Tuesday, January 12, 2016

The Road Trip, Part 11: Boise, ID > Palouse Falls, WA > Spokane, WA > North Cascades National Park

*Just a quick note - as the formatting on this blog keeps some of the photographs pretty small. You can click on any of the pictures to enter a slide show, which will allow you to see larger format photographs*

Previous Entries: 

Day 48: Craters of the Moon, ID to Boise, ID. 203 Miles, 3 Hours 8 Minutes

We left Craters of the moon as the sun was starting to set. We knew we had a bit of a drive ahead of us so we pushed through as hard as we could. Not much to report here as once the sun is down - you cant really see much. We tried our best throughout the entire trip to not drive after dark unless totally necessary. When we got into the greater Boise area we stopped at a McDonalds for some food and tried to figure out where to camp for the night. It became clear rather quickly that camping in your vehicle was illegal in the Boise area and we were TSOL. We started calling Walmarts further and further away and eventually found one that was OK with us being there. This proved to be an issue for, essentially, the remainder of the trip. The best we can figure is in towns or areas where people want to go camping or RVing - the towns want to ensure that campgrounds stay in business - so they make parking lot camping illegal. Makes sense, but sucks for poor saps like us, trying to stretch a buck.

Day 49: Boise, ID

When we were in the early stages of planning the road trip, we wanted to check out Boise. It eventually got cut because it added too much time to our original route. After being held up in Grand Junction, CO waiting out bad weather - we took a big detour up to Glacier National Park and cut back down. This presented us the opportunity to goto Boise which we were happy about. Unfortunately we did not have any research done for the city and really didn't know what to do. We were at the mercy of our iPhones and their local newspapers. 

It was a gloomy, windy day so we thought we would start by driving around a bit and then finding some indoors stuff to do. We were happy to see lots of trees, green space, bike lanes (that seemed like they were just starting to be installed - they started and stopped abruptly) , people on bikes and even some nice architecture. The city was small - not unlike Albany - but walkable. There was a ton of construction - the best city I can compare it to would be Montreal. While its annoying to be stuck in traffic, we try to think of this as a good thing - showing continual improvement of infrastructure and growth as a city. 

Our first stop was at the Basque Museum and Cultural Center. Apparently Boise has a fairly large Basque population. The museum was pleasant enough. After the museum we walked over to the Basque Market where we had a few pintxos and some Spanish Wines. We liked it here and thought about how nice it would be to have a lunch place like this in the Capital District. After lunch we spent some time walking around downtown, peeking into shops here and there. The only place I really remember here was the Idaho Candy Company - who is apparently known throughout the Northwest for their 'Idaho Spud' candy, which is a marshmallow dipped in chocolate sprinkled with coconut. Its pretty regrettable. 

We decided to finish the afternoon walking around the trails along the Boise River in Barber Park. This is a pretty popular lazy river destination - and seemed comparable to the Battenkill. We were in the mood for some beer and bar food so we checked out Taphouse which had an intimidating tapline of beers from the northwest we had never heard of - many of which were very good. If I recall correctly we shared a plate of fries - which were good - and oogled all the food we saw coming out of the kitchen. We would have ordered more but we had grabbed a groupon for Blue Sky Cafe in Nampa, ID - closer to where we were staying for the night. We got there and it was a trivia night, which was fun to watch. Im stuggling to find a place to compare it to...its very simple american food - SOS, grilled cheese, tenders and fries, burger....stuff like that. The place was packed and the food was enjoyable and comforting. It has since closed. We set up shop in a Staples parking lot for a wifi connection and watched some TV on the iPad until it was time to turn in for the night.

Day 50:

Our first stop of the day was at Boise State University - where there was a couple art exhibits we wanted to check out. It took us a while to figure out where the building we were looking for was - and some of the exhibits were very tiny (a ceramics one was in a single display case outside a classroom) - but the one that drew us in - The Last Supper: 600 Plates Illustrating Final Meals of US Death Row Inmates - was worth the effort. If the title doesn't sum it up - it was a display of 600 plates with illustrations of (600) death row inmates final meal requests. It was fairly sobering.

After leaving the art exhibit, we drove over to Julia Davis Park -  a very nice and fairly big park in downtown Boise. It is home to several museums and a zoo, among other things. It also connects to the Boise Greenbelt - a 20 mile long bike path that cuts right through the city. We walked around a bit and admired little things that are often absent in places like this - plenty of trash cans, grocery bag/dog poop clean up stations, bicycle repair stations, water fountains.

Fall colors at Julia Davis Park

Inside the old prison
Next we took a drive over to the Old Idaho State Penitentiary - which is exactly what it sounds like. We spent a bit wondering around, exploring the crumbling buildings. Once we left we walked on the Ridge to River Trails (a trail system with over 180 miles of trails, maintained by the city) that are accessible here for a few minutes and then made some sandwiches and ate them on the hood of the car while watching some guys ride up the trails on mountain bikes.

A flight & dominoes at Woodland Empire
From here we decided to head downtown to  check out Woodland Empire, a local brewery. We ordered a couple flights and asked for the darts (steel tips!) and settled in for the rest of the afternoon. We really enjoyed the beer and lazy vibe here. We also played some dominoes and Pacman (a fast game, according to J - a Pacman expert). My favorite beer was a coffee beer that actually tasted of good coffee. When I was a kid we would watch the Drew Carey show - and in that show they brewed a beer called Buzz Beer - which was made with coffee. I always dreamed about how awesome it must taste (being a kid I was very familiar with the flavors of beer and coffee) - for whatever reason it always resonated with me. And every coffee beer Ive ever had was pretty gross. Never enough coffee. Often too heavy or syrupy. This was black coffee with some good beer. So thanks Woodland, for fulfilling my dream of trying a beer that tastes like how I imagined Buzz Beer to taste like.

Once we sobered up a bit we went over to Rick's Press Room for dinner. We found this place on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives where they pushed their Hashbrown Salmon. So, naturally we ordered this. J liked it more than I did. Still worth a shot! 

Ricks famous Salmon.
Our next destination was Spokane, WA via Palouse Falls State Park - which we found while browsing Pintrest (really). This drive takes you through North Eastern Oregon and then up into Washington. We decided to stop for the night at a Walmart in Pendleton, OR. 

Boise, ID to Pendleton, OR. 222 Miles, 3 Hours 28 Minutes. 

Day 51:
Pendleton, ID to Palouse Falls State Park, WA. 93.8 Miles, 2 Hours 12 Minutes.

Palouse Falls

The drive from Pendleton to Palouse Falls took us through Walla Walla, WA where we stopped at a Safeway to get some sandwich stuff to eat while we were at the park. It took what felt like forever to get there, and through some very desolate farm land. The park was a very quick stop - but worth the time. We essentially parked, walked along the ridge for a few minutes, snapped some pictures, then made lunch and left. We wondered if there was access at the bottom of the falls after noticing what looked like trails that lead down. Once we were finished there, we pushed through to Spokane. 

Palouse Falls State Park, WA to Spokane, WA. 103 Miles, 1 Hour 55 Minutes

We didn't have any plans in Spokane - it was just the most logical place to stop for the night. We knew this ahead of time and had picked up a Groupon for English Setter Brewery - which was our first stop. We enjoyed our beers and tried to come up with a game plan for the night while we were there. We found a Walmart to call home for the night, decided on a pizza place for dinner, and tried to find something to do downtown in the late evening. Needless to say, most things were closed. 

View of the Monroe Street Bridge

We settled on checking out the Monroe Street Bridge - the largest arch bridge in the US. Whatever that means. It was pleasant enough - but we were hungry. We went to the Flying Goat for pizza. It was instantly apparent this place was POPULAR by the hour wait we had, the line out the door, the seemingly infinite number of people doing pick up. The pizza was Neapolitan style and was, frankly, incredible. If we lived within an hour of here - it would be part of the regular rotation. We ate outside by the fire pit and split a Wellington - with asparagus, mushrooms, garlic, oregano, cheese, and heavy cream. This pizza still comes up in conversation from time to time, over a year later. After dinner we headed to Walmart and turned in for the night. We had a long drive ahead of us the next day - all the way to Seattle. Depending on the overnight weather (it was Mid-October at this point and mountain passes were starting to close because of snow pack) we were hoping to get there via the North Cascades National Park/Highway. 

Day 52: 
Spokane, WA to Tacoma, WA (hotel) via the North Cascades National Park. 405 Miles, 7 hours 37 minutes.

This was one of my favorite drives of the trip - even though it was painfully long. We were finally driving into the Pacific Northwest. At least the PNW we knew from books and movies and television. We drove over the Coulee Dam, with views that stretched across the Columbia River. We drove along the Colville Reservation, through several Apple Towns that were incredible to see - terraced orchards running up the steep banks of the Columbia River. Eventually we were through the foothills and starting to gain elevation into the Northern Cascades. 

Moss covered trees

There was a thick, dense forest - composed of many varieties of trees covered with thick, hairy moss from the trunk to the tips of the branches. Lots of Autumn colors still remaining. Heavy, low clouds loomed above us - and before we knew it, we were above them. Winding through the high peaks was dramatic and mesmerizing. Even though it was overcast - we thought it added to the experience.  We stopped at Diablo Lake which was impossibly turquoise - due to the silt from the glacial water that feeds it. Theres not much I can do to really accurately describe the beauty here, so I'll let the pictures do the talking.
The first vista after rising above the clouds

Another dramatic vista

J on the beach, looking out at the turquoise water (no color correction here - I realize its not turquoise in the photograph)

Reflections in the foggy water

From our Book:

Nothing, as this section was mostly unplanned! 

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