We had a problem with the lighting for our Pines Motel Guest Haus sign in front of the motel this spring.  Somewhere under the parking lot, the wiring gave up the ghost.  It was the perfect opportunity to try our hand at something we'd long thought about:  solar panels.
A motel guest pointed us in the right direction by suggesting the set-up we'd need, and John got to work.  With a bit of ingenuity and prayer, and a lot of work, it wasn't long before our solar panels were soaking up the sun.  The first time we flipped the switches, we were like kids at a surprise party.  We cheered and jumped up and down and laughed when the lights came on.
A couple days later we fashioned "floodlights" by cutting the tops off some pop bottles and covering them with aluminum foil, then placing them on the bases before screwing in the bulbs.  Now our floodlights throw just enough light in the center of each side of the sign to let folks know where we are as night sneaks over the mountains.  We shut them off before bed and smile in the dark.


Saturday, November 30, 2013

Where in the World are John and Nancy?

We love to travel, wandering the back roads in our little campervan to see what we can discover, or visiting one of our children somewhere around the world.  I carry my camera along and we stop often for pictures.

We recently decided to do something that you might find enjoyable:  we plan to post a picture of us occasionally from one of our trips, and see if you can pinpoint exactly where we were.  The first person to reply with the correct location will win a free room for two at the Pines Motel!

One of our favorite pastimes while traveling is soaking in hot springs:  in pools built near the edges of rivers or up canyons, in commercial pools, and in cattle troughs or bathtubs on BLM or private lands.  Our first travel picture is of the two of us in one of our favorite hot pools, a shot taken earlier this month.  You may reply here, or to the post, "Where in the world are John and Nancy #1," or email us with your response.

Happy Travels!
John and Nancy

Friday, June 21, 2013

Change is in the Air!

Change is in the air!  It’s spring, although it was only about 45° today.  The Farmer’s Market was open downtown, with crafts and bread, fruits and vegetables, and garden plants.  We’ve already frosted one pumpkin and killed a few tomatoes in our garden. But John, the eternal optimist, has been planting more.  Most everything is up: little beets and chard, more pumpkins and tomatoes, onions that overwintered, bush beans and carrots, the peas, and one potato!

Other changes are around the bend.  John turned sixty-five last week, and we’ve been thinking long and hard about what we’d like to do when we grow up.  Retirement sounds like fun although John is concerned about how he’ll turn out without our guests to keep him anchored in adult reality!

The trouble is we’re not sure how to retire without selling the motel, and we’re really attached to this place.  The few times over the years that we’ve mentioned selling out, various family members and guests have reacted like Dr. Seuss’ characters in Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose.  When Thidwick tried to cross to the south side of Lake Winna-Bango, the guests in his horns raised a ruckus:  “He stepped in the water.  Then, oh!  What a fuss! ‘STOP!’ screamed his guests.  ‘You can’t do this to us!’”  But Thidwick eventually shed his guests along with his horns, and swam to the south shore. What should we do?

Our second daughter, Ruth, wants to manage the motel beginning in the fall of 2014.  When we bought it in 1991 from my parents (who’d owned it 19 years), it was an easy transition.  But the global, digital economy that we’re facing today is a far cry from the simple one we bought into.  Our daughter can’t afford to buy us out, or we’d gladly let her.  But if we can find a way for this to work, her children will be the 4th generation in our family to make the beds and tend to our motel guests.
We do love the interactions with our guests.  We enjoy sharing our home with them.  It’s satisfying to see the weight of the world fall from their shoulders as they wander the grounds, taking pictures of the flowers and resting in the shade of hundred-year-old trees.  The flowering crab trees have just finished blooming, the flowerbeds are gorgeous with orange poppies and regal lupines, and the lilac scent lingers into the evening.  On this first day of summer, I found it refreshing to pause and enjoy the moment.
But 24/7/365 is tough.  When we want to go out together, we get a “baby-sitter” for the motel.  Going on vacation ourselves is a major event.  We’d like to wander around the country for a while, letting somebody else tend our “baby.”  We’d like to bask in the winter sun sometimes without bundling up.  We’d like to turn off the phones and check in with the kids only when we feel like it.

So we wanted to give you a “heads up,” but we’d appreciate your advice, too.  You’ve been incredibly supportive of our little business over the years, and we thank you.  Therefore we’re open to a bit of brainstorming here, if you have ideas you’d like to share with us about passing the baton.  What would you like to see Ruth do with the place?  What should we change?  What do you most want us to keep?

You can post answers in the blog or email us at  We’d love to hear from you.

John and Nancy  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summer Sheets

I finally hung the bed linens on the line the other day--I think summer is coming at last!  I delighted in those few minutes outside.  It slowed me down just a little, so that I felt the breeze and smelled the lilacs blooming.

Here's a poem I wrote in 2007 about this simple chore, entitled "Summer Sheets."

Summer Sheets

         Summer sheets, hung to sun dry,
                 are not the same as winter sheets.
                          Oh, no!
         Winter sheets are fluffed in sterile dryers,
                 to be crisply folded before they settle sleepily into the
                           ready for their next use,
                          tucked among spare blankets and extra pillows.
         But summer sheets wave and flap in the gentle wind.
         They snap and dance as I hum happily,
                 pinning them in chorus lines to dry.
         They tease, slapping my behind or my face
                 when I lean down to pick up another.
         I nuzzle into their sweet, cool fragrance
                 over and over with deep breaths;
                          they tenderly brush my hot cheeks.
         Between their rows the day is fresher and
                  secret, somehow.
         I can hear my children playing in the sandbox nearby,
                 but for a moment,
                          I’m wandering near a shaded mountain lake
                          with a cool zephyr wafting me wild roses.

                          Nancy Nielson
June 2007