Spokane Trip

August 19-21 , 2011

At the beginning of summer I got an email from Red Lion Hotels. They were offering a "Da Vinci Package" that included 2 nights and discount tickets to the Northwest Museum to see an exhibit about Da Vinci's Machines. It sounded interesting to both of us, so I hung onto the email.

Once Dan was starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel with his huge work project, we decided we had to get out of town. I remembered the email from Red Lion and Dan said, "Book it!"

Friday, August 19, 2011:

We headed out early in the morning on Friday. Dan took a PTO day so we could get some extra time in Spokane.

Dan wanted to buy coffee at the ferry station, but we got there as they were starting to load. Dan said he would run and get us coffee and I'd drive on the ferry. He would walk on and find the car. I said okay and slid over to the driver's seat. I pulled onto the ferry and sent Dan a text message letting him know where I was. I heard a weird noise, but wasn't sure what it was.

A minute later the boat dropped the guard rail and started to pull away from the dock. I texted again saying I hoped he was on the boat and I was waiting. I heard that noise again. It was Dan's phone in the car with me!! ACK! That's when I started to get nervous.

As we pulled away from Bainbridge Island, I looked to see if I could see Dan on the shore, but there was no sign of him. ACK! A few minutes later I saw a guy with 2 coffees coming down the ramp. Phew! He had splashed a lot of coffee, but he made it on the boat. After my small heart attack, we settled in the car and ate our breakfast and read the paper.

Once we were on the other side, it was a quick trip up to Snoqualmie Pass. There was some construction traffic on the other side of the pass, but it wasn't terrible. And the views are nice. :) We made a quick rest area stop and took a look at Mt. Stewart and then it was off towards Vantage for lunch.

We got to Vantage and took the exit just before the Columbia River to go to the Gingko Petrified Forest State Park. We had been there before, but it was coooold and windy. Dan walked up to the base of the trail, but said all he saw was sagebrush. It was in my new hiking book, so I wanted to do the hike.

We stopped at the Visitor Center and looked at the wonderful exhibits of petrified wood. They had well over 100 artifacts. Amazing. From there we drove up to the trail head, we loaded up our packs and headed out.

I was terribly disappointed with the hike. It was hot and climby, but the worst part was that you couldn't get a really good look at any of the petrified trees as they were all incased in some kind of tree jail. We shortened the hike to do a smaller loop and we did have some interesting views of the gorge on the way back down.


At the trail head, we found a picnic bench in the shade and had our lunch. I changed into shorts as it was getting really warm and we headed back out for the boring part of our drive.

I say it's boring, but it's not. There is a lot to see out there, but I-90 is a lot like that I-5 I've done so many times between Los Banos & The Grapevine. It's a whole lot of farm and not a lot else. This route doesn't even have the glimpses of the Sierra to get you through. It's a bad sign when you get excited by seeing a sign saying the crops being grown along the highway will be identified for the next 14 miles. ;)

At some point we got off the highway to drive some side roads around some lakes for a change of scenery. We drove through an old town called Sprague. It was sort of a sad town, but there were a lot of interesting sites there.


I can't remember if our next stop was Downs Lake or Williams Lake, but it was a nice diversion.


We decided to drive north on a highway through the Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge, hoping to get a glimpse of some sort of wildlife. We had a local driver pushing us faster than we wanted to go. We saw a road turning off to the right and Dan pulled in there to let the driver go by. Then I saw the sign for the "Turnbull National Wildlife Refuge" and we drove on to find a sign. It described a bunch of hikes and a 6 mile loop drive around the area. We had some time to kill, so we decided to do it.

We drove out to the Pine Lakes Loop Trail and parked the car. We walked the loops around the lakes and saw some great sites. Not a lot of mammals, but we saw tons of birds.


It was a quick drive to Spokane from there and we found our hotel with ease. We stayed at the Red Lion River Inn instead of the one by the park. This one was not in the middle of downtown, but it was right next to the river and walking distance of the park on the river trail.

We got checked in, drove way down to the other end of the hotel to our room and got unpacked. We decided to avoid the hassle and have dinner at the restaurant in the hotel. We made the long walk down to Ripples Riverside Grill and were seated at a window table with a view of the river. It was nice.

We ordered some drinks. I didn't like mine, but managed to drink it anyway. ;) We ordered mushrooms with wasabi sauce for an appetizer. Dan had the Fish & Chips and I ordered the Crab & Lobster Stuffed Shrimp with rice & veggies.

Once again we found ourselves with really slow service at another Red Lion Hotel Restaurant. It wasn't nearly as bad as the 3.5 hour dinner in Yakima, but we were not thrilled with the service. For instance the waiter brought my salad after bringing our dinners. I don't think we ever did get our bread. But the food was good and we were tired and hungry.

We walked along the river back to our room in the hotel. After some wrong turns to try to find a door back inside, we finally got back in our room and relaxed with some TV and books.

Saturday, August 20, 2011:

Today is Da Vinci Day! We took our time getting up as we were in no rush for a change. We walked down to Ripples again for our breakfast buffet. Dan didn't get his favorite "flippy waffles" but the selection wasn't bad and we were both sated. And you can't beat free. :)

We had tickets to the museum at opening, 10am. A little before 10, we got in the car and headed across the river and through downtown to find it. The street the museum was on is beautiful full of old homes just loaded with history. We quickly found the museum and went down to the lower/covered levels of the parking garage to keep the stuff in the car from melting in the heat.

Inside we were given the map/guide and given our Da Vinci sticker to let us into the exhibit. We headed straight downstairs to the start of the exhibit.

The first room was full of biography and timeline information. I loved the timeline on the big wall that talked about Da Vinci's accomplishments along with things like "The Spanish Inquisition begins". Wow! That puts the time into context. We walked around and read the information and looked at prints of paintings and some sketches of his.

On to the main part of the exhibit, we went through several rooms that had the famous drawings along with a scale model of the machine made by an Italian family who have been making them for centuries. For example, Dan was fascinated with the scythe.


Many of the exhibits were hands off, but in each room there would be one or two things you could work for yourself. I was pretty impressed with the water pump made out of a giant coil. I was afraid of just about everything in the room for his flying machines. I'm not sure I'd ever trust that "parachute".

0811SpokaneThe last room of the exhibit was called "Mechanics" and consisted of a copy of the "Last Supper" along one wall and the rest of the room was filled with hands-on machines. Some of them were so simple, yet brilliant. I liked the hammering machine. But that was mostly because it made a loud noise that startled other people in the room. :)

From there we went back upstairs and had some lunch in the museum restaurant. Dan had a lamb and beef gyro. I had a Chicken Caesar Salad and we both had the fresh lemonade. YUM!


On our way out, we stopped in the lobby to get some pictures of us as the Mona Lisa. HA HA!! Dan makes a terrible looking woman.


We had the rest of the afternoon to do whatever sounded interesting. Dan talked about walking down from our hotel to the park and reading our books. I was not interested in sitting in the heat all day even though it sounded nice. Then I presented the idea of going up to the top of Mt. Spokane just outside of town. Dan loved that idea so we were off.

I had forgotten to pack a belt and we made a stop at a store I should have been able to find one. Unfortunately it was not to be. But it didn't take us out of our way. Then we made a quick, but scary drive up the very steep road to the mountain. We parked and walked up to the very top.


Once we got there, we found a really neat looking old Conservation Corps building. Inside was a huge fireplace and you could smell decades of fires in there. It had such a great vibe and was nice and cool inside. We wanted to stay all day in there, looking at the views out the windows. But some other people came up and we decided to go outside and let them have their private time too. As we walked around the building, we saw this gated off area in front of a door behind what would be the back of the fireplace. There was a small sign so we got closer. It said something to the effect of "Caution! Possible Hanta Virus Infestation." Um.. thanks for telling us NOW!! Why isn't there a sign like that by the FRONT door? :)

But it was too pretty to worry about it. The views were great. We could see Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia and a good portion of Eastern Washington from up there.


And I believe these were the first wildflowers we had seen this year.


We made a quick descent and were back on the road. It was late afternoon, but I wanted to drive up to an area between Mead and Colbert, WA to see an animal rescue place. Dan reluctantly agreed. He was already getting hungry for dinner and wanted to go back to town. What a trooper he was!

0811SpokaneLucky for us, in our wanderings, we found this High Country Orchard farm stand. Well, none of these are actually farm stands anymore, are they? Once you're selling scented candles and glassware, I think you have to be called something else.

Behind the barn in another large building down the hill, there was a wedding reception going strong. The music selection was fantastic. We went from Michael Jackson's Thriller to some country song I wasn't familiar with. Then there was some 80's butt rock and something sort of rap-like. It was just like our iPod. HA!

We went inside looking for a snack and hit the jackpot! I got a scoop of their sugar-free huckleberry ice cream and Dan got a huckleberry smoothie. YUM!! I can't tell you how much this hit the spot. Delicious. We grabbed a table on the other side of the barn with a shade umbrella and enjoyed our treats while people watching.

There were some people eating what looked like great hamburgers a couple tables over from us. I almost asked if Dan was interested, but I had promised him that we would go to downtown and walk around and find a sit-down restaurant to eat dinner.

I finished my ice cream and we were back on the road. After a couple of zigs and zags, and a little help from the Navigator Lady, we found the Cat Tales Zoological Park. We drove in to take a peek through the fencing. As we were rolling by the fence, Dan said, "Okay! Let's go!" and then I heard a big ROAAAR! We had to take a closer look.

They were about an hour from closing, but I didn't think we needed more than that. This place is a rescue. They take in animals (mostly large cats) that need to be surrendered by their owners. It is what you expect it to be. Lots of chain link and a bunch of big cats that can't really want to be in the cages. I found it interesting that they had "layers" of cages. Meaning, a central area visitors would walk and then a labyrinth through 2-3 rows of cages. They did the feeding from a center aisle in the middle of the cages. I talked to one of the employees there about how they choose which cats are in which row. She said that they rotate the 1st and second level of "friendly" cats and the ones in the back are a lot less interested in being around people. Good idea.

We saw some beautiful animals. I can't believe we didn't take a single still photo in there. Dan must have shot a bunch of video that I'll try to get him to edit and put up on YouTube. The animals were beautiful. Tigers, lions, a young female lion that was so funny, bobcats, lynx (lynxes?), and a bear. Oh.. and a dog that looked like a white shepard mix, but I can't be sure as he was sleeping and not facing me. I don't think he was part of the exhibit. :)

We spent some time talking with the employees about the animals. They were fantastic. One was training to be a zookeeper. She really wanted to work with cats, but said she was willing to do anything to get in at a zoo. She's from the East Coast and would prefer to get a job closer to home. I hope she gets it, she was wonderful and informative.

Some other people came and went and we wandered a bit from cage to cage to just watch. There were a pair of tigers in a cage with a big pond. They were great! They jumped around and splashed as they got excited about dinner.

We had seen just about everything there. I was happy to see the water misters above and around the cages to keep the animals cool. It was a hot day and only a couple of them were panting. I struggle with the idea of these "zoos". I know they are a rescue and I know how much money that costs. I understand the need to sell tickets to generate revenue, but I'm still programmed to feel like it's a bit exploitive. I don't know. Everyone we met seemed to really love the animals. There was a lot of pacing, but it was dinner time and they were READY! When the manager of the place came out, you could tell how much the cats all loved him.

As everyone gathered, I parked myself in front of the big lion. Then the feeding started. It was so fast. They had a wagon with a bunch of metal trays and they went down the line sliding them through the bottom of the fences on the inside where there is a little door in the fencing. Everyone pounced on their tray except for our old lion. I learned he is around 15 yrs old (old for a lion) and he hates the heat. Poor guy. Later, as people moved away, he went over and had himself a snack. I think maybe he's just a shy eater.

Oh yeah.. and the young female lion. She couldn't be more than a year old and beautiful. Big, bright eyes and gorgeous coat. All over the park there are signs saying not to run because you look like prey. That didn't make any of the parents leash their kids, did it? Of course not. Grrr. We were in a big group talking about the splashing tigers when a little girl about 2 started waving her hands around and running. That lion went from what looked like a coma to the side of the cage in front of that girl in seconds. It was so fast!

The parents said, "Oh look! The tiger likes you!" I told Dan, "Yeah, for dinner!" That tiger didn't take her eyes off the child until they moved out of her view. Scary stuff! It really shows you why those cuddly babies don't make good pets. If it weren't for that chain link, that kid wouldn't have a face. And that's the best case scenario! Yikes!

After the feeding, we headed back to Spokane. I am incapable of doing things "on the fly". I have to know a little something, maybe have a few options and then wander around and choose from them. Dan prefers total spontaneity, but we sometimes stumble on something great. Sometimes it's all fail.

On our tourist map of Spokane, I read about a restaurant called The Suki Yaki Inn. The map said it was the oldest authentic Japanese restaurant in Spokane. It was established in 1946. Having just done the Bainbridge Island museum exhibit about Manzanar we thought the date was interesting and decided to drive to that area and check it out.

As we came into town, we turned on Riverside we saw a bunch of police cars and the road blocked off. When we were closer, I saw it was a car show. I knew where we were going after dinner.

We went into the Suki Yaki Inn. It's in a less fancy part of town and the building looks a little scary. But we went on inside. A young woman greeted us and asked if we wanted a room or table. Dan said table and we were seated in the corner with a family with two little kids. I was instantly annoyed. They were doing their best to keep the kids occupied and quiet, but them just being there set me on edge. But I decided to just forget about it. I think I was doing a good job. :)

We put in our order of some gyoza and a bunch of different sushi dishes. The waitress made some suggestions about some of the rolls after asking what kind of thing we liked. She was great. Very helpful and hopefully good suggestions.

I headed into the restrooms to wash my hands after our long day out. When I got back, Dan headed around and saw the rooms where you sit at the little table. When he came back he said, "Why aren't we sitting in there? Can we move?" We asked the waitress if we could move and she took us right over. We were in a little room with a hole cut out for your feet under the table. I've been in both kinds where you sit on the floor and the kind with the foot room. I think the flat floor would be too much for Dan's legs, but this was great!

Dan worked on his beer and I snuck a few sips when he wasn't looking. At one point the woman with the kids was heading back to the restrooms and passed us. She leaned in and said, "Sorry if we made you move." I told her that we just moved to be at the table because Dan hadn't done it before. I hope she believed me. I felt guilty for making her feel bad.

Soon our food arrived and I forgot all about it as we ate wonderful thing after amazing thing. They had a Volcano Roll that was out of this world! I mean wonderful. I wanted to order a bunch more, but moved on to other items. We had a wonderful swordfish, some spicy tuna, a hand roll for Dan and of course we had a tempura roll. All of it was wonderful.

We got our bill and it wasn't near as bad as when we go out here at home. We left a big tip for the waitress and were getting ready to head out when she came back around. She insisted we take a card good for 15% off our next visit. I told her we weren't local and she said, "Give it to some friends headed out this way." So, if you're going to be in Spokane, let us know. I highly recommend this if you're a sushi fan. Don't let the outward appearance fool you. This place is great!

0811SpokaneWith a tummy full of fish and rice, we walked up to Riverside and through the car show. There were some great cars there. I was particularly amused by the tricked out Pacer. HA HA!!

We looked at all the cars. There were also a section of bikes. Dan tried and tried to get a picture of this one bike with these really cool spider webs on it. He almost knocked over the bike behind him in the process and wasn't ever able to get a good picture. Just take my word for it. It was neat! Once we were done, we headed back down to the car and back to the hotel for the night.

Good day!

Sunday, August 21, 2011:

We woke up, had our buffet breakfast and packed up to head home. We each had a couple of "must see" destinations on the way home. Dan wanted to go through Moscow, ID and Pullman, WA. I wanted to see the Red Lion in Post Falls, ID for a future trip. And the must do for the day was to hike at Palouse Falls.

Our drive was too long already and I made it longer. I read a sign about a back country road this guy built along a ridge. I thought it would be fun and full of vistas like Mt. Spokane was and eventually I wore Dan down and we turned around to go back to the road. It was a fine little road and we met a great ranger up at the top, but the vistas weren't that great with all the tall trees and it was a big detour out of our way. Hey! They can't all be winners. :)

0811SpokaneOnce we got back on the road we made good time. We had a brief stop in Starbuck, WA which does NOT have a Starbucks. Seems like it would be obvious to have one there.

We drove through Moscow, ID, which was much less exciting than we had hoped. We did stop for lunch at Zipps. We saw a few of them around Spokane and they were always packed with cars. It did not disappoint. We had some good fast food and then back on the road. We drove through Pullman, but didn't stop to check out the university as we had so much further to go.


0811SpokaneThere is only one self-created word to describe the drive from here to Palouse Falls - Wheaty. We passed a lot of wheat fields. I mean... a LOT of them. The road was rolling and pretty, but the endless wheat, while reminding me of Kansas, got old pretty quickly. Also, the temperatures just kept rising as we were driving. It started to make me nervous about the hike we had planned at the falls. I just can't see doing a 3 mile hike when it's that hot outside.

After some disappointing views of the Snake River we spotted the turnout for Palouse Falls. I have been reading about this stop since we moved here. I've seen some pictures of it and knew we had to visit if we were every in the area. That's the tough part. Nobody is ever in this area. It's pretty remote. But at last we were there!

Stepping out of the air-conditioned car to the outside was like getting blasted in the face by a giant hair dryer. So hot! But the views did not disappoint.


We did abandon our plans for the hike to the top of the falls, but we spent a good amount of time walking to all the different observation platforms and reading all the signs about the geology and the great flood that created the area. It was fascinating. But did I mention how hot it was?

At one point we walked across a grassy area where sprinklers were going. I think Dan took the route through the middle to get cooled off by the sprinklers, but they were being blocked by the kids playing in them. I swear I saw a look in Dan's eye like he was going to go knock that kid off the sprinkler so he could cool down. :)

Once we were back in the car, we made a bee line back home. We took 26 due west until we got back to the Columbia River at Vantage, where we had our first hike of the trip. From there we were on 90 and quickly we were headed towards the pass.

0811SpokaneUnfortunately, we hit some inexplicable traffic around CleElum and it didn't let up for hours! We looked on Twitter and people had been sitting there for 3 hours. Lots of people wondering where the accident(s) were, but nobody ever saw any. This kind of traffic is frustrating for me. There's just no explanation for it. No skid marks. No emergency vehicles. Not even a broken tail light chip on the road. The only good thing about the traffic jam is that we got to see a beautiful sunset over the Cascades.

Once we got to the pass, it was quick over the top and we were quickly in Seattle. I checked the ferry schedule and it looked like we were going to just miss the boat. But we decided to be fine with that as we could walk down to Ivars and get some chowder for dinner.

Dan's magic downtown driving got us quickly down to the ferry dock where we saw a bunch of cars still waiting to board! HURRAY!! We made it! That would get us home about an hour earlier.

We polished off the picnic supplies in the cooler for dinner on the ferry and then we were home. After unpacking and putting away, we were tired. But it was great for us to get away and regroup for a few days before going back into the grind.

Dan had some things to do that night for work, but he was home on Monday during the day. He left for work around 7pm for the big upgrade they have been preparing for months. He came home around 6pm on Tuesday and went to bed right after dinner. Phew!

We have had a shortage of trips lately and now we're making up for that. Our next trip is just 3 weeks away to Joseph, Oregon to explore the Wallowa Mountains and Hells Canyon.


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