Ultimate Road Trip

Trader Joe’s is a Parking Sanctuary

Our return to the United States has been mixed. After our Tim Horton’s visit, we went into the neighboring town of Trail, to walk around and stretch our legs. Trail had lovely views of the water, but the town was somewhat run down. For some odd reason, there were no empty parking spaces to be found, though we didn’t see a whole lot of people. Where was everyone?

We popped into a grocery store to get a few provisions, including the best Oreos I have ever eaten: cinnamon bun. Afterwards, we checked out their record store, library, and a thrift store before heading to the water to fix some lunch. We then drove the 20 minutes or so to the border, where we quickly gained entrance back into the States, despite the glare from the border patrol agent.

If you see these in the wild, buy every box you can

Now we were in Washington, which I had never seen before. We had our sights set on Spokane, so we journeyed south. We took a longer route to see some towns that intrigued us, such as Ryan, Marcus, and Kettle Falls. Ryan and Marcus were essentially non-existent, while Kettle Falls at least had a cool antique store to explore. Now an hour and a half from Spokane, we decided to push straight to the Apple Store downtown to rectify Ryan’s watch and AirPod situation.

The highway north of Spokane, 395, is a trip. You’re surrounded on either side by endless chain restaurants and stores. It’s been a while since we’ve been in a proper city, and we were kind of amazed by the abundance of everything. Once we were downtown, we were looking out for signs of Gonzaga students and other points of interest, but didn’t really find them.

The Apple Store visit was quite successful and relatively quick. Ryan’s watch would be ready on Monday, so we’d stay here for the weekend. We left the store feeling successful and headed downtown to Iron Goat Brewing, a spot that my college friend and Spokane native, Grace, had recommended. The bartender suggested we get the dunkel, and we both took her up on it.

At this point we were ready for a meal, but unwilling to spend a lot of time or money on it. I’d never been to Jack in the Box, so I proposed we head there. Ryan was in.

This was a classic sketchy fast food experience. We walked in and the place was exceedingly dim. The cashier was snapping at a boy who had stolen some soda from the vending machine. A crew of young girls with their moms, all wearing pajamas, followed in after us. I will commend the place on its curly fries, many flavors of dipping sauce, and the fact that its chicken strips actually appeared to be decent white chicken. I give it zero points for atmosphere.

We drove north of town to a dispersed camping site, only to find it closed. We then had to turn around and drive an hour to a new site. Thankfully it wasn’t too late, so we were set up by 9:30 and finished “Grizzly Man.”

The next day was a pure physical reset. Since Ryan works for the government, we could access Fairchild Air Force Base outside Spokane. We arrived midday and proceeded to run 8 miles around the base, do yoga, lift for 45 minutes, use the saunas for another 45, and shower. We left at 4:00, rejuvenated and hungry.

Since Tuesday in BC, the rain has been on and off. Now out of the gym, it was continuing to pour. We stopped at a park to make sandwiches, then attempted to go downtown to explore Riverfront Park. We had such difficulty finding parking, that we eventually threw up our hands. Ryan put Trader Joe’s in the navigation system, simply because he knew there’d be parking and needed a calming environment.

We caught our breath and perused the TJ’s, deciding we’d head to Coeur d’Alene for the night. The drive was smooth, having let traffic die down, and the skies began to clear. We reached a dispersed camping site just 15 minutes east of the city and set up amongst the dense pines of Idaho Panhandle National Forest. I made some chili mac and cheese, and all was right with the world.

Friday only affirmed that we are far better off sticking to the woods and small towns than navigating cities. We woke up in our mossy campsite without a care and worked among the trees. Around 10:30, a couple guys drove up in a van, with an enormous ladder strapped on top. The driver rolled down the window. “You folks plan on being here tonight?” he asked.

We explained that we didn’t plan to be, necessarily. We were going to work, run, eat, pack up, and head into town. “That’s a relief,” he said. “We built this site 20 years ago, and it’s our hunting spot. We just wanted to set up our tent before someone claimed the site.” We reassured him that the spot was all theirs, and thanks for establishing such a nice one. We got to talking and learned that they use the ladder to set up a huge awning over the space. Then they set up a tent, park a camper, and allow friends to come and go throughout the week to join them. They hunt from this spot for nearly two months, hunting deer, elk, mountain lions, and wolves. Over the years, they’ve seen the popularity explode, which is why they established another site down the way.

They were a pleasant pair to chat with, and we almost wished we could join them back at this site later that evening. We told them to feel free and set up at anytime, and that we’d be out in a couple hours.

Once they rolled out, we broke for a little 5K run along the forest road, finally warming up after a somewhat brisk morning. Back at the car, I made many, many Kodiak pancakes, which we steadily devoured. Satiated, we packed the car and headed down into Coeur d’Alene.

It had been a minute since we’d done a grocery run, and the new Kroger store to check out was Fred Meyer. This place perplexed a bit, since it also had a full clothing department! We got our usual amazing deals and saved $11.

It was around 2:30 by then, so we had the afternoon ahead of us. I found a trail called Mineral Ridge that seemed pretty popular, so we drove there and did the 3-mile loop. It was genuinely steep and tiring for us, having done so much exercising the past couple days, but the views were great.

Above Wolf Lodge Bay, Lake Coeur d’Alene

Now to explore the town. We parked near Capones, a restaurant that had been featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives. We walked up and down the midtown strip, mostly spending time in the organic food market and kicking ourselves for already doing the grocery shopping. Ryan was convinced we’d need to stay through the week, just so we could go shopping here.

We circled back to Capones, where we got overwhelmed by the Guy Fieri recommendations. The inside of the space was a classic dive/sports bar, and I had seen a billboard advertising the place as having “more taps than tables!” We decided we’d split the ultimate cheeseburger, splurge on garlic cheese fries, and get an order of the boneless wings with “sweet hot” sauce. I am not exaggerating when I say that these were the best wings I’ve had in my life. That sauce was unreal. The burger was also solid, as were the fries, but man. Those wings. We ordered more, they were so good. Just another reason to stay the week.

Naturally, we had to digest after this. We strolled downtown, where we found the actually “happening” area. There were lots of restaurants and stores and ice cream shops buzzing on Main Street. At the far west end, we reached the pier. We saw a party cruise on the way to launch, and walked along the “world’s longest floating boardwalk” (definitely do not do this after drinking). The energy was cheerful and the sunset over the water so beautiful, we felt very grateful that we’d chosen to come here.

To top off our incredibly healthy day, we got some gourmet ice cream close to the car. Ryan got London Fog and I got half Bourbon Honeycomb, half Salted Caramel with Brown Butter. This was maybe the best food day of the trip.

We slept in on Saturday morning, spending time at camp reading and calling our buddy Zach. Ryan finished The Hobbit. We then hopped into the car to head to Tubbs Hill, a bouldering area that looked promising.

We hiked along the trails with our bouldering pads, passing a lot of inquisitive looking hiking families. We were right along the water of Lake Coeur d’Alene, on a beautiful sunny day.

The first boulders were right on the hiking path, but worth stopping to warm up on — two highball (taller-than-average, meaning potentially more sketchy) V1s. It felt odd being on display, as many folks stopped to watch us climb the rocks, but it was short-lived. We then scampered below the trail to a cave that had several solid overhanging problems. We did a V3, V4, and V5. The V3 was arguably harder than the 4, requiring a long reach to surmount the overhang, while the 4 had a mini-dyno and relatively straightforward moves. The V5 took the cake, though — it had these incredible traversing moves that made you feel like you were at the gym. We sent all three.

Ryan seizes the reach on the V3 with two fingers

Moving down a ways, we checked out another boulder that was in a cove, literal feet from the water. This rock was a serious highball, so we didn’t try much on it — just a long, pumpy V2 and a V4 dyno. Our hands were sufficiently shredded. That’s when Ryan dashed right into the water.

Water to the left of the boulder problems

You couldn’t ask for more. The water was the perfect temperature and the sun was shining down. After an ideal climbing session, you feel really spoiled getting to strip off your rock shoes and walk straight into a blissful lake.

A not-posed panorama of the water and boulders

Thoroughly content and cool, we took our things back to the car and fixed a fantastic picnic in the park by Tubbs Hill and the lake. Ryan called his mom, Doris, to thank her. She was the one who suggested we come to this town in the first place. Moms really know best!

We spent the rest of the afternoon taking leisurely walks around town and calling some folks. Once we were ready for dinner, we strolled along the main strip before determining that all we wanted was more Capones. So, we essentially repeated our Friday night. We got new Guy Fieri menu items, of course, but the cadence of events was practically identical.

Yes, we got ice cream again.

Now we’re in a cute Coeur d’Alene coffee shop, trying to determine our plan for the day. Some rain swept in last night, which is always welcome, but deters us from swimming or climbing as planned. Onward to Oregon this week!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *