Spend a good couple of hours exploring the lodge properly and having breakfast. Back into the car and follow the Columbia River gorge eastwards (unfortunately we were unable to squeeze in a trip to Portland and therefore missed the opportunity of commencing the Columbia River Gorge at it’s most spectacular point. It was still pretty impressive as it widened out through grasslands and prairie. Scorched earth and wheat fields as far as the eye could see replaced the lush cherry and apple orchards of the Columbia gorge. We steadily climbed in altitude out of Oregan and into Idaho towards Spokane. At this point the car started faltering to the extent where we either had air conditioning on and the car misfired and slowed down, OR we kept moving at a reasonable pace; wound down the windows to allow the scorching dry air whip through the car heating us up to a crisp. We decided to change the car over at Spokane International airport……….. Travelling over the rockies in a dodgy car with no cell-phone coverage didn’t sound like a recipe for a successful continuation of our road-trip. This little detour cost us a good few hours and we rolled into Coeur d’Alene at around 7pm in the evening. This was just an en-route stop-over, but apparently the lake of Coeur d’Alene lake resort is amongst the five most beautiful Lakes in the world (probably a self-proclaimed accolade but it was very pleasant). The town was dominated by a huge lakeside resort, and it was obviously a holiday destination with an enormous lakefront arts and craft market, and fair. Good brewpup scram for supper and an uneventful and unimaginative stay at a Days Inn (which to be fair had everything you could possibly need for a stopover including free internet access (the last time I posted anything for days).
Day 8 Couer D’Alene – Missoula (via Wallace)
Chucking it down with rain in morning but soon left this behind as we travelled into Idaho’s ”silver valley”, so called as this part of the US had been the largest producer of silver and associated metals until fairly recently. A very humbling detour to buy picnic supplies in the town of Kellogg (named after a guy whose jackass discovered a hugely rich seam of gold ore). So initially this community sprouted up like others in the area to serve the 3000 or so miners and associated trades that moved into the area. With the eventual closure of all but 1 of the mines in the area, and despite the presence of a ski-lift and ski-resort infrastructure, it seemed like about 80% of businesses has closed and were for sale or rent and we couldn’t help wondering how a town like this could possibly pull itself back to prosperity especially as the last winter had brought very little snow. It felt desperate. The next townstead along called Wallace had a slightly different and more prosperous feel due to the existence of a Silver Mine tourist attraction. After an excellent breakfast in the quirky ex garage called the Red Light (all diner furniture and jumble of eclectic collections of everything imagineable (silk ties/chandeliers/50’s and 60’s paraphernalia and a Coinomatic ( no I didn’t know either), which turned out to be a coin operated organ playing western saloon music.
The silver mine tour was AMAZING, the guy who showed us around this only recently closed mine was an ex-miner, articulate, knowledgeable, and gave us a real insight into what it would have been like to be a miner right up to present day extraction methods. Turns out that due to the development of huge modern drills the mother-load of silver ore in the area that gave rise to the original mines has been discovered and the era of this area being the largest producer of silver again is just around the corner (still not going to help the local towns as the industry not nearly so labour intensive and still a surfeit of miners in the area) After a guided tour around the town and environs in a trolley bus (Lana Turner was born here and the film “Dantes Peak” with Pierce Brosnan was filmed here), we popped in and out of myriad antique and “western styled” shops (and a bordello museum) and continued on the road to Missoula in Montana. Spent night at a fabulous bed and breakfast just outside the old town. A huge graciously refurbished gargantuanVictorian mansion run by Nancy and Tom who with their kids had more or less renovated the house by themselves and were now reaping the rewards of their labours running what appeared to be a hugely successful bed and breakfast business. As with many N. American B&B’s, a communal kitchen was at our disposal as were the sitting rooms, wrap-around porch, parlour and gardens. The huge storm that had accompanied us into town continued all evening but we still went downtown. Best tapas I have ever eaten at The Silk Road (not strictly tapas but tapas style small plates from all around the world.