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Entries about roadtrip 2014

Following the Snake River: Boise ID - Moscow ID

sunny 26 °C

Boise featured strongly in my brother's plans, mainly because he thought it is the potato capital of the world and really wanted to see some potatonalia. Sadly, it was not even the potato capital of Idaho - that would be Blackfoot, near where we started the day's travels. Blackfoot has a very highly rated potato museum, which claims to "lead you through the revolution of the potato industry" and has the largest potato chip on display. Most interesting of all, they have chocolate covered potato chips which look pretty good.
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Since leaving Boise, I have heard of Florenceville, New Brunswick being the big cheese of the potato world - it is where McCains started, claims the title of French Fry Capital of the World and boasts the Potato World museum. No sign of any chocolate chips, however. There is a Big Potato in the Idaho Historical Museumin Boise but the museum was closed for renovations.

So we wandered downtown Boise for a bit, didn't really see much to admire except for the State Capitol, which had a tableau of Chief Twisted Hair of the Nez Perce people talking with Lewis and Clark in 1804, and headed for the Whole Foods for breakfast (where I got a bit of stick for having chicken curry). Thinking ahead, we had them make some fabulous sandwiches which kept us going.
Idaho Capitol, Boise

Idaho Capitol, Boise


Chief Twisted Hair, Lewis and Clark

Chief Twisted Hair, Lewis and Clark

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The drive for the day didn't have anything spectacular like the Beartooth Pass but all in all it was a nicely varied drive, a combination of forested ravines, big sunburnt hills and prairie - about 300 miles in all. We followed the Payette River which fed into the Snake River as we headed north up ID-55 and then rejoined US-95. Not far out of Boise we caught up with the Thunder Mountain Line train, which does a 15 mile trip up the river. The river is a pretty major destination for white water rafting and, where it is calmer, paddle-boarding and kayaking.
Heading out of Boise ID

Heading out of Boise ID


Thunder Mountain Line

Thunder Mountain Line


Thunder Mountain Line

Thunder Mountain Line


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The paddle-boarder had a lot of trouble getting up on the board and came close to falling in several times although never actually did before the triumph seen in the last photo. The road took us into McCall which was so pretty we had to stop and wander around and try out the Fogg Lifter cafe - which was rather more like a living room than a cafe. Nice place, even of we got hopelessly lost leaving, because we had no idea we were actually on the road we wanted, so tried some others.
McCall ID

McCall ID


McCall ID

McCall ID


McCall ID

McCall ID


Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID

Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID


Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID

Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID


Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID

Fogg Lifter Cafe, McCall ID


The road took us up past the Nez Perce forest and then a place called Grangeville: as we drove, I started to realise that I had been before, certainly the Nez Perce territory was looking familiar and I remembered going into Grangeville and thinking it was a dump.
Riggins ID

Riggins ID


White Bird ID

White Bird ID


White Bird ID

White Bird ID


Nez Perce territory, ID

Nez Perce territory, ID


Nez Perce Country

Nez Perce Country


The land flattened out as we went through the Camas prairie, which was intersected by the Lapwai Canyon - which required some rather large wooden trestles to let the Camas Prairie Railroad through.
Camas Prairie

Camas Prairie


Camas Prairie Railroad Wooden Bridge

Camas Prairie Railroad Wooden Bridge

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The big reason for coming this way was my brother's desire to see the locks and shipping at the major inland port of Lewiston. Poor bugger, because there were no locks and not much more shipping - this is how busy it was.
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Lewiston was a funny sort of place - across the river from the main road, there were several small big-box shopping areas ascending the hill, with a defunct Walmart perched at the top. The small historic district was on a bend in the river and looked like it might have been worth a look, but we didn't really stop - got hassled by some young guys hooning around who apparently had driven up from California, and this was all they could find to do. The Motel 6 was cheap, so I would have been OK to stay but we decided to carry on. The drive out of town was spectacular.
Bridge @ Lewiston

Bridge @ Lewiston


Road above Lewiston

Road above Lewiston


Road above Lewiston

Road above Lewiston


Road above Lewiston

Road above Lewiston


Leaving was probably the right thing to do, as it meant we could stay in the very pleasant town of Moscow, a place I really enjoyed on my last visit to this part of the world, and home base of the University of Idaho. Oddly, despite being Saturday night, town was very quiet - a combination I guess of most students being too young to drink and many of them leaving town for the long weekend. It isn't a very big place, but it has a wonderful modern Italian restaurant - Maialina - where the staff was very careful to point out that they didn't make doughy, cheese-soaked slabs of crap. The waiter may have been a bit full of himselfbut it really was good food.

Posted by NZBarry 21:28 Archived in USA Tagged roadtrip_2014 Comments (0)

Heading East: West Glacier - Butte MT

sunny 26 °C

This was a stint of 350 miles or so. We left the park quite late in the afternoon, planning to stop at Whitefish MT for the night. It was a pretty wee town, with a couple of streets worth of very good looking bars and restaurants where I am sure it would have been fun to hang out and sample the wares of the local brewery. Unfortunately, it was not to be - too many other people had had the same idea and had the foresight to arrive earlier. So, after a fruitless scan of hotels on my phone on some free wifi I stole from one of the bars, we headed south to Kalispell - a more functional but still pleasant enough town. It gave us a good hotel room (although we didn't stay at the very trad looking Kalispell Grand), and thanks to a recommendation from the hotel, a nice dinner in a very old skool seeming Italian restaurant, ScotiBelli's. In the morning, we stumbled into the very busy Colter's Coffee Roasters (thinking it was a bit early to hit the Kalispell brewery next door) and set off.

Main Street, Kalispell MT

Main Street, Kalispell MT

Kalispell Grand Hotel

Kalispell Grand Hotel

Colter Coffee Roasters, Kalispell

Colter Coffee Roasters, Kalispell

A fellow guest at the hotel was trying to get the receptionist to saying that either Bigfork or Whitefish was prettier: she said she couldn't. Since it was only a minor deviation, we headed to the east of the gigantic Flathead Lake to see for ourselves, and then down the eastern side of the lake on a slowish road to Missoula. The town was a bit older and perhaps had a bit less on the boil, but that was made up for (at least) by the wee inlet from the lake and the lake itself.

Barn

Barn

Barn

Barn

Bigfork MT

Bigfork MT

Bigfork MT

Bigfork MT


Bigfork MT

Bigfork MT

Flathead Lake

Flathead Lake

Train in the Woods

Train in the Woods

Train in the Woods

Train in the Woods

The road

The road

Missoula was a bit of a disappointment - I had fond memories of a great bar I had visited last time, but we were there late morning. We took a punt and went out to Fort Missoula, where there are some barracks and training grounds. Our wee automated friend (i.e. the GPS voice in my brother's phone) got us hopelessly lost getting into Missoula proper, trying to tell us that a convenience store or similar was all there was of downtown. We eventually found it, had a very quick walk around, grabbed an enormous lunch at Crackerbarrel and headed for Helena. I even relented enough to take the Interstate.

Fort Missoula

Fort Missoula

Fort Missoula Barracks

Fort Missoula Barracks

I really wish I had done a bit more reading about Helena before we got there, because there is a lot to see - I did enjoy it, but there's more. We were unfortunate enough to get there just as the two coffee shops closed for the day, so had a wander through the central open-mall/pedestrianised street - an odd mix of some quaint shops and brutalist architecture, but with attention paid to street art to make it appealing. There was a fair going on (as has been the case in almost every town we've visited). Off this main street, there are lost of cool old buildings and, of course,a few blocks away, the State Capitol.

Helena Cathedral

Helena Cathedral


Helena Cathedral

Helena Cathedral

Bullwhacker

Bullwhacker

Cigars?

Cigars?

Newspaperman

Newspaperman

Fair, Helena MT

Fair, Helena MT

Downtown Helena MT

Downtown Helena MT

Downtown Helena MT

Downtown Helena MT

Train, Helena MT

Train, Helena MT

Apartments, Helena MT

Apartments, Helena MT

Helena Town Hall

Helena Town Hall

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Montana Legislature, Helena

Just on dark, we made it to Butte - my second visit. I first read about it in a book called The Road to McCarthy, in which one of my all time favourite travel writers, the late Pete McCarthy, travelled to various places to trace his Irish roots (he has also inspired me to drive across Tasmania). On St Patricks day, 30,000 descend upon Butte to celebrate (mind you, 50,000 come to celebrate Evil Kneivel day and 170,000 for the folk music festival (according to Wikipedia)!) I then saw it in a Wim Wenders movie, Don't Come Knocking. The blurb for the film has this to say about Butte:

In 1900, Butte, Montana was the biggest city west of the Mississippi. Now it is a place of deep depression. Downtown Butte is a ghost town...

The reason it was the biggest town was copper: it struck it rich - to the tune of $50 billion or so, making it the wealthiest town on earth for decades - and was also processing ores from mines around the USA and Canada (including the one we visited in Kimberley). This made it the "richest hill on earth". With all this money, they built grand brick buildings up on the top of a ridge - most are still there, but their purpose has gone. There is a gigantic open cast mine, but the most substantial mining happening today is extracting dissolved copper from the poisonous water which is slowly filling the pit.

But the ghost town thing seems to be history - there were quite a few signs of regeneration, and the population has stabilised at nearly 35,000. I'd have liked to have spent a couple of days or more to soak up the atmosphere and get some photos, but instead we did our best to see the sights in the last hour of near-daylight we had. There's a hill at one end of town we drove up and had a view for miles around, and we drove in and out many of the streets containing small miner's houses before hitting the uptown historical district.

Across the road from our hotel was the fabulous Uptown Cafe to provide "Civilized Dining in the Wild, Wild West" - one of the flashest meals we had on the whole trip. The same can be said for the hotel, the grand old Finlen - we've been in Motel 6 style rooms with two beds but in this hotel we had separate rooms, and they were extremely well presented. If the motels have provided breakfast, it has mainly been in a wee corner of a small reception area - the Finlen has a proper lobby, and a bar where we hung out and had a couple of rums, along with the three elderly gentlemen who were obviously regulars and the young couple who hardly noticed their surroundings. All in all, it was a great evening for me (my brother had not so good news from home).

Finlen Hotel @ Butte

Finlen Hotel @ Butte

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Posted by NZBarry 20:07 Archived in USA Tagged roadtrip_2014 Comments (0)

Kimberley BC to East Glacier MT

sunny 27 °C

Again, this could have been an easy drive of 162 miles down a good road, but I had instructions that we had to see a truck and a slip (the latter had me completely befuddled, the former more than a little puzzled) and so we had 260 miles to go, some of it on downright shoddy roads.

I would probably never have heard of Kimberley, let alone visited, had a friend not moved there - her being there was a good enough reason to visit, and we had a good catch up and a sort of degustation menu in a German restaurant which had started life as a Bavarian farmhouse, and was dis-assembled and brought to Kimberley. I normally shy away from degustation menus because (a) I like to know what I am ordering and (b) most seem to involve fussy food that I won't like. The Bavarian Feast was mostly a down to earth meal which I ate happily, except for a salad that may have involved pears, frog nostrils and eye of newt: luckily my companions hoovered it up. All in all, we came close to doing a demolition job on what was a lot of good food.

But it turned out we had quite a good time in Kimberley, apart from the catch up. It is an old mining town where the mine closed and the town has been trying to figure out what to do with itself. It is almost completely surrounded by mountains - in the central area, there is the town centre, which has taken on a sort of German theme, one that later buildings have ignored. But when you stand at one end, it looks quite pretty, and it has the most alarming clock. It is built in the style of a giant cuckoo clock, right in the centre of town. Instead of a cuckoo, however, it has a yodeller who comes out on the hour to do his thing, or whenever puts in a dollar (which we had to do, of course). It must drive the people working nearby barmy - in fact, the sound was turned down for this very reason.

Kimberley BC TC

Kimberley BC TC

Kimberley BC TC

Kimberley BC TC

As you ascend from the centre, there are miners' houses, many not looking so great, and then as you climb higher, that's where the money is - rich people from other towns like Calgary have built these enormous three storey houses as holiday homes. On one side, there is a ski slope, which almost ends in my friend's house (one of the reasons she is there).

The closed mine is largely off-limits, but they have set up a quaint little train to run into one little part of the mine, where there is a reconstruction of a miner's day. Our guide showed us how to set explosives, how to drop a water pick (not an intended part of the demonstration), and how to drive a wee loader-digger thingey.

Mine Entry @ Kimberley Mine

Mine Entry @ Kimberley Mine

Mine Guide @ Kimberley Mine

Mine Guide @ Kimberley Mine

Explosive System @ Kimberley Mine

Explosive System @ Kimberley Mine

Digger Shunter Thingey @ Kimberley Mine

Digger Shunter Thingey @ Kimberley Mine

Safe Room @ Kimberley Mine

Safe Room @ Kimberley Mine

That last room is where the miners would congregate whenever there was a risk of toxic gases in the mine, as they guys did in Chile a few years back for, what, 100 days - we both had Pike River on our mind, wondering if the guys had got into a room like this one, and met their end there. We then went into the powerhouse (it had to compress air for lots of the equipment and provide electricity for the trains) where, when he finally turned up, we had a talk from the former mine manager, who went on to run the whole company. He was pretty impressive (I have no idea how accurate) in what he said about the money spent to clean up after the mine and to provide for the town itself.

Powerhouse @ Kimberley Mine

Powerhouse @ Kimberley Mine

Power Generation @ Kimberley Mine

Power Generation @ Kimberley Mine

Power Generation @ Kimberley Mine

Power Generation @ Kimberley Mine

First IBM product

First IBM product

We all know about IBM and its mainframe, super and personal computers but apparently one of its earliest, if not its first, products was a time clock, for guys to clock in at work - the mine had two of them. Our speaker was most proud of the fact that a lot of the equipment is 100 years old (I think he said the young machine was brought in in 1926) and still functional - he put on a bit of a show, by having a wee boy come over to push the button to get one running.

We had been told about the great sandwiches to be had at Loaf in Fernie, so headed off without lunch to try it out. They may well have great sandwiches, but they obviously don't like Mondays, as they were not open. The museum was - the guy running it was so keen to talk to us, I wondered if we were the first in for the day (I must confess, I eventually ducked around a display cabinet and out the door to avoid him). After a quick snap of the courthouse, I introduced Steve to that Brazillian owned (soon to be Burger King owned) Canadian institution, Tim Hortons. I think he'd have preferred Subway.

Courthouse @ Fernie BC

Courthouse @ Fernie BC

Sparwood is a big mining town, and it is here I got to see the truck - a Terex 33-19 "Titan" built in 1973. It was a prototype but was actually put to work for nearly 20 years. There are two stories as to why it is the only one made: where we saw it, the story was that they had supply chain problems with getting parts to make any more. On Wikipedia, the story is that the bottom dropped out of the coal market, so it was no longer a viable manufacturing proposition. And what is so special about this truck? For 25 years it was the biggest ever made - it had a payload of 320 tonnes. I know people will be very curious to know what exceeded it - eventually two even bigger Terex's were made, and there's a Caterpillar and a Liebherr but the biggest ever, with the ability to carry nearly 500 tonnes, is the Belaz 75710, from Belarus.

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Then it was time for the "slip":

Frank, Alberta

Frank, Alberta

Frank, Alberta

Frank, Alberta

Under those rocks is the town of Frank, Alberta. On 29 April 1903 at 4:10 a.m., when no doubt the inhabitants were sound asleep, the top blew off the Turtle Mountain, and 82 million tonnes of rock piled down the mountain, across a wee valley and crashed into Frank, burying 90 or so people alive. As the pictures show, they are still there. Just down the valley, there is a new town of Frank - not somewhere I'd be too keen to linger.

Carrying on we went through the underwhelming Crowsnest Pass and at Pincher Creek, headed south.

Random Mountain, Alberta

Random Mountain, Alberta

Fields south of Pincher Creek, Alberta

Fields south of Pincher Creek, Alberta

Fields south of Pincher Creek, Alberta

Fields south of Pincher Creek, Alberta

Fields south of Pincher Creek, Alberta

Fields south of Pincher Creek, Alberta

River south of Pincher Creek, Alberta

River south of Pincher Creek, Alberta

We found ourselves on a very narrow road which meandered back and forth in the bush - a most unlikely place for a border crossing, and yet, that's where it was, and very casual - "what are you guys up to?" was the one question. Google maps shows that we should have gone out to a town called Browning, but I knew better and took a "short-cut" - it was a shorter road, for sure, but the worst we encountered - badly surfaced, twisty and hilly.

All in all, it was dark when we got to East Glacier, a wee town with a few cafes and hotels on the corner of Glacier National Park where I'd booked us into an antique wooden hostel. We just managed to get into the restaurant for dinner before it closed for fish tacos and huckleberry pie. Tasty.

Posted by NZBarry 20:39 Archived in Canada Tagged roadtrip_2014 Comments (0)

Leavenworth, WA to Kimberley, BC

sunny 28 °C

The next couple of days travel were also supposed to be easy, just 400 miles and a border crossing, but it became 650 miles plus. This is generally not on the Interstate, and we pop in to every town likely to yield an interesting result, so travel is not exactly rapid.

After coffee in a home-made jam shop because the Leavenworth coffee shop didn't open until 11:00, it was pretty much straight on to Wenatchee - our stop in Cashmere to see the museum was cut short by the museum not being open. We drove up and down the main street of Wenatchee a couple of times - I'm sure I could have coped with staying here - then found it had a public market open: part farmers market, part crafts and part more established shops in an enclosed building. My brother and co-pilot researched each town as we drove in: this was the apple capital of the world, so we thought we should get some. The lady selling them was very enthusiastic, saying they were "the first pick of the season, picked yesterday" and maybe they were, but they were inedible through being picked too early.

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

Wenatchee Market

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The Wenatchee River joins the Columbia at this point: we followed it down for maybe 20 miles, and found it necessary to make a stop when we saw a train on the other side.

Columbia River

Columbia River

Columbia River

Columbia River

Columbia River

Columbia River

Columbia River

Columbia River

Columbia River

Columbia River

Heading west, things soon became very flat (they don't call this area the Columbia Plains for nothing) and very dry, so there were dust spirals rising from the ground. Apart from a quick stop for a burger in Ephrata (nice burger in a very old skool sort of way from DK's Drive In, but not much else to the town), we didn't see much until Harrington.

Columbia Plains

Columbia Plains

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We were stopped to take photos of dust plumes when a local cop stopped to see if we were alright. Next time we saw him, in Harrington, he gave us the thumbs up. The next time after that, it was a huge smile and big wave - if we'd seen him again, I reckon he'd have given us the keys to the town, if not citizenship. Not that there was much to see in Harrington, not until I saw an old car on the side of the road I wanted a photo of. I don't think my brother was very interested, as he wandered off to have a smoke, but as I took my photo, a chap came out to see what I was doing, and invited me in. Every Saturday, the owner of the former Studebaker garage gets all his cars out, and his mates and anyone interested in old cars can go in and have a beer and shoot the breeze. I think I'm an honorary member now - he insisted I sign the visitor's book "we don;t get many folk from Noo Zealan here in Harrington". Quelle surprise! They were nice cars, but.

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Studebaker

Studebaker

Studebakers

Studebakers

Studebakers

Studebakers

Studebakers of Harrington WA

Studebakers of Harrington WA

Studebakers of Harrington WA

Studebakers of Harrington WA

My brother was keen to see harvesters in action, particularly big rigs - just out of Harrington, he was rewarded, sort of - we came across a demonstration of vintage harvesting machinery.

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

Vintage Harvesting Demonstration

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Finally, we got into Spokane late afternoon and had a wee walk down to the river and saw the power station and SkyRide (a gondala running down the river a bit). Steve thought it might be good to have a coffee, so I pull out my wallet, only I don't. It isn't there. Maybe it is in the car, I think. Nope. So, when did I last use it? That would be to pay for my burger in Ephrata, 125 miles back up the road. I phone, and sure enough, they have it - the lady said she'd run after me but not been able to stop us. So we saw very little of Spokane: instead, it was a rush back to Ephrata (this time on the Interstate).

On the way back we stopped at a place called Moses Lake and had a very nice dinner in a steakhouse. I had ONE beer, despite the best efforts of the waitress. Now in the US, they have this rule that if you're turning right, you can go on a red light. I'd got myself a bit confused about exactly where the Interstate on-ramp was and was dithering at an intersection, thought the Interstate was to my right, so took the free turn, nearly clipping a police car in the process. He of course asks if I have been drinking, and gives me a wee homily about how important it is to be honest when I say I have had one drink - he even asked what it was. He then administered his sobriety tests: first I had to follow his pen with my eyes as he waved it around. I'm a bit nervous, and he says not to worry, he knows what he's looking for. Then I had to do a sort of goose step, one foot straight in front of the other, heel to toe. My co-ordination is not great at the best of times, so I was not so good at this test. Then there was another test - I still don't really understand what I was supposed to do, it involved keeping one foot still but somehow dancing around it with the other foot, so obviously failed that one.

Finally, he could administer what I would have liked in the first place - a breathalyser, which showed me as having zero alcohol in my blood. "My equipment is faulty, I'll have to get another officer" I am told. Someone from the Sheriff's department shows up, and gets the same result so finally, I have a grumpy cop but am free to go. This makes us very late into Coeur d'Alene, after 11:00, but we are greeted by a very helpful motelier, despite booking the cheapest place in town.

Next morning is a little humiliating for me, because I was convinced I came to Coeur d'Alene last time I was in the Pacific Northwest, and was telling Steve about things I had seen and done. We're only in the downtown area about five minutes and I realise I have never been here in my life. When my brother travels with his family, they have a "dick of the day" award - this, combined with yesterday's efforts mean I have won it so convincingly it is never mentioned again.

Coeur d'Alene has a very nice lake and a great new park (which was being set up for a barbecue cook-off which I would have liked to have stayed for, but they were going to take hours before any food would be ready. Otherwise, it was really quite boring. After a not so great breakfast in the Iron Horse (which looks really good inside but we sat, unknowingly, outside, it was time to hit the road for a fairly uneventful drive up US/BC 95.

Iron Horse

Iron Horse

Iron Horse

Iron Horse

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Steel Bison

Monarch Mountain Coffee, Sandpoint ID

Monarch Mountain Coffee, Sandpoint ID

Monarch Mountain Coffee, Sandpoint ID

Monarch Mountain Coffee, Sandpoint ID

Posted by NZBarry 20:35 Archived in USA Tagged roadtrip_2014 Comments (0)

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