September 12, 2011
Great Adventure, Part 3: Gem & Treasure States
By the advice of my Spokane innkeeper, I departed from my planned interstate route at Coeur d’Alene, Idaho and headed north. Within moments of leaving the city limits on US-95 N, I realized I was already in love with Idaho. The road was lined with humble homes set against forested hills. Something about being there made me feel happy.
The road narrowed as I neared Sandpoint and suddenly, I was on a bridge. It looked more like a dock than a bridge. Looking out left or right, one could think they were driving directly on the water itself. It was pretty magical. With some research, I found the nearly 2-mile bridge is appropriately named The Long Bridge. I stopped in downtown Sandpoint, but I couldn’t seem to find a place from which I could spot the bridge for a photo. I got a call from my friend in Whitefish as I was about to pull out of my spot. While I was trying to talk to her, I noticed a lady sitting by the window in the Starbucks trying to get my attention. It was hard to read her lips while having a separate phone conversation but I laughed when I finally decoded her message and pointing. She was saying, “I like your car”. All I could do was smile and give her a thumb’s up as thanks. Too funny.
As soon as I turned on to US-200, I was instantly struck by the beauty of the marshes of Lake Pend Oreille. The road traced the edge of the water nearly to the state line.
Just before Montana, I followed signs to the Cabinet Gorge Dam. There was a great view, made better by being the only one there. Apparently there used to be gigantic ice dams keeping the water from leaving western Montana. When those melted, water flooded across Idaho and Washington, in the largest flood known to have occurred on Earth (at least according to the sign posted at the viewpoint).
I followed a tip I read online and cut up Bull River Rd. Best advice ever. The cabinet mountains were nestled behind a crystal blue stream lined the entire road. It was so serene. Montana really was the treasure state.
Once I rejoined US-2, I pulled over at Kootenai Falls. It said it was only a half mile walk to the falls lookout. When I got to said lookout, I couldn’t see anything, so I decided to explore further. I ended up following a trail over some railroad tracks and down a dirt trail. I still wasn’t close enough, so I climbed down until I was right at the water. At last I had the view I was looking for. The water was rushing down the river bed with waterfalls and cascades and there I stood in the middle of it on a jutting rock. Perfection.
The rest of the drive to Whitefish was full of wide open spaces. There were large paved bike & pedestrian trails along all the highways. I bet that’s an amazing bike ride. I finally arrived to Whitefish and checked in to the Cheap Sleep Motel. There was a shy, mild-mannered man working the front desk. Turns out, he had lived around the Bay area for 8 years, the same amount of time he’d lived there in Whitefish. I asked his preference. Without hesitation, he said, “Here. But there are getting to be too many people.” I expected him to have some kind of debate but no.
I wasn’t sure what to expect from the motel but my room was large & clean. It was a great stay for only $50 a night.
Coincidentally, I found out after booking my trip that my high school best friend’s older sister, Melissa, lived in Whitefish. I headed to her house to have dinner with her family. They had the most adorable arts & crafts bungalow. I loved it. Though I didn’t know them well, it was nice to see a familiar face after 3 days of strangers. I had a really nice time hanging out with them and luckily, they warned me about the curfew bell that sounds at 10 PM. It sounded on my way home and I would have been really confused otherwise.
While I was stopped for gas near my motel, I heard a man’s voice somewhere behind me. “Excuse me, lil’ ladee.” I turned around and saw a man standing in the shadows by his truck (watch horror movies much, mindy?) and realized he was talking to me. No other little ladies at the pump. He was curious about my car’s gas mileage. It was only funnier because I’d just told Melissa that my car had become sort of spectacle on this trip. Therefore, this conversation seemed to happen almost on cue. He wished me a safe journey and I left knowing I would be described as “some city girl from San Francisco in a tiny car” at a local coffee shop the next morning. Classic.