I grew up going to Spokane, Washington. Many people think that it is a funny place to go to for family holidays, however, for me, it holds great memories.
It is about an eight-hour drive from Calgary. A long ways to go for a normal weekend, but perfect for a long weekend or a week off. The drive is beautiful. A fact I didn’t appreciate as a kid. But you get the luxury of following slower, windy roads all the way along. First, Highway 22 South along the Cowboy trail offers endless views of fields, cows, and mountains all the way through the Crowsnsest Pass and on to Fernie. In the summer, these roads would be even more spectacular with green trees and blue skies. We enjoyed the still snow-capped mountains and snow-less fields just the same, however!
We decided to stay in Fernie for the night in order to break up the drive for our puppy , Rupert, a bit more. Fernie is obviously a destination unto itself, but we only had time for a nice long walk along the river this time.
In the morning, we sped along, following the railroad tracks, through Cranbrook and across to the US at Eastport. I don’t think I have ever had such a quick boarder crossing on a long weekend. It was great. We passed through the cute small towns of Good Grief and Bonars Ferry, eventually crossing the large lake at Sandpoint. I have also visited Sandpoint many times when I was younger. It is a nice lake with a cute little downtown area. Today, however, we didn’t stop but instead kept on going until we reached Newport where we crossed from Idaho into Washington. (as an FYI, you can continue South in Idaho and reach Spokane through Coeur d’Alene and Post Falls, but it takes an hour or so longer)
We had such a nice, calm drive that along with the time change, we reached the Red Lion Inn at 10 am! Of course they were unable to check us in that early, so we got the puppy ready and went for a walk in the beautiful downtown river park.
The 1974 World’s Fair was held in Spokane. It was the first environmentally themed world’s expo and had around 5.2 million visitors. Because of this construction, the riverfront was built and is still beautiful today. There are two huge waterfalls with Islands and many walking paths that run beside the rivers and through the Islands. Bridges connect the opposite sides and the fair grounds. There are yellow-bellied marmots (that I used to call “Crokas” as a kid) in the rocks along the river.
My fond memories include the giant “Red Flyer” wagon, metal Vacuum goat, and the Looff Carrousel. I was absolutely devastated when we approached the riverside and I saw that there were bulldozers and cranes where the carousal normally stood. I quickly found a local who told me that the carrousell was removed, piece by piece, and put into storage so that repairs to the riverfront could be conducted without harming this priceless antique.
The Looff Carrousel is such a big deal because it is one of the best preserved hand-carved wooden carrousels in the US. It was built in 1909 and has been in and out of storage over the decades. It has been used regularly since 1975, so this was the first time in my life that it was not there when I went to go see it! The best part of this carrousel, in my opinion is the rings that you get to catch. If you are lucky enough to grab a horse on the outside of the ride, you can reach for plastic rings as the horse takes you by the dispenser. The idea is to try and grab the brass ring, which is hidden among the plastic rings, and will give you a ticket for a free ride. I think I was able to catch one or two of the brass rings over the years riding the carrousel.
Since there was no carrousel for us to ride this time, we walked on through the park visiting the newly restored lower waterfall park. The river was one of the highest I have ever seen, and our puppy was pretty interested by the continual spray and roaring water.
After checking in and making sure puppy Rupert was happy in the hotel room, we decided to go for a little shopping trip to the near-by mall. We didn’t do any serious damage, but J.C. Penny and Kohls always have good stuff that we don’t have at home, so a few purchases are inevitable.
One of the restaurants I remember visiting often as a kid is the Old Spaghetti Factory. It is fun here because it has a real streetcar inside the restaurant. The decor is all turn-of-the-century and has a great atmosphere. However, we had enough of driving and walking today, so decided to simply stay at the hotel to eat at the Ripples restaurant. It was excellent and I think it was a wise decision as we were all asleep before 8:30pm!
Saturday was not nearly as warm as we would have liked, but it was not snowing like it was in Calgary, so we considered ourselves lucky. We pulled our bikes out of the car, and got Rupert into his biking backpack and cycled through the Gonzaga University Campus along the multi-use trail that follows the river all the way back into Idaho. Rupert does really well on the bike, but he gets stressed when Shawn and I cycle too far apart because he likes to see us together all the time. We cycled for about an hour until we reached a great off-leash area where the dog got to stretch his legs with some fetch before we raced to beat the rain heading back into Spokane and to our hotel. It was a great ride. It made me laugh, however, because I remember that ride being absolute torture when my parents made me do it when I was little! Funny how perception changes.
For dinner, we decided, since it was Easter, to treat ourselves to a nice meal out at The Melting Pot. There isn’t one of these restaurants in Calgary, but it is one of our favourite restaurants when we lived in Edmonton. It is honestly a bit pricy, but the food is great, and I would never ever make three courses of fondue at home, so it is worth it! And the best part here was that we could easily walk from our hotel along the river, through the park to dinner.
It was a long ride home in the car on Sunday. There is no way around eight hours in a car! But it was a fun trip and totally worth the drive. I love the quiet and simplicity that I seem to feel in Spokane. I think we will have to make sure we go more often as it has been too long since I was here last.