A Boise woman plans to make a miniature rental home of the 6-ton (5.4-metric ton) replica Russet Burbank that’s traversed the U.S. since 2011 aboard the Idaho Potato Commission’s Great Big Idaho Potato Truck.
Kristie Wolfe, 35, spent two seasons as a crew member on the truck, created to commemorate the commission’s 75th anniversary.
Originally designed to last a single year, the traveling spud’s concrete facade has cracked and become increasingly difficult to maintain, prompting IPC to commission a new, fiberglass spud sculpture to mount on the flatbed. On Oct. 25, IPC’s board agreed to donate the original potato to Wolfe, who plans to convert it into a 200-square-foot (18.5-square-meter) “potato motel,” which she’ll locate in Boise for Airbnb vacation rentals.
“This has been something I have been calling dibs on for many years,” said Wolfe, who makes her living by building and renting tiny homes. “I really thought it was going to be a long-shot to get it because it’s a pretty wacky idea, but so was putting a potato on a truck.”
IPC President and CEO Frank Muir believes Wolfe’s plan will grant the potato a new life as a roadside attraction, raising awareness about the Idaho brand for years to come.
“This will be added to people’s lists to come to Idaho to see the world-famous potato that traveled across America,” Muir said.
Doug Kirby, co-founder of Roadside America, maps more than 12,000 unusual U.S. travel destinations at roadsideamerica.com. He’s been “vexed” at how to include IPC’s potato on his forum, given that the truck never stays in the same place for long. As a stationary miniature home, Kirby said it will now be easy to map, and should warrant a rating of three out of five “smiley-faced water towers.”
Wolfe grew up in Pocatello, where she dropped out of high school, seeing no need to delay her quest to become an entrepreneur. She worked briefly at the J.R. Simplot potato processing plant in Aberdeen, before moving to Boise to help her brother care for his children. In Boise, she converted an old trailer into her first miniature home, seeking to simplify her lifestyle.
Prior to leaving on her first potato truck tour in 2012, she bought an investment property in the rainforest of the big island of Hawaii for $8,000, sight unseen. After the tours — with $11,000 of IPC earnings and labor from her mother — she built a 230-square-foot tropical treehouse, which was recently listed as Airbnb’s most sought-after Hawaiian rental. The treehouse is solar powered, and has a system to capture rainwater for drinking and showers.
Her second project, an earthen-covered Hobbit home along the Columbia River in Chelan, Washington, — inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy novels — is also off the grid, and has also become its state’s most popular Airbnb listing.
She recently purchased an old fire lookout post for another project, and also has plans to complete a small hobbit village at the Chelan site.
With the potato, she’ll cover the metal internal frame with spray foam and incorporate a “farm chic” decor, building a small bathroom, bedroom and sitting area. It will be located in proximity to a freeway exit, amid pastures and alfalfa fields, and a plaque will commemorate the 150,000 miles (241,390 kilometers) the potato has traveled throughout the country. She hopes to finish work on the potato by next spring.